You are a Manager now, Solat – life just got a whole lot more complicated


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“You are a manager now Solat. Well done and congratulations. Enjoy the moment because this is as good as it’s going to get for quite a while, because today your life just got complicated”. My Dad said this to me in 1997.

“Oh thanks very much”, I said perplexed and puzzled.

I had just left the Police Service having served 5 years, as a humble uniformed Police Constable. I had been managed, as had all my colleagues, through a combination of ‘b-llockings’, some kind words and an overcritical and under-supportive appraisal system used by line managers; who themselves were managed in the same way.

‘Man management’ came down to varying degrees of severity of ‘b-llockings’ by people who, mostly, had no idea about managing people. I on the other-hand had no management responsibilities at all. No-one to ‘b-llock’, no-one to delegate to, no-one to appraise and no-one to hold to account… sheer bliss.

How prophetic my Dad’s words turned out to be and how true his words were, when he explained that managing is all about getting high quality work out of others. He explained, it was easy when people were asked to do something that they enjoyed and became difficult when they were asked to do something which they didn’t enjoy.

I always managed to be passionate about any job I did. As a Police Officer I was passionate about protecting people, about arresting transgressors and about bringing them to justice. I only had myself to manage and motivate.

So when I had to manage people who I thought at the time, were not intrinsically motivated and passionate about what they were doing, I felt frustrated. I used to ask myself what is wrong with them? Why don’t they get it? Why don’t they get me? Why are they not motivated? Why don’t they care?

When I look back 19 years later, after having managed in education; regeneration; health; community organisations and Diversity, I now know that my first problem was that I thought it was all about them and not me. I couldn’t see it from the other person’s point of view.

I can see now that it was my lack of understanding of them, and how they had different passions, interests and skills to me.

I had never stopped to think why they were in the job in the first place, what motivated them and what support they needed to help them. I didn’t know any better because no-one had taught me or trained me to be any different.

In the Police people were literally ordered around, and they would do exactly as they were ordered to do. The big difference was that there, you had a captive workforce. People didn’t just get up and resign if they were unhappy. You would never dare to raise a grievance otherwise you quickly found yourself on the outside of the ‘In-Group’ –  a group whose support, your life might literally depend on. You put up with it and hoped that something would change. In the fullness of time you got used to it.

The vast majority expected to be in the Police for 30 years. One of the reasons I left is because too many ‘Bobbies’ with 15 years’ service were telling me ” I have only got 15 years to go so I can trudge on.” or “What else could I do?”. I didn’t want to get into my forties and to feel trapped with no other options, so I secured a job and got out.

Life outside was totally different. Most people that I have managed have been great and have had a strong work ethic, but I have had to manage people that weren’t passionate – in fact sometimes they just wanted an easy ride and get away with as little as possible. I convinced myself that they were wrong ‘uns and a confirmation bias became set in my mind, and a clash became inevitable.

If I knew then, what I know now, I would have handled almost every situation differently. I would have been aware of how neuro-science affects the thinking and behaviours of different people. I would have not been so confrontational towards people or issues. I would have done appraisals far differently, and I would have done far more coaching and mentoring.

I also would have recruited people whose personal goals are aligned with the organisation’s goals. I would have started by putting out strong messages about what our organisation believes- its purpose, principles and values.

In short, I would have developed, led and managed a strong, adaptive and inclusive culture and recruited people that would fit. I would have managed out those people that wouldn’t fit with that culture.

The difference is that I now know how to do this and I didn’t back then.

Think different: Change the world: Make it better.


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