The First Book of Management

Chapter 7 - A real friend

Someone else I didn’t like was Steve Rostron, the Financial Director. Steve was MISERABLE. He would check the figures (counting the beans after some of us had made all the tough decisions and done all the work - not hard!) and then would come down to my office and tell me that my department was rubbish.

“You’re selling less than last month, but more than the same time last year, so that’s good, but unfortunately you’re making less profit on your sales. This is because your prices are worse, particularly in the North, and your expenses are 20% higher than normal in the South East. You need to sort out those two areas”.  

Yes, thank you Steve. I think I can do my own job, I would think to myself. Or even say.
Sometimes he would be a bit more personal: “You’re taking too many risks, using different suppliers on key products. And the new Sales Manager you appointed for the South East is not pulling his weight. Just look at the figures”.

The trouble was he was always right, and even though he had no idea of the technical side his analysis was spot on. Like a surgeon with a scalpel he would cut away the irrelevant details and expose the core problem. It was really irritating the way he could look at pages of financial accounts and put his finger on the one number for which I had no excuse.

It was only after I had moved to my next job that I realised what a great Accountant Steve was. Because the other accountants I had from then on would add up the figures but not make the link back to real life. What Steve was doing was far more useful to me. He was really contributing. And he had the guts to criticise other people’s areas, even it if meant being unpopular.

We took it personally (he used to do the same to the IT Manager, telling him which of his projects weren’t running to schedule and budget etc.) but of course he wasn’t criticising us as people - personality was irrelevant to him - but was merely pointing out how we could improve our operating methods.  

Steve was totally different to Stan, who was criticising us as people rather than trying to help us with the task.

What I learnt from Steve was:

Message number 7: Encourage people to point out your failings in a constructive way. Take it as friendship rather than a personal attack.

If only Maggie Thatcher had done this one! I suspect that Adolf Hitler wasn’t too great at it either.
Next Page
Chapter 1   - The Captain Of The Ship
Chapter 2   - Wandering About
Chapter 3   – Difficult Jack
Chapter 4   - Dr. Evil
Chapter 5   - Knowledge is Power
Chapter 6   - Destruction
Chapter 7   - A real friend
Chapter 8   - Teams from Hell
Chapter 9   - Dangerous Roy
Chapter 10 - Bob vs. Bob
Chapter 11 - Own Goals