Welcome back to our series of articles from our interview with Ed Parr, author of Natural Born Manager. In article 1, CAPITALIZE on the CURRENT CRI$I$, we addressed how you can simultaneously trim staff, increase production and find job fits for your best employees so that they’re more likely to stay with your firm when the economy rebounds. We talked about how to accomplish two possibly controversial goals:
If you want to keep your best employees, you’ve got to lose your worst leaders.
You leverage the talents of your best employees to get more from them, but in a cooperative sense, because they want to do more.
Article 2, below, tells how to get more from your employees, while cementing their ties to your firm even further:
Motivate With More than Just Money
Joe: You say a good leader can lead five managers. Let’s say I’m manager with five leaders and twenty-five total people. I want to identify my top 20%. I may or may not be able to document that in an official file because I may be accused of favoritism, but, as a manager, I know who works the best for me. What can I do as a manager so that those top 20% will stay (because of what I do as their manager, maybe not even because of the company.) What can I do so that our firm is almost ingrained in those top employees’ minds as “my company.”
Ed: I love that question because it gives me the chance to talk about the individual. It’s key here; but easily overlooked by most managers because we have a tendency as human beings to sort everyone into large boxes; for instance, he or she is a good manager / bad manager, is a good worker / bad worker. They’re uniquely individuals, so, as a manager you have to get to know your people.
Joe: Aren’t we taught as managers to separate our business and personal lives; aren’t we told “don’t get too close to your employees because things will blow up!”
Ed: I do agree with that to some extent; you have to be an objective leader; you can’t be too subjectively involved with your team. But, at the same time, there’s a fine balance to be achieved there. Let’s say that I’m working day in and day out with five managers; let’s forget about the people below them because I can’t necessarily solve that problem. If I try to go below them, I’m doing their job for them. I need to solve the problem with my direct reports. I need to make the two or three best managers better.
I’m trying to balance the issue between being too personal and being an informed, objective leader. I’ve got to interact with you day in and day out. You have to know what my ethics are; I have to know what your ethics are. I have to understand what’s going on in your life in general, for both work and family, to know basic details in order to manage you as a human being. For instance, if you’re going through a divorce, you’re a different manager than if you’re not going through a divorce.
Joe: Many managers are trying to be so politically correct that they avoid personal contact with employees, but if you ask someone who was their best manager, they’ll say it was someone “who took an interest in my life… we were friends,” or at least “we got along.” I think it’s OK to befriend your top people. Who would you follow better, someone who was your boss and your friend or someone who was just a very professional, more distant boss?
Ed: Exactly; I agree wholeheartedly.
Joe: So you’re suggesting that can we increase retention among top employees if we allow a degree of our personality to come out in our management style and give us an ability to know our employees?
Ed: Here’s how it works — if you’re reporting to me, I know who you are. I understand a little bit about your family; I understand a little bit about your spouse and your kids; I know something about your life.
Joe: I know that some human resources people’s hair is standing up on the back of their collar as they read this… some are very sensitive.
Ed: This is all informal; we’re just working day today. The good manager becomes intentional about opportunities that arise naturally to learn what can motivate their team members. Sometimes we go to lunch together, sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we have coffee together, or go to happy hour to celebrate a fellow employee’s birthday. We’re not interacting on a personal level every day, it’s just occasional. But each time we have this interaction, I make a concerted effort to find out more about you; I want to know who you are. Each time I’m with you, I’m trying to find out your behavioral drivers. What drives Joe? I have to understand who you are, what your cultural background is; what gives you positive emotions. Now, Mary’s a different animal. I need to do the same thing with Mary.
Joe: So there’s no such thing as a great arm’s length manager.
Ed: Right, a great manager cannot just sit back in the oval office. One of the key theses in the book is that a manager has to have an interpersonal aptitude. If you don’t like being with people, if you are what Johnson and O’Connor calls the subjective personality (you like to work alone, independently) then you should be in science, in computer engineering; something other than management. You don’t want to promote the outstanding research scientist who can work alone, independently, and get great results to chief scientist over all the other scientists if he can’t manage people.
Joe: If you did, you’d wind up with a result like the brilliant scientist played by Harrison Ford in the movie Extraordinary Measures whose thorny personality caused all sorts of problems.
Ed: Exactly; to be an excellent manager, you have to enjoy people. You have to be a person who likes to be part of a group, achieving an objective as a team. If I were recruiting managers, many of my questions would revolve around how interpersonal they were.
Joe: But even if your managers are interpersonal, they can’t just do all this on the fly. Do you have a tool you’re using? We need to draw back from informal to something a bit more objective, to calm the HR people who are reading this down a bit…
Ed: There are many tools in the book; most of what relates to this process in the book is the Behavior Accountability Model (BAM.) I cover that at some length in the book; but I’ll give you the high level:
The Behavior Accountability Model focuses on behaviors that drive certain results rather than focusing on certain mental states. SoI’m not necessarily concerned about your psyche, I’m concerned about what drives you to higher performance: What excites Joe? What makes Joe a joyful person, gets Joe motivated?
Joe: You mentioned that earlier… it’s a five step process, right?
Ed: That’s right, and it’s very effective. Managers can motivate employees to achieve exceptional results when they consistently use this model in the workplace. All they do is:
- Identify Strengths and Weaknesses
- Set Goals for Desired Results
- Create a Scorecard
- Monitor Progress
- Celebrate Wins
Joe: What does this look like in practice? How do you tie together those informal personal interactions we were just talking about into systematically setting and reaching team goals?
Ed: For example: Motivators for all of us are going to be driven through those things we enjoy. Let’s say I’m working with blue collar front line production workers. Bill likes to go fishing, talks about fishing 24/7. Freda loves golf; is a weekend golfer, plays all the time. So I’m going to say to the fisherman, “Bill, if you achieve certain production levels, I’m going to give you a fishing weekend, all paid.” You think he’s not going to be motivated? Here’s something I found out about Bill when we had a beer somewhere that’s going to give me outstanding results and retain him forever.
Joe: But with Freda, you get a set of golf clubs…
Ed: …or a trip to a great tournament or a Tiger Woods autograph, whatever the case may be. It’s you knowing those little things that identify him or her as a unique individual which makes them look at you and say, “this guy really cares.”
Joe: That beer gave your company a good ROI!
Ed: Money and time well spent at that beer party, for sure. Natural managers know that it’s valuable to know their people’s motivators. It’s back to your original question of what we can do in a down economy to make our best employees likely to stay with us even when the economy rebounds and others try to hire them away. We want to identify the behaviors that drive each employee to do more and enjoy more. Essentially, people are going to stay with work they enjoy. You cannot chase a person off, scare a person off, drive a person away who loves his work.
Joe: It makes sense—when you love your work, it colors your entire outlook.
Ed: I’ve had both situations. Sometimes I felt energized leaving for work because I looked forward to the job, but, for other jobs, I thought “oh my God, I have to go to this job; I hate this job.” If I love my job, I spring out of bed and am already solving problems in the shower because I love the work. If I don’t love the work, instead, in the shower or in the car, I’m worried about how to position myself… to survive. So if your employees are worried about how they’re going to position themselves to survive their job, they’re not happy and the first opportunity they get to leave, they’re going to take off..
To keep your employees—give them reinforcement: use what they’re looking for in life that gives them joy. Translate that into a work environment. Obviously, you can’t give them everything they enjoy in life because it’s just not practical in a work setting, but you can find those points of interest and joyfulness that they seek which you can turn into a reward.
That brings up a point I’m often asked, “Well, I can just pay them more money.” If that’s his or her driver, pay him or her more money. But some people are not driven by that.
Joe: And as you mentioned earlier (Editor’s note: see article 1,) the two work together: when you get your best employees into their best fit job, you leverage their talents so they do more, better work. Then their evaluations lead you to be able to logically pay them more.
Ed: I’ll say it again: it’s very basic human behavior—when you do something well, you want to do more of it.
Joe: We’ve been talking with Ed Parr, author of Natural Born Manager in the second of three articles from our interview with him. Ed, why did you write Natural Born Manager?
Ed: I wrote the book because of bad managers and the damage they do to society. Natural Born Manager is a “two-fer,” a two-for-one. The first 3 chapters discuss leadership transformation and the last 7 chapters are a management “How-To” with step-by-step best practices of management. The “two-fer” is that the same process to select great managers also works to select your best career fit.
Note: Watch for more about this in article 3 of this series: Fixing Management Can Fix More Than Your Bottom Line.
Network newsletter readers can reach Ed Parr for speaking engagements or consulting by email at NBMworld@peoplepc.com. Readers, for more info or to order the book, you can visit either www.EdParr.com or www.NBMworld.net.
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