It is a common notion that a manager’s most important job is protecting their team from distractions. It popped up recently in a conversation with a teammate who thought I’m doing it well. This triggered me in 2 ways. First, I’m not actively shielding the team from anything. Second, I’ve always found this idea at odds with transparency and empowerment.

The key point to make here is that a change of perspective can achieve better results. Consider a shift from filtering noise to enabling working systems. By another common saying, the product of a team’s manager is their team. Instead of being a local shield, a manager can achieve positive network effects in the wider organization by improving the system, i.e. ways of working.

There is indeed a problem to solve. The cognitive demands on anyone in a highly connected workplace can be overwhelming. Therefore, a manager benefits from high tolerance to uncertainty. And their focus should be on helping the team make sense of the world. The firehose of information could be available to most in a company. The way for a manager to bring value is to give their take on a cohesive narrative.

In summary, instead of being a shield to your team - be a sense-maker and enabler for the whole organization.

Photo by Jonathan Allison.