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By Darryl Stewart

A “great” manager confesses his addiction


By Darryl Stewart, Head of the Herd

The first step in the 12 step program of alcoholics anonymous is this:

We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.

Having publicly made this admission, the theory goes, the addict more readily accepts the help of others; they have admitted they need help to succeed.

Being a great manager means you accept two things:

  1. People are all different.  I cannot force people to do a job the same way as the next person.  I need to adapt my style to each person and give people freedom in the path they choose to reach our organization’s goals.
  2. Our organization exists for a purpose and to succeed at that purpose we need to perform to certain standards and create positive outcomes towards that purpose.  My most basic responsibility is not to help each person grow, but rather to focus people towards performance.

Most successful managers I meet are at least pretty good at one of these two things.  Not very many are great at both.

I am working very closely with a manager that is really good, world class I would say, at the first thing, yet he struggles with the second thing.  The result is a very high calibre team around him and an absolute stampede of people that want to work for him, but only average results.

revolving doors
Photo by Marcel Oosterwijk on Flickr

He has seen a revolving door of the best people coming through his department and then moving on after a few years.  They love him after and credit him with being a huge part of their development, but ultimately many stars move on to more structured and performance driven positions, where they can more readily show their stuff.  He also sees that his team is too focused in on itself and not enough on performance for the organization.

He feels powerless to change and he wants help.  This is the first step!

My first step was to appeal to his nurturing nature for motivation.  He is not doing his team any favours by not focusing them on performance.  People need to feel tangible, results based, personal success just as much as they need to feel their manager cares about them or that they have freedom to do things their own way.  He gets this and wants to change.  He sees that his department could be great with some changes in this direction.

My second step has been to help him better define the outcomes he and his team want to achieve.   Luckily the solution here is not to help him kick an addition.  He needs to keep “using” in this case.  He just needs to add another dimension.

His current motto is:

I need to let people get things done their own way.

His new motto needs to be:

I need to work with my team to define the right outcomes and agree on how we will measure progress against those outcomes. Then let people get things done their own way with a little oversight and coaching.

His current behaviour, like an addiction, is negatively affecting others.  The solution though is not to kick the habit; it is to take his management skills to a new level by incorporating his amazing strengths with a new skill set he knows he can master.

Next week:  How to set the outcomes and measurements.

To my new friend reading this article about him:  I know you can do it!

IBEX Payroll extends our profound respect and immeasurable gratitude to all the ancestors and keepers of the land on whose traditional territories our work takes place. We acknowledge that we are on Treaty 1 territory, the traditional gathering place of the Anishinaabe, Cree, Oji-Cree, Dakota and Dene people and the traditional homeland of the Métis people. This land is sacred, historical, and significant. 

Every time we acknowledge this truth, we have an invitation and an opportunity to reflect on the wrongs of the past, what we do in the present, and what we can do to continually honour the people whose lands and water we benefit from today. 

This statement only acts as a first step in honouring the land we reside on and its peoples, and must be paired with education, understanding and informed action.