The gift of fire

By Joseph Grenny via hbr.org   Article

Are You Sure You Want to Be a Manager?

“Renowned restaurateur Danny Meyer likes to tell newly promoted supervisors that they have just been given the ‘gift of fire.’ As a boss they now have a new and potent power, but Meyer wants to ensure they understand the appropriate — and inappropriate — uses of this gift. Fire, Meyer explains, can be used to warm and comfort. It can be used to illuminate darkness. It can be used to render food more nutritious and pleasing. When stoked into a campfire, it provides a place for people to convene. And every once in a while, it is used to scorch — as when a leader speaks painful truths to others. …

Count the cost. It’s fun to play on a bigger stage. More pay is nice. Taking on more complex problems provides new satisfactions. And learning to lead people is a novel opportunity for growth. … The deepest regrets I’ve heard from those who took the job were the loss of tribe and simplicity.

  • Tribe. When you become the boss your peers are no longer peers. This might unsettle valued friendships. Also, your new peers may be less to your liking. Examine them closely before moving up to their level. Likewise, when you are granted more power, you are implicitly agreeing that your loyalty from that day forward is expected to be more to the enterprise than to your colleagues. … The extreme case of your tribal loss may be the need to dismiss one of your former peers. Could you? Would you? Would you dress them down if needed in order to uphold the interests of the enterprise? Would you give one of them an unattractive assignment if that’s what the team needed done? …
  • Simplicity. The world is no longer as simple as your opinion — it’s now about our.  You will encounter a new set of tradeoffs. You don’t get to sit in the cheap seats and blame ‘management’ anymore — because you are now management. You can’t take simple positions like ‘the customer comes first’ because you have to balance cost, quality, schedule, and other factors. When you take the job you leave a world of value simplicity and enter one of value complexity. You will have to advocate positions that you may not totally agree with because you are now a part of a management team. Are you ready for that?”

 

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