There are many roles a manager needs to fill. The manager is accountable for the team’s goals, helping individuals perform, give feedback and measure performance, act as a mentor and a leader, make decisions and, well, more…
When I ask other managers how they see their role, the answers vary, covering some of the points I mentioned above and others as well. People who practice agile methodologies mention on many occasions that one of the important roles of a manager is to clear the path for the team, so they can do their magic.
While I agree with and can relate to most of the various roles, there is one aspect of the day-to-day managerial work which I didn’t get to hear much, and it’s about momentum.
Once things are in motion, it’s relatively easy to maintain movement (yes, you still need to clear the path so you won’t lose momentum), but it can be tricky to set them into motion. It can at times be even harder to increase the speed (somehow slowing down usually gets done by itself).
As a mangaer, you are where people look to. If they see you moving, they are more likely to move. If they see you just sitting there they may think it’s ok to slow down a little. If they see you running and they trust you know what you’re doing, chances are they will run as well.
I’ve been in companies where from time to time they’d gather an all-hands meeting and say ‘we’re facing some challenging goals, it’s going to be a tough period, brace your selves and let your spouses know: you’re going to be working hard’. Much more often than not, this ‘fake sense of urgency’ achieved exactly the opposite. I worked hardest when the leaders of the organization made me feel they are invested in the goal at least as much as I am (and much more). And it’s not just about staying late or working weekends, it’s about constant involvement and actual care about what’s going on. You can’t be managing from your closed-door office. You want to be out there, in the trenches, with the people. You are the flywheel.
As the flywheel, you begin spinning. Your subordinates will catch momentum, spin around you and spin themselves. Their subordinates will follow. Sounds easy, right?
Momentum is a great thing to have – in physics it’s directly related to energy, I think it’s true for management as well.
if you’re interested, kinetic energy is calculated like so:
where ω is the angular velocity, and I is the moment of inertia of the mass about the center of rotation. The moment of inertia is the measure resistance to torque applied on a spinning object (i.e. the higher the moment of inertia, the slower it will spin after being applied a given force)