Many people tend to use the terms management and leadership as if they’re interchangeable. Seth Godin, in his latest book, Tribes, points out a very important distinction between the two terms. Leaders have fans–excited followers–because leaders show a generous concern for the welfare of the people who follow them. Managers, on the other hand have employees–unexcited non-followers–because their managers don’t care all that much about them. This is why, during unstable times like the present, growth and success come from leaders. Their fans come to work already excited about applying every bit of energy, creativity, and passion they have toward making new and exciting things happen. Managers, on the other hand, don’t fare well during difficult times because their employees don’t find being constantly pushed to do more with less all that exciting. The lesson here is that if you want to be successful, especially during difficult times, you have to become a leader. The good news is that to be a leader, all you have to do is start caring about the people around you and the rest will take care of itself.
It’s a long held belief that the immediate boss has the most influence over how much discretionary effort an employee is willing to apply toward his or her job. Towers Perrin, in their Global Workforce Study which included nearly 90,000 workers from 18 countries, found this not to be true. The study found that while the impact of the immediate boss is large, the top single driver of discretionary effort is “senior management’s sincere interest in employee well being.” In other words, does senior management consistently demonstrate that it truly cares about front line employees? The study goes on to say: “Senior managers now know that it is not enough for them to observe the significance of employee engagement (willingness to apply discretionary effort) from afar and then task their HR and line managers to do something about it. They themselves represent part of the problem, and a major part of the solution.” The study indicates that senior management could significantly increase levels of employee discretionary effort “…by doing a few simple things sincerely, consistently and well. In order of importance the top three of these are:
- Communicate openly and honestly
- Be visible and accessible
- Show support for new ideas.”
The study also points out that senior management’s function as role models for managers throughout the organization cannot be overestimated. “Their interest in staff, even if demonstrated in small ways, will be carefully noted by others lower down the management structure.”
Booklist Magazine, which is published by the American Library Association will carry the following review of Instant Turnaround! in its May 1, 2009 issue:
How can executives not realize that positively motivating employees to produce phenomenal bottom-line return is as simple as, well, the four Bs that authors Harry Paul and Ross Reck advocate? (Their pedigrees include, for the former, the coauthorship of the Fish! series and, for the latter, management consulting gigs for some of the world’s best-known companies.) Just in case the amazing statistics and case histories about sparking productivity don’t prod management into action, try handing out this parable of how the fictional Biz Trenz magazine empire got its mojo back. The answer is through a dogged adherence to these principles—be real, be appreciative, be interested, be nice—along with visible senior-executive support. The authors make the readers’ jobs even easier by summarizing nuggets at the end of each chapter, then appending a step-by-step action plan with key behaviors. Not rocket science (though plenty of gurus are quoted), yet they’re responding to a real need for many corporations today.— Barbara Jacobs
The biggest executive lie in the world goes something like this: “Our people are our most important resource.” A study quoted in The Invisible Employee by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton found that 90 percent of the executives surveyed said that people were their company’s greatest asset. Then, given the chance to rank strategies that were most likely to bring success to their company, they put people issues near the bottom. It’s a very simple formula: If the executives don’t care about their people, then their people don’t care either. This lack of caring takes a tremendous toll on the bottom line in the form of increased employee turnover, absentisim and theft as well as reduced productivity, customer loyality and sales. The good news is that this entire problem could be fixed if executives took seriously the fact that their employees really are their most important resource and simply acted accordingly.
Author, Jim Collins, conducted research on leaders who were able to take their respective companies from being “good” to being “great.” As a result, he was able to identify some of the characteristics these leaders had in common. I would like to share two of them with you. First, these leaders possessed extreme personal humility. Even though they were running the company, they were not arrogant, condescending or otherwise taken with themselves. Second, they gave away all the credit to others when things went well and they absorbed all the blame when things went poorly. So, keep this in mind the next time you’re tempted to get on your “high horse” or point fingers at someone–it’s not what great leaders do.
A research study recently reported in the Harvard Business Review found that the vast majority of employees are quite excited when they start a new job. This study also found that in 85 percent of the companies surveyed, this excitement declines sharply after the first six months and continues to decline for years afterward. One of the big reasons is that their managers didn’t take the time to thank them for a job well done, yet these same managers were quick to criticize them for their mistakes. What these managers fail to realize is that if they would focus their efforts on showing sincere appreciation to their employees instead of pointing out mistakes, their employees would make far fewer mistakes. Saying “thank you” often not only energizes your employees, it makes you a more effective manager.
A number of years ago, a group of reseachers studied 16,000 corporate executives. They found that the “high achievers” in the group tended to be every bit as concerned with people as they were with profits. The “medium achievers” were concerned only with performance numbers, while the “low achievers” were obsessed with their own survival. The high achievers listened to their subordinates and often asked for their advice. The medium achievers listened only to their superiors, while the low achievers avoided communication as much as possible. Bottom line: being a nice approachable person who listens goes hand in hand with being a highly successful manager–and it always has!
Micromanagers tend to think that managing is all about pointing out the mistakes of their subordinates, making minor decisions for them and, in some cases, even doing their thinking for them. While this kind of behavior makes micromanagers feel like they’re in control, in reality it actually undermines their success for two very important reasons: First, employees resent being micromanaged and react by applying less effort toward performing their jobs, stop making suggestions on how to improve things and, the better performing employees eventually move on. All this goes to lower the performance numbers against which a micromanager is evaluated. Second, micromanagers send a very clear message to the managers above them that they are not ready to manage at the next level because they haven’t learned how to delegate or empower their subordinates. The lesson here is if you want to move up in the managerial ranks, avoid micromanaging like the plague. Instead, get to know your subordinates, empower them and then get out of the way and give them the opportunity to make you a successful manager.
Early in 2007, Tom Coughlin, head coach of the New York Giants of the National Football League, was in danger of losing his job. His team had lost seven of their last nine games and was characterized by in-fighting and bickering. Coach Coughlin had always been a no-nonsense hard-nosed football coach with a stern demeanor who motivated his players with fear. During the off-season the 61 year old Coughlin completely reversed his approach to coaching and started motivating his players with trust instead of fear. He started smiling, let his players get to know him as a person and communicated in a number of ways that he cared about them. The turnaround was instant. The team came together and the players gave Coach Coughlin everything they had, week in and week out, which culminated in a 2008 Super Bowl victory over the previously unbeaten New England Patriots. No, they didn’t win the Super Bowl in 2009, but the still made it to the second round of the playoffs.
I would like to share an excerpt from an email I received from a recent seminar participant about a highly effective manager:
“I have been reading the manuscript of your new book Instant Turnaround! The concept is so simple, yet it’s amazing how most people do not understand it or have time for it—not even in their own families! It reminds me of a super effective manager I once had. Daily he would visit as many people in our department as he could with a never empty cup of coffee. He would sit with the person he was visiting for up to 15 or 20 minutes exchanging information about himself and listening to obtain information from the worker. This created a very happy workforce and everyone went more than the extra mile necessary to accomplish their work. Needless to say, this manager was sorely missed when he was promoted.” This manager showed a genuine interest in the people who worked for him and they went out of their way to make him successful–it doesn’t get any simpler than that.