Friday, April 29, 2011

Everybody's a manager?

Well, no, actually. Most people aren't managers...many by choice, many due to inability. At least this is true if we're talking about managing PEOPLE. Go crazy with "time management" and "managing your own affairs" if you want to. I'm talking about the management of people in an organization that has more than two people in it.

After about 20 seconds of deep reflection, I suggest that an organization of two people probably can't be seriously mismanaged or seriously harmed by a delusional co-worker because, more or less, one of the two people can walk away if the stuff starts to get too deep. Also, one person more or less can't gang up on the other person. One person really can't ignore the other person effectively. One person can't patronize, victimize, offend, de-motivate, undermine or mislead the other person very effectively, considering the above-mentioned "walk away" factor.

So let's talk about organizations in which management in some form is imperative, that is, all organizations with several members and all larger organizations with up to several hundred thousand members (and don't get me started on the fundamental impossibility of effectively managing several hundred thousand people with a coherent central mission and strategy....).

Why is management imperative? You're right, that's a topic for another seminar in a warm place with a friendly bartender nearby. Let's just agree that, in their natural state, a typically average collection of people will not willingly work cooperatively over an extended period of time to achieve a common goal if unavoidably explicit personal sacrifice is required of them in that pursuit, even if the common goal manifestly benefits all of them. If you prefer, I'll say it more precisely and less brutally: they will not be successful in attempting to do so.

I was talking the other day with my sister, Jan, who like me has dabbled in management in the workplace from time to time. She said she had never aspired to be the CEO, the top dog. I never got to the CEO's office either. We reminded ourselves that "managing the boss" or, to say it another way, "managing up," is a talent and a responsibility which I propose as an imperative in the ideally well-functioning organization.

I teach a college Management course, and it occurs to me that I have only tangentially encouraged my students to think about "managing up" as we plow through the textbook topics on top-down management.

Not everyone is or wants to be a manager, but in an organization with at least several members, everyone has an opportunity to be a manager. It's a damn shame too few people can or want to rise to the challenge. There just aren't enough really good managers to fill all the slots. More on this in my next post.

1 comment:

  1. Grunts need it from their supervisors, supervisors need it from their managers, and so on up the chain of managers, directors, VPs, Ps, and C-something-somethings. Without "Love From Above" no one can be successful in any organizational position. At the managerial level, LFA must often be curried or courted. A wise manager knows how, when, and where to get it. A wise manager sends it on down---and back up---the line, when- and wherever applicable or appropriate. Anyone [correction, nearly anyone] can be taught the perfunctory skills needed to perform the tasks needed to fulfill the expectations of any organizational position. It is wisdom, and use of that wisdom, that is needed to become and be an efficient and effective manager. How to teach or impart wisdom, or where or how to find it in a manager wannabe? Therein lies the rub...