Last week I was pretty hard on management writers/bloggers who come up with those silly little management lists.

Lists with titles like these, for instance:[1]

  • 5 Mindset Shifts That Will Get You Fired Up on Mondays
  • Top 10 Ways to Avoid Being Labeled a Complainer at Work
  • 12 Deadly Career Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Well, this week I take it all back. Why? Because I’m posting a list of my own for you to consider:


6.5 Questions Every Manager Should Be Able Answer


These are the six (and a half) questions that I sincerely believe every manager should absolutely, positively be able to answer correctly. No matter who they are, where they’re employed, or who they manage.[2]

And here they are (in no particular order):


  1. Advisor-evaluator paradox. The roles of “advisor” and “evaluator” are incompatible with each other.[3] So how is it that you—as a manager—are expected to act as both when it comes to your subordinates?

1.5 – If you are in fact responsible for assessing your employees’ performance, how do you explain the “catch-22” this creates? After all, one of the things that seems to most influence that performance is how well a person is being managed.[4]

  1. Flatten that span. Organizational efficiency is supposedly increased by both “flattening” an organization (reducing the number of layers in the hierarchy), and by limiting a manager’s “span of control” (which keeps managers from spreading themselves too thin).[5] But to flatten the hierarchy you must necessarily increase the span of control. So how’s that work?
  1. Teamwork. You probably talk about teamwork a lot, and how important it is.[6] Which is great. Cooperating and working together – I get it. But “teamwork” also seems to require “taking one for the team” on occasion – or subordinating one’s own interest to those of the collective, so to speak.[7] Except that doesn’t sound like something a capitalist would say, does it? (More like something a communist would say, actually.)
  1. Politics. Why is it still who you know, and not what you know, that’s so important at most companies? In other words, why all the “office politics”?[8]
  1. Organizational authority. The person closest to a problem is typically best equipped to solve it.[9] So why do you, as a manager, routinely deny your frontline employees the authority to fix the problems that prevent them from doing their best work?
  1. Authority (part 2). Where does your authority come from anyway? What makes you the boss?


I should point out that these are the same questions I posed to some of the world’s foremost experts on managing a couple of months ago at the Academy of Management’s 2016 Annual Meeting.

And to be honest, they didn’t do so well.[10]

So this week I’m asking you.

Think them over – then please post your answers in the “Comments” section below. And then stay tuned; I’ll have the correct responses for you in an upcoming post…




[1] Respectively:;; All retrieved October 27, 2016.

[2] If you follow my blog, these questions will be familiar to you. They’re essentially the same ones I asked in one of my first posts (“Why your boss probably sucks”), and then later posed to management scholars, consultants and other management academics back in August (Please see: “’Live’ from the Academy of Management’s 2016 Annual Meeting”).

[3] Hill, Linda. 2003. Becoming a Manager. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press, p. 209.

[4] Wagner, Rodd, and James K. Harter. 2006. 12: The Elements of Great Managing. New York: Gallup Press; Shaer, Steven J. 2013. Fix Them or Fire Them. Challenger Books.

[5] Simon, Herbert. “The Proverbs of Administration.” As reprinted in Jay M. Shafritz & J. Steven Ott. 2001. Classics of Organization Theory (5th edition). Orlando, FL: Harcourt, Inc., pp. 112-124.

[6] Lencioni, Patrick. 2002. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Boss.

[7] Fayol, Henri. 1949. General and Industrial Management. New York: Pitman Publishing Corp.

[8] Morgan, Gareth. 1998. Images of Organization (Executive Edition). San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Kohler Publishers, Inc. and SAGE Publications, Inc., pp. 149-181.

[9] Peters, Tom, and Robert Waterman. 1982. In Search of Excellence. New York: HarperCollins Publishers Inc.

[10] The high score for the week was 1 correct answer. (Please see my post “AOM 2016 Recap: Melissa”)