the big squeeze

The word that comes to mind when I think of management is "sandwich".

At least, that's how I felt almost thirty years ago back in my early twenties, when for the first time in my working career I ascended to the lofty stratosphere of management. Suddenly, it was my job to "manage" people which would have been great except for one thing – no one had ever taught me how to do that. Prior to being promoted, I was very good at what I did, maybe even phenomenally good. As an account representative (translation: sales rep) I had a very successful track record, having brought on many new clients, including several very large accounts. This pleased the boss so much, he naturally assumed that by making me the manager, everyone could learn from me and duplicate my success.

It was very soon after taking on this new title that I began to feel squeezed. I was stuck between the employees and the emperor. On one side, I had a bunch of people under me whom I was supposedly "managing" except these underlings didn't seem to know exactly what they were supposed to do. Either that, or else they simply didn't care to do it. In all fairness, I can't include everyone as falling into one half of this dichotomy. There were some who were totally on the ball. You might say that these were the ones who were "with the program". They were a much rarer breed. They knew what they were supposed to do, and did it. In fact, they were so good at what they did that they didn't need a manager in the first place, so they pretty much ignored me unless they were hitting me up for a loan.

Besides those under me, there was also the voice from above. The Emperor, the Head Cheese, the Numero Uno otherwise known as "Bossman". The Boss kept telling me that the profits were down, expenses were up.

The best thing I could think to do in my new role, was to salute my commanding officer and say "Aye, aye, Captain" and then run for cover before he actually asked me to do something about it. Running away, however, did not eliminate any expectations on the boss's part that I, as the manager, would manage our way out of the storms.

Somehow it was up to me to stave off disaster by getting the rank and file employees to knuckle down and "get with the program", a phrase that was undoubtedly his favourite because he used it every Monday when we would have a "management" meeting. I think that it's a favorite phrase with bosses everywhere, because in the ensuing three decades I've heard it from a lot of different managers from every conceivable type of business. Trouble is, when bosses say they want everyone to "get with the program" but then they don't tell management what the program looks like, all the management can do is snap to attention, give a quick salute and then go running around yelling like Chicken Little:

"The sky is falling, the sky is falling! Quick – everybody get with the program!"

So when you're in management, there are days when you're just gonna feel squished, kind of like roadkill. Or maybe more like a slab of meat sandwiched and squeezed between two slices of bread. The ones you're supposed to manage are always asking you to give them more bread, while the voice from on high will always be ranting that you need to make more bread. If you don't, you're dead. Dead meat.

So what was my magic formula for coping with the pressures of management? I ran away and did what my parents had been telling me to do ever since I got out of high school. I went back to university to become a doctor (Mom's proud). Then a funny thing happened. When I bought my own clinic from a retiring doctor, he virtually threw the keys at me and ran out the door, calling over his shoulder "Now it's your problem!"

"What a strange comment" I thought as I watched his backside disappear down the street and over the hill into the next township. Now "what" was my problem? It didn't take long to find out the answer to this riddle. The problem was, now I was the manager. Again. The day he gave me the keys was the day that it became my responsibility to handle all the interpersonal problems and petty grievances that arose from the idiosyncrasies of the clinic staff. It was no different from when I had been promoted in my early twenties; I was good at what I was trained to do, but I was never trained in interpersonal dynamics.

This was history repeating itself and it would have been much more discouraging except that I very quickly discovered that I was in good company. In talking with colleagues, I found that doctors are pretty pretty good at doing the doctor things, but they make lousy managers. Reason? Because managing employees is not part of the teaching curriculum.

I found the same problem was occurring with my patients who would tell me how stressed they were at worked. After asking some probing questions, it wasn't long until I found that they had been "promoted" right into a set of job responsibilities for which they had never been trained. They had been promoted into management. They weren't ill, they were just ill-equipped. Just like I was. Except now, I was responsible for the success of my clinic as well as the health and welfare of the clinical staff, their families, and mine!

Once again, I felt squeezed.

So I set out to learn how to equip myself to be the best manager I could.

This is a journey that has been ongoing for over twenty years, except unlike when I was in my early twenties, now I love the idea of management. I no longer feel squeezed because I've taken the time to study and apply certain principles learned from psychiatry, psychology and sociology.

My staff are happy, I am happy, we are all less stressed and the clinic is in the top 1% of efficiency. This has led me into a whole new aspect of management and that's teaching and mentoring other people in the principles that have turned my management role away from something stressful to something both fun and rewarding.

This book is going to do two things for those who take the time to read, and then apply the principles.

Firstly, it's going to show you that you're not alone, in fact, you're in great company with pretty much 99% of other managers.

Secondly, it's going to teach you how to understand human nature, interpersonal dynamics, and a number of different psychological and sociological reasons that will help you "get your people, to get along with people". When you do that, your stress is going to go down, your productivity will go up, your expenses will go down and your profits will go up. This is when you will start to be recognized, appreciated and rewarded for being a phenomenal manager.

But first you're going to have to take the time to read, so if you're ready to do that then

"Let's get with the program"