How Does That Happen?

“So, what’s the solution?” Arnie was puzzled. “I pressed hard, we made our numbers. I lost seven good people in three months. Five technicians and two direct reports.”

“Let’s start with that,” I said.

“Start with what?” Arnie asked.

“Direct reports. Most managers think they are managers so people can report to them. That is not the purpose of a manager. Your role, as a manager, is to bring value to the problem solving and decision making of your team members.”

Arnie pushed his glasses up. “Okay. I’ll bite. I even believe you. But how?”

“Remember, we talked about a shift? A shift in management behavior to get a different result?”

Arnie nodded, “Yes, a shift.”

“Here’s the shift. Do you bring value to a person’s problem solving and decision making by telling them what to do?”

Arnie looked crossways at me.

“Look,” I said. “I come in here to talk with you, as a manager. I really don’t know that much about how things get done around here, so do I tell you what to do, as a manager?”

“Not really,” Arnie replied.

“But, would you say, I bring value to your problem solving and decision making?”

“Well, yes. I mean, sometimes, you piss me off, but, yes, you bring value.”

“So, how does that happen? I don’t tell you what to do, yet, I bring value. How does that happen?”

“Well, you ask me questions.” Arnie stopped. “You ask me questions.”

3 thoughts on “How Does That Happen?

  1. Michael Cardus

    That is it…just telling someone what to do removes control and asking questions offers value, because you are working on not just what we are thinking, by how we are thinking. The accountability of a manager is is add value and be held accountable for the work of subordinates. Without offering any real value, people will not work with you. It seems simple, and is still tough to implement

  2. Adam Thompson

    This is one of the best ways I’ve seen to simply describe the real value a manager adds. My hypothesis is that effective assignment of tasks and roles doesn’t occur because it requires considering and describing the future. Which requires imagination. Which is the last thing people are usually encouraged to apply in the workplace (“fill in the template”!). So we end up with “start driving and I’ll tell you which way to steer”. Disheartening.

  3. Julian

    This is exactly right, the point of management is not to tell people how to do things it is to help people to do things, asking questions allows people who have more direct information about the project to figure out the best way of doing things.


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