Improving your effectiveness as a manager

Dec 03, 2018

“Just being a manager isn’t good enough. You have to also be an effective manager or you serve no purpose. Too many people working in AEC firms act as if accepting the job is enough. It isn’t!”

Just BEING a manager isn’t good enough. You have to also be an effective manager or you serve no purpose. Too many people working in AEC firms act as if accepting the job is enough. It isn’t! You have to work at the job of manager – whether you run a small project or the entire company. It is a job. And it takes time and effort.

Here’s some of what I am talking about:

  • Results. As a manager, your job is to get results. It is not to perform tasks. That doesn’t mean being a manager is your only role. You may well have to do certain other things as well. But as a manager, doing certain things is only PART of the job. Getting the required results – whatever that entails – is what’s really important. This implies certain things, such as you have goals and information on performance toward those goals, or you can’t effectively manage.
  • Systems design. Being an effective manager means you either work with existing systems or have designed and implemented systems that actually work. That means these systems can give you the information and tools required to consistently produce the results necessary to meet the organization’s goals. Lack of systems is not an excuse for non-performance. If the systems aren’t there, the manager’s responsibility is to create them. Again, my experience over nearly four decades of working with AEC firms is that a lack of systems is frequently used as a reason for poor managerial performance, but it should not be an excuse.
  • Goals. Managers are responsible for goal-setting. In an ideal world, THEIR managers are working with them to set realistic and attainable goals for their units. But in the real world, this doesn’t always happen. Sometimes (and fairly frequently in the AEC world), individual managers have no formal goals or expectations given to them from those higher up in the organization. With no goals, guess what? No one knows if the manager is achieving anything – including the manager! Obviously, that isn’t an acceptable situation. The manager needs to set their own goals and inform their management of what they are and how they are performing relative to them. I had to do this many times early in my career because in some cases, I wasn’t working for experienced managers who knew what their real jobs were.
  • Staffing. Managers have to take control of who is and who isn’t on their teams. This is easily said but never easily done in the AEC world, and for a whole host of reasons. Managers usually inherit their teams versus starting with a clean slate. It’s difficult to hire people today so it’s easy to accept lower-than-desired performance. The firm’s culture may not be one that demands high performance from anyone. Rewards and the ability to pay high performers what they are worth are constrained. Despite these impediments to building a high-performing team, none of them exempts the manager from doing what they have to do in order to build that team. It is still up to the individual manager to make this happen.

I could keep going, but you should be able to see now how easily we let individual managers “off the hook” for poor performance when what we need to do is insist that they do the jobs they were assigned to do. Make sense?

Mark Zweig is Zweig Group’s chairman and founder. Contact him at

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About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.