Management Happens Before Core Working Hours
I overheard someone once say “management is hard.” Thank you for the courageous statement. You inspired me to write this short.
Management is extraordinarily hard. The perception of the profession is thankless because we play the role of business. And we get it from all sides. The business takes priority. The individual playing the role of manager takes a back seat.
The how of management is led by doing. Mentors are virtually distant. I know through training and experience it has many facets and methods. After some years, I have invented a style of moving ideas into action. And in my own opinion, most of management’s work is completed before core working hours.
I’m steering what had been decided that morning.
What is management? Perhaps it could be logically reduced to a standard set of tools. The one on ones, the staff meetings, the feedback, delegation, performance and coaching models. The difficult conversations. You cannot be friends but you can be friendly.
I like to introduce a new multitool, primarily a compass. With some years into the profession I have formed a pattern call the stew. It is time before work that determines the course of the day, while simultaneously holding a vision of myself, the individuals and teams in the future.
The stew happens during a lengthly walk before work.
This thinking time is supported by a pen and Moleskine Cahier pocket. After the walk, I jot the most important items that are bouncing around in my head. A lot of these thoughts are replays of conversations and interesting bits that accrete into vision and direction.
The stew informally means a state of anxiety or agitation. As a food, a wonderful blend of savory taste simmered with time. My definition is an intense thought process marred in a cycle of logic and passion. The label was a natural fit.
The stew attempts to organize and prioritize outcomes. This can include analyzing conversations, weighing fairness of actions, and identifying ownership. I replay conversations to empathize. This process is a place where positive behaviors are recognized and brought forward.
I await a new opportunity to say what was resolved in thought the same day. This was all thanks to the stew. It promotes compassionate leadership and helps steer with positive intention.
The stew also reveals inefficiencies. And my flaws. It allows systems thinking and connecting things that would not be connected.
The stew surfaces things that need attention.
The stew is an important strategy for leaders to build upon. For example, in the industry of software engineering where I work, leaders identify core directions. Long goal posts will emerge. “Engineers own the quality”, “We never go it alone”, “This is not a technology problem”, “Software is about people” and “The code is the truth” are tenants that have emerged in my stew sessions over and over again.
Over the few years I have managed with the stew. When exhausted, I minimize the passionate thought process by listening to podcasts. This is a way to compartmentalize the stew. And this is where I learn more about the craft of management and software engineering every single working day.
The stew is a place to continuously learn.
Management is about wading through the vagueness and ambiguity of interrelationships in the quest for alignment and business results. The stew is a place to navigate. It has revealed decision points that would not have come and has eased emotional frustration. The stew has unveiled larger visionary goals for the teams I’ve led.
The result is growth in relationships and heighten performance of myself and others.
I remember numerous stews where it was painfully obvious that I tried everything to coach an individual. Through all the work, there was no other choice. All options where exhausted. The stew provided that clarity.
Do you have a similar tool?
The Manager Stew was originally published in Hacker Noon on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.