Lab Manager | Run Your Lab Like a Business

The Four Stages of Management, Part 2

Each stage of development has its challenges, but the rewards are success and ease in the role of manager.

by Ronald B. Pickett
Register for free to listen to this article
Listen with Speechify

In the first part of this article, we described two of the stages that managers go through in their development. Now we will describe the last two stages. We hope readers took a few moments to assess their current stage as a manager. If you didn’t find yourself described in the previous column, please keep reading.

Things to watch for:

1. Losing touch with day-to-day staff functions. Focusing on the big picture to such an extent that day-today

functions are neglected.

• Not developing and implementing effective systems of monitoring, such as setting benchmarks, baselines, and limits; establishing quality reporting procedures; and monitoring results as early indicators of deviation from the plans.

2. Poor attention to details.

• Letting routine matters get out of hand.

• Not paying attention to the details: you already have solved this problem once. The phrase “the devil is in the details” really applies to managers in this stage.

3. An “edifice complex.”

• Becoming obsessed with the need to build something, reorganize, or add a new piece of equipment. This can become so engrossing and of such overwhelming importance that everything else is moved to a lower priority and the manager’s objective judgment is impaired.

4. Reliance on the hierarchy.

• Implementing a “class distinction” between staff and management will keep you from having open communication.

• Not getting the information you need to identify potential high performers.


Things to do:

1. Seek out ways to extend your influence.

• Look for areas where you can become more visible in the organization.

2. Work on improving your ability to listen.

• Focus on improving listening.

• Revitalize your communication skills and apply them in your managerial duties. (Peter F. Drucker, “The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said.”)

3. Learn more about the way the organization works.

• Study how things really get done.

• Move out into the bigger world of the organization.

• Talk to people who have had successful projects, be a part of team projects, attend meetings that include large cross-sections, and hold conversations with the sages.

4. Think politically.

• Politics becomes more important as you move up in the organization.

• Learn to apply your political skills when dealing with the rest of the organization and the world outside the lab environment.

5. Remember what led to your success.

• Remember the skills, abilities, and attitudes that have led to your success, since they are your greatest natural


• Remember that there are a lot of things from your background that are highly valuable for your managerial




Key to career growth: Get the staff excited about your vision, and coach and empower them to get the work done.



STAGE 4: Wisdom and Mentoring

Because of the constant changes in our society, it is uncommon for lab managers to develop into this stage. Our

seasoned manager might say, “I’ve seen almost everything, and I am still amazed and delighted by the things that

happen around here. One of the most enjoyable things for me is to see young people develop and mature. I have

overcome my tendency to be overly critical about people’s ideas by remembering my role as a mentor and role model.

Maybe old ideas that didn’t work need to be tried again. I have to continue to work on redefining my role and my

contribution for the good of the organization and the profession. I have to emphasize giving other people credit,

sometimes more than they really deserve. I also should be sure that I don’t play favorites, even though my experience

tells me that some of the staff will probably have better ideas and more impressive results than others.”


Things to watch for:

1. Cynicism, indifference, lassitude, boredom.

• Not keeping up with the latest trends in the profession.

• Living in the past.

2. Setting yourself “above the fray.”

• Wanting to set yourself apart from the daily grind, the minor frictions, and disagreements.

• Focusing too much on the future and strategic thinking.

3. A legacy fixation.

• Polishing your image, erasing all of your mistakes, and inventing successes that may not have happened.

• Creating a persona that is very different from the reality.

4. Failure to recognize the value of this stage.

• Not working to bring about the major changes in the industry that can result from your actions.

• Not being available as a mentor or a consultant.


Things to do:

1. Look for excitement in your job. One of the problems that accompanies this stage is a difficulty in staying connected. Age, experience, and wisdom are not valued by our youth-oriented culture. Aging is seen as something to be avoided so taking on the mantle of age is very countercultural.

• Remember what it was like for you ten years ago, or even when you were new to the job.

• Get excited about the successes of your protégés and your staff, and remember your numerous accomplishments.

2. Look for ways to make your knowledge and expertise more widely available.

• Take some time to apply your knowledge of organizational politics.

• Use the “chits and chips” you have amassed to help get important things done.

3. Accept the role of arbitrator, resource, and historian. This may be a role that you are unfamiliar with and it takes some special skills, but the payoff can be enormous.

4. Nurture and counsel your staff.

• Get your rewards through the successes of others.

• Learn to delay gratification, to take a long look, and to see that success in efforts for major change takes time, patience, and nurturing.

5. Help others begin to see the big picture.

• Cultivate the ability to move with ease from micro to macro, from tactical to strategic, and from short-term to long-range.

• Help others to develop this skill.


Summary and General Issues

Here are some generic situations managers at almost all stages experience that can hinder their growth and development:

• Not enough latitude from their bosses.

• Early failures that are too costly and are not recognized and accepted as learning opportunities.

• Limited and unfocused coaching and development.

• Trying to do too much.

• Resting on past successes.



Managers don’t move through the stages like walking up an escalator; their movement is jerky and hesitant. And the rate of movement is different for every person—many people stop and stagnate at one stage. Consider where you are in these developmental stages and review the Management Competency Model. Think about the following questions:

• How do you feel about your job?

• What gives you pleasure and fills you with pride?

• What are your concerns?

• What are your accomplishments and your failures?

What do you want to work on? Then build a Personal Development Plan: Where are you? Where do you want to go? How are you going to get there?




• Levenson D., et al. Th e Seasons of a Man’s Life. New York: Ballantine, 1986.

• Goleman, D., Working with Emotional Intelligence. New York; Bantam Books: 1988.

• Pickett, R., and Kennedy, M.M., “Understanding and Using Organizational Politics, Part 1 and 2, Mar–Apr.” Clin Leadersh Manag Rev. (2004):18.

• Pickett, R., and Kennedy, M.M., “Do Your Direct Reports Trust You?” Clin Labor Manag Rev. (1998)12: 35–36.

• Pickett, R., “Identifying and Selecting the Best Managers.” Lab Manager Magazine, (2007) 2(7): 13-16.

• Sheehy, G., Passages: Predictable Crises of Adult Life. New York: Bantam, 1976.