“Don’t bother, it won’t be approved”

I wnoas a young Navy lieutenant and our ship was making a port call along the west coast of France. For the next three days, the ship’s company would get an opportunity to check out French cuisine and culture. I, on the other hand, was hoping to visit my sister who was staying in Paris … a short train ride away. The problem was everyone had a duty shift for at least one of those days, which would make any visit brief.

No problem, I thought. I’ll just request leave for the period – a perfectly acceptable practice under most circumstances. I approached my department head to discuss the option.

He muttered about having to be fair to the other officers, then said: “Don’t bother, I won’t approve it.” I left his office dejected. Ultimately, I did manage to spend a brief two hours with my sister in Paris before I had to hop a train back to the ship and stand my watch the following morning.

Sitting there as absolutely nothing happened, my department head came waltzing in the ready room.

“Why are you here? I thought you went to Paris to see your sister?”
“I did, but I had to get back here to stand duty.”

And with all sincerity he looked at me: “Why didn’t you turn in leave papers? I would have approved them!”

Luckily, I held my tongue, but I learned a valuable lesson from that moment. Always make someone say no in writing!

Over my career as a manager I’ve had plenty of opportunities to pull that stunt on others, yet to do so would violate the trust and respect I sought from my employees. Putting “no” in writing sometimes puts more pressure on the person saying no than the requester: That training conference you approve might upset the finance office; that leave you approve might cause grumbling amongst fellow staff; that promotion recommendation might leave you shorthanded just when you need all hands doing their best.

Having to say no in writing requires us to defend our decision, but as a manager that’s what we’re paid to do. Moreover, it forces us to truly review the options and ensure it’s the right answer.

Most importantly, for the great managers, it opens the door to the possibility of saying “yes” which, by the way, is what we’re getting paid to do as well.

10 Reasons Why Humor Is A Key To Success At Work

I haMgmt humorve long been a proponent of humor in the workplace for several reasons, some of which are not addressed in this article.  I’ll discuss those in a future post. This Forbes article by Jacquelyn Smith is a great synopsis as to the value of humor in our daily interactions.

10 Reasons Why Humor Is A Key To Success At Work

As a manager, I always work to set the tone for humor, so that others under my direction know proper boundaries while still breaking down barriers.  Yes, it puts additional pressure on me to ensure my comments are not rude, lewd, or taken out of context, but over time its gotten easier.

The Politics of Management

politicianI recently received a call from a friend who was about to meet with a significant political figure for his region. In his new position as chamber president, this was bound to happen sooner or later. After all, his position has great potential to affect change in the very area the politician serves.

Having worked in the political arena, he wanted to know how he should address him. “Your Eminence” wasn’t necessary, but an appropriate title was called for.

Then I asked the more operable question: “Why do you think he wants to meet?”

“I’m not sure he (the elected official) had a good relationship with my predecessor” he noted.

Obviously, this was an attempt to reach out to the new guy and see if there was value to a future relationship. Understanding the initial purpose of the meeting, I then suggested there was more to this than just a quick hello.

“He’s looking to see what your vision is and how he can help you. But, more importantly, you need to suggest ways in which you may be able to help him.”

We then discussed options that would not only build the relationship, but provide political win-wins for both. With a little research into the official’s background, we were able to identify commonalities and issues that both could join forces on to bring greater prosperity to the region.

Today’s managers often are thrust into positions that require interaction with the political realm, or, at the very least, influential people. Sadly, too many are unprepared to lobby or listen during these valuable moments. The Amazing Manager of the future needs to be mindful of these simple steps.

Know your politician – A savvy manager should be aware of what the official’s hot button issues are and where he/she wields the most influence.

Look for common ground – Much like any relationship, it’s only as strong as the common bonds you share. The more you have, the more likely you will have an impact and more contact in the future.

Bring something to the table other than requests – Politicians quickly become magnets for individuals and organizations seeking their help. To set yourself (and your issue) apart from others, look for ways to support their endeavors. That doesn’t mean you’re sliding “donations” in their vest pocket, but it can be simple involvement and recognition with your successes.

Value their time – If you respect the demands on their time, they will respect you.

Follow up. Always follow up – Depending on your issue and your authority, this may not be direct. Knowing the right staffer to work through is just as important as knowing the politician.

What time and resources are to the manager, political influence and votes are to the politician. Understanding how to communicate on the political level when opportunity knocks could very well be worth the time and become a valuable resource to your efforts.

The Leader Versus the Manager

Scott as Patton   – VERSUS – Carell

I used to think that manager versus leader meant you were either one or the other.  What’s worse is I viewed the leader more like George S. Patton and the manager as more like Michael Scott.

Over time, I’ve come to realize that in order to be really good in either, you have to know how to execute both.

Patton, for example, certainly knew how to motivate his men, but he also knew how to manage combat operations.  What’s more, he always appreciated the managers who made success possible whether they were generals supporting divisional movements or the quartermaster ensuring the troops were fed, clothed and sheltered.

Even Steve Carell’s character understood the importance of leading/motivating his office, albeit with mixed and hilarious success.

Leadership and management are practices that need to be honed.  And its important to know the difference while understanding that they are not mutually exclusive.  Below are some links to interesting articles and media that might help define each.

What is the Difference Between Management and Leadership?

Leadership vs. Management: What are the Characteristics of a Leader and a Manager

Maybe you have references of your own.  Send them to me and I will add them to the resource list.