Managers’ responsibility – helping people overcome the resistance

Photo by The U.S. Army


I did it. I finished reading Linchpin, Seth Godin’s new book. As I twitted a few days ago, I am still not sure if it is about management, education, philosophy or a self-help book, but is a very profound book that makes you think. The book touches on so many subjects that it will be hard to cover it in one post. So in the next few days (or hours, I might feel the desire) I will post my thoughts with some of the greatest quotes in the book.

Godin actually writes a manifesto for you. And me. And everybody. Trying to convince us that we should wake up and defeat the resistance, the small voice inside our head that tells us not to do remarkable things. He wants us to not only do our job but to do The Work, which is something meaningful, different, that changes the world, what he calls a gift of Art.

The thing is, a big part of the book is devoted to explaining exactly how hard it is to do just that. To describing how many mechanisms are present – some created by society and some are just part of natural evolution from pre-historic hunters – to prevent us from being indispensable and engaging with our Art. These resistance mechanisms have become such a big part of our culture and they are everywhere:

In every corporation in every country in the world, people are waiting to be told what to do. Sure, many of us pretend that we’d love to have control and authority and to bring our humanity to work. But given half a chance, we give it up, in a heartbeat. Like scared civilians eager to do whatever a despot tells them, we give up our freedoms and responsibilities in exchange for the certainty that comes from being told what to do.

I have written about this before:

The conventional wisdom that a manager needs to say to its employees how to do their work is already intertwined into people’s expectations.

And all I could think while reading the book is that we all need someone to help us help ourselves. Someone to nudge us in the right direction. Someone who will resist giving us the answers and will make us confront our fears and find our Art:

Your employee comes to you with a problem. He expects you to solve it for him, to tell him what to do. That is the conventional wisdom. But, that is exactly what you should not do in most cases. The famous creed: “don’t give a hungry man a fish, teach him how to fish” is on the spot but not implemented enough. We need to resist the temptation and try to give solution or answers and move to letting people find their own ways. So they will be able to do the job when you are not there. Tell them what the desired outcome is and let them find the solution. Give them the support and help, but not the solution. Resist the temptation.

And just like my initial thoughts after the presentation at the launch of the book, I point my fingers to managers.  I call our to them to start resisting the temptation to give answers. To stop with the rules. The let go of the mechanisms of control.

I know. It is hard. It is more than hard. It is terrifying. Trusting people is frightening. Letting go of our control is hard. Understanding that they are better than you in some respects, that they can do something you can’t is paralyzing. But it is worth it. Because that is the Art of great managers. That is the gift that they can give. And because In today’s world, there is no other choice. I will finish with the quote from the book:

Rick Wagoner lost his job at GM because he told everyone what to do (and he was wrong). Far better to build a team that figures out what to do instead.

What is your Art as a manager? What gift do you give your employees everyday? Who do you nudge them to find their Art?

We don’t only need indispensable people who can ignore the lizard brain and defeat the resistance. We need indispensable managers who will nudge people to become indispensable.



2 Responses to “Managers’ responsibility – helping people overcome the resistance”

  1. Seth Godin Says:

    Sometimes managers get hung up on producing answers they already expect and results they have already measured. That’s not leading, that’s running a machine.

    Human beings do a lot better when someone challenges to do something new, not pre-ordained.

  2. sherfelad Says:

    Thanks Seth,
    I am really glad you visited and comment.
    I agree. As you said in another part of the book:
    “Teamwork” is the word bosses and coaches and teachers use when they actually mean, “Do what I say”.
    Not giving answers is one of the main challenges managers have and go find out and let me know is one of the most important phrases they can use…
    It is time managers start waking up and understand that it is their job to unleash the artists, first because it is the right thing to do and second, because if they don’t someone else will… management is a form of art that should be complemented by science, not the other way around…
    Thanks again, hope to see more of your comments here…

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