Sunday, January 15, 2006

The Price of Being a Manager

Life is full of winners. It is full of losers too. Those losers apparently have make up their minds to give up any serious efforts to try again, finding out causes of their shortfalls and overcoming them. Fear of failure has made them content themselves with modest achievements that are, in most cases, far below that which they can actually accomplish.

In management there is what I call ‘the cost of management’ or COM. I coined this name in an effort to alleviate the awareness of some managers who would like to enjoy the trappings of their positions for free or at a very low price. Their investment both in themselves and their people is marginal, and therefore they should not expect any substantial return. Under today’s organizational structures, many managers have been promoted to that level as a result of too many factors other than competence or efficiency. Unfortunately, being a manager does not make you one. This is what I call ‘puppet management.’ It is the game of the losers, organizations and individuals alike, but it takes a lot to be a real manager and that is the winners game that we should play.

Real managers do manage. They accept the responsibility of managing their resources. They also insist on having the authority to take all decisions related to these resources; and they welcome challenges. They are independent, committed to excellence, delegate without competing with their subordinates. This breed of managers feel cheated by their organizations if they are not encouraged to participate in setting organizational philosophies and goals, prior to their being committed to these goals in their own departments. They invest in themselves and their assistants, continuously enhancing both their behavior and performance; they not only manage their people’s skills, but their talents as well.

Because they always want the highest return on their investment, good managers usually have a scout’s eye when it comes to selecting the right people. They ‘recruit’ rather than ‘hire.’ They pay special attention to the candidate’s solid background, integrity, flexibility, ability to work under pressure, creativity, and drive. Once they make the right decision, they become ready to put high bets on their new breed of winners, feeling that they have minimized their investment risk. Having lined up their most strategic resource for successfully achieving their organizational goals, those managers are artists in creating a climate that cultivates both teamwork and high productivity at a superior quality level. Knowing the strengths and limitations of each individual in their teams, their motivation schemes are duly designed to guarantee each member of the team buying in the team’s norms where each member of the team is ready to go the extra mile without being asked to. Their teams are self-motivated. They do not need close supervision to excel their assignments, always craving for excellence. They become more and more driven by a sense of competition, not only challenging the work environment with its limited resources, but even the other working teams. They always want to reach the finish line before anybody else.

When it comes to work problems, good managers know that it is part of the deal of becoming a manager. They accept mistakes as long as they do not recur. In fact they consider mistakes opportunities to coach their teams towards escalating levels of performance. Customers may not be satisfied; targets are sometimes not met, friction between team members occur. They confront problems with a creative approach, believing that a problem will never go away by itself; it will only go away when the right solution is found.

Real managers have vision. They are motivated by achievement, and future for them starts at the present. They hate to join ‘survival teams’ whose aim is just to stay afloat as long as possible in highly competitive world, but would rather work for organizations that control their own fate, planning for the future with contingency plans to keep the ship sailing confidently even in turbulent waters. In addition, they are not only tacticians skilled in implementing organizational policies, but strategists who master long term planning game that shapes the overall business philosophy and future.

Always thinking of the future, good managers realize that managing change is a critical factor in the winning game of today’s business world. They are under the spell of the ‘change syndrome’, constantly being aware of the continuous market changes and all the other external environment aspects and the challenges they pose to the organization’s strategies. They are always one step ahead, not waiting for things to happen and then react, but drawing appropriate plans based on their educated forecast of their markets.

Dr. Dick Slember, GM, unclear Fuels Davison of Westinghouse calls the bar chats he decorates his office with ‘The Pulse Points’. He wants his team to realize that they are not just dumb illustrations of progress, but they do have a significant purpose of feeling that organizational pulse as well. If targets were met we need to know why and do more of it; if not, we also want to know why in order to get what makes it possible. Giving life to progress reports can work for good managers who make them meaningful to their teams.

One of Socrates students once requested that he teach him how to learn. He then pushed his student’s head under water and when he strove to breathe he told him, ‘If you wanted to learn as badly as to breathe, you would learn.’