Manager or Doer - Which One are You?

Martin Haworth

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Managers fall into a trap, quite easily when the pressure is on, of doing more of the regular workload that their employees could. It makes them feel like they are achieving more personally, as well as fighting the fires that crop up every day. But this is not a sustainable solution, here's why. . .

Most managers are measured on tangible results. It could be sales, or response times or production output. It is often number related and with this in mind, many managers seek to beef up the manpower delivering these numbers, by doing some of this work themselves.

There is nothing wrong with a manager choosing to get their ‘hands dirty’. To chip in with their people. In fact, when it really matters, it can be a valuable motivational activity, building team spirit.

But as resources get stretched and the manager becomes an integral part of the workforce, the business starts to get dependent on their tactical input.

And this stops being a management role, but a ‘doing’ role. At it goes on and on, with no time to develop people and strategies to make the business truly grow, develop and evolve. There is no time for the really important stuff which grows teams and individuals to improve and enhance their contribution.

And so the problems start.

Firstly, the manager becomes unable to spend valuable time with team members and understand what they are feeling, or build credible relationships with them. These are vital to develop an awareness of issues that are arising in the workplace and to get to know individuals’ difficulties and aspirations, for future team development.

Secondly, employees begin to regard the manager as just another employee, at their level, and the discipline afforded to someone in seniority fails, just when it is critical to have someone leading from the front. Respect is lost.

Thirdly, the lack of development provided by a manager to each and every one of their people generates a boredom with the job. With little challenge, the job becomes repetitive. With little time for their employees, even praise becomes a rarity.

Finally, absenteeism and turnover increase. The hard working manager, doing their now ‘day-job', is placed faces more tactical demands as he or she puts the ‘doing’ work in, to just keep up. As they have less and less capable people, inevitably, something falls off the cliff.

Typically the business starts to underperform and the manager gets put under pressure from above, often failing under the strain of self-imposed workload - but the wrong workload.

Challenging though it may be, a manager has to step back from much of this ‘doing’ stuff in the workplace.

Short-term, things may get worse, but for the longer-term growth of the business, the manager has to manage their people effectively. Easy steps in this are spending time building relationships, defining robust standards, communicating effectively and managing performance.

Time spent here will be much more value-creating for a manager in developing their people and the business for which they are responsible, as well as providing a fulfilling role for them.

Manager or ‘doer’ - it is a choice and one which can take some time and effort to master. With it comes the maturity of realising where the future lies - and what it looks like.

At the end of the day, as an alternative, stepping back from management and becoming a great ‘doer', with the respect that brings is no failing.

© 2005-6 Martin Haworth is a Business and Management Coach. He works worldwide, mainly by phone, with small business owners, managers and corporate leaders. He has hundreds of hints, tips and ideas at his website,

. . . helping you, to help your people, to help your business grow. . .


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