Aaron J. Nurick, Professor of Management and Psychology at Bentley University has written a new book, The Good Enough Manager: The Making of a GEM that may finally put to bed the claim that you always need to over-achieve and do your very best to be an outstanding Leader. Dr. Nurick’s premise is that Good Enough Managers (GEM) make the best leaders because they don’t micro-manage and allow their employees to succeed by finding a balance between being a laissez faire administrator and doing everything themselves.
The author contends that perfectionists or micro-managers stifle creativity and makes the worst managers. In a survey that he conducted of 1,000 business school alums, Nurick determined that a Good Enough Manager is the antithesis of the “uber manager” who is demanding, over-bearing and rarely produces any better results than the individual who allows his staff to find their own pathway to success.
“The GEMs are characterized as empathetic and attuned to their employee’s emotions, while at the same time reassuring, stable figures who remained confident in uncertainty. The GEMs turned employee shortcomings into learning experiences and inspiration for creative thought. Many of the employees remarked that their best managers often remained a touchstone for them long after the end of the formal reporting relationship.”
A Good Enough Manager (GEM) embraces the role of teacher and mentor. It isn’t all about him; rather it is all about the staff and what they accomplish as the successful end-result. The typical GEM gets to know their employee as an individual rather than a commodity. He believes that it is vital to know all aspects of the employee’s life – even away from work because by knowing the individual you can relate to their needs and get the best out of them.
GEMs also help employees find strengths they may not immediately see and have determined that today is not the only concern; that with a little insight and empathy you can mold an employee for the future and even better results down the road. Finally an effective GEM allows the freedom to fail while the employee is given the opportunity to learn from their mistakes. The best managers afford the opportunity to take risks in a safe environment without the fear that one error will result in termination. Failure is a great learning experience while calculated risk is the determinate for future success.
On the flip side of the equation, poor managers (non-GEMs according to the author) interfere with the employee’s autonomy and because of a lack of trust will inevitably make the job more difficult and less rewarding for the employee. Another poor manager trait is that we are all in this just for me; all the credit needs to fall on the shoulders of the manager and it unfortunately is all about him. If you are looking for a team effort or a good personal feeling about your work – this is not the kind of manager you ever want to work with.
Deficient managers also partake in destructive office gossip and politics – it’s an approach that can keep him on top while making life miserable for everyone else. Because such a manager is opposed to all forms of confrontation and has an aversion to direct feedback or one on one interaction, it is very likely that he will use inner-office politics and gossip to maintain his power while diverting attention away from his personal and management deficiencies.
Ultimately poor managers forget that their employees are people with their own lives and agendas. These managers are not opposed to calling on a weekend or late night for an update on a project which could have waited until the next morning. This is just one more tactic to illustrate that they are in charge. They demand to know all the details and unfortunately will slow down the process because of their lack of trust.
Because we are all living in an extensively stressful and anxious environment on a daily basis within our offices, it is vital for Leaders and managers alike to use all the assets available to them. The people who work alongside you are those assets; assets that can make the organization successful and the manager look quite good if you allow them to do their job. We all strive for perfection but in today’s world, good enough may just be the right approach to success.
Dan Borschke is a Certified Association Executive (CAE) who has been a CEO for 3 distinct trade associations in his career. He is one of only 230 Association executives worldwide who has been granted the prestigious designation of Fellow by the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) since 1986. He currently is between positions and has taken the opportunity to author more than 75,000 words or 125 blog postings on the topics of job search, career transitions and association management.
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