Managers vs Masters – making the non-manager sexy again

Managers vs Masters – making the non-manager sexy again

skillset manager master

The Debate

The never ending debate about management. Tanya deserves a promotion because she’s worked her butt off for months now, she’s loyal to the company, she brings in loads of money so she obviously deserves a management position. There’s only one problem, Tanya would make a dismal people manager. She lacks the skills, and even if we did make the investment to upskill her, we’re pretty sure she has no interest in developing individuals or supporting and nurturing careers. No offence Tanya you are fantastic at what you do and you should nurture your strengths.

We continue to promote people into people management positions because we need to give them legitimate power or seniority and it’s the only way we can demonstrate their progression. We brush over the fact that we are potentially now affecting the engagement of a team of people and Tanya’s energy levels are due to take a deep dive as she now has to exercise a muscle she really has no interest in but it’s the only way to climb the career ladder.

The problem

Why do we insist on pushing people into management positions because we need to reward them and we’ve run out of ways to do it?

We need to have a legitimate shift in the way we reward people. We need to raise the profile of individual contributors. It’s definitely not that sexy is it ‘individual contributor’. After All, these are self managers. That’s why i’ve renamed it ‘master’. We need managers and masters. This doesn’t remove the need for managers but it will give us another avenue to explore when faced with that time of year we have to dole out promotions/rewards.

Management training gets all the glory doesn’t it? We’re sending our brightest on management training as they are most important. But the tools we provide them are relevant to almost all employees. Lets create a curriculum for our Masters. Focus more time on skills audits and training needs analysis. Almost all of the skills you learn on management training apply to  Specialists, it’s just a case of tailoring.

The solution

So all this moaning, what’s my solution. Let’s start a campaign to make the un-manager sexy. I’m calling it Master because that’s what it is. Those specialists who have honed their skills and are now the company’s resident Master in a particular field. Without the technical expert we’re finished. You’ve read it over and over here (Requirement for STEM skills), here (Skills shortage worst for decades) and here (Lack of technical skills could be damaging).

But just because our resident Masters are fantastically great at the technical bit, it doesn’t mean we should automatically promote them. Why not buddy up Masters and Managers together.

Use the Masters as consultants to the Managers. “Hey Manager, you know how to engage people and seem to really enjoy it so why don’t I work on how to push this project forward, and you focus on how to mobilise the team.”

I’m not saying that Masters now don’t have to develop their soft skills or coaching skills. They do. Let’s deploy them the company in a targeted way without risking a mass exodus or a dip in engagement.

Just some food for thought.