What Do Managers Do, Anyway?

You've been promoted to manager. Congrats! But what does that mean? What does a manager do? Get-It-Done Guy explains the role of a manager (plus tips on what not to do).

Stever Robbins
5-minute read
Episode #544

Until now, most of my tips have been from the perspective of employees. We’re going to branch out into topics for employers and managers. Please send feedback, questions, and comments to help me choose future topics.

So let's start at the beginning: What do managers do, anyway?

Early in my career, I didn’t know. At my first job out of college, my first manager was … Sheldon. Sheldon always looked rather worried. He would scurry around the office being busy. And worried. But as for what he actually did, it remained a mystery.

But someday, I knew the secrets would be revealed. Eventually, I became a manager. At last they would share the Sacred Tome of Management Knowledge. Surely, Chapter 1 would be all about what managers do. I’d read it, hunker down, and become the Best. Manager. Ever.

Nope. They didn’t give me the Sacred Tome. They just said “You’re a manager now.” No instruction. No training. They just tossed me into the deep end of the managerial swimming pool without swimming lessons. Or a floatie. Fortunately, I didn’t sink. In the 16th century, this would have meant I was a witch. In modern times, it just means something about my fat-to-muscle ratio that I’d rather not examine too closely.

But you, my brave Get-it-Doners, you will not have to worry about sinking or swimming. For today, I will tell you what managers do.

Their job is to keep the company moving forward.

Managers Aren’t Bosses

I overheard a subway conversation about managers (don’t worry, I had my earbuds on, so no one knew I was eavesdropping). One person said, “I want to be a manager so I can boss people around.” Many managers think that’s their job. They think they’re a boss. They boss people around. They’re bossy. And when people don’t do what the manager tells them to do, they whip them mercilessly and then cackle in the satisfaction of their power.

Yes, this is how many managers behave.

No, this isn’t their job. Their job is to keep the company moving forward.

Managers Coordinate

We have managers for the same reason orchestras have conductors. Every orchestra member knows how to play their instrument. But they need to come in and out at the right places, at the right tempo and volume, so the orchestra overall produces one coherent, beautiful piece of music. The conductor is the one in charge of getting all the individuals to work together to sound good.

Every individual contributor (that's the fancy word managers use to refer to non-managers) will do best if they can become totally immersed in their job. But they don’t know everyone else’s deadlines and priorities. A designer needs to create packaging as part of a product launch. But they don’t necessarily know the manufacturing lead times. Or who else in the company needs to sign off on the packaging. 

The manager coordinates all those various departments. 


About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins was the host of the podcast Get-it-Done Guy from 2007 to 2019. He is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT.