Steve Sharkey

Developing Tomorrows Managers

When I interview people I often ask the question: where do you see yourself in 5 years time? No is held to the answers they give and for me it is more about how deliberate they are about their career. It took me a long time to reach the level of maturity (and friend say I'm not there yet!) that I think you need to get to in order to be a "good manager". I think it's a little like football coaches/managers: when the team is doing well the press praises the players, when it starts to look bad the club sacks the manager! If you can't get pleasure from creating the environment for your team to thrive and celebrate their successes you're probably not ready.

Make Yourself Redundant...

...and I'll give you something more interesting (rewarding) to do!

This was a phrase a manager of mine once said to me and it has become one of my mantras for the working life. I have seen so many people doing the same things day after day with no thoughts to automation, in I.T. that's pretty close to criminal in my opinion. People like to have the security of work that still needs to be done so they are needed, this thinking just maintains the status quo. Finish the work, automate the task and the time liberated can be spent doing something more interesting. If  you had 2 employees doing a job and one of them automated it meaning you only needed one employee - which one would you retain? And if your employer doesn't recognise your genius perhaps they are not worthy of you.  

Leadership & Management

At some point in the recent past, organisations decided it was no longer cool to be a manager so all management positions became leadership positions. The next step was to stop doing those "management things" and do "leadership things" instead, I guess this was a case of fake it 'til you make it mentality.

"Officially" you need to be both but I get the feeling that people view management as boring, uncool and the domain of failed leaders. My route into this space came when I observed so many people either not being managed or being managed poorly, this coincided with a recommendation to read: First Break All The Rules: What the Worlds Greatest Managers Do Differently by Marcus Buckingham (a great book that I'll add to my recommendations page). This inspired me to re-join the rat-race.

Training & Development

During the 10 years that I worked for myself I had the privilige of working with the best training, development & procurement manager that I have ever worked for. If I needed training I got it, when I needed a second monitor I bought it. Of course it had to pay for itself but I never let that stand in the way of my productivity or development.

It was only when I returned to an employed status that I realised how unusual this is, as a manager (and developer of people) I frequently discuss my teams career aspirations and look for opportunities to help them achieve these but am surprised by how passive they can be about their own development when I first meet them. If I feel I am stagnating I look for opportunities and if my current employer doesn't see the potential I consider whether I have outgrown the role as they understand it. Since being back in an employed status I have had as many days of annual leave and personal funding worth of training as I have received from my employer - it's my career and my future, if I won't invest in that why should anyone else?

Learning to Think

I left secondary school with a handful of qualification gained by memorising facts, repetition, hard work, natural talent/intelligence and quite a bit of luck. It wasn't going to take me much further. However, as luck would have it, due to an interest in mathematics (largely borne of an excellent teacher) I was placed in the "care" of a mathematics lecturer (Mr Russell) who's catchphrase was: "I never remember a formula, I always derrive them from first principles...". Whilst I wouldn't go THAT far, he taught me that spending time to understand what I was trying to learn made the learning so much easier and long lasting. That lesson carried me through my degree and career to date.