Are You Trying to Make a Silk Purse Out of a Sow’s Ear? 2

Do automotive technicians make the best service managers? Do great athletes have what it takes to be a successful coach? Just because someone is good at what they do – it doesn’t mean they will be good at doing something else. Not everyone has what it takes to manage others. I think managers need to be teachers first – and technically competent second.

Making the transition from worker to manager is very difficult and it can be made even more difficult if you are being promoted from within the same department or peer group. One week you’re a co-worker and the next week you’re their manager. The things that got you noticed on the shop floor are important and there’s no question you’ll have to bring that knowledge and experience with you in your new position. But you’ll most likely have to add some new skills to your manager’s tool kit if you wanted to be noticed in the corner office.

What makes a worker promotable? What qualities does a worker have that makes them management material? Are you basing that decision of their technical ability or their ability to get along with – and teach others what they know? (Hard skills vs. soft skills) If you had to sit down and write-up a job description for a manager – what kinds of things would you include on that list? What jobs do managers do? And more importantly – what skills or key characteristics will a manager need to be able to accomplish those jobs?

Managing is about people. If you don’t like being around people – and helping people to be successful – then you are going to be a lousy manager. Managing is about giving your people the tools they’ll need to be able to do the job you’ve hired them to do. Managing is about knowing what your people do well and then putting them in positions where they will be able to play to their strengths. Managing is about making tough decisions that may impact some of your people in a negative way – but you do it anyways because you know it’s the right decision to make.

Successful managers of the 21st Century will be:

Those managers who understand they can’t do it alone. That they need to build collaborative teams and surround themselves with people who are capable of doing some other things better than they do. And then staying out of their way and letting them do it. The day of the micro-manager is over.

Those managers who understand that they need to create an environment that is conducive to learning. They understand that adults can learn new things – given the right set of circumstance and delivered in the right way. That not everyone learns the same way. The trick is to teach them in a style that they like.

Those managers who understand that they don’t need to know everything. That it’s OK to ask others for help or advice. That the more they include their people in the decision-making the process – the more likely their people will want to come along.

Those managers who can look at the mistakes their people will make as “teachable moments” – to coach them and to train them on what they’ll need to know – so those kinds of mistakes won’t happen again. If you aren’t delegating and teaching others what you know then you are robbing them of their opportunity to grow.

Those managers who understand that not everyone is motivated the same way – but everyone can be motivated. They understand that they need to know what their people’s aspirations are so that they can help them achieve them. They understand that if their people win – they will win and most importantly their clients will win.

I believe we’re not born knowing how to manage or lead others effectively. It’s a learned behavior. We all start out making certain assumptions based on our past experiences and perceptions as to the kind of role we think managers and leaders should play. But we also have come to know from experience that our perceptions may not always be correct, and that sometimes, we have to change our way of thinking if we are to become better at what we do. Today’s managers need to change the way they manage to stay in step with a changing workforce.

Think about that the next time you are looking to promote someone – does this candidate have the skills needed to teach others what he/she knows – and or the willingness to learn how? Same old same old – maintaining the status-quo won’t cut it anymore. – 🙂 Cheers,


  1. Great Article Brian. You are absolutely right, being a good manager is about mentoring and educating. Trusting your staff to do their job and helping them along the way. In turn that makes your job easier. Thanks for the great post.


Comments are closed.