New Managers: Watch Your Step

Recently, I was in conversation with a 25 year old freshly minted manager. The new manager was beaming with pride and excitement about his job with a company in the mid-Atlantic region.

When I asked him about the job and what he does, he said with all sincerity, “And now I have people under me. Now I give the orders. And they have to listen to me for a change.”

I nearly choked. Here was a fresh-faced young person, only out of college a few short years, who has already internalized the wrong image of what a manager does.

Look at the worn-out paradigm that is reflected in the words he uttered with such joy:

Under me – The old concept of manager is that of Boss where the starting point is fear. The manager has the power. And the manager distrusts people. As a result, he must control them, keep them down and under his thumb. With the workers “under” him, the Boss holds the power and “wields the stick” of authority to run the gang.

Give orders – In the old concept, managers decide what needs to be done and tell the workers to do it. The assumption is that the workers have checked their brains at the door. That they are just sitting around, and that they wouldn’t know what to do unless the manager told them.

Listen to me – Since it’s the managers that know all and decide all in the old concept, it follows then that they do most (if not all) of the talking. Why would a manager ever listen to the workers?

Mull that over for a few moments. What kind of organization flows from this concept of managing? If you want one that is top-down, fear-based, stressed out, and disengaged, be my guest. But don’t be surprised by the side-effects including weak performance, saggy productivity, and employee relations issues to keep your HR department running in circles.

A friend of mine asked me, Where do these mental models come from? Is it learned at home? In school? On the job? The answer is, It could be any or all of the above. Regardless of where the concepts came from, the challenge before us to to shift such thinking into a whole different mode.

What mode, you ask? Consider this instead. What if the young manager were to say: “And now I have a team to support. I get to develop and empower them. And I will be listening to their ideas every chance I get!”

Let’s break it down:

- Managers support their people

- Managers develop and empower their people

- Managers communicate with and listen to their people and their ideas

Do you notice the difference?

Former CEO of General Electric Jack Welch once said, “We have to undo a 100 year old concept and convince our managers that their job is not to control people and stay on top of things but rather to guide, energize, and excite.” Welch was ahead of his time.

Recently, India-based CEO Vineet Nayar asked, “What should the business of managers and management be? The answer to that question is to enthuse and encourage employees…..enhance employees first and customers second. Employees have the power to find innovative solutions to the problems we face. Employees are at the core of every game-changing idea.”

This, in a nutshell, is the New Management Paradigm. I like to call it Management 3.0. Embracing it is scary, I’ll grant. It will lead to very different organizations and outcomes, to be sure.

Posted by Terrence Seamon on Friday June 1, 2012

Comments

Alex said…
I have this personal belief: If you really want to know someone, you got to give him a little power (or at least make him believe he has it) and then you'll see what's really about. I think the young men in your story had either some unsolved issues or a bad role model. Great post!

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