By Brian Lucas
This one is for JPD!
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou
Those of us in business for over a decade, I am sure have all experienced a variety of management types. Everything ranging from strong to weak, caring to downright sociopathic and gurus to imbeciles make up the pandemonium of business management. I would like to focus here on three types of managers that are thought to be highly productive. The only ones that have strategic value to the enterprise are highly adaptive. They always provide good memories for executives and the workforce alike over the long term.
First let’s talk about the mean, hard driving manager. I like the term, “Darth Vaders”, for these managers. The kind of person who wants to pay a dime and get a dollar’s worth of work. The kind of person who always thinks everything can be done in an hour or less. The kind of person who reminds you that the economy is lousy, the job market is awful, and if you do not work extra hard your job is in jeopardy. Oh well you get the picture. Historically, we have seen this type of tyrant become more excessive when tough economic times and high unemployment enable their despotic behavior. At least one survey revealed that more than one-third of American workers feel they have to keep working for a bad boss because of a poor economy. These are managers that I qualify as toxic. They can never keep highly qualified and capable employees for any strategic length of time. Amazingly they are often excellent at self-protection and can survive an entire career at a single corporation.
The second type I like to call the “Over-Reactors”. Over-reactors live in the moment. They feel what concerns them should be the most vital aspect of everyone’s job. These can actually be a more dangerous manager than the Darth Vaders. Since they are not necessarily universally hated, there can be at times little resistance from those around them that they influence. This can lead to a serious absence of thinking on the part of those under this influence as they simply move their efforts from one crisis to the next. It is even worse when over-reactors are in actual positions of high level authority. They can thoroughly derail the agile track of an enterprise by endangering committed resources and destroying the continuity of teamwork.
The third type is the only one of the three that provides a strategic value. I call them “Agile Managers”. The other evening I was having dinner at The Leaf, one of my favorite restaurants with a friend. We were having an stimulating conversation about the state of business. Jim reads my blog and is someone I regularly talk to about the state of business. He has an incredibly impressive resume as a CEO and CFO for a number of top companies. He is also a rarely successful family man, something that I admire immensely. He has adapted to some seriously challenging circumstances and garnered a history of success without sacrificing his morals or affability.
We were discussing a point on which we disagreed. While Jim was professing his belief that I landed a left jab and a right cross on him during a recent email exchange, I stopped to think about how I felt in Jim’s company. I realized I felt good. It did not matter even if we were having an extremely serious discussion and disagreed. I knew Jim was adapting his thinking to new knowledge and constantly challenging himself to expand his horizon of understanding. Jim challenged me to be a better thinker, but never in a threatening way. That led me to a new revelation about agile managers; they challenge us to constantly improve by tapping into our desire to be better. They do not drive us with a whip and chair.
Because truly agile managers never get into a rut with their thinking or actions, they do not allow us to become stagnant. While everyone makes mistakes, agile managers seldom repeat theirs. Furthermore, they make fewer and smaller mistakes because they are always open to new ways to be better. They tend to think out loud and ask questions. This simple act keeps your actions cognitive and often leads to discoveries. They consciously or otherwise guide us along a path where good gradually becomes better and better becomes best. In other words, rather than leading us, they are enabling us by promoting our best thinking and work. There is so much postulation about leadership, some helpful, some hurtful and much of it unrealistic. This concept is at odds with the traditional lead from the front mentality. In reality, the concept of employee enablement is central to agile as seen in scrum where a scrum master’s main role is to be a facilitator.
We are left with an interesting conclusion. Agile managers even though they are often accused of only being tactical thinkers are the most strategic positive management factor in the enterprise. They make enterprise agility possible. They encourage employees to become their best and promote retention of topflight professionals. They keep your products and services relevant by constantly interrogating both the providers and the consumer. Without agile managers, you cannot honestly consider yourself to be an agile enterprise. They also have a fabulous bonus, they not only enable us to be good at what we do, they make us feel good. Remember till next time, keep agile!
 See 2008 Lake Research Survey.
 The Leaf is a wondrously high end cigar friendly restaurant in the Lehigh Valley. Jeff Brown is the savvy COO who makes the magic happen with a flair for the exquisite. If you’re up for a fine cigar stop in and see Chad my favorite tobacconist in the attached cigar retail lounge. It’s quite an experience. It is located at 90 Mort Drive, Easton, PA 18040. Check out their website at http://www.leafcigarbar.com/. Also join their Leaf Loyalty program and enjoy some great promotions.
 Jim has a phenomenal reputation and is well liked by all of his former executive colleagues and rank and file employees. He is marvelously unflappable in even very difficult situations.
 Both Jim and I were boxers. I admit that he was probably far more proficient and elegant than I was. I was rather more of the Raging Bull category.