- Leandro Herrero - https://leandroherrero.com -

Thank God for management stereotypes. They solve many of our thinking problems (for lousy managers, that is)

Let’s try this. Somebody who asks lots of questions becomes ‘a micro-manager’, which solves the problem of my questioning whether it truly is what it looks like, a micro-manager, or the issue is that she has low trust in me. And/or she might be right after all, that I do not provide comfort, so I get bombarded with questions. (Tip, is she like this with everybody?).

But, if she is a micro-manager, then the problem is not mine. I am the victim. She is the problem, she can’t let go, she is obsessive. I am let off the hook in my critical thinking. I may need to be micro-managed (!) but I don’t have to worry about it now.

In an interesting book, ‘How propaganda works’, its author Jason Stanley reminds us that stereotypes ‘affect the information we acquire via perception, (…) and they resist revision (by the presentation of contradictory facts or logical argument) because they are emotionally “connected to our identity”. ‘Resist revision’ is the key.

Translation: hard to get rid of. In the broad managerial world, ‘the management in France is very hierarchical, the Germans are very rigid, the Spaniards are laid back and have siestas, and Italian management is chaotic’, all are wonderful ‘solutions’ to a thinking problem. Any stereotype is based upon some reality but, once established, it leaves little room left for criticism.

In my consulting work as organization architect, I never, ever, start with the cultural (national) stereotype. If I did, I would be blind first and then dead. You can talk to me about ‘power distance’ as much as you want. I may nod, but deep in me I suspend judgement. I’ll see it when I see it.

The list of possible (possible) stereotypes of the kind above is long. For example, not a detail person, high level thinker, not strategic, very operational, a ‘sales person’, tunnel vision, narrow view, broad view, open mind, analytical, rigid, etc. The list is endless.

That language above is inevitable. We have no choice, it is part of our conversation. But the question is whether the use, multi use, constant use, provides a fantastic ‘lock in’ mechanism in which abdication of thinking takes place. If that is the case, we would join the lousy management ranks.