In our last couple of posts—Management vs. Leadership and the 3 “C’s” of Leadership we speak to the difficulty of management. While leadership can be riskier it is much harder to keep a person working on a goal and/or task that has no end in sight. Anyone who has worked in a production facility or food mission will know exactly what I mean. There is no end date in production; there is no end date in serving meals to the poor. Standing up on a park bench and rallying folks to “save the _____” is a heck of a lot more romantic. It has an emotional goal and often an immediate objective. No wonder everyone wants to be a leader and no one wants to be a manager. It is very hard to manage well.
We need more people who are willing to get up every day and produce the same product or service as yesterday at lower cost. For example—how do you get up each day as the manager of a mid-grade pet food facility and get folks fired up about maintaining mid-grade quality levels this year, and next, and all of the years to follow. Do this knowing you will have a reduced workforce and stiffer competition in the outyears. Ouch—the big boss says “250,000 bags this month, and I want 300,000 next month with 5 fewer people”. Now that is difficult and a very essential and important part of an economy. Good managers add value to people’s lives.
The following is a very brief glimpse of what it takes to motivate, maintain, and sustain your people to deliver a quality product and/or service every day, all day, with no end date in site. We can’t hardly do justice to the topic here so we encourage you to examine these issues further in the free eBook, Volunteering.
Build the Foundation First – Know that we must build the (management) foundation of any organization or team before we can expect sustainable and consistent delivery of products and/or services. Many organizations will try to do this through HR and IT via processes and policy. Not—it is up to you managers. You need to construct a healthy culture for long term success. How to do this? Why to do this? Well, the best way to ensure that specified products or services are delivered over the long term is to make work a healthy, caring, enjoyable, and safe (emotionally and physically) place to be. Start with these eight items.
- We must be honest with ourselves and others,
- We need to have empathy for our people,
- Loyalty to one another is a must,
- Choose to trust – give staff a reason to be trustworthy,
- Have integrity meaning practice what you preach,
- Have a clear ethical policy,
- Be compassionate to one another,
- Practice respect for others, respect yourself.
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Motivate and Sustain the Culture – Once we have accomplished the above, or at least set the tone it is time to practice management each and every day. How—well it’s all about the people – people, not the products. The products will take care of themselves through inputs, technical processes, and deliverable specifications. These are just “specs”. You deliver the specified product or service through the people—yes, the machines need to be maintained, HR and IT processes are necessary, but no long term success and specified quality will be maintained without a daily dose of these.
- Spend time with your people,
- Praise privately and publicly,
- Constantly speak to quality being a choice and personal,
- Never blame & Never gossip,
- Find solutions, don’t simply chat up problems,
- Explain why you / why we – do what we do, decide what we decide,
- Be a coach, be a teacher, at all times,
- Eat lots of food together,
- And be thankful, and be grateful for your people’s efforts.
Take Action – Good management is hard—very hard, in fact. And I believe it is much harder today than it was in the past. There are many distractions. The competition in all things is harsh, and getting harsher. Management equals motivation plus maintenance plus delivery all day and every day. Managing volunteer labor (see Volunteering) is even more difficult. There is no economic requirement, no “food on the table” driver. The driver must be purpose and enjoyment (or at least safe). Creating a self-sufficient, motivating, and sustainable organization is an absolute for long term organization survival. Managers must be vigilant in how they act, and with what they say. We must think of our peers, our bosses, and the management of our subordinates at all times, not just most of the time. Sustainability is fleeting. All staff needs a purpose beyond the paycheck to engage in long term success and product delivery. Folks need to know they are needed and that someone somewhere has gratitude for what they do each and every day. This said—facilitating other’s ability to have pride in what they do is quite rewarding and long-lasting—so go and actively manage – managers’ and enjoy your people’s pride and success.
About the author: Karl’s experiences span three decades. He recently retired as a chief strategy officer, after having managed some 40+ teams successfully implement the strategic plan of a 1500+ employee service sector organization. Many of the team’s work efforts had no end date in site. He is now a principal with Sunshine Valley Communications, www.sunshinevalley.org. He holds degrees in engineering and economics and is near completion of a second book on the management of highly competitive environments. He has provided strategic planning, project management and technical assistance to many organizations and communities. He lives in the US Missouri Ozarks and can be reached at kburgher@SunshineValley.org.
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