It is useful, every now and then, to pause and take a look at your motivations and perspective. Whose expectations are you meeting? Yours? The expectations of your organization? The expectations of your parents or other past or present authority figures? Imagined ones?
It is not solely about the expectations others have of you. What’s important is to know whose expectations matter for your performance, consider them, and decide for yourself what you will give weight to.
The expectations that serve you best are the ones you choose. What expectations guide your managing?
True or false: definition of manage: to be in charge of. It is a simple definition that may ignore the complexities of managing within an organization. As a manager, do you believe you are in charge to the degree you need to be? In my early experiences as a manager, I frequently would hear other managers express their frustration that they had responsibility without authority or power.
What is the ratio of your responsibility to your authority and power? You know the impacts – responsibility without authority or power is defeating. A balanced ratio gives you a chance. There are other factors that can influence this ratio – co-workers whose agendas secretly sabotage your authority or power; lack of resources that are necessary to fulfill your responsibilities; team members that do not accept responsibility or do not accept your authority or power; a dysfunctional organization that muddles responsibility, authority and power.
Managing without an awareness of the balance between your responsibility and your authority and power, leaves you at a disadvantage. Paying attention to this, gives you a foundation for your managing strategy and increases your chances of succeeding.
Seth Godin posits in his book Tribes that managers are not leaders. He says managers manage by using the authority the factory has given them; that leaders don’t care much about organization and authority, they use passion and ideas to lead people. Later, Godin provides an example of a researcher at the Pentagon who acted as a leader and changed the way generals think about the military. If this can be done at the bottom, it can be done in the middle.
Managers must lead. They cannot let the organization constrain them. They must know the environment they manage in and figure out how they can make change effectively. It takes a lot to know the game and not get wedged in by it. Managers must transcend their organization and lead creatively.
If you are a manager caught in the chaos of an organization, step back.
Think strategically about how the change you want can happen. Consider the hinges that keep the organization together and which ones can be moved. Who are the movers in your organization? How do they make change? What is the language of change in your organization — profit? savings? bottom line? competitive edge? How does the change you want to see get communicated in that language? What is within your control and what is not? Do you have allies? Can you create a tribe to lead the change? Is there a tribe working against you?
Know your boundaries. Is the change you seek essential to your work? Will harm be done if it is not made? Can you live without it? How far are you willing to go in seeking it?
Act. Without leading, you atrophy. Leading requires agile, savvy steps. Keep your focus on people and results. Change the organization you are managing in by leading.