What Does a Manager Do?

 By: Bob De Contreras

 One of the very important roles in a company is that of the manager. Management includes group leaders, who sometimes play the role of both manager and individual contributor, to section manager, director, vice president, senior vice president, executive vice president and chief executive officer. Each of these positions has a different scope of responsibility, but they all have several things that they do in common.

 First and foremost, they are all managers, even if some of them perform individual contributor work. We define a manager as having three fundamental roles. First, a manager is a leader. As a leader, the manager establishes and directs the vision and mission of the team. In this capacity, the manager is the source of visionary strength of the department and keeps the staff on a consistent track to achieving the vision. Second, a manager is a project manager. In this role, the manager is responsible for directing the operational activities of the team by scheduling the utilization of the department’s resources, including people and capital equipment. In this way, the manager gets things done through the efforts of the people on the team. The manager is responsible for establishing and executing the project plan that is necessary to achieve the team’s mission. Third, a manager is a coach, and as such picks the people for the team and improves the performance of people through ongoing counseling. As a coach, the manager works with people to help them become greater contributors by helping them improve their efficiency and effectiveness.

 In these roles, a manager performs several duties that are very important to the successful functioning of any team.  

  • Strategy – The manager puts the strategy in place to achieve the department’s vision and mission. In this capacity, the manager works with team members to develop a strategy and plan. Then a process is put in place that will be used to execute the strategy. In most cases, this process is an element of the company’s overall development process for purposes of developing your products.

  • Organization – The manager gets the department organized to implement the process and guides all the project activities using the process. All the schedules are established, laying out the tasks that have to be performed to deliver the department’s product and assigning the necessary resources to the people on the team.

  • Priorities – The manager establishes priorities for projects and tasks and makes decisions required when they have to change.

  • People – Making sure that the right people are placed in the right job assignments, and that people get further training to do their jobs is a key duty of the manager.

  • Solutions – The manager facilitates problem solving, as needed, by directing the process of problem solving with team members, lending expertise to the process.

  • Delegate – A very important duty is to delegate responsibility and accountability. In doing this, the manager gives people a clear role and a set of responsibilities, empowers them to act, and holds them accountable for results. This is the art of management. In getting the best out of people, a manager gives people the responsibility they deserve, then coaches them in their work in order to make them the best they can be, and finally holds them accountable for producing the results that are expected.

  • Enable – A manager takes care of people’s needs. The manager is an enabler for and ensures that people get what they need in order to do their jobs. This includes equipment, training, assistance, coordination, and time.

  • Communicator – One of the most important duties is that of a communicator. The manager not only communicates important information needed for people to do their jobs, but also information that is necessary for people to understand the context of their jobs. People generally want to know what the company vision and strategy is. They want to know about markets, customers and competitors. They want to know about key company initiatives and how it effects them. The manager’s job is to make sure that people know what is going on and how they are effected.

  • Policy – The manager represents the company and its policies. To the people in the department, their manager is the company. Managers are familiar with company policy, communicate policy to employees, and represent the management of the company.

  • Relationships – Building relationships is a key aspect of the manager’s job. The manager’s job is to establish positive and effective working relationships both inside and outside the company. One of the value-added aspects of a manager's role is that the manager knows people and can call upon their assistance to help the department get its job done.

  • Environment – The manager establishes and supports working relationship principles by creating an environment where people can count on each other. It is important to know what one can expect from another. The manager’s job is to coach people to help them understand how the team operates and to give them the understanding of each other’s role on the team.

  • Objectives – Establishing goals and objectives for people is a key part of being a coach. As part of the performance management process, the manager establishes performance goals and objectives for people. This is a very formal part of the manager’s job. Establishing the objectives for people and then letting them know how they are performing in meeting the objectives is management’s bread and butter. To get their best performance, people have to understand how they are performing and be given the coaching necessary to improve. Ultimately, the manager has to formally appraise the performance of their people. This formal review becomes the determining factor for compensation changes and promotions.

  • Recognition – People need to be recognized for a job well done. A manager makes sure that people are recognized for their contributions and extraordinary efforts on the job. The recognition should be timely. Recognition can take the form of anything from a sincere thank you to a substantial monetary award. The important thing is that people feel that they are appreciated for their extra effort.

  • Mentor – A manager is a mentor. In this capacity, the manager advises people on their career goals and helps them get the job assignments needed to move their careers forward. Although people are responsible for their own careers, the manager can be a valued advisor in career planning.

  • Manage Upward – Finally, a manager manages upward. That is, the manager keeps higher levels of management informed of their department’s progress that effect their commitments. In addition, the manager advises upper management on key issues and helps in the decision making process.

 This is not an exhaustive list of management duties, but it represents some of the most important ones. These are the kinds of things that one should regularly expect from management as they play out their three roles of leader, project manager and coach.



What Does a Manager Do Case Study

By: Bob De Contreras

 What do managers do?  The business schools tell us they perform the five basic management functions of planning, organizing, staffing, directing and controlling.  And, these are the skills that aspiring new managers are taught.  But, what about all the other skills that are discussed in the main article in this newsletter?  Skills like strategy, priorities, relationships, delegating, environment and others?

This begs the question, what do managers not know to do?  A recent conversation with a client was on this very topic.  The CEO was asking for help with how to get one of the team leaders to be more effective.  There were issues visible with interpersonal relationships at the office within the team and cross teams.  There were issues with dealing with prospective clients and existing clients.  There were issues of this employee being viewed as too aggressive and demanding.  There were issues of getting projects completed as well as delivered on time.  The CEO was asking us to coach the employee. 

 Before we agreed to work with this team leader we had a talk to discuss the team leader’s view of management and requirements to achieve success.  We quickly discovered that the team leader did not know the importance of interpersonal relationships in getting the job done.  This team leader actually believed that team members and non team members had to help on any request just because of his positional power.  He didn’t understand why people didn’t want to come in early or stay late to work on project deliverables.  He didn’t understand why he needed to be polite with other people.  He had never heard the old adage that it’s easier to get something done by offering honey rather than vinegar.

 We discovered that these attitudes spilled over onto how he dealt with clients.  He was just as assumptive and demanding with clients as he was with the other people internal to his own company.  But, at the same time he accepted every demand that a client made – no matter how unreasonable.  By accepting these demands he was agreeing to have his company staff work long hours to meet unfair demands.  These extra hours cost the company profits.

 The team leader ended up doing a lot of the work himself.  He didn’t know that he should delegate much less how to delegate.  Sadly, this team leader had never had a manager who coached him in the art of delegation.  He never had a manager who coached him in the necessity to trust people who you delegate to.  He never had a manager who coached him.

 After this discussion with the team leader we were back talking to the CEO.  What we determined was required was coaching for the CEO and all the managers.  For the CEO it was coaching on how to be a coach.  This CEO has the experience and knowledge to help his management team learn and be successful.  What this CEO didn’t have was the knowledge on how to coach his management team.  We put a plan in place to help him become a better coach.

 We also put a plan in place to work with the entire management team that focused on:

  • Relationships

  • Delegation

  • Strategy development

  • Priority setting

  • Goal/objective achievement follow-up

  • Communications

  • Recognition

 The combined effect of the better coaching from senior management and improved skills in all the managers allowed this company to improve customer satisfaction, employee productivity, revenues, margin, and in the process all the employees had more fun.  It only took six months of dedicated work to see the improvements, but in the end the company was improved from top to bottom.


Brought to you by:                                                         [BACK]

            Bob De Contreras                                                  
            Rich Kramarik                                                     


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