This post is part of a series that follows A.M. Starkin, a young manager taking his first major steps into leadership. Starkin writes here to share his experiences and to get input from others, so please share with him your thoughts and ideas.
If you have forgotten me completely – or if this is the first post of mine you read, I have recently been given my first profit/loss responsibility – in the task of turning a round a badly managed, loss-giving, small company with low morale. You can find the back story here.
I started by giving away my authority to each individual employee – a thing which paid off very well on the motivation scale – and I was and am still hoping for the rest to follow. My personal problem is time constraints – I am allowed only 1 day per week on this task as I have plenty of other priorities.
The whole of December I did not post – here is what happened:
I usually don’t agree with people who make the manager’s job difficult. I tend to believe that managing is only difficult if you are an authoritarian control-freak, because in that case you more or less have to do all the thinking of your whole team – which is really difficult.
Normally I think the really difficult thing in a manager’s job is everything that does not pertain to being a people manager, but which pertains to business mechanics, operational processes, building client relations etc.
But December has been tough. Luckily I just began following some martial arts training which gives me quite a morale and energy boost – otherwise this post would have featured a worn out Starkin ready to be thrown on the scrap heap. The manager is often an employee himself, and this employee here became sick and tired of working for other than myself.
My boss disallowed me more time for the small company I am trying to save – the subject of this series – and I felt so unable to help, since most of the urgencies I simply have to leave as they are with the time I have available. It might be a wise decision for some greater good, but having to leave a house burning because I am trying to build another is a strange feeling.
+ I tried to get help from the mother company on HR, Finance and legal issues but got nothing but trouble out of that.
And our new malfunctioning IT system created a vicious spiral of frustration which made our recent success seem vanished. [insert ad-lib whining here].
Then I remembered: This is the environment in which I have to create my successes! To me that is a golden thought when motivation is low. Last month definitely showed me that a manager has to manage himself too and take some important inner decisions in order to stay motivated about his job.
January began with two things:
Number one: A nice graph showing me that we modestly surpassed our budget, with our sales surging the last few months of the year. I would like to think that it is due to what we did during the fall.
In order to make that curve keep rising I need to begin doing some manual sales myself – as mentioned before our corporate sales will not deliver. I don’t have any time though, so luckily I have been able to hire a trainee from this month, and time will show whether she is woman enough to run fast enough to help me there.
Number two: A report that my deputy reported sick while I was away on holiday – a report which implied that she was cheating. As you might recall, she has been strongly disloyal but greatly improving since last. My superiors are regularly asking me whether we should fire her.
This will be my call, and there is both business and ego at stake here: I have invested a lot of time in her and seen results, so I want to keep believing that I am doing the right thing by coaching her. But I seem to be the only person on the planet who believe in her, and how much can my credibility afford to suffer here?
A third thing I need to work with is my ops manager. After we recently took a session to define his job, he has been holding my hand tightly, and I have been pushing him to gradually begin taking decisions, analyzing and coming up with new ideas. I am sure and certain that he has the potential, but he is simply brought up in the company with a handicapping respect for authorities.
I will have a meeting with him this week to see how far he has advanced a plan we made to trim the workflow a little, use our systems in a better way, etc.
So: Should I keep believing in my unpopular deputy? Will I be able to sell anything? Never tried. And will my operations manager finally begin taking initiative?
This is what I am looking forward to finding out after my well-deserved Christmas vacation. Do you have some advice for me? Write a comment here.