there are three management types in the world (there are way more than three; i admit i’m over-simplifying): managers, rulers, and leaders.
managers have a task to complete. they create the work plan, hold people accountable for their individual parts, and don’t care what it takes to reach their end goal. canceling vacation? it’s necessary sometimes. constant status meetings? you need to know what work is or isn’t getting done. telling people to work overtime? someone has to get the job done. managers aren’t always well liked—although they sometimes can be—because it’s all about business to them. it’s hitting the next milestone, it’s keeping costs in check, it’s all about the earned value.
rulers have a sense of self-importance. they don’t create the work plans (they have someone do that for them), they don’t hold people accountable for their parts (they have someone do that for them), but they do love to inject their ways of doing things onto everyone else. they choose the processes, they plug people in where they decide where they should go, and they demand full and total obedience. don’t think, just follow. with rulers, it’s not even about business to them; it’s about self-serving and power grabbing. it’s all about strengthening their position.
leaders have a feeling of duty and accountability to their people. they don’t create the work plans, but they build the vision. they’re more concerned with maximizing potential than holding people accountable (because they realize an underperformer is trying to tell them something’s wrong). they identify the roadblocks to success and they find methods around them or through sheer force alone break down those walls to allow their people to do the work they need to and want to accomplish. leaders are almost always well-liked because it’s about the social aspect to them. they serve their people, and the people take care of the business.
which type do you prefer to work for? more important question: which type are you growing into?
it’s easy to look at other organizations that are doing things differently, bucking the trends, and challenging the status quo with their people strategy and say, “i’m not concerned about what they’re doing; they’re not our direct competitor.”
the problem with this line of thinking is that while they may not be in the same marketplace as you, both of your organizations are fighting for the same talent pool. that innovative company you dismiss as not being a competitor needs mathematicians, statisticians, business analysts, computer programmers, data architects (i could keep going…) the same way your organization does.
if they’re trying new and different things and having success in the process while you’re still defending the same management practices from 20 years ago, it’s time for you to start taking notice.
“they’re not our direct competitor.”
“i have this idea that i think might work.”
“oh, that’ll never work. [insert reason why].”
that’s not a conversation.
in fact, that’s the direct opposite of a conversation. that’s stomping on a dream.
instead of listing all the reasons why you’re different from your competitors, or how your organization’s goals are unique and special, or trying to explain to someone how it didn’t work for you before when you tried it with some other clients, or just giving people grief because you get nothing but grief and want to share your misery—try having a conversation instead.
ask the person how they think it will work. ask what kinds of strengths, weakness, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) they see. gauge their passion for what they’re talking about. find ways to feed that passion. discuss alternatives. ask questions to narrow down larger topics into the most basic and most important element. then—after all that is done—perhaps your reason why it won’t work will still be a good one, but you should at least have the conversation.
and maybe if you have an idea it’s just your job to ignore everybody and do it anyway. or at least start looking for people who share the same crazy ideas as you.
what i think is one of the worst preconceptions about business and management is that workers need to be motivated. this notion that the workforce is this entity that needs to be incentivized into doing something.
i believe that everyone is motivated by something. i’d say that most accountants have a natural love of working with numbers. i’m sure that stock brokers get a special kind of high out of making the deal that nets their clients big returns. and i’m sure that if you spent even just a little time with three of my colleagues as they talked about solving linear programs and differential equations you’d be amazed at how much they can geek out over it. but when was the last time, as a manager or leader, that you had a discussion with your employees to find out what drives them?
some of you might answer–if you’re being honest with yourself –”the job interview”. how long ago was that? people change over time, and so you must be willing to spend the time to really watch and track how your people are changing and the kinds of people they’re changing into. you might have someone with a modeling and simulation background whom either suddenly or even gradually falls in love with data visualization. you might have a history teacher whom has a new-found love of english literature. but you’ll never know any of this unless you take the time to know your people.
do you have carrots (bonus structures, awards systems) or sticks (hard deadlines, performance reviews) in place because they actually work? or is it just because it makes your job simpler?
everyone is motivated to do something.
find out what that is. then have them do that.
image from softsupplier.com
there has been a bit more attention paid to video games since it became a multi-billion dollar industry. and even though sales were down last year, those figures don’t include many of the emerging facets of the industry such as downloadable content (game add-ons and such) or mobile gaming (angry birds alone raked in $12m). with that much money flowing around, it’s hard to ignore it.
but what if we didn’t just analyze video games as a business and instead thought about how business can be more like a video game? jane mcgonigal gave a fantastic talk at TED in 2010 pointing out what gamers are good at, and why they spend so much time playing them. why not try shaping our businesses to engage and leverage these ‘virtuosos’ as jane calls them?
image by ortizmj12, flickr artist
one of the higher-ranking members at booz allen has an internal blog titled, “lead, or get out of the way!”
i certainly appreciate his willingness to to pass on the knowledge that he has learned over his distinguished career â€” and in such a contemporary form â€” but i have to say that i think it’s wrong.
at least in the innovation age it is.
i’d like to change my colleague’s statement to become “lead, then get out of the way!” and here’s why…
things don’t always go as you had planned. Â something at some point will happen which throws off your expectations. Â no project is without it’s problems challenges (sorry, in the consulting world we don’t like the word ‘problem’ because it has a negative connotation to it) â€” but before you institute solutions, you absolutely have to think about how it will affect the entire dynamic.
the problem with knee-jerk reactions is that they are generallyÂ conceivedÂ by the “fight or flight” portion of our brains; the portion of our brains that doesn’t consider impacts beyond the immediate situation. Â so while the reaction might be good for you right now in diffusing the situation or mitigating the issue, it may end up having negative impacts down the line.
fight the urge to make those knee-jerk reactions. Â your task, your project, your business is far too important to hinge its future on a decision made without just deliberation. Â before you make a decision on how to solve your next challenge, ask yourself two simple questions: “have i gathered multiple points of view?” and “have i really given good thought to this?”
image by Round Indigo Rock, flickr artist
we’ve had a big hiring push lately at my firm, and to be quite frank i don’t really like it.
to me it’s not enough to hire bright, intelligent, promising people to add to your workforce. Â you have to go beyond that and think about the team(s) those people will be on. Â this is hard to do when you are hiring people for their capabilities rather than a particular task. Â you need to be asking: can they become the new leaders of this team? Â can they handle the pressures of a highly dynamic development process? Â will they be able to form those trusting bonds with their coworkers?
i’ve been a part of many teams in both my academic and professional lives to know that just because someone has all the skills necessary, and their resumÃ© checks all the boxes on your list of “the perfect candidate,” that doesn’t mean that they’re the right fit for your organization. Â conversely, i’ve known people who have not been the brightest or the most talented but whom have made the organization thrive because they were excellent teammates.
image by foreverdigital, flickr artist
i’m not sure exactly what my favorite part of hockey is. as a goaltender (in my younger years), i have to admit that few things get me going more than a glove save on a 2-on-1 breakaway. i can still appreciate a fine dangle, though.
i can tell you with conviction, however, that one of the best moments is the celebration when a player scores a goal. the unbridled passion, the camaraderie, everything great about the sport of hockey comes through in one moment shared by 5 players on the ice (sometimes more). it’s one single moment that embodies all of what hockey is about.
image by csitscenter, flickr collection
i was in a meeting recently with a senior associate in my firm, and spent the vast amount of the 4 hours we had together furiously taking notes. Â unfortunately i couldn’t write as fast as he was talking, so i ended up not capturing all of the information that was there for the taking. Â for the most part, the vast majority of the time was spent discussing our earned value management capabilities at booz allen. Â we did talk some about business in general and building capabilities that can grow and expand, and it was from this discussion that my largest, boldest, “even used a highlighter on it” note came from. Â he said something to me that made a lot of sense:
always plan on success.
it’s a great quote. Â you may mistakingly take it as an inspirational message, but that’s not at all what he intended. Â it was actually meant to scare us, and remind us that we need to be prepared to succeed. Â to be successful in business, it’s not enough to have a good idea. Â even having passion and being a hard worker isn’t enough. Â when you’re trying to stand up or start up something brand new, you have to have certain things in place to handle the change in environment. Â nothing can kill a good idea quite like being unprepared to succeed. Â if you aren’t ready to expand with the business, you’ll undoubtedly experience growing pains – much like wearing a shoe that’s two sizes too small.