According to traditional management theorists (Henri Fayol and others), managers are supposed to plan, organize, coordinate and control. In truth, the pressures of reacting to urgent matters supplant most reflection and planning.
“No job is more vital to our society than that of the manager. It is the manager who determines whether our social institutions serve us well or whether they squander our talents and resources.” ~ Henry Mintzberg
Managers respond to daily crises, take on too much work, operate with continuous interruptions and make instant decisions. They have no time to step back and consider bigger issues—a problem that often causes them to act with superficial, fragmented information.
In a classic November 2003 Harvard Business Review article, “Manager’s Job: Folklore and Fact,” Mintzberg outlines 10 daily management roles that fall within three broad categories:
Interpersonal Category (3 Roles)
- You represent your group to your organization and the community at large.
- You hire, train and motivate employees.
- You maintain contact with colleagues and stakeholders outside your immediate chain of command.
Informational Category (3 Roles)
- You leverage your personal network to scan the environment for vital information.
- Disseminator. You feed information to subordinates who lack your access to critical data.
- You provide information on behalf of your unit to senior management and outside organizations.
Decisional Category (4 Roles)
- You initiate projects to improve your unit’s processes or profits.
- Disturbance Handler. You manage crises precipitated by employees, customers, suppliers, systems or accidents.
- Resource Allocator. You decide who will get what, coordinate the impact of interrelated decisions and allocate managerial time.
- You use strategic information to resolve grievances, establish contracts and promote shared decisions.
If you want to improve your managerial skills, take a good look at what actually happens each day:
- How do you spend your time?
- In which activities are you engaged?
- Are you really operating in all 10 pivotal roles?
- Where do you need help?
If you take a week – or even a couple of days – to log every activity you engage in as a manager, you’ll be amazed at what you’ll find. Then take a look at which activities are getting shorted and need some attention.