Stop Managing, Start Leading | Hamza Khan | TEDxRyersonU

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my name is Hamza and there's three

things that you should know about me one

I was born in 1987 - I love hip-hop and

three I'm a horrible boss I'm a horrible

boss because I used to be a horrible

employee aside from my time in the

Canadian Armed Forces I've never

completely cooperated with the rules of

my traditional workplaces the Monday to

Friday 9 to 5 grind just isn't for me

I'll never forget the last time that I

was called out for being late at work it

was very early in my career and I

remember showing up one morning at 9:15

a.m. casually strolled in only to find

my boss standing beside my desk arms

crossed tapping his watch and

disapproval Hamzah this is unacceptable

I can't remember the last time you were

here before 9:00 well damn good morning

to you too sir

did I miss anything now of course I knew

that I hadn't I've been connected to my

work in a dozen different ways check my

calendar the night before I'd been on my

email all morning I had my notifications

on Facebook Twitter whatsapp or internal

messaging system if my clients or my

team wanted to get a hold of me they

would have already done so and that's

when my boss hit me with this Hamzah

stock market opened 15 minutes ago

what in my work have to do with the

stock market this was a marketing agency

I was doing graphic design I saw what

was happening I was being sacrificed at

the altar of office discipline so I

asked a rhetorical question

did something happen that I should know

about and of course they knew nothing

had happened I've been on Twitter all

morning and I looked at the trending

topics and the only thing newsworthy was

Kanye West and Kim Kardashian attending

a jay-z concert the night before and

that's when my boss hit me with this

Hamzah you being late is bad for morale

it looks like you weren't pulling your

weight around here ooh that one stung

that one hurt and that's the moment I

decided to quit

the insinuation that I wasn't producing

because I wasn't physically tethered to

my desk I was a bit too much for my

pride anyone who knows me knows that I'm

highly productive I'm a consummate team

player but apparently I didn't looked

the part so rather than go out with a

dramatic bang I left with a little bit

of a sneaky whimper for my last two

weeks on the job I would show up early

show up every morning at 8:55 a.m. and I

would sit at my desk and do one thing

and one thing only

I marathon movies yeah naturally I

started with The Godfather

great place to start I made my way over

to Star Wars and what marathon would be

complete without the Lord of the Rings

extended version of course now every day

I would leave at 5:00 p.m. I passed by

his desk at 5:00 p.m. and he go like


Hamzah great job I literally sat there

for eight hours and I watched movies I

did nothing but that was enough for my

boss and I swore from that moment

onwards I'd never be managed again and

managers have tried and managers have

failed they've had to modify their

management strategies and approaches

with me and it's left me wrestling with

the following paradox organizations that

are growing and achieving scale require

management however people myself

yourself don't like to be managed which

begs the question Ken Millennials be

managed or better yet should millenials

be managed now I mentioned that I was

born in 1987 and that situates me firmly

within Generation Y critics of my

generation have been quick to dismiss me

as many things entitled lazy disloyal

unmotivated selfish and considering that

I quit my job over the fact that I

couldn't show up 15 minutes late every

single day I suppose you could say some

of those stereotypes are true but here's

the thing Generation Y now accounts for

more than 50 percent of the global

workforce but we're built for tomorrow's

workplace because we grew up in an

increasingly flat and connected world

were that much more resourceful

innovative entrepreneurial nimble

dexter's agile I've got buzzwords for

Daisy all

how we work and why we work is

fundamentally out of sync with the

expectations of the traditional

workplace for instance I don't just have

one employer I have a portfolio of work

I don't just have one specialization I

have many of them I don't stay at one

place for very long I do tours of duty

I don't need an office I'm connected to

my work anywhere that I can get Wi-Fi so

why is it that so many of us are still

being managed like we work in factories

now if you trace back the echoes of this

particular configuration of workplaces

far back enough you might actually well

end up in factories the Industrial

Revolution this time in our history saw

organizations achieving scale in order

to manage this growth we have to elect

well managers in fact the entire

eight-hour workday has its roots in this

time social reformer Robert Owen

proposed that we divide our work into

three equal parts for a day rather into

three equal parts eight hours for work

eight hours for recreation eight hours

for rest as a way to wrestle back

work-life balance because at that time

we were experiencing a rather

adversarial relationship with our

employers by the early 1900's management

had become widely accepted and by the

mid twentieth century we began for

better or for worse - perfect management

we began to develop theories about it

and one such theorist by the name of

Peter Drucker began to notice something

he began to notice something that was a

bit of a paradigm shift he saw that we

were moving away from the mere

production of goods and the provision of

advanced services to the use and

manipulation of information he coined

the phrase knowledge work he said the

most valuable asset of a 21st century

institution whether business or

non-business will be its knowledge

workers in their productivity and so

what we need is a new managerial

contract because when you consider that

when all of the value in an organization

walks out of the door each evening the

old command-and-control mindset is not

going to work anymore the existing model

doesn't make any sense it does not make

sense for creative agencies

it does not make sense for startups it

does not make sense for think tanks it

does not make sense for publications it

does not make sense for anywhere where

the next generation is trying to do

creative work entrepreneurial work or

information based work and so why are we

doing this well because of tradition

tradition is easy tradition is

comforting tradition is ultimately

limiting it stifles innovation it's

doing things because that's the way it's

always been done but let me tell you

doing things because that's the way it's

always been done is a horrible horrible

reason to continue doing anything and so

it behooves managers of the next

generation to develop a focus on

management with a distinctly Theory Y

approach in order to understand and

appreciate Theory Y you first have to

understand and appreciate Theory X

Theory X assumes a lot of things it

assumes that employees are lazy that

they avoid work and that they actually

dislike work it's kind of like when your

parents assigned you tasks or chores

when you were young or do the lawn do

the dishes and you'd rather be doing

other things Theory y assumes the

complete opposite Theory Y assumes that

employees are ambitious that they're

self-motivated that the exercise

self-control and that they actually

enjoy their physical and mental duties

and that given the proper conditions an

employer operating within the theory Y

framework and actually help their

employees achieve the most elusive part

of Maslow's hierarchy of needs that

little point at the top of the triangle

self-actualization but that's all given

the proper condition so what do those

proper conditions look like well let me

tell you about how I run my ships I

start from a place of a hundred percent

trust I provide my teams with their

areas of responsibility they have their

goals they have their deadlines and I

assume that they're here for the right

reason and that they want to work and

that they will do good work I provide

them with space physical and otherwise

now we have an office yes you're not

physically expected to be there you can

work from the office you can work from

home you can be in Bermuda with your

shorts on for all I care as long as work

is getting done on time and to a high

degree of quality why is there any need

for me to actually track your hours it's

dehumanizing it's degrading and I

believe in co-creation I believe in

building things together I simply am NOT

going to assign you something

expect you to do it let alone do a good

job I'd rather invest you emotionally in

the process of producing whatever it is

that we're producing and then I believe

in leadership

this is something I've resisted for a

long time but my teams have told me time

and again hums that we need somebody

needs to be there who's a steward who's

gonna guide us who's gonna provide us

with insulation from the more harsh

realities of the organization and the

industry frankly and I believe in

culture I believe that people want to

show up to a workplace that doesn't feel

like a workplace that feels more like a

community where they can be among

friends where they can bring their whole

selves to work something I've really

learned and appreciated with my time at

Ryerson sa and I believe that we should

create a work that is conducive create a

workplace that is conducive to doing

excellent work and when all these proper

conditions are met what happens we do

work that we're proud of we're more

creative we discover meaning and

fulfillment we strike work/life blend

and I would hope that we ultimately

achieve happiness I'm optimistic about

the next generation because not only can

we break the cycle I believe we will

break the cycle of doing things the way

they've always been done and it's gonna

come from understanding a fundamental

difference between outcomes and outputs

and this quote in particular reminds me

of this it underscores this ideas so

well Antoine de saint-exupéry said if

you want to build a ship don't drum up

people to collect wood don't assign them

tasks and work but rather teach them to

long for the endless immensity of the

sea a focus on outcomes versus mere

outputs now I managed my first creative

team at the age of 21 and this is a

particularly challenging team to manage

it was comprised of student staff and

anyone who's managed student staff and

knows what a Herculean chore it is to

get them to part with their time energy

and attention they've got so much going

on in their lives the rigors of academia

the trials and tribulations of being a

student family friends co-curricular

activities other job opportunities and

if you're not careful about

intentionally engaging them what you get

is diminished capacity and so by design

I had to become the lazy a fair

hands-off manager that I am today

without any formal training or education


prynt for that matter I defer to the

closest blueprint available to me at the

time the teachings of a man named Sean

Carter some of you might know him as uh

jay-z I've listened to all of his music

I've read interviews I've watched

interviews I've read books by him about

him and have always been in such awe of

the way he's built up rock nation one of

the most successful labels over time

he's a leader who manages other leaders

he manages the likes of Kanye West

Rihanna Jay Cole the list goes on and he

does so with a distinct focus on

individuals he doesn't just see the Sun

he sees individuals he sees a team of

artists people who are unique have their

own ambitions who want to succeed on

their own terms and he nourishes that

and he creates an environment that has

all of the aforementioned conditions

like Jay I work with people who want to

make classic albums I work with people

who want to win Grammys I work with

people who want to move the needle

forward and push boundaries I work with

people who are genuinely animated by

their work I suppose you could say I

started the game on hardmode one of the

first people that I ever had to manage

was significantly older than I was more

skilled and more wise and naturally I

was intimidated I was 21 at the time I

could barely manage myself how was I

going to manage this person and so I

managed him the best way that I knew how

I didn't I told him you're an adult and

you're perfectly capable of managing

yourself all I can really do is manage

your workflow and your priorities and if

you're down with that we can do some

amazing things together and that gave me

the wind in my sails to manage my next

creative team at the age of 24 at

Ryerson University I managed the Sigma I

managed a student team that was

significantly larger than my first team

in fact it was so large I don't remember

a single meeting where we were all

physically present I sometimes had to do

the same meeting twice or three times

and each time there were disembodied

heads around the table face dialling in

via FaceTime and Google hangout and it

was around this time that I really had

to embrace the use of technology to

foster a sense of community and

collaboration and at 28 nothing has

really changed I'm now managing

full-time staff and imagine the exact

same managing them the exact same way

that I manage my part-time staff my stay

staff it's by recognizing their unique

behaviors and expectations and not just

meeting them halfway meeting them all

the way modifying the way I work to fit

them versus the other way around now

you're wondering has it worked

humza this seems too good to be true

it's a some sort of YouTube utopian

workplace I mean it's not without its

bumps but yes it does work I'm on my

fifth creative team now people that have

worked for me rather with me have

graduated on to work at places that are

reputable organizations large agencies

leading publications media companies

we've won regional and national awards

and on the agency front we've worked

with clients off the jump that some

agencies don't pursue until four or five

ten years down the road so yes it does

work but how does it work comes up how

did this all happen well with a lot of

training a lot of support and a lot of

guidance from man like Jay I raise

the bar I believe that if you want to do

your best work if you want your team to

do their best work you have to bring out

the best in yourself to bring out the

best in your team you have to bring out

the best in yourself I don't stand

behind my team and say go I stand in

front of them and say let's go I believe

that you have to go to bat for your team

when people work with you they want to

know that they're working with somebody

that has their back that's going to go

to bat for them no matter what I provide

training and mentorship I believe that

if you're not learning you're stagnating

and so I'm always on my team's case to

develop personally professionally and

academically and even if they outgrow my

wisdom and even if they outgrow what it

is that I can provide them I don't get

territorial about that I push them in

the right direction I help them seek

other mentors and other opportunities to

grow and I provide them with time space

and resources I believe that your best

work happens when a manager isn't

breathing down your neck and I provide

stretch projects these are these big

audacious projects that scare you that

push you outside of your comfort zone

and I believe that's where the real

growth happens outside of your comfort

zone that's where the real magic happens

and last but not least I get out of the

way once I've empowered and motivated

these teams I take a step back and watch

them take flight and one particular

quote from Jay Cole about his men

JZ really helps to underscore that J

never compromised or interfered in my

creative process there was never a point

when he was like I need to come in and

play a big brother and show you how to

do this

he let me figure it out and it feels

better to win like that now I want you

all to do something for me I want you to

think about a leader in your life a


a coach a teacher friend family member

somebody who would call you for advice

somebody who would call you tonight and

ask you for a favor they want your help

with a project a task something would

you do it for them yes you would would

you give them your best effort

absolutely in fact I think you'd go

above and beyond the call of duty for

them why because there's something about

your relationship with this person that

has put you in the right headspace to

deliver something about them something

about you and them that has put you in

the proper conditions conducive to doing

excellent work and now let's revisit the

management paradox one more time growing

organizations require management but

people don't like to be managed so I ask

what is the role of management for the

next generation if organizations existed

in the execution era to produce goods

and to achieve skill and if they existed

in the expertise era let's provide

advanced services why do they exist now

why do they exist in 2015 why will they

continue to exist I argue that they

exist to provide complete and meaningful

experiences not just for the end-user

not just for the customers but for you

as well for me for the teams and so I

argue that we're in a brand new era

altogether the end of management and a

refocused on leadership at every level

and so what is the role of management

for the next generation absolutely

nothing how are we gonna break out of

this catch-22 how will we dismantle this

paradox how will we stop doing things

the way they've always been done we're

just gonna stop managing altogether and

I suppose in this way yes I am a

horrible boss I'm a horrible boss

because I'm not a boss at all I'm just a

friend I'm a mentor

I'm a comrade I'm a resource I'm a

cheerleader and I'm a coach and coaches

don't play ball they motivate and

empower their teams to win championships

and then take a step back and watch them

do it and so I challenge each and every

one of you everyone who is privileged

enough to manage the next generation

please don't manage lead because you

manage things and you meet people thank