Why We Suck as Managers

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Scenario: "Have you read ________'s new management book? It's awesome! It says we need to do ______, ______, and ______. Dude, we're going to rock our industry. Yay!" Good business books preach pretty cool things: systemize your business, confront employee dilemmas, incorporate healthy environments, unite a team toward a singular purpose, yadda, yadda, yadda.

We humans read, but...

Business management books all sound great; and, you'd think we'd be better off than 99.1231532% of businesses out there if we incorporated just one idea from every book we've read. Yet, what do most of us do after reading a rockin' business book (and we Trizlers are often guilty of this)? Diddly squat. Nothing. Nada. We read the good stuff like it's our drug of choice, but we rarely take it to heart.

Let's counter that apathy.

We present to you our (hopefully) fantabulous, rockin', pseudo-patent-pending 3-step process to uncover why most of us suck as managers -- and what we can do about it.

  1. The problem.

    • Customer Cassie: Can you take my little sister to school?
    • Employee Ernie: We'd like to build an employee recognition program.
    • Manager Matty: Not yet. I need to take the customer's little brother to school. Customers are always right. Remember that, mutha flucka.
    "Day-to-day activities." "What's needed now." "Pressures of the day." Blah. Most of us focus on fighting daily fires, constantly. Solely. The sad fact? Daily activities will continuously be there if we let it. Why do workaholics exist? As soon as workaholics finish a task, there's another one waiting for them. And another. And another. And another. Instead of systemizing our business processes, we take the "We just gotta do it today" short-term view. According to the Harvard studies, we're all pretty lousy managers:

    Study 1:

    A diary study of 160 British middle and top managers found that they worked without interruption for a half hour or more only about once every two days.

    Study 2:

    Half the activities engaged in by the five chief executives of my study lasted less than nine minutes, and only 10% exceeded one hour. A study of 56 U.S. foremen found that they averaged 583 activities per eight-hour shift, an average of 1 every 48 seconds.

    Study 3:

    Of the verbal contacts the chief executives in my study engaged in, 93% were arranged on an ad hoc basis. Only 1% of the executives' time was spent in open-ended observational tours. Only 1 out of 368 verbal contacts was unrelated to a specific issue and could therefore be called general planning.

    Study 4:

    Another researcher found that "in not one single case did a manager report obtaining important external information from a general conversation or other undirected personal communication."
    Yes, daily activities are important; but, if we consistently put those at the expense of rockin' our businesses for the future, we're in for a disastrous surprise.
  2. Why it hurts us.

    When we solely put our energy into accomplishing the day-to-day activities, we weaken our company's long-term stability. We cripple our company's foundation to maybe, hopefully, someday grow the sucker. Or, serve employees better. Or, delight customers. Or, market, manage, and lead like the superstars that we are. What are we doing?
    • Instead of improving our customer service response times, we're out fighting fires with customers.
    • Instead of building our innovation factory to make better products, we're out responding constantly to 24-hour support requests on our sucky products.
    • Instead of working on partnerships, we're out taking our customer's little brother to school.
    Solely managing daily activities is akin to blowing off investing in the business. It's like running a championship track meet without the required training. Or, it's like going on a long date Nicole Richie without eating beforehand. (Zing!) Sure, you can forget the long-term; but it'll probably kill your business. Holding onto your company by a thread sucks.
  3. The solution.

    Forget your day-to-day activities just for second. Slowly but surely take a "time-out-so-I-can-rock-this-business" study power session in your daily activities. If you take out just a small percentage of your day to do it, you'll be much better off in building your business like how you once imagined. Humans thrive on questions, so here are some to guide you (and these definitely aren't conclusive, so feel free to come up with your own):
    • How can I improve customer service such that 75% of people we meet will talk to their friends about us?
    • How can I speed up my orders so that customers won't think twice about using my services?
    • How can I excite employees to come in every morning, and passionately work on something?
    • What do I need to stop doing, so I can concentrate more on what I love doing?
    • And the cheesiest of 'em all: How can I love life more?
    (That last question keeps us in check to do things we thrive on doing; hopefully it'll help you, too.)

"But what if I don't have the time for it?!"

You do. To start, just place in one hour of "time-for-my-bad-self-to-reflect" into your schedule. Try it daily for three weeks, and improve on each day. Then see what happens.

Reflect, ponder, think, and build your bad-ass business like it ain't no thang but a chicken wing on a string.

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Posted on August 16

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