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  • Writer's pictureBrian Faulkner

Lazy or Management Material?

First a little background to my story…We’ve been involved with a Canadian charity called Villages of Hope Africa (VOHA) for many years now. VOHA provides care for orphans nd vulnerable children in sub-Saharan Africa. Our involvement as project sponsors and strategic planning facilitators has given us the opportunity to visit most of their seven sites. We’ve seen firsthand the good work they do and the positive impact they have on some of the most vulnerable human beings on the planet; it’s an association that we’re proud of.

So…one day while walking in the VOHA compound in Kitwe, Zambia, I noticed a boy working diligently in the garden next to one of the houses. An hour or so later when I passed by again, he was still there, labouring under the hot sun. His diligence and stamina impressed me, so I went over to have a chat. Just as I was commending him on his hard work, another slightly older boy came out of the adjacent house and strolled over to join the conversation. “Hi, are you his boss?” I joked, to which he replied, “Actually I’m paying him to do my chores” (a fact that the first boy had forgotten to mention). That put a little different spin on the scenario and put me in a quandary…what was the right way to respond?

It hadn’t crossed my mind that the first boy might be getting paid for his labour. Did that make his effort less commendable? Did I need to retract my praise? And what about the second boy? Did paying someone to do his chores make him lazy or clever (or both)? Should I express disappointment that he had shirked his duties and quiz him on how he came up with the money? After quick reflection, I decided that, paid or not, working hard was still commendable and taking advantage of an opportunity to get paid was a smart thing to do. So, I continued telling the first boy that I thought the good work ethic he was demonstrating would serve him well in life.

For the second boy, my mind flashed back to something a business partner of mine once said - “a good manager has to be a bit lazy” (another acorn from an old oak tree). What he meant was that a manager must be someone who’s looking for ways to get other people to do the work, not just trying to do everything themselves. It’s a challenge that sometimes occurs when a top performing “doer” is promoted to being a “manager” without adequately explaining to them that their job now is to get the best efforts out of other people and providing them training on how to build and motivate a team.

So back to the second boy in my scenario in Kitwe…with these thoughts in mind, I commended him for using his money to buy his friend’s efforts and told him I thought he had potential to be a good manager someday.

What’s your perspective? Does a good manager need to be a “bit lazy”? A bit smart? A bit of both? Or something else entirely?

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