Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Are Your Staff Subordinates or Collaborators?

I’m always interested to see and read about experiences of workplaces.  You can tell a lot about a business or organisation by the way that the owners treat their staff.

The traditional attitude has been “Me boss, you worker.  Me say, you do.”

Or similar. 

In the days when education standards and aspirations were lower, this may have worked.  In cases where workers carry out repetitive tasks involving little or no thought, it may still work.  However, if an organisation relies on “knowledge workers” (and more do), then treating them as numbers is the best way of ensuring that they’ll be looking for the next escape route that presents itself.

When people don't feel respected or valued, they will move and certainly won't be as motivated or productive as they could be.  You still need a “chain of command” - but how the “command” side works is different.

This means that people feel free to question things, to disagree, to propose their own solutions or to run with things with little supervision (on the understanding that they have to meet certain standards within a set deadline).  The people at the top can’t expect to be experts on everything and need to understand that they have to rely on and trust the knowledge and judgement of others who are closer to the process or product.  From personal experience, this doesn’t come easily (after all, no one can do it better than I can, can they?)

In the end, a business exists to make money.  How it does that is up to the business, but if the chances of making money  (or more money) are increased by adopting a different approach to leadership and management, isn’t it worth it?

Collaboration, not subordination, is the new winning play.  Leaders are not so much “bosses” as facilitators.  The most important question that a leader can ask is, “What can I do to help?”  Those who think that they must be seen to be in command to be respected do not understand what modern leadership is really about (and sadly, there are many of this type still around).

The Toyota company practices this art in a special way they call Kaizen. 

The “command and control” style works in a crisis when decisions have to be made, tasks allocated and things done fast.  In such circumstances, the difference between delay and action may be the continuity of the business itself.  This is where a good team and leader come into their own.  The trust that has been built up will show in the way they communicate, allocate, delegate and instigate.

I have spent more than half my life delivering change in different world markets from the most developed to “emerging” economies. With more than 20 years in international financial services around the world  running different operations and lending businesses, I started my own Consultancy to offer solutions for improving performance, productivity and risk management.  I work with individuals, small businesses, charities, quoted companies and academic institutions across the world. An international speaker, trainer, author and fund-raiser, I can be contacted by email . My website provides a full picture of my portfolio of services.  For strategic questions that you should be asking yourself, follow me at @wkm610.

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