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Sociological Zoos to World Class

Sociological Zoos to World Class

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Published by Paul Richardson
A key question to ask is, do people perform better in Maslow’s basement or in his upper floors?
A key question to ask is, do people perform better in Maslow’s basement or in his upper floors?

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Published by: Paul Richardson on Sep 12, 2012
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04/10/2013

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Management—from Socialogical Zoos to World-Class

The impetus for this post is my observation of a wide range of management venues where the management skill evident in the actions of the managers toward their subordinates is ham-handed at best. I have talked to people in healthcare, education, manufacturing, retail stores and on and on who tell stories that will turn the stomach of anyone who has knowledge of the underlying theories of good management. The sad thing is that not only are the subordinates punished for this lack of management skill but the organizations are punished as well because a great deal of performance potential is suppressed by methods applied by these inept managers. If more managers had the training, role models and experience to create world class work teams we would be more productive but also healthier, happier and more fulfilled. The levels of stress are much higher than they should be in too many work settings which impacts negatively on the health of workers. This stress also spills over to family and friends of the worker. A key question to ask is, do people perform better in Maslow’s basement or in his upper floors? I am referring to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs. Leadership research has progressed from the directive, “humans as production line robots” style of the turn of the twentieth century to valuing more and more human centric styles culminating in the participative style. Now, don’t misunderstand, more human centric does not mean coddling and lack of concern for performance. In fact it is basically the opposite. It is a style where workers are expected to contribute to understanding of problems and to the decisions to fix those problems while satisfying their personal needs concurrently. This creates a synergy that is missing in the majority of organizations today. Why? Management schools have not done well in training managers. They have done well at training specialists; accountants, marketing experts, human resource experts, but not managers. Henry Mintzberg relates why in his book Managers, not MBAs. He points out the lack of the “clinical” experience provided where the needed skills can be practiced. He likens the situation to a swimming coach who lectures his swim team in all of the stroke techniques but doesn’t get them wet in the pool where their techniques can be perfected. He says many will drown in the first real world swim meet just as many managers effectively drown, i.e. fail miserably. The sad thing is that most remain in place continuing to harm the people “lucky” enough to work for them and the organization’s performance. A big problem is the all too common belief that if a person is smart enough to be an engineer, medical doctor, masters or doctorate level nurse, etc. they will automatically make a good manager. Wrong! Excellent management is a distinct skill set and requires a real commitment to learning how to manage well.

Organizations have a wide variety of disparate management capabilities and no core beliefs or skills and because of that no or far too few role models, to provide the coaching required to grow and develop effective managers. Bureaucratic requirements tend to naturally reinforce the “thou shalt not,” directive style creating that robot, sociological zoo environment that has been proven to work poorly. It takes managers with high cognitive abilities and a strong founding in the relevant human psychology coupled with effective clinical experience to overcome the directive style and free people to contribute and grow. And you need your people’s contributions if you need to perform well. The bureaucratic chains are biggest and most limiting in areas like education and healthcare. Common Terrible Management Styles Autocrat—this is the most common. This person believes that nothing should happen without their direct order from on high. This effectively means that the only person motivated in the organization at least with respect to organization goals and mission fulfillment, is the boss. Employees will likely be motivated to escape the zoo but certainly not to make the organization perform better. Chameleon—this is the person who changes to reflect the current popular “norm.” They have no real commitment to anything but being part of the “in crowd.” This person can’t be counted on to be objective in evaluating performance, especially their own. They can’t be counted on to defend you if you are unfairly criticized. They can’t be relied on to make good decisions or help employees grow in capability. Unengaged Figure Head—this is the captain of a boat with no rudder that drifts with the current. Often on to the rocks. This person feels that they should be rewarded for warming a chair and nothing else. They typically have a self-image that has no relation to reality. Sadist—this is one of the worst. Working for one of these is very painful. Get out of there fast. An upper level manager who accepts this type of performance in one of their managers is incompetent and should lose their job if they can’t face dealing with their sadist manager. Manipulator—this person makes promises every time they need you to work overtime at a moment’s notice, miss you wedding ceremony or the birth of your child, or graduation of your child. This person promises paid time off, a raise, a promotion, whatever it takes to get what they want. However, they have no intent of fulfilling their promise. People hate this sort of manager. Bi Polar—this manager has two modes OFF and FULL SPEED, MANIC. The changes in mode happen with no warning and cause all sorts of consternation and stress for employees. Setting the Stage for World Class Performance

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