Change What You Manage!

During the break in a training program with managers and executives, a manager asked me “Is there a simpler, more efficient way to lead and manage people? I have read dozens of books on leadership and management and they either they each tell me something different, or tell me so much that it would take me years to learn to do everything they say. I don’t have time to learn all that stuff and do my job at the same time, so I was hoping you might be able to provide some guidance.”

“I might be able to provide some guidance if you can tell me more about the types of issues and concerns with which you are dealing. Can you say something about what you are trying to accomplish that you have not been as successful or effective at as you would like?”

If you want people you rely on at work to be more reliable – change what you manage!

If you want people to give you complete and accurate work on time – change what you manage!

If you are tired of getting excuses instead of results from people – change what you manage!

I have been training practicing managers and executives in MBA and executive education programs for over 40 years. In that time, I have learned that the biggest factor in the difficulty they have in obtaining reliable quality work from others is that they are managing the wrong thing. They are trying to manage people and getting them to understand what they want.

Managing people appears to work with lots of people, but not all. And for those for whom it doesn’t work, we “talk to them” or “discuss the situation” with them hoping that if we can get them “clear on our expectations”, they will change their behavior and do what is expected.

They should, but they don’t.

Why not? Well, the typical answer I get from managers and executives is that it has something to do with the people involved: they are not committed, they are incompetent, they are difficult, they are argumentative, etc. So the only recourse is to become resigned that things won’t change and effectively give up, or try to change them.  There is, however, another way.

What I get told from managers and executives is that how they manage most people works, so the problem has to be with the ones with whom the way they manage doesn’t work. That is, the problem is “them”, the people who are not doing what is expected. Seems like a reasonable explanation, doesn’t it.

Unfortunately its wrong.

The failure of people to reliably to deliver complete and accurate work in a timely manner is telling you something and that something is that you are managing the wrong thing! I didn’t say you were not managing, just that you were managing the wrong thing and that if you change what you are managing, you will get more reliable performance from anyone with whom you work – regardless of your or their position.