The Busy Managers’ Guide To Winning Big

The Busy Managers’ Guide To Winning Big


[Tl;Dr: We’ve learned to pursue our own agendas. Whatever drives us, there are many paths to big personal wins – some much more effective than others]

“You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes, well, you might find
You get what you need”

~ Mick Jagger & Keith Richards

There are many, many reasons why folks become managers, and more reasons still why folks stay as managers. But, at the heart of it all, the core reasons are to do with managers getting their needs met. We might choose to call this “finding big personal wins”.

And different managers see “winning big” in different ways.

“Don’t let anyone tell you what you ought to like.”

~ John Cleese

“Big personal wins” can include:

  • Sense of self – self-actualisation, self-image or “fanning the flames of one’s own personal fire”
  • Self-respect
  • Peer respect
  • Big bonuses
  • Belonging – to the management “tribe”, amongst others
  • Being liked
  • Being feared
  • Promotions
  • Raises
  • Increased responsibility (broader span of control)
  • Increased influence
  • Contributing to the success of the business
  • Delighting customers
  • Helping people – especially folks in one’s team
  • Social good – i.e. contributing to corporate social responsibility (CSR) programmes, charitable works, etc.

Some of these wins are not so much wins in themselves, but more like proxies for more fundamental wins. For example, being feared is rarely a “win” in itself, but being feared can be seen by some as a means to earn respect, or maybe as a means to getting things done – and thereby being seen as “someone who gets things done”.

And similarly, bonuses might be big personal wins in themselves, or might be perceived as means to other big personal wins, like impressing your mates with a flash car or house (e.g. peer respect, or self-respect), belonging (in the big bonuses tribe) or better personal relationships (love, sex, affection of spouse, etc.)

The Decider

What separates the “successful” managers who regularly win big from the also-rans who don’t win so big or so regularly? In a nutshell, it’s the choice of strategies for achieving big personal wins, and the manager’s ability and alacrity in pivoting – to another strategy – when a chosen strategy comes up short.

“If you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got.”

~ Albert Einstein

Choice of Strategies

Let’s take just one big personal win as an example. Sam sees having the respect of her peers as a big personal win. And she’s been acting on the assumption that her strategy of wearing power suits, working long hours, and “driving” her staff hard will earn her that peer respect. Sadly, it’s not been working well for her. Her team don’t much like being “driven” and seem to passive-aggressively oppose her every initiative. Consequently, results are less than stellar. In her previous job results weren’t so important. Few of her peers got to see her team’s results with any clarity. But in her new job, results are much more visible. But she’s going to stick with her tried-and-tested strategy. After all, Sam believe her peers respect her, in part, for her dogged consistency. Why change what you know?


Frankie, on the other hand, finds himself in a similar position. But sensing his previous strategy is ill-suited to his new realities, he quickly pivots. He quickly learns about how his team is feeling, and learns too about how his behaviours have been contributing to their disaffection. Reading widely and swiftly, he conducts a few experiments with changing his attitude – and his behaviour. He soon discovers that genuinely concerning himself with the people in his team – and spending some time understanding what they’re looking for in the way of personal wins – works wonders, at least for some of them. Morale improves, as do results. His peers notice, and his standing rises. His big personal win feels sweeet, and strangely he feels even better seeing the folks in his team find some big personal wins, too.

Frankie’s now keen to win even bigger – and gain yet more respect from his peers. He works with his team to change the work so that it’s easier to spot what everyone’s looking for by way of personal wins – experimenting with different changes, and seeing what brings more personal wins for everyone. Now, both Frankie himself, and everybody on his team, are all seeing big personal wins. Nobody is more surprised than Frankie, who has discovered a new personal win that he never knew about before – the win of seeing others win big.

– Bob

Further Reading

The New Strategic Selling ~ Miller, Heiman, Tuleja and Marriott

  1. Dragos said:

    Good points Bob. What if the personal “big wins” (usually more than one) have different, conflicting, incompatible strategies…

    • Enter, stage left, cognitive dissonance.
      And cue, the psychotherapist. :}

      – Bob

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