Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Are you in it for the ride?

A long time ago, someone told me the analogy that people in society, a business or a project all sit on a wagon. Most people just sit on the wagon and are there for the ride. However there are a few people that are in front of the wagon and actually pull it forward. And then there are always a few people behind the wagon to slow it down.

Over time I added that there are a few people standing on the wagon shouting and giving directions to the laborers upfront. These are the "important" people.

I think everyone can easily recognise the people that make the world go around. And you probably also know some people that are there just to slow things down without a good reason. You might think those bosses on the wagon shouting the directions would be politicians. Not directly my intention but yes, amongst politicians you will find those people as well. And those 'bosses' do not directly correspond with the bosses in the real world. Bosses are on the wagon, in front of it and also behind it.

Talking about bosses right now, one of the mothers on the football field last Sunday complained about her boss at work; how impossible it was to work with her, how incompetent she was and how she only seems to frustrate things.

I recognise this. In the past I have seen more of those people of whom you think "how on earth did they ever come into that position?". I explain that this is due to the lack of 'weight'. This makes them float to the top. People who are there for the ride and just make a lot of noise.

A little while ago I read an article ("Competence: Is Your Boss Faking It?" by Jeffrey Kluger, Time Magazine, Feb. 11, 2009 ) that people tend to think that people who make the most noise (talk the most) probably will know more. Why not? If you are not certain about something, wouldn't you listen to others instead of speaking up? The psychology of human nature makes them to become the "leaders" while unfortunately (as per article) there is no direct correlation with actual knowledge or skills.

As managers we are expected to have a broad range of skills. Take for example people skills. I am however still surprised that there are so many people in high places who lack any form of people management skills. It is so obvious, how could you have missed it when you appointed the person?

Unless you do a psychometric test, these aspects are always difficult to assess during job interviews. But even more problematic, how do you identify that a manager reporting to you has issues with his team? You might get a team member complaining to you about the manager, but how do you know that this is a valid complaint? Maybe the person is not performing well and this is his way to put the blame on his boss? Other people might not speak up because they're too afraid that this will negatively impact their own position. It is not always that people are incompetent in all aspects of their job and that can make it even more difficult to assess the situation.

The football mum unfortunately will have to deal with her boss for a while.

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