Stunt Managers to the rescue

 

I am fascinated by actors who perform their own stunts in motion pictures. I imagine I am no different from most people. I assumed the actors performed their own death-defying stunts when I was much younger. However, my awareness was peaked during a span of time when I watched interviews with action figures in block buster movies. There was Daniel Craig speaking about the stunts in his latest James Bond movie The Quantum of Solace. Angelina Jolie was shown hanging from a building and on top of a moving car as she performed stunts in the movie Salt. These actors were questioned about going against the conventional practice of deferring to the stunt doubles. They wanted to be more into the character they were playing.

Stunt people also exist in corporations around the world, with or without the knowledge of upper management.  Many companies require stunt people to perform the high wire, public facing acts in their organization. Public Relations, Human Resources and Legal are well-known for keeping the company out of trouble in this capacity. However, there are situations where the organization expects their leaders to perform their own stunts, but the managers are abdicating their responsibilities.  

Many managers do not have challenging scenes in their organization because they shirk their responsibility. One manager had been a District Manager for 4 years and never had a performance problem. He never fired anyone or had a disciplinary problem, which was unusual in his industry. He said it was because he did an excellent job of managing his people. However, he had numerous people who failed to meet their sales objectives.  Apparently, he did not hold them accountable for their lack of results. He exhibited pain avoidance behavior. He did not like confrontation and avoided them at all costs. His kind did not take risks or challenge employees. His supervisor was unwittingly the stunt manager because he protected him from the scrutiny of upper management.

Managers are like actors and may have an aversion to drama or adventure and allow people to get away with actions detrimental to the team and to the organization. An employee may not be pulling their weight or always asks someone else to do the heavy lifting. If the manager is aware of this practice, but does nothing about it, his or her inaction dampens team spirit and reduces productivity. Personally, the manager deprives themselves of the exhilaration of making the tough maneuvers that would help their personal development, the performance of their team and make the job more enjoyable.

Personnel matters are avoided, passed on to another manager or shifted to Human Resources. The other manager or HR becomes their stunt double. Human Resources often play a greater role in disciplining employees, therefore conducting the stunts for the manager. The higher a manager moves in an organization the greater the responsibility to make calls that cannot be delegated to a stunt double.

The stunt manager may be a mentor or coach who performs the actions or consistently provides the answers for the manager. The company has a problem if a situation arises and the mentor, coach or manager always steps in to think for the manager. If they repeatedly bail out the manager by going through the mental gymnastics, while the manager gets the credit and the glory, the organization suffers. 

Additionally, a manager may ask a co-worker to go with them to handle a problem and then insists or allows the co-worker to do the heavy lifting and most of the work. If this occurs in the presence of the manager’s employees and team members, they may lose confidence in the manager’s ability to lead. A worse-case scenario will develop when the team members consult the stunt manager over their regular manager when they have a problem. Employees quickly recognize the deficiency in their leader and go directly to the source for the best guidance and information. 

Companies, by grouping managers in teams, must be careful, otherwise, they will create an imbalance among their leaders. A weak manager can hide and rely too heavily on their strong dominant, more vocal counterpart. This happens on selling teams where one person is disproportionately responsible for driving the sales. A weak link can hide in organizational structure if management does not have a good handle on who is responsible for productivity and talent within the organization. The company needs to assess the ability and performance of all team members, managers included.

Stunt Managers are essential parts of an organization. They may be the unsung heroes that allow the company to reach and exceed the sales projections and profit. If someone is playing that role, they should be identified and rewarded for their contributions. They need to get out of the shadows of the person who is not performing their job and that person should be assigned to a role that best suits their talents.  If the organization expects their leaders to be well-rounded and able to perform all aspects of their jobs, then the stunt manager should focus on doing their own job.

I realize that some stunt managers are performing the role for which they were hired. They were selected to support weak links and hold teams together. If they are functioning in line with corporate expectations, consistent with their hiring agreement, they should accept their role with grace and gratitude.

Copyright © 2010 Orlando Ceaser

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