Management is What and How


This article is a follow-up to this one: Leadership is Why and When. I recommend you start your reading there if you have not seen it yet.

White Floral Tops

Last time we had started with a Quick Say “Alaka‘i” contextual review, and I would like to do that again today, but this one is specifically in regard to the skill set and discipline of management:

Today, let’s start with that last bullet point.

The Secret Sauce to Getting Work Done

I say “the secret sauce of our work together will be our shared values” because at the most basic level, our values are in the driver’s seat with any work being done at all.

Values are a big deal, because our values drive our behavior. They give us this emotional grounding, and they put us on automatic pilot in a way. We will naturally behave in ways we believe to be right, and our values stem from those beliefs. We will then forge our best habits by building them on the foundation of our values.

Our values have also served us well before: They are our good history. They have played out just fine in our past experiences, when we were behaving in the way which our values had impelled us to do. Therefore, they will continually reinforce themselves in our psyche. Simply said, our values have proven to us that they work, and we have no good reason to abandon them.

Values and Predictability

When managers feel they understand the people they work with, they will say, “I can read them. I kinda know how they think by now.”

Managers are not mind readers: What they mean is that they can pretty accurately predict how a person will think, and then how that person will act (if they follow through on their real thoughts) when they have identified and “read” that person’s values.

For example, a manager who knows his or her people well, would say things like this about them:


Malia believes in honesty being the best policy, and so she will always find the best way to reveal the truth, and all of the truth, even when it might get uncomfortable for the rest of us at first, for she knows we will eventually arrive at the best place with it.

Ikaika believes in holding people accountable, and so he will always take personal responsibility with his part of the work before he shifts any blame to someone else, but he will hold them to their responsibility as well.

Our values will cause our behavior to be very consistent. All managers need to do is pay attention.

This attentive “reading” of people’s values is an extremely useful skill for a manager to have. For ultimately, managers get the work of mission and vision done through other people, in the place they share while engaged in that work.

Sound familiar? We mentioned those same words above, when we said managers are stewards of what must be a healthy organizational culture. We said they focus on 1) people 2) place 3) mission and 4) vision.

Management is What and How

So let’s assume we’ve taken care of this part already: Leadership is Why and When

Leadership skill and discipline has come into play with the clarity of an idea turned into vision, and aligned with company values (WHY). Leadership has also dealt with any fear of change, and infected everyone else with the same sense of urgency (WHEN). Now it’s management’s turn to take over.

Again: We are referring to the manager’s self-discipline with choosing leadership actions (and using those skills) at certain times, and with choosing management actions at the other times those skills have become necessary.

Management skill and discipline has to do with getting the job done.

  • We know the WHY: We agree, we buy in.
    Now WHAT must we do? WHAT is our mission needed to achieve the vision?
  • We know the WHEN: We agree, we buy in.
    Now HOW do we connect all of these variables, and actually cause this change to happen, owning the vision ourselves as well, and being the ones to execute it?

A Healthy Organizational Culture Adapts Well

When the organizational culture is at its healthiest best, this is the attitude of everyone now involved:

“The baton has been passed. We don’t need those doing management OR those doing leadership to micromanage us. The baton is in our hands now, we can do what it takes, and we will.”

Remember those colorful ribbons of imagination and that dazzling big bow of innovation?


These kinds of ideas are called “visionary” because they are usually tied up with colorful ribbons of “what if?” imagination, and topped with a dazzling big bow of “we can do this!” innovation: The gift itself ”“ and it IS a gift, much more spectacular that its wrappings ”“ is what we will start to call the vision of the idea.
Leadership is Why and When

Great managers will bring those things into reach, because they know their people well. They also know their people are much closer to understanding the actual work which must get done ”“ work associated with that change we now agree we must undertake, getting us from point A (now, today) to point B: The future where we open the vision box and make it present day reality.

What does it mean, to “adapt well?” I think of it as a kind of experimental weaving that occurs. For imagination and innovation to happen, great Alaka‘i managers make the work creative and collaborative, playful and fun, safe and relatively risk-free. The work being done is pilot-proposed to initiate change, and it is project-contained for measurement, while still exciting, edgy and energetic. As they engage others, Alaka‘i managers ask questions which will facilitate progress:

  • WHAT are the missing pieces we must now identify, and make part of our culture for our mission to happen?
  • HOW do we weave these new pieces into the design of the work we already do? Are we only adding, or are we replacing something else in our systems and processes, and retiring the old way?

They also ask, “”and what about us?”

And just as I’d summed up leadership’s WHY and WHEN this past Tuesday, you know the answers.

All that is left to do, is Ho‘ohana: Ho‘o and make them happen.

Ideas Got Very Practical

So let’s sum up the week on Say “Alaka‘i:” What we’ve actually been talking story about is what you do when you think you’ve come up with a good idea. You need never let any good idea die again!

  1. You get an idea, one with visionary possibility.
  2. You lead with the WHY of values and vision.
  3. You deal with any apprehension connected to change so everyone shares the WHEN of your sense of urgency.
  4. You manage with a clear understanding of all these things first, and then you turn your focus back to understanding your people, and the way they work.
  5. You identify WHAT mission is needed to achieve the vision.
  6. You allow the healthy and highly adaptable culture you have remained a steward of, to clue you in to HOW this will all come together.
  7. And together, you Ho‘ohana.

Yep, all about you, the Alaka‘i manager. I know you can do this, one great idea at a time.

Let’s talk story.
Any thoughts to share?

Photo credit: White Floral Tops by Rosa Say.

~ Originally published on Say “Alaka‘i”
July 2009 ~
Management is What and How 

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