As a Business Associate with HDI, I am sent all over the globe to remote or busy places to deliver certification training or to consult with service desks. One of my most memorable trips was to a remote Canadian town to work with one of their ministries. My first trip to this group was in the beautiful autumn as the leaves were landing on the ground.
I spent several days with the team and their brand-new manager who had just started that position. He was in a very tough spot, and after hearing his team’s anxiety, I knew what he was talking about.
You see, the manager, let’s call him Larry, filled a position that previously belonged to a fellow who had a management style that was not conducive to building anything but his own self. He was a bully, made threats like, “If you don’t like it, there’s the door.” He micro managed, told the team what to do at every given moment and ultimately was a dictator. While that may or may not have worked any time before 1972, that archaic nonsense has no place in business today. As a result, the team was silent.
"Leaders who don't listen will be eventually surrounded by people who have nothing to say."—Andy Stanley
This team trusted no one, especially the new manager, Larry. They gave no opinions. They gave no feedback. They did what they were told and let the hamster wheel spin them around.
Don’t miss Deborah’s session on handling conflict at Service Management World.
When I came in to talk to them, they were terrified to tell me anything. I had to promise complete and utter silence in order to get the smallest detail about how they felt and what they thought about their jobs and how to improve the desk itself. The answers were pretty much, “I don’t know” or “Would it make any difference at all if I told you?” Cynicism had set in like concrete. Fear was in between like the rebar that strengthens it.
Larry, on the other hand, I found to be genuine, authentic, kind, open, and caring. But, he had no idea where to begin with this team who had been so abused and tormented for such a long time. He himself was frustrated and at a loss.
All I could do was wish him the best as I left for the airport at the end of the week. The team was not ready for me and for Larry. Or so I thought.
“The biggest concern for any organization should be when their most passionate people become quiet.”—Tim McClure
Three months later, my plane slid onto a frozen, isolated runway, as I returned to work with Larry’s team again. On Monday, I walked through the doors of the ministry. My “spidy” senses were on top alert; I was ready for the ashen faces, the empty eyes and sallow hearts I had encountered the months before. That is exactly what did not happen.
Instead, I heard and felt enthusiastic “Hellos,” smiles, and, most importantly, a heartbeat from all the service center employees. What the heck happened? It was like someone had gotten out a defibrillator; life had returned as robust and energetic as I have ever seen in my tenure of doing organizational behavioral work.
“Larry? What happened here? What did you do to bring everyone back to life?”
His answer blew me away and changed even me. Essentially Larry became a “Dream Manager.” After I left the first time, he met with each of his folks one on one. He gave them each a challenge after he talked about the organizational goals and expectations:
- What is one thing that you would like to accomplish personally this year and how can I support you in accomplishing that goal?
- If you could do anything other than what you are doing in this organization, what would it be and how can I give you an opportunity to do that? In other words, what do you want to learn?
Larry stepped into the role of an employee champion. His people had desires, and he was going to assist them in meeting those. He cared enough to go the extra mile with each as a human being. Individuals on his team had personal goals that Larry helped them to reach.
- One wanted to go to Disneyland with his family. Larry helped him budget and schedule the time off.
- Another wanted to lose 20 pounds. Larry went to a local gym and got a discounted membership and kept accountability so that individual felt cared for.
- Another wanted to stop smoking. Larry found out about programs and products.
- Another needed to buy a new car. Larry assisted in creating a budget and working with a local car dealer to secure a new vehicle.
The stretch goals? Larry was their intermediary with other departments. He created opportunities for them to shadow others in departments like networking, application development, security, and so forth. If they enjoyed it as much as thought, Larry helped to get them involved in a project in that particular team. It was not hard.
In the end, not one on his team wanted to leave. They had a voice, finally! They felt that Larry not only cared for them to succeed in the service desk and beyond, but also he assisted them to achieve their personal dreams. Larry was and is a Dream Manager.
I think we forget that we are working with human beings not human doings. We get wrapped up in the business and that is what we concentrate on. The challenge I set before you is to actually care for your people.
We forget that we are working with human beings not human doings.
If you are struggling with their compliance or their morale, that is not their fault. Let’s call a spade a spade, shall we?
People rarely leave organizations. They leave people. When they get quiet and shut down, it is because they do not have a safe place to speak out. That is on the manager:
- Look at your own attrition rate. Is it higher or lower than other departments or other IT departments in different organizations?
- If it is higher, talk to HR about the exit interviews. What reason did they give for leaving? Although, note that many people don’t tell the truth when they leave.
- Perhaps it is time to do a 360 assessment of your management style and get the feedback you need to make changes.
- Be the change you want to see. No excuses.
Remember leading people is not about you. It is about your team and their growth. Your success is made through their success.
And just in case, there is a book called The Dream Manager by Matthew Kelly. It’s worthwhile taking the two hours to read it. Those two hours are going to be the best investment you can make in yourself and your team that will have long-term changes and results.
Looking back now, don’t you wish that one of your past supervisors was a Dream Manager? I bet you do. Let’s fill the gap. Nature abhors a vacuum. Step into that space and fill the need. You got this! Your people and your manager will be happy you did.
Deborah Monroe is one of eighteen Master EQ practitioners in the world, through the Global EQ Community of 6 Seconds. She's also an associate with the Institute for Organizational Performance and an HDI business associate. Working with all levels of executive leadership, management, and individual contributors, Deborah concentrates on integrating humans and process to create a balanced working environment. Her aim is to build understanding and empathy, creating a positive bottom line through employee and customer retention.