How can I fix them?
This is a common plea I hear from business owners about their employees. Does it sound familiar? It’s undeniable that sometimes these employees are the wrong hires and “fixing” them will be like trying to fit square pegs into round holes.
- Who hired these employees?
- Who’s managing them?
Perhaps it’s not these employees but the managers who are the problem. Note: there are many other issues not covered here including the need to clearly define job scope and required competencies, in addition to determining cultural fit and the company/employee alignment.
Some of the best managers I’ve worked with were those who empowered and trained their employees. Or, they took responsibility for an employee’s lack of success. These were not managers, but are what I call leaders.
Some owners or managers treat their team members as employees—as people who need to be supervised, controlled, (micro-) managed. How might employees respond to this sort of regime? It’s easy to see their response might sink down to the level of expectation they live under: they become clock-watchers or expediters of the “minimum-daily-requirements.”
The Best Manager I Ever Had
He was a true leader who developed me into a stakeholder. (Incidentally, it’s amazing how stock-options also had a way of reinforcing that!). He connected to me to all the key people I needed to accomplish my tasks. Then, he got out of the way. He let me take responsibility for the relationships, the tasks, the timetable and the deliverables of my position. And, he didn’t discourage my initiative in looking for new ways to improve business processes.
He let me fight my own battles until I resolved an issue or he applied timely judicial/political finesse to remove barriers to my accomplishment of the job. Through demonstration, he coached me on how to work best with senior players in the corporation. His door was always open for a debriefing of my experiences and a discussion of what to learn from them. In short, he empowered me to learn, grow and succeed.
Business Owners/Managers: How do you treat your employees?
When we lead employees (as my supervisor did), we put deposits into their stakeholder account. When we manage, we put deposits into their employee account. Our actions determine which account we grow in our employees lives.
Chuck Blakeman, founder of the Crankset Group, provides great clarity about the difference between managing and leading:
The manager’s quest is to be as helpful as possible for as long as possible. The leader’s quest is to relentlessly train others to solve and decide, and become less necessary every day.1
It’s important enough to repeat: the art of leadership is to know how few decisions the leader needs to make. Become a leader–stop solving and deciding, and focus instead on asking questions. Everyone will be better off if you do.
This may require a radical shift in how you relate to your employees. Are you willing to work yourself out of a job as “manager”? If so, there’s a far more powerful job awaiting you that will bless both your employees. It’s becoming a leader who builds stakeholders.
In an previous post I introduced the Net Promoter Score as a tool for leaders to track their progression towards their mission. This very versatile tool can also be used to help you move from managing to leading. It provides a simple conversation starter to use with any lost-cause employee. Before your next meeting with an employee, ask her to come to the meeting with answers to the following questions:
- On a scale of 1-10, rate how much happiness [sense of joy] and effectiveness do you experience from doing your job?
- What one thing can your manager do this week to get out of your way or to remove barriers to give you a happier and more effective work day?