Friday, September 02, 2005

Managers don't have all the answers

I remember one of the most profound learning experiences of my career.

I was in my early twenties and had been successful in securing a fairly senior management position in a hospital.

One of my responsibilities was to manage a team of six porters. They were all older than me - some of them over twice my age and between them they had many years of experience.

I was successful in securing extra money from my bosses to employ one extra porter on condition I introduced a night shift that would give 24 hour porter cover in the hospital.

These were the days before Excel spreadsheets! and I spent many hours at home and at work writing out in 'long hand' various alternative shift suggestions for the porters to consider.

Whatever I tried I couldn’t produce a satisfactory Rota. I was stuck!

George White - one of the older porters came into my office and asked what were all these huge sheets of paper on my desk. I explained my predicament and George - trying hard I am sure not to laugh - said he would have a try with the other porters.

Within an hour or two he was back with two or three options that the porters liked.

The messages to me that I have remembered for my entire career:

  • Being called a 'manager' does not mean you are an expert in everything
  • As a manager you really do not have to do everything
  • The staff who do the work know the answers
  • Don’t beat yourself up by battling alone - just ask for help

Just thought I would share that little story with you.


omm said...

Love it, so true and simple, management by guiding others to remember that they have the solutions too if they just develop the willingness to find them and that all things that are trully worthwhile are achieved by co-laborating. Thanks Trevor.

Trevor Gay said...

Throughout my career the best results I ever achieved have always been by working collaboratively with others.

This story taught me so many lessons as a young man about 'letting go' of the power you are seen to have as a manager.

The reality is that the power you have amopunts to nothing more than words on paper. The real power we have as managers is always through our staff.