We are on a training call where the Product Manager for a product was presenting to the sales team but was talking a little slowly, so the very impatient VP gradually then blatantly took over the presentation. It was funny to hear. But at the same time, this is bad to do as a leader IMHO – the message he sent to his product manager was that he (the PM) should rely on the VP and/or the VP will not have his back or allow him to falter.
When I was a high school teacher, I tried to lead by example. So, if my students were doing something, I did the same activity. For example, if my students were watching a movie, I watched the movie (even if I’d seen it 100 times before). If my students were working on a class project, I was working with them on the group project (by going group to group and sitting with each group). And if they had silent reading, I read a book too. Never ever did I grade papers or do prep for another class while class was in session (as my mentor teacher said, if I am telling the students something is important but then not doing it myself, I’m sending the wrong message – so i tried to model the same behavior, and I feel like it helped me build bonds with my students). But I am thinking of one time in particular during silent reading, when I was reading along with my students but the book I was reading was hilarious (it might have been Confederacy of Dunces) so I kept chuckling; I noticed (out of the corner of my eye, since a teacher always tries to keep the peripheral vision going for obvious reasons 🙂 ) the students exchanging smiles then one finally said, not unkindly, “We can’t concentrate because you are laughing.” Then the entire class laughed. I loved that moment. It was a tender moment and thinking of it makes me miss my students. Those students were 16 at the time, and would all be in their 30s today. Wild to think about. But that moment is frozen in time in my memory.
For several months I was breaking my butt, making sales calls, setting up meetings, finding a few opportunities, including a couple of real good opportunities. I was frustrated with our lack of detail in delivery and our delivery’s slow responses and missed meetings, but figured that was part of the learning curve of this org and I would be able to adapt as time went on. But in October our owner vented at me about our lack of sales, never mind that I’d warned him before even accepting the job that their solutions would take time to build, and that was before I realized some of the other challenges we faced. I was irritated that he blamed me, versus recognizing there had been challenges but we were making progress (and we were).
Since that time, my sales activities have dropped by 25%, not out of spite but because I am no longer killing myself (working from home at 6 AM, racing to the office, staying after the office closes, working through lunch). I am funny – I work as hard (if not harder) than anyone when I am appreciated, something that others have always recognized in me. But that is not unconditional, and I know from experience that I only respond well to criticism if I truly truly respect the person giving me constructive feedback, which is rare and is definitely not this company.
I think that is true of most people. I like to hire hard workers then encourage them to reinforce good behaviors versus criticizing. I’ve hired two people who turned out to not meet expectations, and both were strong referrals taht went against my gut, a mistake I’ll never make again.
As Corporate America increasingly goes through reorg and consolidation hell, an amazing number of managers and DIrectors I’ve worked with over the years are now individual contributer worker bees. And it is amazing how many of them didn’t like managing people. In fact, I’ve yet to meet one manager at a cocktail party, meeting or other who actually said they enjoy managing people — most find it stressful and unpleasant. THe most common phrase I think is “babysitting.”
I just spoke to a woman who just a few weeks ago went from management to being a worker bee. She is in heaven. She has gone from 70 hours a week to 50, and doesn’t have to be positive all the time (it is like the Frasier episode where the middle school drama teacher said she was sick of being positive all the time 🙂 ).
My very own dad, who managed as many as 2500 people at one point (but is retired), said his happiest days were as a programmer.
It is hard to manage people. THings come up in their life that impact the team that you as manager have to deal with. SOme people don’t like to work. There is a lot of tattletaling and complaining about co-workers. And the bottom line is your management holds you accountable for the people beneath yo. Maybe that is why their are so many sociopathic awful managers in management — if you are sane you try to get out, but if you are a sociopath you like bossing people around and treating them like dirt 🙂
For me? I have a love hate relationship with managing people. I love being a part of people’s lives and being able to help them. But the tattletaling and the worrying about apathetic contributors is stressful.
We were taken out of the field for a full f***ing week two years ago and flown across the country and stuck in a dark conference room during the all-important January to attend a Sales Training mandated by that nutbag Mahfuz, our so-called leader. This was bad enough, but then we spent most of the time brainstorming for a new business idea that we could pitch to customers. WTF. We were running a 500M organization with firm practices in place with a nutbag CEO (Mahfuz), and he wastes a fully day of my time brainstorming for what-ifs? This would be fine, but he was completely intolerant of missed quotas and had a no cell-phone policy during these meetings, which is why 80% of the people were fired or quit every month, plus I had an office I was responsible for. I was thinking about this right now, as I came across the title “Content Manager” and that was one of the ideas — Content — we were brainstorming for. As a former Educator, I knew these one-day brainstorming with no follow-up on top of a million other similar activites that Mahfuz oversaw on top of our stressful day jobs was doomed to fail. I rue the day I ever worked for that whack job, and the next time I think of him will be too soon 🙂
Ond of the things I try to be respectful of as a manager is that when someone from my team leaves, I stress that I’d love to stay in touch (unless they were not a good person and I showed them the door), but I don’t pressure them to stay in touch and give them their distance (although once in a great while I might send a random note that simply says hello an dhope you are well). So when my team reaches out to me, especially as the months go by, I feel flattered and happy. The past two weeks not one not two but three people I used to manage reached out to me to ask if I’d like to have coffee/lunch and catch up, and the thing is they know I am not in a position to hire right now which means it is reasonably genuine. I love hearing from my ex-team, since I truly care about them!
For as long as I can remember, almost always I am highly deferential with a boss — or an antagonist. It happens — but it is rare — that I have normal or healthy relationship with my boss, but more often than not I feel discomfort in disagreeing or befriending a boss, and when I lose respect for them I simply ignore them. Best case? It’s that special boss who recognizes my exceptional work ethic and analytic skills and just lets me run with my job without interference. Once a boss no longer is my boss (due to reorgs, someone leaving the company, etc.), my awkwardness goes away and I no longewr feel any discomfort towards them. In eseence, it is their power over my career that generates the odd feelings in me. Luckily, though, I think most of my bosses have always liked me for the very reason I am independent and hard working without their having to watch over me.
So why is this, that I feel awkward towards bosses? I think it’s because I have a very strong willed mother, and there were a lot of rules that — if broken, even accidentally — meant more often than an extended yell fest. When I was younger, I yelled back, but eventually, in my 20s, I got tired of yelling so stopped. But the residual dread of having someone lording over me was already etched into me.
Ironically, this fear also makes me a better leader/manager – it means I take efforts to build collaboration and safety within my team, and retain an emotional intelligence on what it means to be the employee, and the results of this saftey and collaboration have spoken for themselves (most recently, turned the worset office in the 20-office region into the #2 office in a mere 2 quarters).
Most often, it hasn’t been a problem with my career – I am usually a highly-productive and independent employee, and most of my direct managers have liked and respected me. The one exception was last year, when following a reorg I was assigned to a highly controlling, not very talented and rutlhess boss in a highly demanding job where it was generally impossible to meet expectations and he fired almost 80% of his management year over year. The long hours where I invested a lot in my team combined with my own responsibilities reduced my ability to find an exit strategy (another job), which meant so much of my time was spent pandering to him and trying to avoid being fired. It was awful. In the end, it didn’t work, and to be honest I resent him for it.
(Confession: Last week I found myself walking in front of an airport gate where the destination was Dulles, where my crazy ex-boss lives. I scanned the crowd waiting for that flight, privately hoping to see him, knowing that if I did I was going to go out of my way to aggressvily walk through him so that he fell over but not without my raising a hand. Just my thinking this tells me how much I detest that man. The last time I did something like that was just after college, over 25 years ago, when at a Rose Bowl party another guy got jealous over a girl paying attention to me, even though I was just starting to date my wife and had no interest in anyone else; but the boy kept approaching me, touching my face and saying, “Why are you so interested in this pretty boy?” to the young woman. I didn’t mind his comments — I was above his opinion of me and often took “pretty boy” as a compliment — but didn’t like his touching me. I warned him once, and when he did it a second time I pushed him backward until he fell over a chair. “I told you to stop,” I said. And just like that, the issue was over… For me, the issue with my ex-boss isn’t that he didn’t treat his people well, it was that he was a bully – he held the livelihood of my family in his control at a time when I still privaely battle chronic fatigue, which precluded my ability to address his madness in a way I wanted to. So now that he no longeer has that kind of control, I relish the idea of punishing him a little bit. I honestly think he migth be the only person in the world that I think that way about, but he was like working for Henry VIII. Of course, the reality is I probably would have ignored him, and if he noticed me told him to leave me alone, that I didn’t have to bother with him again ever again, and that he was lucky I didn’t punch him. Still, it is nice to day dream a little bit. :)).