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Productivity. Managers are expected to manage their staff for optimal productivity. In some industries that means staff leveling or sending hourly employees home if the workload is slow that day. In some industries that means constantly measuring the output against the costs – sometimes to the hour. And in some industries it means doing a quarterly analysis on profit and if the numbers are not on a positive upwards trend, it may mean a reduction if force is inevitable.

How did we get to such a model? In the early 1900s – the Industrialist Era, people were paid for their physical labor and measured against how fast they could produce. Shifts were twelve hours, labor laws were nearly non-existent and a handful of people became millionaires off the labors of thousands. With the advent of electricity and machinery by the mid-twentieth century much of the work was shifting to more process and systematic based work as opposed to hard labor. Tasks were repetitive in nature: data entry, machine operation, office work. Managers at this time managed process. As time went on there were many more “requirements” to each step in the process, some forced on workers by governmental oversight, some were industry standards and some of the mandates were company based. As long as workers followed the steps laid out by the manager, they were productive.

In the recent past much of what used to be processed based has either been computerized or out-sourced to the lowest-cost country. By 2005, 40 percent of employees were considered to be knowledge workers. That number jumps to 100 percent for mid-level managers and higher. The manager of today is being paid to think and motivate. Yet many management models are still based in the process era. Couple this with the work style difference among the generations and you may find that instead of a productive workforce, you have cynicism and frustration.

If you want to transform people’s performance, especially the worker of today who has seen what happens to people who give their life to a company and are laid off when their pay reaches a certain level, you have to understand them as knowledge workers: give them the tools they need to do the job, afford them opportunities to grow professionally have fun and give them lots of feedback. Encourage insight.

Four Steps to Encourage Insight:

1.) Create a No-Blame Environment. Your work culture should be a safe place – where people are not afraid to share what they are thinking and admit mistakes. If a mistake has been made, the goal is how to make it right and what process change needs to occur so as to not repeat the mistake again. Mistakes are blessings. Reward people for bringing them out in the open.

2.) Ask questions that make people reflect. Whether an error has been made or an achievement has been accomplished, ask these questions to teach employees how to grow their insight capabilities:
1) What did you do well and what did you discover about yourself as a result?
2) What are the highlights and what did you learn?
3) (If something went well) How can we do more of this?
4) What impact do you think this had on (specific) others?
5) What would you change and how?
6) What is your goal for this project? How will this tactic meet that goal?

3.) Listen. Listen for what is going on with the other person. Are they conflicted? Confused? Considerate? Focused? How can you help them see how their behavior is affecting the project? Affecting other people? When a co-worker is telling you what they are doing, listen to see how you can help and ask them, “How can I help you?” Listen to understand the problem from an outside perspective and then ask them to tell you the problem from another person’s perspective.

4.) Expect positive change and highlight it every time you see it occur. Give specific positive feedback. At your meetings and face to face encounters point out others accomplishments and thank them. Be specific in your praise. Saying, “You’re doing a good job” is not enough.

Leaders listen for potential. If you are not measuring and monitoring how people are growing professionally, you may easily get trapped in the maze of focusing on their problems and the problems with the project. The people around you will show positive change when you expect it from them. To help people develop insight and grow, encourage them to think less and reflect more. Start now!

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Mary Lee Gannon is a cultural turnaround and leadership expert who went from being a stay-at-home mother with four children to a difficult marriage, divorce, homelessness, and welfare to CEO. Her book “Starting Over – 25 Rules When You’ve Bottomed Out” is available on Amazon.com and details how she went from an earning capacity of $27,000 annually to president and CEO within just a few years. Visit her Web site at www.StartingOverNow.com