Ajarn Mark Caldwell Blog

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Management Thinking Reset

Several days ago I was talking with my boss about some management concepts.  As you can imagine (and may have read about here) being self-employed for quite a few years, I developed some strong opinions about how things should be done.  I am in an interesting position with this company where a lot of the work I do is structured similarly to how I worked as an independent consultant.  That is, I tend to work on specific projects that last from one to four months, and I take them all the way from requirements gathering to finished application (or at least finished Phase 1).  Because of my experience, I am also asked to be a mentoring or training resource for some of the other members of the department.  And to wrap it all up nicely, back before I went independent, I was VP of Information Systems for the company where I worked.  But that was early in my career, back when I still thought I knew it all because I had a degree in Business Administration.  Since then, I have gotten an even better education in the real world.

So, all that background just to help you understand why I was chatting with my boss about management concepts.  The funny thing is, that in all that time, nobody challenged me to reset my thinking like my boss did that day.  In short, he said that it is important for managers (and I would suggest, for all employees and consultants) to reset their opinions about the team members every 6 months or so.  Primarily, his point being that people can and do change, but we often latch onto our early impressions and never give them the benefit of a new assessment.  This habit can either be in that other person's favor, or work against them.

For example, have you ever seen the situation where someone in the office hit a home-run early in his career, and from then on was treated as the Golden Boy, even though they never again performed up to that level?  Or the reverse, have you ever seen the situation where someone got off to a really rocky start, and even though they learned, changed, and grew, that cloud hung over them for the rest of their career there?  It is important that we reset our opinions back to neutral periodically and see if the individual returns to that same level of performance, or if they have changed and now perform at a different level, either for good or bad.  This is especially important to do if the person got off to a bad start, for if they have now learned and improved, it would be a real shame to let them go just because all you remember is that bad start.

Perhaps it should be called The Law of Second and Third Chances, or something fancy like that.  We have all probably had our own experiences of making the wrong first impression.  Sometimes we get a second chance and recover and move on.  Sometimes no second chance comes along.  And sometimes, people return to their same level of performance time after time.  At that point, you can safely make whatever decisions are necessary, resting assured that they are based on a valid assessment, and not just first impressions.

And if you are really daring, I challenge you to apply the same thoght-reset to your own evaluation of yourself.  Are you still performing as well as, or better than, you used to?  Or are you trying to live off of your glory days?  In an ever-increasingly competetive world, companies must ask the question, “What have you done for me lately?”

Well...what have you?

Legacy Comments

re: Management Thinking Reset
>> “What have you done for me lately?”

Have you been watching Eddie Mmurphy's "Raw" again? :))

but i do agree with you.

Although it's really hard to acomplish that.
takes a lot of mental training if you ask me.
because us humans get brain programed with first impressions... unfortunately

Adam Machanic
re: Management Thinking Reset
Great post. I think you make some excellent points, and you are correct -- people SHOULD be given better chances. I've quite often seen both the "Golden Boy" and "rocky start" syndromes at work, and neither is a pretty picture. Twice during the .COM period I saw the best (i.e., most dependable and most consistent) team members get laid off in favor of people who had had a few very bright points but mostly did nothing. It's truly sad when management fails to notice the day-to-day achievements -- which are what really keep the business rolling (and, I think they forget, IN BUSINESS!)