The Middle Manager

Surviving & Thriving as a Leader


I’m traveling again this week, in Denver for a meeting.  It starts on Monday morning, so I arrived on Sunday and due to the way flights are arranged between Tampa and Denver I got here pretty early, around noon.  My original plan was to wander the streets a bit, have a nice dinner, then retire to my room to read and write a few things.

canstockphoto10975200But as the shuttle was driving through downtown Denver, I noticed a lot of people dressed in costumes. As we made our way through the circuit of dropping off our human cargo there were more and more of them, until we passed by the Denver Convention Center, where they were hosting the Denver ComicCon this weekend.  As my hotel was only a few blocks away, I decided I now had something interesting to do on a beautiful Sunday afternoon.

I’ve been to the Tampa Comic Con, but it paled in comparison to the one here in Denver. I don’t read many graphic novels, but I am a science-fiction fan of books, TV, and movies.  And who doesn’t like the latest crop of superhero movies that have been so popular of late?  But there’s a big difference between being a simple fan and many of the folks at Comic Con. These people have a real passion for their chosen genres, whether it be comic books, sci-fi TV or movies, video games, zombies or vampires, superheroes, anime, or other things that I’m frankly totally unfamiliar with, but are nonetheless impressive. 

There were some simply amazing costumes. I saw Star Fleet officers from Star Trek, stormtroopers, rebels, and Jawas from Star Wars, a great Katniss Everdeen (Hunger Games), an astonishing Harry Dresden (my personal favorite), lots of students from Hogwarts (Harry Potter), several stunning Black Widows (Avengers), an awesome Ironman, and countless Supermen, Batmen, and other masked heroes.  And this was all in the last few hours of the convention – I can’t imagine what I might have seen if I were there on Saturday!  The level of detail on some of the outfits was astonishing, but even those folks that didn’t go all-out showed their passion by trying to put together something recognizable, and were usually successful.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could stoke that kind of passion in our employees? Our primary focus is IT support, and while we’re not exactly Ironman, to many of our customers we regularly save the day by getting them back up and running. As managers, do we take the time to recognize the extra effort that our staff puts into their work? 

Beyond that, are we even aware of what our employees are passionate about?  Do you take the time to talk with them about things not work-related, find out what they enjoy when they’re not saving the day in the office?  Doing so can give you great insight into who they are and even unlock hidden talents you may never have been aware of otherwise. 

Everybody is passionate about something. What’s yours?

Incidentally, the Denver Comic Con was providing support and funds to The Comic Book Classroom, a non-profit that provides literacy programs for young people in Colorado.  Check it out!

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