IT WAS GOOD ENOUGH FOR ME
August 16, 2010 4 Comments
When I took over the role of CEO Europe Middle East Africa in 2001, my secretary who was new to SAP, asked me what I wanted on my business cards. I handed her a copy of my Asia Pacific business card and told her to just change Asia Pacific to EMEA and so on … seemed like a simple solution.
That is until she went for printing advice to the PA of my predecessor, who immediately rushed to her boss to have this stopped. It appeared that in the previous 2 years (he and I had been appointed to the Extended Board at the same time), he had had “Member of the Extended Board” on his business cards as compared to “Member of the Board” which is what I had on mine. He seemed to be bothered that somehow my title seemed more senior than the one that he had used.
I pointed out that my business cards had been approved by both the Board Chairman and the CEO of SAP, but this was not acceptable to him, and he kept coming up with numerous reasons why I couldn’t have the cards the way that I had stipulated.
I kept pressing him for the real reason that he opposed it, and under my persistence eventually blurted out “Member of the Extended Board was good enough for me, so it should be good enough for you”.
An interesting thought.
I have come to believe that just as parents needs to believe that one of their responsibilities is to make things easier for their children, so managers need to believe that one of their responsibilities is to make things easier for their successors. It is totally wrong to believe that “What was good enough for me is good enough for who follows me”. It is actually critical for the growth and success of any organisation that everyone in a people responsible position has a strong belief that “What was good enough for me is definitely not good enough for my successors”.
For example I believe that a critical role for every manager is to build and grow the interdependencies across departments and geographies to ensure strong linkages for their team, and thus making the goals of their own team easier to achieve in the future. Another critical role is to grow the skills, knowledge and experiences of their managers and individual contributors so that their ability to perform gets easier every year. In other words, to keep growing their net worth.
I see that being given management responsibility for a team of people is akin to being given a garden to look after that you will ultimately have to pass on to someone else to care for.
You have choices to make.
You can just leave the “garden” alone and hope that nature takes its course, that rain and sunshine comes in the right quantities and at the right time, and that the weeds don’t strangle the flowers.
You could also choose to just do a little bit every once in a while, throw around a bit of manure, mow the grass when it gets really high and pull out the occasional and most obvious of weeds.
Or you could choose to really help to make this garden grow and flourish. You can encourage the best of the growth, add water and fertiliser as needed, weed out the parts that could strangle the good growth and add to the wealth of what exists.
Just believing that what is good enough now is what will be good enough in the future is unacceptable for a professional manager. Managers should be measured on whether they are net creators of talent for the organisation, whether their area of responsibility grows and develops in line with the changing needs of the organisation, and whether their team becomes more effective in meeting their goals year on year. In other words how well can a manager grow, develop and improve his “garden”, rather than believing that his role is to just keep it alive.
To stay with the gardening theme, I have come across too many managers who use the “mushroom approach” to people management. They keep their people in the dark and occasionally pour a bucket of manure over them.