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Annie Ward


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Trainer’s Diary: Control


Byron Kalies
What’s the worse job in the world? No, it’s not a bookmaker on the Enterprise (“Captain it’s a million to one chance but it just may work.”). It’s being a manager and a leader.

How does this work? I’ve had a number of jobs and this surely is the worse. I remember when I was a young, (fairly) enthusiastic programmer and I was in control. I would stay and finish a programme if I really wanted. I felt, however, that my boss had all the power and less stress. I thought that until I got promoted.

In my current life as a trainer I have a lot of control. I get to do what I want, when I want (within reason) so having a spell as managing a bunch of trainers should be better shouldn’t it?

It took me right back to my days of managing programmers. What I’d forgotten is that when you’re in charge you’ve got to rely on others and you just don’t know what the response will be. It may be that you’ll get a better result. You just don’t know. You have no control over it. How did that happen in the workplace? Surely as you gain more experience and skill you get better and have more control, not less? Unfortunately not.

The bottom line is that it’s a different job. As a leader you have to get people to do the work for you. It’s different.

There’s one sensible rule though. People like to be trusted. This works for trainers as well. It’s not just a soft, fuzzy option. People work better and produce more if they’re trusted. It’s not easy of course as you’ve so far led by example. However, you really haven’t much choice. There aren’t enough hours in the day for you to do everything, or check everything so take a deep breath and let it go.

This doesn’t mean anarchy. This means a sensible discussion about limits and outputs. You agree the outputs, time frames, the parameters and from then on it’s a matter of staying away and trusting. The biggest challenge will come with the first mistake they make and you know they will make a first mistake. If you’ve talked about this you would have said all the right things about “a learning process”, “come and talk to me and we’ll discuss it” etc. However that first mistake will be a big one, at the wrong time and they won’t come to you until the last possible minute. Now everyone will be looking at how you deal with this.

Take another deep breath and do the right things. One false move here and the next mistake (and there will be a next mistake) will be hidden for longer, more damaging, etc. In some respects this is the difference between being a manager and a leader. As Bill O’Brien (ex CEO) said “The problem with managers is that they’re always pulling up the radishes to see how they’re growing.”

One Response

  1. Managers Can Be Leaders Too
    I guess that this is a contentious issue.

    I think that there is potential for sharp-end managers to take leadership roles in their management position.

    This enhances their own feelings of control and also generates a new commitment to their people.

    The old dogma of leaders and managers being completely different is dated. Genuine, capable and focused managers see that whilst they have a series of deliverables to make, they can use a leadership style in which to do it.

    Within organisations, corporate demands make sure that a manager cannot completely escape being what he or she is after all, an employee. If they then have the vision and courage to look for the big-picture view of their role frees them up to deliver through and with their people.

    Freeing up their people – giving them permission – as the ‘Trainer’s Diary’ reminds us, to take responsibility for what they are stretch capable of is a win-win-win.

    Win for the manager who evolves his or her leadership capacity and ‘does’ less; win for the employees who are fulfilled through achieving challenges, perhaps beyond their own expectations and, of course, bottom line a win for the organisation who benefit from this unleasehd capability.

    Sad thing is, that senior management rely way too much on hanging onto their own control and letting go.

    There are way, way worse jobs in the world 🙂

    Martin Haworth

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Annie Ward

Editor, HR Zone

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