Monday 1 April 2013

Be on time!...why don't we catch up instead

In this day and age of connectivity and progressed management thought and practices, we still display a great deal of outmoded behaviour. It is reflective of our inability to translate knowledge into perspectives and related informed action. Take for instance the phenomenal obsession of some managers to adhere to ideas of punctuality.  I use the example of time because it is a very common everyday issue; also most people will easily understand this and have an opinion bordering almost on controversy. I also want to use this to draw your attention to something far more fundamental but usually obscure. In a day and age when connectivity and flexible working hours for the knowledge worker is being talked about and practised in many industries, there are managers still mired in antiquated thought and practice. Unfortunately while we recognise certain areas and job roles where it is important to adhere to time, a number of managers are unable to grasp the applicability of it to different contexts, relying on a 'one size fits all and all the time' phenomenon.

The issue is further complicated by the fact that where we are dealing with mature people who understand the implications of time and duty and usually deliver responsibly on their deliverables, even very often staying late and travelling around on work on personal times etc. and who really do not have to be in office on time to complete their work, we not only de-motivate them when we make an issue out of it, we often also are implying they are not mature enough and may not have a justified reason for their actions. If you view this in light of the Pygmalion effect let me encourage you to think of the most likely kind of workforce we are helping to engender. 

The need in today’s environment is for managers to not only know what contexts they are dealing with but more importantly they need to build understanding and appreciation of the people they work with. This is one of the biggest challenges we are working with and hopefully the 21st century would draw us out of this manufacturing industry’s standardisation overhang, where business was conducted in an impersonal way both in the macro and micro contexts. Organisations around the world are suffering from this management’s inability to get out of patterns that they get caught in and management by personal bias (ego-centered management) is ruining the ability of people to become effective leaders. For we are neither creating the relationships that we need to really create trust and lead people nor are we able to understand the triggers and contexts that people come from, which is not only obviously very dear, real and live for them, but greatly relevant to the organisation as well (something we have so far ignored and washed our hand off from), especially if we want to develop employee loyalty and an engaged workforce.

I think managers would be better served if they saw their jobs as facilitating performance and engagement rather than as someone who is focused on controlling behaviour. This reminds me of a Marcus Buckingham book I read in my early management education days, "First break all the rules", which is a good read for some ideas on high performance managers.

Some of the key reasons why there is great reluctance from managers to translate new management practices into action are

1)  Legacy effect – the most obvious not only in terms of practices these managers have been following for years, but also because they were held to the same guidelines.
2)  Ego – This one is ‘if I come on time how come others don’t’. This is because most managers equate coming at a different time which is usually an accommodation to a luxury.
3) Hard pressed for time – most managers don’t have the time to build relationships, we cant fit in the time for the most important aspect of our work and lives; now that says something about time management of managers, doesn’t it?
4)  Lack of skills and perspective - most of the managers lack Intrapersonal skills required to engage their staff and build relationships and there are those who don’t even know why it is important.

And now for the most interesting one… Most managers live and come from their very own personal contexts and are uncompromising on what they value and find convenient. They like to feel good about themselves and what they are able to achieve, in other areas where they aren’t as good they usually use the same reasons of contextual factors for justification for accommodation. In fact they are just no different; the more people delve deeper into foundations of behaviour the more we begin to understand the importance of beliefs, biases, diversity and related profound implications and insight that holds for management, leadership, achievement in the context of the individual, the team, the organisation and society.

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