Thursday, October 25, 2007

Leadership 5: Theory X, Theory Y

Leadership 5

"Know thyself" - Plato

According to an American Society for Training and Development study, job knowledge is the only thing that ranks higher than communication in determining good leadership. One of the most important ways a leader communicates to his or her group is by example and attitude, and attitude usually determines behavior.

What’s your general attitude toward your colleagues? Are you a Theory X leader or a Theory Y leader? Theory X and Theory Y are well-researched leadership principles. In a nutshell, Theory X states that people inherently dislike their jobs, see them as a necessary evil, are unmotivated, and must be externally controlled throughout the day by coercion, direction, or threat of punishment. Theory Y, on the other hand, states that work is natural and allows one to express oneself physically and creatively (i.e., work is ego-satisfying). Most managers have a mindset combining both of these theories, but, without a sophisticated psychological instrument, it might be difficult to determine the proportions of each. When motivating subordinates and leading by example, however, some degree of introspection and self-evaluation is helpful if we want to work smarter and more efficiently. Evaluation can get tricky because you can have a Theory Y person trapped in the body of a Theory X company. This is known as the “press of corporate culture” (which opens up the corporate culture can of worms-more on that in another post).

Let's try to evaluate our attitudes regarding Theory X and Theory Y management style:
1. In your leadership role, do you feel more like a policeman or a teacher?
2. Do you find some degree of meaning and value in your work? If yes, how much?
3. Do you think your team members or employees find meaning in their work? If so, how much?

Scenario One: You feel that you are more of a teacher/mentor who works with intrinsically motivated people who find value and meaning in their jobs.

Scenario Two: You’re stuck in a meaningless job with little value and act like a policeman all day to a bunch of Theory X employees. ("I’m telling ya doc, it’s them, not me!")

It’s okay if you responded that you feel like a cop in a valueless job, which, now that you mention it, is rather meaningless. It’s okay because you know where you stand. And knowledge is a good thing. However, if this is the case and you're not just experiencing a temporary bout of clinical depression, you're going to come off as quite INCONGRUENT, even hypocritical, when you give your next pep talk or motivational speech. Incongruence is the opposite of genuine. You will, of course, still be leading by example, but I fear it may not be the example you wish to set. Genuineness is a good thing; incongruence is not a good thing. You don’t want your employees saying, "That manager is like, soooo totally incongruent!" Though incongruent is the technical term, I’ve heard the condition stated in much more colorful language.

Now the goal of the game is to try to move your peg from Scenario Two to Scenario One. The reason behind this, in case several haven’t already flooded your neural pathways, is that the research is abundantly clear that Scenario One is...well, just better, as confirmed by a long list of payoffs such as health, happiness, progress, and success.

Step 1: Try (very hard if you have to) to find one little, perhaps even minuscule, sense of meaning or fulfillment in some aspect of your work. Most jobs are multifaceted, so it might not be so difficult to locate one or two meaningful aspects. Write down, in concrete terms, what it is exactly that makes this facet meaningful.

Step 2: Observe (or shall I say, actively look for) some sense of creative motivation in your team member. Catch them doing something good and tell them you noticed it, as this is excellent feedback and positive reinforcement. Don’t make the same mistake I have made on several occasions of thinking that a person can’t possibly find meaning in their particular job. I have been surprised-make that astounded-to find out how much meaning and value the person sitting across from me placed on their work.

Perceptions and changes my be small at first, but bit by bit, you’ll be progressing in the right direction. More importantly, you’ll be leading by a more genuine example. Way to go, dude!


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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Occupational Stress 4: New Job, New Role, New Stress

Occupational Stress 4

“A beginning is a time for taking the most delicate care that the balances are correct”
Frank Herbert, Dune

New on the job or working with a new hire? The greatest job strain at such a time comes from the occupational stress domain referred to as Role Ambiguity, or the new-kid-on-the-block syndrome. This will affect the newly hired, recently transferred, or just promoted employee, regardless of his or her level in the organization. Role Ambiguity consists of: uncertainty of job expectations, tasks, and priorities; how evaluations are conducted; and finally, how the new hire will get his or her needed training and supervision. I’ve heard countless Role Ambiguity horror stories, all the way from top-level management down to entry level specialists. Much of this stress can be avoided (or at least greatly reduced) with a little planning and a few action steps.
So, what to do? If you are in a supervisory position, schedule regular times for feedback sessions and structure these sessions so that you and your supervisee aren’t wasting time reviewing what you both already know. The new person may not even be sure of your expectations. Have a list of priorities ready and engage in a semi-structured discussion that includes issues such as goals and objectives; expected problems, procedures, protocols, expectations and the most appropriate actions steps to take. Early in the game, make sure that the new hire knows how he or she will be evaluated (i.e. by whom, and by what criteria). This is easier said than done. In today’s business environment of floating teams, interdepartmental contributors, diverse stake holders, and off-site projects, both hierarchy and priorities can be confusing. With the advent of three hundred and sixty-degree feedback, trying to figure out who is evaluating whom might be more difficult to tease out than a wookie on a bad hair day. This gets especially hairy (this wookie analogy is working out better than I thought!) if you have several managers across different departments using different criteria for their evaluations, some of which may apply only tangentially to your person. Make your goals and objectives clear so you don’t have someone else meeting their priorities on your dime. Does this sometimes happen? Believe it or not, yeah!
Remember, as a new supervisor you are also a new mentor. The mentor's attitude should reflect to a healthy degree some shared responsibility for his or her supervisee. Not only do you need to be available, but you need to arrange for the supervisee to get the outside training and counsel they need. Often when a new person stumbles or fails, it’s due to a lack of training. Mature managers can sometimes take for granted the resources he or she has in terms of connections and networks, all of which are inaccessible to the new guy. Additionally, the supervisee is usually unaware of the importance of your prior networking and connections.
Jack Walsh said that if two different people fail in the same job, change the job. In the case of a new hire replacing a failed employee, part of changing the position involves changing the context, orientation, and environment in which the new hire operates. These goals cannot be met unless it is your intention to improve upon what is no longer working.
Role Ambiguity is a well-researched domain of occupational stress (I’ve done some this research myself). It’s real, and costly if not attended to. It helps to be aware that the cost of replacing an employee equals approximately twenty-five percent of their salary. The best way to address Role Ambiguity is quickly and aggressively. Remember, poor performance and rapid departmental turnover doesn’t make anyone look good.


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Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Change Management 3: The Change Facilitator Leader

Organizational Change Management
“There are three types of people in this world, those who can count and those who cannot.”
If you’re in management long enough, you will eventually experience a significant change in your company. This is usually followed by an intense and often quite justified sense of betrayal by those most affected.
You may overhear the employees bemoan, “I can’t believe they’re doing this to us!” This is the time the leader has to become more than just the one giving orders. If this is your situation, you have to become a CFL (Change Facilitator Leader). Just having this attitude alone will give you a leg up on the other managers.
Naturally, you will want to pay special attention to the groups most affected by the change. Though that may seem obvious, it’s amazing how little it is done. Attention can be in the form of focus groups, brainstorming, or process sessions. Depending on the nature of the change, this could take several meetings. Do not underestimate the importance of these meetings, for several reasons: First, it allows the individual members of the group to feel less isolated. Second, you’ll be able to clarify exactly what the change is, who will be affected, and how the change will affect them, thus removing the negative influences of the rumor mill (which, as you probably know, will have filled in the details that you have not yet addressed). Finally, and most importantly, it will allow you to assess the individuals of your group in terms of Fast Movers, Slow Movers and No Movers. As the names suggest, the Fast Movers are already starting to come around, strategize, plan, and act. The Slow Movers are beginning to mobilize, or at least have come up with good questions and legitimate concerns to discuss. The No Movers are-well, not moving.
Step one: Forget about the Slow Movers and No Movers, at least initially. Your biggest priority is to focus on the Fast Movers. Get them on board ASAP by including them in the change process at all levels. Include them in meetings, delegate leadership roles to them, give them as much responsibility as they can handle, and have them report to you individually (or better, in teams) as much as is reasonable.
Step two: Now start converting the Slow Movers, either individually or in groups, playing subordinate roles to the key Fast Movers. This slow, methodical conversion is crucially important. In both physical systems (phase transitions) and social systems (tipping points), once a critical mass is reached, the whole system converts. For example, in physical systems, when one percent of normal disorderly light waves become orderly, this one percent converts the whole light system into a laser beam. This is you want from your group, isn’t it? A conversion from disorder to laser-like orderliness.
The quicker you get the Fast Movers off the dime, the sooner the whole process will become positively directed. Don’t make the rookie mistake of spending all your time dealing with the No Movers. That’s like explaining to the caboose where the train should go. Go directly to the engine, the Fast Movers. You will have facilitated and structured the change instead of ordering it; thus, you will gain more buy-in from everyone affected. The No Movers will eventually realize that, as they say in Texas, “It’s easier to ride a horse if you’re facing the direction the horse is moving in.”


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