The Manager's Toolkit -- Introduction

A Series of Thoughts on Management

Introduction... Mgrs. Meditations... Vision... Skills... ToolKit Ideas...
Process Language... Project Management... Thoughts on Deming
Job Descriptions Meeting Management Tips

Copyright Lark Ritchie 1995. 1996.

This column is called "The Manager’s ToolKit". Topics discussed here concern the manager, her or his role, challenges, and opportunities for growth at a personal and organizational level.

The word ‘manager’ describes not only those who have designated job titles, but also those whose roles include the functions of leadership and management; the responsibilities for making things happen, or are held accountable for results, and those wanting to move to roles that lead into these streams. You’re here now, and are considered the readership, the audience for this column.

The "Manager’s ToolKit" is a metaphor suggesting an analogy between a craftsman’s tool kit and the collection of roles, qualifications, skills, and demonstrated abilities employed as tools by successful manager and leader.

Metaphors and analogies allow these somewhat ‘soft’ concepts to be understood in more concrete terms, enabling one to identify and grasp a skill, technique, or idea much like one who understands function, would confidently select and use a hammer rather than a sponge to drive a nail.

In the computer field, The Macintosh operating system and Windows 95 use metaphors: The "Desktop", "Recycle Bin", "Trash Bin" and "Folder" are terms making the once mysterious and complex computer easier to use and understand. The same approach can be applied to the field of management, thus, use ‘ToolKit’ as you would ‘Desktop’.

Column topics include old and new concepts and practices (tools) for effective performance and project management, day to day operations, people development, and the more concrete tools like computers, and computer information. In fact, these are all parts of the manager’s toolkit holding ‘tools’ to help us become effective business people, entrepreneurs, workers, and leaders.

There are manual tools and powertools. A Number One manual tool is Comprehension. Its root verb means ‘to grasp, with the mind’, as in understanding meaning. Let’s test the metaphor with the word ‘manage’.

As with all words entering into common use, the word ‘manager’ is overused and eroded in its meaning. Understanding the true meaning empowers the person who wants to manage effectively.

The root is directly from the verb ‘manage’ meaning ‘to bring about, or succeed in accomplishing’ and ‘to take charge of: supervise’. It comes from the Italian ‘maneggiare’ to train horses, and earlier from the Latin ‘manus’ meaning ‘hand’. The roots imply the original meaning, which was ‘to make, by way of the hand’ - a very personal and active process.

Sadly for many people, ‘manage’ has come to mean ‘supervise’, which means ‘to watch over’. A much more passive thing; a small part of the manager’s role. Because of this double entendre, many people face differing expectations for managers: Those assigning the task expect the active meaning, the person receiving the task sometimes understands the assignment in the passive meaning. This confusion, can lead both parties to overall disappointment, stress, frustration, and ultimately, reassignment, at which time the cycle repeats itself with another candidate chosen as manager. As they say, ‘Let Us Break the Cycle!’ Grasp the Comprehension tool and work with it to understand meanings.

The Number One Power Tool - The Mouth…. No amount of perks, money, inflicted pain, or incentive program or bonus system can help a manager or leader more than the mouth.

Like any powerful tool, this one can be dangerous, cause you to (metaphorically) lose your vision, lose your right hand, cut off your feet from under you. Handle this tool with care. Use it wisely, and like a lever, moving mountains becomes possible. Now that’s a metaphor; the mouth as a tool. And perceived as a tool, we come to recognize important things for safe and effective use.

A toolkit usually resides quite close to the owner or user. In this analogy, the effective toolkit is internalized, incorporated within ourselves in habits and behaviours that are second nature. Using good tools makes us better, in-demand craftsmen.

Next month, we begin to select other tools for the toolkit.

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