Are you in the right company?

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

I’ve been struggling for a big part of my career trying to figure out why some thrive in chaos at the workplace while others simply hate how the office operates and have to conjure up lots of energy just to coexist with their own team mates, other departments and even management. 

A lot of people say it’s a ‘fit’ thing. Chemistry. But what is this fit? What is this chemistry? How can we spot it early? What does it even look like?

Earlier this year while visiting one of our office in the region, I was invited to join a manager’s appraisal as he had a dotted line to me. I obliged. He was an experienced, talented and dedicated staff. He really likes the company, but had legitimate complaints too. His main gripe was around the organization not having a clear articulated structure, no clear communicated direction. He felt as if it was all reactive, everyone is winging it, all improvisation.

Then it struck me.

There are 2 kinds of musicians. Those who love the freedom and improvising to the mood in a Jazz band and those who feel more comfortable to excel in a big scale structured symphony orchestra.

A Jazz player will hate it in a symphony orchestra, while someone who have confidence the whole team have clear scores to a music piece won’t do well in a Jazz band. 

The Jazz Band

Heyday Jazz Lounge
Heyday Jazz Lounge

I’ve been in a Jazz band type company for the longest time and I love it. The organization is fairly flat, bosses allow you flexibility and lots of autonomy to bring on your own initiatives and provides you support.

Everyone has a clear role, but sometimes we can mix it up. Who says the double bass can’t be the lead? Who says the the bassist can’t do some percussion on his guitar? Who says the trumpeter can’t suddenly break out in dance?

Similar characters in different teams work well together and have that unspoken syncopated understanding with one another. There is trust that others will commit and deliver, there is fear also because sometimes you have to do your solo and everyone is depending on you. However there is support and forgiveness, mistakes are brushed aside because the show must go on and we are all having so much fun anyway. 

The Symphony Orchestra

Photo by Gwundrig on Unsplash

There is a conductor. Everyone have scores in front of them, the performance starts on time and everyone has a specific role at a specific time with specific intensity. 

Each committing to their precise parts and after multiple practices then comes performance time. There is confidence in the team as everyone have perfected what they needed to do, everyone is a specialist, they commit to what they set out to do and they don’t try to change the plan halfway. When everything is executed as planned, it’s a symphony that gives you goosebumps and there will be high fives all around later backstage. 

Talent

If you feel you are a promising talent, a diamond in the rough, someone who can achieve much, then quickly figure out if you fit a Jazz band or a Symphony Orchestra and find the right type of organization to flourish in. Most likely you will have similar seniors, structures that fit your ways of working. 

But if you ain’t got no talent and not practicing your craft to become better consistently and just want to cruise along and take a ride along the success of others, get out of my band and trust me, you can’t hide in a symphony orchestra either. 

BA DUM TSS!!

Mr Sun

Photo by A. L. on Unsplash

Mr Sun is a very happy sun.

He wakes up early every morning and shines his warm light without fail.

He goes to bed in the evening and rests to get ready for another day.

xoxoxoxo

One day, Mr Sun sees Farmer John needing some help on his crops. Mr Sun shined his light brightly to help the crops grow. Farmer John was very happy.

Farmer John’s wife however was very unhappy. She wanted to sleep in and it was too bright so she hated Mr Sun.

Mr Sun still tried to stay happy even when Farmer John’s wife was unhappy with Mr Sun.

xoxoxoxo

One day, Mr Sun sees that Little Sally wanted to have a party in the garden with her dolls, but it was too hot. Mr Sun shined his light less and it became a lot more comfortable. Little Sally was very happy.

Little Sally’s dad however was very unhappy. He did some house repairs that day and needed the cement to dry fast, but now it will take too long, so he hated Mr Sun.

Mr Sun still tried to stay happy.

xoxoxoxo

One day, Mr Sun sees that Little Tom wanted to go to the beach, but it was raining. Mr Sun shined his light brightly and chased the clouds away. Little Tom was very happy.

Little Tom’s Sister however was very unhappy. She wanted to go to the movies instead and was hoping the rain held up and hated Mr Sun.

Mr Sun still tried to stay happy.

xoxoxoxo

One day, Mr Sun sees that Painter Bob needed some help to dry the newly painted house. Mr Sun shined his light brightly to help dry the paint. Painter Bob was very happy.

Painter Bob’s brother however was very unhappy. He wanted to to go for a run, but now it’s too hot and he hated Mr Sun.

Mr Sun still tried to stay happy.

xoxoxoxo

One day, Mr Sun thought to himself. “I love to do things for others, but somehow I can’t seem to make everyone happy. It is always my fault no matter if I shined my light brightly or not.”

Mr Sun finally got tired of helping everyone and trying to please everyone and decided to do things his way and be himself.

He wakes up early every morning and shines his warm light without fail.

He goes to bed in the evening and rests to get ready for another day.

xoxoxoxo

He kept his supernova thoughts to himself.

Managers: Nurture or Nature

Photo Credit: Nik MacMillan @ Unsplash

Managers. Where do they come from? Are some born managers? Or do managers just stumble into their roles and start managing people? If you are a manager and have a few people under your wings, when did YOU become a manager? And more importantly, do your staff view you as a good manager?

I personally don’t think we can assume people should automatically know how to be a good manager and yet expect them to be good at it while not providing them the training or indicating what the standard of being a “Good Manager” means. It is a common blind-spot in many organisations that I’ve come to interact with. In all fairness, if there is no expressed expectations of what a good manager means, managers don’t have a clear standard to take reference from and when things go south, we can’t say its “common sense” and that the manager under-performed. So if your organisation don’t have an official “How to be a Manager” type training and yet expects managers to be awesome, I think its time to start asking for such trainings.

Having worked for more than 20 years and interacted in different industries, I’ve seen my fair share of hardworking managers who don’t know basics. No fault of theirs sometimes I feel because they were not taught how to be a manager. It’s a blind spot, we all don’t know what we don’t know.

So let them get the training that they need to excel in their role. If I had to put a training session together, these are the kind of topics that come to my mind:

  1. Being a Good Example: punctuality, respecting other people’s time, having high standards, being a positive individual in the organisation, being a collaborative individual.
  2. Leadership: Nurturing yet being firm, Inspiring and motivating, earning respect, getting the most out of individuals.
  3. Collaboration: Instilling a collaborative environment across teams. How to manage cliques. How to manage rumours.
  4. Delegating: How and when to and not to delegate.
  5. Communicating: Clarity, Effectiveness, Objectivity, Wisdom, when to have face-to-face, when to have email trails.
  6. Counselling: Making time, managing personal issues, career discussions, how to be a friend yet a boss.
  7. Training & Career Planning: Identifying gaps and up-skilling individuals. Knowing where to find resources to make the team better. Knowing how to plan for the team.
  8. Lull Periods: What to do when team is having a lull period? Always-on side pet projects? How to always bring value to clients and the organisation.
  9. Discipline: When and how to scold people, when to give warning letter, when to get HR involved?
  10. Firing: How and when to fire, how to manage exits.

Some people read books to learn stuff like that at a personal level because they desire to be better managers, some others might not even be aware they are not a good manager and are unaware how bad they are.

We all need to make sure we have a strong / dependable / wise / exemplary tier of managers. If they are not, then they should not be a manger and we should not entrust any staff under their care as they would be jeopardising the career of the juniors. Further more, if managers don’t do their roles well, most of the time a mess will be created and the senior management level folks will have to be catapulted into the eye of the storm to sort-things-out when they should be spending their time charting the organisation’s way forward and bringing value to clients.

If you agree that before someone is made a manager and they should have some form of training to be a manager, then here are a few options:

  • Send for external courses – There are many such courses and also online courses.
  • Create an internal course – There is already alot of such materials online, so curate them and create a training module.
  • Compulsory Reading – Insist managers read a specific book and after that discuss with their immediate superior to show understanding of that material.

Its not too expensive or too time consuming for managers to get trained, but I know for sure its alot more expensive and time consuming if we don’t.