The other day I was discussing qualities of management in a specific organization. Well, it seems I’m doing that every couple of days or so – does it mean there’s something wrong with me? Anyway my point was the focus should be set on making true leaders out of managers as the organization hadn’t that magic infinite source of leadership (and every other soft skill managers would eventually need), which can be used anytime by managerial peons.
I thought I was oh so brilliant, but what I got instead of words of praise and cold beer was rebuttal. What was I thinking? Should the organization purely focus on covering short supply of leadership? And what about other stuff, namely technical excellence and organizational skills?
Well, I kind of have a magic trick. Solve the problems with your management and then you’ll see how teams are solving other issues. Where’s the magic? For most technical and organizational issues there are solutions teams already know and the only real problem is they don’t have power whatsoever to implement the solution. Now, give a team a good leader who would empower them to improve things and voila, all problems solved. Um, have I just used the word ‘empower’?
You might have heard about self-organizing teams. The basic difference between self-organizing and dull, ordinary teams is that the former are allowed and even encouraged to solve their issues. And why typically dull, ordinary teams don’t do that? Usually because their managers don’t allow them to do so.
So the first problem you should be working on is the one connected with your managers. They might be great technical folks who do decent job with organizing work of their teams, but as long as they suck as leaders you’re nowhere close to home.
And yes, you’re right. If they want to become leaders they have to work hard on their leadership which basically means they will be sacrificing their technical skills, to take the most obvious example. And that’s damn awesome if you ask me. I’m yet to see a team which wouldn’t manage when its manager stops doing any technical work at all. And I’m yet to see a team which would not advance when its manager improves their leadership skills.
If you want to say that managers should have decent knowledge in the areas which their teams specialize in, I’m with you. But they most likely already have that knowledge and they won’t automatically lose it as a tradeoff of gaining another level in people skills. I mean they won’t rock as techies anymore but as long as we have the same understanding of the word “decent” they will manage.
Pretty much the same pattern works with organizational skills.
If a manager lacks either technical or organizational skills, a team would probably cover those weaknesses. The area which team won’t cover is leadership along with other so called people skills. While I understand the role of a manager as a combination of people, technical and organizational skills I consider the first one as crucial. You get other two on a decent level in the package as long as you don’t promote complete jerks to managerial positions.
And even if you don’t get technical and organizational skills on proper level the team should cover those weaknesses for their leader. That is, as long as they consider her as a leader.