3 Widespread Myths About Management

"You keep using that word, and I do not think it means what you think it means."

— Inigo Montoya

Working full-time in managerial positions for the past several years, I'm increasingly convinced that misconceptions about the role of the manager and management as a profession are widespread, and these misconceptions spoil the life and nerves of many people. The topic of management is full of rumors and myths, and here I will only talk about the most vivid examples.
Myth # 1. Management is what managers do

I noticed a trend in a particular category of companies. Their employees tell everyone who is ready to listen that they do not have "management", they do not plan ever to introduce it, and you should not do this either. In my opinion, such statements consist of distortions, naive ideas, and bad advice. Typically, such companies are relatively young and relatively small, most employees work there for less than a year, and the narrator tries to convince us that he works for a unique and innovative company because there are no "managers" there. None of them read the Tyranny of Structurelessness.

Management is the activity to ensure the effective interaction of people, and the manager is the one who does it. Yes, it's that simple. Usually, it includes the exchange of information, the approval of work directions, the distribution of tasks, and figuring out what to do when the problem arises. This work should be performed in any team, regardless of whether there is a dedicated "manager" or not. Teams can function without managers, but they can not function well without management. Someone (or all) should perform work to ensure interaction.

Modern management is a specialized profession that involves a wide range of skills — communication, psychology, empathy, problem-solving, leadership and so on. These skills are not unique to managers, but it often makes sense to instruct some people to perform more management work on behalf of the team. By devoting their time and attention to it, they free up other team members and allow them to focus on their tasks. They can work as coordinators, achieving harmonious teamwork. Focusing on management, these people can improve their skills by training and practicing in ensuring people's interaction.

Myth # 2. Management is telling people what to do

There are many different styles of management, each of which is focused on a certain type of team or organisation. The factories are not run in the same way as design studios, large companies are not run the way the small are, and each team has its management style that comes from a unique group of people working in it. Some managers specialize in separate management styles, and others are more general.

"Telling people what to do," is a managerial style called " Command and Control." It is characterized by power, hierarchy and strict adherence to the rules. This style is widely used in military structures, also by managers portrayed in movies and on TV. It has certain advantages and disadvantages, which I do not want to discuss right now. What I am trying to say is that this is just one example, but this example is used to represent the general idea of management. Another example of management style, quite the opposite: self-organisation, when there is no specially allocated person responsible for making team decisions.

Small self-organised teams can achieve fantastic productivity. They are easier to manage, because they are relatively simple, and therefore simple tools and techniques work well there. All can be fully aware of what each of them does, and new information is quickly distributed throughout the team. But when a team or organisation grows, it often gets to the point when this style of management stops working and then adaptation needed. No one management approach works equally well everywhere.

Myth # 3. Management is a career advancement

You know how it happens. When an employee is successful in his profession, someone will eventually offer him the role of a manager as a "reward" for a good job. This is complete nonsense. Management is not career advancement, and it is a career change. This means starting as a beginner in a new profession and mastering it from scratch. Knowledge in the subject area is important since the manager must understand what people do in his team, but now it is not paramount. The team, as a system of people, now becomes the manager's primary concern.

If the organisation can not provide career advancement within the profession, people can switch to management, as the "only chance to advance." And only after realising where they are, do they find that they are entirely unprepared for this new area, or not even ready for this line of work.

When someone "moves forward" from the position of a financial analyst to the position of biochemist without training and experience, it will probably seem strange to us. But this is the same thing that always happens to new managers, and it has become an almost standard practice in many organisations and industries.

So what?

Management is misunderstood. Same as science, engineering art, and many other areas. What does it mean?

"People leave managers, not companies … ultimately, turnover is a manager's problem,"

— Marcus Buckingham & Curt Coffman, First, Break All the Rules

Myths, like the above, lead to large-scale dysfunctions in organisations, making it difficult for everyone to do their work. They practically guarantee incompetent managing, which touches all who it concerns. They spoil days and weeks, poison jobs and ruin careers. They force talented people to leave companies and steer them away from their chosen professions.

I recommend stop lousy mouthing or ignoring management, and begin to get better at it.


And we know how to manage well