Volume 11, Number 4
Search of a Great Manager
Phil Ross is a
very bright man in his mid-30s who has developed into a very good
long-term goal is to become a great
manager; he wants to be the president of his company one day.
Over the years,
Phil has rigorously pursued his own personal development program.
He has attended numerous workshops dealing with various
management topics—team building, motivation, empowerment,
consensus building, problem solving, and labor relations.
He religiously reads the Harvard
Business Review, Business Week, and The
Wall Street Journal, as well as nearly every best-selling
business book as soon as it becomes available.
Phil eagerly admits enjoying these activities and the
learning that has come from them. Recently, however, he began to experience a growing sense of
“How is it,”
Phil asked himself, “that after 10 years of attending management
workshops and reading everything I can get my hands on, I still
don’t feel that I fully understand what management is all about?
Is it me, or is it that these lecturers and authors I’ve
been exposed to don’t fully understand what managing is all
questioning and restlessness continued at work for weeks.
Again and again he pondered the same question: “What
don’t I get about this whole management issue?
I know most of the jargon.
I practice much of what I have learned.
My team is in a good productive mode.
But I am not growing.”
One evening while
searching through his library for an answer to a management
concern, he had an inspiration.
“I know what it is!
Management is like a large jigsaw puzzle with pieces
scattered everywhere. While
each of the lectures and authors I’ve been exposed to seem to
understand one or more pieces of the puzzle, none of them
understand all the pieces, much less how they fit together.
If I’m ever going to understand fully what management is
all about, I’m going to have to find all the pieces to this
puzzle and solve it myself!”
The next day Phil
created his own research project.
He decided to interview a large number of management
experts—presidents of successful companies along with some of
their top-level managers, as well as leading academics,
consultants, and authors in management and related fields.
“Surely,” Phil thought, “with something as
complicated as putting people into outer space having become
routine, finding the pieces to the management puzzle and solving
it shouldn’t be all that difficult.”
The results of
Phil’s research project proved very interesting.
While most of the people he interviewed agreed with the
idea that managing was a matter of getting things done through
other people, none of them agreed on a best way to do it.
One successful company president told him, “To be a
successful manager, you have to create a win-win situation with
your employees.” Another
said, “The name of the game in management is to drive out fear
and create an atmosphere of trust among your employees.
If you do this, results will take care of themselves.”
academic told Phil, “Effective management is a function of
developing proper individual or team performance measures and then
monitoring those measures closely.”
On the other hand, several
leading authors strongly subscribed to the idea that
“Successful management is a matter of empowering your employees
to do the job and then supporting them in their efforts.”
he interviewed also had their own brands of advice. One prominent consultant felt strongly that “Managing is a
matter of wandering around among your employees, being visible,
staying in touch, and promoting informal communication.
I’m not exactly sure why this works; it just does.” Another leading consultant took a different approach: “If
you hire good people in the first place, you are well on your way
to being a successful manager.”
Phil was both
disappointed and amazed by the results of his research project. He was disappointed in that he felt no closer to solving the
management puzzle than he was before the project started.
He was amazed that so many people who claimed to be
management authorities, experts, and gurus simply weren’t what
they claimed to be. While
each of them appeared to understand one or more small pieces of
the management puzzle, none of them had a solid grasp of the big
picture—how the pieces fit together.
Phil was stumped.
He was not about to give up on the quest to solve the
management puzzle, but he had no idea how to proceed.
After dinner one
evening, Phil settled in to watch the evening news.
As he gazed at the television, he continued to ponder his
lack of success in solving the management puzzle.
Then a feature story caught his attention. The story was about a man named Sam Wharton, who was
president of a large manufacturing company headquartered in a
Mr. Wharton had
taken over as president of the company 10 years earlier.
At that time, the company was in a shambles and in serious
danger of closing its doors for good.
Market share was at an all-time low, productivity gains
were nonexistent, the union was on strike, and employee loyalty
was a thing of the past.
company was experiencing record profits.
In fact, the company had been profitable every quarter for
the past eight years. In
addition, the company was experiencing double-digit productivity
gains thanks to the commitment of its unionized employees.
Employee morale and loyalty were at all-time highs, and the
company now dominated its industry in terms of market share.
The reason for
the feature story was that Sam Wharton was on his way to the White
House to participate in a conference on corporate responsibility.
His company had been recognized by the President of the
United States as an Outstanding Corporate Citizen.
“In the short
time we have left, can you share with our viewers the secret to
your firm’s success?” asked the reporter.
“I’d be happy
to,” responded Mr. Wharton.
“It’s something I refer to as the X-Factor.
Over the years, I have learned that excited people produce
extraordinary results. So,
the managers at my company and I get our people excited, and we
keep them that way.”
“How do you
pull this off?” asked the reporter.
“We simply give
people what they are looking for in their jobs,” responded Mr.
fascinating answer,” said the reporter.
“Thank you so much for your time.”
Phil was very
interested. “I need
to talk to Sam Wharton. Maybe
his X-Factor holds the key to solving the management puzzle.”
The next morning,
Phil called Mr. Wharton’s company.
Sam Wharton’s office, Mary speaking.
How may I help you?”
“Hello, my name
is Phil Ross. I saw
Mr. Wharton on television last night and was hoping I might be
able to meet with him to talk about the X-Factor—anytime at his
“I know Sam
would be very happy to talk to you,” responded Mary.
“He’s very busy, but he’ll always find a little time
to talk to someone about the X-Factor.
He has an opening Thursday morning at 9:30.”
Phil arrived a
few minutes early for his scheduled appointment and was warmly
greeted by Mary. He
noticed that she was wearing a pin shaped like an X on her jacket
lapel. Sam was in his
mid-50s and also sported the X-shaped pin.
his frustration in seeing the management “big picture.” “Phil I’m impressed.
I made the same journey a number of years ago, though I was
fortunate enough to trip over the solution to the management
puzzle—although at the time I didn’t know it.
Go after extraordinary results! And
the way to achieve them is through the X-Factor.”
“What is the
X-Factor?” asked Phil.
Sam smiled as he
walked over to a blank flip chart, picked up a marker, and wrote:
ordinary people X-cited about going the X-tra mile to help you,
the manager, achieve X-traordinary results.
secret to the management puzzle.