Why management can be the loneliest job in the world

Are you struggling with your management decisions? Develop your own “Personal Board of Directors.”

Question: I work in an organization where there are a lot of political games and maneuvers. I don’t have anyone that I trust to keep my issues confidential.

Alice Waagen says: Your question is exactly the reason that I call management the loneliest job in the world. I don’t care if you are a front-line supervisor or a senior vice president, you really can’t trust an internal advisor with issues and concerns about your people management.

In our current (and seemingly new world of) resource-tight, highly competitive work environments, sharing that you are having difficulty directing a staff person can lead to the following reactions:

  • From your boss: “Really, Tom is not producing? To be honest, that’s great news. I just heard from the Big Boss that we need to reduce headcount by 5%. Tom just went to the top of the layoff list!”
  • From your peers: “I hear that Tom is giving you trouble. Since I’m not able to fill my staff vacancies, can I take him on? He’ll probably work better for me that he is for you.”
  • From your direct reports: “Woops. It would be highly unethical to talk to them about Tom’s performance problems.”

So who can you go to for advice—without worrying about more staff cuts, pilfering of your people, or adding to water cooler gossip?

I strongly advise anyone in a management position to build a personal advisory team. Consider them your private board of directors.

These should be people who have been in management positions like yours, and who have shown you that they have a good grasp at management challenges and their solutions.

They may be former colleagues, former bosses, former school mates in college, even neighbors and folks from your community. You can also find good professional advisors through your professional association events, conferences or even certification training programs.

Some professional associations even offer a formal mentor program, pairing up senior advisors with members who need counsel and advice. Consciously seek out individuals who will provide you with a sounding board to check out the sanity of your decisions.

Here’s the really good news: After you have a few years of successful management under your belt, it is payback time. Support someone like yourself who is struggling to figure out how to be a successful manager by being an advisor yourself. Share your lessons learned along the journey of management and help another soul to learn how to lead and direct others while swimming with the political sharks.