My employer is sending a handful of us middle management types through a Management Training Certification program, where we learn how to navigate the bureaucracy and critical thinking skills needed to solve the complex financial, logistical, personnel and operational challenges that face all organizations today.
There are talks from organization veterans and exercises to broaden our horizons and force us to look at alternate problem-solving skills. The best of these exercises asks us to write down something every day that we’ve learned about management skills and can apply to our departments.
This is all about inspiring greatness in the people who report to you. I can do this. Woe unto my staff.
There is a great motivational poster showing a penguin about to clang a pair of cymbals behind a sleeping polar bear, with the caption of “Every day do one thing that scares you.” This is a great sentiment to push yourself out of your comfort zone. However, astute readers have spotted two flaws with the original poster: 1) Polar bears live at the North Pole and penguins at the South Pole; and 2) Penguins don’t play percussion. They are woodwind players.
In that spirit, I offer the Phil Wilke Guide to Being a Goodly Manager-Type Person So Your Staff Lowers The Pitchforks and Douses The Torches:
• Shut up. You probably don’t know what you’re talking about unless you’ve listened to the people who actually do the work.
• Calm down, nothing is so urgent that it’s on fire. (Note: this does not apply to the Las Cruces Fire Dept. For them, some things may actually be on fire. Could you please go check it out? Thanks from all of us!).
• Don’t take yourself too seriously. Follow the example of the poor souls on my staff who don’t take a thing I do seriously.
• Just because you’re having a bad day doesn’t mean the people around you should, too. Unless your bad day was caused by a dead computer that was supposed to automatically back up your data but apparently decided to take a year off, THEN you’re allowed to curse a blue streak for five minutes, no more, and threaten it with a baseball bat.
• Apologize quickly. Good leaders realize their mistakes, rectify them as quickly as possible and give credit to the people who pointed them out. A good staff will limit laughing at the boss for his dunder-headedness to no more than five minutes.
• It’s not about you. It’s never about you. It’s about the mission. Unless you lead a cult, then it’s always about you.
• Walk around. You’ll never learn anything sitting in your office. If you walk around and see everyone scattering when you come near, maybe you’ve been a little too stern. If people ask “who are you” and you sign their paycheck, it’s well past time to introduce yourself.
• Never respond in anger. This will always jump up later and bite you in the butt. Unless you’re responding in anger to a dead computer that was supposed to automatically back up your data but apparently decided to take a year off, THEN you’re allowed to curse a blue streak for five minutes, no more, and threaten it with a baseball bat.
A thousand years and several careers ago, I had three index cards taped inside my locker. They said:
• Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is the willingness to proceed with fear.
• Judge a man not by the heights he’s attained, but by the depths from which he’s come.
• Don’t be afraid to be wrong. If you’re never wrong, you’ve never tried.
Now go and be courageous. Remember, every corpse on Mt. Everest was once a very motivated climber.
Phil Wilke is a recent transplant to Las Cruces, is only laughed at behind his back occasionally by his staff, and is a freelance writer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.