Archives for October 2015

25Oct

The CEO and the Concept of Absolute Power

The room was somber, exceptionally dull. Anyone who was sparkling and bright had long since abandoned this management team for a safer harbor. Some can work in an arbitrary universe, but compensation for such insecurity had to be steep. Steep compensation was not available here. Others had stayed, but only to manage a very short tenure to retirement.
And so they sat, mature managers and the barely experienced, waiting for the CEO’s condemnation of their work. She was not satisfied with anything that they accomplished. Accomplishments were few and far between, as the managers contemplated how to survive in this hostile universe.
The old managers wondered what had happened? They were part of the socially conscious revolution with a mission to help others. They had been incredibly successful in their work and had progressed far as the professionals in their world. Then something happened … No one could quite put their finger on when it “happened”. Gradually, concern for human discourse had lessened. Somehow the managers who blamed their staff for all that was wrong, won over the conversation and a general malaise towards the line staff began to take over all conversations. Nothing was the manager’s fault, staff just made mistakes…
There came an overwhelming belief that people are incompetent and the clients are a nightmare. Slowly this became the mantra of all remaining managers. Unfortunately those managers who are good honest and bright, couldn’t bear the relinquishment of responsibility for staff and programs and humans. The managers, who felt responsibility and accountability, questioned those who would not accept responsibility and very soon they found themselves hated and reviled as rebels and rabble rousers. Those who are good honest and bright, left this blighted organization. They left behind those who believed that they were victims of an incompetent universe and those who scrambled merely to survive. And they left behind all who called themselves “senior managers”. After a good thing has failed, what do you do?
The CEO sat at the front of the table. She could see the anxiety of the nearly done, those ready for retirement and she could see the resolve of the barely experienced. She didn’t care, as long as they kept on, she didn’t care how they made it. Like a frat boy with a drunken teenage girl, she knew how to manage her board of directors. Just because they knew nothing about the industry, they believed everything she said. They had allowed her and her compatriots to endlessly rape and pillage the company. They pocketed every spare dime that the company made and endlessly explained to staff that the company just could not afford a cost of living raise. If they gave staff a raise, the million dollar bonuses might deflate. So they kept on, lots of staff lived on or below poverty wages while the CEO and her friends pocketed million dollar bonuses. The board of directors took no interest in the details of finances, a million dollars for salary, yes, but they never asked who received the salary?
So once a month, the CEO and her managers sat in this very room while she lectured and condemned them for their efforts. She was completely correct in her thoughts because she is the one who held the checkbook and the board of directors simply nodded their heads at her power.
How sad, a microcosm of everything that is wrong with America played out in this very room. And yet, the reality is “third world” in its surreal depiction of the universe: A sad and angry despot with compatriots who must spend their lives convincing others that they deserve all of life’s riches while the “common” human deserves poverty. No one shall disagree, as if they do, they lose livelihood, and they will lose their job.
So the room, the poisoned room, is heavy and oppressive, while the managers wait, “let me get thru this day” they pray.

18Oct

Sometimes the Storm is Really Big and there is Nothing You Can do About It

Sometimes the storm is really big, and there is nothing you can do about it.

Sometimes the storm is really big, and there is nothing you can do about it.

14Oct

Highest and Best Skill

Recently I had the interesting experience of being chastised. I was being chastised because of my inadequate skill in proofreading accounting entries and spreadsheet logic. I’ll admit that it is not a skill that I have practiced. It occurred to me that the person chastising me assumed that with a little bit of practice and effort that anyone could achieve excellence in this skill.
I notice that many people will treat their own assumptions as the truth in the matter. The problem with this is that managers are not often challenged about their assumptions and so will continue having incorrect assumptions without any check from others.
Society is often the checkpoint for erroneous beliefs, however, it requires communication for people to realize mistaken beliefs. After all, why change a belief that no one challenges? It must be real, as I think it is so…
This thought process: that any skill is mastered with practice, could not be further from the truth. Consecutively is the belief that if one does not practice, they are either lazy or sloppy. In other words, it is a popular belief that anyone willing to work can attain any skill that there is. Ergo, if a person does not have the skill, it is because they are unwilling to work = laziness.
Of course all of this is simply incorrect. Educators have been trying to tell us for at least half a century that people are born with talents and preferences and abilities that are wildly different from each other. Average is a concept that is difficult to describe.
So, one cannot claim to know THE truth, at best, we can only have A truth, which is normally our own truth.
At least part of the truth is this: what talents that I have naturally and that come easily to me, or at least are attainable and manageable, are things that I will practice. This practice increases my skill level and if I am sufficiently talented and sufficiently able and willing to practice and practice, I can become a champion.
Nowhere in the above paragraph is an assumption that all skills are attainable by everyone that is willing to practice, they are not. Not everyone will make a good accountant, nor should we assume that a good accountant is a good spreadsheet proofreader. These two skills are NOT the same and the association is loose, at best.
The challenge for a good manager is to examine each assumption for the validity of the assumption. For any manager of humans and school teachers are included here, we all have different talents. Development of a talent is rewarding, however, practice in the absence of talent can yield mundane results. Additionally, talents are not interchangeable just because they are similar, you cannot make an accountant into a proof reader by virtue of association.
A mature manager knows that natural talents should be aimed at work that fits the talent. This is a critical skill for managers and it requires that a manager be talented, practiced and skillful.