BY BRUCE TULGAN
Nowadays, the workplace is more and more high pressure and the workforce is more and more high maintenance. Strong highly-engaged leadership is clearly the order of the day. Yet, the pendulum of management thinking, books, and training is still swinging in the wrong direction - toward weak hands-off leadership in which managers are supposed to soft-pedal their authority. Why?
What is keeping so many managers from answering the call to what is clearly needed in all walks of the private and public sectors, namely strong highly-engaged leaders? There are seven great management myths that persist in todays workplace.
Weak management myth #1: The myth of empowerment
Myth: The way to empower people is to leave them alone and let them manage themselves.
According to this myth, managers should not keep close track of staff and they definitely should not zero in on employee failures. Employees should be made to feel they own their work and should be set free to make their own decisions. Managers are merely facilitators, there to align the natural talents and desires of staff with fitting roles in the workplace. Managers should not tell people how to do their jobs, but rather let staff come up with their own methods. The idea is, make staff feel good inside and results will take care of themselves.
What is the reality? Sink or swim is not empowerment. Its negligence. Reinvent the wheel is not empowerment. Its negligence. Do it however you think it should be done (even though its not really up to you) is not empowerment. Its negligence.
The truth is that almost everybody performs best, NOT on their own, BUT RATHER with guidance, direction, and support from a more experienced person. If you want to truly empower people, then you simply must define the terrain on which they have power. That terrain consists of effectively delegated goals, with clear guidelines and concrete deadlines. The real trick is figuring out for each employee with each assignment: How big should the goals be? How far out should the deadlines be? How many guidelines are necessary with each goal? That work is the art of real empowerment.
Weak management myth #2. The myth of fairness:
The way to be fair is to treat everybody the same. What is the reality? Whats truly fair is doing more for some people and less for others, based on what they deservebased on their performance.
Weak management myth #3. The myth of the jerk boss:
The only way to be strong is to act like a jerk, but I want to be a nice guy. What is the reality? Managers who are weak end up seeming like jerks because they make bad decisions, they point people in the wrong direction, they fail to help employees avoid unnecessary problems, and they are rarely in a position to help employees earn what they need. Real nice guy managers do what it takes to help employees succeed so those employees can deliver great service for customers and earn more rewards for themselves.
Weak management myth #4. The myth of the difficult conversation:
Being hands-off is the way to avoid confrontations with employees. What is the reality? Being a weak manager makes these confrontations inevitable, whereas being a strong manager means these confrontations rarely occur, and when they do happen they are not so painful after all.
Weak management myth #5. The myth of red tape:
Managers are prevented from being strong because there are so many factors beyond their controlred tape, corporate culture, senior management, limited resources. What is the reality? Focusing on the many factors THAT ARE within your control is the way to make yourself stronger. Meanwhile, learn the rules and red tape so you learn how to work within and around them (another way to increase your strength).
Weak management myth #6. The myth of the natural leader:
I am not good at managing. What is the reality? The best managers are peoplenatural or notwho learn proven techniques, practice those techniques diligently until they become skills, and continue practicing them until they become habits.
Weak management myth #7. The myth of time:
Theres isnt enough time to manage people. What is the reality? Since your time is so limited, you definitely dont have time to deal with all the things that go wrong when you do not spend enough time up-front managing people. When you spend your time managing, you engage the productive capacity of the people you manage and improve the quality and output of the employees work for hours or days. Thats a good return on investmentthats why I call it high leverage time.
Yes, managing people in the real world is very, very difficult, and there are no easy solutions. Please join the campaign: Its okay to be the boss. You just have to work very, very hard to be a great one!
ABOUT BRUCE TULGAN
Bruce Tulgans most recent book is NOT EVERYONE GETS A TROPHY: How to Manage Generation Y (Jossey Bass, March 2009). He is also the author of the recent best seller ITS OKAY TO BE THE BOSS and the classic MANAGING GENERATION X. Bruces free video newsletter is available every week at www.rainmakerthinking.com.