I don’t know about you, but there have been more than a few times when I woke up in the middle of the night staring at the ceiling asking myself, “What’s wrong with me? Why can’t my teams work together? Why do my teams seem to be stuck in the mud?”
As leaders and managers, I’m guessing these are common questions for most of us from time to time. We want easy answers. Fast. We want simple 1-2-3 solutions.
No surprise: there are no easy answers!
Worse, if you read the business trade press and follow the top thought leaders, you’ll find different answers to the same question. Consider these two different approaches to the question, ‘How can I improve my workplace?’
Harvard Business Review (HBR) responds, “94% of issues in the workplace are systemic. Only 6% are attributable to individual-level, idiosyncratic factors. Improvements, therefore, should also focus on systems — not individuals.” In their analysis, HRB develops ideas similar to ‘systems thinking’.
Contrast HBR’s approach with this approach:
The McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) focuses on workplace improvement by recommending programs that leverage people AND operations. MGI writes about how People + Performance Winners (P+P Winners) create opportunities for their employees to build skills also while setting and clearing the highest bar for financial performance. MGI’s studies show firms that use this P+P approach, “achieve more consistent results and have greater earnings resilience, and they also have a superior ability to attract and retain talent.”
As a leader/manager, how should I think about these recommended solutions? HBR’s solution is really ambitious, but do I have enough time? Is it realistic? Do I have budget? MGI’s solution is complex and feels like too much ‘consulting’. How do I move forward?
I have a simpler suggestion. ‘Be a better boss and help your management team be better bosses.’ The suggestion has two parts. First, read the book, How to be a Great Boss!, by Wickman and Boer and the team at EOS Worldwide. EOS Worldwide implements and supports the Entrepreneurial Operating System® (EOS). All the EOS books are great reads, but the ‘…Boss book’ is my favorite because it works in all sizes of organizations and for senior executives and front-line supervisors. The key takeaways for me in the book were (1) that great bosses are both leaders and managers and (2) each dimension (leadership and management) has its own best practices.
- Give clear direction
- Provide the tools
- Delegate – let go
- Work inside the greater good
- Step back and think about the big picture
- Set clear expectations
- Execute good communication (up, down, and laterally)
- Have real meeting cadences
- Conduct quarterly alignment/feedback discussion with their team
- Reward and Recognize success
The second part of the suggestion is to ‘do the work’ and read the HBR and MGI content. I like the HBR and MGI content because it helps me see my team’s ‘future self’, what my team could be.
Including the right MGI and HBR messaging/content into your work with your team will take some thought, but the important ideas that you’ll want to consider include:
- Building employees’ skills pays off. MGI reports that skills learned on the job contribute 46 percent of the average person’s lifetime earnings. Companies that build human capital are more likely to propel their employees into higher earnings brackets over the course of a career.
- Firms that build up their employees are better at retaining talent, with attrition rates that are about 5 percentage points lower than their peers.
- The most successful firms challenge and empower their employees while fostering bottom-up innovation. They do this by activating human capital while creating tangible competitive advantage.
- Managers should be taught systems thinking. Thought leaders like Deming, in his book Out of the Crisis, help managers see their world differently.
- Organizational cultures are systems and, when run poorly, create critical workplace issues: leaders that failto management development within organizations, threats to employee mental health and well-being, and a lack of belonging and inclusion.
Being the boss is a big responsibility. The work is demanding but it promises great rewards – professional, intellectual, emotional, and financial. People are counting on us.
If your team needs help finding an Organizational Development consultant or Management Training SME, reach out to us. Elevation Talent Group meets a lot of terrific human capital professionals. We can help.
Finally, for some of us, being a manager has been our life’s work. Treat it that way and you’ll never regret the decision to be a better boss.