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Are your Management Skills Stuck in the Past?

Are your Management Skills Stuck in the Past?

By: Jody Thompson, author of Why Managing Sucks and How to Fix It (Wiley, 2013)

Do you have most employees adhere to office hours? Do you believe that communication and collaboration is most effective when everyone is in the office? Do you have weekly staff meetings to get everyone on the same page? Do your employees let you know where they’re working from and politely ask permission to come in late or leave early?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, your management style is a throwback to the industrial-age workplace. You are caught in a system where: 

  • The measure of work involves directing how and when employees do the work.
  • Staff discipline is based on rules.
  • Employees are expected to complete activities or tasks during work time. 
  • Everyone in by 8am? Check. Everyone at their workstations until 5pm? Check! 

Staff management today is operating on the old currency of work:

Time (40 hours per week) + Physical Presence (I need to see you to know you’re working) = 

Results (must be happening, right?)

Managing TIME is a Trap
One of the most dangerous management traps is a focus on time, the standard measure of whether or not work is getting done. If employees are showing up at the right time and in the right place (and with the appropriate attire), and putting in the acceptable number of hours, then managers falsely assume that the right work must be happening, too.

The focus on managing people’s time (and place) reinforces the game employees are forced to play in an outdated system.

If your management style rewards the clock, you’re fighting a losing battle. Statements like, ‘Wow! You’re here early today’! or ‘Let’s hear it for Jane! She gave up Thanksgiving dinner with her family to work on the project!’ send a clear message to employees about what really matters to you.

Employees pick up on this in a nanosecond. Whether or not they’re achieving measurable results takes second place to presenteeism (looking like a dedicated employee clocking lots of hours). Plus, there’s nothing better than telling your manager that you put in 60 hours last week and watching him or her beam with pride.

Showing up at work never has been, and never will be, a guarantee that work is getting done. And unless we stop managing to the outdated industrial-age platform of work, we’ll be left scratching our heads wondering why engagement is flat, performance is sub-par, and people are leaving for greener pastures.

There is a simple, effective way to begin changing your management style to get yourself out of the time trap.

Manage the Work, Not the People
When your management style is to manage the work, not the people, you’re well on your way to creating an engaged, nimble and motivated workforce. Managing the work requires you to stop monitoring the hallways, get everyone in your organization clear about the measurable results they are expected to deliver, and then holding employees accountable. This will require you to keep all of your conversations with each employee objective (about the work), not subjective (open to argument and interpretation).

Managing people looks like this:

  • Certain roles need to be present in the office to achieve results.
  • In order to communicate and collaborate we all must be present in our offices.
  • Please let me know when you’ll be late.
  • You can work from home one day per week.
  • Body language is important; we need everyone present at the staff meeting.

Managing work looks like this:

  • The target for our customer satisfaction score is 4.25.
  • The deadline for the deliverable is Friday, April 7th at 2pm.
  • What’s the best way for us to accomplish that?
  • How can I help?
  • Are we on-track to deliver according to the project plan?

Accountable and Autonomous
Managing work today requires a management style that supports the measure of work being about one thing only: Results. In a results-driven workforce, each person has an equal measure of autonomy and accountability. No results? No job.

Think about a workforce where managers -- rather than worrying if everyone is ‘on deck’ -- are coaches and mentors who make sure everyone is ‘on point’.

The workplace of the past will not thrive in the 21st century. Managers who have the courage to shed old beliefs about how a workplace should operate will be pleasantly surprised by how the future workforce will operate. 

We have to stop trying to figure out how to best manage the people, and get much better at managing the work. The people, we’ve discovered, can manage themselves.

Why Managing Sucks and How to Fix It: A Results-Only Guide to Taking Control of Work, Not People by Jody Thompson

Author Bio:
Jody Thompson
, along with her partner Cali Ressler, is the Founder of CultureRx and co-creator of the Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE). Her first book, Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It, was named "The Year's Best Book on Work-Life Balance" by Business Week. Her second book, Why Managing Sucks and How to Fix It is the field guide for how to manage work in the 21st century. She has been featured on the covers of BusinessWeek, Workforce Management Magazine, HR Magazine, Hybrid Mom Magazine and HR Executive Magazine as well as in the New York Times, TIME Magazine and others.

Jody is also a nationally-recognized keynote speaker and has presented to numerous Fortune 500 companies and prominent trade associations.

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