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Motivation by Career Development: Part II

By: James M. Wilmott
Posted: September 5, 2008, from the September 2006 issue of GCI Magazine.

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The process of becoming a manager is the transformation of employees into supermen and superwomen. Managers are expected to be accountable for every aspect of the department. They are the organization’s chief professionals, chief problem-solvers, chief project managers, chief motivators and chief resource managers. It usually is the manager’s responsibility if something goes wrong in any aspect of the department. The manager is the hero for success and the scapegoat for failure.

The Ideal

Ideally, a manager is responsible for preparing the department or organization to succeed. People should be identified who have the right talents for the skills needed for each position, and the manager should help develop these skills until employees can perform them to the best of their abilities. A manager should be judged on the preparedness of the staff and the general working environment rather than being assessed only on the outcome.

Since managers are perceived as the principal individuals in the success or failure of a program, they typically possess a disproportionately high level of organizational power. High levels on the professional ladder are not typically in the main flow of the organization. Rather, they are rewarded with increasingly independent “blue sky” projects, which tend to be more academically and less financially motivated. These projects are seldom in the mainstream and are of little immediate value to the company. In essence, these professionals, who should be the very best at performing the key tasks of the company, become internal consultants. They are brought in to help solve an issue that arises with a critical project. Ideally, the most accomplished professional should be responsible for the most important projects within the organization since they have manifested the skills needed to complete them.

In the proposed dual ladder, management’s role changes dramatically. Managers are primarily accountable for procuring and monitoring resources to help the professionals complete their assignments. They are also there to develop what every organization says is its chief resource—its employees. This responsibility dictates that a manager should not be heavily involved in the actual “doing,” but rather track programs, motivate team members and procure the resources necessary to get the job done. Managers also facilitate the resolution of conflicts that may occur between personnel.

A true dual ladder inverts the current management structure. Interestingly, this new structure has some intriguing ramifications. Foremost, it keeps the best professionals applying their skills in areas for which they are most talented. Secondly, it identifies selected employees who have a propensity to develop people, who can procure and monitor resources, and who can oversee and manage the progress of the various projects within the department. Thirdly, this type of organization greatly reduces the number of management and increases the number of people working on key organizational programs. The net effect is fewer observers and more “doers.”