The Many Faces of Management

pile of puzzle pieces

“I’ll manage” is a common phrase nowadays; it means an unanticipated or ‘less than ideal’ scenario will be handled with limited resources (things, people, time, etc.). While this response often carries a negative connotation, it prompts one to consider how resources could or should have been managed to yield success moving forward. Management means anticipating, planning, and acting on how the puzzle pieces will come together given the various shapes and sizes.

  • Things: Most of us start a puzzle by pulling the edges to build the border. Then, we likely move to sort pieces by color combination to finish standout sections of the puzzle first. This strategy applies to the management of most things in life. Establish the foundation, build out related/priority tasks, then lastly take on the ‘sky’ of the puzzle.
  • People: People are resources that are managed in most directions: up, down, and across typical group hierarchies or lines of dependencies. Collaborative management styles between those you oversee, your peers/colleagues, and even to your own managers can boost productivity. “Managing up” has become a well-respected initiative in the workplace as a means of advising managers on how to best allocate their time and efforts effectively. Similarly, the “help me help you” sentiment is effective when it comes to managing people by delegating tasks or providing a heading direction to those you depend on.
  • Time: Time may be the most difficult resource to manage, as we all know. With even the best intentions, time is the resource most susceptible to disruption and change which warrants constant re-evaluation and resetting of expectations. We have all spent hours heads down in the zone of a puzzle but have also needed to just walk away from that same puzzle at some point for a while. This resource is also most sensitive to “who” shows up at that given time. The same 30-minute meeting interval could be spent in a jumbled conversation or a pointed discussion with an agenda.

Ultimately, there is not a ‘one-size fits all’ management style per person, per resource type, or per scenario, so remember to reflect and adjust to optimize your success (and avoid the dreaded “I’ll manage” feeling at the end of the day).

How do you manage your ‘who, what, and when’ resources effectively? Feel free to drop me a note at to share your reflections and best practices. Would love to hear from you!

– Leah McQuillan, Research Manager