Back from the rainy, windy, cold Oregon coast.
We had these richly-appointed rooms at a brilliant little seaside resort. There were fireplaces and deckchairs on porches and tiny little nautical touches. Very bed and breakfast feeling. Too bad, then, that most of the weekend felt like being aboard a trawler hunkering out a winter squall. The rain was sideways and the wind howled outside the conference room. I got only one small chance to get out and walk on the beach, during some God-aligned moment where a thirty-minute break aligned with a slackened downpour. I had my black dress shoes on with jeans (I really need new shoes) and my coat buttoned tight against the wind. A cold gray beach can provide for a really decent moment of solitude and contemplation. I imagined that near-end scene from Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.
The “work” bits of the days were good, but I realized something; hear me out. I propose that the fundamentals of “how to be a great manager” were more or less identified, let’s say 90% pegged, sometime in the 1950s. You know sometime after Harvard Business School really hit its stride and research there and elsewhere coalesced. Sometime back then in the 1950s we collectively managed to categorize what makes a good people-manager, along with how best to train and grow those skillsets. Since then, many people have made much money re-packaging, re-wording, and re-branding that initial revelatory philosophy. They’ll assign new mnemonics, write tenets onto diferent geometric shapes or use new analogies for processes – but it’s the all pretty much same thing once you boil it down. Maybe some temporally-aware nuance gets added along the way to account for things like the internet, but the underlying physics of the management universe remain.
Don’t get me wrong; I love it. I really do. I eat up the practice of trying to draw conclusions from trends and data; man I get a kick out of looking across some disparate set of happenings and stuffs and having that light bulb flick on where you go, “Oh! There’s a pattern here; there’s some truth.” And that’s what these conferences always are: a bunch of managers taking a few moments to feel self-important (it’s a good thing, a little self-acknowledgement with moderation) and talking about things like goals and actualization and Lord knows what. Maybe you think it’s silly but I find it affirming.
Got to see good friends too; spend some time enjoying good company. And now I’m back home and back to a busy couple days of the remaining week.