Masterly Management

Don Gray wrote this post about management style entitled Managing in Mayberry. I thought that it was insightful. When I thought about the example he used, though, it was about a stable state system. It was managing to the status quo. Manager as remover of difficulty.

Where is manager as practice improver? Certainly the masterly manager will have to do this at times. Waiting and watching, allowing others to propose, building consensus – all good. But facilitating practice improvement requires decision making, and sometimes those decisions are not universally popular. How would the masterly manager deal with individuals that “go passive” or outspokenly negative about the improvements? How would the masterly manager deal with practice improvements that require cooperation with customers, or other departments.

Where is manager as change initiator? Change is hard. Sometimes as manager, you have to be willing to take the heat and responsibility for initiating a change. You have to stay the course, hold the line, stick to your guns. People (your staff) will resist the change, they will act in ways that prevent the change from realizing its defined benefits. They often will not invent ways to enable the change, when challenges arise, but will revert back to “the old way” at the first sign of trouble. Usually change does not immediately produce benefit, so there is a “gestation” period, when it is not clear whether the change is effective. The masterly manager must understand this, and prepare his team for it so that they do not get discouraged. He must be available and focused to help his team solve problems as they arise, and he must let them own the solution, so that they can begin to take ownership of the change.

Where is manager as political savant? Business is competetive. Managers compete for resources, budget and for “limelight”. A manager’s reputation is the most important tool in political competition. A masterly manager builds his reputation in light of the organizational culture. He has a network of resources who would be excited to work with or for him, and who recognize his ability to enhance their reputation. He shares both credit and blame when it is appropriate – holding people accountable for their decisions and results. He knows how to build a coalition of self-interest when organizational interest will not bind a team together, and knows how to manage expectations and interest up the ladder.

How would these three styles express themselves in different situations. What I liked about the Masterly manager style was that it was observant without being obtrusive. It was confident without being central to the solution.

If a masterly manager is driving change, rather than simply removing obstacles, what does this style look like?

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