What they want is autonomy

Our cover feature this month is not about the heroes from the heights of British business.

by Matthew Gwyther, MT editor
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

It's about those unsung toilers who actually run the show from the ranks of middle management. The piece is based on a big MT survey of our readers, and the results are most interesting. Who, for example, would have thought that nearly 70% of managers do not want their boss's job? What is very clear, though, is that the thing managers most hate is constant interference from above and not being allowed to get on with the job for which they are being paid. No less than 80% said that the biggest contribution to their job satisfaction came from 'having relative autonomy'.

Meanwhile, back at the heights, Charles Allen is his own boss, make no mistake. There are few more bruising jobs in business than running ITV, but Allen leads with his chin as he wades into punch-ups with detractors from all sides. You don't have to be Lord Reith to worry about the merit and worth of some of ITV's current output. When I looked at its evening schedule the other day, this was the inauspicious line-up: 8pm: Celebrity Fit Club; 9pm: Holiday Showdown; 10pm: Supersize Surgery; 11pm: Police Camera Action.

And so to our Shakespeare competition. You were invited to submit the best management lesson from the playwright's complete works. There was a large and impressive entry, but I, for one, was not surprised by the erudition of our readers. With bags of help on leadership and motivation, Henry V was probably the most-quarried play, but we also had hot tips from Othello, several apercus from King Lear and, from Rod Gray, 'No profit grows where is no pleasure ta'en' from The Taming of the Shrew.

But the winner is Lee Carroll from Tipton, who created an electronic presentation in a mock 17th-century typeface featuring hard-hitting quotes from a variety of Bardic sources, including Twelfth Night, As You Like It and Macbeth - 'What's done cannot be undone'. I especially liked his 'Glory is like a circle in the water, Which never ceaseth to enlarge itself, Till by broad spreading it disperses to naught', which is from Henry VI, Part One. As Alan Partridge once said: 'That's very worthy of Shakespeare ... Well, it's better than that, it's worthy of the Great Bard.' Lee wins a bottle of champagne.

As you are clearly up for literary competitions, this time I'd like the best management lesson from a 19th-century British novel. I expect something better than 'Please, sir, I want some more' from Oliver Twist as a lesson to middle managers in how to conduct the annual salary negotiation ... All entries to matthew.gwyther@haynet.com by March 17.

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