Management Reality Check – Challenging the Truths and Rewriting the Rules

If just ONE more well-intentioned, but irritating CEO says to me that, “People are our most valuable asset” or one more HR Alan presenting at AmChamManager patronisingly says, “There’s no “I” in team” or, even worse, one more CFO says, “We are committed to transparency in the way we do business”, then I may have to resort to violence!

I’m not sure which came first – the “Rules” or the “clichés”, but I’m pretty sure that the best way forward is to bust some of those restricting and unnecessary rules.

In business there should be no sacred cows, no no-go areas and certainly no, “we’ve always done it this way” mentality – and yes those attitudes ARE still alive and kicking in 2011!

Let’s look at those we should keep and cherish and let’s boot out those that have NO place in our organisations – and let’s start with one of everyone’s favourites – “Employees are our most valuable asset”

The first and most obvious problem here is that, generally speaking, assets are things you own and you certainly don’t own employees. And don’t think that Contracts of Employment, Awards or any of that contractual obligation stuff actually helps with the “owning” thing! ALL employees are really sub-contractors that provide their services for a fee. Only for you it’s called a salary.

Now anyone who has managed for more than a day knows that some employees are better described as “liabilities”, rather than assets – but I believe that if we assumed that they’re are ALL liabilities, it would help us, as Managers, to look at how to get the best ROI.

So the first thing we need to do is to re-assess the real (as opposed to perceived) value of our employees and make the best decisions concerning them as if they were financial assets.

It was also interesting to note how quickly these “most valuable assets” were disposed of in the recent GFC…

Another favourite of ours is the “Work / Life Balance” – you know that perennial myth that we’ve all been chasing since we were old enough to realise that it might be an issue. Way too many issues to go into there in any detail, but here’s a few to get you thinking…

a)  Surely it’s in the wrong order? Surely it’s supposed to be a Life / Work balance, isn’t it?

b) The myth assumes, incorrectly in our view, that these are two separate entities. That work and life exist as independent bodies of time and experiences and that separation by “balance” is either desirable or necessary. But it is inevitable that there is a huge overlap between the two and that is not necessarily a bad thing.

c) The main issue here is that all the focus seems to be on either prioritising while you are at work and then doing the same, but less formally, while you at home. If however we actually sat down and prioritised our LIFE, including work AND home/family to fit our value system, then the balancing act would be superfluous and the guilt that we’re supposed to feel if we choose to work 60 hours per week would disappear.

d)  If I was being cynical, (as if!) I might argue that the term “workaholic” could be used to describe someone who uses their job to get some well-deserved time away from their loved ones…

e)  But, to be fair, not many people on their death-bed are heard to say, “Gee, I wish I’d spent more time at the office!”

OK, last one for now – “The More You Do, the Less Gets Done!”

This one is a particularly common issue with our clients and we think that it’s because the desired and, to a certain extent, esteemed “spirit of mateship” that exists in Australia actually gets in the way of good leadership. We seem to really struggle with the Mate vs. Manager or Boss vs. Buddy problem, to the point where it’s easier to do the job yourself and thus avoid the hard conversations that we really should be having.

If you can step back and then up and take the “balcony” view, rather than being on the stage, this will certainly help you to avoid some of the potential battles. (I’ve never liked the “helicopter view” and if you’ve ever been in one, you’ll know exactly why I don’t like it!)

And another thing that will particularly help the technician who’s been promoted to Supervisor / Manager – it is important to be mediocre in order to be brilliant! “What?” I hear you cry…let me explain. As a technician you probably excelled. But as a Manager you need to excel at Managing and it’s virtually impossible to do both. You may want to continue to excel at the technical stuff, but you sure don’t need to. You need to focus on the Managing and let everyone you work with deal with the technical issues. I know, I know…it’s hard because that was your comfort zone – but there’s a technical phrase for this – it’s called “Growing up!”

So just a few of the things that we need to do on a regular basis in order for the Management Realty Check to work! None of them are easy, but hey, whoever told you that life as a Manager was easy, was lying to you!

Enjoy!!!

Alan Slater

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