Management Primer (How not to …)

More often than not managers are so busy they fail to think, use intuition and act creatively. In a time when lightspeed governs decisionmaking and e-mails are more important than people, managers often ignore to consult collective intelligence of their people and act with simple (mostly well meant) but self-centric measures to deal with a rather complex world. In fear of losing the game to their peers, managers often fail to request a break during a decision process despite nobody would be harmed. In contrary, these common practices usually yield to short-sighted decisions that generate nothing but inefficiency and anger with the crew on the long term.

We recently have identified five common but fatal types of management you will encounter in many companies or governmental institutions:

  1. Management by Review: the manager has no plan, no vision, no strategy. All he or she can do is rejecting part of your work when you present it. There is never a “good” or “excellent” there is only wrong things among the many things you do for the company. This is discouraging for you on the long term since you will never know how you can be on the right track. Your manager, since he or she has no plan, will possibly also reject things in the second place that were ok in the first place. So you may start on something and will feel after some time that it is not what your boss wants. You will have to build your own strategy of how to get away with your frustration or you should leave the job quite soon.
  2. Management by Buzz Words: the manager reads many blog posts and hip business magazines. There he or she encounters buzz words like “agile”, “cloud computing”, “2.0”, “Social Media”, “artificial intelligence” and the like. Your proposals will have to include those buzz words else they will not be accepted by your manager. Very often those buzz words are neither solutions to management, organizational nor technical challenges, they are just here to feel modern. You are safe with a “buzz word” manager if your manager has a plan, is knowledgeable and emphatic but wants to be a modern person on top of that. You should leave your job if it is just the last.
  3. Management by Key Words: the manager has the strong feeling that your work, your presentation and your proposals need to feature certain organizational, technical or scientific key words in order to be successful. This is not the same as management by “buzz words”. The key words are not necessarily hip ones. But they have to be there for your work to be recognized by your boss. Very often the key words are references to friends of your boss. They can also include rather dull organizational phraseology which may produce a mental hick-up with the reader, but these keywords simply have to be there. I suggest to obey your boss. It is not the worst thing to include some key words and they will not harm. Take it the funny side.
  4. Management by Action: the manager needs to act. If he or she does not act, people will not work or will do the wrong thing. This management style is a common one in today’s world of self-realization and activism. Very likely your manager has a twitter and facebook account and produces daily posts there. The problem with your manager is one of ranking. He or she fails to rank important from unimportant things (the same problem often persists in his or her private life, please check out books and videos of the Austrian Psychiatrist Raphael Bonelli). Burn out can be a consequence of this kind of habit and personality. If you are not a strong activist yourself, this type of management is difficult to deal with. You might need to act like a low pass filter in audio technology: ignore the ripples and squeaks and simply surf the long waves your way.
  5. Management by fear: we get in tough terrain here. Your manager is nice to you, but he or she is governed by fear of losing ground. He will not tell you, but you know. Your company or your team has built the hell of a great asset of things and knowledge during the last few years. You are ahead of the others. You should be proud. But your boss can’t relax, because the house you’ve built needs permanent revision, and your rivals are catching up. Your boss thus wants you to permanently build more stories on top of the roof because he or she is in fear of losing ground relative to competitors. You on the other hand realize that the foundation is slowly collapsing and that you should revise the foundation instead of working on the roof. The reality of today’s long term and big leading institutions is that of a downward moving staircase: you have to run up like hell to stay level. This is unlike the situation for startup companies. They stand at the bottom of the staircase moving up. There is nothing to lose. What to do: as I said, you should be proud, but your boss is in fear. You can’t be agile because you’re too fat. You can either lose weight (focus on essentials) or split in groups (the ones deal with the foundation and the others with the roof). Don’t be mad at your boss, help him. It is a really difficult situation.