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Management Mirror

November 25, 2009

Mirror, mirror on the wall. Who’s the fairest of them all? Surprise, surprise, in the executive washroom the magic mirror often yields a crystal clear image of management. Is that the right answer? Maybe yes and maybe no.

If that magic mirror was a one way mirror, the image that’s seen from the other side might well be different from the reflection as seen by management. Short of using magical and trick mirrors, how can a manager see how he is perceived by others?

“Look in the mirror” is a standard refrain when we want someone to make a critical self examination. That “look in the mirror” hardly ever yields any perspective other than our own. What a manager needs to understand is how he or she is seen by others.

Mirror, mirror on the wall. Who’s the fairest of them all? You’ll never find an answer that will lead to improving your performance by looking into that mirror in the executive washroom. The mirror that will give provide some insights to improve performance is a one-way mirror, “The Management Mirror.”

The trick for managers is to be on both sides of the mirror at the same time. The image that we need to see when we look into the mirror is not the image that’s reflected back to us, but it’s the image that’s seen from the other side. To improve management performance we need to see how we are viewed by others.

The owner of a successful business had three times attempted to hire a top sales and marketing executive to relieve him of the primary sales responsibility for his company. He was deliberate in his search and generous in his compensation package. Each of the three individuals he had hired appear to have what was required to be successful in the position and to become a long-term, key asset in his business.

The first sales executive he hired worked hard, learned quickly and made significant contributions in a short period of time. Before too long, however, the relationship began to sour as friction developed between the boss and the protégé. While the Vice President of Sales made significant contributions in his one and one half year tenure and was well compensated for his efforts, he resigned his position after a year and one half, siting philosophical differences between himself and his boss.

The script was pretty much the same for Vice Presidents Two and Three. One lasted a little bit more than a year, the other lasted almost two. But in the end the result was the same. A well-compensated, productive executive siting differences with the boss resigned from seemingly desirable positions. Nearly five years had passed since this business owner had first decided to relieve himself of the sales and marketing responsibilities. Now, five years down the road, he was still at square one. He was puzzled why such competent and well-compensated individuals were not satisfied with the relationship as it existed.

Mirror, mirror on the wall. Who’s the fairest of them all? Why didn’t these people want to work for this particular boss? The boss took a “good look in the mirror” and saw no problems in the image that it reflected. Surprise, surprise!

The answer to his problem will never be found looking into the mirror in the executive washroom. The boss needs to look through the “management mirror” and view the situation from the other guys perspective.

How can we gain some insight as to what those on the other side of the mirror are seeing. The truth of the matter is I don’t know. I’ve always been told that real genius lies in asking the right questions. Once attention has been focused on the right question, people will eventually come up with good answers.

The question is clear. In order to improve management performance, we need to see ourselves the way others see us. The answer as to how to do it. I’m not so sure, but the image seen through the other side of the “management mirror” holds the key.

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