We believe that we all know management/leadership but as you dive into management; you found out you know less. This post will expose you to four different areas that management/leadership should take care of, yet few know that they need to do it and fewer are performing those responsibilities.
I doubt it you ever heard about these responsibilities, but once you’ll understand what they are, I’m willing to bet that you’ll start thinking about them if not implementing them.
Let’s start with a list of common managerial responsibilities:
- Resolve conflicts, remove blockages and set priorities
- Ensure the daily functioning of a department or group of people.
- Interview, hire and train new employees.
- Articulate both short/long term goals
- Make employees hold one another accountable for their actions
- Communication with peers and up-the-chain regarding needs and updates.
- Managers complete administrative work and correspond with other departments.
- Create and maintain a budget
- Manage relationships with external parties
- Delegate tasks according to the department’s needs.
- motivates staff and creates an environment where employees thrive.
- Enforce company policies.
- Training staff
- Evaluate data and employee performance.
Here’s a question I like to ask people in meetings. Why do we need to spend the effort in groups? What is the benefit of a group? maybe 2% manage to answer the question. Like other phenomena in nature, when grouping people together we are getting new behaviors, Skillset, capabilities or competencies that the group has as a whole, but people that are part of the group missing. The group properties are called emergent properties. Examples? security, innovation, cliques, ability to execute, support, psychological safety, spirit, culture, friendship and comradery, and complexity. Each one of those examples creates just when a group exists or increase significantly in a group. As you can see in the example, emergent properties can be positive or negative.
As Manager/Leader you are the guardian of emergent properties. You should look for new emergent properties that will better support a team, especially when conditions change. You should weed out negative emergent properties. You should be aware of all existing and potential emergent properties and work with other people in the group to develop, increase, or remove emergent behaviors. If you have a team with no emergent properties, you might want to coordinate people separately; it will be easier.
Variety and balancing complexity
Have you heard about Ashby’s law? If not, you should. This role can help easily predict organizations success. Asby’s law or the law of requisite variety says that if a system is to be able to deal successfully with the diversity of challenges that its environment produces, then it needs to have a repertoire of responses which is (at least) as nuanced as the problems thrown up by the environment. So, a viable system is one that can handle the variability of its environment. (https://www.edge.org/response-detail/27150). More simply, if a system what to deal with the environment, it needs at least the same amount of resources and states as the environment has. Guess whose responsibility is to know what is the variety of the environment and a company, organization unit or a team? Yes, Manager / Leader.
In reality, variety raises another problem that a manager/leader needs to take care of, complexity. The complexity of any system or group of people is defined by the number of elements in the system and connections between them. More people and more connection, the greater the system complexity. Variety created a vicious cycle of complexity. When you add resources to increase variety, you add complexity. To deal with complexity, you add more people. In parallel as you grow your variety; the environment grows its variety. Those events create a cycle that increases complexity all the time. If someone won’t monitor complexity and stop it (or at least reduce it), the organization will reach a level of complexity that will cause it to crash.
System Thinking and Critical Thinking
Critical thinking is one of the critical skills for the future (and for today’s world as well). This ability ensures the ability to recognize potential problems and resolve them. To perform critical thinking, you need to look at reality using different glasses and in different ways. This is one of the leader/manager responsibilities. Not just to use critical thinking, but also to learn new tools for critical thinking.
Most thinking today is influenced by the school of reductionism in science. It takes a problem, breaks it to smaller units, resolves smaller problems, and therefore resolves the problem. This method is working if you are dealing with a system that is not complex (with no unexpected behavior, like a watch). Managers / Leaders are operating in highly complex systems. In those systems, it is also extremely important to understand how the system works as a whole. Understanding a system provides a point of view that reductionism is missing. System Thinking is one way to understand systems as a whole, developed by MIT. Your responsibility is to learn and use this method, the same as scientists are using modern science such as quantum, chaos and complex systems on top of old science.
Switching between chaos and order or staying away from equilibrium
Many people believe that chaos is bad for them. Not necessarily. Chaos can be bad if you stay in this state for a long time, but switching between chaos and order is a good thing. Very good thing! Moving between those stages creates a lot of energy that helps any group. With energy, new creativity and innovation will be introduced by people, which helps the future of your company. The alternative is equilibrium, and it is already proven that equilibrium is death to any living system; any group of people is not an exception.
So, here’s another responsibility. Where are we right now as a group? in the order, or in the chaos side of the pendulum. What I can do to move the group from one side of the pendulum to the other side, without introducing too much risk. These are all responsibilities of manager/leader