I recently got a call from a man who'd just taken the free mini coaching program we offer on our website. He wanted to know, "Can you give me some advice to help me force my team to work on what I think is important?"
He was in a business that had just gone through a round of downsizing. It was the third such staff reduction in as many years. Those who were left standing had become embittered because the workload didn't seem to get any smaller even though there were fewer people to get the tasks done. As my caller spoke, it also became clear that his team members were probably concerned about the future and therefore actively looking for work elsewhere.
Fortunately, most managers don't have as difficult an environment or outlook as this guy. But with the question he posed to me, I think he show a predisposition towards his direct reports that's pretty common among managers across industries.
It's part of the bigger problem ailing many of companies today:
Business leaders need to become much better at getting more done with less. Although organizations in North America have been going through "rightsizing" actions for years now, most executives still don't understand how to do it well. And, if those managers don't change their ways, fewer people will stay with them. And their results will continue to decline. That, of course, will create more failing people and companies.
Unless you enjoy working at a place which seems to define success as simply not failing one year at a time, I suggest you learn to embrace these two concepts:1. Power is not the same as force - There's a real difference between power and force but it's widely misunderstood. Consequently, when times get tough, in an effort to get more productivity with fewer players, most managers simply try to push their teams ever harder. It's kind of like trying to break your dog of a bad habit by using a whip – it'll work for a while but at some stage the law of diminishing returns kicks in. And you may end up getting bitten in the butt.
People appreciate being asked for their advice. Especially if the manager is sincere about using it. Team members will give power to the boss if she or he doesn't use it against them. And the boss will get much more done he's are on the employee's side than would be the case by simply trying to force his decisions downward.2. You can tell the quality of an organization by those who are leaving it - not those who are joining it. Even in difficult situations, good managers can recruit and hire high-quality players to boost the performance of their team through the use of money or other perks. This can mislead the manager into thinking all is well (or at least that things will get better) with the new players on board.
In an environment where the contribution of everyone is paramount, watch carefully to see who is leaving on her own volition. Sick companies have a way of causing the good players to bail out even if they've been told they're being kept on during downsizing or difficult times. The result is that the new players who are recruited end up joining a team of losers and don't make the hoped-for contribution.
The outlook for business in the flattening world of competition is that it's going to be tougher. More highly educated managers from other countries are competing for the same customers and opportunities everywhere. The truly great managers will succeed and the rest, still using old and obsolete management approaches, will fail sooner than later.
John M. McKee is the founder and CEO of BusinessSuccessCoach.net, an international consulting and coaching practice with subscribers in 43 countries. One of the founding senior executives of DIRECTV, his hands-on experience includes leading billion dollar organizations and launching start-ups in both the U.S. and Canada. The author of two published books, he is frequently seen providing advice on TV, in magazines, and newspapers.