Drumming the management beat

Drummer manager

I have a philosophy on management which goes – if you notice the manager, then management has gone wrong.

Good management should be invisible. It happens behind the scenes, allowing the parts to move together efficiently and the whole organisation to work effectively. Good managers select great people, self motivators, give them the tools to do the job (training, time, support, resources…) and then get out of the way.

In so doing, the manager does not absolve themselves of the responsibility for the performance of their team. The best managers are always on top of the numbers (the activity of the team, the work they are producing and the results). This can be achieved through simple CRM methods, regular quick meetups or huddles, and and ‘we’re all in this together’ spirit.

Getting away, and letting them get on with it, is a tough thing to do. It’s easy to meddle, it’s hard to bite your tongue and bide your time. You’re there to help, and when you’re needed, you’ll know. Sometimes you’ll err on the side of being too disengaged, but this won’t last long as the results come in. It is far worse to err on the side of being too engaged, micro managing your team to distraction, and not allowing them the freedom to fly. In this atmosphere, the best people will leave, and may even turn on you (think Kevin Rudd).

A manager is a bit like a drummer in a band. If you notice the drummer, something is wrong. Sure, you can listen out for the drummer, but if you sit back and listen to music, it’s rarely the drumming you are listening to explicitly. You’re singing along with the singer and maybe air guitaring a cool lick. Perhaps a cool drum fill will have you reaching for the pencils and drum rolling along the top of your desk, but usually it’s the general sound and lyrics you listen to. And yet the drumming is there. Remove it, and the whole thing collapses. Even a capella singers snap their fingers.

The drums hang in the background (within the sound, and literally, on stage) yet keep the whole on track, efficiently, and on time. If a fellow band member wants to go off in a new direction, the drummer signals this and goes with them. If the whole song is collapsing and needs to end, band members look to the drummer and the drummer brings the thing to a close.

Being in control is not the same as being up the front, posing and taking all the plaudits. You can manage things perfectly well from the back, keeping it all together, encouraging others on, marking time, going with the flow when need be, and bringing it all back at other times.

Drummers don’t need a flashy kit either, a simple set of a few toms, hi-hat and a couple of cymbals will do. Managers don’t need flashy offices, suits, pens or cars.

The best drummers, and managers, know that their skill is to work with the best team mates, and whenever possible, set the tone, support the team and stay the hell out of the way.

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