Thursday, October 11, 2012

Great Managers Make Big Things Happen

In the 33 years this Blogger has worked in business and even during the years I worked in education,  I have had the good fortune to work with many Great Managers.   The one thing they all had in common was that they knew how to "manipulate" their companies to get big things done.   I use the word "manipulate" in a positive sense, not to mean something devious or underhanded.   Great Managers understand the levers of power in a company and build alliances to use them to make important things happen.  Great Managers are never business as usual. 

Years ago, when I was a young manager, working with a client contact at a major bank to make major changes to their relocation program, I marveled at how well this particular woman was able to "manipulate" her company to get the job done.   She had worked for the bank for many years and she knew exactly who the power brokers were within the company and how to work through them to achieve her goals and objectives.  

She implemented the process through a series of moves, just like a chess game, in a logical order to make change happen.   It was both a science and an art.  This particular woman was terrific at managing up, sideways and down in her organization to achieve success.   It was really fun to watch and a real learning experience for me.

Companies and people are naturally resistant to change.   Given a choice, inertia will always win out.    This is the reason every once in a while, 3 or 4 times a year, I must raise my hand as CEO of our company, to push through change for the good of our company.   Most Managers are not risk takers and it is much easier to do nothing than to push for change.  

Managers that can't deal with change, usually do not go far within an organization because they do not master this important skill set to make things happen within their companies.  And, by the way, this does not mean being a steam roller to get things done.   That does not work for very long.  

While working in Consulting years ago at Merrill Lynch, I was building and implementing new methodologies that had never been done before.   No one told me to do it.  I just did what was needed to succeed.  Fortunately,  the methodologies I developed worked out well to produce new business for the company.   I really did not think that much about it, until one day, one of my eight bosses, many years my senior asked me if I had ever considered what would have happened if I had failed. 

The truth was since I had come out of education a few years earlier, where it was almost impossible to be fired, I never considered the outcome of failure.  My boss went on to tell me that I would probably have been fired if I had failed.   I thanked him for not telling me that sooner because it might have altered my behavior and my success.   In other words, he was saying that risk taking is only rewarded when things work, or at least that was the case where I was working at the time. 

Great Managers act within legal and ethical bounds to get big things done.  They don't ask for permission to do their jobs.  Great Managers take prudent risk to achieve big things.  They know how to "manipulate" their companies to positive effect.   Great Managers are few and far between; but they are absolutely necessary to the success of every company. 

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