Thursday, 24 March 2011

Please come and kick my bin!

In a previous life I was a manager in a very large North American technology company. The pace was rapid and the environment was robust. If you messed up (and we all do) the feedback from senior folk was generally rapid and fairly explicit. We had a VP from the US who liked to kick bins around. This was pretty scary, but it was a great environment to learn and grow. The feedback was clear, but so were the objectives. Decisions were made and stuff got done. The feedback also came upwards. If I messed something up for my team, made a poor decision or forgot to communicate nobody much was shy. Sometimes I got shouted at, but I always knew what my team thought of me.

The UK is a much gentler environment, especially in the public sector. Senior people say that they are "not sure that they are entirely comfortable about something" (this means the same as when a US manager comes and kicks your bin). You have to work harder to be sure you're going in the the right direction. Senior managers generally understand the language (otherwise they wouldn't be where they are) but it's tough for new first line managers who don't always perceive a clear direction or clear feedback. Staff tend to treat managers (especially those with fancy titles) with great deference. You need outstanding listening skills to spot when you've messed up and your people are unhappy.

The message of the day is cherish the staff who come and rant at you and value the feedback if your boss kicks your bin.