Recently this has been on my mind as I’ve been caught up in a frantic whirlwind of work, work and more work. Basically, if I’m not working, I’m sleeping. Now this is an insane combination and totally unsustainable. The realization hit me the other weekend when I went to Canberra to run the marathon! One of my goals this year has been to run a 1000km for the year and as part of that, run a marathon.
42km all at once is a hard slog. I did this once in the Relay for Life, when I was living in Orange. However, this was without the pressure of the race and basically it was just going around and around in circles on a playing field. Looking back, it was great that a group of high school students, who had been walking on and off throughout the evening, had seen me slowing down, but then encouraged me to keep going (around midnight) when I was about to give up having hit the 40km mark. With their encouragement and running beside me, I pushed through the stinging pain in my legs and jogged the last 2km before collapsing in a chair that took me until 1am to vacate.
Fast forward a couple of years and last year I got back into running. When I started to set some goals at the start of this year, running a marathon became one of them. So I booked my entry into the Canberra Marathon and during January got into training. I kept progressing and extending my runs from 6km (two laps of the beach near home). Up to 21km (the beach near home, plus the next two beaches to the north). All was looking good and if I kept increasing the distance I was training for, I’d easily be ready for the April race. However, February struck!
Once businesses and schools went back for the year, I found myself consumed by work. As I said before, if I were not working, I was sleeping and something had to give and that was everything outside of work, and I mean everything. My training stopped dead in its tracks and the only running I was doing was from meeting to meeting and eating unhealthily on the way. Not quite what was needed to be able to run 42km…
Two weeks ago, I reached the point where I knew I wasn’t prepared for a race of that length. Whilst much of a marathon is a mental battle, there’s also a massive physical component. Burning the candle at both ends ultimately has a cost, and the cost was achieving one of my important goals for the year. I reluctantly changed my entry from the full marathon to the half, knowing that was at least within my reach.
When I ran the half marathon, it was a good run. Thankfully, the training I’d done last year and early this year had paid off. However, it left me feeling unfulfilled. I’d wanted to do more and yet, because I’d been throwing all my energy at something else, I’d missed out on doing something that was important to me. I can only blame myself for letting it happen.
Reflecting on this, the reality is that work can never fulfill every aspect of your life. If it is, then you need to do something to change this, because at some point you’ll miss out on something that’s important to you, just as I did. I know I’ll find another marathon to run, but with this happening, it was a timely reminder that everyone needs to make sure there’s always time for themselves throughout their daily and weekly schedules, without which, you risk becoming the guy from
Arthur Miller’s ‘Death of A Salesman,’ and nobody really wants that.
Frontline Management is a challenging role and to do it effectively, you have to be able to build professional relationships with your staff. If you have to resort to yelling at your staff as a direct supervisor, you really have lost the ability to provide any semblance of guidance.
I know how frustrating and even infuriating it can be dealing with staff at times, especially if they’re the wrong fit for the organisation. However, if you’ve been put in a managerial position, the reality is that you’re getting paid more than everyone else for a reason. It’s believed that managers have the qualities and capacity to guide others towards shared goals and objectives. (Yes, ‘believed!’)
Unfortunately, many managers are ill-prepared for the role and if they simply think that making demands of staff is the way in which they can lead them, they’re seriously mistaken and perhaps the would-be manager should find themselves another sort of role.
Leading staff is about inspiring. It’s about developing and working towards common goals. It’s often the case, however, that there’s a disconnect between the common goal and the values that the manager has versus what staff value or perceive their role to be. If this is the case, expect nothing but conflict and ineffective work practices.
I’ve worked in a number of organisations where there’s been a total disconnect between what management values and what staff members value. The reality is that the two can’t be disconnected. Everyone needs to be working towards the same goal, otherwise the workplace just ends up in a completely dysfunctional mess.
Now I also need to be clear in that even if you’re working towards a common goal, you may still experience internal conflict. After all, you’re dealing with groups of people, not machines and people love drama, especially workplace drama, as it can fill the emotional void between morning talkback radio and ‘Home & Away’ in the evening.
However, if you’re truly leading people, you need to have a common goal, a common vision of what you’re trying to achieve. If you don’t have this then it makes it extremely hard to inspire others to do anything at all.
I was working for an organisation where this problem came to the fore. The manager was seriously out of his depth. He didn’t understand what the organisation was trying to achieve. He didn’t have the experience within that organisation or within the industry to be able to provide any sort of management or any sort of guidance in this either.
This is often the case, especially in organisations and large organisations that keep adding more and more staff quite rapidly and yet they’re not really clear on what the staff need to be doing, yet at the same time, they need more staff to do something! It’s a classic public service experience but also it happens in a lot of other organisations. You end up with more layers of management than you can poke a stick at. However, none of them is really clear on what they’re actually supposed to be doing and none of them can make a decision to save their lives.
If this situation arises, then you get an even greater divide between management objectives and employee realities. Once you get this disconnect between management and employees with no clear goals, with no clear idea what the organisation is trying to achieve, you get increasing internal conflict. There’s lots of knee-jerk reactions by management due to the need for control over people in the absence of any clear vision.
When issues arise, there’s a natural fall-back for many poor managers to become defensive about any issue and instead of dealing with it head on in person, most of it now is being done via messages or email. With no direct personal contact with staff, this only exasperates the situation. This then leads to an increasing feeling of resentment and hostility within the organisation and ultimately conflict between managers and employees that goes round and round in circles and gets nowhere.
Conflict within an organisation due to bad management, then increases absenteeism and the cost of doing business. If nobody is really sure why they’re doing what they’re doing, it’s little wonder that small issues will get blown out of proportion by everyone.
The issue then becomes a growing mistrust felt between management and staff and this can go from an organisation not really working coherently, to a very toxic and detrimental workplace. You can be assured, any minor issue will suddenly blow up into a massive problem that seems to dwarf Mt. Everest in size and scope.
The sad reality is that it’s quite common in many organisations to promote people based upon years of service and not actual ability to manage. Just because someone has been there a long time doesn’t mean he or she will be any good at managing people. Managers must have other qualities and working towards clear goals is one very important one. If a potential manager can’t demonstrate why the organisation is doing what it’s doing in a genuine manner, you really don’t want that person trying to manager others.
To avoid this situation, you need front line managers that are able to understand staff, make decisions and have clear visions and goals for the organisation. If the organisation’s vision is aligned with the beliefs of the staff, then it means minor issues go away very quickly. They can be dealt with in a professional manner and don’t end up in yelling matches with people firing accusations back and forth and getting everyone nowhere but stressed.
At the end of the day, if you want your organisation to operate at around 25% of capacity just go for whatever person you like and throw him or her into a management position. It doesn’t matter. However, if you want to be operating in the 80-100% capacity range and really want to make a positive difference to what your organisation’s doing, you need to be far more careful and discerning of who you put in to your management positions.
Once you get the right mix, it’s not just about managing people. It’s about inspiring them. It’s about motivating them through common goals and a vision to be the best at whatever you’re doing. This sort of approach changes the whole dynamics of an organisation. All the daily drama and nonsense that holds people back and cripples workplaces, just disappears into the aether. Suddenly people are happier, more effective and ultimately, the organisation can grow and become far better at what it does.
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