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Managing life, work, and life at work

What we want from work

Our relationship with work is peculiar and complicated. We work to maintain ourselves, of course, but that maintenance is at least as important psychically as it is physically. Unfortunately, much of the advice offered by management – and, it must be said, especially “leadership” – gurus over recent decades has distorted the psychic element, turning it back in on itself. It is possible, for example, to read much of this material and conclude . . .

Wandering in to work

When I joined the US Marine Corps, it wasn’t to become a Marine, but a lawyer. I had finally decided what I wanted to be when I grew up, but I didn’t have the financial resources to get there. So, I enlisted in order to qualify for the GI Bill benefits, which help military members pursue a college education. I figured I would serve my country, see a bit of the world, save a little money into the bargain, and then get out, finish my degree, and go to law school. That was the plan, and off to the recruiting station I went. Approximately one year later . . .

Waking up at work

We’ve all heard the standard bits of wisdom about making a career choice – do what you are passionate about, pick a field that has a future of growth and advancement, look for a career that can tolerate your evolving lifestyle preferences ranging from location to marriage and family – and the like. But is that how it really works? And are we giving that advice because it worked for us, or because we are unhappy ourselves and trying to figure out where we went wrong?

Managing

Henry Mintzberg is known as an eminently practical academic researcher: he doesn’t just do surveys and analyses of stock market data and the like. Nor does he do interviews alone – he goes to managers’ workplaces, follows them around, and notes what they actually do – not what they say or think they do. He is also regarded as something of an . . .

Pegs

Surely you’ve had occasion now and then to discuss a particularly problematic junior. Perhaps he or she passively resists your instructions, disputes the wisdom of your guidance, or even actively foments dissension in your team. In the event, you probably have also received advice . . .

Just management

Behind many of the current political disputes in the US lately is the question of justice. It is remarkable – isn’t it? – how stridently partisans can depict versions of it that may be mutually comprehensible, but that are decidedly not mutually reconcilable. For our purposes, let’s look at it this way . . .

Manage thyself

When we consider the question of how to manage others, we typically picture those others as more or less blank slates upon which we can write our magic stories. Or, at least, we imagine them to be fellow travelers, but with no baggage – nothing to disturb the expression or question the validity of the model of management we are being taught to apply with (or on) them . . .

Who cares?

Most discussions about reconciling one’s person with one’s work – particularly when we wake up one day to find that we’ve been, for decades perhaps, neglecting that little point –  tend to start with a reexamination of who we are. What kind of a person are we, or do we want to be, we ask ourselves. As we look back across those unexamined years, can we discern a plot struggling to leave its mark in the otherwise featureless terrain, a trajectory to our lives? What kind of story does it tell? This isn’t necessarily mid-life crisis stuff. Indeed, many of our younger colleagues . . .

Reconciliation

We want to make an end to strife, to balance the warring factions of our lives, of the demands they make of us, and we of them. Just some peace and quiet, please, for once. Why is that so difficult, so fraught with fruitless struggle and seemingly endless failure? Well, one reason is . . .

The chasm

One of the key problems with the notion of exceptional individual leadership is that it is inwardly focused. It is all about the individual, and the electric impression he or she is supposed to make on “followers” at all levels. Only then, if at all, does the subject turn . . .

Connecting

We often think that the best managers – or, especially, “leaders” – connect on a deep and profound level with their employees, establishing a mutual understanding and commitment to each other. The sad reality, though, as mentioned yesterday, is that most of us lack the perspective, maturity, and discipline to pull it off. That may seem a harsh claim to make, but if we . . .

Calculating

Have you ever been told that the best career advice you can follow is simply to make your boss happy? Just do whatever your boss – whoever that is at any given time in your career – wants – whatever that may be without any questions or advice – with single-minded intensity, and you will find yourself among the powers that be in to time at all . . .

Building

We talked Thursday about asking what we want from interactions with our colleagues at work, whether peers, juniors, or seniors. We want to place the relationships in a sustainable and productive context, and to be sure we begin to see ourselves as co-contributors rather than the center of a universe with only uncooperative problems for satellites. It’s a powerful question . . .

Perceiving

We’ve been talking over the past few days about the basis for establishing relationships and managing interactions at work. The basic premise is that you should always ask yourself what you want to accomplish, what objective you want to advance, what purpose you want to serve whenever you deal with coworkers – whether they are your peers, your juniors, or your seniors. Moreover, you should . . .

Comprehending

When you are approaching interactions or assessing relationships at work, as we have noted, it can be useful to reframe the context in which you are considering these issues, to be sure you have developed the perspective that works best all around. Let’s take another very brief look at that . . .

Philosophizing

When you begin each interaction, encounter, or relationship at work with an examination of what result you want to flow from it you will eventually, as we have been discussing, find it necessary to investigate what your colleagues want to accomplish, as well. If you pair this with a resetting of the perspective from which you conduct your assessment, you will, as we’ve also noted, begin to discover new factors bearing on the issue, and new ways they can be employed to uncover new solutions and approaches. But you will be doing something else, as well . . .

Normalizing

As you develop your personal philosophy of management for application in your personal workplace circumstances, it is helpful to recall just how personal it really is. That is, while you may feel that your eyes are opening up to new ways of calculating outcomes and building relationships at work, and of perceiving comprehensive frameworks for determining the relevant factors and the necessary contributions and collaborations, your colleagues may be moving along a different track at a different pace than you . . .

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