Either Corporate America is not ready for modern management techniques, or it is me and everyone that I speak with or explain modern techniques to dislike me and consider my advice unwanted.
I am an avid reader and leaner and read/listen to a lot of books. This is advice that I was given a long time ago when I first started on my management career. I like to listen to books as often as I can, during my commute, during my walks and during lunch.Many of the books that I have read have significant impact on my ideas and my design for my workplace. I have learned to manage employees that are difficult to communicate with, I have learned how to encourage the most effective work from your team, I have learned how to deal with conflict, help team members work through their own conflicts, how to build effective teams of people who are self motivated, how to find the right candidate for your team, how to let the team make decisions on their own and mostly how to be a flexible leader.
I firmly believe that the best leader is a flexible leader. There are times when a leader needs to back away and let the team make their own decisions. At other times, the leader needs to help facilitate decision making. At yet other times, a leader needs to make a decision and pass it on to their team despite negative feedback from his or her employees. All of this is part of being a leader. It is not a simple task of supervising employees.
So as part of my daily interaction at my job and elsewhere, I have had discussions and provided feedback/advice or answered questions on certain aspects of leadership. Here are what I consider to be some of the most controversial answers from my audiences’ perspective. I still consider all of them to be sound because i have thought through the outcomes of each.
I like to be a benevolent dictator. I strongly feel that a team, no matter new or inherited, need a strong rudder and a strong set of goals that they have to reach towards. I have led multiple agile (and Agile) teams successfully and have always had great success with making sure that the team has some catalyst to form and rally around. Without strong goal setting and leadership direction, the teams seem to form around prevailing norms and attitudes which are difficult habits to break once the teams are mature. I like to make sure that my team has enough information from me to know what and how I would make the most critical decisions and then let them learn how to come to those conclusions themselves by allowing them the opportunities to fail and then learn where the differences lie and make the right choice going forward. This seems to concern the leaders who are Agile focused and want the teams to have a scrum master and no reporting structure. Agile thinks that team running is an organic activity and cannot be enforced through an HR reporting structure. Agile success is dependent on storming and forming with equal voice for all on the team. I often find it hard to explain why certain decisions are not team decisions and why others are and have difference of opinion with those managers who say that almost all decisions lie with the team.
One of my most controversial opinions, one that has gotten me into (and out of) a lot of situations is that I believe a manager should focus on the highest performers and let the weak performers alone. If the team is focused on their own initiative and the support and attention of the manager is sought by the team, the better performers will produce more work than you could ever get out of the weaker ones if you focused on them. It is also my belief that if you leave the weak performers alone, one of two good things will happen. The poor performers will realize that they are not getting your attention because they are not doing a good enough job and they will try harder to get back into your good graces. The other good thing that might happen is that the poor performer realizes that they are not fit for the position within this team and move on somewhere else. This answer confounds managers and executives and they seem to get immediately concerned that I am going to make things worse. They get worries that poor performers are not going to be dealt with and performance will fall across the team as people are not held accountable for their delivery.
The other controversial opinion that I have is that you can never say enough good things about people. I believe that praise and thanks do not come naturally to us and criticism does. So we should praise as much as possible and thank as often as possible for good work and accomplishments. I believe that we criticize without knowing what we are doing and cannot avoid that in our daily work lives. So they should balance themselves out with the praises being a higher count.
I have been snubbed so often on these and others that I am worried about me. I am convinced that my opinions are not wrong and are sound from a corporate perspective. So th eonly two conclusions that I can come up with are that either middle Corporate America is not ready for modern management or there is something wrong with me.