How to (not) be a good manager

It has been a really long time since I blogged. Mainly because of the crazy hours I have been putting in at work and the other hours trying to drown my worries in mindless stuff like computer games.

My last post I mentioned about the identity crisis and it’s still by and large the same for me. It’s one thing to write about how you think about management and strategy and stuff but it’s totally another trying to convey these thoughts to your staff in a way that makes sense to them.

Anyway, today’s post is about my observations of the way the managers in my department work. I am not saying what they are doing is right or wrong, it’s just about the kind of management style there is. It’s useful because it helps me to frame my own management style, coming from ground zero knowledge.

It’s kind of pathetic that I don’t really have wonderful managers as examples but at least you can learn something, even if it’s learning not to be like them.

#1 Find an enthusiastic and credible scapegoat to ‘groom’

This strategy requires you to identify a candidate in your team who is capable, intelligent and has no qualms about doing your work  as well as covering your ass. In exchange, you groom him/her by providing them opportunities to take part in the higher level strategic planning, do all the necessary legwork, wow the bosses with their proposals to get them off your backs and takes all the bullets for you. If it doesn’t work, you can always say, too bad I gave you a chance to prove yourself. If it works, your staff will be very appreciative for the opportunity and exposure and looks forward to supporting you again – even if it means doing work that is way beyond their pay grade, and the senior management thinks you’re a wonderful manager for grooming your staff so well.

#2 Learn to have the right relations with the right people at the right time

The public relations stunt is an age old tool that will never go out of style no matter where you are. It really takes a special kind of person to be able to pull this off – you need to be thick-skinned, outgoing and willing to say whatever it takes to make the other person think you’re on their side. Knowing how to cook, bake or where good food can be found is a plus point especially in Singapore. Once you’ve created the impression, real or not, that you’re on pally terms with the management and bosses even not your own, you become an asset where others will tap on to get things done simply through your networks. At the same time, you’re protected from harm because whether real or perceived friendliness, no one dares to step on your toes, and your staff loves you because you openly speak good of them to others.

#3 Establish yourself as a specialist in a niche/difficult field

To adopt this strategy, you need to learn the art of speaking logically and confidently even if what you say is without basis. Works especially well in fields that are technical or not easily caught on by the less interested/savvy such as finance, IT, accounts, etc. When asked to take on new projects or do more work, simply defer by logically explaining why such and such an action would create unnecessary business risk without quantifiable or proven results and that in your most esteemed counsel, you think it is not wise to proceed. No one questions a so called specialist especially if you bring up the word risk. You are essentially challenging the other person to climb the steep learning curve, take on the risks themselves, and prove to you that it works. Which effectively deters most people from trying already.

So there you have it, three strategies to keep you safely in your management seat until the next restructuring in your organisation. I hope I will be able to share more positive examples in my next blog post as I continue to struggle to find my own identity. God bless!

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