A client was of mine was told that he didn't jump in alongside

his people to get new projects and improvements off the ground. As a

result, things weren't getting done on schedule. So I asked him why he

seemed to 'manage from a distance'. His response:

"My people are long time employees. They're highly educated and

have a lot of experience. If I start managing too closely, they'll lose

their motivation."

I'm thinking,"What motivation? Apparently they aren't getting much done!

His approach to the situation isn't at all unusual, is it? We live

in a time when managers are getting messages that say they should be

consultative and participative. OK. But what happens when the work

group doesn't know what to do our how to do it?

When there is a change, people want clear, strong direction. We all

want to know what, where, when, why, and then, if the situation

warrants it, how. Think about it: when we face the unknown, we start to

get a little insecure. What do we look for? Direction. Strong

leadership. Clarity. Help.

It has nothing to do with longevity or advanced degrees. It has to do with diagnosing the willingness and ability of the people and then adjusting management style accordingly.

In the case of my manager friend, he used misguided assumptions instead of proven research in his initial approach.


Meet People Where They Are

I'm a big proponent of Situational Leadership and have been since it was introduced. Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard teamed up to introduce the practical application of the Ohio State Studies.

The principle is this: Before you know how close to

manage or how consultative to be with your people, you need to know

where their willingness and ability is in relation to the task at hand.

The less people know, the closer you manage. The more mature and

effective they become, the less you have to direct and the more

consultative you can be.

If you've ever taught a child to ride a bike, then think of that as

the model. When they start, you have to demonstrate, help them on the

bicycle, hold onto them, and not leave their side. As they get a little

confidence and are able to go a short distance on their own, maybe you

jog alongside if you have to catch them. When you see them smiling and

riding a block or so on their own, you shout encouragement. And when

they disappear from view; well, yell "I'm going to the house for a cup

of coffee." That way they'll know where you are if they need you.

Managing people is a constant series of diagnoses and appropriate

responses. It's never all of one thing. And it's never all direction or

abdication. It's what people need from you in order to move along the

performance curve.

And just to emphasize the point once more: Change = More Managerial Direction. Any manager who is introducing something new has to be prepared to work closer and harder than usual to get things off to the right start.

What's your experience? Are you giving or getting the right thing at the right time?

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