Missed Opportunities | Leadership | Leadership & Mentoring

Missed Opportunities

Paul Richardson


If you spend any time at all talking to people about their work environment you will always hear stories of management problems. It doesn¶t matter what industry they work in or what their level in the organization is, the stories have consistent themes. The conclusion to be drawn is that supervisors and managers are missing out on epic opportunities to lead their organizations to massively better performance. Instead they create work environments that frustrate and anger their staff while hobbling organizational performance. The obvious question is, why? The common thread is lack of management training in and understanding of human resource management. Many managers have a strong, if often outdated, understanding of the technical aspect of their organizational functions, but very few have been trained in the most important aspect of management, the human dimension. Much has been said about the lack of training for managers, especially the ³clinical experience´ necessary to learn to manage well. Henry Mintzberg in his Harvard Business Review article The Manager¶s Job: folklore and fact, describes the problem well.

Finally, a word about the training of managers. Our management schools have done an admirable job of training the organization¶s specialists²management scientists, marketing researchers, accountants, and organizational development specialists. But for the most part they have not trained managers.

Management schools will begin the serious training of managers when skill training takes a serious place next to cognitive learning. Cognitive learning is detached and informational, like reading a book or listening to a lecture. No doubt much important cognitive material must be assimilated by the manager-to-be. But cognitive learning no more makes a manager than it does a swimmer. The

latter will drown the first time he jumps into the water if his coach never takes him out of the lecture hall, gets him wet, and gives him feedback on his performance.

In other words, we are taught a skill through practice plus feedback, whether in a real or simulated situation. Our management schools need to identify the skills managers use, select students who show potential in these skills, put the students into situations where these skills can be practiced, and then give them systematic feedback on their performance.

My description of managerial work suggests a number of important managerial skills-developing peer relationships, carrying out negotiations, motivating subordinates, resolving conflicts, establishing information networks and subsequently disseminating information, making decisions in conditions of extreme ambiguity, and allocating resources. Above all, the manager needs to be introspective about his work so that he may continue to learn on the job.


Yet, in spite of Mintzberg and others identifying the problem and the ubiquitous complaints of workers, organizations continue to hire MBAs and other ³management´ graduates with the assumption that they are fully qualified to manage well. As Mintzberg points out, MBAs do know how to crunch the numbers and manage them, but they have little cognitive training on human psychology relating to motivation, or need satisfaction and no practice with a coach in the utilization of that knowledge. The concept below based on Robert Katz¶ HBR article Skills of an Effective Administrator, argues that the human skill component of the total management skill set is the most important at all levels. Yet, it is the area where current managers tend to be weakest.

Note that the ³technical´ component declines as management level increases. And it certainly does. I hear complaints from people continually that while the top management persons they work for usually have some technical experience it is most often badly out of date and hence of negative value in their job performance because it wastes time answering questions from the past that are no longer pertinent.

Managers learn to do the whole job best in organizations that provide training in the needed management skills with emphasis on the human dimension plus working in an environment with positive role models who can demonstrate every day through their actions the benefit of using the techniques learned in the training. Organizations that provide both aspects of this ³excellence equation´ are very rare indeed. Yes, it does cost money to provide the proper training and coaching. However, I would argue based on long experience that the payback on such an investment is many times the cost. Consider the motivation improvement that William James of Harvard found when studying the human skill variable. Employee % A B I L I T Y Potential Motivation Impact 80 to 90%

Area affected by motivation 20 to 30%

Thus, a manager who can do the proper things to create win-win motivation of their staff can increase the work result by large multiples. Yet, this potential return on investment is not known or acted upon by most organizations. It seems that even when presented with the opportunity to facilitate people working at 80 to 90% of their ability most managers are not willing to go to the learning and work to make it happen. The best definition of a manager¶s responsibility is ³Leadership is responsible to provide a work climate in which everyone has a chance

to grow and mature as individuals, as members of a group by satisfying their own needs, while working for the success of the organization.´ To gain the synergy available for improving performance the manager must have a robust tool kit of skills that are well used with skill. Involving the work team in problem solving in a focused way can provide team buy in and amazingly positive results. The manager must not ³throw a problem over the wall´ and expect a team to solve it with no involvement from management. Participative management is a very powerful process but only if done correctly. Often it has turned into ³going through the motions´ affairs which further turn off the work teams. Participative Management Quotes from The Change Masters, Rosabeth Kanter (1983), Chapter Nine True ³freedom´ is not the absence of structure²letting the employees go off and do whatever they want²but rather a clear structure which enables people to work within established boundaries in an autonomous and creative way. It is important to establish for people, from the beginning, the ground rules and boundary conditions under which they are working: what can they decide, what can¶t they decide? Without structure, groups often flounder unproductively, and the members then conclude they are merely wasting their time. The fewer the constraints given a team, the more time will be spent defining its structure rather than carrying out its task. But the limits can be vague, unclear, contradictory, hidden and subject to guesswork. So the group might make a large number of false starts before it finally learns what is permissible and what is not. It might spend most of its time discussing how to decide rather than deciding. Too many choices, too much up for grabs can be frustrating. Anchors are necessary, something to bounce off of, some constraints or criteria or goals. It is significant in this respect that participation works better where the parties involved in it are strong, and there is clear leadership in the organization.

But structure means giving people full information about the ground rules; it does not imply the imposition of mindless formulas for action²giving people a set of rote motions to go through that have worked somewhere else or have been specified in minute detail. This is the problem with many packaged programs that have been sold to U.S. companies under the ³participation-and- label.´ (The ³and-³ generally refers to productivity improvement or quality improvement or morale improvement.) Many American companies are fond of using what Barry Stein has called the ³appliance model of organizational change´: buy a complete program, like a ³quality-circle package,´ from a dealer, plug it in, and hope that it runs by itself. The opposite extreme from no-structure is overstructuring participative activities with no thought to the appropriateness of the structure for the place where it is being used, and with the elimination of one of the values of participation to employees: the chance to exert more control over work situations. Quality circles are especially prone to being introduced by overly specific structuring of actions rather than by education in the principles and skills to make this kind of involvement work. The most effective set of work teams handling quality issues at a Hewlett-Packard facility were a natural outgrowth of existing practices, and they were called ³Quality Teams´ rather than quality circles. The initial structure consisted of forty hours of training for supervisors, who then devised their own methods. In six months, efficiency was improved by 50% by the leading teams, and space was cut by 25%. A manufacturing head [Paul Richardson] concluded, ³It was not a rote process.´ In contrast, a neighboring plant that adopted the formula method, complete with one-two-three do-this/do-that structuring, ran into problems with its quality circles. Treated by employees as ³a typical fad, a typical campaign,´ this program was ³running out of gas.´ Delegation  abdication. ³Thus, related to the structure issue is a key lesson for managers´ - delegating responsibility to other people does not mean abdicating managerial responsibilities for monitoring and supporting the process. Some managers assume an either/or world where either they are in complete control or they have given up all control. But delegation² whether by a management team to a set of employee teams or by a single

manager to his or her subordinates²means that the manager not only sets the basic conditions but also stays involved, available, to support employees, reviewing results, redirecting or reorienting the team as necessary. Leaders can also help to coordinate activities, centralize record keeping, and serve as points of contact with other departments. Of course, sometimes a manager who simply wants to prove that participation does not work will throw a task at an unprepared team and abdicate all responsibility²thereby setting up the whole thing for failure. ³Who cares?´- reporting and accountability. One of the reasons for managers to stay involved, even when delegating responsibility in a participative fashion, is that²ironic through it may seem²the personal concern of the manager for results is the sign to employees of caring. If a manger or the initiator of a team simply walks away from the process once having launched it and never asks for reports, or monitors and measures output, then employees begin to wonder whether this is indeed a highpriority use of their time. They wonder whether anybody really cares about this. Was it simply an empty activity to give them the illusion of participation? But clear accountabilities and reporting relationships are a way of indicating to employees exactly who does care and exactly what the value of their activities is. The twenty-five-hour-day problem. The last issue in launching participation is to find and manage time. Participation in teams and involvement in decisions are time-consuming, or they take time in addition to core jobs, and time is a finite resource. So where will the time come from? Will participation be on company time, or employee time.´ If it is on company time, is it off the budget of the particular manager, of is it compensated in another way? Members or workers may not always feel that the extra time they must invest in meetings and in informing themselves is justified, particularly where they feel inadequately paid for it. Worker apathy can be a problem; teams can shirk responsibility because they do not feel like putting in the time. So corporations must legitimize participative activities and entitle participants to take time for them as long as they can still do their core jobs effectively.

The following list is based on experience as a manager fortunate enough to have worked in an environment where role models were plentiful and pertinent training was continuously ongoing. This is not intended to be an exhaustive list but represents an important core of vital skills for effective management. This is especially true if you wish to get to an effective implementation of participative management at more than a ³going through the motions´ level.

Skill/Knowledge Requirements for Change Leaders

Skills/Knowledge Foundational Management and Motivation Theory and Research y Organizational problems are people based y Change: 4 levels; Knowledge, Attitudes, Individual Behavior, Group Behavior y Leadership definition y Leadership Process: Plan, Organize, Lead, Control y Three types of leadership skill: Technical skill, Human Skill, Conceptual skill, GRID y Effective Human Skills---Understanding past behavior, predicting future behavior, directing, changing and controlling behavior y Motivation and Behavior---behavior is goal oriented, motivation is the ³will to do´; motive strength. Strongest motive leads to activity y Need satisfaction, blocking, cognitive dissonance, frustration (imaginary and real barriers; rational coping (alternate goal setting), irrational behavior (aggression/hostility, rationalization, regression, fixation, and resignation). Motives recur (hunger). y Expectation levels²Subordinates will perform to their manager¶s expectations: High expectations result in high performance, Low expectations result in low performance. y Achievement-motivated people; high need for achievement and seek situations in which they get concrete feedback on how well they are doing. More concerned with personal achievement than rewards. Rewards aren¶t rejected. For example money is valued as a gauge of their performance. y Theory X and theory Y²McGregor y Immaturity-maturity continuum y Leadership responsible to provide a work climate in which everyone has a chance to grow and mature as individuals, as members of a group by satisfying their own needs, while working for the success of the organization. y Herzberg²motivation and hygiene factors y Job enrichment

Situational Leadership²Hersey and Blanchard y Leadership Style Grid y Machiavelli²Personal Power and Position Power y Coach Example y Situational Leadership Model y Maturity y Change Process Implementation of Performance Standards y Performance needs a yardstick to measure merit. y A pass/fail or point (goal only) system doesn¶t encourage people to subscribe to ³reaching goals.´ y Goals are the other end of the yardstick. Thus merit is measured as the progress made toward reaching the goal above and beyond the performance specified in the performance standard and merit is positive if progress is made even if the goal isn¶t met. y Performance standards are not set on attributes but on measurable results of the person for whom the standards are written. For example, ³Performance is acceptable when: the organizational performance is at or above the standard set. A performance standard is not, for example, ³PAW: 80% of the staff working in the organization are happy with the manager.´ y Performance standards should include all areas the supervisor might want to criticize and all of the areas the employee might want credit for doing (more education, community involvement, etc.) y Supervisors must not criticize performance for which no standard exists until a new standard negotiated with the employee is in place. And this only allows supervisor to criticize performance in the new area in the future. This is equivalent to the ³no ex post facto´ law requirement in the U.S. constitution. y The employee is responsible to track performance to standards on a real time basis. Periodic meetings between supervisor and employee are set to track performance through the evaluation period. It is in the interest of both parties to take corrective action as soon as an ³adverse trend´ is recognized.

y Because performance to the standards is tracked all through the year, the performance review has no surprises and can concentrate on what are the next steps for the following review period after documenting the current past period. Managing Management Time y Conflict between leadership and vocational activities y Tendency to retreat to the familiar y When the amateur is confronted with additional responsibility he reacts by working longer and harder at what he does best and loves to do most; the pro responds by moving his managerial fulcrum over. y Leadership is either²getting things done through others, or one damn thing after another y Three types of managerial time; boss imposed, system imposed and self imposed. y Molecule of Leadership y Three molecule roles: Leadership (them), Teamwork (peers), Followership (boss) y The amateur believes that the organization owes him the active support of his superior, peers and subordinates; the pro takes nothing for granted, so works tirelessly at getting and holding their active support and failing that, makes a career decision. y The Pareto Principle²80/20 Rule y Rules of the road²between your and boss¶ plan, boss has right of way y The boss may not always be right but is always the judge y The priority of the boss¶ satisfaction (sell to the boss). y Managing Time²Getting control of the timing and content of what you do. y Degrees of leadership freedom (insurance for boss): Act on own with routine reporting, Act but advise at once, recommend and then take action resulting from boss dialogue, ask what to do, wait until told. y Leverage: employee time, supervisory time, executive time. y Managing monkeys

Effective Communications y y y y y y Psychological Games Social styles Backup styles Opposing strengths and weaknesses Versatility Diagnosing problem interfaces

Data Gathering and Analysis y y y y y y Lifeblood of Closed Loop Management, the only way to improve Pareto Analysis (vital for continuous improvement efforts) Pair wise Comparison Techniques Effective data analysis, What do the data tell us? Statistical testing for significance Reflection . . . the intellectual exercise through which managers and leaders focus upon events in order to ascertain how one¶s beliefs and assumptions as well as one¶s background and experiences impact organizational functioning.


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