A: Hi. I was away doing a little informal family management – the “herding cats” and “leading from behind” stuff
Q: Hmmm. I'm afraid to ask.
Anyway, I did my homework and looked up the golden rule in “The One Minute Manager”*. Pretty cute.
A: And it said?
Q: The one with the gold makes all the rules.
A: Right. And that's also part of why your boss is your best customer.
Q: Alright – I've been waiting to get back to this one! What the heck do you mean?
How does my boss also get to be my customer? He doesn't buy any product that our company produces.
A: Well that is only one way to define “customer”.
A more generic way is to see everything we do as a chain of activities. I do something for you, you add work or value to it and pass it on. At each step, each person is, momentarily at least, the supplier and the next person in the chain is their customer.
You and I have the discussion in this blog (suppliers) and someone reads it (customer), then they tell a friend (now they switch to being a supplier) and the friend is their customer. And so on.
Q: Do you mean that in all the work I do I am the supplier to my manager?
A: Overall, yes. Another way to see it is to ask: Who cares about the quality of your work?
Q: Well, I guess that would be my manager. And also the next person in the production chain according to your description before.
A: Exactly. So if you want to get paid (golden rule) you would want to follow your manager's rules, and if you want to continue to get paid you would treat your boss as your best customer.
Q: So what does that really mean – a lot of sucking up?
A: Well, imagine yourself as a one person retail operation. Your manager comes into your store now and then and you want to maximize your revenue from him to stay in business. Sucking up probably wouldn't be productive, but paying attention to what he wants, understanding his requirements, suggesting good ideas, providing the items that meet his requirements, providing better quality and value than he expects, and so on would help.
When you are the customer, what does it take to have you come back and buy more?
Q: OK, fine. But sometimes he doesn't really know what he wants, or his expectations are way out of line.
A: Then you have to help him, just like you would in your store. You have to manage him.
Q: Whoa! Stop! Now you have me managing my manager?
A: In a way. You can at least guide, provide information, teach where necessary.
Let's step back and review management activities that we talked about before, and see if there are ones you can exercise with your manager. These were:
- hiring, supervising, measuring, and maintaining or promoting or firing
A more comprehensive list from Wikipedia** is:
- "planning, organizing, leading, co-ordinating, controlling, staffing, motivating
[And these come together as:]
- Management comprises planning, organizing, staffing, leading or directing, and controlling an organization (a group of one or more people or entities) or effort for the purpose of accomplishing a goal."
Q: It seems that there is a lot of different items – isn't there just one good list?
A: Unfortunately no. There's lots of variance of opinion between “experts”; however, some of it is wording. For example: staffing covers hiring, promoting, and firing; controlling covers co-ordinating, supervising, measuring, and maintaining; again, all depending on the level of precision you need.
But there are some areas where some interesting shifts in perspective have occurred lately.
Q: Such as?
A: Notice in the last “definition” the wording is “leading or directing”.
Leadership has become such an enigma and area of research lately that people, myself included, like to reserve “leading” as a special word.
Q: But isn't that just splitting hairs?
A: I agree it can seem like that. But if you remember our previous discussion about precision, then the implications of the word used become important.
For example: does a Manager lead or direct?
Q: Well, if there really is a difference, shouldn't they do both?
A: Yes! But perhaps not for the reasons you expect.
In a job requirements sense – the job description if you will – managers have to direct their employees. That's required. But everyone should lead when they have the opportunity.
If you are the Leader, however, you should always be ready and capable of leading. That's a Leader's job requirement.
It might be easier if we separate job requirements/job descriptions from the roles each of us play.
Q: I knew you could complicate this further! Can we have a break and get into this "roles" idea later?
A: Sure. :)
* Kenneth H. Blanchard, Morrow, 1982