The Lost Art of Management

why we hate our managers

Seventy percent of U.S. employees hate their jobs. No, seriously.

And the No.1 reason is because their manager sucks.

How many times have you heard a friend complaining about his or her manager? I’m sure it happens almost every time you meet them for dinner or coffee.

So why do people suck at being managers? Let’s take a step back and talk about the Peter Principle.

The Peter Principle is a proposition that states that “the members of an organization where promotion is based on achievement, success, and merit will eventually be promoted beyond their level of ability”. Or more simply, “ employees tend to be given increasing responsibility and authority until they cannot continue to work competently”.

So how do people become managers in the first place? Well, according to the Peter Principle, it’s a simple theory- the better and more experienced you are at your job, the more qualified you are at managing people. This is a fallacy and because of this traditional way of corporate promotion, many people who suck at managing others are now managers.

Now let’s define what good management is. Good management is the ability to identify what’s unique about each person, capitalize on their strengths and make sure the team works well together. In a way, good managers are like symphony conductors. They have the ability to unify performers, set the tempo, execute clear preparations and beats, and to listen critically and shape the sound of the ensemble.

The ultimate goal of a manager is to turn talent into performance and turn performance into profitability. To achieve this goal, all managers must understand these basic principles:

  1. Hire awesome people. Don’t settle for mediocrity and never hire someone out of desperation. Hire the people who fit the company culture. By hiring the right people, you’ve already won half of the battle. Look for great attitude and personality and even hang out a couple times before moving into interviews. People will always show their best sides during interviews so the best way to tell is to invite them to a team social. Different companies have different practices of hiring the right person. For example, my buddy, Brian Wong (CEO of Kiip), uses boardgames to assess a potential hire’s ability to learn and teach. Get creative and step out of traditional hiring process.
  2. Give your employees the credit they deserve. If there’s an opportunity to praise your employees, do it. Or even better, give them the credit instead when someone higher up praises you for a job well done. Managers are the wizards behind the curtain making the magic happen.The worst thing you can do is take credit for something that they’ve done. You will need to resist the temptation of putting yourself in the spotlight because the short-lived glory is simply not worth demoralizing your employees.
  3. Be a human being. Show your care. Often times, employees feel distant from their managers because they feel inferior, insecure, afraid, and feel that their every action is being judged and watched. By showing them that you care, you can easily remove these very common feelings. Learn about their personal lives. Ask about their weekends. Take an interest in their well-being. Be curious about what their values are. The more you learn about your employees, the better you can assess each person’s strength, weakness and personality compatibility with other people on the team.
  4. Drop the smartphone. When an employee comes to you for help, drop that, whatever is going on. Look at their eyes when they’re talking to you. If you don’t, basically what you’re saying is whatever that’s going on on your computer or smartphone screen is way more important than what they have to say. You always have time for your employees. Set aside two meeting-free days in the week. Put people first and they would put the work you give them first.
  5. Don’t let it out on them. When you’re stressed, your employees should be the last ones who you should lash out on. Focus on solving the problem at hand and ask nicely for their help because they may very well be the ones who can get the job done. Remember, your employees will be influenced by how well you carry yourself under stress.
  6. Their success is your success. Understand that the better performing your employees are, the better you are at your job. But don’t take it for granted. Constantly evaluate their needs. Do they feel like they’re not being challenged enough? Are they unhappy with their pay? Do they feel like there’s nothing more to learn? Do they prefer being told what to do or autonomy? Do your best in helping them achieve the things they want to achieve.
“Ultimately, great managers make their employees’ success a primary goal, and derive personal satisfaction from watching them grow.”

Lastly, I want to leave you with a quote from Sir Ken Robinson:

“The real role of leadership is climate control, creating a climate of possibilities. If you do that, people will rise to it and achieve things you completely did not anticipate.”

My next post on creative leadership: “The Building Blocks of Creative Leaders”

My third post on the realities of the workplace: “How To Engineer Your Own Job Security”