A CEO client was lamenting the challenges he faced with his work force and
in frustration he said to me, I wish my employees were robots so I could
program them to do what theyre supposed to do and turn them off when I
dont need them. He was kidding, of course. But some companies do
treat their people like machines. Wise leaders know that managing people is
much more complex than maintaining machinery, but it is also more rewarding.
There might be some advantages to having robotic workers with on/off switches and other machine-like qualities. For example:
But lets also consider the disadvantages:
Because machines cant think, they need to be programmed. Because people
can think, they need to be educated. If were training our team to perform
repetitive tasks instead of educating them to think and act innovatively, then
were treating them like machines and depriving ourselves of the powerful
contributions of the human mind.
But having an educated team doesnt by itself guarantee high-level productivity and quality. How we lead and manage that team determines whether or not we get the best from it.
As I work with leaders on the development of peak-performance teams, I often share with them the following tips:
Inspire People, Dont Just Drive Them
Abraham Maslow taught us that humans, after they have satisfied their basic needs, exert themselves toward higher aspirations. They seek self-actualizationto become the best that they can be. We can inspire people by showing them how to be their very best.
Leaders can inspire their organizations by giving them a cause to rally behind: an inspiring vision and mission based on values everyone can identify with.
Be Easy to Like and Respect
Be accessible to people and let them see your human side. Observe high standards of personal conduct, but let your employees know that youre human. Talk to them about your bad decisions as well as your good ones. When you blow it, grin and admit it. Your team will respect you for it.
Once, on a televised tour of a plant, Remington CEO Victor Kiam stepped off-camera to ask a woman employee about her ailing husband. He told her not to try to carry the burden alone. The company was there to help. Later, the woman told an observer that she would do anything for Kiam.
That kind of loyalty isnt earned by prickly, aloof leaders. Kiam obviously had taken the time to mingle with employees and talk to them about their problems.
Help People Like Themselves
Robert W. Reasoner, a California school superintendent, who headed a statewide task force on self-esteem, identified five basic attitudes that foster self-esteem. They are: a sense of security; a sense of identity; a sense of belonging; a sense of purpose; and a sense of personal competence.
Secure people are comfortable with who they are and with what others think about them. When our team members have a sense of belonging, they identify with the organizations vision and goals, because these things have personal meaning for them. They personally share in the success and the mission of the organization.
Members obtain a sense of purpose from knowing the organizations goals and knowing how their efforts contribute toward those goals. Leaders need to give people a specific role in planning and goal-setting.
We can give our team members a sense of personal competence by educating them and giving them the freedom to succeed or fail on their own.
Help People Believe That What Theyre Doing Is Important
Medtronic, Inc., of Minneapolis has a heartwarming way of dramatizing the importance of what its employees do. Each year at Christmas time, the company holds a party for employees, and guests of honor are people whose lives have been prolonged by Medtronic cardio-pulmonary devices.
Stew Leonard, the grocery-store wizard from Connecticut, told me he refuses to use job titles that he perceives as demeaning. Once he noticed a job listed as popcorn maker. He immediately ordered a more dignified title. How would you feel if someone asked you what you did for a living and you had to answer, Im a popcorn maker?
Respond to People Instead of Reacting
Leaders should be accessible to their teams. Let your people know they can come to you with problems, concerns, ideas, suggestions or complaints. If they bring you usable ideas, adopt the ideas and give credit where it is due.
Welcome bad news as well as the good. What you dont know can hurt you. Dont ignore complaints. Listen to them. Find out what you can do to rectify matters, let people know what you plan to doand do it.
Thats good people management. Machines dont need that kind of attention. But machines dont innovate, design, solve problems or sell and market products, either.
NIDO QUBEIN is one of the countrys most illustrious
philanthropists and businessmen. He is President of the National Speakers
Association and President of High Point University in High Point, NC.