In a car, driving close to ninety miles an hour on the TX-130 toll road outside of Austin, headed north to Dallas, I was listening to ESPN radio. Normally it’s just background noise. You can’t really let yourself be distracted when you’re driving anywhere in Texas, particularly on a major road. The traffic is abhorrent, the drivers are out of their minds, and Texas rainstorms that blow up out of nowhere are the absolute worst. Frankly it’s just not worth dying for.
Somewhere in the middle of changing lanes to avoid the one car that decided its driver would be morally responsible and drive the proposed speed limit of 80, I heard “something something, something circumcising a mosquito.” I chuckled out loud at the remark without even knowing the context. Now tuned in to the conversation I was using to block out road noise I heard the speaker begin to describe this recent quote from Jerry Jones while he was discussing the possibility of replacing Tony Romo as the Cowboy’s quarterback.
(For you non-footballers, Jerry Jones owns the Dallas Cowboys football team. Located in, you guessed it, Dallas, Texas. Romo is and has been a quarterback for the team since 2003.)
The radio conversation proceeded to discuss that single quote for a moment. I laughed, listening to the commentators go back and forth trying to decide just how one might go about such an act. Eventually after a few jokes, they circled back around to the “dilemma” of replacing Romo on the team. And just as quickly I lost interest in the discussion because, well, I don’t care about the Cowboys.
It did send me into a spinning thought about the irony of the phrase “circumcising a mosquito”. Not because of the hilarious visual images it brought to mind, but because of who said it. What he was referring to in the interview where he used that phrase, was getting down to details. Jerry Jones is notorious for meddling in his team’s affairs. So much so that a large cohort of analysts agree that he does it to the detriment of his own organization. Claiming that he doesn’t sweat the small stuff is utter crap. Everyone knows that’s not true.
This made me think about my own professional career, managers I’ve had that refuse to leave the details up to the staff members they’ve hired to navigate those very intricacies they simply “don’t have enough time for” because they’re “too busy”. Bullshit. The real dilemma isn’t in the details, it’s in the lack of trust residing in the workplace. There is a distinct difference between effectively managing someone so they improve on a professional level, and telling an employee to do something because that’s how the manager thinks it should be done.
***WARNING: MANAGERS ARE NOT ALWAYS THE SMARTEST PEOPLE IN THE ROOM***
Too often this results in lack of production within an organization because staff aren’t allowed to perform the duties they’re hired to complete. They get bogged down in “team building” exercises, meetings with consultants to discover “who we are as an organization” and end up with managers that want so badly to impress their supervisors they hold their employees under their thumb until they’ve practically been squashed. Like a mosquito. Then everyone starts to get nervous because when you don’t do it exactly the way the boss wants, maybe the boss won’t want you around any longer. Then what?!
What happened to being hired to perform a job duty, doing it well, and being rewarded for your work? If it turns out you’re not good at it, they’ll let you know. I’ve never micro-managed a team. It creates too much extra stress. And nobody’s got time for that. I prefer to let the people I hire do what they’re hired to do. As an employee, do I expect to be guided? Of course! Do I expect to be told if I’m not meeting certain performance standards? Absolutely. But I don’t really expect to be told how to click a pen open and closed properly.
I could go on, but I won’t. Unfortunately I think this is a culture found just about everywhere. There are exceptions to the rule, and for those organizations I’m extremely happy. I’m not saying micro-managed groups aren’t successful. But you have to wonder if the Cowboys would win more Super Bowls if Jerry would just let his coaching staff coach, instead of circumcising the mosquito every game.