what are managers responsible for?

Later this week I will write about how I train new managers, but first let’s answer this question: What are managers responsible for? It sounds simple, but all too often people can’t give a comprehensive answer.

Yes, managers are responsible for “getting stuff done,” but let’s break it down. Managers are responsible for ensuring the following are true:

  • all employees are doing their jobs correctly, thoroughly, and on time
  • expectations and goals are clear
  • conflicting priorities are addressed and readjusted as needed
  • objectives and goals are being met or exceeded
  • key information is conveyed up the ladder, to the manager’s manager or others who might need to know
  • employees are given a level of oversight appropriate to their position and abilities
  • good employees feel appreciated, heard, and as if someone is “looking out” for them
  • employees are given regular feedback about their performance, including what they do well and where they need to improve, with special attention toward low performers to ensure they improve or are transitioned out
  • staffers are representing the company and department appropriately to the public and various stakeholders
  • employees are following company policies
  • there is a plan in place to ensure continuity if disaster were to strike (for instance, if a key staffer were to disappear tomorrow, is there a way for you to access passwords, important documents, and the other information someone would need to step in?)

And, finally, and hugely important, managers are responsible for ensuring results in their realms. Concrete, measurable results.

What else would you add to this list?

{ 8 comments… read them below }

  1. HR Wench*

    Love this post! The sad thing is 1/2 the managers I know would hunt and peck through this list and only accept a few items as their responsibility. It doesn’t matter what I tell them, how I train them or if I throw things at them. I think I should try guilt trips next. Hmm.

    Here are some more items I think should be on a manager’s plate:
    1. Developing, maintaining and managing to goals/metrics.
    2. Facilitates open and effective communication intra and cross departmentally.
    3. Specific safety training (HR or Saftey pro’s can handle general stuff but the manager knows the shortcuts the employees may be tempted to make).

  2. Wally Bock*

    Great post. Here are some things I would add and adjust.

    I would state the overarching goals as accomplishing the mission through the group and caring for the people.

    I would make it “expectations and goals are clear and translated into behavior.”

    I would make it “employees are given a level of oversight appropriate to their position, abilities, and demonstrated willingness to perform.”

  3. Anonymous*

    Why can’t (don’t) people (ordinary workers / team members) do the listed “manager” activities instead of having a special person “manage”?
    Do self-managed teams need a manager?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      You need someone in charge of giving feedback and holding people accountable (including firing, if need be), someone in charge of being the pipeline to and from the higher-level boss (huge time savings for the boss, versus if she has to deal with 10 people instead of 1), and so forth.

      1. T*

        So hypothetically you are saying if you had a team of 2 colleagues (with separate bosses) working on a project together, the manager ultimately overseeing that project would prefer to only have contact with one of them? And if that’s the case, how to decide which one should be the “pipeline”?

  4. goodnature*

    Today I almost lost my job for being careless,not that I was not working but because I was “babying” my team too much,they started working with me last year on the 24th of june, first time they became my team I taught them everything they needed to know without recording it down, after 60 days we had a stock take,got very bad result,I had an excuse 4 of my staff were new only one has been in the company for long, I trained them again without recording anything down ,got bad result again,now I just had a stock take guess what “bad result” we were all taken to the ultimatum because it was the 5th stock take and the result are not improving,and it all pointed back on me,we had one on one hearing with the bosses, they were very supportive and they know that I am a hard worker than a smart worker (embarrassed) the staff all pushed a blame on me, saying I don’t let them do their work, I’m helping too much,please help I want to be tough.

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