Management, dark art, and disguises

Dark Art

Management is a tough job, done well.

There is an enormous difference between an employee and a manager, besides the obvious difference in pay grade and power. An employee is someone who works to provide value to the company and has the company’s interest in mind, first and foremost. A manager has to innovate and protect the company, as well as work to protect and advance their employee subordinates.

That may seem simple enough, but there’s a wrinkle that makes it tougher. Generally, when we think about the people working at any given company, there are two different personalities: the ‘promotion-ally‘ motivated and the professionally motivated. This fact alone creates a great deal of tension in every work environment and also separates the good from the great.

What’s your motivation?

The promotion-ally motivated will do all that is necessary to get a promotion, serving primarily their own interests. The professionally motivated want to make a difference and actually provide something to a company for the company’s sake. They know that what is best for the company is best for them and that the cart can’t come before the horse. It should be pretty clear which side of the spectrum you want to fall on, but in case it’s not, then let’s make it clearer. You might think you are a pawn on the board of others strategically trying to knock you off, but it isn’t really about that. You have to frame yourself as a vital asset to the company’s growth.

The winning side will always be the side of the company, so it is mostly fruitless (in the long run) to be a one person army fighting for your own cause.

Dark art and disguise

People usually think of the pawns as the most disposable pieces, but great managers don’t use them as strategic sacrificial lambs for their own gain. Trying to keep all the pieces on the board becomes an unacknowledged and thankless part of the manager’s job, but a sign of great leadership. Great managers are much more than employees. They execute the dual roles of company advocates as well as advocates for everyone around them.

This doesn’t happen simply as a process…there’s lots of ‘dark art’. Great managers can intuitively understand what employees need to become great employees. They foster creativity, leverage skill sets and trust the right people to move forward. Just like employees, a promotion-ally motivated manager is nothing but an employee looking for a raise in disguise.

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Categories: Leadership

Author:Kevin Jordan

Kevin graduated from Stanford in three years and is a contributing writer for The TIBCO Blog. Graduating from a engineering-focused university, Kevin quickly developed a passion for technology and its role in business. Still continuing some of his other creative ventures as well, he enjoys doing stand-up comedy and professional acting. Appearing on the Disney Channel and performing on stages from Las Vegas to the Bahamas inspires him to continue entertaining through written word, on comedy club stages, and on television screens. Bridging his creative ambitions and technical curiosity creates the balance he strives for.

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4 Comments on “Management, dark art, and disguises”

  1. April 26, 2013 at 8:58 am #

    Great piece, Kevin. There is certainly a dark art to management that involves having the knowledge of your people that allows you to steer each the right way. There’s no one-size-fits-all and any manager looking for promotion rather than the right things won’t achieve that goal.

    • April 26, 2013 at 10:25 am #

      Thank you very much! Juggling everything must be a difficult task, but in a way, very rewarding.

  2. April 26, 2013 at 1:23 pm #

    Kevin, great post and while I agree with the basic premise that management is hard and you have to understand your staff really well to maximize their value to the organization and ultimately the customer, I think there are two things I’d disagree with.

    1. There are way more than two types of motivation. There are those that are motivated by title or position and always striving for that. I describe these as the staff whose confidence far outpaces their capability. There are those that work just for the money and see their value and worth measured by the size of their paycheck. I don’t see that a whole lot where I work since we are a non-profit. We all know we could probably make a lot more money somewhere else. Here are some of the other motivation categories I’ve experienced. There are several nuances of each type, but I think these hit the high points.

    * The rock star – This is the person that is motivated by reputation. They just want people to say “that guy/gal is a bad ass”. They see worth in how many people recognize their accomplishments and how many want to work with them.

    * The soldier – They see worth in keeping their head down and churning out work. They don’t need pay, recognition, or title. They show up and just knock out all the sexy, unsexy, or whatever work is to be done.

    * The Mission – They are here because they believe in the purpose and Mission of the organization. We have a lot of these where I work. They want to make the world a better place.

    * The Work/Lifer – They want to be at a place that will allow them to show up at 8, take an hour for lunch, and leave at 5. They have commitments outside of work that are as important to them as a paycheck or a title and they want to focus on those, too.

    2. The purpose of the manager is to protect and advance their subordinates. I’ve found that the good managers are those that understand the team they have and work to get their staff performing in an appropriate way. The rock stars are going to want to advance. The soldiers and work/lifers are going to do great work for you, but they aren’t going to need a lot of protection or advancement. And the thing is, the organization needs all these types. Not everyone can be a rock star, and if you expect everyone to follow an advancement path, you are going to lose some great staff members that do a lot of the work in the organization.

    That’s my take at least. I’d love to hear your comments.

    • April 26, 2013 at 1:48 pm #

      I think your explanation is very cool and as someone who hates false dichotomies myself, I think your take on it is a very nuanced explanation of a workplace. In defense of the original argument though, I would say that in first writing this post, I was looking for a high level way to differentiate between motivations. So I can almost see the types you have described falling under one of the two categories.

      – The rock star (great title by the way) could very easily fall under the Promotion-ally motivated. In this case, the person wants to be elevated over others (not by pay necessarily) but “promoted” reputation-ally in ways people think about him/her.
      – The soldier is a professional knowing that the work s/he needs to get done is something the company wants or needs, so therefore s/he wants to provide it. They may not question what’s given, but they do everything with full force regardless of wanting promotion up the ranks.
      – The Mission is definitely someone who puts the company/organization above themselves and their own interests.
      – In today’s competitive environment, the lifer is eventually going to be asked to become something more. For the most part, they can remain buoyant, but there will be a day when they are required to do a little more than usual.

      I would say that no matter the company/organization or the “type” of worker you are, you are going to want some form of protection to feel like you have security in your job. Work often times speaks for itself and that becomes all the protection someone needs, but that is up to the manager to provide that to someone. Doing more work that is unprompted makes you more than just a lifer or soldier I think. And you are right – all of these are necessary for balance.

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