Compassionate Management

There’s been a lot of studies done on what makes businesses succeed and–what a surprise–it’s the same thing that allows any group of people to succeed. And note I said allows and not causes. People will naturally surprise us with their capability, the only question is; just how skilled is a leader at finding those opportunities?

1024-relax-and-succeed-a-bad-manager-can-take-a-good-staffEvidence of this can easily be seen when a new manager takes over an old group. The very same group of people that the previous manager felt were useless can suddenly become superstars–why? Very often it’s because they stopped being managed like they were in the military and they started being managed like they’re human beings rather than human doings.

Bad leaders think people do things for them, good leaders know that in a good team all of the people are working together toward a common, meaningful goal. In one scenario the staff work for the leader and in the other all of them work for each other. In one case their job title is ordered to perform a business function and in the other some human beings cooperate to get something done that’s of mutual benefit.

Many times management will be so off target that they won’t even have considered the texture and feel of their employee’s day. All the manager sees is their own to-do list and they imagine that all of these people have been gathered under them to help them get their manager’s list taken care of. Ordering something get done is not management, it’s just orders, and those you can get from a machine.

1024-relax-and-succeed-if-people-are-goodWeaker managers will often be baffled about what else they would even do other than get their own lists done. They just see work; you do this, he does that, she does the other thing. There is no philosophy driving the work or how it’s done, it’s just a daily list.

Meanwhile, a stronger manager realises that the work day is generally at least 1/3rd of their co-workers lives, which is close to the number of waking hours people will spend with a spouse. Ordering consistently unmotivated work to be done in an unmotivated fashion is the same thing as covering the windshield and then telling the staff where you want them to drive. They can understand the directions and maybe even find it on their GPS, but that doesn’t help them negotiate the daily traffic of their lives. The problem for the weaker manager is that they’re only managing their own life and not the lives of everyone that works for them.

As an example, let’s say a mom returning from maternity leave has returned to work. She’s capable, hard-working and liked by her co-workers, but she starts coming in late. A bad boss draws her attention to her lateness and then possibly sets some kind of penalty. She tries to explain the challenges created by where her daycare moved to, but the manager doesn’t really listen to how the woman’s windshield is covered. Maybe she’s a woman too and she raised kids and worked, so she doesn’t see the problem. So she tells the woman to get to work despite the covered windshield, as though there’s no limits to managing around a kid.

Around a kid. A manager should hear that come out of their mouth and know immediately that’s gotta be wrong. The manager is asking a parent to value their work more than their child. Now the bad manager would say that’s not what they’re doing, but that’ll just be their beliefs about themselves. There’ll be a but… in there for the manager. Yeah, I know she’s gotta a new kid and that’s challenging, but she still has to get her work done…. So the manager basically says; your problem, not work’s. And technically that’s true, especially in countries that don’t even have mandatory support for maternity leave.

A manager is best to try to help solve their employee’s challenge because something being technically correct isn’t actually very useful to a manager. Technical correctness is a term for things that look like they should work but they’re missing some humanity. A poor manager sees the staff like buckets of skills that you fill with work. The staff see work as a major part of their life and they absolutely will respond positively to any co-worker/manager who finds a way to make that daily experience more enriching.

If you’re on a staff somewhere, figure out if your manager is trying to build a team and if you’re cooperating with that effort or putting yourself first. Because you may very well end up further behind by putting yourself first. And if you’re a manager somewhere, make sure that you also are not putting yourself first. You will be rewarded well for any efforts you make toward ensuring that the people you work with have an environment that is generally understanding, constructive, pleasant, supportive, and rewarding. And fortunately, creating even one of those things often leads to the others developing quite naturally.

Now go get on a team. It feels good to surrender your wants for almost any goal achieved in cooperation with others. And a good manager knows that.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.

Ageism at Work

Millennials” is the colloquial word that Boomers and Gen X‘ers use, but they mean the very tail end of the Millennials and the first wave of Generation Z. These are the people that are often misunderstood, and so they drive their older co-workers and managers crazy. And rightly so in some cases, but there’s been two overlapping paradigm shifts in our culture and they can confuse these issues if they’re not thought about carefully.

637 Relax and Succeed - WhateverFirst off let’s get the reasonable concerns off the table so we can focus on the more meaningful issues where each group can actually help make each other better. Several generations have seen a steady advancement in mechanization, electronics, computerization and now web-integration. In short: life has gotten easier and more comfortable all while also becoming more time and energy stressed. So kids rarely walk to school even if the weather is terrible, but they’ll also almost never experience true privacy.

School also got easier. I asked a couple recent college classes if they were concerned about their education in any way? A student offered that he felt he had been moved through grades more because that’s what the school wanted, as opposed to it being very focused on whether or not each kid knew the material well enough to use it. Other kids joined in. Sports too—prizes for limited efforts. When I asked how that made them feel, I believe in both cases it was the entire class who agreed they felt insecure and unprepared compared to generations they interacted with that were older than them.

Now a critical area where older generations misunderstand the motives of younger generations is in their values. Character has always been a big thing that defined people. Where are your lines? What defines you? What will pay a big price for? Those are the sorts of questions that arise out a period where there was a war every few decades. But advertising has sold that a lack of effort is a victory and that a life of leisure and wealth is the only value in life that there is. But of course, a beer or a bed always feel a lot better after a day of chopping wood if you get what I mean. So on one hand younger generations were told not to try too hard. Instead of 637 Relax and Succeed - By learning you will teachlaughing at Bart Simpson as the writers intended, people were laughing with him as though Bart was the success of the culture, not the failure. This is a real issue that masks a rather beautiful transition that happened that will benefit us all.

These “kids” watched the most miserable generation in history come home from work and bitch and bitch and bitch. And I don’t blame the parents for bitching. Because my Dad could raise six kids on one salary and he could take his holidays and we had lots of free time. Today people are struggling with at least two jobs per household, their two kids go to schools miles apart in different neighbourhoods and all of their “play” is actually organized training like dance class, hockey, scouts—whatever, and it all costs a lot of money. It’s no longer—go outside and play and Mom was free and clear for 5 hours. Those days are gone. Mom has a cell phone and her boss will send her emails to answer at 8:30pm and night. So the kids watch Mom become a strange kind of slave to her office even within their own house. Bosses and work get talked about disparagingly and work life starts to become so dominant that kids rightfully identified that as a problem. They weren’t go to mimic that and that makes perfect sense—it was, and is, making everyone miserable.

So no, these kids will never care about a company as much as their parents did, because like the French learned that “King” was just a word, a couple generations later learned that “company” was sort of another word for “King.” The bottom line was, this generation does something much wiser than the two before it and they value time more than money. Yes, like all young people they want their cake and eat it too, but that’s no different than any generation. This recent shift has to do with how capitalism actually overtook humanism as the dominant way of looking at how to set up the world. So if a company’s profit went up but it laid off 20,000 people, that was suddenly a good thing. Of course it’s not, because profits exist in our imagination and those 20,000 people have very real appetites and medical needs. But for a time economists had people so mesmerized that they had everyone subscribed to a system that is supposedly kept fair by something as silly and nebulous as “the invisible hand.”

637 Relax and Succeed - Patience and WisdomSo now kids interview the companies too. Good for them. They grew up with recycling and Wall-E was big when they were young. They don’t want to work for companies that make smart tax moves by donating to charity, they want a company that actually believes in supporting the broader world around it because it has a vision much bigger than simple financial profit. Oh wouldn’t that have looked impressive to aliens if they arrived? Hey guys, check out how cleverly we structure debt! No, these kids know there’s a serious problem with the planet. These dates that don’t matter to my generation are when this one wants to be having kids, so the idea that the planet might look like hell is actually pretty important to them. So what they like is companies that give based on what they believe rather than what the tax code would reward. Redditt is getting a ton of credit for giving away 10% of its ad revenue to charity and it’s letting its readers choose who gets the dough. That’s who the smartest people in the new millennium want to work for.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned as I’ve aged that the one giant mistake I made as a manager was I completely overlooked the enormous amounts of experience I often had working for me. By the time someone’s 50 they’ve met a lot of people and tried a lot of things. I should have been able to figure that they would have a lot of wisdom just by stopping and thinking about it. I count it to this day as the biggest mistake I made as a manager. Age teaches far more than you’d think. But let’s not forget that those with some grey hair should also listen carefully. Because as we age we lose that drive to win or beat others. We get softer and more interested in quality experiences. And these kids want to build a world where quality experiences are more the priority than profits. So I think there are a lot of reasons that people of every age can successfully work together toward an objective like that.

No matter how old you are and now matter how many people you work with, regularly give them a fair and open listen and see if maybe there’s some wisdom there for you to glean.

You guys have an awesome day, okay?

peace. s

Other Perspectives #29

462 Relax and Succeed Rebuttal - 97 percent of people

This is a classic case of one individual assuming that other individuals place the same value on the same things they do. They make that mistake the same way you do: because to them the sources of the value are obvious. But clearly one person can want to be the number one salesperson, while another person wants to be a good father, or someone else wants to work for a charity that prolonged a loved one’s life. These would all create different choices, priorities and paths through life. There’s lots of things to value in life, but because our cultures have such an addiction to money, many capitalists assume that because they want to be rich and in charge, that you want that too. So it’s assumed that if you didn’t become a wealthy entrepreneur that’s not because you didn’t want to, it’s because you couldn’t—because you gave up and you are therefore inferior to those who chose that particular priority. But of course many of us aren’t interested in the hassles associated with being in charge, just like many of us aren’t interested in great wealth, celebrity or prestige. We have our pursuits and others have theirs. None are more important than others. The only success there is in life is the joy of being alive. Everything else is disappears.

peace. s

Note: Everyone who posts or shares a quote does so with the very best of intentions. That said, I have created the series of Other Perspectives blog posts in an effort to prevent some of these ideas from entering into people’s consciousness unchallenged. These quotes range from silly to dangerous and—while I intend no offense to their creators—I do use these rebuttals to help define and delineate the larger message I’m attempting to convey in my own work. I do hope you find them helpful in your pursuit of both psychological and spiritual health.

Enthusiastic Management

If a manager is going to work at the highest level he or she needs to have one primary realization. Even though it is gained through years of experience, it arrives in a flash of insight. It is a quantum shift in how to think about managing people. And that is when you realize that you haven’t been managing the people at all—you have been managing the work.

457 Relax and Succeed - People will forget what you saidWork management would exist in 97% of the businesses I see, and yet 97% of them will claim they’re in the 3% that don’t do it. And that’s not to say they’re lying. It’s making my central point: because they cannot fully appreciate what I mean, they’re assuming that something they are already doing is what I’m talking about. No. I mean they don’t philosophically get what I mean or what the value is. Hence this post.

Right from the hiring phase, you want to choose people whose brains match the work. And I don’t mean intelligence, I mean temperament. If someone hates being organized and doesn’t like details, then don’t put them on the accounting team. But if they are good at motivating others, then think about having them in some form of management. Etc. etc. So pay attention to personality and realize that it must suit the job. A guy who plays all solo sports and no team sports may not be the guy to put in charge of team-building.

Assuming you’ve got a suitable personality in the job, they then have to realize that how they would do the employee’s job is largely irrelevant. The employee can ultimately only be themselves, so we teach them tasks but not attitude. So if you’re a clean freak don’t expect your employees to go beyond what makes sense to them. How would they know where that line is? That is your line, in your consciousness. It is invisible to them. They have their own line, and that is where they stop. So you can’t order an employee to get a new personality. You figure out how to manage the one they have.

People are overwhelmingly good. They are overwhelmingly helpful. They have a completely undeserved bad reputation due to media, but there’s no shortage at all of awesome, intelligent, creative and dedicated people—provided no one is depressing them by asking them to be someone they are not, (as opposed to harnessing who they are to full effect). So far more than managing the work a manager is better to manage the office tone. If you offer 457 Relax and Succeed - Compliment peoplegenerous support when things aren’t going well, people stay relaxed and thereby maintain a connection to their own natural wisdom. They will eventually come up with their solution and you will get it far sooner than if you try to yell or punish it out of them faster.

There’s a wonderful quote I’ve always loved from General Patton. It goes something like “Never tell people what to do. Tell them what you want done and then let them surprise you with their ingenuity.” That’s great advice. Many brains are better than one brain. So don’t focus so much on correcting behaviour to make it more like what you would do. Instead focus on empowering and informing the employee. Allow them to feel respected. Seek their advice. Trust them. And let their overall results speak for them. Don’t blame them or give them credit for statistical aberrations, but if the overall trajectory is up, then all is well.

If an employee has the knowledge they require, then all a manager needs to do is to inspire them. So rather than paying attention to how much work got done, a manager will get further in accomplishing that objective by focusing on the happiness and attentiveness of his enthusiastic employees. Happy people work well together and enthusiastic ones will naturally focus on the work.

In the end good management is a bit like a jockey and racehorse. In the best of situations the horse should be propelled by the jockey without ever really feeling his weight on its back. Think less about the work and more about enthusiasm. Define the work, and then ignite the worker with confidence and enthusiasm. That’ll beat a stopwatch, a riding crop or a critical eye any day.

Have a great day at the office because that’s what you create with your interrelations.

peace. s

Management Keys

A friend sent me the link to a few of your blogs on management. I liked what you wrote but when I searched you don’t do much of those types of blogs. I really do want to be good at what I do. Would it be possible for you to write a blog about the most important lesson you learned as a manager?

Conscious Manager

Dear Conscious,

Thanks for your interest. Obviously every writer is only writing in the hopes of communicating with others so it’s always great to know that readers are actually benefiting from the work. You also make a very good point that I don’t write on management much at all despite the fact that it’s one of my favourite subjects. Motivating, educating and assisting employees was always a very interesting and exciting process for me and I tended to do extremely well wherever I went. I will try to write a bit more on the subject.

334 Relax and Succeed - It is important to recognizeIn my past I had both large staffs and small, and because I love learning I used every single interaction as a test case for refining my understanding and approach. I was in management in my teens, so I have the good fortune of not only a lot of experience time-wise, but I also managed at junior and the most senior levels in all kinds of different companies in different industries in different countries. That experience has given me a great deal of very useful perspective.

My life has been like the perfect laboratory for me to use this weird skill my accident caused. But even though almost everything I do is a learning exercise at some level, it is virtually impossible for me to single out the most important thing I learned in much the same way that it’s also effectively impossible to single out the best picture at the Oscars. It’ll always be an opinion open to change as I grow and develop as a person. But still I get your point, so what I’ll do is note the key things I learned very early on, and then the biggest lesson I learned after I had refined my skills quite a bit. Remember, because of my accident this is all done by calculation. And human reactions are included in those calculations. But they are remarkably rigorous.

Let’s begin with the fact that these people we call employees are human beings first, maybe parents second, spouses third, sons or daughters fourth, maybe brothers or sisters fifth or sixth, and friends anywhere from 2nd to 5th—and in any healthy individual their status as an employee will come after that. If work ranks too high then you’re very likely to have someone who makes others worse. It is very easy to get caught-up in what the business is trying to do and we can forget that the employees are people with lives and none of them want to—nor should—live to work. Rather they should work to live. But if work steals too much of life 334 Relax and Succeed - Start where you arethat will be a bad deal for both the employer and the employee. Most people will work quite hard all on their own. But they will be inconsistent as employees simply because they literally have so many other roles that their lives demand they play.

Secondly, everyone lies. Your boss lies to you, your staff lies to you, and you lie to both of them. If people claim they don’t lie then offer to record them for a day and they’ll either lose their boldness or their naivete. Our cultures—particularly in schools and workplaces—are pretty punishing places. We’re far more oriented toward punishing the behaviour we don’t want than rewarding the behaviour we do want. So it makes sense that people don’t want to be responsible for things that have gone wrong or that will upset the people that control their ability to make house payments. And the angrier or more negative the manager gets, the more he or she will get lied to. Just don’t expect no lies.

If your assistant suddenly starts taking an hour and a half lunch it may be because he or she is slacking off. But it’s just as likely that she has been diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome and so she goes home for lunch so as not to embarrass herself at work. Or a million other possibilities that don’t have anything to do with the employee failing to be dedicated. Bottom line, you’ll always be wrong sometimes either way, but when dealing with people you’ll be much more accurate more often if you assume the best and not the worst.

The reason it’s worthwhile giving people the benefit of a doubt is because despite the reputations they give themselves, the actual truth is—people are generally quite honest and dedicated, and most people put in a fair day of work. And how much they work in that day—their work ethic—will have been established early in life and it won’t fluctuate much. But there will also be the influence of the times that they were raised in. So 334 Relax and Succeed - Be an encourageran older worker was raised in an environment without cell phones or the internet and there were no personal calls to or from work, and so their understanding is that work is for work and that’s non-negotiable. They’ll actually feel badly about having to do anything personal during work hours, and yet that largely blind dedication might differ greatly from a younger employee who feels their digital connectivity and freedom is an integral aspect of their very being.

Those perspective differences can make for big management differences. But what you really want to watch for is that aforementioned work ethic. Their families will have set a tone for how hard someone works when they work. So whatever you see in front of you will, over time, generally be what’s happening behind your back as well. Very, very few people will actually lie and deceive to the point where they’re a real problem, and even then that’s often linked to heavy stresses or addictions. Funnily enough, the people who do often spend a bit of time truly slacking off are the new managers. Because they feel as though they have arrived, there is often an accompanying sense of entitlement and that often drifts into irresponsibility for a short time.

So see your staff as fallible, helpful, caring people because that is overwhelmingly who they will be. Think about their overall yearly performance more than looking at any given day, because they could be either heavily up or down depending on their circumstances. If you show them support when they are down or ineffective then most will work doubly hard for you when you need them.

The one thing I did miss was terrible, but innocent. I’m glad I’m telling it to you because I can save you the agony of having done it. I had always been good about seeing my employees as individuals but the one big lesson I learned too late in life was that I not only had to see them as individuals, it turned out there was also important information contained in their demographic.

334 Relax and Succeed - Good judgment comes from experienceI was only able to look down in that regard. So in my 30’s I knew that my employees in their 20’s might be late more than the older employees simply because they were out at the bar whereas the older ones were primarily at home asleep from a long day of paying a mortgage and raising kids. But in my 30’s I did not even attempt to look upwards. I never wondered about the differences in the lives of the employees who were older than me. And that caused me to be both unintentionally cruel, and moreover I also surrendered capacities I could have made very good use of.

Older employees will generally have all of the usual responsibilities, plus they will often add looking after elderly parents. This is a very unpredictable thing to try to plan for and it’s also fraught with emotional energy. People are watching their parents fade—it’s generally painful and difficult. And if often eats up lots of time. I also didn’t think about the differences in the human body. As we age all kinds of things change, including how we eat, sleep and even go to the bathroom. And pride and embarrassment will often cause employees to conceal any form of socially uncomfortable behaviours so you won’t have a chance to learn they exist in most cases. You just have to operate knowing that no matter what’s changing, something’s changing.

Where I lost on value was their knowledge. Maybe not of that job or industry, but their life experience. Once you find a decent worker, someone older doesn’t need a lot of direction. They know themselves. They’ve given up trying to mimic other people’s methods. They use what works for them. And that will often initially look ineffective, mysterious or silly to someone without that experience. Just as a 20 year old knows way 334 Relax and Succeed - Everyone is a geniusmore than a 10 year old, a 40 year old knows way more than the 20 year old, and the 60 year old knows way more than the 40 year old etc. etc. etc.

If you wrote this question and read those blogs then you’re already on the right course as a manager because you’re choosing to learn and expand yourself. To manage well you have to want to learn, you have to want to share what you learn, and you have to genuinely like people. After that it’s simply a matter of stripping all of the busy words and ideas away so that you can access your common sense. Because good managers don’t try to figure out how to make their employees work harder, they understand how to support and enhance the work that useful and productive employees naturally do.

Thanks for the question and your point about how often I address this subject. I’ll endeavour to do so more often. And hey, when you’re managing, don’t forget it’s a third of your day. So don’t forget to have fun. Happy places always work harder.

peace. s