Dr. Alan W. Jackson

Life Coach, Management Consultant, and Business Professor


It Doesn’t Have to be This Way

Have you ever been in a situation where a boss or supervisor yelled at you? Made you feel small? Made you feel, well, incompetent? Most of us have had this experience at sometime during our working lives. Why does this happen? Is this a good practice?

No doubt the leadership styles of people vary widely. A high-decibel leadership style may well work in combat environments and even sometimes in the competitive sports arena. But yelling in today’s business environments is not tolerated in a employee-centric culture where loyalty is less common and transitions to new opportunities are abundant.

Anger is a natural human emotion. Fortunately, most leaders are able to take a deep breath and calm down. Years ago, I worked for an insurance company whose vice-president could be heard yelling in his office three floors away. I have no doubt that the employee churn in that company was much higher than the normal 15% annual turnover (according to SHRM).

Today’s employees expect to be treated with equal doses of respect and appreciation. If the Human Resources (HR) department and hiring are effective in the selection process, hiring excellent and outstanding employees will be the norm. Today’s employees also expect a different quality of life than ever, and may not be as willing to put-in 60-hour weeks and commute another hour back and forth from home.

Yet, under performers do slip through the most rigorous culling process. The best managers know to train and retrain until it becomes obvious the person is not suited for the position. Frank assessments and conversations need to be held early on with the employee. One example (of what not to do) is a situation where a long-term employee, who was not provided feedback, was fired three months after a new manager was hired. For 28-years, the employee received no negative performance reviews and had no inking the he was about to be fired. Of course the new manager had documentation, but it was a sham.

Managing employees is often the most difficult task that today’s managers face. What challenges does your company face?

Managing Across Multiple Generations

Today’s companies face more complexity, a faster pace of change, and greater competition for employees than ever before. Company managers and team leaders must learn to manage across three generations of workers, each having different goals, motivations, life cycle aspirations and expectations of managers, executives, and the company in general.

Today’s work force is made up of Baby Boomers, those born between 1946 and 1964; Gen Xers, born between 1965 and 1977; and Gen Ys (aka Millennials), born since 1978. Millennials are less apt to be loyal to a company, if a better offer or a better managed company makes a legitimate offer, are more team oriented, need a lot of positive feedback, and love technology. Gen Xers or more independent, would rather have time off, are skeptical of management, and less likely to respond to traditional methods of motivation. Boomers are far more competitive than either Gen Xers or Millennials. Boomers are more apt to believe in seniority and that promotions go to those who have paid their dues.

In the 2020 Workplace authors Meister and Willerd, provide substantive recommendations for managing across generations. As people live longer and work longer, the modern manager must relearn and re-think traditional ways of managing starting with getting rid of generational stereotypes. Research suggests that there are not significant differences in the way people like to be managed. All groups like to feel included and so adopting a collaborative method of working with people and teams is an essential new managerial trait. Being open to ideas and suggestions and finding ways to engage workers so that their work is meaningful is another key aspect of managing today.

Working in teams may include cross-generational work groups and mentoring. The benefits of experience coupled with the use of new ideas and technology could be the right blend for many situations. Keep in mind that because each group has different desires, goals, and motivations, today’s managers need to know what incentives work and which ones do not work for each of their employees. Just like people, your company is also subject to life-cycles. Knowing the best incentives for you and your company is key to long-term success.

Management Begins with Self-Management

The best executives and leaders know that to be genuinely useful begins with managing oneself. Today’s managers must manage time more efficiently than ever and use that time to plan which remains vital to long-term success. Setting aside time each week to reflect, re-prioritize, at a minimum, make to evaluate how well you performed last week with the first question: how can I be even more effective next week, next month or next year? Late December and early January are the best times to review the past year’s progress toward your goals and to chart a path for the new year.

Having a positive mental attitude is by far the single best way to influence those around you. Moody managers can be impossible to work with, as employees tend to avoid you on days when you are in a bad mood. Good managers accept feedback willingly and seek input from co-workers, leaders, and employees. Never excuse your bad behavior. There is just no room in today’s business environment for making excuses. You need to have a bias for action that includes not only executing well-developed plans but seeking the opinions of others, especially when things do not go as planned. The best leaders set the example.

Proper management in 2018, requires management agility and the acceptance of change as commonplace. Getting ideas to the market ahead of the curve or ahead of the “speed of change” requires managers to think and manage in new ways. The new way to manage is to forget the customary ways of managing or even think about having a “stable workforce.” Instead, today’s new managers will be managing traditional workers right alongside with contract and temporary workers based on employee skills and desires, rather than solely on company needs. The “networked economy,” along with an increased lack of security on the job, has made millennials, the most significant group of employees in the labor force today, more willing to demand professional and creative control over the work environment. As a result, managers have much more on their proverbial plate than ever.

The Two Faces of a Productive Life

So much of what we do often goes unnoticed and frequently seems unappreciated. It is the leaders job to notice and appreciate the contributions of everyone in the organization and reward those people for making outstanding contributions. I disagree with the idea that just showing up deserves special recognition, like today’s kids soccer teams where everyone gets a trophy just for being a part of the team. Participation does not equal success, although participating is better than sitting on the sidelines and not getting involved at all. Life offers you two paths — which will you take?

We face two sides of life every day — we can choose to be happy or we can become mired down in a “whoa is me” attitude and blame everyone else for our short comings or failures. Getting started is often our single biggest problem. Get off the couch! Get up and get going!!! Once you have that inertia, keep going, push on. Do not let little set backs derail your progress. Although nothing about success is guaranteed, I can guarantee you if you do not try, you will surely fail. One of my favorite books, although a little dated now, is Success is a Journey: 7 Steps to Achieving Success in the Business of Life, by Jeffrey J. Mayer. This quote has stayed with me through out much of my career: “The only way you can fail is if you quit. So you just can’t fail the last time you try” (Mayer, 2000).


Life is full of highs and lows, good times and bad times. The best way to handle disappointments is to fully recognize that the ups and downs are a part of the ebb and flow of life’s events. Do not focus on the downside of things. While being fully aware of limitations and sometimes restraining expectations is a good thing, don’t let the disappointments in your life dictate your successes. For life truly is a journey, not just a destination. It is not who wins or loses in the long-run but how well you life your life day-to-day.

Are you a micromanager?

Most people, at one point or another in their career, encounter a micromanager — the boss who must personally review every email, every communication, and makes every decision, often without the benefit of input from the employees he or she supervises. Micromanagement  is the killer of innovation, creativity and often is counter productive to business goals. Further, most micromanagers end up alienating their employees and the turnover rate is often higher in that division, unit or company when compared to other management techniques.

Perhaps the biggest fault of micromanager is not delegating to build organizational sustainability.  Developing the talent and skills of employees is among the most critical job functions of a manager. Company growth is often tied to employee development, creativity, and innovation. Management at companies like Google and 3M recognize this principle and encourage a free-flowing opportunities for growth. Micromanagement is the ultimate of mismanagement and hurts a company far more than it helps.


There’s always something more to learn …

It’s difficult to imagine a time before computers – say in the medieval times, where scribes dutifully copied ancient works. Long before the printing press, few people had access to the ancient knowledge and almost no one had a Bible or Koran in their home. We have so much information at our disposal today, everyone becomes a specialist. Whether your specialty is management, marketing, accounting, finance, education, operations, production, or any other noble endeavor, it is critical that you remain current in the practices of your field. This is not easy when so many things compete for our attention – especially our families, the practice of our faith, numerous household and yard chores – not to mention the occasional opportunity to catch a football game or a soap opera. Our most important responsibility in this lifetime is to make ourselves the best that we can be, gaining insights into the reasons and purposes of our lives.


One of the things not touched on in many business program is the inevitable fact that organizations have both internal politics and conflict. Many people avoid politics, but sooner or later, conflict will happen and must be confronted. Avoiding conflict leads to stress and is, at best, a poor strategy. Like stress, a proper amount of conflict often promotes problem solving and creativity in the organization.  Likewise, too much conflict, like micromanagement, leads to discomfort and ultimately to dysfunction. I have observed many organizations and great managers understand the some conflict is useful, but step in when conflict creates disunity or dysfunction with in a group of co-workers.

The difference is that great companies attract the best talent the firm can afford, paying them as much as possible (and what is prudent), marshaling the resources necessary for them to perform their jobs, and then having the sense to get out of the way and let them perform to the best of their ability is an essential management “truth”. Remember that management’s entire purpose for existing is to handle exceptions. So while managing by objectives (MBO) is important, managing by exception (MBE) is equally important.

Too much management creates distrust and alienates workers. A manager who micromanages does him or herself a disfavor as well as the associate, team member, or employee. Micromanagement ultimately leads to unhealthy conflict. Most micromanagers basically distrust people (some even hate people) and think that they can do better than their employees. The span of control alone belies this philosophy and violates just about every management theory about motivating people.

So if you micromanage, do not be surprised if you are not respected, shunned by colleagues and co-workers, are outright disliked by line employees, and experience a lot of conflict in your organization.




Winston Churchill once stated “Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.”   We choose are circumstance and our reactions toward what happens to us is largely a matter of our collective choices.  We can accept where we are now or move boldly forward. If you do not like where you are, only you can make that change.  Others can help by providing guidance, advice, and assistance, but only you can change your attitude.