Thursday, May 21, 2009

Managing People

If management is defined as the art of getting things done through other people, then I have one thing to say about it:

I suck at it.

Sorry for the language—I rarely speak like this, but there is no better word that can describe my abilities more precisely.

Whether trying to get things done through other people in business, or by directing them in ministry, I usually end up very disappointed, angry, disillusioned and hurt. The people who were under my management usually end up very disappointed, angry, disillusioned and hurt. In other words—my management style is hell on relationships.

Now, perhaps I’ve being a little hard on myself. I do have a few success stories over the years. But I think I have more disappointments. And one of my consistent feelings is, “Why don’t people do things better than they do? Why don’t they take more responsibility? Why don’t they see that this level of quality is still not enough?” I often am amazed that even though they agree to accomplish a certain goal, they don’t do what it takes to figure out how to accomplish that goal well. I become personally offended when they don’t do their job to the highest standard of excellence.

What do I do? Usually deride them. Yell at them a little. Question their character. Question their integrity and loyalty. Let them know that they’ve personally hurt me by doing a bad job.

I’m a jerk that way.

Well, I’m learning. I have been humbled. I have been completely broken by my own mistakes and my own treatment of other people. I have been personally grieved by the broken relationships I have caused. I know I expect way too much of people and have struggled to find out how to have the highest of standards in work/ministry and yet not expect too much from people. It almost seems contradictory.

I grew up in a family situation that discipled me to motivate others by making them feel bad. Seriously. That’s how my parents and older siblings motivated me. They would insult me for whatever I did that displeased them. I was hurt and was thus motivated to improve in order to protect myself from being hurt by them and to make them happy.

So when I became an adult this is how I attempted to motivate people, too. I would tell people to accomplish a particular goal and when they would go about it in ineffective ways I would question their judgment and intelligence. If they did it again, I would question their integrity. Great management skills, huh? Would love to work for a boss like me, right? Yeah, right.

I have completely started over now. I have read some books. I have listened to other people. I have tried to deal with my own issues and the relational “rut” I easily fall into by deriding those under me who displease me. I’m not perfect and not yet where I want to be. But I am learning. The transformation is underway; but it will take a while to complete.

One thing I’ve learned: Success is obtained not just by looking at the problems and obstacles and solving them. Success is obtained by looking at the goal, and continuing to look at it. The former is a focus on the negative. The latter is a focus on the positive. The former is a focus on a part of the present reality. The latter is a focus on a future reality.

I can do this. I know I can. I can do it right, too. I am filled with hope.


  1. I agree with your premise and applaud the desire of your heart to be healed of the old way and begin a new one. Just one reminder: You can't do this! Only God in you can enable you to love people enough for you to change. But I suspect you know that. That theme carries through all of your writings, and has inspired me for a while now.
    Pastor Tom

  2. Some great life lessons you're learning. ;) Don't you just wish you could learn them BEFORE you have to be broken?

    Being around leadership material for 15 years while working with John Maxwell, I've read a lot of stuff. First I'd recommend The Success Journey. It'll help you see your "failures" appropriately and redefine success.

    This probably sounds sales pitchy. I don't mean it to. His teaching really has taught me and my husband a LOT about leadership.