I went to a conference last weekend and a man asked me what my current #1 project is about. I told I am working on defining what it means to “manage” something and how to do it. I said a little bit more, but then I noticed he was falling asleep. No kidding – he was falling asleep!
OK management isn’t a sexy topic that gets people on the edge of their chairs. But still, it’s everywhere, and when it isn’t done effectively there is a price to pay – sometimes a steep one.
Leadership – now that’s the hot topic in the past several years. Everybody wants to be a leader, and nobody wants to be a manager. I know this only from a sample of MBA students who were asked to choose one of those options. They voted 100% in favor of leadership over management.
Leadership is sexier, because leaders create desirable futures that are attractive and engaging. People are attracted to the positive vision and want to follow the leader toward that future. Who wouldn’t want to be at the head of that parade?
But good management is what gets things done. No vision, however desirable, is realized without management practices like planning, tracking, and reporting. Good management is more than simply being “in charge” of a group of people. It is all about productive communication – like discussing these things:
- Specifying goals and objectives to create a good road-map to the desired future;
- Building the calendar for accomplishment, with milestones and celebrations built in as appropriate;
- Defining the necessary specific results to be produced along the way, complete with tracking systems and due dates;
- Identifying other key players who will be vital to success; and
- Agreeing on a meeting schedule and an agenda that will keep things moving forward on schedule, such as (1) refresh the goal commitment; (2) create productive relationships with others who will help produce the intended results; (3) compare the schedule of planned results to the reality of results delivered; and (4) collaborate to resolve problems and barriers along the way.
Management is communication, with an intention to make something happen that wasn’t going to happen by itself. I have heard that there are some people who are not interested in making things happen, so I know they wouldn’t be interested in management. But I never thought a conversation about management would make someone want to take a nap! I think the next time someone asks me what I’m working on, I will tell them that I am the new Director of Communications for the Trump White House. That should keep them awake.