It has been said that a successful manager is one who works himself out of a job. Have you ever thought about what that actually means? If I were your employee and you were able to teach me how to do my job with excellence, then I would no longer need you to oversee me or “manage” me on a daily basis. That would free you up to move on to bigger and better things. In other words, you would have managed yourself right out of that particular aspect of your job. However, there would be no need to worry about job security! If you are able to successfully train people to become proficient in their life or job because of your coaching or managing skills, there will always be a whole host of job advancements and opportunities waiting for you!
Many managers, however, focus on the wrong thing. They focus on the person rather than on the job. If the focus is on the person, it will not be long before personality conflicts begin to arise. That is just inevitable. However, if the focus is on the job, then it is not about personality but rather about the task. Putting it another way, don’t manage the person, manage the task. Don’t focus on the personality; focus on the standard operating procedure (SOP). Perhaps an illustration will help.
As a teenager in high school, I was looking for a summer job in order to make a little extra money. Though I did not know much about building, I became a carpenter’s assistant. The carpenters I worked with were incredibly proficient. They could cut two boards and piece them together so accurately that you could hardly see a seam in the wood! I wanted to learn how to do that.
After telling me that about 95% of the success of any job is in having the right tools, one carpenter began to teach me how to make correct measurements. He taught me how to think ahead several steps in order to avoid making uncorrectable mistakes.
My particular job that summer was to cut blocks that would be used as decorative trim pieces on the outside of the buildings. One of the carpenters spent about an hour teaching me how to do it and then another hour watching me do it and correcting my mistakes until I no longer needed him to oversee me. I now understand that he was managing the job, not the person. Soon he was able to move on to another task that required more expertise than I possessed. As far as working with me was concerned, he worked himself right out of a job! That is a simple little illustration, but it communicates what I am trying to say. It was a wonderful experience and I will always be grateful for it.
We often hear of someone leaving one place of employment for another because of a personality conflict with someone else. I frequently think that if they had focused on the job at hand rather than focusing on the person, it might not have felt so personal and both individuals involved may have been better off.
As a business owner and manager, it has taken me a long time to see this distinction. By nature I am very people oriented. But, when it comes to running a business or being involved in other businesses, I have to focus on the task and that often puts the burden back on me. Have I been clear in my expectations? Have I gone over the job details or requirements and the expected outcomes? Have I created SOPs to help the employee know how to get the job done correctly?
I have discovered when I do all that, it makes relationships much better. If there is an issue, I will say to the person involved, “This has nothing to do with you personally, but it has everything to do with the job we are trying to accomplish. Let’s stay focused on how to succeed at the task at hand and both of us will enjoy what we are doing more.”
Remembering not to simply manage people but rather to manage the task at hand has produced excellent results for me and I am confident that it will for you, too.
Tip: Don’t manage people, manage the job!
Have a great week! God bless you!
Dr. Robert A. Rohm
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