Management Myths




Angie D’Sa 00:06

Welcome to The Clarifier. This week’s episode is the management episode. It’s not for those of you who love management; it’s for those of you who dread it. If you are finding that more and more of your job is about getting the best out of others, instead of just doing the work yourself, and you’re finding that challenging, I invite you to listen to this episode. In it, we hear from Talentism’s founder Jeff Hunter, who, despite having coached hundreds of leaders on managing their companies to achieve scale, himself admits that he doesn’t particularly enjoy management. We learn from him that mastering management is not actually about building skills, but understanding yourself better. Okay, Jeff, today, we are talking about so many people’s favorite topic, management.

Jeff Hunter 01:01

Dun, dun, dun.

Angie D’Sa 01:05

Just the word can create apprehension and fear. I joke, but the reality is, you and I, and so many of our coaches at Talentism, work with founders and CEOs who started companies because they loved the reality they could create in the world, the idea behind what they were building, the product that they were tinkering with, not because they really wanted to spend their time managing other people. And yet, they discover somewhere along the journey that, in order to make their idea a reality, in order to bring their product to the masses, in order to achieve any kind of scale, management of others is required. And so what we want to talk about today are some core insights related to becoming a manager and becoming a better manager. The interesting place we get to start is talking about your own management journey. The irony that I discovered here, while talking to you about this earlier, is that even though you have coached literally hundreds of founders on becoming better managers or figuring out how to get management to happen in their organizations if it wasn’t going to happen through them, it turns out you don’t like managing. In fact, you use the word “hate.” So tell us about that. Tell us about how you feel about managing, where that started, and how that’s turned out for you.

Jeff Hunter 02:41

I’m super excited about this. It’s a topic I love because it’s a subject I hate, and I’m really excited to talk about it. But I just have to share with the audience. This is the first podcast we’re recording where Angie has got her new rig on. She’s got her super microphones, just got her super headphones. I gotta say you got a real sort of Terry Gross vibe going, it’s nice.

Angie D’Sa 03:05

I don’t know who that is!

Jeff Hunter 03:07

Gosh, I feel so old right now. There’s some SNL you can look up. That’s pretty cool, I can tell ya. Alright, so let’s talk about this. Yeah, I absolutely hate management, and I hate being managed. So that’s why I hate management. One of the things that I try, I aspire to as a value is, I don’t want to be a hypocrite. If I hate being managed, I definitely don’t want to manage. So, like, you know, we’ve talked a lot about constructing these systems that then run us. And I’ve constructed this very interesting system because I have this passion, this purpose of systematically unleashing human potential, and I want to do that at scale. And that means I have to build a company. That’s, I mean, that’s the limits of my understanding of how to do that. And so I’m building a company. And if you build a company, you really do have to manage. And yet what you do is you understand as you’re doing that, like both. The reason I hate being managed is that I don’t want to be told what to do. I want to have autonomy; I want to create my own sense of purpose in my work. I don’t want my manager telling me what my purpose is; I want my own sense of mastery and how to build that mastery. And a lot of times, managers are worse than their employees at a particular skill or a particular discipline. And so for all these reasons, and many more, I mean, management has been equated over time with control and with patriarchy, all kinds of stuff. And so, I truly do hate management because I hate being managed. And yet it’s absolutely critical, I think, to building a great company. 

And so when you find yourself in a place where you have to do something you hate, I think there are three logical paths you could take. The first is to get the hell out, don’t do that thing, figure out how not to do that thing. The second is to just exist within the pain that it creates, or the third is to try to change the system. And so it’s been a lifelong pursuit of mine to change the concept and framework and implementation of management. Because I wanted to figure out whether there was a way to achieve goals through the work of others, which is how we define management, but do it in a way that wasn’t about control. It wasn’t about defining for other people their reality, and what they do and all those things. And as I explored alternative systems like holacracy and everything, they really didn’t make sense to me. Even though I think it’s super cool that people experiment a lot in the field of management, I think it’s awesome. But they didn’t make a lot of sense to me because they weren’t grounded in the science of what human beings are like. And that’s really where Talentism is. I think we have a richer, evolving understanding of what humans are like as a curious primate. And I think whatever you think of management has got to deal effectively with what science tells us about what we’re like.

Angie D’Sa 06:15

So okay, so one of the things I like to do when we talk, Jeff, is I like to try and make sure I’m understanding the building blocks of wherever we’re going because there’s so much richness in what you share. So the first thing I heard is your personal experience of management, being managed by others, was one of control. And you chafed against that because you are the type of person who values your autonomy and the ability to define your own purpose and work. And so the idea that management was about control was the first thing that irked you and didn’t work for you when you thought about how you were going to manage. The second thing that I’m hearing is that what you understand about what humans are like, that comes from a deep study of a lot of different disciplines, from primatology to neuroscience, to psychology, to macroeconomics. You are saying that actually, we need to acknowledge for people to succeed in a system of management, we have to really look at what they’re like, and most systems of management that exist, they make assumptions about humans and what they’re like that are wrong.

Jeff Hunter 07:28

Yes. Yeah, very much of that last point, you know, people have listened before, I have this theory about the evolution of management that starts with industrialization, you know, in the 1860s, and then moving populations, both civil war into big cities. And then in the early 1900s, you start to get these management theorists like Frederick Winslow Taylor, and he’s saying, human beings are really cogs in a machine. By the way, that wasn’t what he was really saying, but that’s how it was largely interpreted. And so we have this mass production theory of human beings as interchangeable cogs in the assembly line. And in that, human beings as sort of raw, having rich emotional lives and purpose, and lots of talents and an opportunity to affect their system in the world, that was all thrown out the window. It was like, you sit on this line, and you do this thing.

Angie D’Sa 10:21

Yeah, we’re getting that. So I think I’m hearing you say that whether you’re a humanist or whether you’re an investor, the idea of management as a system of control is a bad idea. It’s short-sighted. It’s a bad trade-off on human potential. And it’s also a bad trade-off on productivity, especially in high growth and complex environments. So, talk to us about the alternative. What is the Talentism insight about what people are like? And the thing I want to just highlight for folks who are listening, as I can imagine listening to Jeff and say, “Yeah, but my big problem is not that I’m trying to control people as a manager. My big problem is X, Y, or Z. I don’t know, I am not great at communication in a group setting, or my I’m not well-aligned with my people on the sense of urgency, they don’t move fast enough or something.” Maybe talk to those people who are listening to you and saying, “Yeah, but I’m not trying to control my people, it’s something else.”

Jeff Hunter 11:27

So first of all, I would, with all possible humility, posit that you actually don’t know whether you’re trying to control your people or not. And so that’s a lead into the insight Talentism has. So I think the practice of management was really solidified by companies. The modern practice of management was really solidified by companies like IBM, GE, Rubbermaid. And these companies invested a lot in management philosophy, management frameworks, management discipline, and skill. And they employed those concepts through big training programs, like GS Croton Ville, and what you know about that is the context that was all happening in is primarily white males were going to work for life at a company that was going to take care of them and provide them a pension after their mandatory retirement. That was the world that they were going to be working in, and to build up into management was a very predictable sort of pattern that was going to happen in your career if you were going to be a manager. And most people were that, you know, we have the small and middle management ranks, you’re going to just sort of move up the chain, and management was the way you were going to move up the chain. You’re going to get more authority, you’re going to get more pay, more power, etc.

And so we really think of management as a skill issue, like there are things that you will learn along that path. And as you learn those things, you will gain greater and greater levels of skills to be a manager in Talentism. The fundamental insight inside of Talentism is that since the context of our work has changed so dramatically, almost nobody has lifetime employment. Many people who are entering the workforce today not only will change jobs multiple times, they will change careers multiple times. They’re going to be trying on different types of work in different locations with different technologies multiple times throughout the course of their work life. Very few people can expect their employer to stick by their side as the employer is losing a lot of money, and investors are clamoring for headcount cuts, and all those things.The world is very different today. And so you have to take a look at what managers are dealing with when they’re trying to accomplish goals through the work of others. And primarily what they’re dealing with are not skills-based issues. They aren’t. You can learn the skill of communicating, for example, and still be a terrible communicator. And in the old world, that really wasn’t true. If you could go through this prolonged skills-building exercise, you probably had the playbook you needed to be a good manager. But today, you don’t have that time. You don’t have that institutional knowledge. You don’t have that long runway. And so you’re trying to pick up a quick hit of, like, some blog posts or Instagram post or whatever, TikTok sort of splash that says, “Here are the three things you’ve got to know about how to communicate.” And then great, now I know how to communicate, and so you try those and it fails miserably, and you’re going, “What the hell?” Well, that’s because the fundamental thing you have to deal with as a manager is your own shit. You have to deal with your own psychology. You are probably afraid; you are missing a lot of things; you have imposter syndrome; all of these things that are going on inside of your head.

And so you are trying to communicate effectively to people who are experiencing those same things, and you, as a communicator, are experiencing those things. And because the world of yesterday says none of that matters, because we don’t deal with you as a fully-fledged human being, we just deal with you as an automaton inside of a machine, then this stuff is not dealt with. Most human beings have very low self-awareness, they have very low self-skepticism, they have very low awareness of the feelings of others, especially in institutional or organizational settings. This has all sort of been taught and programmed out of us through K through 12 education and then the workplace. And now you’re a manager, and you’re sitting in this place where you actually have to be good at understanding your fears. You have to be good at understanding your blind spots, your motivations, and you have to be effective in communicating to a person who also is not good at their fears, blind spots, motivations, but is expecting clarity from you as their manager. And so that is the fundamental difference. It’s psychological, it’s not skill, it’s not educational, it’s you have to be better at you. And you have to be better at dealing with people who aren’t good at them.

Angie D’Sa 16:18

Could you give us an example, Jeff? I think what you just said is so powerful. It’s not about skills; it’s psychological—both understanding yourself, your fears, and blind spots that are at play in any situation, and understanding your people, their fears, their blind spots, what motivates them. And I’m wondering if you can make this real for us. Are there any stories or examples that come to mind that can illustrate the positive case? Or that can illustrate the negative case? What it’s like when a manager isn’t aware of their fears and blind spots but maybe has the skills? You know, why is that the thing that, in its absence, is so destructive, and when it’s there, can unlock so much?

Jeff Hunter 17:06

Well, this weekend, I went to see Oppenheimer, and so for anybody who sees that movie, even though Strauss wasn’t Oppenheimer’s manager, per se, at Princeton was, it’s just a rich story of how human beings fall into these traps. So Strasse believes that Oppenheimer is headed out for him, believes that Oppenheimer has been talking bad about him, sets scientists against him, Weinstein against him, etc. None of that’s true. But he gets into this thing of like, okay, I’m gonna have to control Oppenheimer. I’m gonna have to ruin him in order to be able to; sorry, I guess I should have said spoiler alert.

Angie D’Sa 17:48

I think if it’s a historical movie, and you don’t know what’s coming, that’s on you.

Jeff Hunter 17:55

Okay, so I shouldn’t tell you Barbie comes alive. Not so much history. Big weekend at the movies, everybody. I was just sitting through this movie, and I was going, of course, this is what happens all the time. Because in that world at that time, men don’t have to communicate and be good at their feelings. They don’t really have to understand who they are, what they are. They’ve got dominance; they’ve got all this stuff. And you just see that happening all the time. Practically, let you know what? I’ll talk about a good story and a bad story relative to this. A good story, probably unsurprisingly, happens through coaching, where people, one of my clients came to me and said, “I really fundamentally believe that a bunch of people inside my organization hate me. They just hate me. And they really are trying to get even with me.” And let me tell you all the things I’m doing to prevent them from getting even with me. And I said, “So let me be clear. You believe people hate you and are trying to get even with you, so you’re gonna get even with them first.” And he’s like, “Well, I guess, but no, it’s like management. It’s risk management. That’s what I’m doing is I’m managing risk.” And I said, “I think all you’re doing is playing out human conflict since the beginning of time, misinterpreting signals, getting worried, and then starting a conflict in anticipation of heading off an even worse problem for you in the future.” I said, “So let’s go. Let’s work through the evidence. Let’s just put all that aside. I’m not denying it; those are real feelings, but let’s put it aside. Let’s go through the evidence.” So it turned out the evidence where the evidence was that a number of people who didn’t report to this individual but reported to reported this individual had expressed concerns about a change in management direction, a change in strategy, and had expressed those concerns to direct reports of this person. The direct report of this person then went to the individual I’m coaching.

Let’s just call them Alfred, because that isn’t even close to his name. Someone went to Alfred and said, two or three of them went to Alfred and said, “Here are the things I’m hearing.” This hit the panic button inside Alfred because he had really worried about the strategic direction change. Alfred wasn’t fully confident in it; he knew that the company was not doing well and needed something new, a new direction. But he really didn’t have full confidence in this. And so rather than saying, “Wow, this really scares me because I don’t have full competence in it,” he doesn’t have those tools at his disposal; he doesn’t have that self-awareness. So he creates a story, “Oh, they’re out to get me. If they were with me, they would get behind the strategic direction change. And they would pull this off, they would do it. But they’re not doing it. They’re saying instead, they’re staging an uprising with the managers beneath me. And now I can’t trust them and everything.” And as we pulled this apart and got data both through the conversations we’re having and coaching, but also data through our CDI instruments and the other ways that we gather information, what became very clear is that people didn’t understand the strategic direction change. And they also were intuiting the lack of confidence on the part of the CEO. So they were intuiting this manager’s lack of confidence, lack of awareness of that confidence, the sort of bluster the manager was applying to getting people rallied around it, which doesn’t work, just headline doesn’t work.

And so then they were consistent with what you would expect of people. They were expressing concern or confusion to their managers, and their managers were then getting confused and concerned because they were going to the CEO, and they were amplifying that signal because now they were afraid. They felt caught betwixt in between; they maybe sort of believed that the CEO wasn’t fully behind the strategic change either. But now they had both people reporting to him reporting it, and they had those feelings themselves. You can see how the system sort of amplifies on itself. And then the CEO themselves not fully understanding their own internal dialogue and what was going on was going as if preparing to get even with these people who were just having a very typical and expected reaction to a confusing environment.

So through the coaching and through everything, we got the CEO headline on the story is we got the CEO to go and say, “I’m not confident about this change; I don’t know there’s any change I could be confident about. Because confidence would have to come from a proven track record of implementing these sorts of changes in these places in this kind of place. Nobody has that track record; this is a brave new world.” So I’m going to give you some vulnerability to that; I still believe in it. In other words, I can believe that I’m doing the right thing in order to move forward. But that competence is lacking. And I should have just been transparent with all of you about that. And then be clear about how we’re actually going to move into clarity together, which was the result of and eventually what happened. And I think people started to say, “Okay, I’m building trust again in the CEO.”

Angie D´Sa  23:44

So in this case, you have a CEO, we call him Alfred, who is either pushing down and subjugating his fear that his strategy shift may not work, to project confidence to a team who is experiencing it as bluster and confusion, using the outlet they have, their direct managers, who are the skip-level reports of the CEO. In this fear, this trap, this prism of fear, you have Alfred saying, “Hmm, these people are talking behind my back about my plan. They must be out to get me. They’re either in or they’re out, and their behavior suggests that they’re out,” rather than what I’m hearing you say, which is the alternative approach to this is Alfred recognizing, “I’m not confident, and in that gap of confidence, there’s some fear for me. I might not get this right, and what would that mean about me? And it’s terrifying to expose that.” But in exposing that, there’s honesty and trust-building with the people that he’s otherwise confusing or alienating. In Scenario one, there’s a ton of waste because here he is trying to get even with people who are not actually trying to undermine him. And in Scenario two, it seems like there’s the opportunity to lead with real authenticity and also maybe invite people in to bring their own ideas and solutions to something that is nascent, a strategy that may work but that needs to be iterated on by the people on the ground who, in Scenario one, Alfred is alienating and trying to get even with, right?

Jeff Hunter  25:54

You know, I love words like authenticity, and in those things, the thing that I always tried to do is to be intensely practical in a practical world and describing things that are generally thought to be impractical. And so we have this age-old, sort of, like soft skills, you’re talking squishy stuff, and the thing that drives me nuts about people is they value hard skills, and finance, and this kind of stuff. And so I’m like, “Oh, you’re so bad at what you do.” So the first case, where he’s gonna get even, has an extremely low probability of anything except tremendous waste, delays, losing valuable people, etc. That’s what that path leads to. It is a low probability bet on a terrible future. In the second path, it increases the probability of good outcomes for fewer dollars and less time. I’m not talking about a kumbaya moment of how we should all be with each other as human beings; I’m talking about in today’s context and world, we have to deal effectively with the fact that people have certain expectations of managers and leaders. Managers and leaders can either fulfill that or not. And if they don’t fulfill it, they’re going to pay the cost, and it’s going to be expensive. And that context has really shifted.

In the beginning, you know, you and I have talked a lot on these conversations about “start with me,” personal responsibility. Those aren’t moral codes; those are the most practical ways to deal with what is happening, which is if you as a manager are confused, you are likely going to cause downstream waste, delays, and all sorts of bad financial outcomes. So I’m just talking about the most practical way to deal with the fact that all this Alfred had to do was tell the truth. And when I say “all,” by the way, it’s really hard to do. But all Alfred had to do was tell the truth, and then he gets better outcomes. Or he could keep it through pretense and arrogance, pretend like he knew what he was talking about and had a high probability bet when he really didn’t know whether he had a high probability bet. And then he’s got a lower probability of success. That’s really what I’m talking about here.

Angie D´Sa  28:25

So in the vein, I like that you brought it to this sort of concrete, practical way of thinking about what it means to be honest and vulnerable, because you’re sharing with others what you might be afraid of, or where you might have blind spots. Because I think that can be interpreted as, you know, maybe ritualistic at best. And what it really is, is it is a tested way to increase the probability of honest communication and surfacing issues faster. Issues that tend to be hidden and tend to be company killers, because you don’t know about them until it’s too late.

So, with that in mind, that we’re talking about practical ways to increase the likelihood that you have a system of surfacing issues and seeing them early and seeing them clearly, I know you’ve got some practical takeaways for our listeners around how to do this right, how to do this piece of management that is really about psychology, not skill, understanding yourself, and using that understanding to come to the table with greater self-awareness and greater honesty. What are some of those practical takeaways for us?

Jeff Hunter  30:00

Yeah, so the first one, which I think is again, very simple to say, very difficult to do, but very practical, is I think you have to practice courage. And practicing courage is really hard. But it is ultimately the key to you achieving your potential and unleashing your potential. Because the thing that stands in your way of you getting what you want and also being able to build a company, you want to be an effective manager, whatever it is, your fear, it’s not the skill. And to confront fear requires courage. I’m sure I don’t need to tell the audience this; courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is the ability to deal successfully with the fear you’ve got. And I’d say, hopefully, I don’t have to share that, because that’s an aphorism that’s been tossed around for decades, but it often gets missed. We all have fears. We are all afraid. The question isn’t whether you have it or not. If you don’t, you’re probably a sociopath. If you do, then you’re probably a real human being dealing with real issues. And the question is, how are you going to effectively deal with it, and the word we use for that effective dealing with it is courage. And the way you practice courage is you start small, like you do with any practice. If you’re learning piano, you don’t sit down and try to knock out Beethoven. You sit down and you practice scales. And so what are the scales of courage? You sit down with somebody you trust, and you say a small thing that’s hard for you to say. And you see what happens. And then you say a little bigger thing that’s hard to say. And then you see what happens.

The easiest practice, I’ve seen of this, and I bring this up to my clients all the time, my clients will come to me and say, “Jeff, I got this real problem.” Okay, tell me, what’s the real problem? “Well, I feel like this person isn’t succeeding. And I’m really worried about them. And I don’t know what to do.” And I said, “Okay, well do that.” And they’ll be like, “What do you mean, what is it?” What you just did? Like, no, no, no, I need you to tell me what to do.” I might just go say, “Don’t edit one word you just said. And just say it to them, not to me.” And it’s highly probable, that’s gonna have a great outcome. The reason you’re saying it to me and not to them is not because you lack the skill and not because you lack the words, you just demonstrated both the skill and the words, it’s because you lack the courage to confront the fear. So go say the thing you said to me, I’m telling you as a quote, unquote, expert, what you just said was good, not bad. You didn’t say anything hurtful, you expressed self-doubt, you expressed you don’t know what to do, like, go say that every single time. And I’ve done that hundreds of times, every single time the person’s gone back, you know, “Hey, I had a really good conversation,” unsurprisingly, right? unsurprising to any of us who do this work is like, “Yeah, like, you weren’t screaming and shouting about that individual. You weren’t calling them names, you were expressing vulnerability and doubt. And it’s okay to share vulnerability and doubt with the people involved.” So that’s a very simple step to practice courage, maybe give it a run with a coach first, but like, just say the thing you want to say if it’s not about how the other person is letting you down or whatever, but your worries about the situation. So practicing courage would be the first thing I’d recommend.

Angie D’Sa 33:37

That’s excellent. The words “practice” and “courage” together jar my brain. It’s as though courage is something that one can get better at through a simple exercise like scales, as opposed to courage being something that great people have as an innate quality. So the fact that you break that down as something that can be practiced and built, I think, is really powerful. Okay, what’s next?

Jeff Hunter 34:17

So the next is to ask the question. If you are a human being, and I’m assuming if you’re listening to this, you are—although shout out to all our animal listeners out there—but let’s assume for a second you’re a human being and let’s assume you’ve got a brain (I think both reasonable assumptions), then your brain is trying to make predictions about the future, and it’s making up all these stories, right? So all our brains are doing that. That’s what the fear does; it creates these narratives about how everybody’s out to get us or, you know, we suck at this or that—these stories. And then, if you’re a manager and you’ve got that story, and you act that story out, you destroy value. Because you’re probably wrong about a whole bunch of stuff—like the other person’s motivations, what they’re doing, their motivations, all these things. So you’re spinning up the stories, and then you’ve got the authority of management, which is the authority to hire or fire, promote, demote; you hold the keys to the psychological kingdom for a social species like a human being, and then you go in and start making all sorts of pronouncements.

So the simple, practical practice, again, like scales, is if you are in that place, start by asking questions, not making assertions. So seek to understand before you’re understood—if you’re a Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People fan, whatever—but put yourself in the place of seeking to understand first, even if you’re so confident you’re right, even if you absolutely, positively know that you’re right and they’re wrong. Ask the damn questions, okay? Because you’re not right. And, uh, you just want to feel right because you’re scared. And that’s okay. That’s what we all do. But you can avoid all the damage that creates by starting by just asking questions.

So if you’ve got an assertion, like, “Hey, you missed this deliverable,” that’s an assertion, then you can ask the question of, “Am I confused? Because I felt like we were in sync, the deliverable would be Thursday, and it didn’t get here. Am I missing something?” Now, that can feel passive-aggressive, that can feel manipulative, and I’ve worked with CEOs who have perfected that manipulation, and everybody hates them as a result because they’re just not saying the thing. So I’m, you have to try to find a sincere spot for yourself to actually figure out what might I be missing, as opposed to “I really know what’s going on here, and I’m gonna manipulate you into the right place.” But if you can find that sort of sincere spot of not knowing, then the best practice is to ask the question.

Angie D’Sa 37:11

Yeah, I think for so many of us, the tricky part is even being able to identify when we’re making an assumption because it just feels like the truth. “That person missed a deliverable.” “These people are out to get me.” And so what I like about what you’re saying is to start by going to someone trusted and asking, “What might I be missing?” So then you can figure out what questions to go ask. We’ve got, I think, one more that you wanted to share with us practical steps.

Jeff Hunter 37:40

Yes. Be a player or a coach, but never both. So sports metaphors are always so fraught, right? Because everybody’s got their team and all this stuff. So at the risk of alienating people who are Golden State Warriors fans or whatever, let’s imagine the Chicago Bulls, the iconic Chicago Bulls with Michael Jordan and Phil Jackson as the coach. And let’s imagine for a second that the Bulls are having a bad game. And Phil, Phil Jackson, who actually was a good basketball player himself, in his loafers, sports jacket, and tie, runs onto the court and starts playing a position. To say everybody in the stands would be confused as hell is an understatement. Everybody, of course, would be confused because Phil Jackson’s a coach, and Michael Jordan’s a player—what’s Phil doing putting himself on the court?

It’s very popular today to use the term “player-coach,” I hear it all the time. And people managers love that, especially when they’re designing organizations, because it means you both can do it as well as coach other people to do it. The problem with that is there’s a basic human psychological error here, which is when you’re doing it, you shouldn’t be telling other people how to do it. You don’t coach by playing the game; you coach by standing outside the game, or you play the game, but you don’t do both at the same time. And I see a lot of managers make this very practical mistake. They’ll be doing something, and then while they’re doing it, using that perch, that position, to actually tell everybody else how to do something that is deeply confusing.

Either be the coach, build the great team, coach them to win without you, or get on—you know, change your uniform, get on the court, and play the position. But when you’re in the position, you really don’t have the right to tell everybody else how to play the game. You’re just part of the game that you created. And having that distinction and understanding like, “What uniform are you wearing? Are you wearing a sports jacket? Are you wearing the jersey?” And understanding that you can’t cross those lines without being very explicit with the people who are witnessing and playing what you’re doing and why. If you aren’t that explicit, you’re likely to cause a lot of damage and a lot of confusion.

Angie D’Sa 40:01

I think I hear you saying that as the coach, you have the unique perspective from the sidelines to see how everyone else is playing and enable them to be successful because of what each of them is like and the situation on the court—or that field; I’ve kind of lost track at this point. And when you’re actually in there, when you’re in the game, you don’t have that unique perspective. And, in fact, your objective is not, at that moment, to make other people successful without you because you are embedded when you have chosen to be a player. And so you need to work with people. And that’s different because you change the dynamic by being in there. And so it’s one or the other.

Jeff Hunter 40:42

Yeah, I mean, so for those of you who don’t like sports, let’s say it this way, let’s say you like Broadway plays. I hazard to guess that no one here has ever gone to see a production that they loved where the director was on stage acting and calling out directions to others; it doesn’t make any sense. You’re either mounting the production and letting the players play because you’ve described this world, you’ve told them what their roles are, you’ve told them how they interact—all the things directors do. But then, ultimately, it’s the players who have to accomplish what is required for the audience or put themselves on the stage. But while you’re on the stage, you’re not directing.

And this player-coach thing gets super confusing for managers because they can’t level well. And so they’re like coaching from the court or from the stage, you can’t do that. And then when they’re coaching, they’re actually not trying to guide people to play well together to create something great together. They’re sort of just micromanaging and controlling, which is that, you know, going back to the old management methodology.

Angie D’Sa 41:50

That makes sense. Okay. Anything else you want to share as we conclude this conversation about management. It’s such an odious topic for so many, including, as it turns out, Jeff, you.

Jeff Hunter 42:07

I just want to be clear, did you just say management is odious, or I am? Hope you said management. I’m willing to be odious, just to be clear, but I just want to clarify that. I’m very grateful to anybody who listened to this point. Management is critical. I do not believe human beings at scale will spontaneously self-organize, take into account what everybody’s like, even though they don’t know each other, and create a great outcome. I don’t think history demonstrates that; I don’t think anything that we know about science demonstrates that. That a manager is a servant to those people to help create the context and the structure and the systems so they can be great. And it’s not to control them and try to avoid risk without dealing with your own stuff first.

Angie D’Sa 43:00

Thank you, Jeff.

Jeff Hunter 43:02

Thank you, Angie, and please look up Terry Gross. I think you’ll be richly rewarded for that.

Angie D’Sa 43:08

I have my homework. Thanks.

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