Test pilots have a litmus test for evaluating problems. When something goes wrong, they
ask, "Is this thing still flying?" If the answer is yes, then there's no
immediate danger, no need to overreact. When Apollo 12 took off, the spacecraft was hit by
lightning. The entire console began to glow with orange and red trouble lights. There was
a temptation to "Do Something!" But the pilots asked themselves, "Is this
thing still flying in the right direction?" The answer was yes--it was headed for the
moon. They let the lights glow as they addressed the individual problems, and watched
orange and red lights blink out, one by one. That's something to think about in any
pressure situation. If your thing is still flying, think first, and then act.
Alan Bean, USN, Apollo Astronaut, in Reader's Digest.
Ed McManus, editor of The Jokesmith newsletter, has put out a booklet of humor about
folks in human resources. It's called What is a Human Resource? and in it he explains how
people get assigned to particular jobs. You leave them in a conference room for four hours.
Then, you go back to see what they're doing. If they don't look up when you enter the
room, assign them to the Security Department. If they're counting the butts in the ashtray,
put them in Finance. If they've taken the table apart, put them in Engineering.
screaming and waving their arms, send them off to Manufacturing. And if they've left early,
put them in Sales.
Bits & Pieces, March 4, 1993, p. 10.
Connie Mack was one of the greatest managers in the history of baseball. One of the
secrets of his success was that he knew how to lead and inspire men. He knew that people
were individuals. Once, when his team had clinched the pennant well before the season
ended, he gave his two best pitchers the last ten days off so that they could rest up for
the World Series. One pitcher spent his ten days off at the ball park; the other went
fishing. Both performed brilliantly in the World Series. Mack never criticized a player in
front of anyone else. He learned to wait 24 hours before discussing mistakes with players.
Otherwise, he said, he dealt with goofs to emotionally.
In the first three years as a
major league baseball manager, Connie Mack's teams finished sixth, seventh, and eighth. He
took the blame and demoted himself to the minor leagues to give himself time to learn how
to handle men. When he came back to the major leagues again, he handled his players so
successfully that he developed the best teams the world had ever known up to that time.
Mack had another secret of good management: he didn't worry. "I discovered," he
explained, "that worry was threatening to wreck my career as a baseball manager. I
saw how foolish it was and I forced myself to get so busy preparing to win games that I
had no time left to worry over the ones that were already lost. You can't grind grain with
water that has already gone down the creek."
Bits and Pieces, December 13, 1990.
When you give a guy a raise, that's the time to increase his responsibilities. Reward
him at the same time you motivate him to do even more. Hit him with more while he's up,
and never be tough on him when he's down. When he's upset over his own failure, you run
the risk of hurting him badly and taking away his incentive to improve. As a mentor used
to say, "If you want to give a man credit, put it in writing. If you want to give him
hell, do it on the phone.
Lee Iacocca with William Novak, Iacocca: An Autobiography.
Stephen Stumph of N.Y. Univ's graduate School of Management, has identified six major
skills needed at the top once you get there. They are: 1) Having a vision. Executives must
fashion a vision of what the company can be, champion that view and get employees behind
it. 2) Managing rivalry. A CEO should not try to eliminate competition between
subordinates and sub-units entirely, because it can be positive. 3) Thoroughly knowing the
products, customers, and competition. 4) Maintaining a consistent strategy. The best
managers stick with the strategy once it is set. 5) Identifying problems early. 6)
Accommodating adversity. Senior executives must be able to get around roadblocks and bounce
back from failure.
What mistakes do all good managers avoid? James K. Van Fleet, a consultant on
managerial motivation techniques, suggests the most common mistakes: 1)Trying to be liked
rather than respected. 2) Not asking your subordinates for their advice and help. 3) Not
developing a sense of responsibility in your subordinates, and not expecting it from your
peers. 4) Emphasizing rules rather than skills among your employees, and thwarting
personal talent. 5) Not keeping criticism constructive. 6) Ignoring employee complaints.
7) Keeping people uninformed--not respecting their right to know.