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Article No.: 10-11

Article Title: Manager is to Facilitator as Supervisor is to Teacher

Author: Calista Stone, Guest Columnist

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Let’s face the truth: at some point most managers are frustrated on both a professional and person level about the lack of results generated by their staff members.  As somewhat of a perfectionist, I can empathize as I view my staff’s failures as my failures.  I also find it very difficult to give up on people who have the skill, interest, and desire to perform the duties of their job. 
Yet, some people seem to lack the ability to succeed, according to the “all knowing manager”: that would be me.  Long ago I learned that I need to focus my efforts on my circle of influence, the areas of my world in which I have some control or impact.  This meant I had to search from within, to take some time for introspection.  While sitting in my quiet place I emptied my mind of all distracting thoughts and concentrated on what I could do to assist my staff succeed.  Professional development immediately popped into my mind.  It is not about punishing my staff, yelling, or micro-managing; it’s about creating individual improvement plans.  Eureka, I could be more productive - and help my team become more fruitful - by spending my time creating, implementing, and monitoring advancement plans! 
And now, the epiphany: This whole process, from the beginning of my introspection process to my assumption regarding the answer, took roughly 10 minutes.  Simply put, it was too easy, which means it probably wasn’t the correct answer.  So I got up and retrieved the oatmeal raisin cookies that were beckoning to me and, while munching, began to look at the situation from a different perspective.  Could it be that it is not my staff who need to transform but me instead?  Could it be that I am the one that needs professional development?  Could it be that I need a glass of milk?
What makes anyone or everyone think that managers are supposed to know everything?  When I was in grade school I thought that all my teachers knew everything!   They answered all my questions and I accepted those answers with no doubt of their authenticity.  Mrs. Simmons, Mrs. Holman, Mr. Ziegler, Mrs. Motley, Mrs. Brown, Mrs. Martin (Librarian), Mrs. Gobel taught my classes; I proved I was listening by taking tests and answering questions in class; and they showed me I learned by giving me passing grades on my report card.  At the end of the year any student who received passing grades on their report card was promoted to the next grade.  Everyone who received passing grades - not necessarily the best grades - was passed to the next grade.
It seems to me that within most workplace cultures managers try to emulate teachers.  We give our staff members directions and directives; they prove they are listening by following directions; and we show them they have learned by positive performance evaluations, which, in turn, frequently lead to promotions, bonuses or pay increases.  Staff members who receive these rewards are not necessarily the best performers, but are the best at giving managers what we ask for.  In essence our staff members act like students!
Through further introspection – and, I must say, more oatmeal raisin cookies - I discovered that imitating a teacher is what I currently do and I am not getting the results I desire.  So, what does the adage say about doing the same things and expecting different results?  I don’t have to know everything, I just have to figure out what I can do as a manager to better support my diverse staff.
First, I compared these definitions.  Webster says a:

  • Teacher is one whose occupation is to instruct,
  • Supervisor is an administrative officer in charge of a business, government, or school unit or operation,
  • Manager is a person who conducts business or household affairs; a person who directs a team,
  • Facilitator is one that helps to bring about an outcome (as learning, productivity, or communication) by providing indirect or unobtrusive assistance, guidance, or supervision.

After examining these definitions I determined that manager is to facilitator as supervisor is to teacher.  Since I have long ago accepted that I am not all knowing; therefore I cannot (and for that matter do not) desire to be a teacher.  This means that I would not make a good supervisor.  However my time is more effectively spent facilitating staff professional development so that they utilize their talents, skills, and interests to further the mission, vision, and strategic objectives of the company. 
And finally, ……
So what did I learn?  I don’t know everything, but what I do know, I know well.  I know my staff, I know their idiosyncrasies, work styles, potentials, and personalities!  I discovered is that it is up to me, as a manager, to have an arsenal of managerial styles I can utilize to work with any staff member.  It is their responsibility to perform and my responsibility to support them in doing so.  We are all a variety of talents, skills, abilities, knowledge, experiences, and desires.  The combination of those talents, skills, abilities, knowledge, experiences, and desires allows us to reach outcomes in different ways, but we reach that outcome nonetheless.
Who am I, the non-all knowing manager, to assume that a staff member needs to improve or change?  It is up to me, the manager, to learn to facilitate their success!

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Interested in the various archetypes of workers as seen through the classroom setting?  Check out Calista’s upcoming article, Which Type of Student is Your Employee? 

If you have any questions or need more information about this article, please complete our Contact Form, or contact Dr. Gravett by telephone at 513-753-8870.

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