In my relatively short, but unusual, career I’ve heard the phrase “Michi’s minions” a number of times. People use it to jokingly refer to my staff. They say it in private, so I think some people might conclude it’s just a crass joke. Perhaps. For people that know my crude sense of humor, my offense to this joke probably takes you by surprise. Every time I hear that phrase, I immediately conclude the other person is not somebody I want to work for and that they have a naive understanding of professional relationships. History usually proved that conclusion correct.
To me, it indicates a certain condescending/naive attitude that the person has toward employees that is absolutely unacceptable. I once heard the analogy that management is like a rowing team. You’re the coxwain that helps keep the rowboat straight. Yet, when you think about it, you don’t lift a finger to help the results get done. If somebody gets tired or wants to quit, you can’t take out a whip and start cracking. At the same time, without the coxwain, the team will never make it to the finish line. You both need each other. All of my greatest accomplishments as a leader in an organization were because of the hard work the team put in. To forget that your staff were the ones furiously rowing is ignorant if not insulting.
When somebody thinks that “managing” equates to “having minions,” it’s not pretty to watch them get a little power. I’ve seen this a few times now and it had disturbing results every time. The usual trend is:
- They give their staff all the boring, dirty work
- They scold in public and praise in private (if at all)
- They say, “I don’t need to be liked as long as work is getting done”
- People start quitting
I want to address #3 really quickly. “Being liked” and “getting things done” are not mutually exclusive. A good leader will get both done together, every time. If you can’t create a work environment where people are happy, you aren’t qualified to be a leader. Think about the last job where you constantly went above and beyond. Did you like your boss? I bet you did. I am very confident in the importance of having a good relationship with those you work with.
This post isn’t about watching your language. It’s about watching your attitude.
You need your staff more than they need you.