Management Articles


Some Privileges Disappear When You're at the Top

By: Robert H. Kent, Ph.D., CMC

President of The Mansis Development Corporation, Dr. Kent is a specialist in the structure and management of small and medium-sized organizations, and frequently serves as a personal coach and management consultant to executives for solving their management and employee performance problems. Before founding his consulting company, Bob held senior management and executive positions in federal and provincial government and private corporations. He has been a director of several health care and service organizations and a consulting member of private and government task forces in the areas of government finance, organization structure, personnel management and executive development. Since 1972 he has lectured in management at several Canadian and American universities in the faculties of Management, Administrative Studies, Medicine and Continuing Education where he has been an award winner for excellence in teaching and professional expertise; and he has published over 125 books and articles on management.

During the 1980's recession I had a young executive assistant working for me who was wise beyond his years. He gave me some of that precious unfiltered feedback we always want from our employees but so rarely get. It was sage advice, just as pertinent today, and it has haunted my conscience and influenced my consulting practice ever since.

One morning during that cash flow collapse, I slinked into work, grumbling about our financial woes, and generally acting defeated, demoralized and dejected. "Hey staff, give me sympathy!"

My assistant took me aside, I presumed either to commiserate with me or to pick up my spirits. Instead, what he said to me still rings in my ears today. "Hey Boss, " he protested, "You can't act that way. You can't be down in the mouth, acting depressed and hopeless. Sorry. You lost that privilege when you took over the company. We take our lead from you and when you're low, how can you expect us to be otherwise."

"I lost the privilege" of letting my feelings show, especially feeling down. And of course he was absolutely right. Whether I liked it or not, my staff looked to me as their role model and the embodiment of the business' spirit.

"Letting it all hang out" and putting one's emotional cards on the table are indeed privileges that must be left behind when assuming leadership. The behavior of any business' management is immensely critical. The spirit and resulting productivity of a business can be quickly influenced (perhaps infected is a better word) by the actions, mood and demeanor of the top person. Off the cuff words, failure to actively follow policies, insensitive rebuffs of staff and any form of negativism can start to cut the heart out of an organization.

I've never forgotten that young man's wise advice. I never imagined that knowing which privileges you have to lose when becoming a manager, especially an owner/operator, can be more important than knowing which ones you expect to get.

© Copyright 2001 The Mansis Development Corporation

Other Articles by Robert H. Kent, Ph.D., CMC

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