Make it thy business to know thyself, which is the most difficult business in

the world.

– Miguel de Cervantes

We can all agree there is no text book manager. But where does that leave us in grappling with the 1990s? In the past decade, management theory and practice from Japan led the way with its axioms of team management and team production. Now team thinking is trendy and part of the American corporate scene.

But if we only borrow the organizational formula of team management and don’t understand what really drives them, where are we really heading?

Change means conflict. For good managers and good management we need a working process of mutual trust and respect. Good managers are people who can command trust and respect and good managers know themselves.

It’s not unlike handling a horse or driving a race car. If you want to train or ride a horse well – or even stay on it the horse has to trust you and you have to “feel” it. And race car drivers tell us that the difference between winning and losing is how well you “feel” the machine as you handle it. You can’t drive the car to pieces; you have to “listen” to its engine and operation.

A good manager cannot possibly be an accumulation of all the virtues we would want to ascribe to management. However, there are some ways to get started on the path to becoming a good manager:

1. Who’s Perfect? Some managers are good administrators, others excel in entrepreneuring or integrating. Some are superb producers. Not everyone is born with natural skills in all aspects of the PAEI code – producing, administrating, entrepreneuring, integrating. But that doesn’t mean we are marked for life with only one capability. That starting place gives us our first way of perceiving things and is the most natural way for us to look at the world. But one has to learn how to perceive from other directions. We should aim at improving our perceptions and performance that are different from what our style prefers, while at the same time accepting the fact we can’t be perfect.

2. Getting in Touch. Be in touch with your social environment. Accept the feedback from others in order to determine who you are. Realize that you are what you do, and learn to learn from the feedback of others. If managers can accept the comment of others and their own weaknesses as well as strengths, they will be able to deal with the conflicts that stem from differences in managerial styles. “Oh wad some power the giftie gie us, to see ourselves as others see us,” writes the poet Robert Burns.

3. This Business of Self-Actualization. Have a balanced view of your Self. Come to a realization of both your strengths and weaknesses. In the past, social thinkers such as Maslow, Bell, and Rogers have written of the “self-actualized personality.” Now, others are sounding the same theme. The names may change but the idea is the same, and it’s not as awesome as it sounds. Self-actualized people are action oriented, march to a different drummer, and willing to learn from anyone. They are the meat and potatoes of an effective participative management team.

4. Getting out of boxes. Good managers are people who hear, listen, and feel. They do not just hear without listening or listen without feeling. This isn’t easy these days. Modern technology boxes us in and closes off our sensibilities. But good managers are sensitive to the impact they have on others and the impact of others on them.

5. Really Seeing… We have one word for “snow.” The Eskimo has five. We need to stretch our capabilities in dealing with others. Not only identify excellence in traits we excel in. We need to learn to identify excellence in others, especially in roles that w do not perform well. Recognizing the characteristics of others that complement those in which we excel is another big step in creating a working team.

6. …And Really Listening. The good manager accepts the opinions of others in areas where their judgment is likely to be better than his or her own. It’s a mistake to characterize people as subordinates and superiors, because it breeds a cult of personality and assumes that the manager is superior to his subordinates in everything.

7. Handling Conflict. We have to recognize that conflicts are the order of the day. Conflicts are inevitable for growth. The achieving manager can resolve conflicts that necessarily arise when people with different needs and styles have to work together to create an effective managerial mix. You are courting disaster if you walk away from the battle of managerial styles or seek instant and permanent harmony.

The goal is to work toward creating a learning environment. A supportive learning environment is one in which conflict is perceived not as a threat but an opportunity to learn from one another and develop as a team.

If we rush pell-mell into the 21st century with new forms of participative and team management without developing these qualities of “handling” others, we may be inviting managerial and organizational disaster. In modern society we often overemphasize the knowing of information – the “how-to’s” and almost ignore the critical importance of “how to be.” It’s a business of listening, feeling, knowing yourself – the hardest business in the world.

Success is not easy to achieve but that is the role management to produce.


Dr. Ichak Kalderon Adizes