Converting people to your style of management

Photo James Bowe

Paul Hebert just did a three post series on Zappos (1, 2, 3), its culture and invectives & recognition practices. It is insightful and interesting and his insights on the issues (as usual) are worth reading. However, I was deeply impressed with what he wrote in the first part of the series:

Most companies create a mission and values statement on what they “want” to be known for and then hire for positions and hope they can convert the new hires to the values prominently displayed in the visitor’s waiting area of the company. Zappos, on the other hand, created a mission/values statement based on what they “are” – and hired people to that standard.

This is not something new. I have written about hiring the right people and even about Zappos before. But when I read this, maybe because of the fact that lately I have been reading so much about how to create teams that innovate (for a research project I am working on), suddenly something in my mind lighted up.

I write a lot about best practices (even though I don’t like this term). How to manage and lead. How to facilitate teamwork. How to create purpose and help people reach flow. All well and good. But it all depends on having the right people. I am the first to admit that not every method, great as it will be, will work with every person. But it is more than that.

I am willing to admit that a lot of what I write about and think about will probably work with some kinds of people. With the right people, these approaches will lead to excellence and to outstanding performance on every conceivable aspect. Performance levels you will never be able to reach otherwise. But, and here is the point. If you try to use these approaches on the wrong people, it can go bad. Really bad.

Maybe the best management, as Hebert points out, is one that is able to find people who do not need to be “converted” but are already receptive to open, demanding and purpose driven management style.

Not all of us have a say on who works in our team, even as managers. I guess if you are a manager with a given team this could be very frustrating. And while I still believe that the way you will manage those people will make a lot of difference, you should always remember to find out who is standing in front of you and what his fit to your management style is. Conversions can happen, but they are rare.



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