On the Importance of Indirect Management

One of the muscles I’ve had to build recently is that of indirect management. Let me explain.

After over fifteen years as manager of managers and manager of people, I welcomed a respite in a return to an individual contributor role. My current role puts me very much in a team of one – as most everyone in the same role is. It’s a nature of the job requirements, even though the intent might be different. I depend heavily on specialists who cover more customers than I do and none of them report to me. In fact, they report up through a completely different tree, with the first common ground 3 levels above me. This calls for a different management muscle. I welcomed this challenge as it wasn’t a muscle I had to use very much over the last two decades of my professional career.

Indirect Management

Indirect Management

So how does this work? With a lot of effort and constant deposits in the First Mutual Bank of Credibility.

I have to know what scorecard metrics are important to those folks. In some cases they’ll map to mine, in other cases they won’t – and that’s ok as well. If I’m the one creating opportunities for them that meet their measure – credibility! I have to look for opportunities they can scale up and out with partners or with our services arm.  Instead of asking for product road map sessions for a customer, I’ll combine geographically close customers. For remote customers, we can broadcast to them. Have a remote datacenter in Denver? No problem, we can stream the session to them.  In one fell swoop I’ve boosted their scorecard.

This calls for consistency – which isn’t always possible unfortunately. But as long as it is the exception and not the rule, I stand a good chance of being in good stead with the folks I rely on the most to be successful at my job. Understandably, this is how most organizations function at the senior and executive levels. My current professional experience is helping lay the foundation and build the muscles I’ll need when I return to being a manager.

It’s the best idea I’ve come up with until I find the One Ring …


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