(Mis) Management by Good Intention

…or the road to Hell that is paved with it!

This is likely to be one of the harshest blogs I’ll ever write, so let me first assert something.  I have done a LOT of damage over the years to my friendships and relationships – all with the best of intentions!  When this blog moves into critical style, know that I am speaking to myself first-and-foremost, with the intent that it might just be a useful mirror for others too.

Up Close and Personal

I’ve had the rare opportunity recently to work very closely with one of my favourite Suppliers (as in an organisation rather than an individual).  This is an organisation where the dominant psychological preference is that of the Creative (Squiggle-Triangle or Triangle-Squiggle in Dr Susan Dellinger’s eloquent take on Carl Jung’s Personality Types – see www.shapestest.com).  These Creatives are driven to create, driven to improvise, driven to tweak and improve everything they touch.  These are people who use “alternative currencies” way beyond the two-dimensional attraction of mere money.  These are Creatives who value ideas, recognition, and artistry as equally valid currencies that enrich their lives.

So what’s the best way to systematically extinguish the very spirit that lights their fire?  That’s an easy one – and it has three strands (like all great chords).

  1. Firstly, you must squash, ignore, or crush every great, bad, or so-so idea they have.
  2. Secondly, you must impose changes on them as a surprise – whatever you do, don’t enter into any dialogue with them first, or check with them that it’s OK… after all, what do they know, they only do the job day-in, day-out?
  3. Thirdly, make sure you catch them doing anything wrong – and let them know that you’ve caught them in any inappropriately stupid way you can think of.  Whatever you do, do NOT catch them doing anything right, and do not notice any situation in which they go the extra mile (again)…

Maintaining (Mis) Management by Good Intention

To sustain this kind of level of destructive mis-management, you must have a least two non-democratic senior leaders.  Their style must be as Autocratic as possible – with one of their favourite phrases or behaviours being, “that’s on a need-to-know basis”.  If they can also enforce changes to good practice without consultation, that will really help bugger up the morale and smooth running of the organisation (see point 2 in our unholy trinity above).  These Autoprats – sorry, “Autocrats” – will long for the Jurassic Management practices of Mushroom Management and Seagull Management.  (“Mushroom Management” is defined as, “keep ’em in the dark, and feed ’em shit” – I know a lot about feedin’ them shit!!!  “Seagull Management” – again from the Jurassic Management Manual – is defined by the practice of the Parent Bird (ie. the Autoprat) flying in, making a hell of a lot of noise, crapping over everything, and then flying out again!)

The big issue here is that Creatives do “passive aggression” – they’ve usually got enough grace to smile and get on with it, whilst at the same time looking for creative ways to throw a spanner in the works.

The sad thing here in the organisation I’m thinking of is that one of our Autoprats really is doing it from the best of intentions – for the success of their company on their terms.  However, the even sadder fact is that they’ve failed to realise that it isn’t “their” company anymore.  Creative-types give their heart and soul to any organisation they commit to – so even if it isn’t recognised “legally”, their place-of-work is really “their” organisation – they are the major stakeholders WAY more important than the external customers...  This is what gets the Creative staff members out of bed in the morning, and what keeps them motivated.  Bluntly, I’d also have to assert that in the spirit of patent and copyright law (at least in the UK), the ideas the Creatives put into the organisations are really “their” ideas until signed over – and so it really is “their” organisation.

Mis-Management by Design

Having endorsed the good intention of one type of Autoprat,  I have also to assert that there are cancerous agents in organisations – the bullies and the gold-digging parasites – that simply need to be cut-out and cut-off – and the wound quarterised for the good of the organisation.  Even the “Gentle Jesus” had no time for this kind of parasite: Matthew 12:25, “Every Kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city of house [or organisation] divided against itself shall not stand.”  Wasting investment on them is like “casting pearls before swine” – and doomed to disaster.  Removing them is utterly a good business imperative.  This blog is not about them, though as soon as we can develop a genetic test to identify bullies, parasites, and gold-diggers in the “womb” of staff selection, and terminate them before “birth” into the organisation, the better.   Ooo, that probably shouldn’t be in the blog, should it?  Sorry, but if you open your eyes and ears to the media, you will see that bullies and gold-diggers destroy innocent lives.  One life is one too many.  We are historically far too tolerant of bullies, autocrats, and other parasites.  There’s almost some sort of secret gauge that says, “how many people have got to suffer before see draw a line”?  Dig out the bad apples before the whole barrel is contaminated – the sooner the better.

Hope for the Well-Intentioned

Flipping the coin, we find that the best way to manage bad-managers is to manage them!  Rather than the passive aggression that is the “cornered” response of the compromised Creative type, we creatives need to recognise that so-called “Strength Respects Strength”.  Calling a “Sod” a “Sod” will actually provoke respect!  Of  course if you try this with the pseudo-symbiont of the parasite, all hell will break loose.  Check the “inner-witness” of your heart – you know when an apple is good, and when one is rotten to the core.

As recently as only 1834… the Tolpuddle Martyrs formed a righteous alliance against the tyranny of class and autocracy… and were sentenced to the exclusion of exile and transportation for their integrity.  Understandably, less than 200 years later, individuals in organisations are reluctant to stand up to the crass stupidity of managers – for fear of exclusion and exile.  The Tolpuddle Martyrs changed the world, however, so I call upon the courageous to rise up and “…make the buggers’ eyes water” (thanks to Pink Floyd for that last lyric!)

Managing Creative Types

I said earlier that Creative Types recognise other currencies as equally valid payment for their inputs and passion: recognition of their ideas, inclusion in the decision-making process, keeping them in the light of information, respect, noticing them going the extra-mile…  I know someone at this Organisation who will clean the toilets without fuss or without explicit need for recognition… and they are a senior manager!  That, to me at least, is a sign of a leader whom I want to follow.  When the going gets tough, I’ll follow them.  Our major Autoprat works through so many layers of buck-passing that we’d be drowning in poo before they’d don the rubber gloves.  When I was a Bible College, I was also delighted to discover that the guy who tidied up the chairs after church was the retired ex-Principal.  This was the much-loved and much-missed Gilbert Kirby.  What a guy!

By way of stark contrast, don’t look at your phone messages while one of your Creatives is trying to share with you… they should be the only person in your World who matters at the moment in time.  Aside from being rude, it’s just stupid!

Creatives need attention and recognition to fuel the flame… and they don’t mind if the wind blows the flame in a new direction – just don’t blow out the flame.  From the Flame, via “L” learning, come Fame.

I would whole-heartedly recommend the Blessing-White X-Model of Engagement if you really want to harness the infinite power of your Creatives.  You’ll need to discover what your Creatives really want from the job, and in return you’ll find they will really give what it takes for you to meet your Organisational Goals – but it’s “Symbiotic” – both parties need to “win”.

The Conclusion of the Matter

Even though many managers mis-manage from the very best of intentions, only the emotionally intelligent should be allowed anywhere near managing a creative workforce.  Don’t piss on the fire of the Creatives… not if you want to stay in business anyway!

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