Managing is all About Actual Interactions with Real People – Insight from Henry Mintzberg’s Managers not MBAs

Ed Savage is the head of Training and Development in a sizable company relatively near Dallas. He is also smart, and well-read — and, to make me even more envious, he remembers what he reads. And, he regularly attends our First Friday Book Synopsis, and has had both me and my colleague Karl Krayer do some speaking and training in his company.

A while back, he told me that after a few years of listening to us at the First Friday Book Synopsis, he observed this: all of the modern business books simply remind folks of what they (should have) learned in school.

managers_not_mbas-1So, recently he left a comment on this blog post: It’s both a Hard Skill and Soft Skill Era – Do You Have Both? He pointed to Henry Mintzberg’s Managers not MBAs: A Hard Look at the Soft Practice of Managing and Management Development – a book I had missed.

In this wonderful era of the Kindle App downloads, I tackled the sample pages. I suspect I will read the full book soon. Here are some key quotes from early in the book:

We need balanced people who practice a style of managing that can be called “engaging.” Such people believe that their purpose is to leave behind stronger organizations, not just higher share prices. They do not display hubris in the name of leadership… We need to build the craft and art of managing into management education.

He takes quite a swipe at the typical MBA program, charging such programs with being long on theory and short on practical help in the actual task of managing real people.

Pretending to create managers out of people who have never managed is a sham.

And he believes that only in the actions of managing is leadership demonstrated:

Manager have to lead and leaders have to manage. Management without leadership is sterile; leadership without management is disconnected and encourages hubris.

And, maybe my favorite quote so far:

Trying to teach management to someone who has never managed is like trying to teach psychology to someone who has never met another human being.

To Mr. Mintzberg, management is not a science — it is an art, and a craft… Effective managing therefore happens where art, craft, and science meet… where there is no experience, there is no room for craft…

Managers have to lead better, so that others can know better and therefore act better. They have to bring out the best in other people.

As I delve into this book, I am struck again with this simple fact – management and leadership are all about actual interactions with real living people. A manager has to lead people. And this person requires just a little bit different approach than that other person. A manager gets to know the people – what motivates this person differently from what motivates that person – and then, “brings out the best” in each person he/she manages

In other words, yes… managing really is all about the “soft skills.”

Thanks, Ed.


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