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Magic Bullet Management
By Jeff Butcher on July 12, 2012

Company leaders sometimes believe that hiding on Earth there is a magic bullet manager that will come in and fix every ill with a single shot. Magically, all of the things we want done are beamed into the company just by hiring a mythical outside expert. Imaginations dream of the hired gun with a quick trigger fix. It seems we can value the opinion of people we barely know more than people we work with everyday? Familiarity can diminish respect for those that we rely upon most?  If the mythical magic bullet employee does exist, my question for you is; what is their name, when do they start and how much do I have to pay them?

I think the concept of magic employees is a breakdown in the managerial process and should be relabeled as mental laziness. A belief in magic managers is wishful thinking. Daydreaming about magic can be an excuse manager’s use when they avoid communication with the great people that reality presents every day. Spells and wands can be left to Harry Potter. We managers are responsible for cultivating the best from our group.

Organizations succeed by building a bank of people that know how to meet the challenges of their respective market nuances.  As leaders, our business will thrive if we can extract the contributions of our team members as we grow. True success depends on utilizing our people to their fullest potential. We all have hidden gems in our grasp, but we do need a clear mind to identify potential.

Home grown employees, on our team roller coaster, have felt the winds of challenge through the ups and downs on the ride of business momentum that winning groups create. Momentum carries us to growth and impactful leaders provide the seat belt that binds potential leaders on a common path to sustainable growth. Engaging people, so they can enjoy the ride of change, comes from ensuring that the twists and turns result in creative energy that is rewarding. Stagnation and predictability are found on straight roads that present a never changing horizon. Roller coasters are fun as long as we fill the rails with adrenaline producing goals. Abrupt changes in course create uncomfortable thrashing in our buildings causing the creative process to empty into the porcelain porthole of waste.

The goal isn’t to say that information from outside of your organization is not valuable – of course it is – I always learn when I get out of the house and absorb information from the world around me. It is the application of gained knowledge that we need to utilize with care. The ideal is guided towards understanding that your own trusted staff can glean information from the big place we call earth based on their own initiative. People, at the point of attack, are 100% immersed in their tasks. Managers walk by and get a sniff of the important details.  If a staff member is capable of asking questions that are tailored to address a challenge within your business, you then have a scenario where existing payroll vaults you ahead. The danger lies in paying “outside” experts to analyze problems without utilizing the “inside” knowledge held within your bank of trusted and informed employees.

If you hire a so called expert to perform a duty that can be handled with existing resources, you risk alienating valuable employees. Continuous lack of faith in quality team members causes them to jump off your roller coaster at the first point of negative inertia. Are you better off bringing in magic through the front door if reality is performing an escaping act through the back alley?  By allowing existing personnel to research magic on their own, you provide a platform that builds obstacle demolition habits from within. Investment in such in house training creates problem solving skills that can be repeated as challenges arise. Management time spent explaining problems to an outsider can often be better utilized to cultivate investigation skills within your organization.  Management time will be more effective by trusting real people that you already know. Baseball teams spend a ton on farm systems. Why bet your cash farm on free agents when you can harvest talent with your secret mix of empowering fertilizer?

Outsiders need a tour of the plant, a company history lesson and they need to understand the challenges in proper context. Outsiders have zero idea that we small companies have learned to do much with little. Tight budgets and groups of employees that perform multiple roles are the norm in small business. Outsiders have a way of spending first and blowing smoke about uniformed potential benefits later. “Build it and they will come” can be restated as “trust your talent and they will shock you with a palace for your stadium”. Why buy outside when your existing talent will have fun growing. Learn from outsiders and learn well. Believe and trust “your” team.

Top employees enjoy new projects – if your employees see an outsider botching a project, that in house staff views as being within their skill level, moral is dinged and expenses for your magic expert have a detrimental impact on your bottom line. Expertise is formed through knowing the questions to ask and considering the big picture. In house employees need not know all – they do need to have the confidence to get on the path of discovery. Supportive management, that cultivates an environment of learning, encourages people to move forward without being paralyzed by the fear of mistakes. The best leaders simply are not afraid to be wrong. Hey, we all like perfection, but the true art of growth comes from empowering employees to get more done without worrying about setbacks. Talent fixes their errors quickly. Managers that sit on the fence tossing out criticism, simply fill the path to prosperity with potholes of resentment.

Managers that teach employees invest in productive decision makers that take personal ownership. Fear of mistakes is replaced with the confidence of self corrective action. Any small business owner has made more mistakes than their employees will ever make – yet, with no one yelling at us leader types we always figure out how evolve past our failures. Potential flourishes when trust in an individual’s self imposed expectations is exceeded and precedes the awareness of management. Come on, just admit that you are busy and the combined resources around you simply know more about the day in and day out details than you do – let ‘em go and they will grow.

Minimal supervision will limit monetary losses in small business – it is not like we have traders at a bank that can lose 2 billion due to being greedy or having a fat thumb. Most likely, those traders have fat heads. Small company employees carry your baby more carefully than they would hold their own. Good management comes with the internal commitment to identify employees that want more. Good managers direct employees that are “willing” to be wrong onto the path towards prosperity. A person with a Sarah Palin clothing budget, standing at a podium might have something valuable to add to your organization, but they might simply be a high paid consultant that does not grasp the depth of issues that  known and trusted employees live through every minute.

I think, at times, we managers need to be reminded of the knowledge and dedication that is contained in our employee bank.  My thought is to suggest that too often we take our existing in house knowledge base for granted. In our effort to come up with the next best thing, we sometimes forget that we have great resources right in our organization. Our resources already have the fundamental foundation of understanding that is directly connected to our specific daily operations.

A case in point, Facebook was cultivated into a giant entity by a guy that doesn’t even need a razor. Sure, he had an idea and good timing, but are you thinking he is the smartest person on the planet? I will bet your small company has a number people right now that could make better high level decisions than Zuckerberg. For all of the incredible brain power at Facebook, let us be reminded of how our stock market guru’s and bank housing experts have done such a fine job of totally kicking the biggest company in the world, known as the USA, right in the arse. My guess is that Mr./Ms. Magic is a well dressed person that was standing behind a podium. ZZ Top has a better grasp on decision making than that well dressed “person”.  The magic IPO group totally mutilated what in house talent understood – meetings not required!

When I make a mistake as a manager, and I have made an unbelievable amount of mistakes, I simply figure out how to reduce exposure to the problem and make the best of a bad situation. Of course if an employee were to make the exact same mistake as their leaders make then why is it “off with their heads”. How come employees face more pressure than company owners when it comes to decision making?  Can you accept the mistakes of your team in exchange for the power created by truly leveraging the knowledge you already own? Hit the “Like” button above if you agree!

Perhaps we manager types should adjust and simply view everyone as equals performing different roles. Instead of sitting on the fence criticizing, we can take our efforts and train talent how to minimize losses quickly? We can train valued employees about a quality decision making process. Small companies quickly remove truly bad employees so that management is swift. I suggest that we get out of the way of our future leaders. Remove the threat of a hatchet and replace it with faith held in the self imposed expectations of your core group. Believe in your team and they will pull your seat belt on when you are too busy to do it for yourself.
 
If you buy into the simple assessment that you generally have good people, then it makes sense to listen to them and take action based on their suggestions. Where do the best ideas come from?  Do they come from the Ivory Tower or from the dedicated employees that face challenges on a continuous basis every day? At times, we as managers take our “great” and “star” employees for granted and we certainly should fix that mindset without delay.

An existing employee could present an idea that passes by without fanfare yet we hear the same concept from an outsider and somehow we give this unknown magician instant credibility? Stick a stranger in front of a podium and our ears are wide open? We sometimes devalue the brilliant ideas of people we know. Somehow, we give an outsider instant credibility when their thoughts are generated without the benefit of understanding our specific market niche. What if we just look for great ideas and value them on merit verses on their source? Through familiarity we can miss good ideas and concepts. My proposal is to consider ideas from your team as if they were presented by someone famous and powerful. Danger lies in giving outsiders artificial credibility. Our goal is to give good ideas legs. Ideas deserve traction regardless of the source.
 
Certainly, there are times when we need to bring in outside horsepower and add new knowledge. My concept does not challenge the need to add specific or new talent. Believing in magic bullets by hiring a mythical know it all manager comes at a cost that could take years to return. Listen to familiar faces with the same open ears given to outsiders and magic manifested in our imagination will open the real door at the entrance of our business.

If leadership truly believes in people, then the creative firepower of employees can be focused from equal ground. The magic comes from the barrage of ideas precisely aimed at the desired target. With practice, the entire organization elevates performance. Clear goals steady a confident aim and inspire a decisive trigger. Support from leaders unleashes the shared voices of execution.  All voices are heard and the entire operation fires eagerly at will.  

About the Author
Jeff Butcher's picture
Jeff Butcher is a veteran of the racing industry based in the Pacific Northwest.
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