I was talking with a recruiter recently who was telling me about a job they had posted. They wanted to recruit someone with five years of experience with software that had only been around for 12 years, and someone with advanced knowledge in half a dozen different things. I told him that he would never be able to find somebody that met the requirements they had written.
A person on a management forum recently asked if we would rather manage an overachiever or an underachiever. It probably comes as no surprise that I would rather manage an overachiever, but I’ve worked with both and there are a few different things that we need to recognize.
The concepts of absenteeism and presenteeism are ones I encountered while working on the seminar paper for my master’s degree. It was a bit of a new concept for me, putting into words something I’d observed but hadn’t fully internalized, and I thought this might be valuable for you all.
When the concept of agile was first being established, a very simple set of statements was written to help define it. Of the 12 principles behind the agile manifesto, five are related to interacting with people.
Being agile means putting people first, and that includes our stakeholders, managers, coworkers, and ourselves. For me as a manager, I have a customer that my team is working for, but my employees are also my customers. In a similar manner, I am a customer of my employees, and we all need to keep each other in mind.
Several years ago, my team had made a series of small mistakes. These were relatively little things, like getting an inventory wrong, or failing to notice something in a facility, or messing up a software configuration. But when you added the half dozen or so small mistakes together, it meant that my team had produced nothing but failure for two weeks. We had been screwing up over and over again, and now my boss expected me to drop the hammer on my team.
It has become something of a cliché that people don’t leave their job, they leave their boss, and a recent article posted to Reddit corroborated this with a bit of research. I posted a comment stating that my own research supported this, insofar as I had found that management cannot make employees happy, but it can certainly contribute to unhappiness.
I received a lot of questions about the subject, so I thought I would write a brief blog post summarizing my thoughts. What it really comes down to, though, is that a really great boss can help keep someone motivated and happy who is already motivated and happy, but if someone is miserable, demotivated, and doesn’t want to be there, the greatest boss in the world isn’t going to make an unhappy person more happy.
Managers typically subscribe to one of two theories about their employees. Theory X is that employees are typically lazy, unmotivated, have little work ethic, and won’t do a good job on their own. Theory Y is that employees want to do a good job, want to do work they can be proud of, and are internally motivated.
Management by wandering around is not a new concept. Some attributed its invention to Abraham Lincoln, and others to Hewlett-Packard in the 1970s. It has its own Wikipedia article, and who knows how many books written on the subject. Despite all of that, it often fails to yield benefits.
I really enjoy that Wikipedia states for management by wandering around that, “by random sampling of events or employee discussions, (it) is more likely to facilitate improvements to the morale, sense of organizational purpose, productivity and total quality management of the organization.” When was the last time your boss, by popping into your office or the floor space where you are working, suddenly improved your morale and sense of organizational purpose? Instead, I think we typically feel like somebody is trying to look over our shoulder, maybe wondering if are doing something wrong, and if nothing else it’s just distracting.
But there is a way to do this right. All we have to do is something other than just wandering around.