My Name is Chip

I work for you and I don’t like it.

We joined the company at the same time and worked in the same unit.  Everybody likes me and I am the best performer on our team.  I’m going to make a difference in this company.

But they made you the manager.  So you are technically my boss.  Even though more people like me and I am the best at what I do.

And now you are telling me how to do things.  I already know what’s best for my clients and me, so I am going to nod my head in our meetings and then keep doing it the way I have always done it.  The right way. My way.

And now you have a problem with that?  You schedule a meeting, without even asking me, in your office and when I get there you close the door.  All serious.

Then you ask me about a client project and why I did it the old way, my way.  Because I know best for my clients.  Why do I even need to answer to you?  I’m the most deserving and I was passed over…


Before Chip goes all Fredo Corleone and makes his case to Michael, let’s talk about how to manage someone like him.

Being promoted into a managerial slot from a group of people that you will then have to manage is pretty rough – and passive aggressive people like Chip make it that much harder.  Chip’s sense of entitlement, which he will call destiny, will prevent him from seeing the reality of the situation and at first might make it hard for him to support you.

So kill him with kindness.  In The Godfather, when Michael when says, “Fredo, you’re my brother and I love you.”  He is really saying, despite the fact that you resent my position and the power you feel I have over your life,  I am going to give you the benefit of the doubt for the good of the family.

When you’re dealing with Chip, make sure he knows how much you value his contribution to the team. Praise him in public at the team meetings, especially when he reluctantly gets on board for something new.  Hopefully, he will see you as someone who is on Team Chip and decide to return the favour and support you.  These small wins are huge in your career as a manager – when you give someone the chance to turn around and they take it.

What if he doesn’t and continues the small acts of defiance?  Better to address it quick behind closed doors before he calls Johnny Ola and Hyman Roth.  Give him a chance to vent his real reason for not getting on the bus.

Assuming it’s jealousy or immaturity is a mistake on your part.

Chip is a person and there may be personal stuff going on beyond “they promoted you and not me.”   If that’s all there is, we can all sympathize with being passed over and you should tell him that.  Give him examples of all the good things you have done together in the past and the great things to come and his importance to the team.  But at some point he has to suck it up and decide if he wants to continue doing things his own way or get over himself and enjoy the ride.

Make it clear this meeting is the first step in the disciplinary process and what the timetable is for seeing improvement and what that specific improvement should be.  This starts the clock ticking in his head – either how quickly he needs to change or what the latest date he has to find another job.

From this point on it’s a win for you as a manager either way.

  • Chip stays and is a team player and is grateful for your role in keeping him at the company, WIN!
  • Chip leaves on his own and takes his toxic attitude with him, WIN!
  • Chip stays and so does his attitude?  You’re covered and can move toward dismissal. WIN!

Every Chip you manage is an opportunity shine.

Driving the Bus – Part 4

The most important thing you will do as a manager is Driving the Bus, which is a metaphor that I like to use when discussing recruiting and team building.  I recommend using the following Bus related questions to guide your hiring and team building:

  1. Where is the Bus going?
  2. Who should be on the Bus?
  3. Where should they sit?
  4. Who else can drive?

Each of these questions plays an integral role in building the team you go to battle with, and your long-term success.

In Part One, we talked about the pre-hiring process and in Part Two we discussed who to hire and fire.  Part 3 focused on the kind of work your team members do and making sure they are in the best physical environment.  Our final post discusses delegating control after you figure out Who Else Can Drive?

One of the most rewarding parts about being a manager is seeing your team succeed on their own merits.  Successful product launches or sales pitches or service calls benefit everyone – the company, the manager and the team members.

So after you take a moment to revel in the glory, take another moment to think about who is ready to Drive Your Bus.  Or Drive their Own Bus.

The best time for a mini promotion within the team is while the juice is still flowing from a recent success.  You will have observed who contributed at what stages, who was the most engaged, and who did the most for other team members. So as you gear up for the next project, find a way to let that person drive the bus a little.  As a kid, my dad would let me drive on the highway sitting on his lap while he worked the pedals.  I was driving but under his guidance.  Same idea here.

Here’s an example:  If it’s a product launch, ask your star to run your version of the After Action Review, gathering feedback from the team and customers about the positives and negatives from the launch, then providing a verbal briefing to other managers or better yet to executives.  This allows you to recognize the star’s contribution in front of the team and in front of your boss and their peers as well – which helps his career and your reputation as someone who develops high performers.

If that goes well, the next natural step is to ask the star to run the requirements gathering phase of the next product launch or a spin-off from the first product, which can be followed by overseeing the build process, then the Beta test, then the roll out.  If all goes well, you have a new product manager, who can then help you identify the next person to spotlight.

Greyhound drivers on long trips switch off the driving duties to keep them fresh and focused, same with airline pilots and people like us on cross country trips to Wally World.  Managers should do the same.

The Difference Between an Executive and a Manager

It’s all about who they spend their time with.

Executives spend a majority of their time with other executives and most of a manager’s day is spent with their team.

In my experience, the demarcation between managers and executives happens at the Director level.  While there may be some organizations where someone is called a Director but really spends most of their day working on projects with their staff – they are a Manager.  Government is famous for this and so are other large bureaucracies – promoting with title instead of responsibility.

Sometimes they even go the other way and take someone who is valuable to the organization, but would not make a good Manager, and skip them over a position that requires them to manage people, and make them a Director to reward their work, seniority or skill.  That’s actually pretty smart.

Why make someone a manager who is no good at it?

Some give a title as a marketing gimmick – how many financial advisors in a small office do you know with the title of Vice President?  It’s like the Shelley Levene character in the movie Glengarry Glenn Ross, played by Jack Lemon, who despite being a phone salesman, becomes the President of Rio Rancho Properties when he has a customer on the phone.

Those outliers aside, in general someone Director level or higher is leading the managers who are doing the actual work – and that’s a good and important role in most companies.  As long as they don’t revert to their past training as a manager and try to jump in and run an important project.

Watch this scene from Band of Brothers, where new Captain Dick Winters is ordered to stay out of the fight by his commanding officer, after he attempts to revert to his old role as Lietenant for Easy Company:

Just as it’s important for a first time manager to spend most of their time “managing, not doing” it’s is also important for executives to be “leading, not managing”.

Good Manager Bad Manager – Jurassic World

Her clothes say it all.  They are professional, tailored, expensive and perfect for an executive at a large clothing retailer.  So why is she wearing them at a dinosaur theme park?

Because it’s all about Claire – who she thinks she has to be. Who she wants to be. How she wants to be perceived.  Which are all signs of a Bad Manager.

It should be about the guy with 20 toy dinos lining the top of his workstation and the retro Jurassic Park t-shirt – he is not just collecting a paycheck.  He is in it for the Dino love.

So Claire, drop the corporate armor and the bad shoes and get yourself a Khaki shirt and some hiking boots, then ask the Dino guy the names of the dinos on his desk.  You will get to know him and he may start to like you.  Trust is not far behind.

Good managing is all about the people that work for you.