I watched as a group of managers regaled themselves with tales of the laziness and incompetence of their employes. Their own employes, their workforce.
It reminded me of a supervisor of nine specialists who said the job would be perfect if only he didn’t have to put up with the people. He was topflight at the work himself, but he couldn’t turn out that quality at 10 times the quantity. He needed those people and they needed him, but he didn’t see it that way.
Such attitudes are not at all rare, and that’s too bad. They devalue one of the most important underlying realities of management, especially project management: Nothing happens without the people.
Software engineering guru Watts Humphrey wrote that the work of technical managers is 90 percent people and 10 percent technology – but they spend most of their time on the technical management. It’s a lot less hassle that way.
It’s also far less effective. The truth is that the human resource is the catalytic factor – the dynamic resource that makes possible the productive employment of all the others. Your equipment, materials, facilities and your very processes don’t do a thing until activated by your people.
Managers who look down upon their employees are sneering in the wrong direction. If you have just one report, even a part-time one, the primary measure of your managerial competence is how well that person is producing . . . and growing.
People are expensive. Salary, benefits, space, administrative support – it all adds up. When the person is trained, happy and motivated, he or she gets more productive with no increase in cost.
The manager has everything to do with that. Besides oversight and training, the manager also sets up and maintains the processes that enable the staff member. And one more thing: Continuous personal attention from the leader heads off and/or moderates those performance swings that the human being is perpetually subject to.
The managers who viewed their people as objects of scorn when in the company of other managers would not have been attentive and committed in their interactions with those employes.
Attitude determines behavior. When your boss doesn’t think much of you, you know it. Your enthusiasm for investing energy, imagination and effort is bound to be affected.
There’s no secret to doing this right, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.
First, basic management. The route to the hearts of the best employes is ensuring that facilities and processes are set up and maintained in ways that make it possible for them to do their work well. The good manager takes personal responsibility for that.
It extends to problem management. You don’t let variances fester. You fix them. As much as possible, you anticipate. People know you’re paying attention, and they trust you to act in a timely manner.
Of course, every manager has plenty of other things to do, and those other duties can’t be neglected, either.
The good things the manager is doing for the staff members all take time -- discussion, negotiating, planning, etc. Good managers also devote themselves to building and maintaining relationships with their own managers as well as their peers.
Managers also have homework to do.
With all that, a fundamental requirement for good management is that most prosaic (and difficult) of personal productivity practices, time management. You get too busy, you fight the hottest fires, and you miss stuff.
And the easiest stuff to miss is the non-urgent necessity for consistent people management. It takes a lot of time to do, and you usually can get away with putting it off. But, by the time it does become apparent, the results can burn the hottest and cause the most damage.
With some thought and a healthy dose of discipline, it can be done right. When it is, the results are obvious. Sometimes the simplest remark can summarize the most wisdom. Legendary football coach Bum Phillips said about Don Shula, coach of the Miami Dolphins:
"He can take his'n and beat your'n and take your'n and beat his'n."
The Worth of a Bureaucracy
The Worth of a Bureaucracy