Circumference of Me – Chapter 19

19 — Great bosses don’t give orders

You have arrived. You are a manager with umpteen people. Gender be damned, you are Da Man! Time to gear up, get your team focused on your priorities, to rise to the occasion, kick ass and take names, and whatever one hundred and thirteen other clichés you want to use. It’s time to give orders and watch people scurry to do your bidding.

Whoa! Back up.

First off, Management Emperor, don’t even think about giving orders. Avoid giving orders. Orders are for Third World dictators, not up-and-comers in the business world.

Great managers follow a different principle: “Give suggestions, not orders.”

Here’s the drill: People reporting to you are co-workers, not drones. They are your firm’s most valuable resource. They are not slaves; they are the ticket to your future. Treat them like valuable commodities. Better yet, treat them like relatives you really, really like.

Fine, got it. No orders. But, then what?

A great manager at his or her first departmental or project meeting would tell co-workers the following:

I don’t give orders. I offer suggestions. With those suggestions you have three choices:

  1. Do it, because it’s the right thing to do.
  2. Don’t do it, but give me a better idea and a plan how you can make it work.
  3. Don’t do it.

Nos. 1 and 2 are always acceptable. No 3 never is.

That sets a clear avenue for directions. It offers coworkers opportunities not only to be parts of the team, but to have input into solutions to problems or thorny projects. If you use the “suggestions, not orders” approach, you will empower the people you work with, acknowledge they will have good ideas, and guarantee that you will listen to them. You will lift them up, and at the same time set boundaries of protocol, punctuated by a request for their help.

       Can’t get much better than that.

Which brings up the inevitable question: What happens when an employee

embraces the third choice – just not doing what you suggested?

Make sure your co-workers understand: “If I have to ever give you an order,  that is never good for you or me –  because I don’t enjoy conflict.”

Clear. Concise. Understandable.

The birth and growth of a great manager is not a one-event occurrence. Learning the ability to communicate will always open one of the main pathways to success.

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Circumference of Me – Chapter 18

18 — Hiccups are no big deal

It’s important for managers to learn which mistakes are important and which are mere hiccups.

A hiccup is here and gone. It is not permanent. A single hiccup does no lasting damage and few people will remember it.

A business hiccup is (for example):

  • An e-mail sent without its intended attachment.
  • A typographical error in a report.
  • The wrong date on a document.
  • Missing a minor deadline.

There are major chasms between hiccups and certified disasters. It is a frightful

part of human nature that some people cannot differentiate between the two extremes. A temporarily misplaced report arouses the same reactions in some people as does an account lost to a competitor that shouldn’t have been lost.

For active, multi-tasking managers, hiccups are like mosquitoes in swampy areas. They are going to pop up no matter what you do. Business hiccups, while aggravating, don’t make or break careers. Those who do the hiccupping or evaluate their effect on the business may think so, however.

Swallow the hiccup by acknowledging it as a mistake, apologize if necessary, and get on to more important issues.

There will be bumps in your career path. A bump is a bump. Don’t make it bigger than it is and don’t allow it to ruin the journey.

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Circumference of Me – Chapter 17

17 — Navel-gazing is hazardous to health

While viewing your career future, there are four ways to focus your attention: Behind you, down, straight ahead, and up.

Except to reflect on mistakes and go over a laundry list of items learned from your experiences, there’s absolutely no reason to dwell on the past. Dredging up frivolously ridiculous events that look even more so in hindsight, personal decision-making foibles, and avoidable corporate faux pas just wastes time and valuable mental resources.

Your time would be more wisely spent replaying what you learned and how your lessons have improved your intellectual landscape.

Looking straight ahead – maintaining the status quo – normally would not advance one’s individual worth. It would instead signal professional acceptance of stagnation and eventually, degradation of position.

It’s perfectly acceptable to keep one’s eyes looking skyward toward loftier goals, larger and more important projects, and a title suitable to one’s abilities and aspirations. But fixing your gaze in that direction has its hazards. If you don’t pay attention to where you are headed, you can easily be tripped by unseen obstacles.

Looking down – navel-gazing, as it were – with excessive contemplation and unnecessary reflection on circumstances and events over which one has no control, or which don’t really help your role in the company, is simply a waste of time.

If you are going to indulge in navel-gazing, do it on your own time.

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Circumference of Me – Chapter 16

16 — Mix business & monkey business

It was the first day of work at a new job with a new company for a public affairs manager for a Fortune 500 company. He was excited, enthused, and ready to tackle the corporate world.

One of the first people he met in the hallway on his way to his new office was the vice president of operations.

“Good morning,” the newcomer greeted the executive.

The higher-ranking manager regarded him sternly. “Come into my office.”

Once inside, the vice president ordered the young man to close the door, crossing behind his desk to sit without inviting the new manager to take a seat.

He said: “This is the way it works. You say ‘Good morning,’ and most people feel an obligation to say ‘Good morning,’ and pretty soon we’ve all said ‘Good morning’ and we’ve wasted ‘X’ number of man-minutes of the company’s time.

“To be honest, that’s just the beginning of it. After ‘Good morning’ you feel obligated to ask about their weekend or their families or what they watched on TV last night.

“Wasted time. So let’s skip all that, shall we? I really don’t care about whether or not you have a good morning. I just want you to go to work and stay at it. Understood?”

You can’t blame the new employee for wondering whether he had made a bad career change.

It’s never acceptable to treat work as an adult playground. But there is no sin in having fun at work.

Decades later, this same once-young manager (now in his sixties and nearing retirement) is still in the corporate world, and has made it a personal goal to find something to laugh at every single day. He tries to entertain his co-workers at appropriate times, performing what he calls his “happy dance,” a convoluted mixture of the “Tigger” dance and an old soft-shoe, ball-and-chain routine.

It’s funny, but it’s also fun to watch him because he gets so much pleasure out of doing it.

It’s okay to have fun at work, within reason, and within the boundaries of corporate policy. If work is no fun at all, then why do it?

Find something at work that will make you laugh every day. Having appropriate fun at work is as close to corporate heaven as you can get.

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Circumference of Me – Chapter 15

15 Handing the shovel to others

When asked or ordered to perform a shit-shoveling chore, you must approach it as an opportunity, not as an aversion. Shovel with alacrity. In doing so, you are preparing yourself for the next step in the evolutionary process of the business world. When you readily accept delegated chores, you prepare yourself to delegate to others.

The art of delegation must be learned. One cannot master it by osmosis. Neither is it a genetic attribute. Unfortunately, the only way to learn how not to micromanage every detail of a project (or just do it yourself) and to delegate instead is to become a manager or project leader and be in a position of having to depend on others.

The ability to delegate – to shift shit-shoveling to subordinates – is one of the hardest management skills for young managers (and many older, established managers) to learn. For one thing, it goes against the grains of egocentric managers and the personal preferences of many workers.  Most good employees and a vast majority of managers – good, bad and in between – believe they can perform duties faster and get better results than anyone who works with them.

It’s not necessarily true, but that doesn’t make it any less so in their minds. Perceptions are realities.

If you truly want to become a corporate leader, you will have to move shit in various forms – liquid, clumps and hard, non-candy mountains – from one place to another for a time. In the Corporate Tribe, it’s called paying your dues. Ante up!

Follow a few simple rules: Take a shit chore and do it to the best of your ability. Show what you can do by simply doing it.  Make a niche for yourself that proves your value to the company.

Melvin sure does shovel shit well. And he does it without complaining!

If you are in a position of having to accept shit shoveled to you, and you are told to make something substantial out of it, make it the best pile of shit ever built in the history of the company.

Aspire to be a superb shit shoveler. In fact, be the freakin’ King of Shit-Shoveling. Learn not only to shovel it in efficient, bite-sized chunks, so to speak, but also how to use the exercise as a learning experience.

Few managers see the need, or want to learn how, to be good shit shovelers. Most managers won’t, but should, confide to subordinates why shit has to be shoveled, and how they fit into the shoveling channels. Few managers ever stop to tell a new employee: “Here’s a chore. It’s not glamorous; in fact, it’s a shit chore. But it’s important and here’s why . . .”

All new employees of any company should be versed in the practical reasons why shit flows downhill and how it is absolutely essential for aspiring executive managers to shovel it quickly and efficiently until there’s no more to shovel. They should know that it’s better to shovel shit than bitch and moan about having to do it, and let it build up until the only way to get rid of it is to bail.

Shit-shoveling should be viewed as a valuable lesson that should be embraced, figuratively, if not literally. Shoveling shit is a necessary part of the business process. It also is much better than the alternative – not having any shit to shovel, sitting home watching reruns of “Cops,” and glancing at the Help Wanted ads during commercials.

When it comes to paying your dues and shoveling your share of corporate shit, adopt the approach by Oliver Twist in the musical based on the Dickens novel: “Please, sir, may I have some more?”

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