Sunday, October 7, 2012


As you develop your personal philosophy of management for application in your personal workplace circumstances, it is helpful to recall just how personal it really is. That is, while you may feel that your eyes are opening up to new ways of calculating outcomes and building relationships at work, and of perceiving comprehensive frameworks for determining the relevant factors and the necessary contributions and collaborations, your colleagues may be moving along a different track at a different pace than you.

One of the most problematic consequences of following template approaches to management is that they require viewing your working environment – and fellow workers – through the lenses implied by these systems. Your employees strive to be empowered, these may argue, or they need to be inspired, re-paradigmed, developed, team-worked, taught how to be followers, or who knows what else.

It’s probably best, in most circumstances, to begin by dealing with your colleagues – especially your juniors – as they are. Don’t try to solve their (non-job-related) personal problems, to evangelize the enlightenment you believe you’ve experienced, or to transform them. Do not assume they have the same motivations as you, the same discrepancies between their personal and work lives, or the same need or methods of reconciling those.

If you thought you had problems before, insisting on imposing attitudes like this on your staff can disabuse you of the misapprehension quickly and unmistakably enough for anyone’s tastes. After all, you may have had your own midlife or other crisis, and found ways to reconcile it – to integrate your attitude about yourself across these aspects of your life – yourself. You didn’t go to your boss to do that for you did you? How would you, honestly, have reacted had he or she approached you about it?

Your employees are grown men and women, and will – like you – periodically face confusion and difficulties in their personal lives which will affect their work, and will – like you – find ways to resolve and move beyond them. Your role is not to do that for them – and certainly not to presume that you understand the uniquely personal ways they perceive and approach such matters, or the particular needs and ambitions they have in their wider lives.

Rather, your role is to help them do the jobs you assign them better in the present, and to enhance their ability to contribute to the unit and the organization more effectively in the future. It is only to this extent, and from this perspective, that you want to explore who they are, discover what their capabilities are, and uncover what hopes and ambitions they entertain for their careers.

Don’t, in your role as a manager, presume you have a right or obligation to involve yourself in matters beyond that. And don’t assume you know the answers to those riddles – just keep your eyes open, your questions non-leading, and let them tell you. You’ll find that if you do that well enough, they’ll do all the transforming they need or want all on their own, to everyone’s satisfaction.

That is a major aspect of management in the context of this discussion: developing the bases for collaboration – not imposing consensus or compliance.
This post is a part of a series. You can learn about and link to the other articles here: Managing life, work, and life at work

About the author:

Jim Stroup is a management consultant specializing in organizational leadership. He is the author of the award winning and critically acclaimed Managing Leadership. Jim served as an Infantry Marine and Sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps in the United States and Japan, as well as on deployments to the Mediterranean and the Western Pacific. He served in the first Gulf War, in 1990 and 1991. Later, Jim entered the Marine Corps Foreign Area Officer program, and went to the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California, where he learned Arabic. You can read more about Jim on his website, During and since his military career, Jim has had the opportunity to work with, observe, and advise numerous military and civilian organizations, from many countries and cultures, on four continents. He has developed substantial expertise in organizational leadership and other related organizational and management topics, and shares his insights on the Managing Leadership Blog.

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