Note: This piece seems to have missed its posting. Its part of a series on Signs of Weak Management so please consider this as part of that series, just a little out of sequence.
All business is a people business to one extent or the other. Business effectiveness or dysfunction results in part from the strength of relationships across the enterprise, its customers and suppliers. Relationships matter more than process, finance or money. As one of my customers once told me, “People write checks, not systems.”
Weak managers base their relationships on the past and use that experience to brand people and put them into individual pigeon holes. They blackball people based on these associations in much the same way that Senator McCarthy became to symbolize the “red scare” of the 1950’s. In that environment, guilt was by association. The same holds true for companies with weak management.
Cliques, groups, being one of his/her people are among the symptoms of this type of management. Avoiding cross-functional teams, working only with your friends, those your are comfortable with, the ones you understand, or requiring people to be your friend are indications that you are weakening your management potential and power. Despite what you say publically, your actions tell everyone that you only want to work with people who like you or are like you.
The cost to the enterprise in terms of innovation, diversity of thinking, employee motivation, workforce engagement are well-documented elsewhere.
Management by McCarthyism is a personal trap. Weak managers need to recognize this tendency within themselves and remedy it on their own. The remedy is simple.
- Start taking people for who they are now, not what they have been. Past experience is important, but its not the only thing. Recognize people who have worked their way stupid by having the same experience year over year. Be open to the fact that people are different and that is ok.
- Value them for what they know, how its different and how they will compliment the work you are doing—even though they will complicate the process.
- Listen to what they say, remind yourself that there must be a nugget of wisdom there and its your job to find it. Think about what they know, their training, their position in the organization, the knowledge that they have. They are there for a reason, remind yourself of that and take it as a personal challenge to find that reason,
- Verbally recognize them, restate what you think the takeaway is and the action going forward. Show people who think differently that you are trying to understand and validate their contribution. Remember that validation is not necessarily agreement, but it goes a long way to building a functioning diverse team.
- Be aware of the zealot, the one whose opinion is different but cannot seem to accept the opinions of others. Chances are that they are McCarthy-ites as well. Give them a change to get along and be willing to remove them from the team when they demonstrate that they are not willing to consider alternatives.
Branding people for their past and only working with people who are like you is a sign of weak management that cannot stand diversity or debate. Recognize this potential weakness in the managers you work with and this potential in the way you manage.
Recognize that in this complex world, no one of us is as smart as all of us.