Self-interest and leadership don’t mix
I fully agree with your assessment of managers providing guidelines to employees and offering assistance to abide by their job responsibilities and then making suggestions on how to improve their performance as a matter of discipline.
The problem is that managers are ordinarily a power hungry bunch, that don't abide by the same managerial reprimands from their fellow employees. This whole WW I and II management style of subordinating other employees is unnatural and demeaning to human beings.
Institutional office politics will have to make the transition to baby-boomer's desires for emotionally safe teamwork that doesn't allow for demanding overseers who don't practice what they preach; make (but don't earn) big salaries and exorbitant bonuses; and in general are more interested in their own cut of the pie and themselves than the well-being of customers, staff or the institution!
And the USA wonders why European quality is preferred to ours and why the Japanese's perfection addresses the marketplace better!
I can understand your frustration. To tell you the truth, I'm feeling some of it myself. Too many managers still believe that their employees can't be trusted to behave responsibly and they need to be treated as "subordinates" who need to be watched by a "superior."
Perhaps when employees were less educated and less informed they needed someone to tell them what to do and make all the day-to-day decisions but today's employees simply don't fit that mold. They resent being treated like children and they don't feel motivated to excel when they aren't treated with respect and dignity.
I've seen what can happen when a more progressive culture change takes place; employees who have demonstrated little initiative and are chronic complainers blossom into motivated, active team members-all because of how they're treated.
Frankly, the number of managers who don’t listen to their employees and who discourage participation discourages me. These managers give lip service to ideas such as empowerment and quality service but when they're faced with a tough decision or political pressure their true colors come out. When push comes to shove they don't want to give up their turf, preferred status, power and control. And their company culture is set up to reward these behaviors.
Look around: how many managers hold real problem solving meetings at least once a week for the purpose of listening to their employees and working with them to make improvements? (Or, are employees forced to put their ideas in a suggestion box and then sit and wait for the faceless bureaucracy to pass judgment on them?)
How many managers actively solicit feedback on how they can help their employees excel on their jobs? How many managers really deal with non-performers and reward the excellent performers? How many companies have work policies that are designed for the 90 percent who are good employees-or do they subject the good employees to strict rules set up for their less responsible peers?
Most workers today would knock themselves out in an environment that treated them as valued members of a team, so why aren't all managers doing these things? Some can't believe it really works, some are too insecure to try, some don't have the skills, some would like to but are afraid about what top management would think, and some are afraid that their employees would prove the boss was expendable.
Some companies are taking the slow, difficult steps necessary to evolve into a more progressive organization. They aren't grabbing the latest quick-fix. They are changing the roles of the managers, involving the workforce, removing years of senseless bureaucracy; in short, they are making the commitment to stay in business. They realize the future of their companies lies in the willingness of their employees to be an active partner in making the company competitive. They know where the real power is.
Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist.
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