Peter de Jager is a provocative Speaker,
Writer and Consultant. His primary focus in on how we manage change,
technology and the future.
In addition to speaking at conferences
worldwide, he's also written monthly columns for Municipal World and
His goal is always to question what we
think is so, and in so doing perhaps open up new opportunities.
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Here's the secret to becoming a great manager.. Management isn’t a profession for the impatient.
Forget everything you learned in business school, hide your certificates and MBA, and put down all recent business best sellers.
The key to long term success as a manager is; learn how to watch a pot of
water on a stove come to a boil without ever wishing it to hurry. Better yet? Learn to watch that same pot
of water, without ever checking to en sure you switched on the burner.
Unlike inanimate objects such as pots of impossible to boil water, and even plants, people have minds of their own. Dig a hole in the ground; throw in some Tulip bulbs before the first snowfall, and in the spring we’re almost guaranteed to see the beautiful results of our
People, bless their brittle little hearts, are less predictable. They’re endowed with this thing called free will, something designed and intended to thwart all of our plans and aspirations. People do what they want, when they want, and for the most part, how they want - regardless of those plans and aspirations.
There are those who believe the very title of “Manager” will gift them with the ability to overcome the “Free Will” of their staff. If it were not so sad to see young delusional managers flail about in their new role, it would be amusing. On second thought, it’s mostly amusing. True, it’s only amusing in the sense of
Three Stooges slapstick comedy, but it is amusing never-the-less.
It’s almost immediately obvious, even to a young novice manager, that there is something very different between “managing” and “doing”. We’re not exactly sure what’s different, but the moment we step into the title of “Manager”, the world changes even if we can’t explain the change.
The most common “new manager” mistake is to act as if little has changed. We do what we did before and devote a small amount of our time to just telling others
to do some other things.
When that that strategy fails to deliver all that a manager is supposed to
deliver, (unfortunately it sometimes works for a while) then we’re faced with two immediate choices.
We can 1) Work harder to compensate for what our staff isn’t doing, or
2) Start wrestling with this problem of why the title of “Manager” didn’t
have the effect we expected.
What did we expect? We expected people to do what we told them
The “work harder” strategy is eventually self-correctable as it is inevitably terminated by stress, burn-out and unexpected tours of medical facilities with expensive hands-
on demonstrations of sophisticated shiny medical equipment.
Our second option, the one where we begin to “wrestle” with the heart of the management problem is, “Why don’t, and why do, people do what we tell them to?” is our first shaky step on the path towards becoming a Manager.
This path towards management is where “patience” begins to come into play. When we work with “things”, we can make a change in our approach to a problem, and then almost immediately determine if our actions have improved or degraded the situation. When we work with people, our problem solving efforts are more complicated. A management strategy that works for John, won’t necessarily work as well with Susan and might not work at all with
Jim, and we won't even talk about James. He scares us.
The challenge for the new manager is that none of this knowledge is readily available in books. There are too many variables involved, too many unique situations, too many conflicting priorities. With all due respect to the management gurus of the world, a lot of what makes a good manager is experience, piled on common sense, and then sprinkled with intuition, fairness and gut instinct. All of which differs from one individual to another.
In case this all sounds too pessimistic or daunting for a newly appointed manager? Here is half a dozen tried and true, though seemingly simplistic, guidelines;
1) Treat others as you’d like them to treat you.
Just because it’s old, doesn’t mean it’s out of date.
2) Trust is management’s most important asset.
Always do what you said you’ll do.
3) If you don’t know… ask, don’t assume, or worse… pretend.
Ignorance isn’t a crime, and it’s always curable.
4) When you do know… ask anyway. Their answers may surprise you.
When you give others the chance to answer questions, they become
involved in the solutions.
5) Give praise when it’s deserved, it’s not a limited resource.
Just because positive feedback works with puppies, isn’t reason
enough not to use it with people
6) Create an environment where there are truly, no dumb questions.
In order for staff to contribute to your success, they must feel
Oh… here’s the bad news… all of the above are the things you have to integrate into your own
behavior, before you have any hope of changing their behavior!
final note on this article. The above six suggestions are the essence of
'obvious', but for some reason which I don't understand, we can trace the
source of most management problems back to a violation of at least one, if
not more, sometimes all of them.
© 2006 Peter de Jager – Yes, he's a speaker with a passion for Change. You can contact him at email@example.com
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