In 1982 Tom Peters named management by wandering around as one of the key traits of excellent leaders in his legendary book In Search of Excellence. More than two and a half decades later, the number of senior managers who dont routinely interact with employees is astounding.
The reality is that once they are ensconced in their executive offices for the day, they seldom venture out to interact with the troops. Few senior people in businesses today spend sufficient time with their people and they therefore know next to nothing about the people that are at the heart of producing results for their organisations.
Obviously it is not always possible to know every employee by name, but CEOs and their senior team need to make an effort to get to know something about at least those employees with whom they are in regular, or even occasional, contact. Employees are a valuable source of intelligence in any organisation but they are certainly not going to open up to a mysterious stranger and sadly thats all many senior managers are to the very people who in essence watch their backs every day. Dont get close to your employees and you will never get to know what is really going on in your company!
Whenever you speak to a senior executive, or listen to them extolling their annual results to the business press, you will pick up that clichéd phrase Our people are our biggest asset. They are the ones who are responsible for bringing us to where we are today. Nice statement! Unfortunately though, in most organisations thats all it is a nice statement.
If someone watched you for a week, would they know, through your actions, that your company actually believes its people are its greatest asset?
Imagine the shock when staff surveys show many of these people up as ineffectual leaders. Respondents express their feelings with statements like treated as production units instead of like people and being treated like machines. Many senior executives will tell you that they believe in recruiting the brightest and the best, pride themselves in career development, and affirm a guiding central principle we develop and nurture. Talented people are sucked into this propaganda and within a few months they realise that this purported stellar development programme is only a guise to help the company deal with clients and failed to address leadership skills within the organisation. They express their frustration at having been betrayed with statements like: People mean very little around here – profits first, clients second, company third – staff simply dont feature!
Senior executives, no matter what their intentions, often dont realize just how distant they become from the rank and file of their people. In one rapidly growing company the senior team was so exclusively focused on customers that they no longer knew their co-workers other than their immediate team members. Employees were often confused with customers and rather than embarrassing themselves by not knowing an employees name the senior executives simply shunned them. Changing values and beliefs is not easy to do and in this case a system of nametags was instituted under the guise of tightened security. Gradually employees became people with names and morale began to improve.
Astute leaders make extensive use of the art of listening and as a result they hear plenty of clues as to what pleases the troops and what frustrated and even disheartens them.
Look at the photographs on the desks of employees in your immediate area. How many of the stories do you know behind those pictures? If the number is low, you probably dont know the real story behind the image your company is projecting either. If your people are not putting forward the names of good people they know who could really be of great benefit to the company, know that they are in all likelihood too embarrassed to even entertain the thought of any of their close friends, or even acquaintances, being associated with your company. An indictment indeed!
Every human being needs to feel important and appreciated. Take note of the connection between a fun, positive atmosphere at work and positive results. Monitor the atmosphere you create. Are people more motivated after spending time with you? Make it a goal never to leave someone less motivated at the end of the conversation than when it started.
If you want your people to produce extraordinary results you need to get the fundamentals of dealing with then right. Here are just three of a multitude:
- Walk the talk – you first need to be seen.
- People dont care how much you know. They want to know how much you care.
- Learn to make small talk or youll miss important clues to making the business better.
When we are in positions of influence we need to create an atmosphere where people feel free to ask questions. We need to find a way to see beyond what our teams want us to see. To do this, we need to put ourselves in the shoes of each person we lead one person at a time!
Do your people know that you appreciate them? Whatever you do, dont pretend that you do because you will cause irreparable damage.
Remember that internal misjudgements are six times more likely to cause failure than external factors. Success in business, as in life, is all about getting the fundamentals right and the actions you take! Money is an outcome, not a purpose!
Makes you think, doesnt it!
The acceptance of the truth that joy and sorrows, laughter and tears are not confined to any particular time, place or people, but are universally distributed, should make us more tolerant of, and more interested in, the lives of others.
William M Peck
PEARLS OF WISDOM
Although most people believe otherwise, life isnt an emergency. We take our own goals so seriously that we forget to have fun along the way, and we forget to cut ourselves some slack. Life will usually go on if things dont go according to plan. Keep reminding yourself, Life isnt an emergency.