How To Stop Measuring And Start Managing6 February, 2015 / Articles
When I first started taking business classes a thousand years ago, they were still teaching the old-school definition of management. Back then the conventional wisdom was that managers did five things: planning, forecasting, budgeting, controlling and something else. Who can even remember? I heard the five things that managers supposedly did with their time, and I tuned out.
I was a manager while I was in school. I worked in the daytime and went to school at night. I didn’t plan and budget and forecast, for Pete’s sake! I helped the customer service agents on my team do their jobs. I helped them figure out our procedures. I helped them with difficult customer situations.
I was responsible for creating a few reports, but the reports made up two or three percent of my time. Most of the time I was coaching, listening and cheerleading. I knew that the five-part model for managers was horribly out of date.
A few years later they started to teach management differently. They started to talk about coaching and inspiring people. I was an HR person by then. I read all the HR magazines even through they gave me a headache. Why are these magazines so boring? I asked myself.
When I read them I felt like I was back in Catholic school doing penance. Say three Hail Marys and read an article about progressive discipline. I loved being an HR person. I still love it now! I didn’t understand why the official teaching and communication to HR people was out of step with daily life in a real company with living, breathing people.
Sometime in the mid-eighties, if memory serves, they started to say “Leadership and management are two different things.” I can buy that, I guess, as long as we also agree that every manager should be a leader. Every manager should be a coach. If we have managers who aren’t leading or coaching, we can’t say “Oh well, that’s okay — Josh is more of a manager than a leader.”
If you’re a manager, you have to be a leader too. You can’t beg off and say you aren’t wired that way — to value people, respect them, listen to them and acknowledge them for their contributions. We wouldn’t accept it as fate if a person in our Finance organization didn’t understand numbers. We would view that as a problem, and managers who don’t lead are a big problem too.
I’ve had HR vice presidents tell me that the reason they keep using their 360-degree feedback systems even now, long after everyone has figured out that 360-degree feedback systems are useless and insulting, is that they need to check up on their managers. They use a 360-degree feedback system because they don’t have other good ways for employees to let somebody know when their manager isn’t managing!
That’s really sad. There should be lots of ways for your employees to sound the alarm when anything is amiss. It’s in your best interest to make your organization like Swiss cheese, with communication pathways running through it in all directions. It has to be easy for your teammates to send information from the ground straight up to the executive boardroom. Technology makes it easier today than ever!
Here are four ways you could make it easy for your employees to be heard:
Create a confidential web portal for your employees to use to instantly connect with someone in leadership who can address a situation that requires attention.
Establish a telephone hotline (there are vendors who specialize in this) with folks on the other end of the line who will listen to employee issues and escalate them to your leadership team as appropriate.
Without waiting for annual employee survey or a manager’s 360-degree review, let your employees know that anyone in HR and any manager is a great person to talk to about anything on the employee’s mind, especially problems that the company leaders should know about. If you don’t have a high enough trust level now for your teammates to talk to somebody live, create an email address where employees can write about their big issues. They can write from home if they’re not comfortable doing it in the office.
Make the names and contact information of your top executives very public among your employees. Get your executives out of their offices and circulating among your employees. That is the best way to build trust, as long as your executives know how to talk to people and how to listen.
Leadership is about building community and trust, not about stopping the forward motion every five seconds to measure something. We measure way too much in the corporate and institutional worlds, and our employees know it. The excess measurement slows us down. How would you ever win a footrace if you kept looking at your watch to see how you were doing? You don’t run a race that way — you just run, full out.
We could lose three-quarters of the measurements we perform in business and make people happier, make the work more pleasant and take better care of our customers.
Bureaucracy and fear go hand in hand, and they are rampant in virtually every large organization. Bureaucratic sludge slows down every decision and every spurt of forward energy. Measurement is its own religion. We lose track of the connection between the measured quantity and our larger goal, if we even know what our larger goal is.
I see the problem in colleges. I see it in corporations. I even see it in startups sometimes, when the founders came from a large company and believe that measuring everything will make them faster or more responsive. In my experience it’s just the opposite.
Real leaders get out of their offices and put away the spreadsheets. They manage people face to face and over the phone. They say “How’s it going? How can I help?” like breathing. They talk about goals, but they realize that nobody on their teams will give a hoot about the goals unless there’s good energy in the team.
Why would I care about your goals unless you treat me respectfully and value my priorities as much as I value yours?
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