Last week I started a new series of articles on the theme of “good jobs”. Work is a huge part of most people’s lives…. And yet 85% of workers (according to Gallup) are either not engaged or actively disengaged from their work. That amounts to a heart-breaking waste of precious hours. So how can we heal this rift?
Stephen “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” Covey wrote, “With people, if you want to save time, don’t be efficient. Slow is fast and fast is slow.” What he’s saying is that efficiency is not effectiveness. People don’t like to be micromanaged. They like autonomy.
Scenario 1: Slow is Fast
Ms Manager wants Mr Worker to do something (although, as we’ll be exploring in a later article, this hierarchical structure is increasingly passing its sell-by date) so she sets aside some serious up-front time with him to discuss the piece of work – e.g. what it is, how it fits into the broader strategic goals of the organisation, why it’s important, how it interfaces with work that other people are doing, and what criteria it must meet in order to serve its purpose.
If she is a really enlightened manager, she may also take this opportunity to find out more about Mr Worker (although hopefully she would have known much of this already, and used this information when she decided to assign this particular piece of work to him) – e.g. his working methods, his personal values and how they relate to this project, his ambitions, and how this project can be used to further his individual goals. They might identify some ways in which he wants to develop, and define some personal outcomes as well as the project deliverables.
Mr Worker is inspired. He can see how this piece of work is going to be meaningful – to the organisation and to himself. He is motivated to do a great job, and puts heart and soul into over-delivering. Ms Manager is delighted, and at their end-of-project review they discuss how they can further build on this success over the coming months.
Scenario 2: Fast is Slow
A time-pressed, over-stressed manager lobs a poorly-defined piece of work with a deadline onto the worker’s desk before rushing off to the next meeting. And then they’re surprised when the end result isn’t what they wanted, and the poor confused worker ends up catching it in the neck – leading to a downward spiral of motivation.
Okay, I know Scenario 2 is painting a deliberately bleak picture in the interests of dramatic effect. But this isn’t a million miles away from a reality that I have experienced, and I suspect that many others have too.
The Nelson Touch
This suggestion for taking the time bringing workers properly up to speed is nothing new. Horatio Nelson (1758-1805) called it “the Nelson Touch”. Contrary to the custom of the time, rather than direct a sea battle as it was occurring, through the use of signals, he would gather his captains together before the battle and tell them his plan. He would then allow them great leeway in how they carried out their individual orders.
So even after he was fatally wounded at the Battle of Trafalgar, his captains were able to continue to victory. The assessment of his leadership style (per Wikipedia) is that “Nelson was regarded as a highly effective leader, and someone who was able to sympathise with the needs of his men. He based his command on love rather than authority, inspiring both his superiors and his subordinates with his considerable courage, commitment and charisma.”
Who wouldn’t want a boss like that?!
So I hope you’ll take this to heart. If you’re a Mr/Ms Manager, amp up your Nelson Touch. If you’re a Mr/Ms Worker, try coaching your Mr/Ms Manager to do their job better. Ask for their time up-front, so you don’t need their time (aka interference and micromanagement!) later.
I’ll round off with quotes from a couple of Williams:
“Work is about more than making a living, as vital as that is. It’s fundamental to human dignity, to our sense of self-worth as useful, independent, free people.” — William J. Clinton
“You cannot build character and courage by taking away a man’s initiative and independence.” —William J. H. Boetcker
Please, tell me what you think! What are your experiences – good or bad? Who was the best boss you ever worked for? Why? I’d love to hear!