I taught a 2-day class on high impact management earlier in the week. When I spend time talking with managers about management, I notice the ideas that most resonate with them. Over the last few years, I have noticed that people's ears and mouths (participation) perk up when I talk about:
1. How managers, and everyone, are highly talented and highly flawed. Even the best performers are highly flawed. What does this mean? It means that we need to be tolerant and flexible to bring out everyone's talents. And it means that great teaming, collaboration, and collective work can only happen if we don't let idiosyncrasies get in the way. Relationships - friendship even - do not require full agreement. In fact, they are richer when we challenge each other. The idea that we are highly talented and highly flawed does not excuse us for being annoying or inadequate managers, BTW. We should seek to be a pleasure with which to work while resisting the urge to prescribe too much meaning to style differences.
Here is an example: On my flight back from DC, I sat in front of one of the republican presidential candidates and his wife. I overheard parts of their conversation and I needed to keep reminding myself not to ascribe meaning to the words and tones I heard because they make up only a tiny sliver of the truth of the situation. Was the conversation curt and critical because that is who they are or is it because the campaign trail is so draining and this flight was landing at near midnight? Could it have been a bad day or is this the way they always talk? Even if it is their style of communication, it would not be wise to ascribe too much meaning to what I overheard. It is human to make meaning out of our observations based on our filters and preferences but it is not always in our best interest to do so. Everyone expresses happiness/satisfaction/concern/care/interest in their own ways. My offer might mean the same thing as your critique.
2. Management is, by its nature, messy and chaotic and will always be. Get over it and then love it. Managing people is neither a linear nor logical practice. We know this! So why do we expect people who report to us - or our bosses and peers - to act logically and predictably? Human systems are more like the weather than they are like a manufacturing line - they are chaotic, unpredictable, and sensitive. This messiness and chaos are not conditions that get in the way of management - they are the reasons that management is needed. If there were no fires, we would not need fire fighters. Managers manage people. The essence of our role is to help individuals and teams do their best work in the service of organizational goals. If the human condition were tamable or simple or linear or predictable, we would not need managers. We exist to jump into the mess, be at peace with some mess, and make a difference helping people do great work amongst the mess.
Both of these ideas share a common root - great managers are nimble like gumby - especially as it relates to how they deal with and help others.