There’s nothing more annoying than a manager who doesn’t know how to manage. If you think that doesn’t apply to you, think again. If you’re an entrepreneur, then like it or not, you’re a manager. And there’s a very good chance you have no idea what you’re doing.
That sounds harsh, I know. But that doesn’t make it less true. Besides, we all fit that description at one time or another. Let’s face it; nobody’s born knowing how to manage. And nearly all of us learn on the job, especially entrepreneurs and small business owners.
In case you’re not convinced that you’re a manager, ask yourself: Are you in charge of any people, capital resources, spending, finance or accounting, payroll, purchasing, marketing, sales, customer service, development of products or services, IT or web development?
If you answered yes, then you’re a manager. And, if you own your own company, even if you’re the only one in it, chances are you have responsibility for all those functions. You wear lots of hats and make lots of decisions. So guess what? You’re a manager. That’s what managers do.
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And if you think you’re the only one who’s flying blind, think again. You’d be amazed at how poorly most managers manage, even in the corporate world where they should know better. Take this message I got the other day from an old friend of mine:
“I have a rub with my General Manager. I believe I can work with and improve people, but he pushes me to let them go. At the end of the day I will follow his wishes. Am I too soft?”
Now, I have to tell you, these two – my friend and his boss – are managers at a $1 billion high-tech company, and they fail the two most basic management principles:
1. Take responsibility for your function. If you have the title, the responsibility and the pay, then manage. Own it. “Yes, you’re too soft,” I told my friend, “But for giving in. You should do what you think is right. Besides, that’s the only way you’re going to find out if your judgment is correct or not.”
2. Don’t micromanage your managers. Likewise, the guy’s general manager shouldn’t be pushing him to go against his better judgment. If you’re going to do that, then why make the guy a manager to begin with? Unless, of course, it’s a puppet you want because, if you manage that way, that’s what you’re going to get.
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You see, if you coddle your people and don’t allow them to succeed or fail on their own merits, they’ll never learn anything, gain self-confidence or grow as managers. No wonder my friend doesn’t have the guts to stand up to his boss and stick to his guns.
This is a classic dysfunctional management feedback loop. The longer you do it, the more ingrained the behavior becomes. And I bet it doesn’t just happen over this particular type of decision. It’s probably a common dynamic with these two.
Sadly, this sort of thing happens every day in corporate America, from line and middle managers all the way up to C-level execs. It affects all the company’s stakeholders, from employees and customers to shareholders. And the higher up it goes, the better the chances the company will fail.
The most annoying thing about it is that these guys have had years, if not decades, to develop effective management skills. Yet, they still can’t manage for beans. Can you imagine how much more challenging it is for entrepreneurs and small-business owners who never had the opportunity to learn how to manage?
The point is this: Over the course of your business life, you’re going to make thousands of critical management decisions, and the more you get right, the better your chances of being successful. If you want to get anywhere in this world – especially on your own –you won’t get there if you’re flying blind.
Learn how to manage. And don’t ask how. If you can’t figure that out, then you’re probably not management material. And I seriously doubt if you’ll make a very good entrepreneur, either.
Steve Tobak is management consultant, executive coach, columnist, and former senior executive of the high-tech industry. As managing partner of Silicon Valley-based Invisor Consulting, he's been a trusted strategic advisor to executives and business leaders for more than a decade. Contact Tobak.