It’s lonely at the top!

I had written an article in December 2012 about the need and methods for project managers to help team members avoid Lencioni’s three signs of a miserable job but what’s sauce for the goose is also sauce for the gander.  Matrixed staff may have it better than almost anyone else – even if their direct reporting manager neglects their needs for recognition, relevance and measurability, they may be lucky enough to have one or more project managers at any given time that will be more progressive in such Theory Y matters.

lonelyatthetopWhile a project manager is expected to spend a reasonable percentage of his or her time building, motivating and supporting their team, the same is not the case for executives, and hence, managers can risk experiencing one or more of the signs as outlined below.

Anonymity – for a manager, they may simply not have sufficient “face time” with their executive boss for them to be understood or appreciated for who they are as an individual (independent of their work results).  This is worse in the case of large, geographically-distributed organizations where they may only be fortunate enough to meet their direct reporting manager once a year and that usually during performance evaluation time!

Irrelevance – the lower you are in an organization structure, the greater the likelihood that internal or external customers will benefit from and recognize your work results.  The higher up you get, the more strategic your accountabilities and yet the harder for others to evaluate.  On top of this, if you have a direct reporting manager who is unable or unwilling to show you how what you are doing is adding value, you are likely to feel unfulfilled.

Immeasurement – this is one of the most challenging dimensions for managers as with few exceptions, the work they do may not be directly measurable to themselves and hence it can be difficult for them to feel that they are making a difference.  This may be one of the contributing factors as to why sales managers sometimes prefer to go back to direct sales so they can visibly assess their progress, or what drives some professionals to leave corporate life to become consultants for hire.  It is possible to partially address this issue by their taking on “special” projects themselves or participating in events or committees to complement their normal managerial responsibilities.

The moral of this article is forewarned is forearmed – while accepting a promotion, recognize the engagement challenges you may experience in your new role and decide whether the additional responsibilities and compensation are worth the downsides.

Categories: Facilitating Organization Change | Tags: | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “It’s lonely at the top!

  1. Great article again Kiron. The issue you have covered is one I see time and time again when good Project Managers have to step up to the mark and start taking on wider business responsibilities. Their people management skills developed while delivering projects ought to be a benefit but far too many take an autocratic and ‘technical’ approach when delivering projects which doesn’t always work when looking at business issues from a wider perspective.


  2. kbondale

    Thanks for the feedback, Paul.

    Yes, unfortunately although there is plenty of good literature on the topic of effectively managing staff, too few managers bother to take the time to read and absorb the learnings!



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