Having taught managers for over forty years, there are a few fundamental lessons learned over that time:
MANAGING IS A WAY OF “THINKING”
Before it is an action, before it is a position, before it is an office or a salary, management is a way of thinking about how to get things done within an organization.
MANAGING IS “ROMANTIC”
Management is usually described as realistic or pragmatic, when, in fact, most managers attempt to “make things better” and this belief that change can happen and you can do it is, often, a romantic view.
MANAGING IS “REALISTIC”
To get things done, to make a difference means paying attention to the job, your boss, the budget, your employees, etc., etc., etc., and the successful manager is able to judge the right thing at the right time – a skill too often learned only through experience.
MANAGING IS "PRAGMATIC"
These people, this moment, and these resources – juggle them all to get a result.
MANAGING IS “A JUNGLE”
The logical folks, the academic folks describe managing as something rational, when, in fact, organizations are jungles, survival is the goal, and there are many ways to survive — honesty and transparency is one way, but so too is deceit and cunning. To understand exactly the nature of the situation you face is a critical skill in managing.
MANAGING MEANS “TO ‘J’ IT”
“J”ing it refers to the 4th letter in the Myers-Briggs framework, the urge towards action, “do it now.” And “J-ing it” is important when talking to a boss, when talking to an employee. “J-ing it” means that you put your cards on the table at the beginning of the conversation, not in the middle or at the end. When both parties know what the agenda is, conversation flows more freely.
MANAGING MEANS “NOT TO ‘J’ IT”
The J assumption thinks action now, and the sad fact is, that for many situations there is no solution. Many times, however dissatisfactory the situation, there is nothing that can be done about it – therefore, to search for the “right answer” or “what would you do if” is, in actuality, a flight into illusion. Sometimes prayer and patience are better than action.
MANAGING MEANS “JUGGLING”
A manager has this boss, this budget, these people, this time frame and he or she has to juggle all of this to get something done. Rarely are the resources right, the money right, and the time right – you have to make tradeoffs and the successful manager accepts this as “part of the game.”
MANAGING IS “POLITICAL”
When resources are scarce and others want what you want, “politics” comes into play – how much power do you have, how are you perceived by whom, how do you negotiate, all are important. To say “we don’t do politics here” is both naïve and dangerous — because while you don’t, others will!
MANAGING IS “A RELATIONSHIP”
Other people pick up your attitude real fast, they know whether you are a company man or someone to be respected and trusted. You cannot fake your attitude towards others because if you are the boss you are being watched every second and others quickly come to understand what your priorities are and what is more important to you – the task, your boss, the employees.
MANAGING IS “LISTENING”
A current television show, Undercover Boss, depicts bosses who go undercover in their organizations to find out what is going on, and in doing so discover employees who really care, so at the end of the show these employees get rewarded. And the point is, these employees are deeply moved because the boss listened. So listening is the primary management skill – listening does not mean agreement, it means to hear what the other person says and discover the meaning – it is words and it is music.
MANAGING IS “LETTING GO”
What gets in the way of listening is “my agenda,” – in a conversation where the other wants to tell me something and I want to tell him/her something, I will neither hear nor understand the other’s position until I let go of, put to one side, my own point of view. And this, too often, is quite hard.
MANAGING IS “FACING THE BRUTAL FACTS”
Too often managers engage in distortion, deception, denial, delay – anything to avoid facing the situation as it is. But it is only by dealing with what is, can anything happen. And this takes honesty and courage and humility – traits of a good manager.
MANAGING IS “CUTTING THROUGH THE BULL”
Sadly management often involves the administrator, the bureaucrat, the person who takes rather than gives – and a true manager judges those around him/her and is brutally honest about what others stand for. Some stand out because they actually want to do something; others are “all show and no go,” they are there to live off of the talents and skills of others – one or two can be handled but when the number gets higher than that, the organization is doomed to mediocrity.
MANAGING IS “ABOUT IT, NOT ME”
Results are the currency, not meetings, words, E-mails, publicity, either you achieve what you set out to do or you do not – and if you do consistently you will be rewarded. If you do not???????????????Too often people look at their job or the organization as “what can it do for me” when the real folks recognize that it is only by accomplishing the organization’s goals, are personal goals satisfied. Jim Collins calls this the level 5 manager, ambitious for the company not self. And what you find with successful managers is that they look out for others before themselves. In the military, in non-commissioned officer training, the first lesson is “the troops eat before you eat; the troops get bedded down before you do” – and this mentality is the key to leading others.
MANAGING IS “MADNESS”
When you recognize that the world is “mad,” that everything is stacked against you, that nothing makes sense, that it is impossible – and at that moment you decide to act – you are becoming a manager. Too often in many organizations everything is stacked against you – to recognize this madness and not let it get to you is the beginning of your adventure.
MANAGING IS “HUMOR”
The only way to survive, to face the brutal facts, to get through the madness and to get something done is to laugh at yourself and at the situation – and while laughing try to get something done.
AND, IN ADDITION
- Sometimes the best management is no management at all, 1st, DO NO HARM
- Indifference is as important as passion.
- In organizational life you can have influence over others or you can have freedom from others BUT YOU CAN’T HAVE BOTH AT THE SAME TIME.
- Saying smart things and giving smart answers are important BUT learning to listen to others and to ask smart question is more important.
- YOU GET WHAT YOU EXPECT FROM PEOPLE. This is especially true when it comes to selfish behavior, unvarnished self-interest is a learned social norm, not an unwavering feature of human behavior.
- Dilbert says:eliminate the #%&*@$. Nothing can drain the life-force out of your employees as much as a few sadistic #%&*@$ who seem to exist for the sole purpose of making life hard for others…..
- it is o.k. to be “tough,” and it’s o.k. to be “aggressive” and it’s o.k. to disagree – even shout…but if you do it with disrespect or you seem to be enjoying it, or you do it in every situation – you’re an #%&*@$. AND YOU’RE GONE.
- Avoid pompous jerks whenever possible. They not only make you feel bad about yourself, chances are you will eventually start acting like them.
- The best test of a person’s character is how he or she treats those with less power.
- Err on the side of optimism and positive energy in all things.
- It is good to ask yourself DO I HAVE ENOUGH? Do you really need more money, power, prestige, and stuff?
- Anyone can learn TO BE CREATIVE. It just takes a lot of practice and a little confidence.
- Whenever people agree with me, I always feel I must be wrong!
- If you are an expert, seek-out novices or experts in other fields. If you are a novice, seek out experts.
- Sutton’s Law: if you think you have a new idea, you are wrong. Someone else probably already had it. This idea isn’t original either; I stole it from someone else.
- Am I successful or a failure? Is not a very useful question.
- The world would be a better place if people slept more and took more naps.
- Strive for simplicity and competence, but embrace the confusion and messiness along the way.
The idea that one would and could be trained to become or at least appear authentic oozes with delicious irony” Pfeffer writes. More importantly, authenticity is the last thing leaders should aspire to attain. “Leaders do not need to be true to themselves,” he argues. “Rather, leaders need to be true to the situation and what those around them want and need from them.
Jeff Pfeffer, Stanford
A KEY INSIGHT
Wilbur and Orville Wright provide a key insight for this website. A plane could fly only when flaps were added to control the instability. They were bike-makers, and from this they learned that controlling gravity involved speed AND maintaining stability. It is only by entering into the chaos, the unpredictable, the unstable AND CONTROLLING IT that makes for transformation. When you try something new, it feels unnatural, strange and it is only when you embrace this newness that a new pattern can form. And if you accept that that is how you learn to become a manager – one step at a time, slowly, embracing uncertainty, then it will happen at the right time. And that is the lesson of this website/blog.