Management Lessons for a Lifetime

A few years ago I read Clayton Christensen’s book How Will You Measure Your Life? The book is a phenomenal read, and I took away a handful of lessons that have contributed to my thinking around career development and life. One insight that really hit me was his idea that being a manager was a noble profession. He said,

“Management is the most noble of professions if it’s practiced well. No other occupation offers as many ways to help others learn and grow, take responsibility and be recognized for achievement, and contribute to the success of a team.”

andy

Christensen put words to the feelings I had about the previous management experiences I had in my life. It also motivated me to continue to seek opportunities to be a manager because I loved the idea of being able to help others develop and grow. Since then, I’ve been fortunate to reap the rewards of being able to build and impact people in a positive manner.

To me, management is like public speaking — you need to get to a point where you are proficient in it to do your job well, but past that you can (and in my opinion, should) always improve your craft. As such, I try to learn and improve my management style by studying the topic and observing others, which leads me to my next great book — High Output Management, written by Andy Grove.

While I am too young to fully understand and grasp what he did for the technology industry, I’m mature enough to know that without him the industry would not be where it is today. While I don’t have an amazing personal tribute (you can read them though, here, here, and here) one of my favorite Chapters from High Output Management is Chapter 16 titled “Why Training is the Boss’s Job,” where Grove talks in detail about how a managers output is the output of an organization, and his or her role is to train their people as best they can in order to produce the highest possible output. Grove writes,

“A manager generally has two ways to raise the level of individual performance of his subordinates; by increasing motivation, the desire of each person to do his job well, and by increasing individual capability, which is where training comes in.”

Stated another way, employees either can’t do something (train them) or won’t do something (motivate them) and the role of the manager is to figure out how to use both in order to achieve maximum output. Ben Horowitz summarized it best:

“There are only two ways in which a manager can impact an employee’s output: motivation and training. If you are not training, then you are basically neglecting half the job.”

After reading more about Grove it makes sense as to why he believed so strongly in this concept. He was a teacher at heart, and from all accounts taught and trained many. His dedication to teaching, and the reason why management can be so rewarding can be summed up at the end of the chapter:

“You will find when the training process goes well, it is nothing short of exhilarating. And even this exhilarating is dwarfed by the warm feeling you’ll get when you see a subordinate practice something you have taught him.”

If that statement is true (I am sure that it is) Andy must have had a lifetime of warm feelings. Thanks Andy. Rest in Peace.

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