Jack Litewka, author of The Sophisticated Manager
Jack Litewka is a former Microsoft senior director and product unit manager, and he is author of the new book The Sophisticated Manager: Essential Leadership Lessons for Developing High-Performance Team…and Avoiding Critical Mistakes.
Q: What inspired you to create this book, and how long did it take me to write it?
Jack Litewka: My experience in mentoring managers who were stressed out by situations that they didn’t know how to handle well was the spur for writing one essay on one topic that managers frequently struggle with. Then I wrote another essay for the same reason. I showed the essays to some experienced managers, and each one of them said almost exactly the same thing: “This is great stuff. You should write a book.” I wasn’t immediately convinced to do that… but then I thought of writing another essay, and another – and gradually the idea of writing a book took hold in me. Because I lead a busy life, it took about two years to write the book. If writing the book had been my full-time job, I think that I would have written it in about six months.
Q: What is the difference between a Good Manager and a Great Manager?
Jack Litewka: A Good Manager’s team meets expectations – e.g., projects delivered on time and on budget – which is a good thing. A Great Manager’s team regularly exceeds expectations with innovation and exceptional quality – and sometimes ahead of schedule and under budget. To accomplish that a Great Manager must have a mind-set of creating conditions that allow others to succeed. In addition, a Great Manager must have a world-class protocol for hiring (because hiring is the most important thing a manager does because it has the most significant consequences). A Great Managers also creates a Great Team Culture in which the sum is greater than the parts.
Q: What can a manager do to ensure that meetings are a success and not a prolonged bore?
Jack Litewka: Great Managers understand the beauty of inclusive preparation. Two days before the meeting, tell team members to send you agenda items that they want to discuss. Send out a draft of the agenda one day before the meeting. At the meeting pass out the agenda – and then ask if anyone has additional topics they’d like to discuss. Be sure to repeatedly set an expectation that everyone is expected to participate. To help make that happen (if some people are ‘hiding out’), call on people randomly (not in a linear fashion around the table), so everyone realizes that they have to be alert because their turn to talk might occur at any moment. Team-member involvement results in everyone realizing that it’s their meeting and their agenda – so it will be an interesting meeting because it’s the meeting they helped to create.
Q: How can a manager prevent a workforce environment from becoming an us-versus-them atmosphere, where management and workers are always at odds?
Jack Litewka: Great Managers involve their team members in all aspects of the business. Great Managers include their team members in problem-solving and in analyzing the trade-offs that are part of big decisions. Great Managers are transparent in their decision-making. Great Managers adhere to the Golden Rule – Amended: Do unto others as they would have you do unto them. If every manager in a company does these things – yes, a companywide managerial culture is the leading indicator – then the us-versus-them attitudinal reaction-formation does not occur.