Managers need to do more than just email and go to meetings

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Minding my business reading this Dorie Clark article yesterday and right in her first couple of sentences, she links out to this study showing that most managers spend about 4.1 hours/day answering emails. That’s a hideous, but completely believable, stat.

Let’s assume a workday is 10 hours for this exercise. You’re at about 41% of that answering emails.

Want to bring meetings into this mix?

Per some research, middle management spends about 35% of their time in meetings.

OK, so by quick math … 76% of a middle manager’s time is spent either on email or in meetings.

That’s three in every four minutes of a work day.

And we wonder why middle managers are crippling the economy?

Why is this happening?

I can make this one pretty easy, I think. Work has a lot to do with:

At that four-way intersection, of course a lot of middle managers are going to spend all day on email (hiding and doing tasks) and in meetings (unclear priorities, as most meetings really didn’t need to be called).

Can we fix it?

Well, we’ve been trying for about 50 years and most people are still out here fucking it to the wall. So the logical answer is “no.” You ever attend any conference related to work? There’s always some speaker who has “pithy stories” about “horrible meetings” and everyone laughs and relates?

What happens next?

They go back to their companies and convene more horrible meetings. Nothing was learned.

Years later, they see a similar speaker. Rinse and repeat.

So in reality, we probably can’t fix it.

What if we could try, though?

Well, this would be the “strategic road map:”

  • Understand that managers only have a higher salary because they are now managing others
  • As such, that needs to be a major facet of their job
  • They should be guiding, coaching, directing, setting priority, and helping the work get done in the right way
  • The executives set the strategy and build the relationships
  • The middle makes sure the rank-and-file understand the strategy and what it looks like as day-to-day work
  • If the middle does well, they get access to the perks and relationships of the top
  • If rank-and-files do well, they get chances to be coaches in the middle
  • Rinse and repeat

Middle management isn’t about tasks. That’s what everyone thinks, but it’s not that. It’s about understanding and contextualizing the strategy for those that need to execute upon it. We get this confused OFTEN.

The reason it becomes about tasks is — scroll up — people need stuff to control and want to be seen as “accomplished,” and getting stuff off your plate is an “accomplishment” of sorts.

Busy ain’t productive. But most middle managers have absolutely no clue about that. Every “dis-engagement” stat you see — 85% of people globally hate their job! — comes from this problem. The middle doesn’t coach. They hide and micromanage and belittle and over-focus on tasks. That’s why most people dislike work.

Blogging, largely about work and how to improve it. How I make (some) money:

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