Calling all Managers: We need you

We hear a lot about the jobs we need, and guess what? Management of those jobs, and of the quality of work they involve, the future they shape, and the people they grow, isn’t going away. If anything, we need thoughtful, intentional and purposeful management more than ever.

Steve Jobs for instance. (1955-2011) Jobs had vision, to be sure (I’ve been clipping a few tributes on my Tumblr, and commenting on them there), but he was also a manager. Current counts have the number of Apple employees at nearly fifty thousand. Add to their work-in-progress the success stories of their alumni who have graduated; grown to now Ho‘ohana on their own.

You may not be an innovator of marvels as things, but you can be an innovator of marvels in people. Managers create culture.

We need managers who can passionately speak into their certainty and confidence that “people are our greatest asset” — managers who will then go about proving it. That means we need more Alaka‘i managers — those who manage with Aloha, because they believe in people as much as they do; they love seeing others thrive.

Trending: In jobs, and in skills

I have mentioned economist Richard Florida a few times lately, and have recommended his book to you. Here is an excerpt from The Great Reset connected to jobs: His chapter 16 is titled, “Good Job Machine” and it was my favorite one, for while he doesn’t say so directly, he makes a clear cut case for why managers are needed today, and of how ripe the opportunity for evolution in the role of the manager.

“There are two kinds of jobs that are growing: higher-paying knowledge, professional, and creative jobs (everything from high-tech engineers and software developers to managers and doctors to graphic designers and entertainment lawyers) and lower-paying routine jobs in the service economy (food service workers, nurses’ aides, janitors, home health care workers, and the like). Over the past three decades, the U.S. economy has added 28 million routine service jobs and 23 million knowledge, professional, and creative jobs, compared to just 1 million in manufacturing. Routine service jobs now compose the single biggest area of employment: 45 percent of jobs, 60 million in all. Creative jobs account for 31 percent, and working-class jobs for 23 percent.”

Florida wrote those words early in 2010, but he goes on to explain why “these trends will only become more pronounced over the coming decade or so” because “both service and creative jobs have been much more resilient in the face of the economic crisis.”

Update: Florida has just published his current findings in this article for Atlantic Cities:
The Creative Class is Alive, written in response to others who fear otherwise.

“Much more resilient” does not necessarily mean of optimal quality, and we’ve much work to do in the job evolution ahead of us. Employers constantly complain that the basic skills they now look for are largely MIA in our workforce. We managers know that much of what people need to learn for their best productivity will be learned on the job; not in school, and not at home (I was lucky).   What that means of course, is that managers are, and will always be the teachers of the work skills needed. As Florida writes;

“The old manufacturing economy honed physical skills such as lifting and manual dexterity. But two sets of skills matter more now: analytical skills, such as pattern recognition and problem solving, and social intelligence skills, such as the situational sensitivity and persuasiveness required for team building and mobilization.”

He concludes that, “we need to spend less time and effort bailing out and stimulating the old economy, and a lot more building on the new.” That recognition, that proof, that we can build on the new, and create a future we see, may be Steve Job’s greatest legacy, for it required imagination and raw guts.

However you phrase and illustrate the trends of our working future, basic human needs remain clear to me: no one thrives in mindless or mind-numbing work. Whether they be analytical, socially intelligent, or even physically focused, skills-mastery depends on the emotional health of the learner, and learners need visions they can aspire to. We all need to know, “If I learn these skills, how will I apply them so they’re most relevant?” We human beings are dynamos: We all want to improve and innovate, tapping into our full capacity, and growing in ways we haven’t fully imagined yet, but inherently know are possible.

Where will these job skills come from? Who will teach them? Who will encourage us as we further innovate? We need more Alaka‘i managers today because we need their coaching and support.

The current Occupy Wall Street movement? It is part of the trending in us: In me, in you, in all of us.

As I see it, managerial jobs of worth are the jobs of merit which must grow most of all. As we have called it before, it is The Reconstructed, Rejuvenated, Newly Respected, and Never Underestimated Role of the Manager.

Are you up to the challenge?

Tab it and mark it up!

Postscript: This was posting #5 in a conversation about jobs this month:

  1. “They know how to lead — and be led.”
  2. Whose Confidence Should We Be Talking About?
  3. A Job of any Merit: Your 3 Options in Worthwhile Work
  4. Working in today’s ‘Knowledge Economy’

Soundbite of the day (October 07, 2011 at 06:28am):
The message of #OWS [Occupy Wall Street] is not “Here’s is our 9-point plan.” The message of #OWS is “This is not a livable compromise.” — Clay Shirky


  1. Rosa Say says

    I prefer to dwell on the positive, and see the good in people, and I work on training myself to be so (this is my full disclosure about that constant effort: The 3 Secrets of Being Positive) Yet there is that balance to be achieved at times, in “calling it like it is” – not to condemn, but so you can point out how we need to improve and get better. I found I had to choose my words carefully for this article I posted today, for while I genuinely do admire Steve Jobs for his imagination and genius, I wish he had been a greater manager, giving us that pulpit to speak from too. I was fully aware of this:

    What Everyone Is Too Polite to Say About Steve Jobs
    , by Ryan Tate at Gawker: (italic emphasis is mine)

    In the days after Steve Jobs’ death, friends and colleagues have, in customary fashion, been sharing their fondest memories of the Apple co-founder. He’s been hailed as “a genius” and “the greatest CEO of his generation” by pundits and tech journalists. But a great man’s reputation can withstand a full accounting. And, truth be told, Jobs could be terrible to people, and his impact on the world was not uniformly positive…

    It’s particularly important to take stock of Jobs’ flaws right now. His successor, Tim Cook, has the opportunity to set a new course for the company, and to establish his own style of leadership. And, thanks to Apple’s success, students of Jobs’ approach to leadership have never been so numerous in Silicon Valley. He was worshipped and emulated plenty when he was alive; in death, Jobs will be even more of an icon…

    And for that “balance” this is a good choice: Steve Jobs Wasn’t (Just) a Leader, by Gianpiero Petriglieri, M.D. for the Harvard Business Review.

    Many have captured lessons from Steve’s life and work already. But what can we learn from our response to his departure?

    It wasn’t about him. It was about us. Ultimately, what made Steve’s work so revered is not his passion but ours. He kept doing his thing. We went crazy about it. Solitary as he was, he got the widespread need for voice, connection and meaning of our times. He stood for and offered us technology we could make our own — and make ourselves through. We could all be artists on the canvas he created.

    Like true artists, great leaders are instruments of a purpose and community. Not the other way around. We grieve them deeply because they connect us to ourselves, and once they’re gone we fear that connection lost. Wherever he is, I like to think Steve would chuckle reading the columns that distill his leadership formula, including this one. The great iconoclast and inventor of desktop icons turned into an icon himself. The man who reviled emulation transfigured into a series of bullet points. To honor his memory we should vow to never imitate him. He’d rather want us to be inspired.