Everyday I’m Buffering! – Key Role of Management

“Between stimulus and response there is a space.  In that space is our power to choose our response.  In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” – Victor Frankl

I’m not talking about YouTube buffering. But about one of the key roles of team managers, one that I’ve noticed young or inexperienced leaders often fail to apply. It’s what I call “buffering” and it refers to the role of the manager as an intermediary between his team and senior management or between the outside market reality and his company.

A manager is often caught in the middle and can either:

  • send the pressure further to his team as a reaction

OR

  • can choose to act as a buffer and soften the tension that he himself feels and only transfer a small part of it to his colleagues.

That’s exactly what a buffer does: it lessens or absorbs the shock of impact, it moderates pressure.

Chain reaction vs buffering in management

I’ve always considered the ability to act as a pressure buffer to be one of the top leadership abilities that a manager needs to develop. It also is quite a challenge and even a manager recognising its importance may fail from time to time. Why? Because stopping pressure to go any further means keeping it on your own shoulders and trusting your team to be able to face it even without knowing all the consequences that might appear.

What happens when there is no tension buffer in an organization? Tension simply travels from the top level of the organization to all of its members unstopped. Think about a simple example. You’re just about to launch a big project for your company and all your department is working on it, but the deadline is very very tight. Your manager calls you to yell that if the deadline is not met you may need to fire people in your team. The pressure is now on your shoulders as the team manager. What you can do is either go to your team and choose to yell that if they don’t meet the deadline some of them will get fired or choose to encourage your team and let them know that you trust them to meet the deadline and work close to them to ensure this happens. Which of the 2 versions will be more motivating? Maybe both, I am not denying the power of fear as a motivator. However, I believe the second option is the option of a true leader, one that builds team’s trust in eachother and in you as a leader.

Transparency vs buffering in management

What I’m saying is definitely not that you should hide things away from your colleagues. I really do believe in transparency and in the need to know the market and organizational reality in order to perform. However, I believe that pressure should not travel freely through an organization as it can only bring a lot of stress, a lack of team sense between colleagues and distrust in leadership and the company. In my view, it’s the leader’s role to put a bit more weight on his shoulders, to learn to trust his team and find alternatives way of motivating them besides fear.

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