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

Managers Schedule

The most obvious coordination is scheduling. A manager finds which deliverables are needed by whom and when. Then they help everyone start the right things at the right times, get approvals from all the right people, and set priorities as events unfold to get deliverables delivered where they need to be, when they need to be there.

A manager shields their team from these forces of evil. They handle incoming requests so the team doesn’t have to.

Managers Acquire Resources

Managers make sure their team has the resources needed to get the job done. Resources can be tangible: equipment, computers, raw materials. Resources can also be intangible: decision-making authority, encouragement, training, and accurate, useful feedback on the quality of their work.

Managers Protect Their Team

In order for a team to get its work done, the team members have to have the time and resources to do the work. In normal work life, forces of evil do everything they can to prevent this. 

When I was a high tech project manager, another project would ask, “Can we borrow one of your engineers for a small project? It will only take a day or two.” Actually, it took a week. And the ramp down / ramp-back-up time added more to that. They also took our quality assurance person for a month.

Astonishingly, that project delivered on time, and the project manager got a trip to Hawaii to celebrate. My project, despite being cannibalized and interrupted, delivered early, under budget. I was given a pat on the back and “recognition.” Recognition was the 20th century version of “exposure.” A currency used to exploit talented people without actually, you know, paying them.

Evil doesn’t always come from within the company. Sometimes stuff happens. Big customers cancel an order. Vendors don’t deliver things on time. 

A manager shields their team from these forces of evil. They handle incoming requests so the team doesn’t have to. When chaos happens, they work to fix the problem so the team doesn’t have to. 

Managers Evaluate Performance

When the team is free to get into the flow of work, they’re performing at their best. And it’s a manager’s job to understand what that best is. How is each team member contributing to the team? What does each bring to the table?

The manager is in charge of evaluating the team and its members. Over time, manager evaluations shape the company. Evaluations factor into career paths, bonuses, and whether employees sabotage the company before they quit in indignant outrage over how poorly they’re treated. 

Managers Translate Goals

A more subtle managerial job is taking high-level goals and turning them into team goals. If the company decides to create the world’s best filing cabinet with built-in shredder (for those awkward FBI moments), a manager turns that into their team’s specific goal: Design a hanging file strong enough to hold documents, and shreddable enough not to slow down the machinery. 

Managers Get Out of the Way

And finally, managers get out of the way. Many managers say they want to “motivate their people.” In my experience, managers rarely motivate people, but often demotivate them. People generally come to a job enthusiastic, wanting to do well, and ready to get things done. But some managers are overly controlling or critical. They don’t answer questions and don’t support their employees. The employees (correctly) conclude that they’re too constrained to commit to the job and they check out. After a survey of millions of employees, the Gallup Organization reports that the #1 reason people leave a job is having a bad manager.

From my point of view, Sheldon may have been goofing off in his office all day reading comic books. I never saw him, one way or the other.

But paradoxically, his invisibility could have been because he was doing a great job. He may have been coordinating who was doing what, so the entire project would come together on time. He might have been protecting us from organizational politics. He could have been sweating over our performance reviews, so that we could know what we were (and weren’t) doing well. He might have been wrangling the corporate goals into team goals, so we’d help move the entire company forward. But what he was definitely doing was getting out of the way, so we could each do what we were hired to do.

I’m Stever Robbins. Follow GetItDoneGuy on Twitter and Facebook. If you need to do regular prospecting, make progress on your book, or get moving on what's important-but-not urgent, visit http://GetItDoneGroups.com to learn how Get-it-Done Groups can help. 

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Work Less, Do More, and have a Great Life!

Manager in meeting image courtesy of Shutterstock.


About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins 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.