Written by Anthony Demangone
My father majored in math, with a minor in physics. If you know my father, you wouldn't be surprised. He loves order. He's neat. He detests discord. He obeys rules. He's faithful and dependable. His choice of study fits his character. There are rules that govern the world, son. And you can't argue your way around them.
And then there's his youngest son, who majored in International Politics. And now, you could say that my career is "management." Not quite examples of a hard science, eh?
Oh, but you might be wrong. For there are hard rules that govern management. As clever as you are, as skilled as you are in rhetoric and debate, you will not escape them.
1. An open calendar invites doom. Each morning, I glance at my master I-Phone to check my calendar. Wow, I'd say to Mandy. My day looks open and clear. It is going to be a good day. Never, ever utter those words. While I am Roman Catholic, part of me wonders if the Greek system of Gods might be in play. For I would not be surprised if there is the God Skedulis, the God of Outlook Calendars. When he sees an open calendar without meetings, he smiles, winks, and then asks Zeus to launch a few lightening bolts into your day.
2. There often exists an inverse relationship involving the length of a meeting and its usefulness. I have found that "drive-by" meetings, where you pop into a colleague's office with a few, carefully selected people, can accomplish more than any hour-long meeting with 15 people. With flip charts.
3. Most folks work to live, not live to work. We managers are a strange lot. Many of us enjoy a good excel spreadsheet, an article on efficiency, and a quiet, yet productive, 2 hours from 6:30-8:30 a.m. on a Tuesday. We ain't like most people. Many of our colleagues simply work to live. They do a great job. They work hard. But when the whistle blows, their thoughts turn to family, church, baseball, bridge clubs, attending the opera, or watching a marathon session of The Jersey Shore. And there's nothing wrong with that. As much as you try to make everyone work, think, and act like you, you're never going to do it. Remember, these are irrefutable laws. Much like gravity. Only stronger.
4. Stay away from sarcasm. I'm a fan of sarcasm. You can make many a strong point using this rhetorical device. But sarcasm is dangerous in a room where most people are not paying attention. Which describes 87.4% of the meetings I've attended in my life. And sarcasm is deadly in emails. Which is what I seem to do with 87.4% of my time. You need a truly engaged listener for sarcasm to work. And in today's fast-paced environment that is interrupted by Tweets, emails, and IMs, engaged moments are becoming a rarity. If you have a message, just say it. Clearly.
5. People like food. Use this rule to your advantage. Want to ensure folks come to a non-mandatory meeting? Feed them. Want to reward someone? Feed them. Heck, if you want to punish someone, I'm guessing that feeding them might work somehow. If you don't believe this rule, put a pile of free business-improvement books in the lunch room, and send an email telling folks they can pick one up. The next day, do the same thing, but with a fresh box of donuts. Again folks, these are irrefutable laws. Don't shoot the messenger.
6. You aren't as good as you think you are on your good days. But you aren't as bad as you think you are on your bad days. We should each hire two monkeys. One monkey will would berate you if your head gets too big. And the other would give you a pat on the back when you're having a bad day. Because the truth is, your performance is likely somewhere inbetween those two extremes. The key thing is to roll up your sleeves and get to work. Maybe you'd need a third monkey, who would remind you about that last part.
7. A well-delivered, imperfect decision often beats a an additional week of deliberation. Management involves making decisions. We all want a piece of data that says "You Shall Do This, And Nothing Bad Shall Happen." But that data rarely exists. And if it did, why do you think an additional week of research would uncover it? Perhaps. But my experience says that the decision often isn't the key to success. It is the effective execution of that decision. So make up your mind, but spend some extra time to make sure your decision comes to life. And if you don't like decisions as a manager, you're dining at the wrong restaurant. For ye shall dine on decisions as long as ye sit where ye sit.
8. Man is made of wood so crooked, nothing he builds will ever be straight. This Immanuel Kant quote explains a lot of what happens in the world. And you should never forget it. You'll never get 100% compliance with anything. You'll never get 100% attention in a meeting. People aren't perfect. They lead imperfect lives. They have imperfect spouses and kids. And guess what - you aren't perfect either. So what makes you think you're solution is infallible? Rather than grind your teeth and wail into the night when thinking about this irrefutable law of imperfection, embrace it. Know that problems will pop up. Corrections will need to be made. Implementations will never go completely as planned. But that's the real world. And the last time I checked, that's where most of us live.
9. Beware of Charlatans who Speak of "10 Rules." You may run across folks who say they have the 10 rules of this, or 10 rules of that. And if you apply those simple rules, you'll uncover the secret to success. When dealing with people, there are no simple rules. There is no secret to success. I hope you apply this heathly skepticism while reading my blog. Success usually involves hard work, technical skill, great colleagues, and a healthy dash of luck.
There you have it. 10 9 Irrefutable Laws of Managment, which are in no way irrefutable, or even laws. Managent is not clean, easy, or made up of simple rules that can be numbered one through 10. Although, if you had enough monkeys, it could be much more fun.
Have a great week, guys.