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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Are You a Task Manager or a People Manager or Both?

There's all kinds of ways to classify or interpret people's inherent personality traits, social profiles and approaches to work and life.

Most studies or programs break people up into 4 groups and then have adjective derivatives of those 4 groups to more closely define secondary tendencies.

Over the last few years, I've paid less attention to that definition and focused more on identifying whether a person is a Task Manager or a People Manager or some mixture of the 2.

Let me explain or define with a simple comparative anecdote.

A Task Manager will get up in the morning and make a list of "Things to Do".  This is pretty self explanatory.  The list may be a mental list or a written list.... doesn't matter.  As you get older, the list will become more written than mental, cause you tend to forget things... that's a whole nother sermon.

The "Things to Do" are tasks which the task-oriented person has identified as actions that need to be taken to achieve a certain result.  There will likely be people's names on the list because the end result depends on communication or exchange of information, but there is likely little consideration or thought given to those people or who they are or how they are.  The person's name on the line item is simply a conduit for achieving a result, because the Task Manager is gonna do the work and achieve the result.... because that's what they do.... Tasks.

Notice I keep using the word "Do".  Task Managers are "Do-er"s.  They get stuff done.  They prefer not to get involved with office politics and corporate maneuverings and prefer to just execute work.  They will tend to have a more limited scope in terms of their "sphere of influence" (that's an old term I know but I still like it) because they can only do so much themselves.  But that's OK with them because they want to control the quality and quantity of content.  And they gain satisfaction out of accomplishing things.... of seeing their mark on the world through the execution of work by their own hand.

Now, let's talk about the People Manager. 

The People Manager wakes up earlier in the morning than the Task Manager because they have more to do. 

They have to make a mental or written list of who they will be talking to today and going over their knowledge and experience of those people to craft an approach to influence said people to do what the People Manager wants them to do.

This is a far more complicated job than the Task Manager has because it requires the People Manager to go through lines of questions and responses based on how they think their people challenges of the day will respond.  They are not "Do-ers".... They are "People-ers".  I just made that up - can you tell?

Where the Task Manager may develop contingencies and alternate plans for achieving work results, the People Manager may develop strategies and approaches for convincing or guiding people to a desired conclusion or effort.

The People Manager doesn't do any Work.... He or She does People.... Ok - it's Work.... it's just a different kind of work.

I could give more specifics on this but then the post would become a chapter in a book and it would leave little to your imagination and nothing to challenge your own perceptions of the subject.

Let me move on with this analysis with a discussion of how my own thoughts and perceptions have changed over the years.

It's no big secret, I am a Task Manager.... and on the scale of being a Task Manager, I am on the extreme end.

Because of that, I have a natural bias toward the concept of Task Managers.

In fact, up to a few years ago, I had a complete, outright and oft too publicly displayed disdain of People Managers. 

I considered them Mental Manipulators who didn't know how to do anything themselves and couldn't get anything done unless they could influence, coerce, backstab, network or politically maneuver their desired results into existence, often at the expense of broken bodies and destroyed careers and relationships in their wake.

Now that's out of the way, let me introduce an adjective to the People Manager label to demonstrate my changing perceptions.

There are Positive People Managers and Negative People Managers.... I could use different adjectives but I like these black and white simple terms and it really adds a description that needs no explanation.... but I'll explain anyway.

Positive People Managers are those people who use their special talents for Good....

They Promote Themselves by Promoting and Protecting and Nurturing the People in their Sphere of Influence.

Negative People Managers use their talent (which is not a talent but an affliction) for less than altruisic designs...

To attempt to Promote Themselves by Intimidating, Coercing, Exploiting and Using the People in their Sphere of Influence.

I have seen both of these in action.... and felt the Positive and Negative results.

In general, People Managers have a greater Sphere of Influence than the Task Manager because they can multiply their efforts through People....

However, they will still be limited if all they are is a People Manager. 


Because to be a Mover and a Shaker.... a True Superstar.... You have to be both.

You have to be able to do it yourself to understand what you're asking people to do and to be able to judge the results.... Because there are always better ways to do things.

And unless you have a working knowledge of what you are asking people to do, you can't help those people achieve a superior result..... you are left with having to trust that person came up with the best result.

You have to know enough to at least ask intelligent questions and understand the responses to truly nurture that person to their best effort.

So what are the takeaways from this little piece of mental masturbation?
  1. You need to identify what you are and how you deal with the world.  Are you more interested in getting things done or working with people to get things done?
  2. Whichever one you are, you need to be aware the other type exists and adjust your expectations and responses to account for that. 
  3. If you are dealing with a Task Manager, don't be so sensitive about how the expectation is presented cause they're not thinking about your feelings.... they just want to get the job done. 
  4. If you are dealing with a People Manager, listen to how the person presents the information to you and try to figure out if their motives and intentions are serving you or serving them.  Think about what lies beyond the immediate words and conversation and how what you will say will be construed or used by the People Manager.
  5. If you have strong tendencies to one or the other type, try to gain knowledge of and develop Positive attributes from the less dominant tendency.  Find a Mentor.... someone you respect who has those qualities and Observe.
Those are a few of my thoughts on this little thesis.

I've got to cut this off here because I've got to get ready to go talk to a guy who is probably one of the Best Task and People Managers I have ever met..... about a job.

Wish me Luck!!

1 comment:

  1. Good luck with the job interview. Hope this will meet with all your expectations and schedule.