Why do I do this for a living?

Managing employment is one of the hardest balancing acts in business. As an employer you want an environment that is productive and happy, but you don’t have the time to take account of everyone’s needs and wants and indeed the employees who are most “needy” are often the least productive.

I well remember a moment about 12 years ago when I had just finished my 3rd year of managing staff when two things stuck me

1)      I liked managing staff

2)      I had to watch that I didn’t get too emotionally involved

Which is unusual because most management appointments are not made because the person is a good manager. They are made because the the candidate is either good at the jobs of the people they manage or they say the right things at interview. What happens then is that the manager  wistfully looks back at their time “on the tools” and wish they could drop this management b*****ks and “get back to some real work”.

Now either the MD of the firm that promoted me was very perceptive or just lucky on this occasion (I respect and like him so I’ll go with the former!). So whilst I still mucked in with the rest of them to do the work if we were short-handed or I felt I needed reminding of what the job was like, what I really enjoyed was watching a team gel and individuals fulfil their potential (my most precious moment was when a (young) grandmother came up to me and said she was so grateful to me for persuading her to do something she didn’t think she was capable of).

I spent years looking at management systems, trying them out and finding them ultimately unfulfilling. I tried the reductive approach and found my naturally sociable nature rebelled against the rigidity of the systems (plus I discovered that any  ”foolproof” system reckoned without the ingenuity of “fools”).

I found that measured bonus schemes made people concentrate on the parts of the job that earned them a bonus to the detriment of the rest of the job. And that bonus schemes trying to cover every aspect of the job became hideously complicated and tied up management in an “industry” of measurements to the exclusion of everything else.

I have tried to “help” people achieve their fullest potential and accommodate their personal lives, only to feel betrayed when they refuse to exhibit what I consider to be the appropriate level of gratitude. (A friend to whom I will be eternally grateful listened attentively to my whinging before telling me to grow a thicker skin!)

What I want to do now is refocus management support away from the personalities of the employees and the systems needed to manage these, and back to the personal qualities of the managers. So that each manager can find their best management approach, suited to their values. That doesn’t mean they don’t have to learn and grow, but we should stop trying to hammer square pegs into round holes. Which is easier and better than trying to guess what employees want according to someone’s political views or simplistic assessments of “human nature”.

I believe that too many “experts” have inserted themselves into the employment relationship. Everything I do is to try to give the relationship back to the most important partners, the employer and the employee. I believe that is the only way to make the relationship positive for both of them. It starts with employers being honest with their staff and employees taking responsibility for their actions.

So if you are sick of experts trying to sell you “sure fire” management techniques and consultants who talk in a language that seems to be meaningless try the following approach

1) Decide what your area of responsibility is meant to achieve

2) Decide what you need from each member of staff to achieve it

3) Tell them what you want from them and where they need to improve

and most of all treat them like adults.

You may be surprised by the results

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