September 27; Middle Managers Need To Be Appreciated, Just Like Normal People
MANAGEMENT BY THE BOOK:
365 Daily Bible Verse &
One-Minute Management Lessons For The Busy Faithful

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Chapter Nine: Finance; September 27

Do not eat the food of a begrudging host,

do not crave his delicacies;

for he is the kind of person who is always thinking about the cost.

“Eat and drink,” he says to you,

but his heart is not with you.

Proverbs 23: 6-7

Middle Managers Need To Be Appreciated, Just Like Normal People

Non-support

Bob got the job. It was a promotion from within to management. “Welcome to the overhead,” said the human resource junior Vice President. He wasn’t smiling.

The HR VP was concerned about the additional payroll and that headcount would not be reduced. He didn’t see Bob’s worth to the organization. The personnel manager would fit playwright Oscar Wilde’s definition of a cynic: “A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.”

Our newly minted manager loved his work and never had a need to know about the amateur managers in his chain of command. Bob should have considered the actions of the CEO and the team he put in place. Yes, the boss was smart enough to see Bob’s potential but was blind to the dangers of the VP cheapskate. He would soon see that he was in the company of scrooges.

***

Controlling, as the textbooks tell us, is “the management function for monitoring performance and making needed changes.” (Bateman  2012)

And changers were a-coming. After a month on the job our new manager was called into a meeting with his 12 peer managers. They were each directed to cut their expenses by 8%.

The number was “fair.” Each manager got the same number. But it wasn’t right. Bob’s product was about to take off and he would need more resources not fewer.

An across the board reduction is not sound leadership. That is too easy: share the pain; everyone suffers regardless of opportunity or non-performance. It is the socialism of the Little League participation trophy.

In contrast, a good boss makes tough decisions for the right business unit at the right time. This is hard labor. Peter Drucker warns,

There are no formulas for making the decisions on managed expenditures. They must always be based on judgment and are almost always a compromise. But even a wrong decision is better than a haphazard approach “by bellows and meat ax”: inflating appropriations in fair weather and cutting them off as soon as the first cloud appears. (Drucker 1954)

Peter Drucker would observe that, “Enterprises that succeed in being change leaders make sure that they staff the opportunities.” Drucker, Peter F. (2009-10-13). The Daily Drucker (Kindle Locations 2955-2956). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

This is a mistake that a small or a small-minded manager would make. Drucker has some harsh words,

The typical small business is not “opportunistic,” it is “problematical”—it lives from problem to problem. But the typical small business is also, as a result, not a successful business. Drucker, Peter F. (2009-10-13). Management (Harper & Row Management Library) (Kindle Locations 11835-11836). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

The amateur manager can’t quite say ‘yes’ to anything so he will say ‘no’ to everybody,

In the traditional managerial organization such as management texts discuss, top management is final judge. This means, in effect, that management’s most important power is the veto power, and its most important role is to say no to proposals and ideas that are not completely thought through and worked out.

This concept is caricatured in that well-known jingle composed many years ago by a senior Unilever executive.

Along this tree

From root to crown

Ideas flow up

And vetoes down.

In the innovative organization, the first and most important job of management is the opposite: it is to convert impractical, half-baked, and wild ideas into concrete innovative reality.

In the innovative organization, top management sees it as its job to listen to ideas and to take them seriously. Top management, in the innovative organization, knows that new ideas are always “impractical.” Drucker, Peter F. (2009-10-13). Management (Harper & Row Management Library) (Kindle Locations 14641-14644). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

Or, as former Secretary of State Colin Powell says, “I treasure the person who sees opportunity before anyone else and smells risks and threats early.” Powell, Colin; Koltz, Tony (2012-05-22). It Worked for Me: In Life and Leadership (Kindle Location 1388). Harper. Kindle Edition.

***

Bob, who we met at the start of our story, was insulted, and rightly so. Drucker would call this a warning,

[W]hat the accountant lumps together as “overhead”—the very term reeks of moral disapproval—contains the most productive resource, the managers, planners, designers, innovators. It may also, however, contain purely parasitical, if not destructive, elements in the form of high-priced personnel needed only because of malorganization, poor spirit or confused objectives, that is, because of mismanagement. (Drucker 1954)

The best managers add value and are recognized.

Do not eat the food of a begrudging host, do not crave his delicacies; for he is the kind of person who is always thinking about the cost. “Eat and drink,” he says to you, but his heart is not with you. Proverbs 23: 6-7

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