Managers: Take Back Your Power

You're squeezed from the top, squeezed from the bottom and when you get home to rest all you see on TV is The Office's Michael Scott spoofing you. Managers, have you had enough?

Most have. According to Accenture, 58% are willing to change jobs and 30% are currently looking. It's really no wonder, after all of the years that managers have been maligned, de-layered, de-positioned and left for dead.

However, the stage is set for a significant return to power. With four trends putting the wind at their backs, now is the time for managers to demonstrate their power, purpose and success and take it all back.

Here are the trends and some ways to make sure you're on track to benefit.

  1. The Increasing Complexity Of The Business World -- With creative destruction and reinvention at play across industries from manufacturing to transportation to telecom, business is more sophisticated than ever. Industries are changing faster, companies are merging and divesting all while trying to get a handle on the regulations. Meanwhile, workers are faced with systems that don't sync and a vast array of disconnects. We've all experienced them. As everyone tries to make sense of the chaos, the person who actually knows how to get things done is increasingly valuable. Quite often this person is a veteran manager with their vast networks, operating skills and knowledge of how things really work. Great veteran managers know how to accomplish things far beyond the organization chart and process map.

    Light Up Your Network -- Managers, now is the time to ensure that you know how to navigate and have the relationships across your firm to really make stuff happen. Managers who are able to ignite their vast knowledge of people and processes to do what other executives can't will find new power.
  2. The Pig Leaving The Snake -- As the giant Boomer population turns 60 and moves to out of the workplace, the need for skilled workers is swelling. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the shortage of skilled workers will exceed 10 million by 2010. According to Business Week, nearly 24% of mid-level management positions will open up. Talk about leverage. There will be many openings and greater need to retain and promote those in the know. Make sure you are one of them.

    Jeanne Bogre is marketing manager for Danly IEM, a Cleveland-based company that is the leading manufacturer of die sets, die-making supplies and machine components for industries in North America. When outsourcing loomed and many worried about the future of their jobs, Jeanne took a different approach. With many boomer managers uninterested in the rigors of international travel Jeanne jumped at the chance to develop her skills in international business. What she learned is that abroad she had more autonomy and a real opportunity to have more control of projects and develop her skills. With the support of boomer managers she found success on several levels.

    Get A Mentor -- These older works have a hard won perspective that will not only help you understand where your company is in the movie, but also help you understand the motivations of the lead characters. With the right mentor, you not only get a friend but a powerful endorsement as well.
  3. Business Models Are Failing Faster -- With a global economy, increased competition and an accelerated business cycle, companies are learning the next big idea is not likely to come from those who created the first one. Successful reinvention is most likely to be driven by those in the middle. Those who truly understand the landscape-- the customer, the competition and the trends. Great managers know how to read the emerging market and connect the dots internally in a way that fully harnesses the firm's people, skills and resources. These great managers will bring in the next evolution of the company model.

    A few years ago a manager at Harrah's identified a real strategic opportunity. The World Series of Poker was owned by Binion's casino and the courts had just shut them down. With some quick thinking, he connected the dots in Harrah's and they bought Binion's, flipping the casino and retaining the WSOP, an asset now likely worth over a billion dollars.

    Become A Scout -- Customers and vendors are incredible sources of information if we ask and listen the right way. Schedule time with no agenda other than to share information. Ask open-ended questions. Try to learn who's doing it better. Who's struggling and why? Then step completely beyond your industry for analogies. The Internet can be a great friend in this pursuit. Scan blogs for content and social networks to make new friends and see what questions are being asked. Linkedin.com's answer's area is vibrant and full of insight.
  4. Growing Corporate Flexibility -- One positive result of the reengineering movement of the 1990s was some smashing of the old military style corporate hierarchy, with its rigid job ladders and pay scales. Another comes with the failure of de-layering too much in the middle. Now, with a new appreciation of the importance of managers in the middle, a growing number of companies are waking up to the fact that they need to retain and attract for these roles.

    In some firms employees have found the power to re-write their jobs and redefine their workplace. Evidence of this exists in the rise of telecommuters, flex schedules and total culture makeovers.

    One great example of the manager's rise in power is happening at Best Buy. A couple of managers got the idea of doing away with meetings and fixed work schedules. Their small test, labeled CultureRx, soon caught the ear of many of their counterparts and within weeks most of the managers at Best Buy's corporate offices were calling for a complete sea change. The result? Management bought in and Best Buy no longer has meetings. Instead the employees work on their own schedules from wherever they want and are judged not on their attendance but their output. This complete un-tethering may not be in everyone's future, but one thing is clear: In the future, compensation and work packages will be customized and personalized. For the best managers, standard pay scales will not apply.

    Be The Person Everyone Wants For The Job -- If you're looking for a promotion for yourself, be the person everyone wants to see promoted. Use growing corporate flexibility to make your own people more successful and loyal and the benefits will come back to you.

While these trends will likely impact everyone's business a little differently, the fact is that they aren't going away anytime soon. For managers really looking to make a difference and gain an advantage now is the time. Develop and accentuate the strengths we outlined and get ready to reclaim some of the power, purpose and success you rightfully deserve.

Vince Thompson is a former executive for AOL and the principal at Middleshift, a consulting company focused on creating revenue for Internet businesses by empowering those in the middle and super-serving customers. He is the author of Ignited: Managers, Light up Your Company and Career for More Power, More Purpose and More Success www.BeIgnited.com

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