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A Practically Perfect Manager

November 27, 2009

The experienced business owner was explaining his management philosophy to the representative from the management consulting firm. Work should be fun, he said, life is too short not to be enjoyed.

The young engineer from the management consulting firm insisted that it was fine to have fun, but that the work needed to get done first. The owner observed that the work had a better chance of getting done, if the people were having fun while doing it.

The engineer subscribed to the theory that everything should be under control, running precisely on schedule. Managers should be the lords of the castle. Tradition, discipline, and rules were to be the most frequently used tools. Business is a battle to be faced and fought. You’ve got to grind, grind, grind at that grindstone.

The experienced owner wished for the young man to see that there was another approach. He wanted the young man to acquire an understanding that would lead to his becoming a practically perfect manager.

It’s hard to put your finger on it, he said, but as you become more experienced, you can sense it like “a change in the wind.” The results will be most extraordinary. Work is never easy, but “a little bit of sugar makes the medicine go down.”

Too often tasks and projects begun with great fanfare, interest, and promise, become drudgery along the way. “Well begun is only half done.” Business must find a better way. It is difficult, but necessary to maintain enthusiasm over the long haul.

Management must create an environment that will sustain a quality effort. That can’t be done by discipline alone. “In every job that must be done, you need an element of fun.”

Where’s the fun? It’s in little things more than the big things. It’s smiles and satisfaction, not ferris wheels and fireworks. It is the enjoyment that comes from satisfying relationships, not the entertainment that comes from extraneous diversions.

When you find the fun, the job becomes a game and every task you undertake becomes a piece of cake. “A spoonful of sugar is all that it takes. It changes bread and water into tea and cakes.”

What makes work enjoyable? Healthy competition in most every imaginable thing. It includes spontaneous celebrations for all conceivable milestones.

Who is fun to work for? A boss with a pleasant disposition, in good times and bad. A boss that doesn’t mind being the butt of a joke from time to time. Anyone who smiles a lot and likes to laugh.

Everyone is busy. If the work is to be done, it would appear that there is little time for fun. Perhaps that’s the wisdom of making the work be the fun, then there need only be time for one. “A robin feathering his nest, has little time to rest, he knows a song will move the job along.”

Sometimes our responsibilities seem greater than our capacity to manage them. The big jobs rarely get done all at once and nothing ever gets done by talking about it. Get big jobs done a little bit at a time. “The honeybees that fetch the nectar take a little nip of every flower that they see and they find the task is not a grind.”

What makes for an enjoyable work environment? A group of people that aren’t afraid to roll up their sleeves and pitch in when there’s work to be done. That includes the boss and all other able bodies with time on their hands.

The practically perfect manger has unlimited potential. “You can have your own set of wings with your feet still firmly on the ground, you’ll be a bird in flight with your fist holding tight to the string of your kite. Go fly that kite up to the highest height. Send it soaring up through the atmosphere, up where the air is clear.”

If you want to create the practically perfect workplace, managers should be selected for more than just their experience and qualifications. Make sure that all your manager’s understand that if “they want a choice position, they must have a cheerie disposition.”

How do you measure up as a manager? Are you practically perfect in every way? Perhaps, but even practically perfect people have room for improvement. A truly perfect manager wouldn’t develop a habit “not letting the facts get in the way” and “never explaining anything.”

One last piece of advise. “A spoonful of sugar goes a long, long way. Have yourself a healthy helping everyday.” Don’t forget that the boss needs to enjoy his or her work also. It’s a good day when you can say, “I likes what I do and I do what I likes.”

“Good bye, Mary Poppins, don’t stay away too long.”

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