Middle management sucks
I’ve always thought that one of the best kept secrets of management theory is that middle management sucks. Have you every noticed that there are very few movies about middle management? And whenever there is a story about middle management, it is about a submarine or boat where the “business unit manager” is far enough away from the “strategic leaders” to do some leadership? Or we see the middle manager bailing out and rediscovering life as in Jerry Maguire.
Middle management sucks because it is all urgent and important
Middle management sucks because it is all management. It is all about “to do” lists. Being a housewife is similar. “To do lists” take up too much of our attention. It is a percentage thing. While everything on the the list is important, we should never allow our lives to be overtaken by what is urgent and important. Urgent and important should be allowed, how much do you think? 1%? If you have a day of urgent and important tasks, don’t you think you really have another 99 days of tasks that you are not doing?
Can you live without a day of urgent and important tasks?
If we could live without urgent and important tasks, I wonder whether we would?
Isn’t it true, as David Whyte says, that we make another “to do list” because we are scared that we are nothing and nobody without one.
It becomes very interesting when our “to do” lists vanish. If we are suddenly ill, or when we change jobs and nobody knows who we are. When we don’t get email and our phone doesn’t ring. It is quite disconcerting. We much prefer to be dominated by urgent and important tasks even if they are dreary. Don’t we prefer to have “to do” lists that are larger than ourselves and our dreams?
To do lists make us miserable
For the last 10 years, as a displaced person/migrant, I’ve oscillated between frenetic completion of lists of commercial tasks like residence permits, bank accounts, etc. etc. – things I hate to do at the best of times – and silence. I think this is why migration is so miserable. Not dealing with bankers and government officials – they are people too. Not taking boring jobs. The jobs are important in their own right. Migration is miserable because we make the mistake of allowing the “to do list” and the silences that surround them be all that it is.
We have to allow the “to do” work and accompanying silences fit into space around our dreams, not be our only space.
We really have to resolve to re-engineer our lives around a dream, to live around what we love to do and to relax into doing what others love us to do because we do it so well. We have to allow the “to do” work and silences fit in to that space, not be our only space. We are letting priorities become goals and constrict our spaces until we cannot breathe anymore – rather literally for some.
A hack to start the dreaming
Take a a piece of paper (or junk mail envelope). Draw a little circle for our little life as a migrant, or as a housewife, or as a middle manager (those scare me more than being a migrant). Around that little circle, draw a giant circle representing our horizons and dreams. And stare at the empty space between the two. Pretty scary.
I feel my chest constrict. I want to walk away. I mustn’t. I must start defining the points on the horizon. The points I love and I am drawn to. And then start filling in any points between me and there, any point at all, useful or not. I need to take the first step and to put down the first point.
Can we leave the tight center of tedium?
It is hard when immediate pressures are upon us. We won’t start dreaming instantly. We keep looking nervously at that tight center of tedium. How can we take our eye off all these pressures?
Crisscross over. Promise yourself you will be back to watch that tight center like you watch a pot on the stove or a sick child. But branch out in each direction to see how far you can see. It is only a piece of paper after all. Just add a point. See if you can.
See if you dare to live a full life even on the back of an envelope
See if you dare lie a life when priorities take up 1% of your existence and are priorities, not limits and constraints.