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Us and them or we?
Does your management team inadvertently have an us versus them mentality? One of the
symptoms is when managers speak poorly of supervisors or employees or vice versa. Or it
might be assuming that the front line fully understands the direction and strategy when in
fact they don’t. It might be a bigger problem than you think.
Does a Promotion Make you Smarter?
Position bias makes some in leadership positions to think that those people below them in
the organization aren’t as smart or as committed to the organization’s success. That would
imply that your intelligence and commitment goes up when you are promoted. Based on
some my own personal observations this is not the case. Plus it’s preposterous to
think that a change in title makes you smarter.
The reality is that employees are pretty smart and more committed to the organization
than many of the leaders above them. The tenure of many front line workers is longer than
those who they report to. This leads to greater cynicism about the grand plans hatched by
managers who the employees perceive will not be around to see the plans through to fruition.
It is important for managers to treat the employees as partners in making the enterprise
Okay, enough about the problem, what about the solution?
Management has to lead the way and demonstrate greater respect of the front line leaders
and workers. This means being approachable, following through on plans and addressing
issues, questions and concerns in a timely fashion. The manager’s thinking has to change
from “you work for me” to “I work for you”. After all, the manager relies on the employees
to generate the results that the manager is measured and rewarded on.
Eliminating disrespectful and demeaning conduct about people lower in the organization is
the first step in changing the tone of the organization from negative to positive.
Managers are usually more aware of what is happening in the organization, the external
pressures being faced and the changes being contemplated. The manager assumes that
others in the organization have the same level of knowledge and understanding.
Unfortunately the manager isn’t as clear or persistent as he or she needs to be in
communication and listening. Therefore front line supervisors and employees are kept in
the dark and are disengaged from the strategies created by the management team.
This causes dramatic under performance to the organization’s potential.
Managers should therefore communicate more often, in different settings, using different
methods. Assuming that an email is enough to get the word out is a mistake. Delivering the
message by walking around and in small and large groups will be more effective.
All this communicating is time consuming and manager’s plates are overflowing. So
delegation and empowerment can get more done without the manager trying to do it all
And given that front line leaders have the greatest interaction with the majority of
employees managers must communicate key information to the supervisors and insist that
the supervisors spread the word to employees. Of course only delivering info one way isn’t
ideal so supervisors should gather feedback from employees and be given the opportunity
to raise it with management without being criticized or ignored.
Even if management disagrees with the information flowing back, it is better to know what
employees are thinking instead of either shooting the messenger or discrediting the
message. Managers will likely become frustrated at having to constantly clarify and explain
and yet that will create greater buy in.
Managers often mean well and yet some behaviors need to change in order to improve
organizational execution, build a high performance culture and increase employee
commitment and engagement.
If we can help you build a more consistent and capable leadership team
from top to bottom, please contact us.
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