During a conversation with a large national client, two of their staff members made the implication that their “boss”, the executive director, was out of touch with what was going on in the trenches, and he should not be consulted on important decisions. Though I agree that the director may be unaware of the day-to-day minutiae of staff work, as the person who signs the check that pays me, the director’s feedback from a high level was important to us. When I hung up the phone, I asked my office why such a common misconception existed–an employee’s belief that management lacks an understanding of their work?
Bad managers do exist, but the vast majority of my clients have exceptional leaders–including the aforementioned director. Most are intimately aware of the roles their employees play in their success. A good manager shouldn’t have to know the details of an employee’s job; inherent in any position is a trust that sound decisions are best made within one’s area of expertise. Those organizations are profitable, successful, and forward thinking businesses indicating a healthy understanding of the roles of their staff.
As a business owner, I also allow a certain latitude within an employee’s job. Our web sales is efficiently handled without my input; ThunderTix has been cultivated under anothers purview; and our programmers would not benefit from my code reviews. WIth them, I have been pleased to see growth in our sales and profitability each year of our eight year history. But watching over those financial markers does not translate into an all-encompassing focus on the bottom line or lack of insight into my employees’ respective roles.
Yet I and our executive director share something in common. Despite our efforts, our employees have both publicly disparaged our leadership. A former employee wrote:
Someone running a business isn’t as focused on the institution. To generalize, their primary focus is simply on generating money.
That’s a pretty haughty generalization from someone who has not walked in the shoes of a business owner. The fact is, most company leaders are focused on a whole lot more than generating money. For us here at Thunder Data, a primary driver of our own success lies in client satisfaction and responsiveness, and it is the single most lauded trait we hear in feedback from clients. And in what I’ve hoped was a demonstration of my understanding of employee needs, I’ve been proud of the fact that I’ve not been afraid to let my people test the waters with new languages, products or processes to help feed their collective hunger for staying on top of the latest trends in tech.
One of my goals this year is to expand employee decision making while balancing with client expectations. It requires mutual trust and respect of what each of us brings to the table. When we recognize an individual’s role, we’ll succeed individually and collectively.