There aren’t many words that I actively dislike, but “manager” is definitely one of them. In the business world, it’s a title meant to carry a weight of importance. The problem is that it neither accurately describes what people in that role do nor does it signal the empowering qualities crucial for overseeing a team. Let me break it down for you.
There are two primary definitions of the word “manage” in the Oxford English Dictionary. The first is to be in charge of a business, an organization, or an undertaking. The other is to succeed in surviving or in achieving something despite difficult circumstances — in other words, to cope.
Isn’t it interesting that one has a seemingly positive theme while the other is all about merely getting by? For many employees who work under a manager, there’s a feeling of simply surviving the experience of working under the conditions created and controlled by that person. And when that manager is grossly ineffective or incompetent, coping is certainly a strategy that many employees adopt.
You’ve likely heard the saying “people leave managers, not companies.” There’s something to that. One 2018 report found that those who don’t think their supervisors are high performers are four times more likely to be on the hunt for a new job. It doesn’t have to be this way.
Managing and Leading Are Two Different Things
Without any other context, which of the following situations sounds like it will have better overall outcomes: A team that’s managed well or a team that’s led well? Think about it this way: Do you want to work for a great manager or a great leader?
In the hierarchy of organizational business language, the role of a leader is often above that of manager. But what if anyone in charge of a team — regardless of its size within an organization — operated as a leader, rather than a manager? Getting those in management roles to understand the difference is a good first step to creating the positive company culture that propels the best companies forward.
Using the term “manager” too often gives people with that title the wrong signals for how they should lead their charges — that, in order to be a good manager, you have to control or operate every detail. Ineffective managers set narrow parameters for their employees to operate within, then critique and correct along the way.
People want to be trusted and empowered, and a joint study found that employees would take more responsibility for engagement if their companies had compelling missions, strong relationships, and well-designed jobs. The best supervisors are ones who embody their roles as leaders. The best leaders inspire and motivate their people while communicating visions of where they want their teams to go.
Ideally, leaders divide their time between coaching, setting goals, and guiding the group toward big-picture achievements. Managers, meanwhile, spend too much time stuck in the details of the moment.
“The pessimist complains about the wind. The optimist expects it to change. The leader adjusts the sails.” – John Maxwell
The Smaller the Team, the Bigger the Problem
The effects of a manager mentality are only amplified in a small business setting, where meddling is simply not conducive to success. If a company is especially small, the owner may be the only person in the chain of command above a small set of employees. If that owner loses focus and begins overmanaging the staff, that business could be doomed before it ever has a chance to succeed.
With a small team, a business needs everyone to wear more than one hat and cover more ground per person in order to stay competitive. Instead of supervisors being seen as managers, they should be seen as coordinators. Coordinators connect people, projects, and initiatives. They set parameters while also receiving input from members of the team.
3 Reasons to Keep ‘Managers’ Out of Your Business:
Before you establish roles and responsibilities for your small business, reconsider your plans for middle management. Here are the three biggest reasons why the term “manager” shouldn’t appear anywhere in your chain of command:
1. It leads employees into a defensive position
People don’t want their lives outside of work managed by someone else, so why should we expect a different reaction to the same concept inside the office? Language matters, and the term “manager” comes with negative connotations that can put staff members into an uncomfortable position, no matter the circumstance. When employees have a manager, they expect that person will always critique and micromanage their daily duties.
Although employees don’t want their lives to be managed by someone else, they still appreciate guidance and structure. That’s where a leader comes in. Strong leadership inspires people to bring out the best of themselves with an eye toward tomorrow. It engages employees to bring their whole selves to work while influencing positive results.
“A good objective of leadership is to help those who are doing poorly to do well and to help those who are doing well to do even better.” – Jim Rohn
2. Corporate language breaks down the atmosphere
Clear communication is crucial for effective leadership. So why introduce jargon in your workspace? Business buzzwords are not only confusing, but also annoying and draining. Corporate language tends to eat away at enthusiasm and the important autonomy that employees feel while they’re working toward a shared goal.
When employees feel like they’re being heard, they’re nearly five times more likely to feel inspired to do their best work, according to a report by Salesforce. Why muddy the waters? Create an environment where thoughts flow freely and employees feel like they’re positioned to make the most of their days at the office.
3. The term sets the bar too low for entrepreneurs
According to a survey of small business owners, the number one motivator for starting a company is the appeal of being your own boss. You didn’t start your company to become a manager. Using that term only limits how you’ll grow your team and, by extension, your company.
People get into the game of entrepreneurship to lead talented people toward an exciting set of goals. If the role of manager doesn’t inspire the founder to go the extra mile, how will it help inspire employees? The short answer: It won’t.
Ultimately, you want your supervisors to lead and coordinate rather than control. Eliminating the word “manager” from your vocabulary can help you keep employees’ spirits higher, keep everyone more connected, and set yourself up for greater success. Taking your business to the top is no easy task, but using the right words is a small step that can make a big difference.