good manager, bad manager

I was at dinner tonight with a friend and his friend, a former colleague of both of ours who you might describe as a fiercely independent power woman. She’s also Asian and swears like there is no tomorrow. I was sitting at a fancy midtown bar, telling them about the work drama that ensued this week that has left me feeling like I want to burn my office down. I described the head of my team to her today.

“You know what?” she said to me, with a look on her face that clearly matched how I’ve been feeling this week. “She sounds like the kind of person who has an exact vision of what she wants a role to be all down to the last bullet, but she doesn’t have the empathy and awareness to understand how someone who doesn’t fit the mold could actually do that job, but even better than they would have originally imagined. That’s because her mold is so restrictive and colored by what she is projecting onto it. She wants someone who can be just like her in that role. You will never be her, and that’s okay. But for her to not understand that you could still be successful in that role just because you are not exactly like her is a sign she’s a poor manager of people. Good managers see the strong qualities of their direct reports and allow them to play up those qualities to help them shine. Bad managers simply reject those who are not exactly like them or the mold they want them to be.”

That just made me want to have yet another drink.

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