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

Title vs Talent

In a previous blog I discussed the value of an appreciative workplace. It is important to understand the responsibility for creating this goes in both directions. Not only do employers benefit from recognizing their employees as human beings, so too do the employees benefit from recognizing their bosses as human.

It’s true that not everyone is humble enough or earnest enough or curious enough to learn to be the very best kind of manager, but everyone has the potential to go a considerable distance from wherever they start. But if someone’s going to improve at anything then we can be certain that there are better ways to do many of the things they’re doing now. If a manager’s always only stating what should be done and not asking 65 Relax and Succeed - Wisdom tends to grow in proportionwhat could be done, we’re only making use of the manager’s brain rather than the entire staff’s.

Employees will benefit from seeing the workplace for what it is: a growing, changing organism. Part of those changes will include the fact that most managers travel very similar, predictable routes that build on their progressive experiences. The route for every single manager will include much trial and error. Employees should respect that the error portions of the journey are just as important to the growth of the manager as the successful choices. Yes it can be frustrating to encounter. But your own growth might be frustrating from the manager’s perspective at times as well, so patience on both sides is useful. Despite what employees most often think, management is a much more challenging job than can be seen from below. The bottom line is, new managers will get a lot wrong simply because they don’t have any experience and we learn from experience.

The first problem arises with the idea of who is promoted. Very few companies recognize Management as an independent area of expertise. This means it is seen more like a ladder that mirrors salary, rather than an area where there should be a distinct skill set. So rather than management being above production accounting and sales, it’s healthiest when it’s management alongside production, accounting, and sales, with the management facilitating the work of the other departments. But the reason the top-down, quasi-military, performer-based system still operates is simply because the people currently doing the choosing were chosen on the same incorrect basis that they will base their choices on. Etc.

How this starts is that, for most companies, when someone first gets promoted it will usually be because they did very good work. But if an accounting firm promotes its best forensic accountant, then it will immediately get worse at forensic accounting because their top guy will now be managing people rather than looking for patterns in numbers. Now if that guy also 65a Relax and Succeed - True leaders don't create followershappens to be excellent at teaching others how to spot those patterns, then he is the man for the job because he can expand the company’s success by increasing its overall capabilities. But without that ability to teach he’s better to be heading projects rather than managing people.

So that’s where most managers start; they manage the work. They got promoted because they were good at the work, so it does sort of make sense that their first idea is to show you how they did that work. But they’re them and you’re you, so a lot of that won’t really work. The better managers realize that it’s not working and they ask why. Then they either learn it from a book or someone like me, or they learn from unpleasant direct experience. But eventually they figure out that everyone approaches things from their own unique angle. And you can’t force that angle through authority. You have to learn how to get to know it. So rather than telling someone how to be, a good boss can help you grow by learning about who you are, and then by showing you how to apply your nature to your work.

While all of this is going on, it is important to remember that your boss is feeling pressure from their boss. So they’re not at 0dds with you. They’re genuinely trying to get good results. But you can’t blame them for innocence. If they’ve never done it before, just because they have the title doesn’t mean all of the knowledge gets downloaded into their head like some scene from The Matrix. When I’m meeting with a manager I’m sharing 30 years worth of management experience. 30 years worth of hiring people, firing them, disciplining them, motivating them etc. etc. etc. And I made a ton of mistakes. To expect them to know what I discovered over that much time is as unreasonable as the manager expecting the employees to be entirely consistent despite the ups and downs of life. It’s obviously impossible.

Good managers generally move from managing the work, to managing the company’s interests, to realizing that the employees are the actual generators of the income, and so there65b Relax and Succeed - You know you are on the road to success is then a focus on the employees. The final step is taken when there is an understanding that each employee requires individualized management based on their personality and learning type. Some people are auditory learners some are visual learners some are kinetic learners. Some are philosophical about their work, others see it in basic steps. No one is wrong but they all must be addressed accordingly. In the end it’s not like commanding dogs, it’s more like herding cats.

As Managers learn to herd their cats, they must take a journey to experience and expertise. To get there, the employees must be the forgiving lot that travels along with them. Just as we needed to learn our jobs, they need to learn theirs. They can’t just know it because someone gave them a title. That’s just not how it works.

It takes experience and awareness to hone an effective manager. But when you get one—or if you see one that has that potential—stick with them. Because you know those really inspiring school teachers you’ll never forget? Well a really good manager is just like that. They’ll bring out the best in you. So if you don’t have one now, see if you can be patient enough to help yours become one. Because a good boss can make work an enjoyable place to be. And that would be better for both of you.

Enjoy your day.

peace. s