Saturday, July 12, 2008

How to be a good manager: Be generous to everybody

One ongoing paradigm shift is looking to use my skills sets in new ways after I finish my current career. The question is not only what to do, but who to do it with. 50-plus entrepreneurs starting lifestyle businesses via RetirementRevised by Mark Miller back in May of this year provides some insights.

Ask someone over 50 what they want to do after retirement, and you may well get this answer: "Keep working!" Surveys suggest that more than 75 percent of the baby boom generation plans to keep working past traditional retirement age. But it's not likely that many will keep laboring away in Corporate America. Most boomers [...]

The "who" applies not only to the type of organization, which defines more than anything the what, the who is also the types of people within the organization as well. It has been discussed before, but Lela Davidson's article, also in May, on 4 Generations of Workers - Can You Relate? via Business Pundit provides another look at working in a multi-generational environment.

Today's workforce is a diverse mix of generations that each come with their collective background and value systems. Understanding their unique perspectives is important in a large organization where they are likely to be working side by side. Professor at the Instituto de Empresa in Madrid, Spain, Cristina Simón's study Generation Y and the Labor Market: Models for HR Management, address differences in generational values. Simón looked at our generations of workers, analyzed their values and suggested ways for businesses to get people working together.
Four Generations and Their ValuesTraditional Workers(born before 1946/over 60)
  • Value loyalty and discipline.
  • Tend to respect authority.
  • Accomplished a lot
  • Contributed to success under hierarchical systems of the past.
Baby Boomers (1946-1960/late 40s and up)
  • Expect success.
  • Created strong social change including
  • The hippie movement,
  • Feminism, and
  • Civil rights.
  • Optimistic and self-motivated.
Generation X (1961-1979/30s and 40s)
  • Best academic training and international experience in history.
  • Breaking with traditional patterns, including
  • Creating informal work environments
  • Transforming corporate structures from hierarchical into horizontal and flexible entities.
  • Personal initiative and a healthy dose of skepticism toward large organizations
  • Produced a lot of entrepreneurs from this generation.
  • Key value achievement of balance between career goals and quality of life.
Generation Y (starting from 1980/under 30)
  • Lived their entire lives with information technology
  • Have a hard time comprehending a world without it.
  • Tend toward individual needs in favor of the community good
  • Often demand a high level of autonomy.
  • Lacks in loyalty, makes up for with the the value they place on relationships with co-workers and supervisors.

So this gives me potentials for what to do and who to do it with, next is how to do it in a ideal environment. One of my favorite sources of insight is Brazen Careerist by Penelope Trunk who wrote on How to be a good manager: Be generous again this past May. I am just summarizing what for me are some of the high points here. For the details, you need to go to the original post.

So the first rule, and probably the only rule of management, is to be respectful. A lot of questions I get from managers can be answered the same way: ask yourself if you are really being respectful.
Most people don't see management as listening and thinking, but that's what it is. Because that's what caring about someone looks like. Once you get to the point where you are connecting with the people you manage, and you are helping them get what they want from their job, you are in a position to change the world. Really.

All this reminds Ms Trunk of Maslow's hierarchy of needs.

She comes up with her own version of Pseudo-Maslow Hierarchy of Job Needs in which you start with get a job, and you figure out, eventually, how to use your job to make the world a better place.

  1. Physiological - Take care of keeping yourself fed and clothed.
  2. Safety - Work on feeling secure that you can keep yourself employed, if something happens.
  3. Love and belonging - Figure out how to get a job that respects your personal life.
  4. Esteem – perform well at your job because you have the resources and the security to do so
  5. Self-actualization – help other people reach their potential through creative and moral problem solving

I am at the point where I am directly quoting the original article more than I prefer for these posts, but Ms. Trunk says it so well that re-writing does not seem to be of any service.

So really, management is an opportunity to self-actualize. Some people will self-actualize by being artists, or writing code. Some people will self-actualize through management. Some, a combination.
But the point here is that being in management is an opportunity to grow spiritually and give back to the world in a way that is enormously fulfilling. If you allow it. You will need to set aside real time to make this happen. And you need to give generously. No big surprise there, though, because why else are we here, on this planet, except to give to each other?

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