In A Tale of Two Managers: Command versus Commitment, I contrasted two leaders, Denise and Joel. Denise balances management and leadership very effectively. Joel is out of balance with a techno-management approach. He’s the poster boy for making STEMM leadership an oxymoron.
Denise uses a collaborative approach to partner with people. She sees people as adults who are generally self-managing. Joel treats them like kids that need to be parented with rules and restrictions. Denise cares about people. Joel dehumanizes and objectifies them. Denise uses the power of persuasion to make people want to. Joel uses position power to make people have to.
Denise builds a cause and case for change appealing to the head and heart to get buy-in. Joel tries to overpower resistance to change with facts and force. Like someone traveling in a foreign country who can’t speak the local language, he’ll talk louder to be understood.
Denise shares as much information as she can and builds strong multi-channel and multi-directional communication loops. Joel gives people information on a need-to-know basis. Joel “empowers” people as a management technique to manipulate people into doing what he wants done. Denise empartners people so they feel naturally empowered to reach their mutual goals.
Is Your Leadership Engaging or Enraging?
Too many managers have turned “people are our most important resource” into an empty cliché. The rhetoric doesn’t match reality. They’re creating an energy crisis. It’s become a source of eye-rolling frustration and even anger.
These manipulative managers pay lip service to the value of people, but their behavior treats “their people” as “assets with skin” or “human capital.” As one executive put it, “I’d really enjoy my job if I didn’t have to deal with all the people problems.”
The Heart Part: Partnering, not Patronizing
Countless organizational studies show that autonomy, participation, “having some say,” and a modicum of control in the workplace are vital to energizing, engaging, and boosting discretionary effort. Highly effective leaders see people as partners. They lead with heart.
Partnerships flourish with trust, mutual respect, two-way communication (talking with, not at each other), and adult-to-adult collaboration. These leaders do it with their partners, rather than doing it to or for them.
As he did so often throughout his long career, the “father of modern management,” Peter Drucker, gets to the heart of effective leadership; “Increasingly ’employees’ have to be managed as partners… partners cannot be ordered. They have to be persuaded. Increasingly, therefore, the management of people is a ‘marketing job.’ And in marketing one does not begin with the question, What do we want? One begins with the questions, What does the other party want?”
How to Energize and Engage…Let’s Count the Ways
Here are a few ways you can partner with your team:
- Look for opportunities to celebrate successes with others on your team. Lead exercises or start meetings by talking about accomplishments or what’s gone right before you jump into problem-solving and dealing with changes and improvements.
- Work with your team members to get their input on how their jobs can be enriched and broadened to align with their personal strengths, passions, and career goals.
- Engage frontline service providers in a systematic process of identifying changing customer expectations against your organization’s performance. Get their help in analyzing trends and planning for meeting those shifting needs.
- Develop a rigorous performance management system that identifies your A, B, and C players. Give lots of developmental and leadership opportunities to your A players. Use your B players where their strengths and contributions align best with what needs to be done. Take thoughtful and deliberate action to improve, move out, or reassign your C players. Don’t allow their low performance (especially in management roles) to kill the passion and engagement of others.
- Keep highly visible scoreboards, big thermometers (like a fundraising campaign), message boards, websites, voice-mail messages, newsletters, and the like to update everyone on your progress toward key goals or change and improvement targets. Make goals/targets and progress as visible as possible.
- To get partnering behavior, treat everyone like partners. Share financial and other “confidential” information openly so everyone can see how their efforts contribute.
- Clarify “loose-tight properties.” Agree on areas where teams or individuals have free autonomous choice (loose). Outline where the boundaries are and standardization or conformance is required (tight).
- Don’t allow yourself and your management team to be hijacked by the tiny minority of people who will never be committed, passionate, or trustworthy. Don’t manage to the lowest common denominator. Once you’ve given them every chance to get on board, help them find opportunities elsewhere.
- Send personal thank you notes (on paper or cards, not by e-mail); make detours to offer a verbal “thanks again,” and make lots of supportive phone calls.
- Review your hiring and orienting process. Do you have multiple interviews that include team members, people who will be reporting to the person being hired, customers, and internal/external partners? Do you have a clear profile of the role and responsibilities, experience/skills, and values of each candidate? Have managers been well-trained in hiring and orienting new people?
- Promote those people who are exemplary leaders. Use “360 degree” feedback and other input from a variety of people to get a profile on their people leadership skills. Tell everyone what the promotion criterion was and how this person exemplifies your organization’s core values. Promotions send the clearest signals about the true culture of an organization. Are you promoting your cultural standard barriers?
Management professor, researcher, and author, Henry Mintzberg, points to a critical leadership issue, “Organizations should be built, and managers should be functioning so people can be naturally empowered. If someone’s doing their job…they should know their job better than anybody. They don’t need to be ’empowered,’ but encouraged and left alone to be able to do what they know best.”