A cautionary tale

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I do weird, boring stuff with data that no one else wants to do. I am not an accountant, database manager or statistician. Those kinds of guys work for me.

At knowledge-work companies, people are always talking smack. Running to the teacher to tattle on the bad student. Telling each other things they should not, like who is about to be fired.

Many of the higher ups in my company are from commonwealth countries. One, C, counseled me last week “be able to explain everything that A does, because The King asked me while you were on vacation ‘What does A do?’ and I could not answer. And they are looking at costs in this office.”

Another one, a female East Ender, said last week, “With the mistakes made by G, he has no business telling us what he will and won’t do and it may be time that he goes. The King knows it would be hard to do without him but not impossible.”

A and G are my top two guys. There is a time to throw stones and a time to gather stones. The King, East End and C have no idea how to hire the replacements for A and G. I am starting to smell a consolidation.

This blog is not meant to be a rant but a cautionary tale. Some day, middle manager, this will happen to you.

Purpose and profit

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What you already know, but what no one repeats:

  • The US economy never really recovered from 9/11.
  • The recession is twisting our lives in ways we did not foresee.
  • More pain is due in some sectors.

I am one of the lucky ones. I still have a good job. If you saw my corporate trajectory, you could accurately conclude that I moved sideways over the last dozen years. But I doubled my take-home pay in that time, so I feel a bit smug.

Too smug. I can smell corporate fear, and it is not going to play out in a rational manner. Some of the things said and done at my company in the past few months are unheard of, and I have been in the workforce more than 30 years.

Here’s the most recent. Some of you may have heard it stated more diplomatically: Don’t bother sales or business development with a lead unless it is ready to close. We are not going to cold call, set up trials or arrange prospect meetings in that sector. 

The party is winding down in my office, my country, my hemisphere. Not the company as a whole. We’re doing better in other parts of the world where I am not involved.

I have a mountain of daily deliverables; management can see what we do. Ten people report to me — some are going to be more vulnerable than others. I have to balance self-interest, productivity and everyone’s future.

The purpose of this blog is to chart the journey of being a decent human being, enjoying what I’ve been given and dealing with management challenges productively without burning out myself and others.

In other words: Anyone can be a rock star manager in a rising market. But few executives at any level can cope with a long-term sideways or down market, and that’s the business book that you cannot find on the shelves.

Next post: Rules of the road.

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