Friday 6:00, Beach Road, Cape Town
Managing people is a curious thing. I have never been taught how to manage people, yet I now lead a team of eight. I see myself as a demanding yet supportive manager, but this is only my own perspective of myself.
My first childhood memory of a similar situation to managing people is somewhat vague and foggy like many 30-year-old memories usually are. It was 1983 and I was a happy and confident 7-year-old boy in his first year of school in the southern suburbs of Stockholm. Fraggle Rock had just been aired on Swedish television and a few of us kids were playing with plastic Fraggle Rock miniatures in the schoolyard during recess. Only five characters were ever made, and there must have been at least six or seven of us. I wanted to play Red Fraggle and as it’s such a long time ago, I had to look up who Red Fraggle was. It has provide some very interesting and revealing insights into who I was in 1983:
Red Fraggle is one of the five main Fraggles in Fraggle Rock. She is yellow and her hair is red with yellow and orange highlights, which is always in big pigtails. She usually wears a red sweater and has the most hair of any Fraggle.
Red is athletic and energetic. She likes to think of herself as the fastest and strongest Fraggle in the Rock. She is highly competitive with her friends, which sometimes causes extreme interpersonal problems, especially with Gobo Fraggle (though despite their constant competition, she secretly admires him). Red loves sports, especially diving and swimming. Her job is to clean the pool in the middle of Fraggle Rock. She also teaches swimming classes, and considers herself an expert at rock hockey.
Red also has her share of insecurities; she especially hates to admit her mistakes.
It’s spooky how much I relate to this character. It makes me think I must have been a very peculiar child!
Anyway, I’m getting off-topic. For reasons that are not clear, a girl asked me if she could be Red Fraggle too.
‘No, you can’t, because there can’t be two Red Fraggles at the same time’, I replied.
In my 7-year-old head I had an idea of what our version of Fraggle Rock was meant to be. I had created my own rules and reality, and much to the girl’s disappointment it didn’t include having two Red Fraggles.
As kids we learn and experiment with power and control. When grown ups are around, they educate us on how to behave in manners that are in line with our sociocultural background, yet when we are alone, like during recess at school, we are left to our own devises, testing and trying how far we can go.
Fast forward 30+ years and I’m now one of the directors of an STM publisher with around 55 staff. I’m here for many reasons, the latest of which was that my boss believed I was the right person to lead the commercial part of the business. Yet I continually question myself how I have ended up here without any formal leadership or management training. We’ve recently started a module on managing people and as before it’s incredibly fascinating. Yet I fail to understand why employers do not require managers at any level to undergo some degree of management training. We would be much better managers if we had a basic understanding of concepts such as control, motivation and managing people.