Thoughts on managers/execs

Thanks to http://notanmba.com and Todd’s comment for getting me thinking like this.

As an outsider (corporate outsider, that is), it seems unbelievable to me that managers don’t make a point to communicate/get to know their team. I can understand the desire to keep secrets/keep things non-transparent, but I liken that to being a wimp. A pushover. And other terms. That’s just weak. If you are the best, you should have nothing to worry about, challenge that. Be the best. Let your guard down and ask questions.

Here’s something I was talking about with my uncle yesterday: You get into upper management because you are a gal/guy who can get things done. You got there because you are a top performer. Now you’re leading a group and you think you have to continue doing the same thing. So, you crack the whip and push your team hard. You work 90hrs vs 60 because “you know best.” Nothing happens.

Here’s what I think: Rethink the position you are in. A great manager/exec is a coach/a teacher. You’re not there to continue doing what you did. You’re there to teach your whole team how to achieve, like you used to. To do this successfully, be a good teacher you have to stop doing, doing, doing and start talking, communicating, getting to know your team, understanding why each of them do things the way they do. Allow yourself to empathize with them, and they with you.

This is good for two reasons. 1. If they can see themselves within you, and they respect you, it will encourage them, motivate them. 2. If you can empathize with them then you can understand their intentions. Understanding their intentions is like understanding their thought process.

Where did I come up with this response? I thought about what I learned from the ad industry: How to reach and know your target market. …The same principles apply to so many domains. Listen. Communicate. Ask questions. Achieve empathy.

24 thoughts on “Thoughts on managers/execs”

  1. If you gathered all the literature on the ‘net, went to every conference in the nation, skimmed every blog with any hits whatsoever on the subject of ‘keys to success’, and then read BETWEEN the lines, you would see the word empathy etched everywhere.

    Empathy is the epicenter of connection. It is the cement of a strong friendship. It is the sneeze of virility in the figurative sense.

    Within psychology, and especially within clinical therapy circles, it could be argued that the grounds exist to start a Church in the name of Empathy. It is not a new concept, nor is it unfamiliar, but for many reasons its importance is downplayed time and time again in the mainstream, so that in the end we’re paying $200 an hour to have someone help us get to know our wife of 12 years, to settle an argument over property, or to sit in an auditorium as a ‘people’ person describes the secrets to a six-figure income.

    But, as with anything that is popularly misunderstood, empathy is a two-edged sword. Does empathizing with friends and family strengthen relationships? Absolutely. Does getting to know your employees (your employer) and your potential customers help? Of course. But the strength of the empathic connection can make or break the deal.

    In a world of instant gratification, polling, misunderstood thin-slicing, and misrepresented statistics, some people can make decisions with too little empathy, or, for those in power, with too MUCH empathy. Those who use too little are left scratching their heads when confronted with the virility solution, and those with the resources to gain a lot of empathy can wield it to sell used car ‘lemons’, convince them to put toys with lead in them on store shelves, or frame political speeches so that issues are played down and religious values are played up. Venturing into opinionated here, so I’ll slow down hoping you get the point.

    Being suddenly thrust into the Marketing world, I look forward to using Empathy to solve problems, strengthen friendships, and see peoples’ lifestyles in a different, more accepting way every day. This, after all, was something I looked forward to using as an aspiring psychotherapist. Seeing failed ad campaigns, domestic and workplace disputes, and billions being lost in productivity due to spam each year as companies and applications try to ‘penetrate the market’, I would love for empathy to lead a new world order in the way people connect with each other, both in person and virtually. My fear, however, is that someone does find the formula, and empathy’s role is streamlined efficiently into every effort in all industries.

    In my opinion, it won’t happen in the near future. It won’t happen because Facebook and Google are carefully tabulating every action and purchase you’ve ever made and compiling databases. It won’t be because people move into ‘smart’ houses in which every product inside is seen and registered, and it won’t be from the ads that result from the tabulations of these data. Rest assured, someone is working on it right now though. For some, it’s like a physicist working on a perpetual motion machine, but for others it’s a code that will be cracked. What happens when that day comes? My fear is that we see the dark side of empathy when it’s already too late. Just as with word of mouth, advertising has found a vein of gold when mining the human psyche, and now hundreds of millions are spent each year on tapping the power of word of mouth. When people discover that the trustworthiness of people spreading word of mouth has been tainted, it potentially does deep damage to society as a whole. What happens when the sanctity of empathy is used up in the same way?

    My hope is that the fields of advertising, science, technology, and psychology converge at one point to realize exactly how much they overlap, and future efforts take into account the potential damage they can have in terms of immediate impact as well as future generations. When depression rates continue to rise, and peoples’ trust and personal relationships continue to suffer for apparently unknown reasons, what will we do then?

    I don’t know, but I hear the new Macbook Air is awesome.

  2. If you gathered all the literature on the 'net, went to every conference in the nation, skimmed every blog with any hits whatsoever on the subject of 'keys to success', and then read BETWEEN the lines, you would see the word empathy etched everywhere.

    Empathy is the epicenter of connection. It is the cement of a strong friendship. It is the sneeze of virility in the figurative sense.

    Within psychology, and especially within clinical therapy circles, it could be argued that the grounds exist to start a Church in the name of Empathy. It is not a new concept, nor is it unfamiliar, but for many reasons its importance is downplayed time and time again in the mainstream, so that in the end we're paying $200 an hour to have someone help us get to know our wife of 12 years, to settle an argument over property, or to sit in an auditorium as a 'people' person describes the secrets to a six-figure income.

    But, as with anything that is popularly misunderstood, empathy is a two-edged sword. Does empathizing with friends and family strengthen relationships? Absolutely. Does getting to know your employees (your employer) and your potential customers help? Of course. But the strength of the empathic connection can make or break the deal.

    In a world of instant gratification, polling, misunderstood thin-slicing, and misrepresented statistics, some people can make decisions with too little empathy, or, for those in power, with too MUCH empathy. Those who use too little are left scratching their heads when confronted with the virility solution, and those with the resources to gain a lot of empathy can wield it to sell used car 'lemons', convince them to put toys with lead in them on store shelves, or frame political speeches so that issues are played down and religious values are played up. Venturing into opinionated here, so I'll slow down hoping you get the point.

    Being suddenly thrust into the Marketing world, I look forward to using Empathy to solve problems, strengthen friendships, and see peoples' lifestyles in a different, more accepting way every day. This, after all, was something I looked forward to using as an aspiring psychotherapist. Seeing failed ad campaigns, domestic and workplace disputes, and billions being lost in productivity due to spam each year as companies and applications try to 'penetrate the market', I would love for empathy to lead a new world order in the way people connect with each other, both in person and virtually. My fear, however, is that someone does find the formula, and empathy's role is streamlined efficiently into every effort in all industries.

    In my opinion, it won't happen in the near future. It won't happen because Facebook and Google are carefully tabulating every action and purchase you've ever made and compiling databases. It won't be because people move into 'smart' houses in which every product inside is seen and registered, and it won't be from the ads that result from the tabulations of these data. Rest assured, someone is working on it right now though. For some, it's like a physicist working on a perpetual motion machine, but for others it's a code that will be cracked. What happens when that day comes? My fear is that we see the dark side of empathy when it's already too late. Just as with word of mouth, advertising has found a vein of gold when mining the human psyche, and now hundreds of millions are spent each year on tapping the power of word of mouth. When people discover that the trustworthiness of people spreading word of mouth has been tainted, it potentially does deep damage to society as a whole. What happens when the sanctity of empathy is used up in the same way?

    My hope is that the fields of advertising, science, technology, and psychology converge at one point to realize exactly how much they overlap, and future efforts take into account the potential damage they can have in terms of immediate impact as well as future generations. When depression rates continue to rise, and peoples' trust and personal relationships continue to suffer for apparently unknown reasons, what will we do then?

    I don't know, but I hear the new Macbook Air is awesome.

  3. This is great, guys!

    I’m not going to try to address the entire thread but I will add one comment.

    I try to emphasize the difference between a “leader” and a “manager”. John, you just described a “leader”. In my opinion, we have too many managers and too many good people trying to move up into “management”–it’s not that great a role. I want to see people strive to be great leaders.

  4. This is great, guys!

    I'm not going to try to address the entire thread but I will add one comment.

    I try to emphasize the difference between a “leader” and a “manager”. John, you just described a “leader”. In my opinion, we have too many managers and too many good people trying to move up into “management”–it's not that great a role. I want to see people strive to be great leaders.

  5. Skyler, thank you so much for the feedback/insight/story.

    I see what you mean in the story. How empathy may be used for manipulation. My dad always tells me how crazy advertising is today. How prescription drug commercials are amazing. He can’t believe kids are being exposed to such a thing…

    Since we’re looking into the future. Let’s talk about how it can be used for good.

    We have people sharing more and more online. The aggregation of their various profiles can create a near mirror reflection of their real world actions and feelings. We have the power to empathize better then ever, to understand in a new light. How can we use that to preempt mental downswings, specifically in kids?

    You can’t just watch over and swoop in every time you see something negative. What is the balance? Should we have social workers trolling profiles for “signs.” Will we just develop the sense to tell if someone is having a hard time. I’m talking about preventing tragic events – every time they happen it seems it was all over the students profile. right

  6. Skyler, thank you so much for the feedback/insight/story.

    I see what you mean in the story. How empathy may be used for manipulation. My dad always tells me how crazy advertising is today. How prescription drug commercials are amazing. He can't believe kids are being exposed to such a thing…

    Since we're looking into the future. Let's talk about how it can be used for good.

    We have people sharing more and more online. The aggregation of their various profiles can create a near mirror reflection of their real world actions and feelings. We have the power to empathize better then ever, to understand in a new light. How can we use that to preempt mental downswings, specifically in kids?

    You can't just watch over and swoop in every time you see something negative. What is the balance? Should we have social workers trolling profiles for “signs.” Will we just develop the sense to tell if someone is having a hard time. I'm talking about preventing tragic events – every time they happen it seems it was all over the students profile. right

  7. You may be trying to cut the distinction too fine. I like Julie’s definitions — they’re very close to how I think. And an effective businessperson needs to be able to do both to some degree. Problems occur when you try to “manage” people the same way you “manage” projects.

    I suppose, depending on how you define leader, you could have too many leaders. In the coaching/teaching/communicating sense you describe, however, I don’t think it’s a problem in practice.

    I don’t think leadership is reserved for executives.

    Good questions. Someone needs to tackle Skyler’s comments, though.

  8. You may be trying to cut the distinction too fine. I like Julie's definitions — they're very close to how I think. And an effective businessperson needs to be able to do both to some degree. Problems occur when you try to “manage” people the same way you “manage” projects.

    I suppose, depending on how you define leader, you could have too many leaders. In the coaching/teaching/communicating sense you describe, however, I don't think it's a problem in practice.

    I don't think leadership is reserved for executives.

    Good questions. Someone needs to tackle Skyler's comments, though.

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