Business is a buffet (smörgåsbord), but management is a set menu.
When we choose to order off the set menu at a restaurant, we are choosing to limit our options to what represents the cuisine that the venue is famous for. I recall considering an order of Black Pepper Crab, a specialty at certain restaurants in Singapore, and being concerned about whether I would enjoy it. Having arrived as a group, however, this was easily solved by ordering a set menu consisting of crab, prawns, line fish, chicken and other delicacies that make up a wonderful set menu of that country’s delights. It may not have been all-you-can-eat of the item I most desired to sample, but its variety meant that we were all satisfied – and equally out-of-wallet.
In my experience, being a manager is similar to having a set menu of roles, with their limitations. To be effective, managers cannot afford to spend the majority of their time on their passion. Managers are appointed as overseers, ensuring that they AND their teams fulfill their roles. It is tempting and natural to focus on the what we enjoy doing, and many books encourage us to do this, to the exclusion of what we should also be doing. Managers who do not manage risk, compliance, work-flow, marketing, stakeholder relationships and team communications will not sustain success. Unless you are a serial entrepreneur – think Elon Musk – chances are that becoming too focused or specialised will not help you to operate seamlessly in your business context.
If you choose the buffet option – business ownership – ownership will be key, since no-one is likely to see all of your potential or share in your life ambitions. I think that 2-5 year stints within an organisation, renewable based on common vision and values, or 5-year cycles as founder-entrepreneurs, avoids the embeddedness that can become unhelpful, and nurtures talent within our ranks. Of course, if you are a freelancer, then your personal brand is your business, so timelines would differ substantially.
So much also depends on how well our organisations encourage creativity, since this is the hallmark of growth. Where do you stand on this? Are you recording your subtle revisions and innovative adaptations and encouraging your colleagues to do the same? Is there an atmosphere of respect and trust that supports robust conversations and “truth-telling”, so that no “blind-sides” derail you? As a parting thought, none of us is bigger than our network. It is our true foundation. I do believe that effective leadership of an organisation requires great advisers and the right support group of “volunteers” – those who buy into the bigger picture, assuming it is well communicated. Should management be your path, there are plenty of opportunities for self-expression within set menus, but each course has a purpose and preferred sequence, and the goals remains exceptional customer service and sustainable business.
If you need to hone your “edge” as an individual or organisation, or you realise that you have been too narrowly focused on certain aspects of your role, I look forward to hearing from you, and supporting your transition to higher levels of effectiveness.