Tuesday, August 23, 2011

You Can't Lead if You Can't Manage 2.0


In a previous monograph, I detailed the handling of a problem management is required to deal with all the time.

That problem ostensibly focuses on the non-performer.  Actually, it focuses on the non-performing manager.  It illustrates how someone who knows how to manage does, and why he is considered a leader.

That example was limited to a team working on a project.  Now, we will focus on a higher level of activity.  Team leaders working on different projects.

In order to do this, we must create an analogy.  This time, however, we cannot use Athos, Porthos, Aramis, and D’Artagnan.

This analogy involves Wolf Blitzer, Candy Crowley, the fictitious Odious Thudpucker, and the big, important boss, Phil A. Bilgewater.

First, I will put two qualified individuals on display.

Wolf Blitzer and Candy Crowley are working on different stories at opposite ends of a large table.  Ms. Crowley is getting information together for a story.  She gathers what she needs, stands up, and says,

“Well, I’ve got what I need.  I’m going to head downtown to interview the Mayor; I should be back by three o’clock.”

“Good luck,” Mr. Blitzer says.

“Thank you,” Ms. Crowley says, and leaves.

The following day, Mr. Blitzer is still working on his story.  At the other end of the table is Odious Thudpucker.  Odious is gathering information for his story.  He gathers what he needs, stand up, and says,

“Well, I got what I need.  I’m gonna go interview the Mayor.  But first I’m stoppin’ off to talk to the director.  I wanna keep him in the loop.  Then, I’m gonna stop by and talk to the fact checkers, them I’m gonna go interview the Mayor.  I should be back by about three.  I may stop for a samwich, I dunno.  How you doin?  Okay.  If you need any help, I’ll be back around three.  Well, I guess I better go.”

He leaves.

Now, Wolf Blitzer, Candy Crowley, and Odious Thudpucker all have their assignments.  In plain English, however, Odious is no good.  He was hired by Mr. Bilgewater.  Bilgewater is no good at his job, either.  So, he calls a meeting and tells the three they all must attend.  This disrupts Mr. Blitzer’s and Ms. Crowley’s work.  Mr. Bilgewater tells them, “This is important.”  What he means is, “I think I am important.”  They all attend.

Mr. Bilgewater discusses the visioning process, shared vision, the importance of avoiding groupthink.  He discusses the importance of consensus building, which is really groupthink you paid a consultant to build.

In order for things to go more smoothly and to improve the quality of the journalism, Mr. Bilgewater is going to have Odious work with Ms. Crowley.

Ms. Crowley doesn’t say anything.  She knows that Odious Thudpucker is no good at his job.  Nor is Mr. Bilgewater.  She knows she will be doing Thudpucker’s job for him.  She knows he will junk up her report.  However, she bites the bullet and goes along with it.

This is what Ms. Crowley knows:

If Thudpucker’s story comes off well, he will take the credit.

If Thudpucker’s story fails, he will blame her.

If her story comes off well, Thudpucker will take the credit.

If her story fails, Bilgewater will hold her responsible—After all, “I had Odious Thudpucker work with you on that story to help you.”

When her story fails, Odious Thudpucker defends her to Mr. Bilgewater.

“It isn’t all Candy’s fault.  I had some good ideas and suggestions but I hesitated to push them.  I didn’t really feel comfortable making too many suggestions to help Candy improve her story.”

Mr. Bilgewater looks to Ms. Crowley.  “The purpose of having Odious help you was for you two to work as a team.  You should be more receptive, open to the ideas of others.  Let’s not have this again.”

Well, a string of disasters would have ensued.  However, Mr. Bilgewater has a boss.  His boss, Mr. Hammerhead reads my blog.  Not that he must.  He already knows this stuff.

He calls Ms. Crowley, Odious Thudpucker, and Mr. Bilgewater into his office.  He wants an explanation about this new arrangement.  He does not direct his question to Ms. Crowley.  He looks at Odious Thudpucker and Mr. Bilgewater.

Odious know his stuff.  He isn’t going to try to pull any fast ones with Mr. Hammerhead.  He has plan B. ready.  Throw Mr. Bilgewater under the bus.

Mr. Bilgewater knows what to expect.  He defends his decision.

“I am trying to build consensus.  I want my people to work as a team.  I learned this stuff at the Really Big, Important Seminar we had here last year.”

“Shut up, Bilgewater.”

“Yes, Sir.”

“From now on, Ms. Crowley works on her stories.  Mr. Blitzer works on his stories, and Odious Thudpucker works on his stories.  Got it!”

“Yes, Sir.”

“That was not a question.  Meeting over.”

Now, this is the point at which the critics see their opportunity to barge in and shift the focus to advance their agenda.

Two heads are better than one.  One person can’t do everything.  People need other people to help them.  People, people who need people.... You get the idea.

However, that is not the point of this presentation.

Wolf Blitzer has a story to work on.  He has a researcher look up information.  He has a fact checker check facts. He has an assistant go to the film department to get some file videos.  He puts his story together.

Candy Crowley has a story to work on.  She has a researcher look up information.  She asks a fact checker to check facts.  She asks an assistant to get some video from the files. She puts her story together.

Now we come to Odious Thudpucker.

Odious has a story to work on.  He needs research.  His demands are not merely vague they are confusing.  The researcher digs up the information he knows will be needed for the story.  Odious criticises his assistant.  He decides to get the information himself. Odious has the fact-checker check certain facts.  The facts he wants checked are not in question.  The ones that are, he tells her not to bother checking.  He sends an assistant for video from the files.  He doesn’t like the videos.  He gets some himself.  He gets a clip of young women in bikinis, people at a bar drinking vodka, and a car-chase scene.  This, he knows, will hold the interest of the audience.  His staff is rushed, pressured, confused, overworked, and feels a deepening resentment for Mr. Thudpucker and for Mr. Bilgewater who can’t manage and certainly can’t lead.

Wolf Blitzer’s story is a success.

Candy Crowley’s story is a success.

Odious Thudpucker’s story is a disaster.

Mr. Hammerhead can now deal with the problem.  He calls everyone into his office.  I can assure you this is not a meeting.

“What happened?”

“My staff.  I’m new. They question my ability.  They challenge my authority.  They aren’t team players.”

Bilgewater chimes in, “That’s what I was talking about, Mr. Hammerhead. Team building, consensus building, shared vision—“

“Shut up.”

“Yes, Sir.”

“You have the best researchers.  You have the best fact-checkers.  You have access to the best video files.  There is no excuse for this disaster you call a project.  This will not happen again.  You can go back to work.  Bilgewater, you stay.”

“Yes, Sir.”

Everyone leaves except Mr. Bilgewater.  When everyone leaves, Mr. Bilgewater looks at Mr. Hammerhead and asks, “Are you going to fire Thudpucker?”


“Do you want me to fire Thudpucker?”

“No.  I am not going to fire Thudpucker.  I don’t want you to fire Thudpucker.  I am going to have the new big boss fire Thudpucker.  Clean out your desk.”

Now Mr. Hammerhead can justify his decision to the people upstairs.  Mr. Hammerhead hires a new big boss.  The new big boss replaces Odious Thudpucker with a qualified journalist.

Sincerest regards,


PS.  I am not Paul Harvey.  However, I am open to becoming a paid commentator, columnist, or blogger. If you’ve found anything I said to be helpful, please don’t hesitate to send me one of those tricked-out laptops and to tuck a few dollars into the envelope along with the thank you note.

Copyright © 2011 Slim Fairview
All rights reserved.