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Why Great Managers Succeed: They Understand Their Real Job

Updated on June 4, 2014

In an earlier article I explained that the primary reason managers (and supervisors) fail is because they are not properly trained. Most get promoted into these positions because they have very good technical skills (they know how to do the work), but once promoted they are not trained on the specific skills needed to manage people and departments. And they don't understand what their real job is.

A Manager's Real Job

Yes, you are capable of doing the technical or professional work performed in your department. Maybe you can do it better than anyone else (that's why you were promoted), you like doing the work, and training others is time consuming. So it seems natural to keep doing much of the work yourself. Don't fall into this trap; doing departmental work is not your job (unless you have a very tiny department).

Your real job is to perform the duties only a manager can and should do, and to leave the actual departmental work to the people hired to do it. Spending your time on non-managerial work means you won't have time for your managerial duties- your real job. You may even be so busy doing non-managerial work that you perceive questions from your employees as interruptions- something you should never do.

But here is the biggest problem of all: if you don't delegate appropriate work to your employees you stifle their growth and development, minimize their opportunities to achieve and to be motivated, and you lower overall department productivity.

As manager you are judged on the success or failure of your people. Measurements such as department productivity depend on everyone's combined efforts, not yours. Your real job is to nurture and coach employees so they excel individually because your success comes from their collective accomplishments. Since your success is so closely tied to theirs, you should do everything in your power to help them succeed.

Consider the Departmental Wheel 


Think of your department as a wheel: you are the hub and each employee is a spoke. Your real job is to make each spoke as strong as possible. You do this by hiring the right people for each position, designing meaningful, challenging jobs that provide opportunities to achieve, providing necessary training and education, helping individuals set goals, coaching as needed, monitoring performance, and making adjustments as necessary.

Think about it. If you maximize the effort and output of each person in your department, each spoke in the wheel will be strong. If you build a strong team with support for one another and for departmental goals, everyone will be moving in the same direction. With a successful department you will be perceived as a successful manager. By focusing on everyone else, you are helping yourself. You will benefit as much as they do-perhaps even more.

Conversely, if your department wheel has weak spokes, it doesn't matter how hard people work. Your department will always be mediocre. Weak spokes will consume much of your time, perform poorly, require careful watching and inevitably someone must clean up their mistakes. Furthermore, tolerating weak employees is unfair to your strong employees. Poor workers cost you time and money while they are on the job and while you spend valuable time replacing them.

So remember, your real job is to nurture, develop and coach your employees, and to get the work done through them- not to do it yourself. Beyond that your real job is to perform duties only a manager can do. In the next article we will discuss delegation, a key skill of great managers.


Steven R. Smith is the author of Managing for Success: Practical Advice for Managers, a concise, 150-page guide to help managers and supervisors succeed. It is based on the author's 42 years of industry experience at 15 different companies. For more information on this book go to:http://www.Successfulmanaging.com.


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