There ain’t much to being a ball player

“There ain’t much to being a ball player, if you’re a ball player.” – Honus  Wagner

I thought of this quote recently when talking with Marty, another consultant who is a friend of mine. He does fiscal consulting for non-profit groups, and is often a amazed at the degree of bad management he witnesses. “Is it so hard to be a good manager?” he asked.

“There ain’t much to being a good manager,” I replied. “If you’re a manager.” Marty had been blessed during much of his working career to have managers who were talented, motivating, understanding people. Some served as mentors. Some advocated on behalf of employees. All of them directed him in a way that allowed him to reach his potential and made him remarkably successful. Since “retiring,” he travels extensively sharing his expertise. But more and more he’s encountering people who have no idea how to run a team, motivate a workforce or assemble a group of people capable of achieving more than any of them could individually. “Why are there so many bad managers?”

Like teachers who “teach to the test,” there are too many managers nowadays who manage only to the bottom line. Now don’t get me wrong, I love the bottom line and am dedicated to making it look good. But how to make that bottom line look good is where too many of today’s managers go awry. They think the only way is to cut heads, cut expense, or drive their people til they drop. The idea of treating people well, offering them flexibility, respecting them as valued assets instead of commodities to be used (and then discarded) is unknown to them. Sometimes this is because they are the second generation of bad managers. They have never experienced a good manager who treated them well and developed them, motivated them, and simply, knew how to manage. So they are reinforcing and repeating the sins of their managers.

This has to stop.

This is not a sustainable model. We need to get back to making manager an honorable profession. So many of today’s workforce do not even want to be managers. As they rise in their organizations and get closer to where they could become managers, and perhaps learn how to be managers, that’s when they bolt. They branch out on their own and become entrepreneurs. Because they simply do not want to manage.

Fine. Don’t make them managers. To keep them, let them be the subject matter experts they may want to be. Find the people who have the necessary skills to be good managers. Find the people who may not be the best technical experts but understand the business and have the skills to communicate with people, listen to their needs, mold a group of people into a team, and achieve the results organizations need. These are the people who will be the next generation of great managers. These are the people who are excited by the prospect of seeing a group reach a goal. They are not as interested in individual greatness. They derive satisfaction, even joy, from seeing the team succeed.

And when you see them doing all this, if you ask them about what they’ve done, they won’t brag . They’ve done it because they love it, because they relish seeing the team succeed. They may even be humble about it. If you ask them about their success, they talk about their team, not their managerial prowess.

Because there ain’t much to being a manager, if you’re a manager.

Work better, not simply longer

I came across this post in LifeHacker about working more hours.

“We Need to Work Longer” – Why This is Not What You Want to Say | Manuel Kiessling

It’s a great reminder that working more hours is not the key to success. Working the right number of hours, focusing your efforts and your team’s efforts during those hours on what will move the organization forward, is far more important.

Yesterday’s model of logging endless hours at your desk to impress the boss no longer works. The boss may be in Frankfort, Kentucky or Frankfurt, Germany. And if you’re the boss, cracking the whip way past five is not the key to success. In fact, more often than not, as Mr. Kiessling puts it, it comes across as punishment.

Get people focused on what’s important to the business and get them to put their efforts in that direction. Get them to want to put in that effort. Find out what your employees care about. Find ways to help them see the importance of the company’s mission and help them to care about that. Don’t tell people how to do things, tell them what needs to be done and let them surprise you with their ingenuity, to paraphrase George S. Patton. This is how you motivate people and how you get them to put in the extra effort. Maybe it will result in more hours being worked. But at least you’ll know that they are really working and not just going through the motions until they think it’s safe to leave.