Management and supervision

Two kinds of manager

I’m Jason Firth.

Lately my work has been closer to management than front line work. As a supervisor, my first duty is a safe workplace, but my second is enabling my workers to succeed, and that often requires management of one form or another.

I previously had a theory of management that I now fully believe to be fact: there are two types of manager.

The first is a subject matter expert. Such an expert knows intimately what is required to succeed at the job, and has the experience to steer a project in the direction in needs to go.

the second is a pure people manager. That kind of expert doesn’t know anything about the subject matter, but surround some self with people who do know. People that he trusts, who will help him make the right decision and who he will support.

I would argue that every manager is a little bit of both. You’re going to have situations where you are the subject matter expert in the room, where you have all the answers and everyone is looking to you because you’re the guy. You’re also going to have situations where even if it’s in your field maybe you just don’t know about this particular situation. if you’ve got enough going on, eventually you’re going to reach a spot where you have to defer to your subordinates.

A lot of people have a biased towards believing that one type of manager or another is preferable. Myself, I think that the key is providing the support that workers need to successfully complete the things that we ask them to do.

I use the word project a lot. Certain schools of thought will establish a project as this big thing that requires project teams and all kinds of resources, but in a lot of cases something that I would consider project doesn’t include all that. It can’t, or your company would simply go out of business for being so top heavy. Despite that, for these mini projects there is still a way that you need to manage them. Even for something absolutely tiny, you need to make sure that the materials are available, that the manpower is dedicated to the project, that there’s a plan to get from point a to point b. The difference between the project that is properly managed and a project that isn’t when we’re talking about these small scale projects can still be the difference between success and failure. you can throw a thousand people at a job, but if you’re missing a quarter inch nut everything stops. You can have all the quarter inch nuts in the world, but if you don’t have a person who knows how to turn a wrench, that job isn’t getting done. Even with all the people in the world, and all the materials in the world, and all the tools in the world, if you don’t know what you’re doing because no one has the information to succeed at the task, that job isn’t getting done.

Both types of manager can help push through these projects. Subject matter expert can help with the planning themselves, and exactly what’s going to be required in terms of manpower in materials. People managers can draw on the resources around them to find the right person to plan the job and the rate people to figure out what’s going to be required to get a job done. besides that, they will make absolutely certain that the people that help them succeed feel appreciated and well-regarded and compensated for their extra efforts.

Expect me to talk a lot more though this sort of thing in the future, as my role in the world changes.

Thanks for reading!

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