“Now is the Law of the Jungle—as old and true as the sky;
And the wolf that shall keep it may prosper, but the wolf that shall break it must die.
As the creeper that girdles the tree-trunk, the Law runneth forward and back—
For the strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack.”

THE WOLF — Rudyard Kipling

There is a great tendency for managers to overthink to the point of being ineffective.
In my experience as a manager over the years, I can tell you that most managers deserve the derisive reviews they receive.

Fishmonger Management is really as simple as it gets. And those managers who follow its tenets will flourish, while those who do not will fail.

What’s with the name?

As a young man in my 20s, my brother was kind enough to employ me at his retail/wholesale/restaurant. All of this I learned from him as I slung and carved fish for his patrons. At the time I did not truly understand the value of his tutelage. It was only later when I was charged with managing people that I came to realize all of the wisdom he had imparted and the degree to which it impacted my own style.

Why it works:

Fishmonger Management works because it is oriented toward Human Beings. That is, it takes into account Human Nature and those aspects of Humanness that are hard-wired.

My father, who was an MD of some note, said he knew Medicine as a profession was doomed when the hospital he had helped establish began referring to Personnel as “Human Resources.” Fishmonger Management refuses this term. Human Beings are substantially more than “resources.”

Fishmonger Management also presupposes (and relies on) Great People. That is, from the outset Fishmonger Management concedes that great managers and their successes proceed from their Team. Not the other way around. In a moment of success, a Fishmonger Manager reminds himself/herself, “My Team makes me appear a better manager than I actually am.”

By its very reliance on Great People, Fishmonger Managers needn’t bother with “how to motivate” or “how to discipline” or “conflict resolution” among Team members.   And it is precisely the noise that proceeds from those sorts of “management issues” that first clouds then ultimately foils the mission. How can a manager succeed if there is lethargy, infighting, distractions and conflict among the ranks? He/She can’t.

Fishmonger Management is equal parts Zen and Attentiveness. It is not Fatalistic. Nor is it “proactive management” in the popular sense of the term.

Fishmonger Management is, at its essence, is about flow and equilibrium and letting go. It is about guiding the flow, not about “changing direction.” It is about modest, prudent tweaks. It is about anticipation, tension and torque. It is a Human approach to managing Humans.

Great People – Profiling Aces

Fishmonger Managers understand that all successes proceed from Great People. Therefore, hiring and retaining Great People is the fundamental, overarching responsibility a Fishmonger Manager must fulfill.

“Great People” or “Sharpshooters” or “Rock Stars” may have different skill sets but share the following general profile:

Great People and Responsibility

  • Great people love Responsibility
  • Great people resent Responsibility without Authority
  • Great people respond to managers who recognize this (and expect it, and value it.)

Great People and Self-Management

  • Great people are, by their very nature, self-starters.
  • Great people are, by their very nature, hard-working… not because they are forced to be… but because they are hard-wired that way.
  • Great people are adults and like to be treated that way.
  • Great people are extremely averse to frequent and frivolous interference from management.
  • Great people respond to managers who recognize this (and expect it, and value it.)

Great People and Team

  • Great people like to be a part of a Team… but only if the team is comprised of other sharpshooters.
  • Great people hold themselves to very high standards and expect the same of others they rely on or are forced to work with.
  • Great people are in general rugged individualists… who only respect other rugged individualists.
  • Great people flourish when they are surrounded by other like-minded people.
  • Great people respond to managers who recognize this (and expect it, and value it.)

Great People and Respect

  • Great people are like Missouri, the “Show Me” state.
  • They are kind, but generally more cynical than the average person.
  • They believe they are smarter and more talented than the population at large. Typically because it is true.
  • They are confident in their skills.
  • They do not tolerate mediocrity.
  • They are more likely to frag a bad boss or find a different job than remain working for a boss they do not respect.
  • Great people respond to managers who recognize this (and expect it, and value it.)

Great People are Whole Personalities

  • Great people are “whole personalities”… that is, they are not “damaged” or “incomplete”
  • They are resilient fighters.
  • They can take positive criticism without feeling they have been personally attacked
  • They are rational movers, as compared to emotional movers
  • They hate “drama” of all forms
  • They know there is more to life than work, although they typically do the work of 2-3 average people in any given day
  • Great people respond to managers who recognize this (and expect it, and value it.)

Typical Demographics

  • Come from larger families – very rare to find an only child that qualifies as a true superstar.
  • Began working at a young age (mid-teens)
  • Put themselves through school and/or worked throughout their college years.
  • Great Women are typically seen as “one of the guys” – and/or do not get along with more “catty” women, earning the respect and admiration of their male peers.
  • Great Men are respected by other Great Men and are gentlemanly (in a non-chauvinistic way, of course) towards their female peers. They are not liked by insecure, envious or damaged men.
  • Typically social or very social
  • Possess mature rhetorical skills
  • Possess well-developed sense of humor
  • Great people respond to managers who recognize this (and expect it, and value it.)

Effective “Management” of Great People

  • Be Direct (and Decisive. Think benevolent dictator)
  • Be Even-Handed (you can have preferences, but not in adjudication – which with Great People isn’t typically necessary)
  • Get Out-of-the-way (you are less likely to inhibit the flow)
  • Trust-but-verify (do not be naive)
  • Be Respectful (because you are in the presence of Greatness)
  • Be Down-to-Earth (because it is an honor to manage Great People)
  • Be Self-Deprecating (because it is not at all about you)
  • Be Responsive (you should feel honored to be of service)
  • One of Us (if you want to be successful, don’t hide in your office)
  • Be Light-hearted (everything will be fine. You have a great Team. And you know what it is like to be stuck with you all day!)
  • Be a Protective Advocate (you need them more than they need you.)
  • Be Honest Always (the moment Great People sense your devotion to honesty is situational, you are no longer fit to command.)

Great People Make Mistakes Too

  • A crucial thing to convey to superstars is that you see them as worthy of responsibility and the authority that goes with it
  • Any time a person is given unilateral decision-making authority, one has to realize that mistakes will be made
  • It is crucial to express to your crew that mistakes are expected and perfectly normal in the course of making decisions
  • It is crucial to explain to them that they will not be “put to the sword” or “roasted” for making a mistake from time to time.
  • In fact, making mistakes is a part of ongoing Human development. Unless a pattern is discerned, there is no reason a person should expect anything more than a discussion surrounding what to do should they encounter a similar situation in the future.

If Mistakes are Disallowed

  • Even Great People will stop making decisions – even if they have the authority to do so.
  • If this occurs, manager will be forced to micro-manage.
  • His team will defect.
  • Game over.

Fishmonger Managers as Pencil-Pushing Time Keepers?

  • Fishmonger Managers don’t care about people needing the day off or a long lunch or need to leave early or come in late…
  • If they do, it is a sure sign that they do not have Great people working for them.
    Great people honor the employer/employee covenant, appreciate having a job, and most of all appreciate that their boss recognizes them as adults.
  • Young professionals don’t see so-called “flex-time” as a benefit, but a given.
  • Chances are your company doesn’t offer pensions… so your reports aren’t obliged from cradle to grave… nor from waking moment to midnight. That concept died decades ago. So let it go and adjust your expectations accordingly.
  • It is an honor to “lead” Great People. They are only with you for a short time. Your mission is to get them where they are going… to block and tackle for them… to help them realize their full potential.

Disallowed Language

  • Conditional language in should always be eliminated from the Team lexicon (words like, “would, should, could, might,” etc)
  • Great people do not use phrases like (ie.“not fair,” and “I deserve”)


  • A Fishmonger Manager should ask clear, purposeful questions. This is the only way to receive clear, actionable information
  • If a Fishmonger Manager senses someone is “doing the dance”… not answering directly (using conditional language) he/she ought to pay more attention. Let little stuff go – choose battles wisely
  • If a Fishmonger Manager begins to see patterns emerge, he/she ought to pay more attention. Let little stuff go – choose battles wisely


  • A Fishmonger Manager should always consider performance in the context of the person’s personality, known track-record and in light of possible non-work-related issue
  • If behavior is out of character for the employee, let it go… it is likely temporary. Fishmonger Managers only care about pattern recognition. They pay no heed to statistical outliers.

More Musts

  • A Fishmonger Manager should welcome criticism and witticism
  • A Fishmonger Manager should allow team to blow off steam
  • A Fishmonger Manager should know how many kids a person has, what kind of music they listen to, what they do outside of work, whether they like to read, how they prefer to communicate, whether they are better in the morning or afternoon, and be perceptive (are they suddenly not wearing their wedding ring, sick more often, out of sorts, tired, being run too hot (overworked), hung-over?)

Fishmonger Management – it isn’t about you. At all. So hire Great People and get out of the way. They’ll make you appear a better manager than you actually are.

Collins, 2012