why is managing difficult?

Managing employees isn't a natural thing to do because:

  • People don't like being told what to do,
  • People are different,
  • People are complex

So not everyone can be managed in the same way. But there are powerful, proven techniques that you can use to get people to do what you want them to do.

This Module is Part of Boss Camp

Boss Camp will show you how to improve employee performance by showing you what they never taught you in school.The program includes topics such as:

  • How to motivate employees
  • What are bad employee motivators
  • What you must do as a manager but isn't on your job description
  • How leaders get power
  • Management techniques that don't take time

Get the Full Video Transcript Here...

Managing is hard. In fact it might be one of the most difficult things to do because managing staff is about getting people to do what you want them to do. And it’s not natural for people to want to be:

• Told what to do;

• Held accountable or;

• Pushed to perform.


What makes it even more difficult is that people are unique and complex. What works with one person does not necessarily won't always work with the next.


Going to university does not teach you how to manage people. Even management courses like MBA’s don’t teach practical people management. These courses focus on high-level leadership, covering topics such as vision, values and inspiration. This is all very important but it doesn’t tell you what to say to your staff and what to do with your staff on a daily basis.

Managing staff, like juggling, is a practical skill. So you can’t just read a book or do a theoretical course and expect to get good results from your staff.


The boss-employee relationship isn't a natural relationship. In your role as boss you represent the company. The leaders at the top may set the company vision, values and be a visible representation of the companies culture and public face. But the relationship that your staff have with the company is embodied in the relationship that they have with their direct manager which is you. 

This often conflicts with your personal interests and relationships. At times you will be expected to get your employees to act on decisions that you don't agree with.

It's natural to want your employees to like you but it's more important that they respect you. You have to build a good relationship with your employees. But being friends with employees causes a conflict of interest between your responsibilities as a manager and your loyalties as a friend.


As the saying goes, with great power comes great responsibility. Being a manager requires that you act in the interests of the company, whether you agree with this or not. This includes making cost cuts, firing employees, addressing performance issues. If you are not prepared to do these things then you have to seriously reconsider if management is right for you. It's a difficult decision because being promoted to management is often the only path for career growth. And going from a management position to an individual contributor is perceived as a step backwards. It's not uncommon for managers to not be very good at managing and to not enjoy their jobs but be unwilling to change because it's seen as an admittance of incompetence plus a regression.

My belief is that you can do unpleasant things in a pleasant manner. And it's not all bad because as I explain in the management sweetspot you can align the interests of managers, employees and companies to create mutual value for all.  


Another thing that makes the role of the manager so difficult is that it’s a careful balance of being supportive vs demanding. On most personality scales these are directly opposite personality types. Usually people are either demanding OR supportive. Normally demanding people are good at getting results out of people. But demanding managers do it in a manner that causes high staff turnover, burnout and resentment. On the other hand managers who are supportive will not be very good at getting results. Worst case they may not even have the respect of their staff. A manager who can balance being supportive and demanding will do well but the really skilled operator knows how to be demanding and supportive at the same time.


If you’re lucky you had a good boss who was a role model and showed you what managers must do. A good boss, who taught you how to get people to do what you want them to do. If not then you’re like the other 95% of us who have had to feel our way around, learning things the hard way. And we are still bumping our shins in the dark. 


Typically people become managers when they demonstrate skill in a technical field. In other words when most people are promoted to management, they haven't studied management, they haven't practiced management nor have they demonstrated any aptitude at management. But technical skills are totally different to manager skills.


So what happens when we combine something that’s really difficult to do with a lack of training? It’s not that different to being given 5 balls and be expected to juggle.

If you were anything like me then you didn’t even know what you were meant to do as a manager. No one ever told you the five things you are responsible for as a manager but that aren’t on your job description.

My experiences of managing staff have too often been:

• Feeling it’s not worthwhile delegating to staff because I could do a better job myself in less time; 

• Feeling like I have to do practically everything because I’m the only one who has the skills and diligence;

• Finding that feedback is extremely stressful for both the employee and me. Often resulting in time consuming discussions and seldom fixing the problem;

• Staff not taking any ownership for deliverables and leaving work with important tasks undone;

• And generally staff missing deadlines, producing low quality work, not finishing assignments etc.

All of this meaning I had to work long hours to fill in the gaps, keeping things together through sheer determination and persistence. And I thought that this was just the role of the manager – isn’t that why they pay you more money?

I know I’m not alone because I’ve seen this in many companies and countries. So I started to wonder if there is anything that you can do differently to make managing people any easier. That was the start of a long journey that eventually led to the establishment of Manager Foundation. It's also the reason why I've made the  www.boss.camp program which shows you how to make managing easy in just an hour a week - including proven techniques for employee selection, motivation and retention.


What I found was that managing consists of a series of actions. Some are daily, some weekly and some monthly. Managing isn't a performance review every six months. To get people to do what you want them to do you can use well understood psychological motivators. It’s not about manipulation, coercion or paying people more money. It is about understanding the logical and (sometimes) illogical ways that people’s minds work. And understanding what motivates different people in order (read this slowly) to get them to do what you want them to do, by, making them want to do what you want them to do. It’s not about being nice and it’s not about being nasty. Some people just seem to be naturally gifted at persuasion. I know that I’m not and I’ve often been envious of people that are. But I’ve also found that it’s a skill that you can learn and get significantly better at.


So to answer the question at the beginning – is managing or juggling harder? I’ve never learnt how to juggle which you may think disqualifies me from answering the question. But what I can tell you is that in my opinion they are both equally hard. Unless you are a natural or you are appropriately trained, doing either of them like a professional is virtually impossible. But with just a little training you can impress at both.

Well that’s the end of what I wanted to share with you today but I don’t want to end on a low note or without something actionable/ useful. So my request to you is, if you know any good circus people, could you please put them in touch with me so I can start to learn how to juggle? Failing that if you know any new managers or friends, family or acquaintances that are about to make the step up to a manager position, please share this with them (there should be a button to allow you to share easily just below this).