Insights into the Role of the Manager

January 4, 2019

Role of the manager

Creating a mission and roadmap, building a collaborative team, engaging employees. These are just a few of the responsibilities within the purview of the manager and team leader. Here, excerpts from AMA’s podcast interviews with thought leaders in 2018 shed light on various aspects of the management and leadership role:

John Chambers on creating a strong culture
Chairman emeritus, Cisco, and CEO of JC2 Ventures

“If you would have told me 25 years ago, when I first became a manager, culture was as important as strategy and vision, or maybe even more, I would have said no, and I would have been wrong. I’ve learned that you never have a great segment of a company or a great company, regardless of its size, without a very strong culture….

“…You’ve got to walk the talk of the culture. Nothing breaks down quicker than the leader [saying], ‘This is the culture and here’s what we’re going to do—and we’re going to put customers first, and we’re going to treat people with respect, and we’re going to make innovation happen, and we’re going to be a family, if you will. We’re just going to do the right thing,’ and then the leader doesn’t walk that talk.”

Morten Hansen on the “do more” trap
Professor at University of California, Berkeley

“Leaders and aspiring leaders believe that the more they do—the more they start project initiatives, customer service programs—the better they will perform, the better their team will perform. That’s a false belief because it’s resting on two flawed assumptions. The first one is what I call a ‘spread too thin’ problem, which is that as you’re doing many more things, your quality of what you do goes down. So you’re just doing a lot of things but with very poor quality, and that doesn’t let you stand out and compete in today’s environment.

“A second is a complexity trap, that the more things you start, the more you do, there’s a complexity that sets in that you need to coordinate all those activities. For a team that is following a leader, that could become very problematic. So they fall into that ‘do more’ trap…. The best performers, they do less, which requires simplicity. So it’s the opposite of that do more paradigm.”

Leah Weiss on collaborative, compassionate teams
Lecturer, Stanford Graduate School of Business

“We’re having a crisis of civility in today’s world, including in our organizations…. These examples of workplace rudeness, ranging on up to harassment and bullying, cost organizations billions of dollars. It creates huge physical and mental stress on the employees. We cannot think when we’re in a stress mode. The interpersonal attacks bring the individuals and the organizations down. So if we don’t engage with creating collaborative, compassionate teams, we’re going to lose a competitive advantage.”

Adrian Gostick on leading and engaging employees
Co-founder, The Culture Works

”Really there are three things that we really want to know as employees: Who are we? Where are we going? And how will we get there?” Sounds really simple, right? …But if you help answer those for me, I’m going to be more committed and more engaged.

“Who are we? Why do we exist? What unique thing can we, our little team, bring to the market that makes us relevant and gives us that mission…?

“Where are we going? So what are our goals? What’s our strategy? Where are you taking us?

“And how are we going to get there? What values will we follow? What specific actions should I take as an employee to help further this mission? You answer those simple questions for me as an employee, I’m going to be more engaged.”

Alison Green on giving employee feedback
Work advice columnist, Ask a Manager website

“I think especially for managers…you want to get really clear in your head about the fact that it’s really not fair to people to hide the message. I think often when managers soften language, when they’re giving serious feedback, they do it because it feels unkind to be very direct and concrete. But if the result is that the person doesn’t fully understand how serious the issue is, then you’re denying them full information about their own work life and about possible consequences, and it’s so much more likely that they won’t make the changes they need to make. And so, I think if you really internalize that and believe this is good for the person I’m managing, it makes it a lot easier.”

Patti Fletcher on shifting your focus
Marketing influencer and futurist

“At my first real job as a grownup, I had impostor syndrome…. So I would be worried about things like, what does my boss think, does the customer think I’m stupid, are my peers like talking about me behind my back? I was focused in on the wrong things. I was internalizing stuff that had no business inside of me.

“So instead, what I would say to younger managers, new entrants to the workforce, is start to learn how to neutralize today. You are hired to do a job. People know who you are, the experience that you have, the experience that you don’t have…. Start to practice emotional intelligence. If you have a bad experience with someone, there’s a disagreement, which always happens at work, or you have a presentation that didn’t go that well, don’t take it personally. Sit back and do what [the] incredible disruptive women do, which is assess the situation….

“Remove the emotion. That’s important because it helps you understand what your triggers are, what other people’s triggers are…. It becomes a strategy waiting to happen. But it’s essential not to internalize and think, ‘It’s my fault,’ because then you’re going to go down a rat hole that takes a really long time to come out of.”


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American Management Association is a world leader in professional development, advancing the skills of individuals to drive business success. AMA’s approach to improving performance combines experiential learning—“learning through doing”—with opportunities for ongoing professional growth at every step of one’s career journey. AMA supports the goals of individuals and organizations through a complete range of products and services, including seminars, Webcasts and podcasts, conferences, corporate and government solutions, business books and research.

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