Thursday, June 24, 2021

Managing

The point of management is to take a group of people and get something done.

The difficulty of management is that you can’t just do it yourself. You might know how to do it, you might only have a vague idea, or you might even be entirely clueless. But even if you do know, which is obviously better, you still don’t have the time to go it alone.


The trick to management is to 'enable' other people to do the work for you. The catch is that you don’t want them going off rogue. The tradeoff is that the more you try to control them, the worse they will behave. So, there is this fine touch needed to steer them in the right direction, but then let them go off and do the work they need to. 


You need to treat them like they are the fingers on your own hand. You know what you want to pick up, they each position themselves to make that possible. 


To enable someone you have to put them in the right place, at the right time, with the right tools. Everyone’s different, everyone is unique. You need to draw a wide box for them to operate, but you also need to know when they’ve strayed out of bounds. You can’t crush their confidence, but you don’t want them overloaded with arrogance or hubris either. They’re all different types of chess pieces that you need to fit into the right places to be successful.


You can’t ever push them under a bus, even if they aren’t working out. Everyone else will see that and be affected by it. You need patience, guidance, and it requires a lot of effort.


Some people see management as the road to advancement. Others see it as an inevitable bump away from their past. Either way, a good manager enables the people under them, a bad one is an obstacle to be avoided as much as possible. So, in a real sense, if your people are avoiding you they are sending you a strong message.


Sometimes people think that management is just running around spouting out a lot of orders. That’s the opposite of effective management. It’s just an annoying person causing trouble. The real skill is listening. You have to hear what blocks people, what tires them out, what diminishes their confidence. You have to understand the larger picture, the context playing out from above. You have to know what their boxes are, but you don’t always have to fully understand the specifics of each item in them. When you don’t understand you have no choice but to listen to your people and trust them. If you do understand, and they are rogue, you have to gently guide them back on course. Either way, it isn’t for you to layout each and every detail of their assignments, only those cross-cutting items that absolutely need to be in place in order to ensure that the bigger goals are also met. You coordinate and protect, you don’t interfere and punish. 


If you understand this then people will want to work for you. If you don’t get it then you are on your own, no matter how many people are below you. The choice is yours.