Think back to when you first became a manager. Were you promoted because you excelled as an individual contributor? Were you were thrown into the position with little preparation and no training? Did you have any idea of what you were getting yourself into?
You may have felt disoriented for a while because you weren’t sure if you were doing the job right. Let’s face it. As an individual contributor, you knew how to measure your effectiveness (reduce cycle times, increase new customers). As a manager, however, the measurements aren’t so clear-cut.
It’s tough to measure success because many new managers don’t know exactly what they are responsible for. They have no idea if they are hitting the mark and it can be frustrating, to say the least.
I experienced the same thing when I first became a manager. I continued to have lingering doubts about whether I was doing the job or not. What was missing was a way to gauge my success. I could have used John Adair’s Action-Centred Leadership model (used with his permission). It would have made all the difference to me.
John Adair, a noted leadership theorist, devised the Action-Centred Leadership model during the 1970s. He captured his theory in a “three circles” diagram, illustrating three core management responsibilities:
- achieving the task
- building and sustaining the team
- developing the individuals within the team
The circles overlap because they are interrelated. Teams are comprised of individuals, teams and individuals complete tasks, and without a task there is no need for teams or individuals. If one element is missing or weak then the other elements will suffer. For example, if one individual is underperforming the team suffers; if the team is weak then task completion suffers.
I think Adair’s model is a terrific guidepost. It provides a way to step back from the day-to-day business and assess whether you’re doing the job of the manager. Ask yourself every now and then:
Am I meeting the needs of the task? The Team? The Individuals?
If the answer is yes to all three, you’re on the right track. Of course, it’s not always feasible to focus equal attention on all three areas all of the time. There are times when a particular area needs to be given more weight. For example, during preparation for the upcoming performance year, managers are busy planning workloads and writing business objectives. Naturally, the task circle gets the focus. But if you find yourself focusing too much on the work while neglecting the team or the individuals within the team, it’s time to redirect your efforts.
While Adair’s model serves as a useful guide, for me, it is not complete. I’d like to add a third circle to his model, if I may.
The self. That’s you! Now, I realize I’m messing up a perfectly elegant diagram, but bear with me. Managers are so busy attending to the needs of the team, the task, and the individuals that they neglect their own needs. And they do so at their own peril, for neglecting self needs will cause the other three areas to suffer. And what are those self-needs?
- Managing the relationship with your boss
- Going after your own learning and development
- Managing your stress levels
In my view, these are the questions to ask yourself every once in a while to keep you focused and on track:
Am I meeting the needs of the task? The team? The individuals? Am I meeting my own needs?
In the next several posts, I’ll take a look at what it takes to fulfill the needs in each of the four areas.
For more information on John Adair and his work: http://www.johnadair.co.uk/