A client was of mine was told that he didn't jump in alongside
his people to get new projects and improvements off the ground. As a
result, things weren't getting done on schedule. So I asked him why he
seemed to 'manage from a distance'. His response:
"My people are long time employees. They're highly educated and
have a lot of experience. If I start managing too closely, they'll lose
I'm thinking,"What motivation? Apparently they aren't getting much done!
His approach to the situation isn't at all unusual, is it? We live
in a time when managers are getting messages that say they should be
consultative and participative. OK. But what happens when the work
group doesn't know what to do our how to do it?
When there is a change, people want clear, strong direction. We all
want to know what, where, when, why, and then, if the situation
warrants it, how. Think about it: when we face the unknown, we start to
get a little insecure. What do we look for? Direction. Strong
leadership. Clarity. Help.
It has nothing to do with longevity or advanced degrees. It has to do with diagnosing the willingness and ability of the people and then adjusting management style accordingly.
In the case of my manager friend, he used misguided assumptions instead of proven research in his initial approach.
The principle is this: Before you know how close to
manage or how consultative to be with your people, you need to know
where their willingness and ability is in relation to the task at hand.
The less people know, the closer you manage. The more mature and
effective they become, the less you have to direct and the more
consultative you can be.
If you've ever taught a child to ride a bike, then think of that as
the model. When they start, you have to demonstrate, help them on the
bicycle, hold onto them, and not leave their side. As they get a little
confidence and are able to go a short distance on their own, maybe you
jog alongside if you have to catch them. When you see them smiling and
riding a block or so on their own, you shout encouragement. And when
they disappear from view; well, yell "I'm going to the house for a cup
of coffee." That way they'll know where you are if they need you.
Managing people is a constant series of diagnoses and appropriate
responses. It's never all of one thing. And it's never all direction or
abdication. It's what people need from you in order to move along the
And just to emphasize the point once more: Change=More Managerial Direction. Any manager who is introducing something new has to be prepared to work closer and harder than usual to get things off to the right start.
What's your experience? Are you giving or getting the right thing at the right time?