Being popular is easy, getting results is hard.

That's what I told a mid-level, up-and-coming manager recently. If you want to be a popular manager the formula is easy: tell folks they're awesome, give folks tasks they can easily accomplish, ignore their mistakes and give them any reward or perk they ask for.

Boom! You're a "great" manager.

You'll be off the scale in terms how you're rated as a manager.

When folks ask you 'Can I take off early on Friday?' and 'can I have two more weeks to get this project done?' just say "sure! you're an awesome, unique talent and we're luck to have you here at the company. Take as much time as you need for your project and leave right before lunch for Vegas."

That's the mid-level management 'popularity trap.'

What great managers do is:

a) accurately tell folks where they're at. i.e. 'as a writer you're somewhere between average and good. a 6.5 to 7 on the scale of writers.' or 'this writing is sh#$%t' or 'this is your worst performance ever.... you're damaging the company with this garbage' or 'I'll have to let you go if you produce garbage like this with our brand name on it.'

b) tell folks exactly how they can be much better. i.e. 'as an OK writer you're going to need to do much more research than a good or great writers, and you're going to need to throw away two out of three stories you write. It's only by throwing away the average stuff and waiting for the great stuff that you'll be perceived as great.'

c) Set really challenging goals and push people to reach them: 'you want to leave early on Friday when you're project is two weeks behind? I'd suggest you cancel any vacations and work six days a week for next three weeks and catch up. The company needs you to perform at a high level and you're currently in the bottom 1/3rd of performers at the company. Let's set some goals for you to be in the top 1/3rd.'

d) spend time with your team members discussing a, b and c over and over again

As a manager don't set your goals as being popular, set your goal at getting exceptional results.

Being popular will get you a short term boost, but in the long-term you won't be remembered as anything but an appeaser--if you're remembered at all.

Being unpopular in the short term, but getting awesome results will make you a legend to the world and your people.

Everyone who reads the Steve Jobs bio says the same thing: "what a jerk!!!"

Then they say something like "well, he got awesome results."

Then they say something like "what was the cost of getting those results?"

Then they realize that the best people in the world not only worked for Jobs, they STAYED with Jobs.

Truly talented people want driven, at times maniacal, manager who demands greatness.

That doesn't mean you should aspire to be an a-hole and jerk. It means if you have to have uncomfortable conversations with folks don't worry about it.

The really great people, the ones who were "abused" by Jobs for decades, never left! They talk about Steve like they do Edison or Jesus, and they are proud of the work they did together. They don't care if he said 'this is sh@#$t' because more often then not he was right. And when he was wrong it at least set the tone that people should evaluate their performance brutally and honestly.

Great people remember--and want--one thing and on thing only: results.

It's the weak people you don't want working for you who will whine about you not giving them every little thing they want, or for not giving them a pass on their poor performance and suger-coated cajoling to ge them to perform.

The lesson of Jobs is that brutal honesty, some uncomfortable moments and perhaps even unrealistic goals is the clear path to greatness.
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