Managers don't grow on trees

Apr 10 2007 by Brian Amble Print This Article

Imagine, for a moment, that you've been put on an island and handed a sack of rice, some vegetable plants, and a chicken. "Good luck," says the person who brought you there. "You'll be responsible for growing your own food now; I know you've never done that before, but I have every faith in your ability." Then he gets in the boat and leaves, merrily waving goodbye.

And yet, as Erika Andersen outlines in this thought-provoking manifesto, Growing Great New Managers, a version of this is happening in organisations every day.

Thousands of brand new managers are handed a couple of employees and told, in effect, "You'll be responsible for managing these people now; I know you've never done that before, but I have every faith in your ability. Good luck!"

As Dan Bobinski discussed in a piece on Management-Issues last summer, the gardening metaphor is one that can be extended throughout the management process.

"A good gardener is always inquisitive about the conditions of the garden. Is fertilizer needed? More water? Less water? Are there any unwanted pests or diseases?

Gardeners ask these questions and make any needed adjustments because they know what kind of results they'll get if they simply give a plant an intimidating look and bark out a command to "grow!"

What's strange is that many managers try that very technique on people - usually with the same results as the gardener would get! Then, instead of trying something different next time they usually just blame the worker.

What's even stranger is that we accept such behavior in a manager, but we would laugh at the same behavior in a gardener."


Older Comments

Spot on. Your point is so true and it should hurt, but doesn't.

No reasonable manager would do otherwise with machines. They see to it that machines are operated strictly in accordance with the relevant procedures providing considerable preventive and corrective maintenance in order to keep them running at full, rated output.

How come they don't do likewise with their workforce?? Then when the workforce performs poorly, they blame it on the workforce while refusing to provide any preventive or corrective maintenance.

What a joke. These managers reap what they sow and mostly it is a workforce operating well below their potential.

Best regards, Ben Simonton Author 'Leading People to be Highly Motivated and Committed'

Ben Simonton

I like the gardening metaphor! Unfortunately, I've seen too many harvests from bad seeds. Visit my blog, The Corproate Cynic, for stories about these 'weeds.'

Jerome Alexander