A newly hired manager that attended my seminar in Binghamton, New
York, was nervous about whether his new employees
would accept him as their manager.
He explained that they're plumbers, but that he had "never
unclogged a drain in his life".
The question behind his question was
"Is it necessary to have
first performed your employees' jobs in order to manage them?”
The answer is "No".
One of the greatest examples of this is Ford.
In 2001, Bill Ford
Jr. became the CEO of Ford Motor Company. He’s the great
grandson of company founder Henry Ford and grew up in the
Yet while he served as CEO, the company's stock price
tumbled and Ford continued to lose market share.
In 2006, he stepped down and hired Alan Mulally as his
successor. Mulally is an aeronautical engineer who spent his
entire career at Boeing and knew little about making cars.
But he led the company to its first profitable quarter in years
and guided it to a stunning turnaround by doing bold things such
as selling Jaguar, Land Rover, Volvo, and Aston Martin.
So how is it that a man who knew so little about building cars
became Ford's savior?
He's a great leader who had a
clear vision of where the organization
needed to go, and he's a great manager who executed that vision.
Management is a specific discipline that can be learned, just as
engineering, medicine, or law.
Mulally obviously understands this because after graduating from
the University of Kansas with a bachelor's degree in aeronautical engineering in 1969, he earned a
master's degree in
management from MIT in 1982.
If you're hired to manage people whose jobs you know little
about, they'll be cynical at first.
But once you prove that you’re a good manager (and you do have to
prove it), and they see how the organization benefits from it,
you'll be as effective as any manager who rose through the
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