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« Enough Gabbing... Time to Get Back to Work | Main | Instant Communication and Poor Management »

Technology and Building Managers

With all the distractions of the past few weeks, let us get back to focusing on things we can actually control.  I have written and spoken about the process of building and becoming a manager many times.  Becoming a manager can be, and usually is, a profound personal transformation.  I do not say this lightly.

But before I begin this rant, let me note that I am not some modern day Luddite.  I have started 2 high-tech companies (the first in 1980) and have a fairly good understanding of many technologies at a high level.  I was on the Internet before there was much of an Internet to be on.  That said, I firmly believe technology, specifically communication technology is seriously impairing the development of quality managers in all industries, all across this great country.  Well actually it’s not the technology that does this, it is what the technology allows and how many choose to use it.

I thought of this again as I sat at the recent NBWA Legislative Convention… watching owners and GMs almost constantly emailing their companies… always calling the office.  Responding to this or that emergency.  Oh but wait, were they actually responding to any emergency?  Or were they simply in almost constant contact with their offices?  We all know the answer… in about 99.9% of the cases they were simply in constant contact with their offices.  I’m certain in most cases this is the same process that occurs when they are in their offices.

This might help them feel warm and fuzzy that all is well and that they are running the show but what does it do to the growth and nurturing of quality managers?  This immediate and all pervasive ability to communicate often destroys management growth.  In far too many cases, managers never make any decisions (at least any halfway significant ones)… they simply call the boss and the boss tells them what to do.  In far too many cases, all decisions flow up to one or two people… not because they need too but just because they can.  Generally this was never a conscious decision, it just happened because the technology allowed it to happen.  But it wasn’t that way in the past.

Well my firm belief is to make a conscious decision and decide if this type of management process is best for both the short- and long-term success of your business.  If the top dog makes every decision how will managers grow?  How will they learn?  There is a general rule in snow skiing… if you aren’t falling at least a little, you aren’t learning.  We often learn much more from our mistakes than from our successes.  And I want my managers and supervisors learning and growing by making small, little mistakes… so that when they have moved up the organizational ladder and are charged with making significant decisions, they are ready, they are seasoned... they understand the process of analyzing situations and quickly arriving at a sound decision.  For this to happen, you must let them make decisions and accept that some decisions will be mistakes.  – but let’s not get too carried away with the concept of mistakes… is every decision you make a winner every time?  I doubt it ;-)

How will you be able to discover who is a better manager if they never get the chance to manage?  Instead you fill your organization with higher and higher paid individual performers… all filling a job position which supposedly calls for management skills.  Unless you are in high-end sales (or pro sports), strong individual performers are only worth so much… they earn their serious pay when they become managers and leverage their skills and spread their magic throughout the organization… when they achieve their goals by working through others.  That’s what makes a $70K plus person worth $70K (or $100K or whatever).

And the flip side of this situation is that not allowing supervisors and managers to actually manage can be extremely un-motivating.  Not every employee will give a damn about their job but the vast majority will… give them proper motivation, treat them well.  People are social beings and like to be on a team… help them join your team.  But often bad management beats them down until they just don’t give a damn.  You don’t want your quality managers taking that attitude… saying “they don’t let me manage anyhow, so when they tell me what to do I’ll do it”.  Letting people make decisions, throughout your organization, also helps build employee buy-in and ownership… two important features for any dynamic company.

But for actual management to occur throughout your organization, you have to let it occur… or in some cases even force it.  Just because recent technology advances allow something does not necessarily mean it should be used in that fashion.  And the glaring disconnect is that we are often in this constant phone/email communication frenzy while at the same time complaining about how swamped we are by constant phone calls and an avalanche of emails.  As Pogo said… “we have met the enemy and he is us”  Make a conscious decision to end it.  Make a conscious decision to let (or force) your management team to make decisions.  Not “bet the farm” decisions but decisions.  Let them learn… let them succeed and let them fail… then your job becomes one of helping them grow, not making decisions for them.  Helping grow better managers (and identifying the best managers for promotion and further growth) can have a profound affect on your organization… don’t unknowingly let technology damage this process simply because it exists.

Next post… more on management and technology

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