Independent in All Things, Neutral in Nothing

The Beginning of Managerial Wisdom

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“The beginning of wisdom is the definition of terms.” Socrates

Seeing this quote today made me ponder the first lesson in managerial wisdom. What realization must a new manager make in order to begin maturing into an effective manager?  It is this: the new manager must understand that the men and women in his charge have dreams, ambitions and goals which have nothing to do with their jobs or with him.

If a manager internalizes this idea, he understands the humanity of his team, and the limit of his role in their lives. A manager must view his team as human beings or he will treat them as tools – mere cogs in the execution of work. Men and women who believe they are tools come to one of two ends: they become the passionless tools managers assume them to be, with consequent poor results; or they seek out managers who do not view them in such contempt. Either way, the manager suffers because the team’s effectiveness declines.

A manager must realize that men and women have and want their work to have limits. Work conditions may push those limits at times, but they always exist. The manager must realize these limits. Again, a manager who behaves as if only work matters risks losing the spirit of the team, because they perceive he does not see them as equal human beings.  The situation and the manager become insufferable.

The reader may ponder – this is an important lesson, but why does managerial wisdom begin here? From this profound understanding comes all the other critical managerial skills – or at least from this understanding comes the possibility the manager may develop those skills. Great coaching, for example, simply is not possible without making a personal, human connection, because coaching content and delivery must be relevant to the individual.

Even the hardest dimensions of a manager’s job require this understanding. Take firing an employee. The right way to do this difficult act acknowledges the humanity of the person fired. The manager must realize firing is not just a business action, but a personal one too. But do not think this humanity talk is all soft. Indeed, a manager who internalizes the humanity of his team will realize when a staffer’s performance has fallen below acceptable levels; it is a humane act to remove underperformers and thus allow them to seek out the work at which they can excel.

In conclusion, this lesson must come first. It creates the foundation for individual coaching, staff cooperation and cohesion and the full expression of the technical skills of the team.


Written by Russell S.

November 11, 2009 at 3:14 am

Posted in Coaching, Management, Reviews

Tagged with , , ,

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