A place to discuss the principles of High Performance Organizations and interact with other professionals who have been successful in implementing HPO principles, or are seeking to, in their organizations
Might is No Longer Right
December 22, 2010 at 2:33 pm #118505
“The defining aspect of what we call ‘civilization’ is not art or architecture, fashion or furniture but how people with power deal with people without power.” — Noah Ben Shea, poet and scholar
Richard Boyatzis, one of the founders of competency theory and a professor at Case Western Reserve University reports, “From my research I’m left with the impression that half of the managers in organizations are decreasing value, not adding value.” One of the reasons for this serious performance gap is that too many managers believe that their place on the organization chart gives them power. They are in control. They are the boss. Their attitude seems to be, “I am really easy to get along with once you learn to do as I say.”
Of course, a manager’s position gives him or her rank. But authority and true power to lead can’t be given or commanded. It can only be earned. As Margaret Thatcher, the former British Prime Minister once put it, “Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren’t.”
A big reason for the poor performance of so many teams and organizations is that they suffer from ineffective managers who subscribe to the old-fashioned model of the “tough, take-charge boss.” Traditionally, such individuals often used command and control, bullying, intimidation, and “riding staff hard” to get the job done. Generations of managers yelled their way up the corporate ladder.
But the days of automatic deference to authority are long gone. We don’t live in the world of might-is-right any more. Dictatorships are being replaced by democracies. Experts don’t have as many answers as we once thought. We all have many more job or business options available to us. In today’s workplace, a management style of pushing people around often pushes the highest performers right out the door.
During a workshop designed to identify moose-on-the-table issues (see page 102 of The Leader’s Digest), a manager was surprised by the very clear and strong feedback he got from his organization that his management group was not behaving as a team. They contradicted each other, waged petty turf battles, and reinforced departmental silos. His response was like threatening to cut off an infected arm rather than then diagnosing and treating the cause of the infection. At their next management meeting, he read them the riot act. In a variation on the age-old bully boss tradition of firings-will-continue-until-morale-improves, he warned them, “If you don’t behave as a team, I’ll replace you with managers who will.”
Unfortunately, such management mentality is not an isolated case. I once had a recently laid-off manager tell me about the horrible, soul-destroying organization he had just left. They had a 50 percent turnover rate and were struggling to stay afloat in the highly competitive automotive parts industry. He said that behind closed doors, one of the CEO’s favorite comments about the organization’s people was “use them up and throw them away.”
The “tough, take-charge boss” has long been associated with the military. “Well,” snarled the tough old sergeant to the bewildered private. “I suppose after you get discharged from the Army, you’ll just be waiting for me to die so you can come and spit on my grave.”
“Not me, Sarge!” the private replied. “Once I get out of the Army, I’m never going to stand in line again!”
Lack of compassion and understanding can adversely affect a company’s turnover as we see in a message posted on http://www.busreslab.com. “I used to be the Public Relations Coordinator and Editor for a local nonprofit organization… my grandmother became very ill. After a phone call from a family member I was told to come to her bedside, as death was imminent. I told my boss that I needed to leave for a family emergency and explained the situation and how close I was to my grandmother. My boss replied, ‘Well, she’s not dead yet, so I don’t have to grant your leave.’ And, I was told to complete my workday. Suffice to say I did not finish my workday.”
Jim Clemmer’s practical leadership & personal growth books, workshops, and team retreats have helped hundreds of thousands of people worldwide improve personal, team, and organizational performance. Jim’s web site, JimClemmer.com, has over 300 articles and dozens of video clips covering a broad range of topics on change, organization improvement, self-leadership, and leading others. Sign-up to receive Jim’s popular monthly newsletter, and follow his leadership blog. Jim’s international best-sellers include The VIP Strategy,Firing on All Cylinders, Pathways to Performance, Growing the Distance, The Leader’s Digest and Moose on the Table. His latest book is Growing @ the Speed of Change.
December 22, 2010 at 2:51 pm #118509
Yes but……. At a certain point, subordinates want their bosses to stop holding group hugs and start making decisions. Spinning your wheels in a holding pattern, watching critical deadlines lapse and realizing the backlog of work is constantly expanding because a “lets make everyone feel good before moving forward” boss is unable to provide clear direction can be just as demoralizing as working for a tyrant. Very few organizations work well with managment by referendum and at a certain point even the most patient coach needs to tell the Albert Haynesworths among his/her subordinates to either get on board or find the door.
December 22, 2010 at 3:08 pm #118507
Agreed, Peter. As in all of life, there is a balance to be found. As a friend taught me years ago … Lead, Follow, or get out of the way!
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