– Who cracks the whip, and how?

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I think the expression “Task Master” has become passé in today’s workplace but I’m not too sure what has replaced it, perhaps “Micromanager” or simply a “Pain in the Ass.” Basically, it’s referring to someone charged with performing a task through to completion and moves heaven and earth to get the job done. I’ve met a lot of tough Task Masters over the years, and I have found there are essentially two types: the megalomaniac, and the “poor slob” who has had an assignment dropped in his lap and realizes failure is not an option.

There are several attributes which the two types share: they are disciplined, results oriented, resourceful, and know how to communicate effectively. In terms of discipline they tend to be very organized and methodical in how an assignment is to be performed and will not tolerate any variance. They are resourceful in terms of not allowing obstacles to interfere with an assignment and know how to overcome any hiccup along the way. In fact, they show great creativity in this regards. They also understand the importance of communicating with all parties involved with the assignment. But the last attribute, which is perhaps the most critical, is they are both very determined to succeed, one because he has to and one because he simply wants to.

The key difference between the two types lies in their interpersonal relations with their subordinates. The megalomaniac relishes the job as it represents power and control. He demands blind obedience and is often fond of saying, “If I say jump, you say how high?” In other words, he sees workers more as machines as opposed to human beings, objects which he can manage by pushbutton, an approach which is loathed by his workers. Consequently, he doesn’t command loyalty or respect and desertions are commonplace.

The poor slob, on the other hand, stresses the importance of the assignment to his people, he runs interference to expedite problems for them, and is concerned with his subordinate’s welfare. This is the antithesis of the megalomaniac who maintains an almost adversarial relationship with his workers. His approach to management is simply to dominate through intimidation, thereby bullying people to complete the task. In contrast, the poor slob seeks cooperation through teamwork and builds a network of interdependencies whereby the members realize they will either sink or swim together.

To use a football metaphor, the Task Master is the quarterback on the field calling his own plays. Depending on what type he is though, the players will either respect and earnestly work for him or they’ll go out of their way to allow him to fumble away the game. In the end, it all comes down to interpersonal relations.

Keep the Faith!

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Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at [email protected]

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Copyright © 2013 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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Listen to Tim on WJTN-AM (News Talk 1240) “The Town Square” with host John Siggins (Mon, Wed, Fri, 12:30-3:00pm Eastern), KGAB-AM 650 “The Morning Zone” with host Dave Chaffin (weekdays, 6:00-10:00am Mountain), and KIT-AM 1280 in Yakima, Washington “The Morning News” with hosts Lance Tormey & Brian Teegarden (weekdays. 6:00-9:00am Pacific). Or tune-in to Tim’s channel on YouTube.

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