The role of a manager has shifted. The days of being a “controller dictator” or “all-knowing genius” have gone the way of the dinosaur. The purpose of these articles is to help managers move out of denial into awareness and finally into competence by having new insights and developing those skills which are much more relevant for today’s knowledge economy and today’s Gen X and Gen Y employees.
I believe there are seven serious mistakes typical managers make when they work with their people. These mistakes all damage employee engagement. Improving employee engagement has become an important strategic initiative for most organizations because it leads to customer experience, which leads to improved loyalty, revenue and profit. This is the second article in the series.
Mistake #2: Believing you must have all the answers
According to a survey, Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends 2014, the top two challenges facing Human Resources are leadership development along with retention and engagement of talent. But I have a basic question: what do we really mean by talent? Is talent the ability to get things done? Is it leadership skills? Is it character? What is it?
Albert Einstein said the true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination. Our focus is on retention of knowledge. It needs to be on the ability to conceptualize, apply, analyze, synthesize, and evaluate information to create fresh solutions. I believe most HR experts think of talent as some kind of thumb drive we plug into the organization to obtain access to all the software inside.
My research (during the past 20 years in leadership consulting) tells me we have two enormous flaws in how we think about talent. These flaws prevent us from achieving the performance we are expecting and requiring in order to be competitive in the global economy. The first is how we define intelligence. The second is how we manage and lead people to continue to gain knowledge.
It seems more HR departments see talent as some kind of Jeopardy game where the winner is able to memorize all the correct answers and is therefore able to win all the money. We seem to honor most often those who can remember facts and make quick decisions based on those facts. We honor them with promotions and bonuses because they enable us to make the right decisions quickly. The truth is, this approach actually slows us down and eventually creates an ugly kind of dependency. It’s a kind of manager dependency and/or people dependency instead of a more fluid and flexible system dependency.
We need people who are network builders and connectors, not thumb drives. We need connectors, facilitators and multipliers of knowledge, not distributors of knowledge. We need people who can enable others to synthesize with each other to create new knowledge. This new knowledge is only accessible with cooperation and interaction between people. We must begin to think about talent as a creator of freedom, not a dictator of solutions. If we find talent that can connect people and encourage the interaction of intelligence between all the people, we will generate knowledge well beyond our expectations. Mistake #2 is when leaders think they must be the omniscient thumb drive.
This ability to conceptualize, apply, analyze, synthesize, and evaluate information to create fresh solutions is often referred to as critical thinking. What is sad is that 95–98% of young children just entering schools have critical thinking scores at genius levels. By the time those same students enter high school, only 5–10% have retained those levels. We are killing the critical thinking skills of our children with standardized testing and factory-like environments in our schools. We need teachers who are facilitators and connectors, not answer dispensers. We need the same in our organizations.
The second flaw is how we manage and lead people. Our assumptions are flawed. We think people need to be controlled, much like our children in school, with grades on performance appraisals and pay-for-performance control. Instead, we need leaders who are willing to ask the right questions and to enable employees to ask some of those same challenging questions. In that same Deloitte survey, only 8% believed their organization’s performance management process drove high levels of value. Our current thinking tends to cause us to use a flawed process to identify talent and then promote those who know the job rather than those who can facilitate new skills and uncover new ideas through imagination. This is dysfunctional at best.
Effective leaders facilitate discussions that encourage imagination and risk-taking. They also use tools that enable everyone to remember the knowledge already gained. Checklists are the tools that enable everyone to be a genius at remembering the right things to do in each situation. Checklists are a way to remember knowledge so we can forget about being manager-dependent (those who are talented at retaining knowledge). If we use checklists, we can instead focus on conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and evaluating and the imagination. We can then all participate in real intelligence.
Let’s agree to replace the omniscient thumb drives with checklists and start hiring the facilitators of learning and fresh ideas who optimize networks, connections, and the critical thinking of all employees. Employee engagement and results will soar.
Wally Hauck, PhD, CSP, helps leaders boost profit by unleashing the genius of every employee. He shows leaders how to get the best from their teams, with proven methods and by avoiding morale-busting mistakes, so they can achieve their strategic goals more quickly and with less waste.
For more than 20 years, Wally has worked with nearly 200 organizations, hundreds of leaders, and thousands of employees to optimize engagement and customer experience. Many have achieved significant transformational improvements.
Wally holds a doctorate in organizational leadership from Warren National University, a Master of Business Administration in finance from Iona College, and a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from the University of Pennsylvania. Wally is a Certified Speaking Professional or CSP. As a professor of Organizational Change and Development at the University of New Haven in Connecticut, Wally received the highest ratings of all professors in 2012.
Wally has been married to his lovely wife Lori for over 26 years. They have two daughters, one son, three grandchildren, two rescue dogs and a very dysfunctional cat. Wally has a passion for golf, family, politics, and good movies, not necessarily in that order.
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