“I believe the real difference between success and failure in a corporation can be very often traced to the question of how well the organization brings out the great energies and talents of its people.”
— Thomas J. Watson, Jr. A Business and its Beliefs (1963)
I learned a key lesson from one of my first management positions. I was a delivery supervisor at UPS and had just a few precious moments with my team in the morning before dispatch and a few more when they returned to the center after completing their routes. The bulk of the day the drivers had to make their own decisions and monitor their own work. It was physically impossible to be on the package cars and directly supervise them. You had to trust them. It worked just fine.
I suppose it is that experience that causes me to bristle so much when my clients turn to control and direct supervision in these tough times. Decision making has become more centralized and generally top down. The culture becomes one of compliance. Employees respond by following directives hoping not to make a mistake that makes than an exception, inviting closer supervision. The organization loses its excitement, its zeal, and instead encourages an almost robotic approach to doing a job rather than practicing a profession. Most top talent starts looking for other organizations that value their talent and skills. Compliant organizations are left with compliant employees, those that can’t leave because they don’t have value other employers want.
The best organizations are talent centric. They hire the best talent and pay them well. They invest in their talent by providing development opportunities and continuing education. They decentralize decision making and let their people use the skills they hired them for. They grow their own leaders rather than having to go outside. (A key indicator I look for in organizations is how often they have to turn to the outside for middle to executive level management positions.) They trust their people. They reward good work, and approach performance problems with a problem solving rather than blaming mindset. They understand that if they want to attract the best and the brightest they must provide an opportunity for the best and the brightest to practice their craft.
If you are managing your people just like any other purchased asset, rather than leading them as respected team members, you may be setting up your company for further tough times. Thomas Watson pointed this out forty-seven years ago as he was building his office machine manufacturing business. He did pretty well with his talent centric approach.
A depressing read to start the morning. Business Week features a column that lists 10 characteristics to help you identify whether you work in a fear based workplace. As if you wouldn’t already know! The article is here: http://www.businessweek.com/managing/content/jul2010/ca2010078_954479.htm
I am not so naive to believe this doesn’t exist, but am surprised that organizations built upon fear can survive. My experience shows that fear based workplaces lead to the following:
Ironically, bosses in these places think they can intimidate people to perform by threatening their employment, yet the only people they scare away are the ones with enough talent and skills to go elsewhere. Fear based organizations tend to be full of mediocre performers who feel they must tolerate the treatment because they have no options. I hope that does not sound too harsh, but in essence bad bosses are enabled by those who put up with it.
Treat your employees bad and they in turn will treat your customers bad. The brand of a company lives in every employee. When they are in bad moods because of their work environment, that impacts how they treat customers.
Employees learn to cope. At best they disengage, at the worst, they practice sabotage. The vast majority of employees will just tolerate the behavior the best they can, but there are some employees who will make it their life’s work to ruin bad bosses careers by setting them up for failure.
Dr. Deming included in his fourteen points, this one at number eight: Drive out fear, so that everyone may work effectively for the company. (See Ch. 3 of “Out of the Crisis”) It is not about being nice, it is about being successful.
Robert and I talk about the pyramid of success today…join us!
I spent some time this past week talking with a fellow professional about organizational change. I found myself questioning some of the models and designs for organizational change. At the heart of my discomfort with the models for change was simply this, you don’t change organizations, you change people. The organizational change is an outcome of all the personal changes necessary to get to a new place.
Nowhere is this more true than leadership development. I do believe that the organization’s systems, practices, and rewards must reinforce leadership behaviors, but I don’t think they are the primary driver. Ultimately, a leadership culture happens one leader at a time.
I am passionate about creating cultures of leadership for one simple reason. Organizations will never be great unless there are great leaders showing the way. You cannot manage an organization to greatness. Improving transactions through great management means little if it takes you down the worn path to the same old, same old. Leadership provides the necessary transformation efforts to get us to a new, more noble place.
In my business, that transformation often starts in the class room. I love working with younger consultants who are hell bent on changing the world. I smile at them and agree, that is an opportunity. Then I suggest we start with any given person in our session. Let’s start by giving him/her the very best tools and information he/she needs to have the courage to lead, and the skills to do it successfully. Perhaps we can create a critical mass in an organization, especially if we target the people at the top.
I still believe in organizational change. I have to as I am convinced the business world in the US is running down the wrong road trying to improve through management a system that no longer fits the new economy. I recognize the inertia past practices has, and remained convinced we steer away from the past when courageous individuals start asking, “Maybe we should head over there?” One at a time….