Don’t Make Enemies of People You Depend On
Organizational life often feels like being bossed around by people who don’t get it.
Leaders are well served to remember that organizations run on the backs of front-line managers.
Don’t make enemies of people you depend on.
4 weaknesses of arrogant higher-ups:
- Prideful leaders degrade minion-managers. Superiority expresses itself in demeaning behaviors.
- Haughty higher-ups avoid spending time with lower-downs. It’s just too inconvenient and time consuming.
- Arrogant leaders don’t demonstrate they know, understand, and appreciate the issues lower-downs deal with.
- Pompous higher-ups reject input. Minion-managers don’t understand the big challenges anyway.
The motto of snobby higher-ups is shut up and like it.
10 things to remember about “minion-managers”:
- Without them, you’re irrelevant.
- Morale is more than a cliche’ to front-line managers. They live it everyday.
- You hired them for their strengths. Don’t get so consumed with what they can’t do that you forget their abilities.
- They stop giving their best when they see you manipulating the numbers to make yourself look good. Posturing at the top inspires posturing on the front-line.
- It’s demoralizing to hear “more with less” when you’re doing your best.
- They know more about the challenges of getting things done than you. They understand personalities, customers, red tape, and union relations better than you.
- In order to connect the big picture with day-to-day challenges, get lost in the weeds for awhile. Understand the nuts and bolts of getting things done.
- Those impacted the most by your decisions are most important to success.
- Courageous front-line managers keep leadership honest. Don’t ignore them. Embrace them.
- Building strong relationships up and down organizational hierarchy is more effective than silos.
Disconnected higher-ups experience self-inflicted tensions with lower-downs.
6 things “minion-managers” want:
Don’t pretend you know what respect looks like to a front-line manager. Ask them.
How might leaders help front-line managers succeed?
I like what you say about appreciating people for their strengths and remembering why you hired them in the first place. People can make the mistake of trying to turn those around them into copies of themselves, even though different skill sets are needed for different jobs.
Thanks Rowena. I’m glad you stopped by today. It’s been awhile. The inclination to judge everyone by ourselves is nearly universal. I find it takes consistent intention to look for the strengths rather than focus on the weaknesses.
It was great to pop back, Dan as I really love your blog. I got stuck into a huge writing project a few months ago and wrote 64,000 words in addition to extensive research in 6 weeks. I almost combusted and have had a lot of catching up to do in the real world since then.
I went for a job interview 2 weeks ago, which made me think alot about people working together. This job required people skills as well as organisation, which to me are largely incompatible skill sets. You’ll get overlap but being more down the creative, sales side of things, I’ve always clashed with admin. However, in my last job, we brought our differences together and would nut things out so we’d try new promotional ideas while bearing more of the pitfalls in mind. Unfortunately, this seems to be more of an exception.
Thanks for the update. Congratulations on your accomplishments. Best wishes in your job search!
Thanks very much, Dan. I’ve decided to go back to focusing on my writing. I’m writing a book about my screw ups in the kitchen.So while you’re giving people advice on how it’s done, I’ll be doing quite the reverse. Give people a laugh at my expense.
Dan I often tell people that there are 3 levels
of the firm you need to manage:
1. The most important are those below your level for all the reasons you cited Plus those
below you can help Push you up further.
2. Your Peers or same level. If they respect and trust you it goes a long way in the company
3. The least important are your own Bosses. Too many young Managers focus much of their effort managing Up vs. sideways and down!
Thanks Brad. The temptation to spend too much time and attention on those over us is self-defeating. The people we need the most stop trusting us.
Of course, managing up is important. But top priority is the team you lead.
Thanks for adding your perspective!
Spot-on, Brad. Those kinds of thoughts are what organizational cultural change is all about. People forget that the only people who do profitable work are the workers. The rest simply add to the organizational overhead. Yet we view payroll as a COST in the accounting systems. Go figure…
Yes, I KNOW that I have a weird way of looking at things sometimes, but the title of the post immediately made me think of doing Paintball for teambuilding, or some other kinds of competitive games to build… (wait for it…) interdepartmental collaboration.
And, again, I am reminded of that CEO comment in his managers’ meeting about asking for ideas from people was like, “Asking the vegetables how to design a refrigerator.” That one framework just anchors so much of your overall theme and framework.
And Minions is great. We could do a whole big bunch of posters and stuff, if only we were able to use those images…
But, as always, Dan, Good Stuff. We’ve got a long row to hoe but I do think we have a bag of seeds we can plant as we get things done. Have fun out there!
Thanks Dr. Scott. You remind me that people who are out of touch because they are disconnected or arrogant do some really dumb things. In this case, dumb harms organizations, teams, and individuals.
Self-inflicted frustration is the hardest to confess. 🙂
Thanks for adding some powerful illustrations.
Dan, A great and timely reminder! I recently practiced one of your tips here and Re-learned something we tend to forget after leading managers for a few years – “In order to connect the big picture with day-to-day challenges, get lost in the weeds for awhile.” . I intentionally decided to get into weeds with my managers and learned to appreciate their current pains. It also helped me deepen my relationship with them.
Thanks Niraj. Leaders are often afraid of getting lost in the weed because they love the big picture. They’re always looking into the future.
Working on the nuts and bolts feels like a distraction to leaders. Thanks for sharing the value of dropping down into the weeds for awhile.
Thanks Dan.I must say I learned this the hard way when I was promoted to mid line management, but it was a good lesson to learn and glad I learned it early on – that I could,and should, rely on my front line teams,and in fact empower them. The people with the best ideas are often the folks who do the work. A confident leader accepts that. I also began to appreciate that those on my team who talked about ‘ the elephant in the room’ and brought things to my attention were extremely valuable. Especially if they didn’t think like me. A nice reminder today- thanks.
Thanks Kari. You got me thinking about those “irritating” people who often drive managers/leaders nuts. Congratulations on learning the value of the folks who do the work early on in your career. I wonder if some go to the grave angry at those they should support.
Thanks for sharing your story.
Dan, the advice given is spot on. And yes, it has a 360 application for middle managers not just top managers vs. front line supers/employees. I think anybody who is promoted to a top level position should have four ears, a small mouth, a big heart (listen a lot, speak little, engage with others often). My organization recently had a large turn over of top management. The majority of the promotions were not from the front manufacturing line but office types. The ability to listen to the front line supers/employees is low and therefore the ability to react, let alone know that they can react, is low. Currently the new managers are going through their own learning curve at the expense of others. As for myself, just trying to exercise patience, picking appropriate battles, and trying to build relationships of trust with the new top managers. The main challenge is being remote and that the new managers don’t fully have the technical/practical expertise.
Thanks Brian. Your perspective on these ideas expands my thinking. Newly promoted managers/leaders adds an interesting dimension to the discussion. Being new is a real opportunity as long as we don’t try to fake it.
Thanks for sharing your experience and insights.
How might leaders help front-line managers succeed?
Remember what Carl Weather’s character, Dillon, said in Predator?
“You’re an asset. An expendable asset. And I used you to get the job done, got it?”
Whenever you deal with a front-line manager, remember that quote and do everything you can to not be like that.
Thanks Mitch. I wondered where you were going with that quote.. 🙂
Great post. So true and well said. Thanks, Dan!