Being a manager is not a profession

Manager Photo: Shutterstock ASAP Creative

Without training in a specific field, the chances of getting a management position are exactly zero - except in the public sector.

Some people think that being a manager is a profession, just like being a carpenter, shoemaker, psychologist, ship captain, or a ritual circumciser. A manager of what? A minor detail. Here's a sample dialogue: "What job are you looking for?" "A management position." "In what sector?" "It doesn't matter." "What do you mean it doesn't matter? A manager has to be a professional in the sector in which he manages." "Uhh" (two or three seconds of silence) "an administrative manager." The more bizarre version goes like this: "Uhh, a general manager." "Do you mean a CEO?" "You know what?" (big grin) "That's also possible."

Unfortunately, I did not invent this witty dialogue. I have been through it too many times with too many people. All of them were academics with at least one degree with 10 or more years of experience, at least 35 years old, and looking for a new challenge, most of them managers. They are convinced that a manager does not have to grow into a management position within a specific field of business - that management is a profession in its own right and the field is unimportant. Just give them a chance to work in a challenging managerial position and they will prove how good they are. They are blithely unconcerned about their ability to set targets, make decisions, lead professionals, achieve results, and all in a field of which they know nothing. "What's the problem? I learn quickly," they say, as if managing operations at Nestle, business development at Amdocs, finance management at Motorola, or service at El Al was no big deal.

Registered patent of the public sector

Here and there you find people who conceive of the transition to a management job as a kind of professional retraining. "Up until now, I've been a chemist, designer, or a programmer; now I want to be a manager." Laboratory manager? Studio manager? Development manager? "Forget about it. I'm tired of this field; I want something new." This programmer is not an idiot; he is a Technion graduate. He realizes that he cannot become an advertiser without relevant education and experience, but he can be an advertising manager. Here his inherent managerial abilities will be enough; so what if he has no concept of what a rating, media campaign, or sales promotion is (not to mention slightly more complex concepts like segmenting, branding, or differentiation)? "There are subordinates for that." They rush ahead heedlessly to get an MBA, as if it were a degree in law, accounting, or pharmacy, confident that once they have the degree, the market will run after them to give them management positions in all sorts of sectors. Don't get me wrong; a degree in business management is a great thing, but it is in no way a profession. It is just a general degree that gives knowledge in various aspects of the business world - theoretical knowledge, not managerial experience.

I do not know for sure where the idea that just being a manager is enough, regardless of the field, sprang from, but I suspect it originated in the public sector. Throughout this sector, appointing people to various positions without relevant background is routine, especially in management positions. So why should we be surprised that this idea is seeping into the entire market? If a charming, handsome, and uneducated TV news anchor can become minister of finance overnight, is it any wonder that everyone thinks he can do any job?

Intel CEO on the way to being OC Southern Command

I still encounter this mistaken idea in working with senior officers retiring from the army and looking for a management position in the business sector. Most of them expect to be a CEO, or at least a vice-president in a large company, and when it does not happen, they are disappointed. Their frustration is completely understandable. In contrast to many management teams in the public sector that are loaded with incompetents, senior officers in the army are very capable people (in my modest experience, at least) capable of leading successful enterprises in the business sector, had they only come from those enterprises. They are no less capable than any other worthy manager, but they lack the necessary knowledge and experience. You do not expect the CEO of Intel to be the next OC Southern Command.

On the other hand, there is no doubt that the enigmatic job answering to the name of "administrative manager" is an invention of the public sector. This senior and highly rewarded position is very common there, exactly as it is in the business sector, except that in the business sector, the position is called "secretary."

The author is a labor market specialist

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - - on August 30, 2018

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2018

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Manager Photo: Shutterstock ASAP Creative
Manager Photo: Shutterstock ASAP Creative
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