Figure it out

Managers often spend a tremendous amount of energy attempting to answer the question, “What do my employees really want?” It can be a difficult question to answer and has stumped many well-educated leaders. In their new book, “The Invisible Spotlight: Why Managers Can’t Hide,” authors and management consultants Craig Wasserman and Doug Katz tackle this conundrum. The duo advises managers to carefully weigh their own actions in determining a solution. In this interview, the pair discuss the danger of managing on automatic pilot, the importance of the internal dialogue and how to handle the aftermath of a tough conversation.

You refer at the outset of the book to the state of automatic pilot under which so many managers operate. To what do you attribute this state?

Doug Katz: It is the grind of everyday operations and maybe something more fundamental. It’s the idea that a remarkable number of managers come to the job of managing assuming, not always consciously, that how they are naturally — their personality, their character — defines how they should manage. What’s remarkable about that is that there is an enormous number of organizational and relationship skills that are required of a manager. Who would assume that they would come to one naturally? The analogy is one of playing a role in a play and assuming you could walk up onstage without knowing the script.

What about the concept of the ‘Internal Dialogue?’ How does it help reduce drama in the manager/employee relationship?

Craig Wasserman: One of the biggest myths with which managers live is that good managers are able to think quickly on their feet.

Managers aren’t expected to have an instant answer. Problems need to be thought out. They have to be choreographed. It’s not easy to tell someone that you’re disappointed that his or her work is coming in late. But if you anticipate that he or she is going to blame it on one thing or another, what’s your response going to be? This internal dialogue becomes a tool that managers need to perfect before every conversation.

Katz: It might be useful for managers to keep in mind how disrespectful it is to come to a critical meeting about an employee’s work or his or her future without any preparation, without any choreography. What tends to happen, even to the best of us, is that our focus gets diffused. We start talking about other irrelevancies instead of coming to the point. Coming to the point does not happen naturally. It comes from having the respect for the human being across from whom you’ll be sitting to think in advance about what is it that you need to say.

Many managers struggle with what to do after an intense exchange with an employee. Is there an advantage to providing a little space?

Wasserman: Managers have to remember, again, that your people are thinking about you all the time. They will relive aspects of that conversation that they had with you. That time is their healing process. They will go through all sorts of rationalizations and reconciliations with themselves. ‘That wasn’t fair. He’s just picking on me. Maybe he does have a good point,’ etc.

The next day, that person is going to come through the door and be a bit distant. The manager has to live through the employee’s distance. You have to let people have their major ‘Aha!’ experiences when they are alone. We encourage managers during the days following the initial recovery period to engage the employee. Get his or her feedback about an unrelated issue. Get them in the game. Make them realize that the relationship between the manager and the employee is long term.

“The Invisible Spotlight: Why Managers Can’t Hide”

By Craig Wasserman and Doug Katz

CreateSpace, 154 pages, $15.95

About the book “The Invisible Spotlight” provides powerful perspective on the unique role of a manager in his or her organization. It is a job title that many professionals will hold during their career, but one for which many will be ill-prepared. Veteran management consultants Craig Wasserman and Doug Katz argue that managers are under constant scrutiny that has little to do with an annual performance review or quarterly earnings report. Their book offers a critical examination of the relationships, moments and trials that can make a manager’s career successful.

The authors Craig Wasserman, Ph.D., and Doug Katz are co-founders of Wasserman/Katz and share more than 35 years of experience as management consultants, trainers and lecturers. Their organization helps managers explore their ultimate responsibility for making critical organizational relationships work.

Why you should read it Regardless of your confidence level about your abilities as a manager, you should take a fresh look at the impact you have on the lives of your employees. “The Invisible Spotlight” dissects the make-or-break moments of which you may not even be aware. It removes the veil of mystery that occasionally cloaks the reasons why employees react in certain ways.

Why it’s different Wasserman and Katz remind readers from the outset that management is work, and it’s constant, difficult work. The authors instruct managers to both think from the perspective of employees and call upon the manager’s own experiences during his or her rise up the corporate ladder. Their book is among the best to bridge the gap between employer and employee to create a shared vision whose goal is to get the job done. If you’re in a results-oriented environment, “The Invisible Spotlight” is a must-read title.

Can’t miss “The Internal Dialog.” Wasserman and Katz recognize that a fatal flaw of managers is the desire to avoid uncomfortable conversations. This chapter provides critical steps to handle the tough, closed-door sessions with employees.

To share or not to share “The Invisible Spotlight” is a book that many of your competitors will miss, and it’s to their disadvantage. Make sure this book makes it onto the reading list of your management team.

How to reach For more information on this book, visit