Shifting from “Command and Control” to Self-Empowerment
Over the years of consulting, training and coaching, the complaints I hear the most from leaders, managers and business people involve the difficulty they have motivating and communicating with their team members. They are unable to understand why their team members are “not motivated.” They can’t get their team members to work together… and there’s always those “difficult, problem people” who just don’t “get it.”
Though they mean well, what many of these leaders, managers and business people fail to understand is that not all people share the same motivational drives.
Different “Strokes” for Different “Folks”
As a leader, I know what motivates me; what I’m passionate about and the tendency is to think that the members of my team will be motivated by the same thing. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The people who share my motivational drive or interests may do well; and we may even think of them as our “stars.” But are they really? Are we unknowingly ignoring a “goldmine” of “untapped talent” by not understanding what motivational drives lie dormant within the remaining members of the team? To be an effective team leader, manager or coach, the leader or manager needs to understand what motivates the individual members of the team. It could be any number of varying motivators, such as: achievement, balance, autonomy, job security, power or interpersonal relationships.
What employees need most from their managers is for the managers to experience a genuine “shift” from the old “command and control” mindset to a “self-empowerment” mindset. (Please be aware that I am referring to highly competent employees who can do their jobs independently, and not “poor performers” or that need developmental plans/coaching, etc.)
“Walk the Talk”
All too often my experience has shown that managers attempt to adapt “new” management theories/behaviors to an old, existing “command and control” mindset, but fail to go deep enough and make the true, paradigm shift needed to actually change to the “self-empowerment” mindset – they “talk the talk, but don’t walk the walk.” They want the people to change, or “conform” to their specifications. However, they don’t want to change themselves.
How this plays out is that the managers “say” one thing and “do” another. For example, they will say that they are open to feedback, but will not consider any that does not fit their own ideas of themselves, and then rationalize their own behavior. Another example might be where the feedback that is provided to employees is based on subjective perception as opposed to objective behavioral observation. This plays out where the manager “imposes supervision” unnecessarily, i.e., by nit-picking the employees’ work needlessly or acts as a bottleneck by delaying projects under the “guise” of needing numerous “approvals.”
These kinds of behaviors are typically deeply rooted in the culture of the organization and are not easily changed at the core levels... but at the highest levels of leadership. Training programs are good; however, if the principles are not supported and demonstrated at the highest levels of leadership in the organization, it’s typically an expensive “initiative” in which the result is another “flavor of the month” experience. In the end this might be a great “experience,” for the employees, but it doesn’t do anything to change the culture. Employees come out of the training excited about trying all these new “things” and then become disillusioned because they feel as if they are unable to implement what they’ve learned. The common conversation is, “This is great but it won’t work here because…” (Fill in the blank here with whatever excuse is employed by the organization, which makes it unique).
The Double-Edge Sword
In an environment where budgets are tight, managers have to do more with less and are constantly under the stress of worrying when the next “wave” of “cuts” is going to “hit.” Also, a big part of the issue might be that managers are more concerned about “saving” their own jobs than meeting the needs of their employees. The backlash is to resort back to the “command and control” behaviors. Unfortunately, it’s a double-edged sword because the “good” managers who employ “self-empowering” behaviors are the ones that are more likely to survive and thrive in this kind of environment. Through their own “self-empowerment,” they will be the first ones to seek opportunities elsewhere, leaving the organization “stuck” in outdated thinking, processes and systems.