The sacrifice

In chess, the sacrifice is defined as a move by which a piece is given up in the hope of gaining tactic or positioning advantages. To insiders, this is a master move given the intelligence of the assumed risk.  To the novices, this is a spectacular and exciting maneuver.

There is sacrifice in management as well.  This sacrifice is not always perceived by those willing to ascend on the hierarchical ladder.  It is hidden quietly behind the ambition, glory, status and compensations pertaining to the new position.  Many of those aspiring to being manager don’t even mind it as the glamour and loud music of this success dominate any judgment or feeling. The new fad of success is “manager” – a title that is both unclear and attractive.

So? What sacrifice are we talking about?

First, the sacrifice doesn’t need to be a painful surrender.  And not always damaging.  In chess, surrendering a piece is intended to bring the famous and required return on investment.  So is in the hierarchical game.

A person aspiring to become manager must first get out of the crowd.  For this he/she needs to dedicate more time and energy to the operation of “proving worthy”.  Automatically the time and energy left for any other activities are reduced – at the expense of other professional or personal satisfactions.  You need to work longer hours?  That means you don’t have the same time for entertainment, family and friends.  You need to work better?  That means more energy invested in learning the secrets of management and profession at the expense of your favorite literature books, movies or music.

It so happens that the race to the management position may have casualties: family, friends, health, freedom.  Many times we do not have time and energy for all important things in life and the career path seems to have lots of appeal – at the expense of those significant things that are taken for granted.

However the heaviest sacrifice takes place very day at work.  The manager must constantly prove to anybody that he/she is manager by merit and not by accident. That he/she knows, understands and applies the rules of performing and fair management. That he/she intends to achieve not only his/her individual performance standards, but also the subordinates’. Motivation, environment, communication, collaboration, reward or penalty will become his/her daily responsibilities – without an apparent correlation with the actual work.

He/she needs to dress properly, act properly, communicate properly – and most of the time he/she doesn’t have access to a manual “How to be proper”.  The manager is seen, dissected, criticized and judged non-stop by the others – with little understanding for mistakes because of his/her management position.  The manager is the traffic controller in the intersection of requirements and capabilities of those above and those below his rank.  And the traffic light in that intersection often works intermittently….

He/she comes in contact with information and decisions that cannot be revealed to his/her colleagues and this erects a wall of solitude.  He/she needs to make decisions that will not be acclaimed by some or all of his subordinates.  And this will plaster the wall of solitude.

Solitude is a price – as socializing freely is important to all people, managers or not.  The situations, decisions, consequences of his/her act will always be different without the luxury of an advisor or at least an empathic ear.  The managers’ world is rough and tough with no many friendships around.  There are only alliances as ephemeral as the circumstances leading to such alliances.

There is yet another important aspect: the abilities that led to the nomination as manager are no longer sufficient to maintain the status.  New abilities must be inserted in the manager’s backpack, abilities that get more and more refined as the hierarchical elevator continues its ascension.  Corporate politics, networking, image, branding, presentation and negotiation skills will play the decisive role in the success or just the manager’s survival.

The manager’s sacrifice is after all an investment: the return is sometimes proportional with the risk taken.  But not always…