Leading people and managing processes
Wednesday, May 04, 2016
Supervisory staff are frequently labeled "managers" with staff to "manage." But the most common synonyms and definitions of manage — control, manipulate, direct, handle, keep submissive, contrive — don't really speak to the leadership qualities you need to inspire staff toward a common goal.
Many managers actually behave as if they believe their staff has to be controlled and manipulated. They keep employees under close watch with information shared only on a need-to-know basis (with the manager deciding who needs to know and why) and instruct them in the minutest detail of their work. Because without direction from the manager, staff would be constantly making mistakes or wandering aimlessly.
If that's what you believe, then you've hired the wrong people in the first place. Or maybe you're not the best fit for the job requirements.
This managerial attitude doesn't elicit the most enthusiasm, the best work ethics and the most advantageous outcomes from the staff you supervise.
As a manager or department head, you have a dual role of managing processes, but leading staff.
As a leader, you need to articulate a clear vision of the mission and goals, delineate measurable objectives, ensure two-way communication between your frontline staff and the higher echelons, and facilitate best practices so your team can play to its strengths and do its job.
As a manager, you need to direct the processes your team uses to accomplish goals. If the processes hinder your staff, no amount of cheerleading or micromanaging is going to surpass these hurdles. Listen to your staff when they tell you something isn't working, or when there's hang-up in a procedure, or when some element in a process doesn't make sense and causes delays or confusion.
Rather than defending existing work processes and rejecting complaints out-of-hand, listen to your front-line staff for their articulation of the problem and their proposed solutions. They probably know intimately how to streamline a process or procedure. Collaboratively, you can formulate workable solutions, considering both the company's desired end goal and the reality of a procedure's effect on the front lines.
How many times have you heard someone say, "What idiot in their ivory tower thought up this doozy of a policy? The powers-that-be clearly have no idea of how this plays out on the front lines when it's implemented. They have no idea of the effect of their policies in the real world."
Here's a case in point: A company wants customers to sign up for a loyalty card as a marketing tool. In exchange for revealing certain data, the company offers deals and discounts to their loyalty members.
The front line staff reports, however, that asking customers to reveal their income and home ownership is too intrusive for customers. Rather than just refuse to answer those questions, they refuse to sign up at all. So, the intrusive questions defeat the purpose of offering a loyalty card in the first place.
Now, it's apparent why the company would like to know how much money this person has or if he owns or rent his home. But it's blatantly nosy, without giving the customer real value in return.
Once senior executives learned from the front line staff that asking intrusive, noncritical questions created a barrier to eliciting critical information, they revised the application to meet both the customers' needs and the company's, requiring only the most basic, critical info at sign-up and waiting until trust had been established before asking any more demographic data from customers.
Lead your staff in best practices, foster intercommunication and achieve goals by managing the processes that allow your staff to use their expertise — the reason you hired them in the first place.
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