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  • Writer's pictureMichael Soderling

Management Team: Escape the maze

Today, I intend to discuss the difference between the role of a manager and the role of a management team member.

When I bring up this issue in conversations with clients, the discussion resembles being stuck in a maze because the topic is complex. If you perchance have struggled with the difference, let me try to guide you out of the maze. As a manager, you lead individuals and teams. You set goals and you support, coach, and follow up—that much is clear. But then, who or what do you lead as a member of the management team? The support for individuals and teams is owned by the managerial role, and your role as a member of the management team should mean something else. A clue lies in the answer to a related question concerning the purpose of the management team. To explore this, let’s consider a real-life scenario.


Before I design a workshop aiming at developing a management team, I always collect a lot of data. One of the questions I ask concerns the members' perception of the team’s purpose. In my latest assignment, per usual, there were as many answers to that particular question as there were members. Each answer contained grains of truth, but the answers diverged, and not just within the notion of the management team's purpose. Some answers went beyond and pointed to the company's mission. For example, We are to deliver [products and services] to [the customers]. Other answers focused on means rather than purpose. For example, We are to build strong relationships and understanding. Yes, that's important, but shouldn't the purpose be something greater? Also, please pause and consider what the word we in each statement refers to. If that suggestion evokes confusion, hang on! Everything will be explained shortly.


To ascertain the question of the team's purpose, I normally use a set of coaching questions to help the management team realize that its purpose is to lead, govern, and develop the organisation. If you don't entirely agree with that (it happens!), or if you feel some nuance is missing, please have a look at Bang & Midelfart's excellent article where seven possible purposes are suggested.


When the management team considers its reality, they see customers, the organisation, teams, and individual employees. What the management team would benefit from is making a distinction regarding the interfaces across which they operate.  If we revisit We are to deliver [products and services] to [the customers] and We are to build strong relationships and understanding, we start seeing that there are two different we’s here. We in the management team versus we who work in the organisation. This loose use of the word we goes back to the fact that the role of management team member is most often undefined, just as the purpose of the management team is often undefined. Having discussed and defined the purpose and roles, paired with the notion of the different we’s, the management team is now able to separate between

  • The interface between management team and organisation

  • The interface between organisation and customers

When this penny drops, I notice something different in the eyes of the management team members. A shared ownership of creating optimal conditions in the organisation emerges. The members have escaped the maze and are now, as one team, able to focus on the crucial issues from the proper perspective. Moreover, this means that fundamental questions like goals and strategies take on a new dimension. Not just the business but also the organisation (or rather, the organisational development) requires goals and strategies. In itself, this is not news, but if your management team has not yet reached the conclusion that it in fact operates across several interfaces, what consequences has that entailed for how you perceive your responsibility to develop the organisation? This question becomes pivotal when we consider the ambiguous spaces that lie between the organisational silos, the ones that belong to no one and everyone.


To what extent do you feel a discussion on roles, purpose and interfaces would benefit your management team?


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The clients who reach out to me are managing directors, management teams, and executives who want to realise the potential in their organisations and accomplish extraordinary results. They reach out to me because of my ability to transform individuals, teams, and organisations.

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