Steve Ballmer should have been fired as CEO of Microsoft many years ago. As a recent article in USA Today points out, Mr. Ballmer managed with fear. Any CEO that tosses chairs across the room when he gets angry is not going to get the best from his or her employees. Managing with fear stifles innovation, creativity, risk taking and thinking outside the box; which are all necessary if you expect to hold your own with a competitor like Google. What Mr. Ballmer fails to realize is the reason Google is starting to eat Microsoft for lunch is that the culture at Google does not allow fear. Instead, it encourages employees to come up with and run with new ideas. This is no longer the case with Microsoft.
An article titled: “Memo to Employees: The Boss Is Watching,” appeared in today’s Wall Street Journal. The article discussed the issue of electronically tracking employees behavior at work. This article takes the approach that employee ranks are filled with “trouble makers” who are lazy, dishonest, untrustworthy, prone to “goofing off” and need to be kept on a “tight leash.” There is, however, another way of looking at this situation. In reality, the things mentioned are actually symptoms of poor leadership, a culture that fails to engage employees and sloppy hiring practices. If business owners and managers would install a culture that engaged its employees, hired only those people who are going find meaning in the kind of work being done at their particular company and supported their employees rather than trying to control them, there would be no need to look over their shoulders with tracking technology. Instead, their employees would come to work every day excited about giving every bit of energy, creativity and passion to performing their jobs. This would dramatically increase the levels of productivity, customer service, employee loyalty and profitability. One of the lessons I have learned during my 30-plus years as a business consultant is that you can’t achieve excellence through control, but you can create an environment where employees give it to you voluntarily. To see this in action, check out the likes of Google, JetBlue, W. L. Gore & Associates and Zappos.