Henry Mintzberg, legendary scholar and Cleghorn Professor of Management Studies at McGill University in Montreal, has picked 42 of the best posts from his wildly popular blog and turned them into his new book, Bedtime Stories for Managers.
The collection of essays filled with metaphors is Mintzberg's own
playful reflections on management that speak most meaningfully and
practically to managers.
Mintzberg writes, "Just try not to be outraged by anything you read,
because some of my most outrageous ideas turn out to be my best. They
just take a while to become obvious."
"Managing is about eating the scrambled eggs."
One of my favorite stories came at a time Mintzberg ate atrociously bad
scrambled eggs during a flight on Eastern Airlines, which went belly-up
As he shared that story with a team of managers from IBM years later,
one of them felt compelled to tell Mintzberg another story--one about
the CEO of Eastern Airlines. Here's Mintzberg's account:
The CEO of Eastern Airlines came rushing in at the last minute for a
flight. First class was full, so they bumped a paying customer to put
the CEO where I guess he had become accustomed. Apparently feeling
guilty, he reportedly made his way back to economy class. (No mention
was made of his having to ask where it was.) There he apologized to the
customer and introduced himself as the CEO of the airline. The customer
replied: "Well, I'm the CEO of IBM."
Mintzberg concludes that the real issue was not about who was bumped
but, rather, who made the call to do the bumping. In other words, status
was the underlying issue.
"Higher class counted for more than common sense," writes Mintzberg.
"Managing is not about sitting where you have become accustomed. It's
about eating the scrambled eggs."
Managing by status and positional authority kills engagement and crushes
the souls of organizations. Here are some observations of how status
impacts teams for the worse.
1. Managers holding status expect others to serve them.
Over time, managers riding on status and large egos--who take al the
credit and hog the spotlight--will cause underappreciated team members
to burn out. On the contrary, great leaders put the focus on their
employees, recognizing and praising them for the team's accomplishments.
2. Managers holding status are typically entitled.
They command others to do what they are no longer willing to do
themselves.They manage from afar and above and drive people through fear
and control. On the contrary, humble and confident leaders never ask
from the team what they are unwilling to do themselves. They are often
out in front, in the trenches, leading the way by example.
3. Managers holding status revel in their positional authority.
They use the business environment or company mission to promote
themselves, rather than focusing on the organizational mission for the
mission's sake. They fail to align their and their team's goals with the
larger business goals because they're playing for the name on the back
of the jersey.
4. Managers holding status are rarely accessible.
Good leaders, particularly during hard times, are out in front of the
organization openly sharing plans and change for the future. They don't
hide behind closed doors or conveniently delegate important
communication needs to others, as do managers holding status and
positional authority. When employees look to their leaders for
information and clear expectations when the chips are down, unlike those
who manage by status, good leaders are visible, present, and especially
adept at "walking their four corners."
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