“I HATE managing people!” was my client’s opening comment, before we greeted one another in our usual friendly manner.
“Great. Time to stop trying,” was my reply. My client gave me an uncharacteristically blank look. “People cannot be managed,” I said. He gave me another blank look.
After many years of observing and interacting with people, I reached the following conclusions:
The problem with people is that they create their own problems
People can only solve their own problems. You must let them!
You can lead people, but not manage them.
Leadership is the art of inspiring people to bring everything they are to everything they do. In my view, management is the science of making this easy for people.
Leadership is therefore about people and influence. Management is about systems and processes.
People who bring everything they are to everything they do rarely have problems they cannot solve. On the surface, less than desired performance occurs through lack of skill, willpower, circumstances beyond your control, or a combination of all three.
The underlying reason, however, for unsatisfactory performance is a lack of self-assurance. When you are self-assured, you have the will and can learn the skill. Self-assured people never bother about circumstances beyond their control.
Having heard all of the above, my client said: “So my real role is to be self-assured and to inspire others to be the same.” “Exactly,” I said. “So what are the characteristics of self-assurance?” my client asked.
Here are the thoughts that I shared with him. Self-assured people:
demonstrate confidence that rarely spills over into arrogance;
are committed to lifelong learning, and are willing to let go of favoured ways of doing things if new ones are more effective;
live their values;
make decisions that are often unpopular and follow these decisions through;
turn information into insight;
articulate insights with clarity and passion and inspire others;
fulfil responsibilities and deliver on promises;
accept responsibility for their own feelings, thoughts and actions;
never blame or shame others; and
continually improve themselves.
Systems and processes
If you can’t manage people, then what is it that you manage? You manage systems and processes.
The most important systems are:
Performance management (recruitment, induction, engagement, succession)
Finance (cash flow)
Delivering value (understanding what all stakeholders demand, desire and feel they deserve, and designing systems to deliver such value)
Innovation (the journey from information to insight to inspiration to idea to implementation)
Technology (the hardware and software that supports us in consistently performing our best)
The most important processes are:
Decision-making (the processes you follow to arrive at decisions and how decisions are communicated)
Appreciating people and holding them to account (the processes, techniques and tools you use to appreciate people when they do well and hold them to account when their performance is less than desired.)
Operating procedures (the standard policies, procedures, and practices) you must follow to remain efficient and effective.
The art of leadership must be supported by the science of management. When that happens, everyone in the organisation will be pulling together in the same direction.
The self-assured leader says what he means and means what he says. And he inspires his people to do the same, and to accept that their primary quest is to be the best one-of-a-kind beings they can be.
When the workplace culture is one where everyone is on such a quest, organisations will be the remarkable places they should be.
Stop trying to manage people. Lead people. Manage systems and processes. Execute it and you will find that your challenges and their underlying causes will disappear.