| Sarasota Herald-Tribune
Last week, as I was thumbing through a book I had written some time ago, I
came across a few essays I thought might be appropriate for this column. “Mottoes
for Managing” is a collection of sayings and comments that are accompanied by
essays elaborating the sayings’ ideas or concepts. All of the essays have to do with
some aspect of business or management.
One of the essays dealt with an old Chinese proverb: “Give a man a fish, and
he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he’ll eat for a lifetime.” Obviously, this
saying relates to short-term versus long-term activities. Certainly there is good
reason for giving an item to someone. There can be even greater value in giving a
skill, however. Both the item and the skill are beneficial. Each must be selected
Here’s an example. Many managers are promoted to their positions because
they are good “doers.” They could do something well. They got so good at “doing”
they were rewarded with a promotion to a managerial position.
Without further support and instruction, that can be the same as giving a
man, or a woman, a fish. That new manager will use it, but in time it will be gone. A
manager who doesn’t grow doesn’t succeed, and his lack of success doesn’t help a
company or a department.
Perhaps you have observed or experienced a “doer” manager in action. As
soon as something goes wrong or needs addressing, this type of manager jumps in
and fixes it. Subordinates and staff members are not involved in the solution while
the “doer” addresses the situation. Many managers overlook the fact that their job is not just to manage situations, but also to manage the people who can contribute to
True managers learn to fish. In other words, once assuming the role of
manager, they learn an entirely new set of skills. They acquire, practice, and perfect
new behaviors that were not required in their prior position.
The lesson here is when we promote someone to a managerial position, we
need to be sure to provide both skills and knowledge that will be necessary for that
person’s success. And that ultimately contributes to our success and the success of
And when we are the person who is promoted, but we haven’t been taught or
given what we need to know to be successful in our new position, that’s the time to
take a few fishing lessons!
One of those lessons is related to another motto: It is better to give than to
receive. As a manager we are now in a position to help others succeed. We’ve
worked hard to achieve our success. We’ve learned and trained to use the gifts
we’ve been given to the best of our ability in order to have success in our profession.
By sharing your gifts with those around you, you are demonstrating the traits
of a successful manager. The “gifts” aren’t necessarily things. Those wouldn’t be
appropriate in many business settings.
In the business world, the gifts are honesty, support, encouragement,
assistance, guidance, and other intangibles that serve to help others maximize their
potential. A kind word or taking the time to listen to someone with a problem can
go a long way to assuring a productive environment.
As business leaders we have many gifts to share. When we give to the people
around us, they just might pass them on to others. That’s a heady thought.
And that brings us to another saying created many years ago by a successful
U.S. company: “When you care enough to give the very best.” This motto creates an
image of quality as well as social grace. It reflects something that is important.
As business people, we can take a lesson about demonstrating and
recognizing importance. When you’re in a position to offer a promotion to someone,
acknowledge it as a special event. After all, it’s important to the person being
promoted. Make it an observable celebration. It doesn’t have to be expensive or
elaborate. The long-term results of doing so will be well worth the investment.
Siesta Key resident J. Robert Parkinson, who has a doctorate in communications from Syracuse University, is an author, speaker, executive communication coach and consultant to companies throughout the U.S. and abroad. He’s written numerous books, including “Becoming a Successful Manager” (McGraw-Hill). “Be as Good as You Think You Are” (Motivational Press) and “Never Kick a Kangaroo” (Authors Place Press) were written with his wife, Eileen. Contact him at [email protected]