One God, One Manager?
How some of us in the Middle East region govern our businesses
When you start mobilising on an idea, you will be wearing many hats.
If, after a decade, you’ve added more hats to your collection, it’s a warning sign.
I am fortunate to have experienced work and employment in multiple cultures, cities, communities, and above all, management styles. I am still miles away from claiming authority on the subject, but my experience and observation have taught me to look for signs more wisely.
One of those signs is the delegation of responsibilities. I will not make this a global observation, but rather the Middle East/Gulf Region one. Individual potential and initiatives are not lacking in this world area, and for decades, business ideas, solutions, and concepts have been emerging none-stop. Yet, a pattern keeps looping; the centre of gravity is a person or two in any case.
The symptoms are evident once you look at the timeline of any company.
The trick is to differentiate a couple of things:
- Delegation of Responsibilities: This is where you hire people to take over a specific business area and better it more than you.
- Delegation of Tasks: This is where you hire people to do tasks that are becoming either a distraction to you or increased in frequency.
- Delegation of Liabilities: This is where you delegate your failures to unsuspecting employees.
The local culture is probably responsible for the one-person centre of gravity thingy in this area of the globe.. You can sense this in family structures, policies, politics, clubs, unions…etc. Naturally, it will spill into business management. It is common, and more likely than not, to note a business that has been around for years, with a team of employees where the owner remains the only force to keep the company intact.
I’ve observed a few patterns that can group such individuals:
- They never hire people with senior experience, especially if they have more experience than the owner. I’ve seen situations where some do, but they carefully select them not to be a threat.
- They rely on fresh graduates, young people, or those who won’t take it too seriously (yeah, I can go on about this one for days). Again this is all about threats, loud opinions, and life experience. Such owners don’t want this in their culture; they want the thirsty and the fast to give gratitude for each opportunity.
- They will never hire someone better than they are. It is a tricky one because of misconception. Such business owners will hire people to do jobs they don’t know how themselves (legal, auditing, transport, manufacturing, design, printing, sales, marketing…etc). The misconception here is hiring people with a skill you don’t have the tool/time for, not better than you. If one pays attention, such owners will most likely act as if they can do better than those hires if they had the time/interest. The trick is to look at the core business and its components, then note if anyone in the company’s timeline was hired because the owner wanted someone better than themselves to do it and adapt the business to that.
My experience has taught me to look out for those who delegate tasks rather than responsibilities. They would gladly tell you they could do all the jobs themselves if they had the time. Their ego wins most of their conversations and decisions, and those will likely delegate their failures as well. Those who mix up a delegation of responsibilities with failures are simply toxic.
A good friend once summarised such experience: “Stay away from those businesses where a single person can dictate the whole team’s mood and energy”
Now I can add: “Stay away from where the culture and the future are governed by one person or two.”