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What is a (good) manager?
Old 06-14-2006, 05:49 PM   #1
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What is a (good) manager?

As you can tell, I'm new at this 'work' thing. Perhaps I should go back to where I came from. I'm still lost but slowly getting somewhere. See previous topic. http://early-retirement.org/forums/i...p?topic=7440.0

So what does a manager supposed to do? What is a good manager?

I work very closely with my manager. Together we make up a team, just the two of us on this super project of other teams. But we mostly work together. There's lots of work to be done, both of us. She has me do some, she does others, and i also get work from other managers (this i dont understand yet).

Should my manager be my 'parent'? I always assumed the manager knew what was going on with me. What work i was on, how much work I had, how much is too much, how i'm feeling and all that. Is she supposed to know this? Should she care?

In reality. I'm worn out, very worn out. Now at times she always asks me, am i ok? Well this is a dilemma. If i say yes, she is happy, but i am not happy. If i say no, she is not happy, I am still not happy.

...Besides the "pure" managing part. What else would there be? I actually enjoy working with her, because she is very good, very dedicated, and many times selfless. (she works hard, long hours, pushing lunch back alot, if she even gets it.) What happens is this passes down to me, I'm not sure I am as 'dedicated' as her, but I am not against working by her side by side. She is fun to be with, has great stories, and is always telling me about her experiences and trying to teach me.

We often 'celebrate' by going to out to coffee (at an un-named coffeeshop that has taken over the world). We take a small break where we just talk about anything, then head back into the office (often times at 6pm, 7pm) and continue work. I really think she is really interesting and great to hang out with. But is that 'too far'? Is there a line? Like get some dinner, go hiking, weekend lunch, coffee anything outside of the office.

I feel that I enjoy working with people, not just 'positions'. I want to work with Steve, Mary, and Joe. Not the finance guy, planning lady, and quality guy. Real people that have personalities, lives, emotions and all that. I want to know them... i guess become friends.

Ok. maybe i opened two cans of worms.
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Re: What is a (good) manager?
Old 06-14-2006, 06:06 PM   #2
 
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Re: What is a (good) manager?

Sounds like you are making some CEO very rich with all that dedication!
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Re: What is a (good) manager?
Old 06-14-2006, 11:11 PM   #3
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Re: What is a (good) manager?

There is a long list defining attributes of a good manager. The most important attribute, however, is genine caring for others.
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Re: What is a (good) manager?
Old 06-15-2006, 12:03 PM   #4
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Re: What is a (good) manager?

Interesting topic.... by the response of folks on this board that favor FIRE or the 2nd best option being your own boss...I dont think there really is a "good" manager. I have found that the ones with kids to be a bit better for whatever reason (probably learned how to deal with an irrational person). Also, not working in the same office as your boss seems to help
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Re: What is a (good) manager?
Old 06-15-2006, 12:45 PM   #5
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Re: What is a (good) manager?

Quote:
Originally Posted by vvsonikvv
So what does a manager supposed to do? What is a good manager?
Having met all too few of them in the military, I have some opinions on the subject of leaders & managers.

Good leaders take care of their followers. Good managers take care of their team. It's as simple as that. You may not always be able to do what your people want you to do for them, but you'll always try to do what's best for them.

Usually it involves creating an environment where employees feel comfortable brainstorming their ideas. A good manager will have the communications skills to get the team to develop those brainstorms into concepts. A good manager will understand the funding process well enough to obtain money to develop the concept into a product/service. Heaven forbid that a manager would have enough technical skills to understand the concept, or at least be able to be tutored on how it should work.

Then a good manager has to protect their employees from management until the project reaches fruition.

Scott Berkun has a number of essays on good managers & project management. Having worked on IE code as well as "with" Bill Gates & friends, Scott probably knows what he's talking about.

Quote:
Originally Posted by vvsonikvv
Should my manager be my 'parent'? I always assumed the manager knew what was going on with me. What work i was on, how much work I had, how much is too much, how i'm feeling and all that. Is she supposed to know this? Should she care?
In reality. I'm worn out, very worn out. Now at times she always asks me, am i ok? Well this is a dilemma. If i say yes, she is happy, but i am not happy. If i say no, she is not happy, I am still not happy.
Managers aren't mindreaders. When they ask if you're OK, they don't want a health rundown or a sitcom plot summary or an evaluation of your innermost feelings. They certainly don't want to be told "Everything's just peachy fine!"

What managers really want to know is what you're working on, what obstacles you're confronting, what help you need, and what deadlines they've forgotten about. They also need to know what you need them to do for you, and they might even be able to do something about it.

"Are you OK?" is also a code phrase for "What can I teach you today?"

Quote:
Originally Posted by vvsonikvv
I really think she is really interesting and great to hang out with. But is that 'too far'? Is there a line? Like get some dinner, go hiking, weekend lunch, coffee anything outside of the office.
Yes, that's too far. The line is drawn for you by everyone else. If the "hanging out" is a company-wide or otherwise public event with your co-workers, great. If it's just you and the manager then it should be a teaching moment or a counseling session. Ducking out of the office to a local coffeeshop or restaurant is probably OK but...

Otherwise it's fraternization, whether it actually is or isn't. Your fellow employees will helpfully make this determination for you. Sometimes they'll even volunteer to share their assessment for you, but usually they'll just do that with everyone else in the company.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Maddy the Turbo Beagle
I have found that the ones with kids to be a bit better for whatever reason (probably learned how to deal with an irrational person).
It develops the skill of explaining difficult concepts using simple words with people who don't possess the cerebral comprehension skills necessary to acquire the understanding on their own.

I'm not suggesting that you should treat managers like kids. But it certainly helps a kid when you treat their questions seriously and try to give them a well-thought-out answer instead of a snappy punchline or an authoritarian "Because I said so!".

The response you choose will be adopted by your kids, so those punchlines & snappy discussion-enders could be played back to you ad nauseum during your kid's teenage years. The same thing could happen to you with managers.

As long as we're talking about raising babies, don't even get me started on the concepts behind assigning junior officers as aides to flag officers.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Maddy the Turbo Beagle
Also, not working in the same office as your boss seems to help
Separate offices are good. Separate floors are better. Separate buildings would be an unexpected bonus, especially if the transition between the two is a difficult & time-consuming process.

Separate time zones are best of all!
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Re: What is a (good) manager?
Old 06-15-2006, 01:01 PM   #6
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Re: What is a (good) manager?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Maddy the Turbo Beagle
I have found that the ones with kids to be a bit better for whatever reason (probably learned how to deal with an irrational person).
That's a good point. At one time there were three bosses in my work unit, one who had no children, one who had a child from a long ago marriage (seemed to be very little contact with the kid) and the third who had two adopted children. They were all there together briefly, but it made for a strange work environment. My partner and I compared notes with coworkers and we all came to the same conclusion, we couldn't quite explain it but we preferred working for people who had traditional nuclear families.

Bear in mind that the unit was full of "individualists" who enjoyed the ability to be self-directed and balked at anyone who wanted to see how the sausage was made. All three bosses had a marked habit of wanting to know all the gritty details of exactly what we were going to do and what we had done. They were the bosses, but a lot of it was trivial and mostly unjustified to the point that it was aggravating. We didn't mind being responsible for our results and productivity, but we were prone to "irrational" reactions to inquiries like "what are you doing today?" or "how did you do that?" We were like teenagers running around wearing grownup clothes.

There are some similarities between skills good parents have and good managers have. In raising my sons, I look on my job as parent being one that I am helping them to live up to their potential while supervising their attempts at independence. They need some guidance, a lot of encouragement, my help in smashing barriers in their way and every now and then a little "motivation" to make them do the unpleasant tasks that seem to be overwhelming challenges. All things I did as a boss. While I love my sons I can't say the same for my employees, but I did genuinely care for them - even the ones who were nightmares to work with.

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Re: What is a (good) manager?
Old 06-15-2006, 05:21 PM   #7
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Re: What is a (good) manager?

In short?

Someone who has the employees welfare prioritized somewhere in the top 2-3 in the list of who is important. When you dont get rated at all or maybe just squeak into the top 10, they're not going to be a good manager.

Sets reasonable and clear goals and expecations. Lets you know how you're going to be measured. Lets you know what the rewards for success and the penalties for failure will be. Follows through with those rewards and penalties.

Gives you all the tools and time to do a good job.

Kicks your ass when you're screwing up.

Gives you all the credit and takes all the blame.

For anyone reading this and slyly thinking "I dont need to take care of my people, after all, whats in it for me?"...

About 18 years ago I had a pretty solid sales guy working for me. Probably my best guy in fact. He had an interest in a geographic move and there was a management job open in the district where he wanted to move to. It was absolutely in my personal best interest to have him stick around and not get that job. Instead, I pushed for him to get it, and when the regional vice president tried to screw him out of the promotion at the last minute, I took that guy on and made his life miserable until he gave him the promotion.

Fast forward 4 years after that, I'm walking down the street and run into that sales guy, who had since moved on to a better job. We'd kept in touch off and on but hadnt talked in a while. We decided to grab a bite of lunch. Towards the end he says that one of his customers is has an opening that I'd be perfect for, and its a pretty good job with good compensation. I'm interested. He basically nets me the job, saying he owed it to me.

Thats the one I ended up making enough money to ER on.
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Re: What is a (good) manager?
Old 06-15-2006, 10:43 PM   #8
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Re: What is a (good) manager?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Spanky
There is a long list defining attributes of a good manager. The most important attribute, however, is genine caring for others.
She has this attribute. I have this too. In fact, I think it may hurt at times. Because I try to help everyone and not let everyone down, I may end up pushing myself too hard. She does this. But she does not have the bandwidth to please everyone. So at times, she may be producing lower quality 'work'. But I like how she really cares. she seems to care about me as well...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nords
Separate offices are good. Separate floors are better. Separate buildings would be an unexpected bonus, especially if the transition between the two is a difficult & time-consuming process.

Separate time zones are best of all!
Well I sit the next 'aisle' over from her. Only the big wig gov't people get offices. She actually wanted me to move next to her, but I said i need some space. We work together alot , very closely. We're always a 1-2 team, walking around, at meetings here and there, doing this or that.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Nords
Managers aren't mindreaders. When they ask if you're OK, they don't want a health rundown or a sitcom plot summary or an evaluation of your innermost feelings. They certainly don't want to be told "Everything's just peachy fine!"

What managers really want to know is what you're working on, what obstacles you're confronting, what help you need, and what deadlines they've forgotten about. They also need to know what you need them to do for you, and they might even be able to do something about it.

"Are you OK?" is also a code phrase for "What can I teach you today?"
Good point. Next time she asks maybe I'll tell her. But how do you tell her no. I can't do this? Won't that make you look bad? It's hard being the new guy, the new young guy. I feel like I'm lying to her, because I guess I am. I feel like crap, I don't really enjoy and i get tons of work from EVERYONE. but i say 'peachy fine' as you said it. But if I say otherwise, won't I look bad?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nords
Yes, that's too far. The line is drawn for you by everyone else. If the "hanging out" is a company-wide or otherwise public event with your co-workers, great. If it's just you and the manager then it should be a teaching moment or a counseling session. Ducking out of the office to a local coffeeshop or restaurant is probably OK but...

Otherwise it's fraternization, whether it actually is or isn't.
hmmm... I knew something was up. IT didn't feel 100%, but I think its good to have a 'closer' relationship. So I can't be friends and hang out because she is superior? or because she works with me in general? There is one other young guy I hang out and goto bars and partys all the time. My manager and I are trading CDs and books, movie recommendations and all that. She brings up a few moments where something could happen. I'll say something about hey I never tried that or I don't have much to do tonite, She'll mention hey we have game nite at my place, or I've never been to the museum, etc... If I just say, hey we should check it out or wow i've never been to a game nite. I'm sure an invitation would be open... But you don't think I should go there?

Thanks for your post Nords. I learned alot from your perspective.

I guess I have alot to learn. They don't teach these things at those $120k for 4 years of 'schooling' places.
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Re: What is a (good) manager?
Old 06-16-2006, 07:13 AM   #9
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Re: What is a (good) manager?

Be careful about giving the whole truth about being overworked. One of the best writers I worked with at my last company used to honestly tell the boss when she felt overworked and under too much time pressure. Alas, that got her a reputation as a whiner and "weak sister" who couldn't roll with the punches of the software biz--and she was laid off ahead of writers with much weaker skills.
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Re: What is a (good) manager?
Old 06-16-2006, 04:12 PM   #10
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Re: What is a (good) manager?

How old is your manager? Is she only a few years older than you or, heck, even a few years younger than you? All the invitations make me think that she wants to explore something other than work with you.
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Re: What is a (good) manager?
Old 06-18-2006, 10:58 AM   #11
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Re: What is a (good) manager?

Quote:
Originally Posted by astromeria
Be careful about giving the whole truth about being overworked. One of the best writers I worked with at my last company used to honestly tell the boss when she felt overworked and under too much time pressure. Alas, that got her a reputation as a whiner and "weak sister" who couldn't roll with the punches of the software biz--and she was laid off ahead of writers with much weaker skills.
this is what I am afraid of. This is a huge dilemma. I wish the managers and their managers are able to actually (gasp) manage and see how much work they have their workers doing. It's really alot of work and you can burn out workers and they will produce much much less quality work.

Quote:
Originally Posted by BunsOfVeal
How old is your manager? Is she only a few years older than you or, heck, even a few years younger than you? All the invitations make me think that she wants to explore something other than work with you.
I don't think this is the case. Perhaps my perspective, or the way I wrote the post may have been misinterpreted. Not that it matters, she is older.

Maybe I'm just expecting too much... I guess it is hard to have friends AND business combined. It just seems (to me) that if you can feel comfortable, relaxed, and close to someone, you can work better together... Rather than a total stranger.

Say if you get moved to a new project/team/etc at first its awkward, but soon you get to know people better... I guess I think that if you keep going with that, the more the better. Perhaps I am wrong and there is diminishing return.
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Re: What is a (good) manager?
Old 06-21-2006, 11:37 AM   #12
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Re: What is a (good) manager?

I am a manager and have been for most of my 30+ year career.

Middle managers get screwed from many sides. My Avatar was created to depict my feelings about being in the middle....with a screw though my back.

I have stood toe to toe nose to nose and fought for wages and for the very jobs of my employees over the years. Sometimes I won sometimes I lost but I always fought for the ones worth keeping.

The rules of managment have changed over the years and middle managers have less and less power to make things happen while getting more and more work to do with fewer people to do it. Most managers at my level I know work 10-12 hour days and frequently take work home too. Most are overworked, overstressed and underappreciated for what they do to keep the enterprise running despite having fewer and fewer resources to do more and more work.

Add to the pile:
HR "flavor of the month" Performance Evaluation Programs"

Management directives to cut waste and increase productivity.....aka...do more with less.

Managment flavor of the month Quality Improvement programs that get a lot of hot air but no real $$$ support past the first year or two.

Management misdirection and fumbling around with sales forcasts and production schedules that cause frantic buying then scraping of excess material when the schedule changes again....then the screaming at management to be more efficient and less wastefull. :

Middle managers deal with people...workers, peers, and bosses and rival resource groups. Every day is a battle to get the job done on time and the right way with limited resources and superfical management support.

A good manager is able to insulate their employees from most of the BS while allowing them to do the job they were hired to do. They also tell employees what the expectations are and what get rewaded and what does not. A good manager will support and coach their people as they prepare them for the next promotion or career move. A good manager is accountable to their company, to their employees and to their bosses. A good manager is also a good person and shows respect and human interest in their employees.

The people who work for me are "my people" I don't own them but I am protective and supportive of them as if they were my own family. As long as they treat me with respect and give me an honest days work I will give them as much room as they want to do their jobs. I am also there to coach and mentor and when needed to guide, poke and push. I have hired far more people than I have fired and most every one who has worked for or with me has been happy about it.
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Re: What is a (good) manager?
Old 06-21-2006, 01:48 PM   #13
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Re: What is a (good) manager?

You are all looking at it from the bottom up. The really important view is from the top down. Of course.

A good manager is one who can intimidate his people into doing anything mangement wants done. This one will be promoted, for sure.

Good companies get rid of the 'bottom' 10% every year anyway, don't they Mr. Welch? This is how it is done--chase them off. We know they are the ones dragging us down because they don't have the drive.

Where are my stock options?
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Re: What is a (good) manager?
Old 06-21-2006, 02:59 PM   #14
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Re: What is a (good) manager?

Quote:
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Where are my stock options?
With your first spouse... like you noticed they were missing...
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Re: What is a (good) manager?
Old 06-21-2006, 07:52 PM   #15
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Re: What is a (good) manager?

Quote:
...first spouse...
'Trophy wife', please. (Still got her!)

Ed in Calgary,
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Re: What is a (good) manager?
Old 06-21-2006, 08:19 PM   #16
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Re: What is a (good) manager?

Quote:
Originally Posted by SteveR

The people who work for me are "my people" I don't own them but I am protective and supportive of them as if they were my own family. As long as they treat me with respect and give me an honest days work I will give them as much room as they want to do their jobs. I am also there to coach and mentor and when needed to guide, poke and push. I have hired far more people than I have fired and most every one who has worked for or with me has been happy about it.
Wow. You are a great manager. Wish I worked for you... This is the type of manager I want. This 'family' thing where we look out for each other... Not as a manager who will use their people so they can get promotions/raises/whatever.

I do see the perspective about BS from all sides and will add this to my insight when I am with my manager. I know all about the 'HR reviews, performance management fluffy stuff'.

...
Well I guess it doesn't matter anymore to me. My manager is actually moving to a different project... But get this, I didn't find out from her. I found out from someone else who came to me asking what she did, because he was taking over for her. I wasn't sure if he was 'stealing' her job... Then I found a status report that mentioned replacement for my manager... THEN she talks to me and says, oh so you've spoken to 'so and so'.

I felt really taken back by that and wish she has spoken to me. Her leaving to a different project is a HUGE deal for my work and our task we were assigned to. We were a 1-2 team. For me to find out from someone else puts a big bad dent in our 'relationship'. I lost that trust/communication with her.....

So it's tough being a good manager, huh?
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Re: What is a (good) manager?
Old 06-22-2006, 01:07 PM   #17
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Re: What is a (good) manager?

vvsonikvv,

I have had some really lousy bosses in my 30+ year career. Too many to mention here but I will relate one event that is similar to yours. I was on vacation for a week and when I returned I read an email from my boss announcing departmental management changes to everyone outside the department...sort of an All Company Notice. In it I noticed I was now (a week earlier) reporting to a new boss I had never met. My boss never mentioned it to me and this was my third such boss change in 18 months.

I at least got the satisfaction of giving my new boss my letter of retirement...effective in two weeks, during our first face to face meeting.

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Re: What is a (good) manager?
Old 06-22-2006, 01:18 PM   #18
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Re: What is a (good) manager?

Quote:
Originally Posted by SteveR
I have had some really lousy bosses in my 30+ year career.
Oh yeah? Well my boss was so bad that he...

He did call me one afternoon to tell me I needed to fire my office manager. It apparently didn't phase him that I was in the hospital and still groggy from having surgery that morning. :P

He also called two other managers to talk business and ask them when they were returning to work. It apparently didn't phase him that both of them had attended their father's funeral a few hours earlier in the day. :P

A real "people person".
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Re: What is a (good) manager?
Old 06-24-2006, 12:32 PM   #19
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Re: What is a (good) manager?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ed_The_Gypsy
Good companies get rid of the 'bottom' 10% every year anyway, don't they Mr. Welch? This is how it is done--chase them off. We know they are the ones dragging us down because they don't have the drive.
Quote from Jack Welch's book:
It’s a process that requires managers to assess
their employees and separate them into three
categories in terms of performance: top 20
percent, middle 70 percent, and bottom 10. Then
– and this is the key – it requires managers to act
on the distinction. The top 20 percent of the
employees are showered with bonuses, stock
options, praise, love, training, and a variety of
rewards to their pocketbooks and souls. There
can be no mistaking the stars at a company that
differentiates. They are the best, and they are
treated that way.
The middle 70 percent are managed differently.
This group of people is enormously valuable to
any company; you simply cannot function
without their skills, energy, and commitment.
After all, they are the majority of your employees.
And that’s the major challenge, and risk, in the
20-70-10 – keeping the middle 70 engaged and
motivated.
As for the bottom 10 percent in differentiation,
there is no sugar coating this – they have to go.
That’s more easily said than done. I hate to fire
people – I even hate the word. But if you have a
candid organization with clear performance
expectations and a performance evaluation
process,… then people in the bottom 10 percent
generally know who they are. When you tell
them, they usually leave before you ask them to.”


Why 10%? why not 20% or even 80%? It would be funny the bottom 10% that were let go become top 20% of another company or become business owners who eventually take business away from GE.
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Re: What is a (good) manager?
Old 06-24-2006, 12:52 PM   #20
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Re: What is a (good) manager?

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Originally Posted by Spanky
Why 10%? why not 20% or even 80%? It would be funny the bottom 10% that were let go become top 20% of another company or become business owners who eventually take business away from GE.
Hey, it worked for Enron!

The rest of American industry is filled with leaders from GE's bottom 10%. Look at the guy running Home Depot... and isn't another one at 3M now if I'm not mistaken?
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