Recently I've seen some management behavior that is so jaw-droppingly misguided that I just have to comment on it. Not that this will improve the behavior of the individuals involved (they don't read columns like this), but it may raise some important issues about where management is headed and what can be done about it.
Today, too many managers have forgotten some basic principles: first, respect is the hallmark of any healthy relationship, even at work; second, respect among adults is earned (to get it you have to act in respectful ways toward others); and third, you can't lead anyone anywhere if they don't respect you.
You would think that these fundamental ideas would be obvious to any sensitive individual, especially those in positions of power. But this is simply not true. When you regularly expect people to stay late after work "to get things out," or yell at them either in private or in public, or talk behind their backs to others on the staff, where is the fundamental respect human beings should have for one another? And when managers let requests sit on their desk without even the simplest of acknowledgments, when they don't allow employees to register their concerns for fear of reprisal, or when they change employees' bonus schemes unexpectedly and unilaterally, how can they expect anyone to follow their lead on anything?
I don't think I'm overstating the case here. Study after study tells us that employees are not happy at their jobs, that they feel let down by their managers, and that they don't trust the very people who are responsible for their welfare. Can anything be done? Yes. Here are four simple ways to improve the way managers relate to their direct reports:
Promote into management only those candidates who show an interest in human dynamics, have a knack for getting along with people, and can demonstrate a rock-solid respect for what makes people tick.
Devote 50 percent of their first year to training in management skills like communication, delegation, and recognition—the three main drivers of employee motivation. Make regular 360-degree feedback the primary part of a manager's performance evaluation. Respect, like truth and beauty, is in the eyes of the beholder. If employees and colleagues say it's there, great. If they say it isn't, it's not!
Move people out of management regularly if they don't fill the bill. Send them back to qualifying school, as they do on the professional golfers' tour. Believe me, they will try a lot harder if they know they can be removed from their role for not performing respectfully.
If you've ever experienced the joy and excitement of being led by a boss who truly gets it, there is nothing like it. The converse is also true: Lousy managers are the biggest cause of employee discontent and poor business performance. Forget increasing competition, the price of raw materials, or a queasy economy. Want real results in business? Get your managers to become the leaders that employees respect and your business needs.
Dr. Tom McDonald, a Ph.D. in psychology, speaks on "People Skills" needed for "Business Results." Reach him in San Diego at (858) 523-0883 or tom@drtom mcdonald.com, or visit www.drtommcdonald.com.
Feel awkward around strangers? You're not alone. Many successful people have learned to overcome their natural introversion, says Jeffrey W. Meshel, author of One Phone Call Away: Secrets of a Master Networker (Portfolio, 2005). Here, Meshel offers tips on shaking your shyness:
Prepare. Think of some conversation topics before you head to a networking event (it helps if you read newspapers and magazines regularly to stay informed).
Practice introducing yourself. If you're there to find a new job, for instance, practice introducing yourself in front of the mirror, giving a quick rundown of your qualifications and the opportunity you're seeking.
Focus on the other person. When you let other people talk about themselves, it takes the burden off you, and they're more likely to enjoy the conversation.