The current challenges facing managers in all types of organizations (private, non-profit and government) are unprecedented. In my mind, one of the most critical challenges facing managers right now concerns their ability to bring out the best in others. Yes, developing others as well as yourself is an important part of every manager’s responsibilities. One way to encourage employee development is to show them how their daily efforts connect to the results the organization generates. As more employees realize how much their efforts matter toward achieving the bottom line, their willingness to be personally accountable will increase. They will make better decisions and enhance their contributions because they are more informed which energizes their commitment.
Coaching Question > Do you rise to this challenge? Or do you shrink from it because you are uncomfortable holding employee development conversations on a regular basis?
While examples of successful organizations with highly skilled employees abound, as is often the case, studying organizations where mistakes have been made proves more instructive. The questions to ask are clear: What went wrong? How did successive decisions combine and escalate to create this problem? How do we improve training and learning to ensure outcomes aligned with organizational goals? Notice that eho to blame is not among the questions.
To put the challenges in a current context, I need only mention an organization whose questionable decisions up and down the managerial chain of command have been making the headlines today: the GSA (General Services Administration) of the federal government. Every day seems to expose a new episode in the GSA spending scandals. Inappropriate actions resulting in the massive misuse of taxpayer money have occurred at so many levels that it is hard to get your arms around the full scope of the abuse. And there is a sense that what has already been revealed is just the tip of the iceberg.
In a previous management position, I had profit and loss responsibility. I remember weighing each of my decisions regarding financial outlays carefully to ensure that each one brought the best return on investment possible and aligned with the organization’s goals. I knew I was responsible and I accepted that accountability.
Now, as a management coach, a few questions continue to gnaw at me about the GSA fiasco. What internal perspective would allow someone to believe it was okay to approve the funds allocated to the events exposed so far? What made these employees hold hard earned taxpayer dollars with so little regard? Did they feel somehow entitled? Are the actions we are witnessing the result of an entitlement mentality that has seeped into our work culture and knows no boundaries? In what other ways is this “I’m entitled to ... ” mentality manifesting itself in our workplaces, robbing organizations of real talent, opportunities to grow and prosperity? What do managers need to do to shift the thinking from entitlement to service? How do we support employees as they struggle with competing agendas and limited resources so they learn how to make better decisions?
Managers, it’s your time to step up to the plate. There is no more important action that you can take right now than to model those intangible qualities that really make all the difference. These are attributes like trustworthiness, integrity, and courage, to name but three. They are relevant regardless of whether you work for a private concern, a non-profit or the government.
As I see it, as a manager, you are serving the needs of fellow employees, owners, customers and a host of interested publics. When we think of managerial work as service not control, its importance becomes clear and the qualities listed above prove vital. You are the role model. You are the teacher of the next generation of managers and leaders. And this means your actions must be right actions especially when you think no one is watching. Because everyone is watching! If you do not know how to answer this all important call, relax. You can learn.
What programs about how to be a more effective manager / leader have you participated in recently? Do you choose nuts and bolts technical training programs? Or do you choose programs that challenge your thinking at a core place? Do the programs you select require you to change and how willing are you to reflect on your own internal capabilities and make necessary changes? How have you incorporated the new learning into your everyday actions? Or were you so overwhelmed when you got back to your daily routine that your new learning was put on the shelf as nice, but hard to implement now. Such a waste!
There are many ways to grow as a manager. One learning initiative with which I am intimately familiar discusses a unique set of intangible skills called savvy skills. There are five savvy skills - self managing, reflecting, acting consciously, collaborating, and evolving. These skills offer you an opportunity to become more effective by emphasizing the importance of personal actions as a way to achieve more effective results. You can learn more about the savvy skills in The Savvy Manager: 5 Skills that Drive Optimal Performance.
For now, let’s talk benefits. The benefits of incorporating the savvy skills into your repertoire can be significant. Like a laser beam, you learn how to target your energies toward actions that actually produce the outcomes you want. You learn how to become comfortable in your own skin. You learn how to embrace conversations as opportunities to harness the efforts of many skilled people and gain commitment. You learn how to lead with conviction and courage. All of these benefits are real because you are working from the inside out, developing your strongest, most authentic self first and using it as your springboard to more effective actions.
As I close this blog entry, I invite you to think about when you are at your very best and how your results during those times far exceed even your expectations. What intangible skills are you using? Are any of these a match to the savvy skills mentioned here?
Jane R. Flagello, EdD. is a performance coach, motivational speaker and writer. Her efforts center on enabling people to develop those attributes that enhance their effectiveness in all areas of life. The Savvy Manager: 5 Skills that Drive Optimal Performance, published by ASTD shares insights on how the savvy skills improve important areas like communication, leadership and team development. Jane can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.