Harvard Business Review on Motivating People: Bad leadership? Bad results

Posted on by in Reading Between the Lines

“Young people begin their careers working for less than confident sales managers are likely to have records of low productivity.”

Harvard Business Review on Motivating People by Brook Manville and Steve Kerr, page 195

This is another one of those messages that might sting a little if you feel I am talking to you. Hey! If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.

Looking back 45 years or so, (Holy cow! 45 years ago I was 22), I think I might have made a mistake. Don’t get me wrong, I am not lamenting my past for even an instant. My circuitous path got me to where I am today, and all things being equal, it is a pretty good place to be.

“But what, “ you might ask, “would you do differently, Mike, if you could turn back the clock?”

Click on the book to grab your own copy of "Harvard Business Review on Motivating People"

Click on the book to grab your own copy of “Harvard Business Review on Motivating People”

After my knee-jerk response of “Nothing,” I would open up to you and say, “One thing.” And that one thing would be to seek employment where I would be working for the best company in its field under the smartest and best manager in the industry. In other words, I would look for a “teacher” (mentor) who would share the lessons a young person needs to learn to become successful in time.

I would not seek the “job.” I would look for the “boss.”

I am afraid there are too many people (good people) who are not qualified to run a company, no less serve as a mentor or coach to our youth.

The one thing I have come to witness with over 45 years of experience under my belt is that age alone is a meaningless credential. Position is also something not to blindly follow. Confidence, creativity, an ability to fail, and a willingness to step out of one’s comfort zone while taking notes and learning as you go is what I would have been looking for in a manager.

I hope this does not sound like sour grapes. The truth is that many leaders just don’t know 3rd base from the dugout. Giving blind allegiance to another “suite” is a losing proposition. Bad managers can break the spirit of an otherwise promising employee.

My advice to today’s youth is to find a person you can trust look up to and learn from, and then hold onto them like your life depends on it… for a while. You will soon be smarter than you give yourself credit for and you will soon be in position to make good, solid, meaningful decisions of your own. Then, if you wish, you can find another mentor or branch out on your own. Of course, if you enjoy your work, you can continue to contribute to your organization.

Key Point: You will make mistakes. You will make plenty of mistakes. Learn from them. Apologize if you must, and then move on. You can take this next statement to the bank. Your boss got to where they are today by making mistakes and growing accordingly. You do the same.


Mike presents a business-building webinar on the third Thursday of every month sponsored by AmaWaterways. To receive monthly invitations send Mike an email with the words “business training” in the Subject Box. You will also receive a link to the recorded version.

For information on Mike’s Fourth Annual Training Cruise, email Mike at mike@mikemarchev.com with the word “cruise” in the subject box.

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