Whether you are an entrepreneur beginning in business or a long term Managing Director, the importance of leading employees towards a common goal should always be high on the agenda. I always talk of trade offs, because the common practice is for people in these positions to believe that there is constant conflict between themselves and their employees. During my mentoring I was given the analogy of “staff are like children” - not having children this did intrigue me as to what the statement really meant however I was then lead to believe that it meant that employees need clear guidelines and discipline on a daily basis to succeed. This can be interpreted in different ways and over the last 20 years the phrase I believe to be the same but its how this is interpreted that differs greatly.
The interpretation of managing performance is usually misunderstood by managers and business owners alike, they have found that this means being in control or acting as the parent in the room. We have all been there, we have all carried out this approach. Now its time to reflect on that scenario?
Did this work? Ask yourself this question - because my answer is clear no it did not! The issue is it will never work. Going back to my introduction (in the full book Risk V Reward) where I was personally managed in that way my well being towards the business was ran by fear, fear is a sure way to create unease. How can any workforce operate with the feeling of unease it simply is a false economy. I found myself working harder to repair the unease rather than focusing on what our measured outcomes should have been and the business performance.
So when I talk of a trade off this is it, leadership is about evaluating what is it we are doing right and what is it we are doing wrong. Accept that you have to trade with your teams to find the best approach to achieving a common goal. As with children you can’t force them to do anything this only creates further resistance to the outcome and makes the parents role or for this analogy, the leaders role that much more difficult in the long run.
So some examples of this format, gone are days of the "whip and stick" mentality brought from aggressive sales agencies in the 1980's, an example i heard one day from an senior exec in a manufacturing firm in the UK was as follows:
Owner: How are the guys today are they moaning about me?
Manager: Well Yes sir they are following this mornings meeting
Owner: Good i must be doing my job then!
Owner walks off in a smug fashion
This type of response is still common place in business which is a scary thought, as so many leaders constantly seek to create a sense of distance between themselves and their employees. This is a myth set by past experiences in their own employment built on what I have heard referred to as the Alfa Wolf approach (Dr Steven Peters - The Chimp Paradox). Lets take the same premise but turn it on a personal level and place the above conversation in a personal / social situation?
Just think about that for a second, would this type of conversation be acceptable to get something done? Would you expect a response from people to do you a favour or carry out a task for you if the expectation is that this is how you should be? The answer is simple no it wouldn't and no we would not act in this way because the fact is it is simply rude.
So why is it we believe to treat people differently because we are at the place of work. This is a common mistake and the start of where employees and employers begin their long term conflict, which sadly only ends up with a lack of productivity followed by a sense of demotivation. This demotivation is driven by a lack of mutual respect for one another at the crucial levels within an organisation.
What we are all looking for as human beings is a sense of connection, a need for belonging and self gratification for a good honest days work. Reflect back to the opening paragraph (of the Full Book) again do you think I felt motivated to go to work and deliver? No of course not, I did as much as I could to get the job done but no more than this, no extra mile. And did I have respect for my superior to the point where I would follow him through think and thin, well no I wouldn’t of. This is down to respect for each other in the workplace and is the start point for any relationship building.
Nearly every employee works for monetary reward (otherwise they would do volunteer work), but every employee wants to work for more than a pay check: They want to work with and for people they respect and admire, for people who respect and admire them in return. Hence why a kind word, a quick discussion about family, an informal conversation to ask if an employee needs any help, these moments are much more important than group meetings or formal evaluations. A true sense of connection is personal. That's why exceptional leaders show they see and appreciate the person, not just the worker, they see value in the connection between them.
The theme of respect is always open to interpretation but in the workplace respect can be offered in simple ways sometimes just by listening to opinions of people. This does not mean they are used or taken on board but just the ability to openly share views on an organisation is a great form of respect. “When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen." - Ernest Hemingway - this is inherently true of most people by listening to your employees shows you value their opinions which intern creates a more cohesive working environment.
Listening is the foundation of any good relationship. Great leaders listen to what their customers and prospects want and need, and they listen to the challenges those customers face. They listen to colleagues and are open to new ideas. They listen to shareholders, investors, and competitors. So why not add your own trusted employees to this group after all they will be taking on the line share of the work, those who are successful rely on the wealth of employees to make their visions a reality.