“My job would be great if I didn’t have to deal with people.”
“People are our greatest asset.”
One could call this the great divide – the challenge that working with people brings but the benefits that can come from engaging with people that are innovative and creative. Increasingly we see articles about organisational culture and the impact that an effective culture can have on an organisation’s success – to say nothing about the benefits that also come to everyone involved through less stress in their day-to-day work.
The Merriam-Webster definitions of “management” include:
The act or skill of controlling and making decisions about business, department, sports team, etc.
The people who make decisions about business, department, sports team, etc.
The act or process of deciding how to use something
In a human-centric culture managers cannot just “decide” or “control” or “direct” and expect it to happen; as Jean-Luc Picard said as captain of the Starship Enterprise “make it so.” This expectation of behaviour comes more from a command and control structure than from one that encourages involvement, innovation and creativity. Managers today need to shift their thinking away from “task” focused to an equal focus on building relationships through which task can be achieved. To achieve success in this managers must possess not only the skills to manage “things” but the leadership skills through which effective relationships are built.
In the first quartile, we see traditional “command and control” behaviour – focus on the task but low on relationships – “just do it.” Success in using this approach is power based – coming from the position or title – not from “followers” who respect and trust their leaders. Even worse is the second quartile which is a low task and low relationship – nothing much gets done, and nobody wants to be there; in effect a prescription for failure. In our third quartile, we have a high relationship, but low task; organisation who focus on training in the “soft skills” often end up here where relationships are high but the task is low. This is because in their efforts to improve the culture including interactions, collaboration, teamwork and cooperation they forget that the goal was to enhance the ability to execute the task. This task is what is contained in the mission or purpose of the organisation. The result is that its a great place to be but it doesn’t perform which brings us to the final quartile which rates both task and relationships high. A clear focus on purpose combined with the engagement and involvement of people; these are organisations where managers exercise effective leadership skills that enable the effective execution of task – it is power with people.
The leadership skills required to achieve “power with people” are not complex but take the time to build because a core foundational issue is trust; if employees don’t trust their managers, then the ability of the leader to lead and create followers will probably fail. Leaders must also understand that human beings are not “types” but are unique and complex. While people “typing” can provide some key understanding of an individual’s underlying behavioural preferences they only skim the surface regarding the detailed complexity of a person’s behaviour. MBTI or Myers-Briggs is a great tool for a high-level understanding of individual types and appeals to many as it is easier to understand and less costly than some other tools. However approaches developed by organisation such as Lumina Learning in the UK delve much deeper into human behavior through developing traditional typing to a much greater level of 24 unique behavioral qualities and in addition an understanding of how these qualities actually change; first the real :underlying” you that few people really see, then the “everyday” persona and finally the “over-extended” or stressed persona. There are many great tools out there to help managers develop effective leadership skills, and they can be used in at least three ways.
First managers can obtain an understanding of their unique qualities and through this develop an appreciation of how others see them rather than how they see themselves – which is not always accurate! A “learning of self” must be at the centre of any leadership development. Second through appreciating the unique nature of individuals, managers can start to realise that skills such as communications have to be modified and adjusted to the different people that form the workforce. Thirdly, through understanding the concepts behind the unique personalities managers can start to develop the ability to “speed-read” people that they interact with so that interactions can reflect the expectations of others. The efficient management of individuals through developing leadership skills is much more than developing the “soft skills” and creating the “warm and fuzzies” – it is about understanding and applying the science behind human behaviour.
An organisation can have the greatest talent in the world but success comes from harnessing this talent and applying it to building organisational effectiveness (after all an organisation is by definition “a collection of average people working together for a common purpose;” great leadership skills form a critical part of establishing a culture within which people can do their best work. Only through a combination of talent plus organisational culture can an organisation value be developed.