It’s been said in the past many times, that those who are great at something know how to bend, and break the rules. Successful leaders and Entrepreneurs would not have built successful businesses if they had always followed the rules. Think one industry, Airlines, think Richard Branson (from Airline to Trains and many brands launched commercially) & Michael O’Leary of Ryanir, Europe’s largest Airline.
Typically you’ll learn the rules, when you start off then, you hopefully get a sense of how to do things better, and the same goes for leadership management. Drawing conculsions from interviews with over 80,000 managers, Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman of the Gallup organization origially wrote a book on just that topic, “First, Break All the Rules,” a book (subsequently built upon in further publications) about how great managers surpass their ordinary counterparts.
We sometimes speak about the secrets of creating a great workplace, but let’s come at it from another angle now and focus on how the best managers create that terrific working environment.
Think of a great workplace as one that provides the highest levels of productivity, profitability, employee retention, and customer satisfaction. There are still four keys that make this happen.
The first is absolutely counterintuitive, but if you want innovative people, you need to consider this.
Select for Talent & potential, not Experience.
What sort of talents and skills are looking for in your employees? Take a good look at the talents your best employees have, rather than at their experience. Chances are, you'll find that talent and attitude are greater than sheer experience. Going hand in hand with talent is emotional intelligence, which consists of five traits, all of which make for a good employee. These are identified in Daniel Goleman's original book, Working With Emotional Ingelligence, and are self-awareness, self-regulation, self-motivation, empathy, and interpersonal skills. There’s loads of other books that speak about this, not least the recent “Emotional Intelligence, a Leadership Imperative”, by Murray & Coffey in Ireland.
The next should be intuitive, but often is not. Define the Right Outcomes, is about letting your employees work toward the goal with their own strategies, rather than trying to control every step of the process yourself.
Controlling everything an employee does is called micro-managing, and it has a bad name for a reason.
Ordinary managers tend to micromanage, because they think it's their job to control exactly how every process is done. They tend to write lengthy, detailed procedures for their employees to follow, believing this will cause the job to go smoothly. Presumably, the person was hired because he or she knows how to accomplish the goals of the job, so the best managers encourage their employees to us their skills to achieve their goals. They allow the employees to develop the protocols for everyday tasks. Follow the saying, “Hire only people you can trust, then trust them.” Building Trust works in different ways for different people, so be aware of the whether people value lots or minimal communication, and als the levels of consistency in your work standards that you must achieve, in order to build trust with them. On the job training is fine, but once the employee knows his job, let him or her control the process, but that you are there to support them.
The third key is Focus on Strengths. There is a tendency among some managers to take people’s strengths for granted and pay more attention to their weaknesses. Do you know what your employees’ strengths are? The best managers know that they can’t fix people… that everyone has weaknesses, but they also have strengths. So they focus on capitalising on those strengths by making sure their employees have the opportunity to use them. It helps if you hire for talent to start with as you’ll know what their strengths are.
The fourth and final key is to Find the Right Fit. In most companies, promotion to the next level is seen as inevitable. And so the Peter Principle is alive and well… people are promoted to their level of incompetence! The best managers steer people into the roles that best utilise their talents, whether that is a promotion, a lateral move or a demotion. If you have promoted your best salesman to become the sales manager and not only is he a lousy sales manager, your sales have dropped… it’s obvious what you should do, isn’t it? Maybe your remuneration and reward systems penalise people if they are not promoted (or are demoted). If that is the case, change the system. The number one priority is to get the right people into the role that best uses their talents.
First, Break All the Rules originally set out to challenge the way companies have been traditionally run and one of the barriers to change is always the existing culture.
The trust is, both managers and employees will resist change if your culture will not support a change of this nature.
Peter O’Connor is the MD of Performance Partners Ltd, a Management, Leadership, Sales and Personal Development Facilitator & Trainer, based in Ireland, who works internationally.
Peter can be contacted peter(at)performancepartners.ie or on 353-1-2402255.
Find out more about the Employee Passion Survey here
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