When I got my first corporate job at McDonalds shortly after I turned 14, my manager was a thirty something with a molester mustache who abused his “power” by trying to nail the underage female employees. Sometimes the slimy bastard succeeded.
My second corporate manager was a cocaine addicted, mullet headed, verbally abusive, statutory rapist. When I quit, this guy actually told me that “I couldn’t quit” because it was illegal for someone under 21 to quit a job without management’s permission. Huh? I walked out anyway and then he held my paycheck.
My third corporate manager was powermad. While standing right next to you, she’d drop a piece of paper on the floor and say, “Steve, will you pick that up?” I did it a few times, but after that, I avoided her because she disciplined anyone who refused her commands. Strange woman.
I know, I know… You’d think I would have learned by this point. But I didn’t. Most of us don’t.
My fourth corporate manager was a bald guy who always wore a baseball cap, even indoors. He managed truck drivers who made $15-20 per hour but never gave them an annual increase over 25 cents per hour. He justified his stinginess saying, “10 cents an hour was a great raise when I drove truck.” I assume senior management enjoyed the reduced labor costs, but they still fired him when the drivers nearly unionized.
When I got my foot into cubicle land as a customer service rep my new manager was no better; she threw angry tantrums firing people for delusional paranoid reasons. Several months later, after firing her, senior management asked me to manage the customer service group.
I was facing a classic working class dilemma. Do I sell-out my “people” and become “the man” like all the slimy middle managers before me or do I keep my paltry working class income and retain the righteousness of poverty?
I sold-out. I wanted to be a different kind of manager, but I still suffered from the delusion that good management was about fear, power, control, and discipline. Why wouldn’t I? That’s how authorities managed us in school. That’s how I was managed in each working class position leading up to my promotion. I had no real-world examples of good management.
Maybe abusive management is cyclical like spousal and alcohol abuse. We learn it from those that come before us and the real question is how to break the cycle.
My current boss helped me break the cycle. He was my first real-world example of a great manager. I am grateful to have him as a mentor.
When people think of corporate management, they tend to think about the managers in Office Space or the corrupt executives at Enron or Tyco. But if you’ve ever worked under great management, you know that these stereotypes are the worst kind of management. They are bad for employees, bad for business, and bad for shareholders.
Through mentorship and reading books like The Essential Drucker, I’ve learned a few of the values that are critical to successful business management, whether it is a large enterprise or a home based micro-business. You can use these values not only to achieve success in business and management but also to achieve success in life.
The first thing a new manager should understand is – great management is not about you or your career. It’s about serving other people.
Great management is about:
People – A great manager will form groups that perform well together, leveraging each member’s strengths while minimizing weaknesses. If you work for a managed institution, which most people do, your quality of life and your contribution to society are greatly dependent on the quality of your managers. Great managers will have high expectations combined with compassion and understanding for people’s personal or family lives.
Culture – Does your management style create a culture of fear, mistrust, and greed, or does it create a culture of courage, trust, and generosity? Status Quo or innovation? Protectionism or openness? But this isn’t just about corporate culture; it’s also about world cultures. Are you open to the ideas and strengths of other cultures? Ideas and strengths that are proven or are you closed to ideas from other cultures and myopically chained to your own culture? Every culture has strengths and weaknesses; do your best to adopt the strengths and abandon the weaknesses.
Commitment to Common Goals and Common Values – Does your organization have clear goals and share common values? Have you clearly and consistently communicated these values and goals? Goals and values that unify and provide common vision? Do you as a manager exemplify the goals and values of the organization or are they hollow words?
Training and Development – To succeed every organization/business must foster training and development – Training and development that does not stop. All great managers strive to increase the human potential around them.
Communication – A great manager once told me that he could trace each of his management failures back to a poor communication and each of his successes to clear communication. In management, it is better to over communicate – even to the point of absurdity – than it is to fail to communicate. The most common communication failures are a failure to listen and failure to admit that you don’t understand. Failing to listen or faking understanding, is failing to communicate.
Individual Responsibility – Individual responsibility is not only taking responsibility for your own work but also a clearly communicating your expectation that others also accept responsibility for their work. Micromanagers fail to expect people to be responsible for their own work, so if you must micromanage you’ve hired the wrong people, failed to train them, or set expectations too low.
Satisfying Customers – The ultimate goal of any organization is to satisfy someone outside the organization. A hospital should heal the sick, a business should provide a good or service that people want at a price they will pay, a school should provide a student with knowledge they can put to work later. A police force should provide people security. A publication/website should provide content people want. Inside an organization, there are only costs, and the money to pay for those costs always comes from outside the organization from satisfied customers.