If a manager is going to work at the highest level he or she needs to have one primary realization. Even though it is gained through years of experience, it arrives in a flash of insight. It is a quantum shift in how to think about managing people. And that is when you realize that you haven’t been managing the people at all—you have been managing the work.
Work management would exist in 97% of the businesses I see, and yet 97% of them will claim they’re in the 3% that don’t do it. And that’s not to say they’re lying. It’s making my central point: because they cannot fully appreciate what I mean, they’re assuming that something they are already doing is what I’m talking about. No. I mean they don’t philosophically get what I mean or what the value is. Hence this post.
Right from the hiring phase, you want to choose people whose brains match the work. And I don’t mean intelligence, I mean temperament. If someone hates being organized and doesn’t like details, then don’t put them on the accounting team. But if they are good at motivating others, then think about having them in some form of management. Etc. etc. So pay attention to personality and realize that it must suit the job. A guy who plays all solo sports and no team sports may not be the guy to put in charge of team-building.
Assuming you’ve got a suitable personality in the job, they then have to realize that how they would do the employee’s job is largely irrelevant. The employee can ultimately only be themselves, so we teach them tasks but not attitude. So if you’re a clean freak don’t expect your employees to go beyond what makes sense to them. How would they know where that line is? That is your line, in your consciousness. It is invisible to them. They have their own line, and that is where they stop. So you can’t order an employee to get a new personality. You figure out how to manage the one they have.
People are overwhelmingly good. They are overwhelmingly helpful. They have a completely undeserved bad reputation due to media, but there’s no shortage at all of awesome, intelligent, creative and dedicated people—provided no one is depressing them by asking them to be someone they are not, (as opposed to harnessing who they are to full effect). So far more than managing the work a manager is better to manage the office tone. If you offer generous support when things aren’t going well, people stay relaxed and thereby maintain a connection to their own natural wisdom. They will eventually come up with their solution and you will get it far sooner than if you try to yell or punish it out of them faster.
There’s a wonderful quote I’ve always loved from General Patton. It goes something like “Never tell people what to do. Tell them what you want done and then let them surprise you with their ingenuity.” That’s great advice. Many brains are better than one brain. So don’t focus so much on correcting behaviour to make it more like what you would do. Instead focus on empowering and informing the employee. Allow them to feel respected. Seek their advice. Trust them. And let their overall results speak for them. Don’t blame them or give them credit for statistical aberrations, but if the overall trajectory is up, then all is well.
If an employee has the knowledge they require, then all a manager needs to do is to inspire them. So rather than paying attention to how much work got done, a manager will get further in accomplishing that objective by focusing on the happiness and attentiveness of his enthusiastic employees. Happy people work well together and enthusiastic ones will naturally focus on the work.
In the end good management is a bit like a jockey and racehorse. In the best of situations the horse should be propelled by the jockey without ever really feeling his weight on its back. Think less about the work and more about enthusiasm. Define the work, and then ignite the worker with confidence and enthusiasm. That’ll beat a stopwatch, a riding crop or a critical eye any day.
Have a great day at the office because that’s what you create with your interrelations.