Digital/Online Marketing Communications Strategy

The Real Job Of A Manager? Waiting For Something To Happen.

By on February 4, 2010 in business strategy with 0 Comments

This is a guest post by one of my social media friends, Jarie Bolander, who recently published a book: FRUSTRATION FREE TECHNICAL MANAGEMENT: Proven Techniques to Thrive as a Manager. This tidy tome offers techniques using the POEMS (Personal, Organizational, Emotional, Managerial and Sustaining) process.  Jarie’s advice is applicable to communications managers—including the following intriguing thought…

Waiting for something to happen does not mean doing nothing

Most managers fill their day with productive work. They usually don’t connect the dots that their real job is to wait for something to happen. That’s right. Wait for something to happen. This is a foreign concept to most managers since they got to where they are by doing something. Waiting around for something to happen does not mean you are doing nothing. Quite the contrary. While you wait, you think about what could go wrong, monitor your environment and think about your strategy. You do tasks that need to get done but that can be dropped quickly. Monitoring your surroundings will allow you to anticipate the barriers your group will face and eliminate them. Monitoring also prepares you for the inventable crisis. This is particularly important in our hyper-connected word where communications travel as fast as electrons, bad and good news can’t be controlled and trends are created and destroyed within days.

Be Ready To Jump In

A crisis is unplanned and random. You will never know when a crisis will strike so you must be prepared to drop everything and jump in to help solve it. If your day is booked solid, then how can you deal with these random crises? This can be a major challenge for managers since waiting is not something they easily do. They got to where they are by doing. In some respects, managers tend to think that the only valuable work is something that produces a tangible result. This is true for their team but not necessarily for them. As a manager, your other job is to think about your strategy and how to deploy your resources, crisis or not.

Practical Advice

So I know this sounds like a hard thing to do but if you manage people, your best bet is to wait around for the next crisis while you think about your groups overall strategy. Doing that takes discipline and some planning. In reality, it’s about being available for your people so that you can assist them when things go wrong and thinking more longer term so you can guide your groups overall strategy. In order to achieve this, consider doing the following:

  • Take Yourself Out of the Critical Path: If you are tempted to do actual work, then at least do work that’s not in the critical path. If you are in the critical path, then when a crisis hits, it becomes a double crisis since your critical path tasks slip as well. Doing work in the critical path also dulls your forward thinking mind because you are solely focused on getting the task done and not on thinking about the longer view.
  • Delegate, Delegate, Delegate: One way to have more free time is to delegate to your staff. This is a great way to not only free yourself up but also allows you to stay about the fray so you can have some perspective. Staying above the fray will allow you to think more about how your strategies are taking shape. This is critical to a well-formed, overall strategic plan.
  • Schedule Thinking Time: On your calendar, create pockets of time to think. Preferably, hour or so chunks of time with no interruptions. These blocks of time will allow you to have a consistent time for reflection and to ponder longer-term strategies. With reflection, you will be able to handle the inventible crisis while still keeping your strategic vision in focus.
  • Train Others: The best way to free up your time is to train others to do tasks you need done. Of course, there are some tasks that you should only do but the more mundane or repetitive tasks, train someone else to do. Mangers should be involved in doing some things but in general, it’s best to have plenty of free time to ponder the deluge of data that is flung your way.
  • Ask What’s Going On: Don’t just bury your head in your own work. Ask your team what’s going on. Doing this will connect you with the action and make it easier for you to ponder what challenges your team might face. The people on the front line also see what is really happening. This data is invaluable to collect and filter because it shows whether or not your strategic vision is taking shape.

It’s About Your Staff, Not You

Having your day mostly free also allows you to be available for your staff when they need you. Since the performance of your staff is how you are judged, you need to ensure their success by always being available to them. Having a jam-packed schedule does not say you are busy but rather it says you are unavailable. This seems trivial but is a powerful tool to effectively manage people. Being free to help shows that you know what is important – your staff’s success. The other part of your job is to set your group or companies strategic focus. Being too busy to think about how best to implement your strategy will prevent it from happening. This gets compounded when a crisis hits. Your team’s ability to react to a crisis will be directly proportional to the amount of time you have spent thinking and communicating your group’s strategy for success.

Jarie’s Bio

Jarie Bolander is an engineer by training and an entrepreneur by nature. He is currently VP of R&D at Tagent, a company working on breakthrough technology that will help reduce medical errors. Jarie also blogs about innovation, management and entrepreneurship at The Daily MBA and has recently published his first book, FRUSTRATION FREE TECHNICAL MANAGEMENT: Proven Techniques to Thrive as a Manager.

Thanks to Jarie for sharing his ideas with us. If you want to know more about how he thinks, buy Jarie’s book or follow him on Twitter @thedailymba.

It it really a good idea for managers to wait for something to happen? Do you have a story to share that applies here? Comments welcome?


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About the Author

About the Author: Deni Kasrel is seasoned (slightly spicy) specialist in digital/online communications. .


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  1. To an extent, this is true, but I think the limited focus is a bit misleading. The first chemical plant I worked at, the department manager explained to me, “We don’t pay the operators to go around and take samples every couple of hours (which is what they spent most of every day doing), we pay them to be here when everything goes wrong.”

    I would argue that for most people, their real job is to be there when the walls come tumbling down. You can separate the truly great from the okay by how people reprioritize their work on those days. Is he going around getting signatures on his TPS report, or did he drop the daily report to help hold the tide back in any way he could while others were fighting the fire. For a large majority of today’s workforce, your tasks will be there when you get back to them – but only some people recognize this.

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