Berger Leadership Blog

Feb 21, 2020
Categories: Leadership

The case against the 'manager' title

Dan BergerMany of our organizations have a traditional leadership structure. These hierarchies delineate employees' experience and the respective titles communicate that. But does it benefit our companies to stick to this status quo? Do your organization's titles reflect your expectations for employees?

Adam Bryant, managing director of mentoring and leadership development company Merryck & Co. and an author on organizational culture, argues that in today's disruptive business environment some titles are no longer relevant. One he wants to eliminate is "manager."

"The word has had a long and useful run. In the days when industry dynamics were more predictable, executives could focus their attention internally, searching for opportunities to 'manage' or refine their processes, and using techniques such as lean manufacturing and Six Sigma to achieve quality improvements and cost savings," Bryant writes. "The role of managers was clear: The company gave them assets, including time, money, people, and other resources, and their job was to optimize those resources to within an inch of their lives."

These managerial responsibilities are still important, but Bryant explains how culture has changed to make the "manager" obsolete:

  1. No one really wants to be managed anymore. We hire employees to fill gaps in skills and knowledge. We expect employees – regardless of their age or experience level – to be able to work independently and complete their responsibilities without constantly being told what to do or how to do it. Our teams perform better when individuals can create their own processes that work for them. Rather than micromanaging, great leaders encourage employees to be self-sufficient.
  2. No one really wants to manage other people anymore. I wrote last week about how to support struggling employees. Even in these situations, leaders aren't micromanaging; instead, you're communicating expectations and helping guide the employee to the right path. Leaders of organizations and teams should view their role as a motivator and collaborator to give employees the space needed to pursue ideas and be successful.
  3. The word manager fails to capture the work that employees increasingly need to do. There is no one right way to complete work. Some processes are in place to make working between teams easier, but modern business needs entrepreneurship. Today's work culture encourages employees at all levels to be innovative problem-solvers. All should be seeking out ways to be more effective in their daily responsibilities.

It's time to reconsider the titles we use to motivate all employees to perform at their highest level. Change your MO: operations should be approached from a managerial perspective, but individuals should be approached through leadership. Our companies will benefit greatly from this renewed sense of personal responsibility.

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About the Author

B. Dan Berger, President and CEO, NAFCU

Dan BergerB. Dan Berger first joined NAFCU in 2006 and helped turn the association into the premiere advocate for the credit union industry.

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