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A Great Team Doesn't Make You a Great Manager

posted Jun 10, 2014, 4:22 PM by Anjuan Simmons   [ updated Jul 12, 2016, 1:42 PM ]
I routinely hear performance reviews from managers that sound something like this:

"This team member is doing a bad job. I constantly have to give guidance, monitor, and make corrections to their work."

My response, although rarely spoken out loud is, "Yes, that's your job." The job of a manager is manage, but most managers prefer to report. Instead of managing a resource, they report on the resource's performance. Few managers understand this. Let's use the analogy of a car. If you pressed on the brake pedal, and a number popped up on your windshield displaying your current speed, would that be an effective braking system? Or, if you pressed on the accelerator, and your dashboard displayed your current compass direction, wouldn't that be considered a malfunction? However, despite operating like defective brake and accelerator pedals, we let managers off the hood for failing to govern the performance of their teams. 

Managers are supposed to decrease the weaknesses of their teams while increasing their strengths. Far too many managers I've encountered simply let their teams function in the way that they received them. Therefore, if a manager gets a great team, then the team produces great work, and we think that the team had a great manager. However, that is often not the case. Great teams tend to produce great work irrespective of the manager in charge of the team. Conversely, if a manager receives a poor team, then the team, unsurprisingly, produces poor results. Managers, in this situation, tend to blame the team and almost never admit that they are bad managers.

Effectively managing a team (instead of simply reporting the team's performance) requires the ability to deeply analyze each person on the team and understand how to make improvements. This is hard work which is why most managers avoid it. You have to understand how each person receives feedback, create performance improvement plans, and conduct regular checkpoints to measure progress. While every team member has to own his or her career, the manager has to be fully invested and accountable for the improvement of everyone on the teams they lead.

Far too many managers are content to simply be reporters. The only way to improve the number of great teams in the workforce is by teaching managers how to steadily improve the greatness of their teams no matter the condition in which they were received.