The manager of 2014

Do South African Managers manage or push paper?

Managerial roles and duties have changed over time, and there seems to be more attention placed on reporting-related duties, rather than true staff management tasks.

A manager is someone who is responsible for the control of a team or an organisation. A large part of this role entails coaching and mentoring staff, equipping them to achieve company objectives as well as their own personal growth goals. It seems that the true role of the manager has become diluted with mounds of paperwork, as a result of extensive reporting duties.

One cannot help but ask if the captains of industry are inspiring a breed of managers who are actually paper pushers, especially seeing that more emphasis is often placed on the accuracy of reporting, rather than the core principles of management. Many have forgotten the true role of leadership and management.

Managerial roles and duties have changed over time, and there seems to be more attention placed on reporting-related duties, rather than true staff management tasks.

Managers are meant to do just that – manage. They are employed into management positions so they can oversee a process, which is directed through a team, with a specified goal set as the desired outcome. The manager of 2014 is, unfortunately more likely to operate as a paper pusher, chasing progress reports, completing analysis reports, showing the connection from one report to the other, and constantly chasing numbers - on paper.

A paper-pushing manager has perfected the skill of record keeping, based on the premise that everything which has been recorded by the employee has been recorded factually. The process of this level of record keeping is, however, where the challenge lies. A manager who does not have his eye on his workforce and is rather focused on the spreadsheet before him, is losing out on valuable engagement opportunities with his team. This manager is not creating much value for his team or his organisation and this in turn, will negatively impact the company’s bottom line.

The creation of value is often be confused with counting value. The measurement of value should be placed on finding ways of enabling staff to perform tasks efficiently. Counting value will often result in the interruption of workflow to complete heaps of paperwork and give updates to senior leadership on team progress.

A task that would usually take an individual an hour to complete now becomes a two hour process, with half an hour required before and after the task, to log its start and completion and any other additional notes which may be required. The impact of such administratively intense processes are felt so much more in the mining and manufacturing sectors with workflow being greatly interrupted.

The issue of staff morale is also cause for consideration. An engaged and motivated workforce results in a more productive environment. It is the role of the manager to uplift, motivate and inspire the team but, the inability to do this effectively due to other requirements can lead to a decline in staff morale.

The effects of a disengaged, stressed and unfulfilled workforce are far reaching, cutting into profits, and impacting stakeholder and client relationships. A manager with his eye on his workforce who coaches and mentors his team members is far more able to identify these dips in morale, and can find ways of keeping the lines of communication open, resulting in a more engaged workforce.

Although it should not be the core focus of a manager’s role, record keeping still has its place. There are many processes that need to be recorded, and this process can still help to keep staff on the right path. Staff productivity levels should be managed as a first priority though, and not just recorded. Their output needs to be regulated, and their energy must be channelled in the right direction.
It is evident that what is actually missing in the local context are leaders – individuals who are focussed purely on the growth of their teams. Leaders lean on their ability to influence their teams, motivate their staff and empower them with the knowledge and skills to do what they are employed to do, better and faster. They inspire from a place of power, instead of exerting power from a place of perceived control.

Leaders inspire through imparting vision. They share their vision with their team in a compelling way, to motivate them and showcase the possibilities of a future under positive circumstances, and then lead their team towards achieving the goals which the vision outlines. When managers move from talking about weekly plans, and start speaking to vision and growth plans, the business they’re in charge of will move in the right direction. Leaders create value by bringing innovation to their work.

Kriya Govender is a Managing Director of PRP Solutions. For more information visit: or