Are You An Unmanager?

April 24th, 2011

I agree with Malcolm Gladwell on the 10,000 hours commitment, from the book The Tipping Point, Gladwell talks about ability being just one factor in success. Other factors such as environment, time/place, and luck also play a role.

I’m interested in what makes someone an expert. In my field, there are many folks who call themselves experts and they’ve only had their ‘hands in it’ for six months. This is the classic story for web development, mobile, and social media. Try some things, publish a blog, convince a few clients, speak at a conference, score a few good positions and suddenly you are an expert.

I’m also endlessly fascinated with how “experts” become leaders in organizations with absolutely no background in management. This is a real problem. These “experts” were promoted because they excelled in their specialized field. This is an big flaw. Why do we promote these “experts”? Promotion equals reward. Let’s reward them by giving them the responsibility of managing large groups of people. Never works. In fact, if you pay attention, you can quickly sniff out organizations that consistently promote under qualified expert managers (unmanager).

These organizations are slow to move, slow to respond. They often have a top layer of management who makes all the decisions while hundreds of others are left disempowered. Behind closed doors (often a symptom) top “managers” spend endless hours with each other and very few with the rest of the organization. Their interaction with the company as a whole is often scripted, not casual or genuine. These companies are not experimental or visionary because the managers in power have no idea what it takes to motivate people or empower others. Change doesn’t happen. If it does, it’s isolated and occurs in some small silo where a glimmer of good management resides.

The digital field will always have new experts due to rate of change. But what’s the excuse for the poorly qualified management pool? I say, go into your job tomorrow and ask these simple questions of your manager – give me an example of a happy employee at this company. A real example and why. After example (if there is one), ask…how do I get there? Also ask, what is your favorite book or expert in the field of management? (If you don’t know who the absolute experts are in your field and why, you should change fields)

Your manager’s answers will be telling and might just convince you to fire up your resume, professional network, or LLC.

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