THOUGHT LEADER : The Blame Game

Managers’ salaries are too high!” “We have poor-performing companies with poor ethical values!” These statements are becoming more than just thought, and more like Kiwi mantra with many in our society.
How often do you hear those statements?
Even some managers are heard to exclaim “The job’s not worth that much!”, or say that New Zealand companies should not have to pay international salary rates, or that we lack ethics.
Sorry, managers don’t set the rules, salaries, wages and performance bonuses, directors do. And in fact, managers’ ethics or behaviour may be compromised by board directives and expectations.
We, as managers and leaders, should support solid ethics and higher salaries, however we should also reserve the right to celebrate the “value” in managers and get some of the blame sheeted home where it belongs – in the board room.
Managers and senior executives often get the blame. Isn’t it time we began to value the manager and the CEO, and look at the behaviour of shareholders and investors that condone “questionable behaviour”?
I do not – and I know most managers and directors do not – condone behaviour that compromises standards and ethics, or supports dishonesty.
I believe it’s time we celebrated the value of managers and supported training for them to help add value, do better business and support those that require help to expose shoddy or poor standards that are being covered up by equally poor controls and standards set at director level.
Don’t slam the salary level that is the value an employer has placed on manager. If managers are adding value, making profits and return on investment in the businesses they manage and if they excel in their skills and leadership, we should respect that they are worth it and support that.
Certainly, criticise poor performance and ask the hard questions, however let’s think beyond the public face of the manager and consider the parameters for performance that were set by their employers.
I would like to see more support for the roles of the manager and the CEO, in education that understands what they have to do, not just in adding value but in understanding the business, the market, the people who work in the company and the customer – the one that finally decides the worth of management by staying with the company despite sometimes very public service failures.
I do not expect sympathy for the bad or dishonest manager, however I do expect support for the leader who manages to maintain, increase and add value to business, community shareholder and customer.
I do expect more rigorous approach to directors and their behaviour – the Institute of Directors defiantly does, so to help it we should also support managers and their role in business success. This is not an attack on directors; it’s challenge to better performance at all levels, so managers deliver to expectations and receive the right pay for the performance required and are supported in challenging times.
We need to give accolades to the role of the manager, support and shout about excellence in leadership and performance, and be more proactive in questioning some of the very challenging expectations of directors of any type of organisation, state-owned enterprise, public or private company.
Education is the key, so let’s get business, ethics and an understanding of the role of business made part of the education system as early as possible, so New Zealand can celebrate business success as often as we grant accolades to sporting success.
The Lion Foundation Young Enterprise Scheme is start, but in my opinion it starts too late. We should be at least starting at intermediate school level. The time to start on this is now, not sometime soon.
Then we can begin to debate the issues we face in our great country – the need to value and support ethics, business, and sometimes high salaries that place true value on the role of manager.
Let’s support managers as leaders. They deserve it.

Tom McBrearty is CEO of the New Zealand Institute of Management Southern Region.

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