Management Articles


M & M Managers Stifle Risk -- Taking ... Trust ... Respect ... Success

By: G.A. (Andy) Marken

In his nearly 25 years in the advertising/public relations field, Andy has been involved with a broad range of corporate and marketing activities. Prior to forming Marken Communications in mid-1977, Andy was vice president of Bozell & Jacobs and its predecessor agencies. During his 12 years with these agencies, he developed and coordinated a wide variety of highly visible and successful promotional campaigns and activities for clients. A graduate of Iowa State University, Andy received his Bachelor's Degree with majors in Radio & Television and Journalism. Widely published in the industry and trade press, he is an accredited member of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA).


They're the one dynamic variable in the success or failure of an organization. They're the glue that educators, academic theoreticians and financial folks have been unable to quantify.

In the final analysis, people will make or break an organization. This is especially true in an entrepreneurial or start-up firm that is finding its niche and growing.

The uncertain climate of start-ups call for more than a manager, what they really need is a leader, an individual who can shape and mold the organization through group cooperation. In almost any company, especially during its formative stages, the managers must have the ability to develop solid relationships among people.

Finding a manager that can focus the energies of the final dynamic factor -- people -- toward the same goal is often the key to the success of a start-up organization.

M&M Manager

What such situations don't need is an M&M manager. An M&M manager is not a specialist in focusing people. He or she is a specialist in meetings & memos. Even if the company has less than 25 employees, this executive dictates reams of memos and schedules meeting after meeting.

The M&M manager would rather dictate a memo to a department manager than call to discuss a situation or resolve a problem. This action occupies the precious time of a number of people (the manager, his assistant, a delivery person and the recipient). Rather than getting an immediate solution, at least four people have to research the question, dictate the solution, prepare the response memo, deliver the response, read it and file the response.

In other words, M&M management is a gross waste of time, money and effort.

When the M&M manager is forced to emerge from the office, it is generally to attend a meeting. Again the new manager insulates him or herself from the organization with red tape.

This manager has forgotten (or never learned) the basic rule that you don't call a meeting if you can solve the problem in any other way. If the meeting is necessary, the manager should be the negotiator, arbitrator and stimulator by using skills in delegating, motivating and coaching ... not scolding, berating or attacking.

Multiple Waste

The question/response situation is more than enough of a waste for an organization that isn't flush with people. But a M&M manager can and often does compound this waste by calling a meeting simply to discuss an idea or situation.

When the meeting is called, it is generally done in memo form with copies for all concerned.

Next our M&M manager shows his or her management proficiency by preparing overhead foils so they can be certain the meeting won't stray (and to prove he or she has given the subject some thought). Even if the meeting has only five people present, the M&M manager prepares a full-scale foil presentation for the event.

Once the meeting is adjourned, everyone who attended will also receive a copy of the meeting proceedings so he or she can take the necessary and agreed upon actions.

Our M&M manager suffers from a common affliction that cripples and sometimes kills progress, success and entire companies -- lack of communications skills. The M&M manager is too busy presiding over the business to focus his or her attention and energy on guiding and leading the organization.

This management style is especially stifling in a start-up or even seasoned organization where the heart of the organization's success depends on the creativity and mutual cooperation of the employees.

Forget Business School Training

The successful manager is an expert at getting things done by managing change. He or she avoids unproductive tasks, and delegates well. These mangers know how to use listening, speaking and writing skills to promote effective exchange of information.

While the manager has risen to the top by being excellent in one of a number areas such as engineering or finance, they are generally very big on people skills as well. They are able to motivate, encourage, hand out praise and criticism as well as resolve conflict and promote teamwork.

A number of years ago a popular book, The Peter Principle, said people would rise to their level of incompetence. But as we've all seen, incompetent people sometimes to rise higher than the best. The fine art of M&M management can go a long way in covering up an individual's lack of communications skills.

However, for the company, the key to success is having a manager who can create the right climate by sharing objectives, values, attitudes and interests. The unsure M&M manager feels such a climate leaves them vulnerable to attack, while the confident manager understands that you have to persuade and motivate others to share objectives, values, attitudes and interests.

In the meeting situation, an M&M manager often fails by presenting multiple ideas in very uninteresting terms. They seldom use word pictures or personalize their presentations and it is a one-way conversation with little participation or consensus.

Few M&M managers have studied body language, so their words are blanked by the unconscious body signals they send out. People can communicate with body language using gestures, eye motions, touch and space. Good managers know how to use arm and leg crossing gestures, staying stationary, leaning forward or tilting back, cocking the head, pointing a finger, eye contact and other body language gestures.

Motivate -- Don't Dictate

M&M managers are hiding behind their memos and foil presentations. They're hiding from communication. The M&M manager will dictate that everyone in the organization be motivated to get the product out on time, to achieve higher sales or to work more closely together. Such dictations fall on deaf ears.

Effective listening is the hardest communication skill to learn. People are motivated because management understands their individual uniqueness and personal needs. Managers that listen can quickly isolate those needs and turn them to benefits. Once needs are turned to benefits people are motivated.

To overcome motivational obstacles, in any size organization, a M&M manager has to first overcome his or her reluctance toward two-way communication.

Managers think in terms of planning, organizing, integrating, managing, interpreting and measuring. Motivators think in the same terms, but wrap their thoughts and ideas in such concepts as participation, opportunity, benefits, involvement and meaningful contributions. All organizations want and need motivators, but small start-ups and even large organizations cannot survive without them.

Quality Leadership

What M&M managers fail to realize is that the only way they can successfully lead is to gain the cooperation and support of everyone in the firm. No one man or woman has ever turned a struggling company around or made a firm successful by him or herself.

The successful leader makes certain he or she satisfies the tangible and intangible needs of most ,if not all, of the people in the organization. They also encourage everyone in their organization to set his or her own personal goals without fear of retribution if they happen to fail at meeting those goals.

Whether it's a start-up situation or a strong, ongoing concern, the successful manager is a successful communicator first. That won't happen until management listens, trusts and respects the ability, experience and creative resourcefulness of everyone in the company rather than calls a meeting to discuss it.

© Copyright 2000, G.A.Marken, Marken Communications

Other Articles by G.A. (Andy) Marken

The author assumes full responsibility for the contents of this article and retains all of its property rights. ManagerWise publishes it here with the permission of the author. ManagerWise assumes no responsibility for the article's contents.


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