Practical leadership wharrgarble

In response to an Alpha Game commenter:

I’ve almost always been a “soldier” in my organization. I recently accepted a promotion as a lead on the team I’ve been for years and it’s a drastic shift, mentally. It’s rewarding to learn and master new skills but I’m constantly having to bite my tongue because my team is composed of folks that do not want to lead themselves. I noticed that before but I actually have to deal with it now. I always prided myself on mastering my job so that I was bothering others as little as possible to accomplish the mission. (“Teach me how to do this and leave me alone to do it.”) Everyone else seems to look for ways to shirk their duties. My brother has been a manager for a long time and he says that’s normal with most folks.

I also find myself feeling more duty bound to the mission and those under me than those above me. That’s already causing friction with my boss and I can see that causing me major headaches soon. I don’t know if becoming a manager / supervisor later would make that better or worse for me.

I am trying to puzzle out how to inspire others to be more like I am as a worker, but 1) folks are lazy and 2) MPAI.

Michael Maier
Comment: Finding your mission

This is a typical problem for Deltas who find themselves thrust into management because they are competent workers. I’m not a leader, so you’ll have to take the following advice with a mountain of salt because it’s merely my intuitions on the matter. Hopefully it’s at least worth what you’re paying for it ;-).

You’re trying to make other people be more like you. This is wrongheaded and comes from embedded equalist dogma- they aren’t like you and never will be, they are completely different people with different abilities, personalities, dysfunctions, and aspirations. Your first goal is to understand these people as they actually are, and not focus on how they don’t live up to what you wish they would be.

You think they should enjoy being effective workers? Most people don’t want to work. Think about something you have trouble focusing on because you don’t like it (maybe you have trouble keeping in shape, or keeping the accounting organized, or navigating regulatory government bullshit), then imagine they feel that way about working for you. Now you can view the workplace from their perspective as a rational, economic transaction where you have to pay them just to wake up early and show up every day, rather than the moralistic way that motivates you (“I take pride in being effective”). This may sound pessimistic but it’s the basis of how capitalism works, and capitalism does work.

Now you understand the people and their connection to the mission. But you need to understand the mission too, in straightforward terms with no bullshit or moralizing. The mission is to make the numbers go up, grow the company’s reputation, and acquire capital. People are also capital. You probably know this stuff pretty well already.

So we have three parts in this system:

1) the people under you
2) the mission
3) the transactional relationship between 1 and 2

Your job is the third one. You’re the interface between the people and the mission and you have to find ways to match them up. If you take the time to honestly assess what the people under you have to offer and what they want from the company, then you can channel their motivations rationally. “If you do X you will receive Y.” This is the incentives side of “carrot and stick”, which is what actually inspires people.

You can’t just use the carrot without the stick, but I’m sure since you’re frustrated you’ve already fantasized about that plenty. (You should know the rules for effective punishment though if you don’t already know them, look this up and memorize it! Punishments must be sparing, swift, appropriate, and easily understood by the recipient.) Applying discipline is a short-term solution for acute problems, and cannot be used as long-term motivation because stress degrades the body and mind over time. They will just quit, and turnover is more expensive than good leadership.

That should help you frame the problem. Remember, salt.

(Ed: Despite salt I note that two others, Revelation Means Hope and 1337 kestrel, echoed similar thoughts. PA also linked to a series of posts on his blog that are directed toward Gammas in leadership roles, which are different but probably useful.)

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About Aeoli Pera

Maybe do this later?
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7 Responses to Practical leadership wharrgarble

  1. bicebicebice says:

    Hello my name is Melon Melonson, 1xxx IQ, and I pay my saps with beer. http://www.ancient-origins.net/news-history-archaeology/5000-year-old-mesopotamian-pay-stub-reveals-workers-were-paid-beer-006201

    They want to work, because, beer. I have rock piles all over the world as a testament to my “people in the workplace” skills. Chuck in some hangover bread and you are golden. Inventing genes for alcoholism was the best thing ever. Barter capitalism ftw!

    Regards Melon Melonson

  2. jack arcalon says:

    Everyone is supposed to pretend they are anxious to work hard and care about nothing else, even at a minimum wage butt wiping job. If they pretend to pay me I will gladly pretend to do so.

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