FEATURED | Business

The Management Conundrum

I was looking back to see, if you were looking back to see, if I was looking back to see, if you were looking back at me. That’s the management syndrome in a nutshell

Any business, whether ultimately big or small, begins with two nails on the wall—one for income and another for expense. Income better damn well overcome expense.

But then most businesses introduce complications

I understand that. It’s too much for a single person with drive and a vision to handle. I’ve faced it myself. But the fact is–and I found it out the hard way–most people driven to begin small businesses are neither prepared nor skilled at the talents required to build further as they become large. Entrepreneurs begin as Jacks of all trades but, all too often, grow into masters of none.

It’s not a fault, it’s merely a fact. Two nails on the wall may be fine for mom-and-pop shops, but growing businesses need managers. First, probably a sales manager, someone to get out there on the street and sell the product.

Then, depending upon the product, production, design, financial, strategic, marketing, human resources, service, IT, and suddenly your company is awash in managers, most of whom are tasked with beating the performance drum and holding the whip over all all the oarsmen below decks.

And from that management mistake is born the dreaded Monday-Morning meeting

If ever there was invented a business practice more destructive than the Monday-Morning Staff Meeting, I have yet to see it. The after-hours email comes close, but staff meetings reign supreme.

Staff meetings purport to keep managers up to date and worker-bees buzzing. In actual fact, they are shaming-circles that bear little relation to who had to deep dive and who got lucky. Someone is always down and someone up, a sure way to take the heart out of the week ahead and destroy that sense of team effort that all companies claim to promote. If you begin to feel I have a case to make against managers, you’re correct. They’re among your highest paid employees and in most cases they work against company interests. Let me explain.

My experience with managers, gained over decades as both an employer and a subcontractor to corporations, is that they are too shy of criticism from those above. Territorial is a pretty good word for it. When buying, most will reflexively select the low bidder, whether or not it is in the interest of the company, because one can seldom be criticized for the best price. When producing, an error not seen by the manager will likely cost a team member their job.

It’s unsettling to realize, when boarding a Boeing 727 for a business meeting in Baltimore that the plane contains roughly 500,000 parts, all produced by a low bidder.

There is a better way

Not a better way for Boeing, but a better, more profitable and employee-friendly way to run a business. Consider team leaders instead of managers. Team leaders spend their day in the team, where they are able to directly find out what Joe or Sally need to do their job more quickly, easily and profitably. They lend a hand when needed (or find another hand to serve), ask questions when shit hits the fan and know who on the team has a solvable problem at home or is facing a divorce. Team leaders manage by walking around. Their full-time job is greasing the wheels, finding solutions, and asking what’s needed to turn out better work.

The Monday morning sweat session becomes a thing of the past. Team leaders report as required to their boss, but they know how the team is doing on an hourly basis. Team members love their work because they know someone cares about them and is working on their behalf. You may lose a manager or two during the changeover, but they’re usually the ones taking long lunches and not wanting to get their hands dirty.

The end result is a huge cut in expensive turnover, and your company gets a reputation as the place everyone wants to work.