Landing in 2021: On Management #46

Keep your seat belts fastened, we may encounter turbulence

This time, a quick recap of last year’s newsletter topics, and something brief for right now.

Thank you for inviting me to your inbox.


Buh-bye 2020

Newsletters: Platforms; Summer Reading; Do the Right Thing; Meeting a Present Normal; Just gimme some truth; The Story is the Story.

Some topics: narratives; communication; loss; advice; responsibility; truth-telling; unbundling employment; remote management is hard; moral courage; and incompetence.

People who pay to receive the newsletter have been getting my Warm Takes, my thoughts in process on what’s happening, often with my critical eye on how the media represents the workplace.

Here are a few (unpaywalled) Warm Takes: Female Confounders; Bargaining; You Do Not Need to be Shakespeare; Away with her!

And I’ve been gnawing on The Heroine’s Journey, my view on how the supposedly-standard Hero’s Journey is not applied to people who aren’t white dudes.

A 2020 audio playlist is here. I didn’t do a lot of audio in 2020. Next time I’ll have more to say on this, and other newsletter changes for 2021.


Responding to the moment

When I was an emerging manager, I was surrounded by people managers who had generations of experience. They were a rich source of coaching and advice.

These folks have been one of my models for how I try to serve people I work with, and the voice I try to bring the the newsletter.

If you’re in the US, the last weeks have been a lot. The last months have been too. I’d count myself among the many who were unsurprised by the events of January 6. That said, it knocked me flat. Which did surprise me.

And word from my own network: I’m not alone. Though I have picked myself up again, somewhat, it has been by doing a bit less. And then doing it as well as I can.

If you lead or manage people, some of them probably aren’t doing so well. There’s plenty to stress us out.

People in your circles may be targets of white supremecist or other forms of violence, caregivers, parents, living alone, unemployed, frontline workers, drowning in debt, working with mental health and/or substance abuse issues, chronically ill, essential workers whose labor might be underappreciated or unseen, residents of a food desert, elderly, survivors of Covid.

Survivors of people who have died from Covid, or who have died deaths of despair.

The present normal is not normal. When we, as leaders, act like things are normal in a time of crisis, this is worse than non-productive. It isolates people who are affected by the crisis and suffering.

Check in with your people — how can you support them, right now?

Acting like things are normal also creates new norms. Choose carefully.


This time, I had planned to write to you about a theme I started to explore in late 2020: competence. It’s an underappreciated step along the way to expertise. Yes, I also mean management expertise.

I’ll be back soon with my thoughts on competence, incompetence, incompetence as a functional equivalent of ill-intentions, and what I’m calling strategic incompetence.


Offerings from folks in my circles


I love hearing from you. Your questions, suggestions, and ideas make me smarter, and better.

The greatest compliment I received in 2020 came from a reader of Platforms: On Management #45. I deflected the compliment — as one should not do — by commenting that I had been a bit unusually ranty. Her response was appreciative. She said something like, “I thought, nobody is paying her to say this.”

Now is not a good time to be silent. The future of work is not an innovation. It is an accretion of our actions, our words, and what we will accept.

Thank you for reading, and many thanks to those who pay to receive On Management.

May you, your loved ones, and everyone you come into contact with be safe, healthy and free.

Anne Libby