The best part about being a manager

There are hundreds – nay, thousands – of blog posts about how hard it is to be a manager, the struggles one faces, the challenges we deal with.  I’ve contributed to that number.  Heck, this whole blog was created on the premise that it’s difficult to be a leader, as well as to be led.

None of that has changed. It’s hard out there for a pimp, yo.

But we focus so much on negativity that I thought it would be good to take a moment to talk about the best part about being a manager – employees.

Yes, employees are the best part about being manager. (Some of them are the worst part, but that’s another story.) Unless you are ready to work with your employees to help them be successful, you shouldn’t even consider being a manager – I don’t care what the compensation rate is.  You need to WANT to develop people. Because it’s hard work and can lead to heartache.

It can also lead to moments of incredible joy and da best

I’ve had the opportunity to manage a lot of different people in a lot of different situations in my career – some good, some bad.  While every single one is one of God’s special creatures in their own way, there have been a few that stood out because of what they accomplished.  And let’s be clear…they are the reason they are successful.  I was just lucky to be there.

I don’t want to publicly embarrass any of them, so I won’t go into great detail about their circumstances (Sam, Steven, Jim, others…you know who you are).  I worked with all of them when they were individual contributors – some in mid-career, some at the very beginning. All of them loved challenge, hated me from time to time, and have moved on to build training organizations of their own, to manage people, or to find the job that brings them happiness. And they did it because they are awesome.

There was no secret ingredient to helping them.  Really, it was about having high expectations, having their back, letting them fail from time to time, challenging them when I thought they were selling themselves short, and then getting the hell out of their way.

Whenever I have a chance to interact with these former employees, I’m always in awe of what they have been able to accomplish in spite of me.  It’s always a shame when a great employee moves on, but that’s tempered by the knowledge that they have done so much more than what they could have done if they had stayed my employee. And I learned far more from them than they did from me.

So, yeah…there are times when I hate being a manager; when I wish all I had to do was sit down, do work, and not be responsible for anyone else. But all that (well, most of that) goes away when I see an employee succeed.

Treat employees like they make a difference and they will.
 – Jim Goodnight, CEO SAS


Do you have a great employee success story? ARE you a great employee success story? Share in the comments!!!

So, you’re a crappy employee. Now what?

Okay, maybe you’re not really a crappy employee.  Maybe you’re just a misunderstood genius.  A tortured artist whose brilliance is unappreciated by the rest of us.


Or maybe you really are an employee who just isn’t very good at your job.

Hey, it happens. Sometimes responsibilities change and you don’t have the necessary skills.  Sometimes you take a stretch job and you’re in over your head. Sometimes you get a new boss you just don’t get along with.  Sometimes you just run out of gas.

Whatever it is, you probably know you’re not doing your best, and it bothers you. A lot.

Nobody likes being bad at their job. And contrary to popular belief, most employees know when they are struggling.  We don’t always admit it…but deep down, we know.


The real question is – what do you want to do about it? Well, you have a few choices:

  • Decide if you want to stay in your current job: Maybe you like your job.  Maybe you don’t like your current job but need it.  Or maybe you really hate it and have the freedom to walk away.  Figure out the answer to that question and act on it.
  • If you want to leave, leave: Don’t be one of those people who quits but keeps coming in every day. It hurts your reputation, hurts your teammates, and never turns out well.  If you’ve decided to leave, do it sooner rather than later. But leave like a grown up, okay? No mic drops needed.
  • If you want to stay, fight for it: Acknowledge that you are not performing up to expectations. Get some help.  Ask for for honest, specific feedback from your manager, stakeholders, teammates – anyone who can give you some suggestions on how to turn things around. And don’t settle for “just do better.”  Ain’t nobody can act on that advice.
  • Own it: Maybe someone else was the spark for your troubles at work, but you’re the one who controls your actions. Admit you own your performance and the outcomes.  It’s the only way you will be able to make the necessary changes.
  • Get your head on straight: If you’re having trouble at work, you’re probably not the happiest person right now. It’s easy to work yourself into a downward spiral with negative self-talk and a crappy attitude. Take some time to reflect on how you got to where you are. Confide in a friend, a group of friends, a therapist, your dog – whoever you need in order to help you work on your outlook.
  • Keep checking in: It didn’t take you a day to turn into a crappy employee, so give yourself some time and keep the dialogue with your manager open.  Course correct as needed and keep moving in the right direction.

Whatever you decide to deal with your current situation, don’t forget to celebrate the wins. When you’re in a tough situation, you can forget how awesome success can feel. Whether you quit a job you hate or decide to take control of your current performance – you deserve a little pat on the back. It takes courage to take action when you feel beat up.

You might be a crappy employee now, but there’s no excuse to STAY a crappy employee.

You can do it. I believe in you. After all…you’re a misunderstood genius.

Just like the rest of us.


Failure is good as long as it doesn’t become a habit.
~ Michael Eisner


Best friend at work? Just have my back.

The Gallup 12 is a well-known set of questions used to gauge employee engagement. Many of the questions are tied to whether an employee understands how he/she contributes to the organization’s goals, has a chance to do what he/she does best, and whether or not someone has expressed interest in his/her development. You know, the usual.

But there’s one question on the 12 that tends to throw people for a loop – #10 – I have a best friend at work. Best friend? Who the heck cares if you have a best friend at work? You’re there to work, not join a knitting club.  Right?  Turns out it’s not quite that simple.

keyboard and two persons on white background

When you start to look into the question (for an excellent overview on the Gallup 12, read 12: The Elements of Great Managing), the reality is that employees are not looking to find their lifelong BFF at work.  What they are looking for is the “go to” work friend – someone they can talk with when things get crazy, share their frustrations and victories with, or even as simple as someone with whom they can go to lunch.

This person is your “work wife”, “work husband”…this person is your safety net.  In terms of employee engagement, this person is an “anchor” – just like a manager, the job itself, the culture…something that keeps you in the game, motivating you to give discretionary effort to your work.

What if it wasn’t a friend that you really want?  What if you just want someone to have your back when things go south?

Let’s face it – work just sucks sometimes. Deadlines shift, approvals rescinded, coworkers annoy. We need to vent.  We need to take risks. We need to rock the boat. We need to know we can go complain to someone who won’t “report you” or feel the need to act in an official capacity. That’s what Question #10 is all about – knowing that you can take a chance and someone will be there to support you.

The great thing about Question #10 is that it is position agnostic – it doesn’t matter if you are a manager, an individual contributor, entry level or executive.  Each of us has the potential to have each other’s back. So instead of being a jerk, or making a joke, or rolling your eyes – just listen.  Offer support.  Have someone’s back.

You might be surprised by the difference you can make.