Is Your Management Style Killing Productivity?
It takes a while for obsolete ideas to die off. There’s one that I’m surprised to see is still very much in circulation. It’s a management philosophy that’s responsible for most of the dysfunction that exists in the business world. It goes like this:
1. “I’m a ” (“control freak” or “tyrant” or “type A person”)
2. “I know that about myself but I can’t change it, it’s who I am.”
3. “So I surround myself with people who aren’t like me.”
It’s usually spun better than that, of course. Instead of tyrant, it’s “I’m just strong willed.” Or instead of “people who aren’t like me,” they’ll say things like, “my managers ‘balance’ me or ‘keep me in line’.”
How do you think those other managers feel about that? If you’ve been there yourself you know that having to work around “the boss” and compensate for holes in their leadership is a huge drain on your day and the company culture in general.
But the real problem is in the second part – because it asserts a lie as a conclusion – that real change is impossible.
Like all good justifications for not changing, this one has some truth in it. It’s true that you need to know your weaknesses so you can make sure they don’t drag the business down. You do need to surround yourself with people who have complementary strengths. The question is: are you really doing these things to better the business? Or are you being the wrong kind of lazy – trying to take yourself off the hook for having to look in the mirror?
You can of course avoid this uncomfortable work, most people do. There are plenty of incredibly (financially) successful people who never do real honest work on themselves as a leader.
But employees and customers are looking for that kind of leadership more than ever – they want to know that you’re looking at impacts beyond a narrow focus on the bottom line. People don’t split work and life the way they used to. The world is in the process of rejecting that well-worn phrase to the contrary because we realize that business – especially small business – has always been personal. And we want it to be more personal, not less.
When you take this idea down to the day-to-day of running a business, you’re joining a new conversation about management – about self-management – and it goes like this:
1. “I’m not great at ” (“managing people” or “working with budgets” or “delegating projects”)
2. “Even though I may never be great at that thing, I’m going to keep working on it if for no other reason than I want to inspire my employees by modeling transparency.”
3. “I don’t want anyone who works here to have to carry me. I want self-responsible employees – because those are the real innovators – and I know they don’t want to work for someone who doesn’t take seriously the responsibility that comes with leadership“
When you take this approach and really work at it, you start to see that before you weren’t actually managing anyone – they were managing you. Or managing around you, more likely. You start to see how everyone else was working overtime not to balance your weakness, but to compensate for it, which leaves them less available for their real job.
You could say the ultimate goal is to become your own manager. It might be the single most productive thing you can do.