photo by GIHE
The last few weeks I have been interviewing for a job. I went to different firms and met different interviewers. As I am interviewing for a position in the middle of an organization, one that will demand the handling of a team, the discussion included questions around teamwork, leadership and management. Those are all things that I love talking about, as those of you who have been following this blog know very well. However, the interviews themselves, and my mental preparation for them, made me think about some of my beliefs, in an attempt to articulate them better.
I wrote here many times that I believe that a manager’s main challenge is helping his team excel, each person in a different way. I talked about the fact that I believe that the best way to manage is by outcome management and by resisting the temptation to give answers. I also talked about the humility that must be part of a manager’s attitude, and off course about MBWA.
But the more I think about it, the biggest challenge managers in modern organizations face today, one that encompasses most of the above challenges is that of managing smart people. Because in today’s environment a manager is not necessarily the best professional. These days are over. He no longer has the ultimate knowledge and the ability to understand all issues of the business, department , division or sometimes, even the team. The people he works with, most of the times know more about specific things then he does and have skills that he doesn’t. And they are smart. Not only smart in terms of pure intelligence (IQ) but smart in terms of emotional intelligence (EQ) and social intelligence (SQ).
Malcolm Gladwell, one of my favorite authors gave an amazing speech at the New Yorker conference labeled: “Genius: 2012”. In it, he compares Michael Ventris, the decipherer of Linear B, with Andrew Wiles, the solver of Fermat’s Last Theorem and concludes:
“Modern problems require persistence more than they require genius and we ought to value quantity over quality when it comes to intelligence”.
One of his main claims in the speech is that 13 smart guys are better than one genius in dealing with modern problems. And this is the essence of what a manager needs to do. He needs to coordinate 13 smart guys to solve modern day problems. And those of you who worked with smart people, know how big a challenge it is.
The more our society advances the smarter people will get. They will get more specialized. Most problems today can’t be covered by one individual so each team members must know only part of the problem very well. And the manager needs to coordinate all of that. He needs to make sure that each team member has the ability to excel with his specific knowledge and skills; has to ability to use his strength for the good of the team; to create a synergy from the separate members of the team.
What do you think the biggest challenge of modern managers is?