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Managing for People Who Hate Managing

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One Size Does Not Fit All!

Professional success, more often than not, means becoming a manager. Yet nobody prepared you for having to deal with messy tidbits like emotions, conflicts, and personalities—all while achieving ever-greater goals and meeting ever-looming deadlines. Not exactly what you had in mind, is it?

Don’t panic. Devora Zack has the tools to help you succeed and even thrive as a manager. Drawing on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, Zack introduces two primary management styles—thinkers and feelers—and guides you in developing a management style that fits who you really are.

She takes you through a host of potentially difficult situations, showing how this new way of understanding yourself and others makes managing less of a stumble in the dark and more of a walk in the park. Her enlightening examples, helpful exercises, and lifesaving tips make this book the new go-to guide for all those managers looking to love their jobs again.

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13 Chapters

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Contents

ePub

 

One: Why You Hate It, Why I Wrote This

ePub

Find a job you like and you add five days to every week.
—H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

So much to do in every day
Never wanted to manage anyway
Just do your work and what I say
So my last nerve doesn’t fray.

Chapter Highlights

Setting the stage

Management challenges

Hey!

I’m so glad you stopped by. Our expedition navigating the crazy, stormy waters of Managing People will be well worth the time you devote. Plus, reading this book may count as professional development. You go!

On these pages you’ll find heaps of useful, lifesaving management tips. Euros well spent, if you ask me. Consider this book a leadership life vest, only more flattering. Your being here makes the whole insane process of writing worthwhile. In fact, I wrote this book for you (see the dedication).

Before we delve in, a few pesky questions are pounding at the door, demanding our attention.

As a management consultant for more years than is really your business, I’ve seen plenty of fads come and go. I could list them here to make my point, except that would be criminally tedious. Plus, my up-and-coming readers will have no idea what I’m talking about. That’s the point: Fads go. Splitsville. Ta-ta. Heartlessly leaving us panting in the very offices where they sought us out, promised the world… then promptly turned on their heels following the big gala thrown in their honor.

 

Two: Who Are You?

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But enough about me, let’s talk about you… What do you think of me?
—C. C. Bloom (Bette Midler’s character in Beaches, screenplay by Mary Agnes Donoghue)

There once was a manager named You
Who had no idea what to do
Until You took this here quiz
Took control of your biz
Into a leadership star You grew.

Chapter Highlights

Take an enlightening self-assessment

Recognize and appreciate your true style

Why don’t managers just read a well-respected tome on Management (there are several options available with that very title!), do as instructed, and move on with their lives?

Because there is not one correct way to do things. There are endless variables that factor into how to manage most effectively, and they differ with every single person on your team.

If that isn’t an exhausting thought, I don’t know what is.

People come equipped with this pesky item commonly referred to as a Personality. Personalities are infuriating. Particularly when yours differs from mine. Once we get to know each other, yours can be intolerable even when it is quite similar to mine, just to keep things jumping. In fact, I can hardly stand my own half the time.

 

Three: Feelers Think and Thinkers Feel

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He is happy whose circumstances suit his temper, but he is more excellent who can suit his temper to any circumstance.
—David Hume

There once was a thinker named Fred
He managed by using his head
Until a feeler named Dawn
Said she felt like a pawn
So he flexed in the way that he led.

Chapter Highlights

Distinguish thinker–feeler characteristics

Explore related gender issues

I want to share with you a widely adapted parable of three blind men and an elephant, originating in ancient India. If you already know it, feel free to chime in. It goes something like this.

There are three blind men, each touching the same elephant—one at the tusk, one at a leg, one at the tail.

Each then describes the elephant by generalizing from the area he is feeling. They are in complete disagreement. The man feeling the tusk says an elephant is like a smooth pipe, the man at the leg says an elephant is like a pillar, and the man at the tail describes an elephant as being like a rope.

The three blind men approach the king to resolve their conflict. The wise king responds by saying they are all correct. He explains that an elephant has all the features described; they merely had different interpretations based on their vantage points.

 

Four: But I Liked My Real Job!

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What you manage in business is people.
—Harold Geneen

I did not sign up for this
Not in my plan, not on my list
Never wanted to be in charge of you
And now my work is never through…

Chapter Highlights

The “you” version of manager

Sharpen your focus on what matters

Unless you select the route of pure neglect, the demands of managing can make your head spin. A heap of tasks follows you around like a storm cloud in spring, making even your most Herculean efforts seem to fall short. You may never catch up. Drowning in paper, people, processes.

Ts, I understand what you’re thinking. Fs, I feel your pain.

Even if managing wasn’t on your radar when launching a career, you really can learn to accept and even enjoy the part of job called “being a manager.”

I hear you… and I appreciate your directness. Let’s dish.

Anne Lamott wrote the bestseller Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. Embedded in the title is a universal lesson that Anne explains in her book. She tells it like this:

Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write, which was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.”3

 

Five: Flex for Success

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There is no mystery about successful business…
Exclusive attention to the person who is speaking to you.

—Charles Eliot

Meeting other peeps where they are at
Sure beats falling on your own face, splat
Gotta drop the ego, a fact’s a fact
Flexing is the ticket, and that is that.

Chapter Highlights

Meet others where they are

Clue into verbal and visual cues

Life isn’t neat and tidy. Neither, therefore, is managing. Sometimes we bang our heads against the wall; sometimes we need the visceral sting. Other times, we can face the facts calmly. We all carry baggage, harbor distinguishing quirks, and maintain astonishingly diverse responses to the world at large. These facts of life display no observable intention of ever going away, so we may as well learn how to understand and amicably appreciate the people we manage, near and far, formally and informally. As this occurs, our work as managers becomes much easier… even (gasp!) enjoyable.

How is such a tremendous feat accomplished? Do you need nerves of steel, superhuman patience, and the ability to leap buildings in a single bound? And don’t you already have enough swirling around in your busy, busy brain? No sweat. Well, perhaps a few tiny droplets of perspiration, easily wiped away.

 

Six: Lonely @ the Top

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Everybody likes a compliment.
—Abe Lincoln

You make me so lonely baby
I get so lonely
I get so lonely I could die.

(So I didn’t write this one. Elvis, “Heartbreak Hotel”)

Chapter Highlights

Why managing is lonely

Replace loneliness with peace, love, and understanding (thanks, other Elvis)

Who wants to spend the day ordering people around… other than a bored older sister? Endless to do lists combined with a constant blast of pressures (not to mention those omnipresent meetings) can cause even a seasoned boss to snap. Yet you can learn how to balance pressures while simultaneously motivating others to excel.

It turns out that simple workplace friendships with direct reports aren’t so simple after all. You went from being one of the gang to being one of one. Sure, you understand things are different when you’re In Charge. You’re still the same friendly, supportive person, though. Why are you on the outside?

How does it happen?

A promotion opportunity presents itself—what you’ve been visualizing into fruition for three long years. You furtively hope they hire from within, not some no-name, no-good hotshot who knows nothing about your industry. You and several of your peers apply. Jackpot! A wise executive management team selects you. You dedicate a glorious Sunday to moving your files and tchotchkes out of your cube and into an office with a real door.

 

Seven: Being Bossy

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A good chief gives, he does not take.
—Mohawk proverb

Boss. Sounds so bossy.
Do this, not that… I’ll do it.
When’s my vacation?


(A haiku, in case you missed that artistic point.)

Chapter Highlights

Hold yourself and others accountable

Balance guidance and autonomy

Carl Jung’s book Memories, Dreams, Reflections (1961) has an excerpt from a conversation between Jung and Ochwiay Biano, chief of the Taos Pueblo in New Mexico:

“We do not understand [the whites]. We think that they are mad.”

I asked him why he thought the whites were all mad.

“They say that they think with their heads,” he replied.

“Why of course. What do you think with?” I asked him in surprise.

“We think here,” he said, indicating his heart.9

Chief Biano describes how it is between feelers and thinkers. In particular, people on extreme ends of the spectrum believe those on the other end are mad. To manage effectively, we must set biases aside and learn to appreciate and benefit from differences.

Another disconnect frequently exists between how frontline workers perceive management and the real challenges of managing. Listen to what I was told the other day by a technician in a global securities company:

 

Eight: Don’t Cry in My Office . . . I Have a Deadline to Meet

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Everything I know about management was learned “on the job” by playing in
rock and roll bands. Compared to arguing with angry, intoxicated drummers,
pretty much anything you run into in the workplace is a piece of cake.

—Laurence Biely

Drip drip drip go tears
Rolling, your cheek to my desk
Blurring memo ink

(Another haiku… I’m going through a phase.)

Chapter Highlights

The slippery slope of manager-as-psychologist

People, emotions, and work

Perhaps you have found yourself in the surprise, unadvertised role of staff therapist. You are not alone. It happens to the best of us. Dealing with people’s emotions poses unique challenges for thinker and feeler managers.

You believe people need to check emotions at the door. Business isn’t personal, and people must behave professionally. Nevertheless, emotionally charged conflicts regularly crop up among your staff.

People flock to you with their emotional issues, draining your energy. You try to help, yet you overidentify, take on their problems, and lose productive work time.

 

Nine: Inside, Outside, Upside Down

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If you smile when you are alone, then you really mean it.
—Andy Rooney

Introverts crave one on one
Extroverts party, lots of fun
Intros think before they talk
Extros speak before they’ve thought
Extros go wide, intros deep
Managing these folks is quite a feat.

Chapter Highlights

Distinguish features of introvert and extrovert managers

Apply strengths of each for mutual success

I’ve been informed by my readers that you want to chat about how our other favorite personality dimension—introversion and extroversion—affects management style.

Voilà! This chapter appears before your very eyes. Please submit your second and third wishes in writing, in triplicate.

Let’s start by asserting there is no correlation between Thinking–Feeling and Extroversion–Introversion. However, the various combinations (four, to be precise) of these two dimensions certainly impact how we manage. The introverted feeler is going to be the most sensitive and introspective of the possible combinations, for example. An extroverted thinker is most likely to inadvertently offend others with his characteristically blunt communication. The extroverted feeler is most prone to organize birthday pizza lunches. An introverted thinker is most likely to work in, well, IT! (Get it? That’s the abbreviation of introverted thinker! Plus, it fits.)

 

Ten: Charisma ’n’ You

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One kind word can warm three winter months.
—Japanese proverb

I’m not smooth and I’m not cool
I’m not mod, I’m so old-skool
I’m not hip and I’m not hop
My hair’s a mess, it’s like a mop
I need to be like someone else
… unless I can just be my Self.

Chapter Highlights

Understand that charisma really is inside

Be your own version of charismatic

Perhaps you have heard the term executive presence. Maybe you know what it means. I have no idea. I believe it has something to do with when a tall, distinguished-looking man commands a room, steering the conversation around him like an enormous Navy ship. These people, with virtually no characteristics I can personally relate to, are described as having magnetic personalities. That could certainly cause difficulties when traveling through security at airport terminals, but luckily I don’t have that problem.

Do you ever feel like a reverse magnet? Repelling the crowds effortlessly. The party parts for you like the Red Sea! Pure magic.

Good news. This can all be fixed so you too can attract steel beams straight out of a building’s foundation. Real charisma has nothing to do with stature (phew!), gender, age, socioeconomics, or whatever. It has to do with… Allow me to demonstrate with a few real-life examples.

 

Eleven: Bonus Track: This Amp Goes to Eleven!

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Treat people as if they were what they ought to be and you help
them to become what they are capable of being.

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Chapter Highlights

Apply your mind to break barriers

Achieve big results with small acts

By this point in our voyage, we’ve examined management through multiple lenses. This bonus chapter approaches the subject from yet another angle—possibly the most difficult—how we manage our brain.

Acquiring new skills and techniques, such as those presented throughout this book, requires changing behavior. It’s not easy crushing to bits previous habits and building up bright, shiny new ones in their place. On top of this Olympian effort is the fact that the most ingrained behaviors are invisible to the naked eye… habits of the mind.

Our beliefs define us, affecting our behavior. Recall this revelation from chapter 4:

Your sole areas of direct responsibility are
your thoughts, your words, and your actions.

If I am convinced that I add little value as a manager (thoughts), my behavior (words and actions) will reinforce my belief. Interactions are the concretization of our thoughts.

 

Signing Off: You’re STILL Here?

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With the best leaders, when the work is done, the task accomplished,
the people will say, “We have done this ourselves.”

—Lao Tzu

And so, my friends, it has come to this.

This is pretty much a wrap. I’m getting that misty-eyed last-day-of-camp feeling. Which proves that pouring a healthy dose of T into an F doesn’t change the core temperament.

I’m wiped out. You can take things over from here. I’ll back up just about any management hypothesis you espouse at this late hour.

Speaking of which, let’s talk about what happens when you release control. In my experience, despite complaints about having much to do, letting go is one of the scariest feats for a manager.

One of my favorite team problem-solving activities involves a challenge with a Koosh ball, an all-time great invention if you ask me (no one has asked me yet, so it feels good to get my opinion out there). Without going into all the details, I’ll tell you that the team’s task is to figure out how to get the Koosh ball to travel through the hands of every participant as fast as humanly possible.

 

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