Effective Engineering e-Newsletter – 4/15/2004
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Tom Dennis – President, Effective Engineering [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Managers are Mis-Managers. In
my recent e-Newsletter, eN-040205
– Mis-Managers: How Bad Managers Can Poison the Well, I raised
the issue of Mis-Managers and the damage they can cause to not only
their direct reports, but to the organization as a whole.
I also discussed how such Mis-Managers typically got promoted
into their positions and “reached their level of incompetence”.
This e-Newsletter is the sixth in the “Mis-Manager” series
(see also eN-040219,
but this one discusses some positive Manager types, and not Mis-Managers.
As with my Herding Cats series, (see eN-031106,
which discuss Engineer personality types, this one describes Manager
characteristics, and concentrates on one specific attribute, rather than the
mix of characteristics that will normally be the case. Clearly every Manager (and Mis-Manager) is an
individual with characteristics that are unique, and most have a variety of
personality characteristics. Every
situation is also unique and should be treated in a unique fashion.
The suggestions I make for approaching such people are just one
person’s view – mine. Given
the position of power that a Manager or Mis-Manager may occupy, think
carefully about your best approach.
Characteristics: A Mentor is a manager who concentrates on and
emphasizes the development of his/her people as a high priority. He/she provides meaningful assignments that enable his/her
people to grow in technical, process, and people skills. A Mentor’s philosophy is, “Give a man a fish
and he can eat for a day, but teach a man to fish, and he can eat for life.”
The Mentor seeks to provide the skills and abilities for his/her
people to excel and grow. He/she
respects them and enables them to express their opinions freely, take chances,
make mistakes, learn, and develop. He/she
believes in open and honest communication, and has a real open door policy,
where any topic or problem can be freely discussed without concerns of
retribution or recrimination. He/she
provides meaningful and actionable guidance that his/her people can really
use. A Mentor leads by
example, and serves as a positive role model.
He/she encourages teamwork by demonstrating the success and synergy
that comes from effective team efforts.
Employee Approach: If you’ve got a Mentor as a manager, be very
grateful! You are in for a
learning experience that will last a lifetime.
Take advantage of your good fortune; learn as much as you can, and
develop as quickly as you can. Spend
time with your Mentor wisely, and stretch your wings to the maximum
possible. Your good fortune in
having such a boss is unlikely to last throughout your career, so take
pleasure in it. Observe other (Mis)Managers
and compare and contrast them to yours. Speak
to friends under other (Mis)Managers and appreciate your circumstances
relative to theirs. You’ve got
a wonderful opportunity. Learn
all you can from it, and use your experiences to guide you as you grow and
advance in your career.
Tactician Manager (Short-Term Doer):
Characteristics: The Tactician has a near-term focus, and tends to be a
problem solver, a firefighter, a doer. His/her
eyes are focused on achieving near-term goals, such as getting a product
released on time, with high quality, and within budget.
The Tactician’s concern is that the long term may not matter
if the short- term problems cannot be taken care of now.
His/her motto tends to be, “Say what you mean, mean what you say,
and do what you say you’ll do.” The
Tactician typically rallies to people with clear explanations of what
needs to be done now or very soon. He/she
tends to work closely with his/her people and gets down in the trenches to
make things happen. He/she
doesn’t ask others to do what he/she won’t do himself/herself.
He/she earns the respect of others by doing.
Tactician’s heart is certainly in the right place (to do what’s
best for the company by fixing near-term problems today), but such an approach
may actually move the company off-course in the long run.
Employee Approach: If your boss is a Tactician and so are you, you will
likely feel comfortable, and will move up quickly in your boss’ eyes.
However, you should recognize that life and work have more than just
short-term goals, and that you need to stretch yourself to grow beyond the
role you find yourself in. It’s
up to you – your Tactician boss won’t be able to help you see this.
If you are more strategically oriented, you will likely find life
difficult under a Tactician, and you will feel unappreciated and
unacknowledged. You should work
with your boss to help bridge your differences and gain acceptance.
Alternatively, you may wish to find a position more in line with your
Strategist Manager (Long-Term Thinker):
Characteristics: The Strategist has a long-term focus, and sees how
problems affect the strategic direction of his group and the organization as a
whole. He/she is a thinker, who
sees long-term goals and directs both near-term and far-term efforts toward
achieving those strategic goals. A
Strategist will act on short-term problems, but will not attack them
rashly. Rather, he/she will think
through the long-term consequences of short-term actions, and will analyze the
costs and benefits of taking any action.
His/her motto is likely, “Look before you leap”, or, “Don’t
do something stupid now that you may regret doing later.”
The Strategist recognizes that some short-term actions may take
the organization off-course from its long-term goals.
the Tactician, the Strategist’s heart is in the right place
(to do what’s best for the company in the long run), but such an approach
may jeopardize the company’s ability to reach the long-term goals if some
short-term problems can’t be fixed now.
A Strategist may suffer from analysis paralysis; that is,
being unable to make a decision due to overanalyzing the situation.
Employee Approach: As stated above, if you and your boss are both strategically
oriented, you will likely feel comfortable, and will move up quickly in your
boss’ eyes. However, you need
to also be able to react appropriately to short-term problems, and to take
short-term action when necessary. You
need to recognize this need, and you probably won’t get such advice from
your boss. You should try to
educate your boss in this regard if possible.
If you are tactically oriented, you’ll likely find your work life
very frustrating, as you are a doer, wanting to take action now, while your
boss wants to stand back and think things through.
There’s nothing wrong with either approach, so you should learn
critical thinking skills from your Strategist boss.
You should also help to let you boss know that there’s a time for
thinking and a time for doing, and the doing can’t wait forever.
If you find your life under a Strategist to be too frustrating,
then you may want to seek a position in a group more to your liking.
are just three more of many Manager personality types that you will come
across in engineering (and other) organizations.
I’ll get into more in subsequent e-Newsletters.
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