Managing Subordinates

As I read this excerpt of One From Many, a book by Dee Hock, I found myself saying Yes! Yes! Yes! "Over the years, I've enjoyed discussions with hundreds of groups at every level in different organizations about any subject of interest to them. Nearly always it is management: either aspirations to it, dissatisfaction with it, or confusion about it. To avoid ambiguity, I ask each person to describe the single most important responsibility of any manager. The incredibly diverse responses always have one thing in common. All are downward looking--having to do with exercise of authority; with selecting employees, motivating them, training them, appraising them, organizing them, directing them, and controlling them. That perception is completely mistaken...

"The first and paramount responsibility of anyone who purports to manage is to manage self--one's own inegrity, character, ethics, knowledge, wisdom, temperament, words, and acts. It is a never-ending, difficult, oft-shunned task. The reason is not complicated. It is ignored precisely because it is incredibly more difficult than prescribing and controlling the behavior of others.

"Without exceptional management of self, no one is fit for authority no matter how much they acquire. In truth, the more authority they acquire the more dangerous they become. The management of self should have half our time and the best of our ability. In the process, the ethical, moral, and spiritual elements of managing self are inescapable.

"Asked to identify the second responsibility of any manager, again people produce a bewildering variety of opinions, again downward-looking. Another mistake. The second responsibility is to manage those who have authority over us: bosses, supervisors, directors, regulators, ad infinitum. In an organized world, there are always people with authority over us. Without their support, how can we follow conviction, exercise judgment, use creative ability, achieve constructive results, or create conditions by which others can do the same? Devoting a quarter of our time and ability to management of superiors is not too much.

"Asked for the third responsibility, people become a bit uneasy and uncertain, yet their thoughts remain on subordinates. Mistaken again. The third responsibility is to manage one's peers--those over whom we hve no authority and who have no authority over us--associates, competitors, suppliers, customers. Without their respect and confidence, little can be accomplished. Peers can make a small heaven or hell of our life. Is it not wise to devote at least a fifth of our time and ingenuity to managing peers?

"Asked for the fourth responsibility, people have difficulty coming up with an answer. They are now wary of thinking downward. They eventually again focus on managing subordinates for there is nothing else left. This time they are right. The fourth responsibility is to manage those over whom we have authority. The instinctive response is that one's time will be consumed managing self, superiors, and peers. There will be little or no time left to manage subordinates. Exactly!

"Select people of good character, introduce them to the concept, go before and show them how to practice it, and encourage them to educe the process from their so-called subordinates. If those over whom you have authority properly manage themselves, manage you, manage their peers and replicate the process with those they employ, what is there to do but see they are properly recognized, rewarded, and stay out of their way?"

This may sum up my philosophy on management better than anything else I've read. Do you agree?

Tim Stevens15 Comments