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What Does a Manager Create?

Photo by Deborah Breen Whiting

This article was based on episode 054 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, and Stitcher.

There is an old joke that a manager’s work is to go to meetings. As a meeting expert, that sounds lovely to me, but as an experienced manager, I know that’s not the case.

In Episode 54 of The Modern Manager, I speak with Mike Tannenbaum about the different types of work, including what managers create, how we continuously improve our plans, and how to bring mindfulness into your team.

Mike is Founder, Principal, and Lead Strategist of Humanity. Mike helps people create better experiences by deepening their understanding of humans. He focuses on helping people and teams become the best version of themselves by redesigning the way they relate to their work so they experience more joy, fulfillment, and effective ways of working.


There are four types of work that occur in a workplace: Planning, Coordinating, Creating, and Distracting.

  1. Planning includes thinking about what to do and how to do it.

  2. Coordinating includes the activities that facilitate the work such as email, meetings, other communication, gathering or sharing information, etc.

  3. Creating includes actions to produce your deliverables or whatever you are responsible for.

  4. Distracting includes anything that gets in the way of you doing your work.

We are all creating something

It’s easy to imagine a writer creating copy or a sales person “creating” new customers. It’s a bit more difficult to describe what a manager creates.

Mike offers that managers create trust, alignment, outcomes, and a strong team. With this frame, investing in one-on-ones, giving feedback, spending time in meetings to solve problems, align work-streams, generate clarity, or make decisions, is all part of a manager’s creating.


Some managers also create (and update) plans, both strategic and tactical.

The problem with plans is that almost instantly they become outdated. Once you start executing a plan, you begin to learn: what’s taking longer than expected. What’s more difficult than you anticipated, what didn’t deliver the results you were counting on...The list goes on and on. Yet, plans are essential to creating clarity around the goal, timeline, resource allocation, strategies and tactics.

To bring these two seemingly opposed realities together, Mike recommends a cyclical process of planning and reflecting that allows you to iterate the plan. In addition to moments that occur organically when it becomes obvious something is off track, he suggests scheduling moments of reflection throughout a project which remind you to pause and consider what you’ve learned and how to move forward.

During these reflections, ask yourself and your team questions such as:

  • What’s not playing out how we expected? How do we want to adapt to this reality?

  • What have we learned that’s made us smarter about ourselves and/or he work? What can we do with this new information to enhance our plan?

  • What might I do differently to enable our work to go faster, smoother, better?


Mindfulness can be a tricky subject to bring into teamwork as it’s often considered a bit ‘hippy’ for some organizations’ culture.

Yet, in order to regularly adjust any plan or truly practice continuous improvement, you must have a moments of reflection and a sense of awareness, both of which are central to mindfulness practice.

As a manager, take a moment to be more mindful of your own behaviors. As an example, consider the following meeting behaviors:

  • How do I come across to people in our meetings?

  • How much air time do I take?

  • How do I help facilitate participation by others?

  • How do I respond when I hear ideas I don’t agree with?

We all have aspects of ourselves which are hidden to us. We all have behaviors or tendencies which we aren’t proud of. Have an honest conversation with yourself in order to truly be aware of yourself.

Awareness does not always lead to change, although it often does. Even the act of accepting yourself can be powerful. Once you have a clearer view, you can see opportunities for learning, growth, and improvement and take steps forward.

The more honest you are about yourself, the more honest you can be with your team. And that’s when we all win.

Join the Modern Manager community and get 25% off Mike's Clear Path Forward workbook and course, to support your journey to rockstar manager.

This article was based on episode 054 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify and Stitcher. Never miss a worksheet, episode or article: subscribe to Mamie’s newsletter.


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