Thursday, April 24, 2008

How to Lead Management

Too often employees believe that the decision responsibility rests with upper management alone. In doing so, they ignore the fact that decisions are often based on information and recommendations that come from within the organization. As such, the true power of the decision making rests within the organization. Fundamental to this principal is that we allocate resources and make decisions on the basis of facts and logic. The people who have more and better facts about their business can lead others.

This is a critical concept for employees and management to embrace. While this is written to management, I encourage you to share it with your organization. They and you must have a common understanding if you are to move to a higher degree of effectiveness.

In order to fully engage the organization in being part of the decision making process and really contribute to the company’s progress, some training and guidance may be required. The training and guidance is required for both the employee population and your senior management and it has to do with leadership. Leadership of thinking and influencing.

Opportunities with employees for leading and influencing management thinking can be ignored or not understood. In order to capitalize on the opportunity when it comes, employees must understand the following:

· Employees must provide a clear sense of direction as a framework for management's thinking. Effective leadership provides both a sense of momentum and direction that greatly facilitates management's understanding as to how each of the proposals fits in the broad scheme of things. It has to tie to the company’s business plan and that requires employees to know and understand that plan.

· If management does not sense strong well-directed leadership from the employees, they are inclined to fill this void by providing that leadership themselves. This is an unfortunate situation, since regardless of their experience and perspective, they simply do not have the detailed facts and understanding of the business and thus are at a disadvantage in their capacity to fill this role. It also leads to loss of initiative within the business unit or function which is detrimental to the development and job satisfaction of the people.

Employees need to pay particular attention to the following to be able to lead management effectively.

1. Establish their credibility and their right to lead. The right to lead any group cannot be granted, delegated or assigned. Rather, it must be earned through demonstrating the kind of proficiency that commands the respect of others and instills sufficient confidence to follow. The technical proficiency, knowledge of the business and sound principle/approach toward proprietorship of the business puts them in control of the business. Beyond their basic skills and proficiency, they must establish their credibility by ensuring that their proposals are thorough, precise and objective. They must recognize the risks along with the potential for success and share them both for consideration in order to get alignment and agreement.

2. Establish a continuing line of communications. They must make management partners in the business and vice versa. Employees must recognize that management can provide valuable counsel, born of practical experience and breadth of exposure in different and complex situations. If employees are to tap into the resource fully they must keep them advised of the direction and learning, whether it is encouraging or disappointing.

This ensures that management has a continuing grasp as to the flow of the details of the business and are able to participate in establishing longer-term direction. This participation and understanding represents a clear and simple framework within which management can evaluate the proposals. Net, if they understand and agree to the recommended strategy then the organization can focus on the relatively simple executional issues at hand.

3. Establish Project Communication. Related to the second point, both management and employees should stringently avoid surprises, whether they are successes or failures. There should be continual updates to management on progress so that they can share in whatever decisions emerge from the results. This also enables management to provide input well before final proposals are cast in bronze.

Leadership can be in the hands of your organization. To be clear, this is not meant to say that management gives up its decision making responsibility. Quite the opposite. Now you in senior management will have much better information on which to make the decisions. But only if you unleash the leadership power of your organization and set their responsibilities correctly.

Could this be perceived as threatening to you? Not if you want an inclusive culture, have good people and want to maximize the impact of your most valuable and expensive resource – your people.

Leadership rests with all in the most effective organizations.

John Maver
Maver Management Group
(925) 648-7561
Maver Management

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1 comment:

Lewis said...

Excellent post! If I were business god, the first step I would take to encourage leadership would be to delete the words manager and mangement throughout my organization.

Leaders are not managers, and the word manager implies employees need to be managed. Managed employees are unlikely to be creative, innovative or prone to offer recommendations.