Identifying Your Roles As A Manager

This is part 3 in a multi-part series. Read part 2 — so many varieties

In the last post, we looked into how the organizational hierarchy doesn’t reflect the roles or skills of an employee, but displays the corporate pecking order. For example, there are hundreds of different types software engineers, but there are only a handful of management titles, irrespective of the roles performed.

In reality, a manager’s job is neither simple nor easy, instead it requires doing many different things at the same time.

Doing Many Things At The Same Time

For example: hiring people, coaching staff, resolving conflicts, dealing with crises, tracking projects, providing status updates, resolving team issues, keeping tracking of customers, et al., for 365 * 24 * 7. This is what is expected of a manager, a job not to be envied.

To be an effective manager one needs mastery in skills such as “hiring staff”, “deciding compensation and incentives”, “staff performance”, “firing staff”, “conflict resolution”, “coaching staff”, “managing budgets”, “cross functional negotiation”, “decision making”, “managing information flows”, “project management”, “crisis management”, “creating a structure for the organization”, “managing targets”, “managing customers and partners”, et cetera.

To connect with and earn respect from their group, technical knowledge in the relevant field is required. On the other hand, management skills take time to learn and master. In fact management skills are harder, because each human being is unique. Hence, a manager must “learn” about people continuously.

Yet, in most organizations, someone is given the title of a “manager” and expected to “manage”. This is an unrealistic expectation.

For example, to perform the role of “coach”, one must spend enough time understanding the responsibilities of a coach, understand the person who is coached, figure out his/her strengths, interests and goals, then come up with ideas and plans for that individual to grow. It takes time, effort and patience. It takes several years for someone to learn coaching skills and perform the role of a coach effectively. Having a “Title” will not transform someone to become a coach instantaneously.

When managers are not clear about their roles or how to perform their roles, they become political which results in a toxic environment.
Ask for help, when confused about your roles. It’s OK.

Can we help bosses understand their roles better?
Yes, it is possible..!


If you are a manager, take a moment to…

  • Identify and understand the roles you are playing. When you perform an action, you are playing a role. It is as simple as that. So, pay attention.
  • Take 10 minutes a day and record your actions. Let’s call this log an “Action Journal”.
  • Seek continuous feedback from people involved in those actions.
Sample Action Journal
  • Learn more about the roles you performed from industry leaders.
  • Revisit the “Action Journal” periodically and calibrate yourself based on the feedback received and advice/experience learned from industry leaders.

Action journal provides insight into where your time and energy is spent. The feedback will transform you from working-hard to working-smart. It will enable you to move from performing many low-impact actions to few high-impact actions.

Improve yourself with continuous feedback via action journal.

Group Manager:

As a group manager, you can make the biggest impact. Remember that your most important role is to create and sustain an “environment” where people thrive.

Obviously you need to keep an eye on the progress of the initiatives (what people are doing?). However, it is equally important to understand where people are spending their time and energy (how they are doing it?).

  • Educate and advise your managers about various roles, their significance and the skills needed to play these roles.
  • Encourage your managers to log their actions at EOD in an Action Journal.
  • Ask your managers to send an Action Report along with the traditional Status Report. An Action Report can be extracted from an Action Journal with minimal effort.
  • Action Report contains actions performed, role played, people involved and feedback received.
Sample Action Report

From the above report, we can see that John B got only 50% positive feedback for two meetings that he was part of. Even his self evaluation for “crisis management” is negative. So he needs to help.

Thus, you will be able to identify the roles, strengths and weaknesses of your managers using the “action reports”.

Remember action report is your friend.

Individual Contributor:

If you are an individual contributor, you can still make an impact on the environment you belong to.

  • Always remember that the most important role of a manager is to maintain an “environment” where people thrive.
  • If you notice issues such as confusion, conflict, favoritism and crisis, provide feedback either directly to the manager or indirectly via his peers or his boss.
  • When conducive environment is lacking and feedback is not welcomed, document and record issues on a weekly basis. The best way to course correct is to provide evidence.
Individual contributors, keep calm and document :)

As you see it is possible to understand “roles” on our own. As we understand more about each role, it becomes easier to overcome the weaknesses by seeking help.

I hope we can create a great workplace where anyone can thrive by making simple changes to our day-to-day behavior.

Please let me know what you think by commenting below.

Thanks Eunice Eun for the revision and suggestions.