Are your employees objects or team members?
First, I need to say that I haven’t forgotten my interest in a “mini-series” of blogs sharing with you the influencers of the past 30 years that have shaped the work we are doing at PGS. If you missed my last post on Quality, Deming and Juran, you can find it here. And you can watch for upcoming posts on Adizes, Norton and Kaplan, Porter and others. But the last couple days have found me doing some research for our September newsletter, and I felt compelled to share what I was finding.
The research was about the value that employees place upon two-way communication within their organization. I had come to the certainty that this was vital some 30 years ago and was wanting to see what the pundits were saying currently.
As I was researching on the web, I became annoyed. Annoyed for the same (but also different) reasons that I could never stomach sociology courses in college. Basically, it is because the researcher, it seems, is always striving to make some startling certainty about the true nature of human beings in general, and my very core resists such generalities, holding that we are all unique, and generalities are of no utility.
But, what is more disturbing is that the research seems to view employees as objects. It studies them much like lab rats, i.e. what can we do to them to get the most out of them, what motivates them, what buttons do we need to push. I found myself getting rather annoyed at the attitude behind the research.
What this all reflects, in my opinion, is that our culture wants to create and idolize the so-called effective leader. Use whatever leadership model you want, George Patton, The Servant Leader, etc. The paradigm is that we can’t get there without the strong influence of the leader.
I don’t necessarily dispute this, but it goes against my own experience over far too many years, which teaches me that employees are capable of self-management and design/improvement of the processes they work within. Though this is not necessarily true of every individual employee, it has proven true of all well-constituted employee groups.
The literature that enlightens leaders on what motivates their troops and that recommends techniques to get the most out of them grates on me. It’s the underlying attitude or value that seems to get under my skin.
Now, having said all this (we all need catharsis), I want to acknowledge the need for leadership. There is need for someone to take responsibility to set a strategy or course to the future that will enable employees to succeed. There is someone who needs to make the workplace free from political, regulatory, legal, competitive risk. That person, the leader, needs to be courageous and is invaluable. But, having defined that framework, my experience tells me that much more faith needs to be placed in the troops to execute, improve, succeed.
What’s been your experience? Send me an e-mail. I would love to hear from you.