Meetings are Practice for Managers

Imagine a hockey team made up of the best players in the world, that only gets together just before the game.  They all know the rules and they share the same goal – to score more goals than their opponent – so they figure they can just roll out there and win.  After all, they are the best players in the world.  They don’t need no stinkin’ practice.

Well that did happen in 1979, when a team of NHL All Stars with 14 future members of the Hockey Hall of Fame and a Hall of Fame coach were defeated by the Soviet National Team 6-0.  The Soviets used their backup goaltender.

The same things can happen to a company and many of us have worked in a siloed work place where the “players” (managers) take care of their own responsibilities with no unifying plan or consideration for the other departments, product lines or locations.  Sure they know that Pete runs the manufacturing facility in Wenatchee, but they don’t know Pete and since they don’t know him, they don’t trust him to help them if they were to pass him the puck.  So instead of passing to Pete, they try to deke their way through the entire other team.

While many good managers efficiently plan meetings with their own team and ensure that everyone is on the same page, many organizations get tripped up by a lack of meetings between managers.  Like a Sergeant in the Army, managers in organizations are the people that get things done.  Executives think they do, but the good ones will admit they get credit for the work done every day by their managers.  And while the executives, often with good reason, make slower, more calculated moves at their level to work with executives from other areas to affect change, it’s the managers who can really strip away the bureaucracy through back channel relationships with other managers in other departments.

In fact, it’s better for an organization if managers have built up a little squad of fellow managers that can run the company and keep the executives from screwing it up with a calm voice of reason and a quick phone call to their opposite number in the adjoining building.

But before they can do this, they have to meet.  One to one if necessary, but preferably as a group with the common goal of making their lives simpler.  Create a Band of Brothers that sticks together for a noble purpose.  A group that know when something stinks when it arrives from the C Suite and as a group is confident enough to disregard or only partially implement directives from the boss for the greater good of the organization.

Manager:  “Sir, we attempted the implementation as you recommended but it was not feasible from a cost/resource/time/sanity perspective.  We did however figure out we could get the same results you need but with 20 less steps at 5% of the cost.”

Executive (to Manager): “Good Work”

Executive (to CEO): “I took care of that problem sir and managed to do it with less cost and time than forecast”

Everybody wins, but only if the managers have some practice time. Preferably without the executives present, as they tend to suck up all the oxygen in the room.  Talk, shoot the shit, discuss the common issues they face (the main ones being people – those work for them and those who they work for) and develop a relationship built on common goals.

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