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Be A Conductor Not A Manager

Date - 15 October 2016/ Category - Be A Conductor
be a conductor

The word manager is misleading, it pretends that the best solution to a problem is to manage it.

It’s not. In fact if you think managers are useful then you’re wrong. If you manage problems then you’re destined for failure.

You see when you face a problem you shouldn’t look to manage it because managing the problem simply means dealing with it. If you want to succeed then you’re going to have to solve the problem at hand (and its consequences) while diagnosing the root cause of it and making sure that it doesn’t happen again.

This kind of activity is done every day and we don’t realise it because we over value problem management and undervalue problem solving.

The truth is, the most successful businesses manage their problems and solve them too. They solve them to make sure that they don’t happen again and they can move forward, otherwise they just keep going in circles.

That’s why we recruit people who have been there and done that, because they have already banked the lesson (supposedly) that we need to learn.

The culmination of all these lessons isn’t making less mistakes, it’s just not making the same mistakes and therefore progress can be made.

That’s the problem with how we understand management, we think good managers deal with problems but that’s not true. Good managers deal with the same problems, problems solvers face new problems every day.

She shouldn’t be defined by how many problems we face or mistakes we make. Part of trying something new is expecting that things will go wrong, but we should judge people by how many times they cross the same bridge.

In truth then management isn’t the right term to use for someone who solves problems; it’s more about conducting than it is managing.

You see while managers face problems, conductors don’t view problems as a challenge.

They understand that problems will arise and construct teams and processes that deal with problems so that they can be overcome whenever they arise.

The reason I use the term conductors is because when it comes to “management” you need to see yourself as the head of an orchestra.

The conductor of an orchestra is there to guide and facilitate the members of the orchestra to make music.

If you imagine that a conductor sits at the middle of the orchestra, then every person in the orchestra plays an important part. Every single one is probably better at their own role than the conductor, but they are often individual parts.

The conductor helps them do their job, providing the tools necessary to succeed, trusting each member to do whatever is necessary.

Should one member of the orchestra not be pulling their weight, the conductor can lend a hand to bring it back up to speed.

Good conductors will have an understanding of what each member of the team does, but perhaps can’t do it as well as they can. When they recruit they should recruit people better than themselves at any role so that the sum of all the parts is greater than if the conductor were to do the work themselves.

Interestingly then, the ideal orchestra is one where the conductor is not needed. This realises the conductor to sit back and work on the orchestra, providing support and training to ensure they keep their skills current and tools up to date.

The only problem with this role is when multiple member of the team don’t pull their weight and the conductor has to step in to fulfil multiple roles.

In reality then running an efficient team is like spinning plates. More often than not you won’t be able to get all your plates spinning but if you do your job right you’ll get enough spinning that your projects can move forward and you can tweak the ones you need to get more from.

If you suffer from having many plates drop then you need to look at your recruitment policy. Never be afraid to get someone who can manage themselves into your team, it will help you out when you need to focus on other areas.

If you want to succeed then you need to ditch the term manager and become a conductor. View your team as highly skilled tools that should be designed to make you redundant. People are often afraid to do this but the truth is even the best teams can improve and as such it’s a good problem to have.

The best conductors understand every role their team plays. We often see “managers” that can only do a few roles but this promotes a mismatch that creates uneven teams. It’s really important if you want to be a conductor that you learn every role even if you can’t do them inside and out.

That’s why the best leaders often learn their businesses from the ground up, or super rich kids are put on the shop floor at day one; only those that understand the importance of being a conductor are willing to start at the bottom again.

Chapter Summary:

• Ditch the term manager
• Recruit people better than you
• It’s your job to give the team the tolls and support to do the job
• Having a good team is like spinning plates – get as many spinning as possible
• Every member of your tam should be better than you at their own role
• If the conductor realises that that a member isn’t doing their job you need to support them or replace them

Read our next blog post “Ready fire aim”.