Welcome back to the final installment in our series of articles from our interview with Ed Parr, author of Natural Born Manager. In article 2, “Motivate with More than Just Money,” we talked about both informal ways and management tools to help managers motivate those who report to them, to build even more company loyalty in your top performers.
In article 3, below, we discuss the good changes that result when your organization has natural born managers in place.
Fixing Management Can Fix More than Your Bottom Line
Joe: Earlier (in article 1) you said, “fixing management fixes everything.” How can you make such a sweeping claim?
Ed: I’ve gone into an organization and said, “Wow, what a problem we have here!” I’ve revamped the management structure and every tier below fixes itself. It can be done. Talk about high power… when you get those last tiers fixed, it just takes off. People ask, “Wow, how are you doing that?” I say, “I’m not doing it, these people love their work.”
The large amount of resistance is fascinating, when you go into an organization to do a transformation like that. People don’t like change and this is really significant change. When all the drama begins, you tell your good managers “don’t worry about it, it’s going to take care of itself, over time. Just be patient, continue, just stay the course.” What happens is, over time people realize they are not what I call a “vibrational match” (sort of a psychological match with their culture.) They realize “this is no fun,” and they leave. You don’t even have to force people out, they just go. They say “I don’t like this anymore; I’m getting out.” You may still have to send some away because they just don’t want to leave the security of the job, but most of them go on their own. They decide, “this is not fun anymore; this is not what I seek,’ particularly those who are predicted to drop.
Joe: Most of us can do with a few less of those anyway. That’s part of what we talked about (note: in article 1) when you said, “to keep your best employees, you’ve got to lose your worst leaders.” So what prompted you to write Natural Born Manager?
Ed: I had 22 managers in my career, but didn’t reach a person who was great at management until my 21st and 22nd managers. I canvassed many people and found their experiences were as bad as mine or worse. No one gave me a much better ratio, and some people younger than me have not had a good manager yet in their career. I decided to write the book because I saw such a dearth of good management. Good management is what we just talked about (note: see articles 1 and 2,) managers who get to know who you are, understand you, understand what motivates you and how to move you down your perfect job fit path.
Joe: So when you finally got to those last two managers, you had an awakening about what a difference a great manager makes. That made you ask, “Why are great managers so scarce that my ratio was only 2 out of 22?”
Ed: Exactly, I wanted to know “why so few?” I had been fortunate in that I had hired many wonderful managers, but puzzled when I contrasted that with my personal experience, managers over me weren’t as good as those I’d hired under me.
Joe: What comes to mind for me is the average person working out there. If there’s such a scarcity of natural born managers, perhaps 80-90% of people have never had a great manager. They don’t know what a great manager is.
Ed: Sad but true. Just think what it would do to every aspect of society if we could give every employee the experience of having a great manager: in social welfare, government, coffee shops, gas stations. All your experiences of life, even getting coffee and buying fuel for your car, would be leveraged so many times better.
Joe: Why aren’t we giving birth to more natural born managers?
Ed: Because we are not focused on occupational aptitudes; we aren’t measuring people’s aptitudes at an early age and then putting them on the track. People say that’s social engineering, but it’s not social engineering if we tell people what they’re good at and they love it. It would be social engineering only if we tell someone they should be doing a certain job that they’re not good at and they hate it.
This is true for all occupations, and management is the place to get the biggest bang for the buck. My motivation for writing Natural Born Manager was to fix management, because, if you fix management, you’ll fix everything else. Why? Because great managers look for people’s aptitudes—they love to put people in the right jobs. It’s a natural thing, so they’ll gravitate toward Johnson and O’Conner and measuring aptitudes.
Joe: Why would managers want to measure aptitudes?
Ed: It helps them put people into the right jobs. You find the best managers or best anything—butchers, bakers, candlestick makers—by identifying their aptitudes (their innate God-given talents and abilities.) Most of us have an inkling that we have innate talents, but don’t have it so crystalized that we know how to translate those talents into a career path. Fortunately, these can be measured.
Johnson and O’Connor started measuring aptitudes in the 1920’s for General Electric. In 1939, they founded the non-profit Johnson O’Conner Research Foundation (JOCRF) to measure aptitudes for all areas for career development purposes.
Every employee has aptitudes that best suit them for a specific job. My managers either have or don’t have aptitudes to be leaders. It’s perhaps more important to know if they don’t have aptitudes for their job so you can remove them from that function and put them in a function that they’re more suited to.
We should get our aptitudes tested early. They can be tested as early as 16. People get the same score at age 16 as at age 70. They don’t change over time with experience or education.
Joe: As Socrates said, “Know thyself.” How does this type test differ from Myers-Briggs or other instruments like MMPI, DISC, FFM, NPA, NEO PI-R, PSI, TIMS, KTS…
Ed: That’s a great question. Those are Personality Assessments for the most part. The personality you and I have different… each of us deals with people in a different way because of our own style and cultural background, the way our parents raised us, and our experiences. Those factors shape out personality.
The distinction in what the JOCRF tests measure is, if you and I have the same aptitudes, regardless of what personality we each have, we’ll approach problem solving—we’ll look at problems and solve them—in exactly the same way. Each vocation needs a different sort of inductive reasoning. That’s why you have aptitudes for each occupation. A baker needs to solve problems in a different way than a manager solves them. I may be a good manager, but I may not be a good research scientist… because the fields need different aptitudes.
JOCRF testing identifies aptitudes, each of which is key to success in a certain area. If people use their 3-5 core key aptitudes, they are happier, more fulfilled and more successful. They are more successful because of capitalism.
I have a competitive advantage when I work in the same field that matches my core key aptitudes and compete with those who don’t have the core key aptitudes that are key for that profession. I’ll do things more easily, learn more quickly, and perform tasks more efficiently. I’ll get more pats on the back, be considered a top performer, a go-to person in that field.
Joe: What types of changes do you see aptitude testing could make in today’s business world?
Ed: One of my greatest frustrations in my professional life is that managers compete so aggressively for their piece of the pie that it sometimes takes the joy out of the work. Why do they do that? Because most of them, nine out of ten, are not real managers, so they are struggling to maintain who they are and what they’ve got. Whereas if they were in the job that God built them to be, they wouldn’t be struggling; there’d be no fight.
On top of that, when a star employee comes up in the ranks, if there’s someone above that employee who is not as good as the star employee, they say “he’s too good; he’s a threat.” If the leader above the star had the natural aptitudes for their job, when that star employee came up, the leader would not see the star as a threat. They would support the star instead of beating him/her down, because the leader has what it takes to be that good. The star is no longer a threat to them.
Joe: So true; unnecessary competition can drive away good employees, rather than help us keep them.
Ed: How many great employees have said, “I just couldn’t get along with my manager because, for some reason, he thought I was a threat.” That sort of problem occurs in organizations every day because there’s a disconnect between employee’s aptitudes and the jobs they are currently doing.
My dream is for all the leaders to have the right aptitudes, producing a non-competitive, non political environment where nobody’s trying to vie for the next spot. Throughout my career, I’ve had to tell my manager, “I don’t want you’re job; all I want to do is my job and do it well. I want to make you look good.” Still, every manager who didn’t have the aptitudes for management was threatened by that. I still made my way, I’m not complaining, but just think how much better it would have been if my managers had said, “You’re great… go do it; have fun!”
I envision that someday the world will be built on a database that even the most obscure job… finding lithium in Afghanistan… has clear, specific, measurable aptitudes defined. So we can say this 16 year old kid is a great lithium miner; he’s the best in the world.
This can eliminate a lot of political infighting. You don’t need politics when people are joyful; there’s nothing to fight over. No one’s fighting over their piece of pie, because they’ve got theirs.
Joe: I’m excited about what you’re doing; your vision is inspiring.
Ed: I think we can change the world for the benefit of our grandchildren and all people involved if we can get this book out there. I believe it because I’ve done it in organizations. Why can’t we all be as naturally suited to our jobs as Tiger Woods? People like Babe Ruth, Michael Jordan, and Albert Einstein may have just happened into their jobs, but they had the aptitudes to be excellent in those jobs. We can all have that experience, every one of us. I strongly believe that, if we can test all our children, all our grandchildren, and get them on the path early in life, they’ll have a chance for joy in their jobs throughout their careers.
Note: Ed has managed as many as 1,000 employees deployed in multisite facilities with contracts as large as $30 million, and consulted with or managed for both large and small organizations, including Bank of America, E.D.S., JPMorgan Chase, Sprint Nextel Corp., PricewaterhouseCoopers, US Treasury Dept., and USAA.
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 Natural Born Manager, you can visit either www.EdParr.com or www.NBMworld.net.
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