Bruce Bochy is a good manager. His profession is baseball. He is not a household name even among true baseball fans and he does not win championships every season. But this year his team, the San Francisco Giants, won the World Series.

Is Bruce Bochy the reason the Giants won? In some part, yes.  But like all successful managers, he had lots of help.

Bloomberg Businessweek’s November 21, 2010 edition carried a brief interview by Diane Brady with manager Bochy on its final page.  What caught my eye and made me smile was what he had to say about his job and his World Series performance.  To those of you who have read other articles I have written in this blog — each focused on some aspect of what the best managers know and do — Mr. Bochy’s comments will come as no surprise.  For me, his comments capture three important pillars essential for managerial success in any profession.

“Like any job”, said Bochy, “the more you learn the better manager you become. I was like any young manager when I started out.  I was a lot harder on players than I am now.  I’ve learned to be patient”.

Without learning, we humans — managers or not — are doomed to repeat our many mistakes and as a manager, ultimately you will fail.  As Einstein reminded us, it’s insanity to do the same thing repeatedly and expect different results.  But we all must will ourselves to learn because it is often painful and hard.  We frequently must deal with the emotions that accompany admissions that we were wrong, made a mistake, and perhaps were not as good as we thought we were.  It is in the learning process that we demonstrate our maturity and the fundamental understanding of what it takes to succeed as a manager.

“The toughest part of a manager’s job”, said Bochy, “is when you have to change the role a player is accustomed to having.  Telling a starter that he is now going to be on the bench isn’t easy.  You’re not just dealing with egos; you’re dealing with good players who are used to going out there every day”.

For all managers, it’s always all about people.  That is what makes the job so challenging and difficult at times.  Almost every decision you make has a human being attached to it in some way and you can not ever be absolutely certain how they will respond.

Bochy’s insight lies in his grasp of the difference between ego and person; between an abstraction and a real human being with their own expectations and experiences.  Although this difference may seem subtle, grasping it is critical to helping those you manage comes to grips with the many decisions you must make.  Respecting and treating your subordinates as the adults they are — not as mere resources assigned to you — represents a giant step on the road to managerial success.

“Right now”, said Bochy, “people are saying that I made good decisions, but it always comes down to the players.  My job is to put them in a position where they can succeed.  They make the decisions look right.

As a manager, you may make the assignment decisions but it’s your subordinates’ performance that will ultimately establish your mark as a manager.  The best managers will naturally take pride in those personnel decisions that produce great results but they understand deep in their bones how uncertain these decisions can be, how much chance is often involved, how many extraneous factors can effect a subordinate’s ability to fulfill their full promise in the role you have assigned them, and how often even the most carefully considered personnel decisions will not work out as planned.

Consequently the best managers willingly give great credit to their subordinates for organizational success because they absolutely grasp that without subordinate execution no manager can succeed.

Categories: Managing & Leading, Managing People

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