Hubrisitation on your moribundity…

Hubrisitation on your moribundity

or…

R-E-S-P-E-C-T, I'm the CEO of an SME

You open the door and step through the window of reality into a land where the trees grow down and the sun sets like a jelly in a fridge. At last you see the value in forms and regulations, of the minutiae of governmental organisations and their repetitive acquisition of information. You clap at the endless stream of brown envelopes with franked stamps and paper clips. No, you're not on drugs nor have you sustained a bump to the head you have in fact entered…"The Managerial Zone".


do.do.doo..do….do.do.doo..do

Internet startups, software consultancies, software houses, yada…yada… all usually contain the same set of internal dynamics. A small group of people who decide (foolishly, those poor deluded children) that they can make a 'go of things' outside of the constraints of larger organisations or corporate strictures. Often they are almost entirely a technical team, there will be the, occasionally confusing, mix of talents and abilities and one of them will be given the role of manager. Like me, that's you.

So what is the principal problem that you'll face?

Is it…getting people to obey your instructions…

No. they will either do it or not do it dependent on circumstance and nature of the person asked, so don't fight battles for your right to rule.

Or…making the workers part of a team…

If you have to 'make' someone part of a team then there is a fundamental problem. Teams, relationships and groups form by themselves in human interaction* so you cannot force someone to be part of one, or force others in an existing team or group to accept them (*A cheap term and I know there is a lot of learned manner and distinct forces for relationships in this, but this is not going to turn into a discussion on the nature/nurture aspects of social and cultural experiences or on human need for extended family/familial interaction).

You can encourage people to work together, and you can try to make it a level playing field with methods for discussion of team focus, a neutrality of position when it comes to complaints and compliments and etc. (to be discussed later perhaps). You can appoint a team leader, or group co-coordinator or any other titled position to provide a core direction. But, you cannot force people to like it, or to participate freely unless you allow them a little more freedom. So in real terms you don't really make teams, you put people together and add some salt, place them in a hot pan of sizzling butter and simmer until they burn. Though occasionally they caramelize and you have a great tasting dish.

Perhaps…achieving the company goals….

ROFLMAO…Seriously, I will cover this elsewhere. Not only is it a different discussion, but it is a pointless one as no-one truly has the answer to it. Those that do are selling you something :P

Okay before I take too long I will tell you. it is getting someone's respect. As it says in the alternative title. So how do you do that?

Simple. You don't. They give you their respect. You earn it by being good at what a manager really does.

A lot of people see their manager as the pointless b*stard in the suit, who turns up when he feels like it and sends irritating messages about tardiness and focus. A person who decides to have group forming and team-building days doing something he would like to do without asking his staff. They often discuss people freely, yet prohibit that type of communication unless they started it. they are in fact SFFA.

Small businesses are different to this as there is often a lot of work for a manager as well. The person appointed as manager will often be expected to be part of the work teams and to answer all the irritating paperwork and do the unimportant stuff like banking, accountancy, payroll, the mediocre stuff that stops you getting sued, imprisoned or going bankrupt. They also have to interact with the clients. It is a job with 24/7 stress and little fiscal reward in the first few years. It is a huge challenge and many people think this gains them respect when they do this, and they do it on time and without 'too much' complaint.

Well, that does gain you some respect, but it isn't what a manager (or mangler as a child recently called me) really does to gain true respect.

So what does?

The answer is easy… a manager supports his staff.

He doesn't just support them by listening to their complaints, helping them if they have problems, defending their work or their rights, and a host of other obvious examples that are the core of being a manager. He also supports them in small ways.

Recently we moved office. Since we are a small company that involved me doing the majority of the moving of the office. I could have ordered the rest of the staff to help and they may have grudgingly come, or they may have been willing, or they might have told me to stick my head in a bucket of badger's sick, we're an easy going gaggle of gits, that can happen. As it was, they were busy, so I (with the help of part-time staff and friends) moved the office and did the round of paperwork and other minutiae (and there is a lot of it) involved in doing this.

During the move I bought a new kettle/fridge/toaster/coffee machine for the office (as requested when we discussed what we needed collectively). but, I also bought something else, a small thing really. I put a new coffee mug on each person's desk, that I chose to fit the staff member. A nothing thing really, I was in a shop that sold kitchen things getting the paraphernalia that accompanies said electrical items, and I thought it would be a nice gift for the new office.

This earned me kudos. In fact it probably bounced up my karma with my staff more than paying them on time does.

Why?

Simple really. it wasn't needed, it wasn't asked for, and it wasn't expected. But it shows that I think about my staff as people not as part of a company, or a team, or a project, or a goal. But as living and breathing individuals that I should invest in as much as I do a new computer or a profitable client.

I also tend to be in the office more than the other staff. Being a company where the only equipment you truly need is a computer and a net connection, my staff have the freedom to work from wherever they wish. Also we have a number of clients in different time zones so we work odd hours sometimes. This isn't a problem but it means that the office can be empty for a few days and then full. I always make sure to buy coffee, biscuits, tea, and to empty the bins so that they can come into the office at any time of the day or night and work without needing to face those minor problems. Trust me on this, you will earn more love from a staff member who needs to snack at 4 a.m. in the morning with no nearby convenience stores if you leave biscuits in the office than if you take them paintballing on a team-building exercise.

Not that you shouldn't also do the team-building 'thang' as that sounds fun as well. But it is the constant little things you do that mean more to your staff, and it is when they miss you when you're not there and support you without question in return, that says how much you are needed and respected.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T, know you know what it means to me…

A little background history for shits and giggles…

I am a literature graduate who also studied education and linguistics as part of my joint honours, I worked as a typesetter (editorial staff) and designer in a publishing house for many years before learning flash, html and css to do the SB website (and to experience the pain of coding for different browsers). My technical knowledge then extends to a good background in science fiction and the adherence to standards in mark-up languages, with a fine grounding in stylesheets. Not a heavyweight I'll grant you, but I have learned a great deal about the way languages and frameworks join together, templates and user interfaces so I am not entirely unnecessary in the technical work as I do a lot of work on the client-side of the frameworks.

My business partner and I decided to take the plunge and form a company in 2005 when we realised we worked well together and that he could handle the technical direction we wanted to follow and I was capable of the business side (my half has yet to be proved ;P ).

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