Wednesday, 13 July 2011

How to lose friends and disenfranchise people

We’re Landlords of a property in Scotland.  It’s no big thing, just a three-bedroom apartment.  The Letting Manager has stopped responding to our inquiries and refuses to return our calls.  We don’t mean to bother him.  It’s just that we haven’t received all of the rent.  I think that’s good enough reason to disturb his lunch don’t you?  Maybe he doesn’t like being a Manager anymore.  Perhaps the fun has worn off and it’s all become too much trouble.  He’s still taking his 12% cut though.  So why wear the badge if you’re not going to be the person it that it represents?

Isn’t it odd that many people aspire to win the coveted title of ‘Manager’ but when they eventually realize their goal they become the most ignorant and worthless operators who struggle to acknowledge their past ambitions let alone recognize the individuals that make up their team or department or organization?

It amazes me that people operating under this umbrella-title so often relinquish their responsibilities so soon after acquiring them.  You would think that they’d throw themselves into the role.  After all, they’ve waited for it long enough.  They’ve supposedly worked hard for it.  Yet once they’ve had the title bestowed upon them too many will duck and dive; seek to blame others and generally act totally irresponsibly.

The thing is...  The title ‘Manager’ is supposed to mean something.  Look it up in any dictionary and you’ll see that the title infers some form of higher level of responsibility, accountability and authority.

I know of an Accountant that was particularly good at his job.  So much so that he was placed in-charge of the firm’s Accounts Department.  Problem was, the Accounts Department contained people; and he was now in-charge of them too.  Clearly this was another challenge that he would be able to take in his stride because he was such a great Accountant. 

Wrong!  Totally wrong!

So the point here is two-fold:   

First, if you’re an aspiring manager (or you may already hold this title) then please remember what it means to be a Manager.  I don’t mean a systems manager or a manager of equipment but I mean a Manager of People.  There are expectations held by everyone that once they see your badge they assume and expect that you’re up for the job. It tells everyone that you are proficient as a Manager and more importantly that you give a damn. 

Secondly, if you’re considering promoting someone into a managerial role then you must consider their ability to manage others, otherwise it’s unfair on the Manager, the people that hope to be managed and you’ll end up looking like an idiot.

As ever, with best wishes in all that you do,



  1. Keith...

    This post is just too good to be true. I have recently been faced with the career pathing questions that all lowly employees face. The natural next step that everyone declares I NEED to make is into management. I've spent a summer before working on databases (system manager) I've also been around sports team for over a decade (equipment manager) but I've never been forced into management. As much as I love what I do everyday I don't know if I have the tools to inspire someone else to LOVE IT and do it well.

    Thus, the dilemma. Honestly, some times the only path without a ceiling inside of a company is through the management of people.

  2. Jermaine,

    I've read your blog posts myself and seen the responses you get. You ARE inspirational! People will follow you because you've got what it takes. The fact that you care so much about people really is an excellent starting point. The rest of the tools you need to be an effective People Manager will follow. Trust me.

    Thanks once again for your valued contribution,


  3. Great article and well written
    I am following you and would appreciate the reciprical at

  4. Keith, great post. As a "manager" I'm only too aware of the responsibilities that come with it. You are at the front during the best of times and worst of times. Managing people is probably the most difficult part of the role - running a business is easy when it's just you, but gees the dynamics change as the team expands!

  5. Hi Keith

    You raise the age old question of promoting people to their lowerst level of incompetence. However, I think it goes beyond that - the fact is that the role of manager is about getting things done through others and if someone, be that a brilliant accountant, the best salesperson on the team, or the fastest and highest quality production operative, - if they have never learned about managing people then they will fail. Unfortunately it isn't a process that can be acquired by trial and error because by the time you've made the mistakes it's too late. The responsibility, of course, lies with the employer, and that responsibility is to develop management skills in people BEFORE they are promoted to the rank of manager. When will we ever learn?

    Chris Warren
    Managing Partner
    PODS - Personal and Organisational Development Services

  6. The essence of the Peter Principle: Ruin a great technician by promoting him/her to manage other technicians.

    Management of people is a profession in and of itself. Leadership is a vocation. Sometimes the twain do not meet, but if they do, it's wonderful. If they don't, said it here.

  7. Great blog, Keith. At my company (Happy Ltd) we often say our most radical belief is that you should choose who manages people on the basis of .... how good they are at managing people. Sadly its more normally done on the basis of how good they are at the core job and how long they've been there.

    There are companies who recognise the problem and make it possible to be promoted and well paid without managing people (Microsoft, Eli Lilly, Gore, IBM, even BT ...) but it is still too rare. We've often found it easy to improve a workplace by helping somebody whose strength isn't managing people to do something else - a gain for the eople they managed and a big gain for them.

  8. To all contributors.... THANK YOU!

    @Jim: I'm a follower!

    @Blogpond: I agree 100% Some 'Managers' forget that people management is very different to managing equipment.

    @Chris: Your comment: "...if they have never learned about managing people then they will fail" is so true. It amazes me that those that promote people into these positions so often fail to see it.

    @awg: Thank you!

    @Valley Sharpe: Like Chris, you've hit the nail on the head. Thanks for your input.

    @Henry: You know I'm sure we briefly met last year in London at the IITT Conference. If we did, it's a pity we didn't get the chance to talk more. If we didn't, thank you anyway!