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Saturday, November 25, 2006

A case study in poor management

If you dont follow cricket, skip to the lessons to learn section below

India got thrashed by South Africa in the cricket match a couple of days ago. Well, no surprise there. The Indians have always struggled in South Africa. What was a surprise was that the BCCI (the Indian cricket board) vice-president, Shashank Manohar came out and said that if it were up to him, none of the players would be paid a single penny. Quoting:
Manohar said the board was not to be blamed for the team's poor performance. "We are administrators and we have done our utmost to provide the players with the best of facilities and support staff. It's the job of the players to deliver on the field, not ours. We at best can take corrective action and measures."
This is pathetic for a number of resons. If Mr.Manohar feels that the players are not good enough, the BCCI should take responsibility, because they are the ones who selected the players. If Mr.Manohar feels that their technique on fast pitches is suspect, the BCCI has to again take responsibility, because they prepare slow pitches for domestic games. When will the BCCI learn that you cannot 'get acclimatised' to fast pitches with one warm-up game, and that it takes years of playing on these pitches to learn to handle them? Mr.Manohar is trying to wash his hands off the matter and put all the blame on the players, when in fact, the majority of the responsibility falls on the BCCI.

Lessons to learn

This is a perfect case study of what not to do. Here are some lessons to be learnt.

How many times have you heard a manager complain that the people under him are not good enough? Pretty often I'm sure. Managers, remember that you hired the people. If they are not good enough, you should take responsibility for it. Now, it is perfectly okay to make hiring mistakes. Everyone does it. But never say that "the person is not good enough", say instead "I made a hiring mistake", and then move forward from there.

Sometimes you don't hire the people under you. Maybe you moved to a new team and have to work with the existing team members. Can you then say that the people are not good enough? No. As a manager, one of your responsibilities is to make sure that the right people are doing the right work. When you take over a team, the first step is to make sure you've got the right people, and take steps to correct the situation if you dont.

Here is a situation: You have a great developer whom you promote to a Project Manager. Management requires a different set of skills to development, and the same person who was so good with development now struggles with management. Do you find this situation familiar? Different situations require different skills. These skills dont magically appear on people as the situations come up. The manager should have an idea of the skills that will be required, and have a personal development plan to help the team members acquire the skills that they are missing. Most managers do not do any personal development and then blame the team member when a situation arrives that the person is not equipped to handle.

Another golden rule is that you always back your team. Within yourselves, you can sort out any issues that need sorting out, but to the external world, you are together. You celebrate together, and you face the music together. When the going gets tough, you face the music on behalf of the team. You never, ever, abandon the team. Yet, when facing the heat, we often see managers who turn round and push the blame on the team. If you stick with the team, you will earn trust and respect, otherwise the team members will only remember you as the weasel who backstabbed them.

Management is unique because you are responsible for the results even though the actual work is done by someone else. A great manager helps others achieve results. The key word here is 'help'. Not 'forces', not 'commands', but 'helps'. How few managers there are who have that attitude. Jack Welch said it best — Before you become a leader success is all about growing yourself. Once you become a leader success is all about growing others.

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