Counter-Management™ (How to really manage people!)

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Have you ever telephoned a company and been put through to someone else, who puts you through to someone else, who puts you through to someone else, until you either end up talking to the person who first answered the phone or you get cut off? And how often have you been to see someone and they’ve been unable to help you? “I’ll have to just check with my boss,” they say.

Why does this happen? Why is service so poor in some organisations? It’s all because of management!

Management appears to be a euphemism for control. Many managers spend there time ensuring employees don’t do the wrong thing by stopping them do anything. They put all sorts of regulations in place to strip employees of the ability to actually make any decisions or take any initiatives at all. Managers create teams of automotons who are trained only to follow a series of rules. The manager’s rules. Rules created to ensure every task gets done exactly as the manager prescribes – no deviations.

That’s not what management is for. That’s not what managers should be doing? What organisations need is ‘Counter-Management’™™. Counter-Management™ is about inspiring and freeing employees to excel. It’s about helping individuals and teams be brilliant, by releasing them from constraints and protecting them from organisational bureaucracy. Managers need to hire the right people into the right jobs and set them loose to do what they are naturally good at by freeing them to take initiative and make decisions.

Don’t get me wrong. Employees shouldn’t be allowed to do what ever they feel like. People will need managing and supporting. They will need their work to be appraised, but this should be a process of training and improvement, not control and punishment. It should be used to provide the three things that everyone needs to succeed: tools, environment and encouragement.


Firstly, managers need to ensure that the people they employ catch the vision and purpose of their team and they believe in that vision. Time should be allowed for each individual to discover where he/she fits into that vision. Then people need the correct training to develop their skills. It doesn’t matter how good you are, there is always more to learn. You can always improve. Finally employees need permission to do the job they are being asked to do. They need to be told that they can do whatever is needed to achieve the vision of the team. They need to know that they are allowed to take risks and make decisions.


In order to grow and develop and become our best we need to work in a environment where it’s ok to make mistakes. An environment where things can go wrong, be examined and be corrected without apportioning blame. An environment where mistakes are seen as opportunities to improve practice. (Although, we don’t want the same people to make the same mistakes time after time!)

Another trait of a successful environment is creativity. The most highly paid skill in our society is creativity. Works of art sell for millions. The footballers with creative flair earn the highest salaries. Books that weave fantastic stories hit the best seller lists. Organisations that do things a little differently grow stronger and faster than their rivals, who just carry on doing what they’ve always done. It is all about creativity. Finding ways to do things that before were impossible.


Lets face it we all need to feel good about the work we do. We all love to be told we good at what we do. This is especially true if we are pushing our skills to the limit. We need feedback to tell us we are getting it right. This feedback could come in a number of ways: verbal feedback from managers letting us know we are doing well; or seeing the excellent results of the work we’ve done; or perhaps creating an opportunity to discuss the work with colleagues done and share best practice. However, this happens managers need to ensure that employees are getting regular positive input.

Now you can probably think of people who you feel may need more control and strict management. Individuals who given an inch will take a mile. They need a firm hand. Well ask yourself these questions: Has that person caught the vision of the team? Is he/she the right person for the post currently held? Is there a position elsewhere in the organization that would suit them better? Or do they need to go?.

This may all sound like a lot of hard work. It is. At least it is in the short term. Creating this sort of environment and ensuring your team has all the tools and encouragement it needs takes a concerted effort from any team leader and there may well be a few false starts on the way. However, in the long run your team will be happier, more productive, will have less staff turnover and be a place where people want to work and want to give their best.

Let’s practice Counter-Management™!

Benjamin Drury
Benjamin Drury
A common man with uncommon desire to succeed. Helping entrepreneurs be brilliant! Building cultures and environments that inspire people to be great! Uber geek, author, experience designer & culture builder. Husband of 1, father of 3, real ale lover, rugby watcher, 49ers fan. (Also drinks lots of tea!)

1 Comment

  1. […] some tips on making ownership work take a look at the post on Counter Management™ or the post on The top 10 actions for bad customer service for a completely different […]

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