A couple of companies ago, I worked for a manager who had his act together. He worked in a discipline he knew inside and out, and he had the respect and admiration of most everyone he worked with. Then, he was promoted, and he continued to oversee that discipline, along with a new discipline: Information Technology.
Information Technology. This was a man who called me at home between Christmas and New Year because he couldn’t figure out how to make the copier create a .PDF file.
I mention this because I was wandering through the Harvard Business Review website and saw an article called “If Your Boss Could Do Your Job, You’re More Likely to be Happy at Work” (by Benjamin Artz, Amanda Goodall, and Andrew J. Oswald). Most of the time, I agree with the things I read from HBR, but this time, I felt like the authors missed the mark…a little bit.
The article concluded that “employees are far happier when they are led by people with deep expertise in the core activity of the business.” While it’s often a notion that it’s wrong to promote an engineer to lead engineers or an editor to lead editors, this article argues that a manager’s expertise in the field matters a great deal. Employee satisfaction, according to their surveys in the US and Britain, go up when they feel like the boss can step in and do what they do.
A Revolutionary Assistant wants to support a manager no matter what the circumstances, and, as was the case for me, I had a manager who was suddenly overseeing a department where he had very little expertise. And while it might be true that employees are happier when their boss has the same expertise, I saw a manager who made do without. Here’s how he was successful:
He didn’t claim expertise and respected those who had it – My manager walked in, equipped with an awareness of corporate goals and how IT needed to fit in. He made every effort to understand the obstacles and involve the team in how they were going to reach their goals.
He was a great leader – Honestly, I’ve never worked with anyone before or since who was quite like him when it came to leadership skills. He approached that aspect with great confidence, and his direct reports were likely to follow him anywhere. He had confidence here, and he showed it. If your manager can’t be an expert in the field he’s leading, you can cheer him on to be an expert leader.
He was a people manager – He wanted to see people succeed in their positions, and he was willing to help them get to the next level, especially when it came to those skills that were common no matter what the position. When it came to presentation, speaking persuasively to senior management, he was a coach and cheerleader for the team members.
Authors Artz, Goodall, and Oswald are likely mostly correct when they say that employees are happier when the boss knows how to do their job. There’s none of that, “He has no idea what he’s asking me to do!” and “Doesn’t he know how much time that’s going to take?” But if your manager is faced with the task of leading a group of people and he’s not at all an expert, a little bit of respect, love of people and good old fashioned leadership might do the trick.
Next Post: Wednesday, January 25, 2017