Managing individuals


A colleague in LinkedIn has posted a chain of questions about how to manage and handle different types of individual. I responded to the first two questions, but then the novelty ran out for me. In any case I’ve been thinking about it and would like to jot down my thoughts on the topic.

Firstly we are all individuals and need to be managed accordingly. I’ve seen CEO’s and VP’s of Sales that walk into an organization and promote their style of management. They just don’t get it that you cannot have a single way to manage a group of diverse individuals. Secondly I also do not believe in management through dashboards. Dashboards are tool to flag issues, but management and leaderships is always hands on in the trenches. Thirdly you cannot lead if you are on another continent and don’t at least frequent the trenches.

Lets start with the extraverts (prima donnas and sociopaths). These individuals need to be noticed and like to be in leadership positions. They are usually found in customer facing sales and marketing functions. They feel that the rest of the organization exists to serve them and rules meant to be bent. To an extent they are right. Sales is the tip of the spear (or reason to exist) for any organization and it is the rest of the organization who’s sole purpose it is to build momentum and thrust for that tip. Marketing as a discipline is only another form of sales and if not seen as such is a totally useless function. Common courtesy and respect for others or the lack of is what separates the prima donna and the psychopath. Psychopaths have no regard for others and should be quickly weeded out of any organization regardless of how much they sell. Prima donnas are the most valuable commodity in any discipline, as they are the pool from which leaders are born. Some are never able to rise above ones own insecurities and self to become leaders, but once and a while a prima donna accumulates enough inner strength being able to rise above self. Most prima donnas will never rise to the occasion… the best sales executive is not the best sales manager. I’ve seen prima donnas that believe that past merits carry far. I am sorry say that you are only as good as your last two quarters.

At the other extreme there are those that believe that we exist to serve processes and rules. They believe that they are some how a part of a unique once in a life time enterprise that the world has actually started to revolve around and not the other way around. They drive pleasure from being able to enforce the "process". These individuals are needed to keep checks and balances, but should never be gives any real power over those that are in charge of P/L. For me personally is deal breaker in entering a new organization. I will not accept individuals having veto power over my doings that do not carry P/L responsibility as I do. If they do not agree I am an approachable person and I like to think that I am quick to admit I am wrong, if proven so. If you must, you can always complain to my manager that carries my P/L, but don’t think that you can block me for I will walk straight through you.

There are those "good soldiers" that execute orders without questioning. They often get their satisfaction from being able to fix problems and to produce highly quality deliverables. They do not get satisfaction from being in a leadership position, but they will quietly excel (with a high risk of burn out) or they will divert to processes, as a safety net, making them a problem rather than a solution.

To over simplify those are the three main groups of individual. Each have their own buttons and need to be managed in different ways. And then there is the Gauss Curve, as a second dimension. It is as powerful as Newton’s Laws. No mater how hard you try building to build an A-team there will always be those in the top 25% and those in the bottom 25%. The sooner you accept this the happier you will be and a better manager you will be. When you add to the mix the different disciplines like sales, technical, marketing, administration, etc. you get a three dimensional matrix that covers all. 

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