The 26 Hour-a-Day Manager

Tom Robertson: Posted on Monday, December 10, 2012 11:00 AM

This is no shortage of advice on how to be a good manager. Right now I’m looking at a management textbook with over 500 references, and for each of those books and articles, you could probably find hundreds more saying basically the same thing. Why are management themes so frequently recycled?

I think it’s because the problem isn’t in the knowing, it’s in the doing. We know enough to construct an impossibly long to-do list of things a good manager should do. We start down our list of good intentions, and then find our actions dictated by the curve balls life decides to pitch our way. Of course, we want better than that, and the latest management best-seller is a good way to get re-centered, to bump to top priority things that are essential but get trumped by the urgent.    

The structural aspect of an organization – the “factory” frame – is designed to make sure we can’t forget it. There are checklists, and they demand to be followed. The human resources aspect of an organization – the “family” frame – more easily becomes part of the to-do list we don’t get to. We know it’s better to have a positively reinforced team with shared objectives. But how much time can we afford to spend making that happen? We have lots of other things to do, and most of them have a more predictable payoff than time spent exploring the forest of human needs, perceptions, and motivations.  

To excel in the human resource frame, I suggest taking inspiration from real families. A family is a family because of what it IS, not what it DOES. Rather than trying to add high priority humanizing tasks to your factory, insist on a way of being. Let the tasks that hold your structure be informed by fundamental values:  

–Mutual respect, trust, and acceptance 

–Open communication and frank feedback 

–Commitment to shared objectives 

–A passion to jump in, maybe stumble, and grow.  

In our next post we will explore the political frame – organization as an arena.  

 –Tom