Management is an acquired taste. Everyone says that they 'want' to be a manager, but few do it well when they eventually get the chance.
It's also a skill that comes with experience.
As with anything in life, certain people have an affinity for managing, but it takes time to become proficient. Management is one of those skills that only gets better with time and experience.
You might think I'm about to hand you some pearls of wisdom that will transform your management success. I'm sorry to disappoint you; I'm not. The amount of spam I get from people professing to be the next 'Leadership Guru', 'Management Coach' or 'Senior Executive Expert' is extraordinary. I don't believe you can "teach management". You learn it with experience and time.
So, in the spirit of sharing (and not turning this into flogging of leadership coaches), I thought I'd share the three phases of the management I have experienced.
Phase 1: Entering management
I went through this from about 2009-20012 – The phase I like to call Twatamusmaximus.
What's the best way to describe me in this phase? Knob! (I think a few probably still think I am.)
It was my ball, my bat, my game. I'm the captain. I'm the best player, and I'm going to open the bowling and batting because I'm shit hot at this.
Not your most inspired leadership mantra.
I led by control and what I thought was clear direction and instructions. I struggled to understand why people didn't "get it" and wondered why they wouldn't follow my instructions. "You'd be much more successful if they just listened to me!" or so I thought.
Once I realised this was getting me nowhere, I took a long hard look at myself and realised the problem was, quite simply, with me. So I spoke to a few people, asked for some candid feedback, read a couple of books and removed my head from arse. That led to the next phase…
Phase 2: The Spiritual Management Guru
What a load of balls!
I drifted in and out of this phase from about 2013-2017. It was like watching a dad trying to be cool with the kids. You know the ones I mean, wearing too tight-fitting jeans, a leather jacket, and still trying to dance like John Travolta (guilty), but looks more like they're getting electrocuted.
I distinctly remember being told by a junior consultant, "Hey Boults, you look really trendy, for a Dad..."
Oh, the shame, like a dagger to my heart!
By now, I have read most books on management, leadership, the art of being a great spiritual leader etc. They made such an impression on me that I just had to use them across every aspect of my working life.
In reality, it never worked for me because I tried to be all things to all people.
I can see myself strolling through the office, saying Hi to everyone, waving, giving the odd wink, doing the double finger gun signal. God, I'm cringing at the mere thought of it.
The Guru Phase is where you can get lost as a leader and never really recover. I got little done in the way of meaningful management, I never really solved any of the main issues that needed dealing with, and I didn't set up the foundations of our management team to capitalise on the next few years. Large fail on my part.
I spent too long worrying about keeping people happy, not wanting them to move on and creating the right atmosphere.
I didn't understand that people will always move on, change jobs, and look for other opportunities. You can't take it personally. So I had to learn from those experiences and use them to become a better manager and avoid making repeated mistakes. That realisation opened the door to the next phase…
Phase 3: A Leader
I started to enter this phase somewhere in 2018, and I'm hoping to develop here for the rest of my career. Don't get me wrong; I wouldn't be so bold as to say I've made it, or I'm now the leader of leaders, I'm not. I am merely beginning this part of my management journey.
This is the phase where you are comfortable with your management style. You lead with context. You empower other leaders and have clear direction, vision, and expectations.
I still have a ton to learn and experience as a leader, particularly around open, candid feedback from other leaders, something I think everyone struggles with but matters a lot.
But in this phase, you see things clearer, understand people's different personalities and characters, and see them as positive things to embrace and help your business grow and flourish.
I hope I'm not still in the 'knob' phase, or at the very least happy to let someone else open the bowling.