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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Managing People and Time

I was participating in a meeting at work last week and the subject of a leader's effectiveness (or lack thereof) came up.  Inevitably, one of my co-workers brought up the tested and approved remedy of "well maybe they need better time management skills".  Have I mentioned how much I dislike that phrase?  Well in case I have not, I do, in fact, dislike that phrase.

You can't manage time.

The word "manage" implies control.  A big no-no in my book is also the phrase:

"Manage People"

Again, "manage" implies control.  Let that one sink in:  by saying "manage people" you are saying that you really wish to control people.  Nice concept that fails, in epic fashion, when faced with reality.

You can not control people.  Never, ever.

You may think you control someone, but that's an illusion.  At best, you may temporarily have some sway over someone's behavior, but that will not last.  Just ask any parent.  I'll also add that you may be allowed to think you control someone's behavior, but that's solely at the discretion of the person you think you are controlling.

The above is why I much prefer the term:

"Lead People"

"Lead" isn't about controlling behavior of others, it's about encouraging the behaviors required for mutual success in an endeavor (any endeavor).  Think about it:  Generals don't "manage" armies, they "lead" them.

So what can you "manage"?  Well you can manage a process, for example.  You can manage a piece of machinery as well.  As noted above though, I don't necessarily think you can "manage time", at least in the strictest sense of the word.  Why?  Well time is a constant, relatively speaking.  It will occur, and at at rate you can not change, regardless of your attempts at control.  The notion that you can "manage your time" is, as a result, a fallacy.

It all comes back to control, and the one (and I will note only) human you can, in fact, control is you.  You can manage yourself.  In the end, it's not "time management" that some folks lack, but rather it's simply self-discipline.  I suspect  that in the world of soft-sounding business speak "better time management skills" sounds better than "better self discipline".  We like sounding better, don't we?  But sometimes in our efforts to not offend others we end up muddying our intent.  Sometimes a bit more precision in language would serve us all a little better.


Sean said...

Can you teach someone leadership? Can you teach someone in a class, seminar or workshop how to be clear, honest and engaging? Can you instill in someone the importance of experience in the roles you're leading?

It's faster, cheaper, and easier to make everyone and everything a widget to be counted, tracked and measured. When you strip away the messy facts that come with dealing with humanity, you can fool yourself into thinking your just managing work to be done.

Nobody ever managed a team to greatness.

Stephen Albert said...

Thanks for the comment Sean. I think there is a bias towards "manage" simply because it comes with less mental baggage. It's simply easier.

As for whether you can "teach" leadership, well I think you can certainly show someone a path, but ultimately they need to decide to follow it. You said it right when you referenced "honest": you can show someone the benefits of being honest, but in the end they need to decide not to lie.

Thanks for reading & commenting.

- Steve