Once upon a time managers were uneducated skilled laborers. They were laborers who supervised other wage-earning working-class people who performed a labor for money. Their “service” was to sell their labor power in order to live. Today, however; a manager serves a much bigger role than just another skilled laborer who’s in charge of making sure everyone follows the rules and does their job. Traditional management of the old days is great if all you want is compliance but if its innovation and growth you desire, you as a manager must engage your people on a whole new level. This is not a new concept but with the challenges of the labor force, we must take a look at the changing roles of today’s management.
As education became more important, we saw a rise in middle class laborers getting their degree. Which meant more opportunity, higher pay and an overall better life. Education changed the way we saw operations through process optimization, big data, Six Sigma, and change management strategies driving growth. There was also the addition of the HR department which is much more than just health plans and hiring these days. Education also improved our collective understanding of human beings which sparked the addition of training and an emphasis on the importance of personal development. This new style empowered people to be better managers of themselves.
Why is it important to understand the role of management? Because managers account for more than 40% of the population in the labor force and with the empowered workforce who aren’t laborers selling their labor for money anymore but rather they are knowledge workers that don’t need to be told what to do and often know how to do their jobs better than the manager. Self-managing teams use complex systems to help them manage their own work, and precise performance measures are openly accessible.
The Modern Manager
The modern manager needs to get work done through engaged, self-managing knowledge workers, who are a far cry from the “hired hands” of the industrial age. The role of today’s manager can be illustrated by four analogies. Managers share some attributes with:
Managers as investors
Managers allocate resources to obtain the best return, like investors. Their effectiveness is based on how well they use their resources. Managers actively develop people and utilize their strengths for the best results.
Managers as customers
As employees become more engaged their status changes, from simply being hired hands to being more like self-employed business people supplying services to internal customers. This relationship between the employee and manager involves two-way communication and not a top-down process. Which means the employee can “sell” their talents, ideas, and services as a way of advancing their career and transforming into something new. This is extremely powerful especially when high-demand knowledge workers are in short supply, they have more power than their customer (the boss).
Managers as coach
A manager is a facilitator, coordinator and advisor, with no power to direct or control the player. Modern business managers are moving in this direction, although they will always be able to fire the employees they manage. Still, when managing rare, expensive talent, they cannot fire them without carefully weighing the consequences. In any case, modern managers do more coaching and less directing, so they need to behave more like coaches than industrial-age managers.
Managers as partners
As the power of knowledge workers grows, they become more like partners than “hired hands.” Toyota and other smart companies forge partnerships with external suppliers. Employees are, similarly, internal suppliers and partners. Building great relationships by being a proactive, responsive, strategic resource. Being a great salesperson, sales coach, and helping to create demand and refer leads is a primary goal for management today
The “good ol’ days” does not apply when considering effective management. There is and will continue to be a mindset shift in the roles of management and leadership in organizations. Those two roles have been distinctively different over the past several decades but the new mindset exploits the meshing of employees, management and leadership as unified system.