photo by The Comic Shop
I wrote a number of times in this blog about the fact that I believe managers should not dictate to their employees how to do their job, but concentrate on defining the desired outcome and let people find their own way to reach the desired outcome. In my E-book I write about the importance of processes, developing them and learning form other people’s processes. But that does not mean that as a manager you have to dictate the process to your employees. Most of the times, they will produce better results when left to develop the process themselves.
The last few days had me thinking about this concept again.
Though I believe this is the right way to bring about great results from people, it is important to recognize that it does not always work. Some people need and look for specific prescriptions on how to their job. Some people are not into empowerment, thinking and challenge. Or at least not in the workplace. Because people are different, even in this regard, we should be careful not to make generalizations as managers.
You must be asking “But, how can you know?” Well, the simple solution is to ask your employees. The problem is people will more often than not tell you that they want you to tell them what to do. The conventional wisdom that a manager needs to say to its employees how to do their work is already intertwined into peoples expectations. Just the same way people think that there is one best way to write a speech, give a presentation, use notes or get the audience attention, while there isn’t, people expect their manager to tell them how to their work. So as a manager you should ask them, but you should also use a little trial and error with a bias towards giving them just the desired outcome and see how it works out for them. Then ask them again.
Note that this does not mean that you should not offer support or advice. If they come and ask you for how you do things, tell them. They need your hear your advice. But don’t force them to use your advice (or get offended if they don’t).
The second problem is explaining the outcomes. I used to believe this is quite simple, but as time passes and with the experience I had in the last few weeks of working in a diversified (professionally and nationally) MBA team, I now understand that this is the real challenge for managers. This is part of the “curse of knowledge” described in the great book “made to stick”. Basically it means that we have problems explaining things because we already know them, which makes it hard for us to imagine how someone who does know what we know see it. So, articulating the outcome in simple and coherent way is the biggest challenge managers have. You usually have a picture of the outcome you want in your head. Your employees don’t. Bare that in mind while explaining the outcome.