Leadership: Looking After Your Stuff

In order to get the best performance from a machine, it should be well looked after, used mostly for the purpose it was intended and not put in hazardous positions that may damage it. Because of natural wear and tear, machinery needs to be serviced at certain intervals and when necessary, repaired. This is stuff that you already know.

But this is not too different from a human being really. When you employ a person to do a job of work, there are some similar principles that apply. People have different skills and abilities and should ideally be matched up to a job for which they have the knowledge, capacity and skills. They should be taught the relevant skills, and understand what is required of them. When they make mistakes (as they will), they should be guided and assisted to eliminate such mistakes in the future. If they “break down” or get hurt, they will need attention and time to recuperate.

The similarity between a person and a machine ends around about there. A machine exists solely for the purpose of its work – or so we believe. A person does not live for their work alone. They have lives to lead outside of work. There are many functions that a person can perform without a machine. The reverse does not apply. Inevitably, machines get stuck unless there is a person to operate or redirect them. If companies just dealt with machinery they wouldn’t need managers – just technicians. But because technicians are people, managers are needed – but not just any manager. People need managers that can manage, provide guidance – and most important, lead.

Unlike a machine, you can’t just park a person in a garage or workshop for the night and expect them to fire up for work the next day. People have other needs – apart from their daily fuel (or food & drink). That makes people more troublesome than machines. When a machine breaks down, it may be expensive, but generally it can be fixed unless it has been smashed beyond repair. When a person breaks down, it can be a lot more complex. When machines break down, it’s always physical. When people break down it can be physical or mental or even both! If it’s physical, you can sometimes see it. When it’s a mental breakdown, often you cannot see it – and when you do find out, a lot of damage may already have happened. Sometimes when it’s physical, the mental damage happens anyway. Machines do not get damaged mentally – only physically.

The job of technicians is to build and maintain machines. For this the technicians require training, the right tools and materials, and a savvy manager.  The job of a manager is to employ the right people for the job, develop them so that they gain the right experience, and play a key role in making them feel validated and relevant so that they will motivate themselves and one another. A manager has limited motivational powers, but very strong acknowledging and validation powers that they can choose to use or not use. If managers use those powers, technicians will motivate themselves – and one another.

Every person is different. There are some folk that will do a great job whatever you ask them to do. That’s because they have a great attitude to life, no matter what happens. There are others that will moan, complain and disrupt no matter what opportunities have been handed them on a plate. So, if a person is not doing their job properly, it’s generally due to either lack of ability or an attitudinal problem. If the issue is lack of ability, then assuming you have the right person in the job, they need to be trained. If it’s attitude, then the manager needs to establish what is causing the problem. Is it work related or is it home related? Is it the manager, or is it just the person themselves. Either way, the problem needs to be unearthed and addressed. If it can be successfully addressed, there is no reason why that person will not become productive. The reason for this is that everyone wants to be seen to be doing a good job – but some require a bit more validation than others.

So, the long and short of it is that once you have the right people, it’s important to not only manage them attentively, but lead them insightfully. Let them do their work and take responsibility for their results – that’s what they were employed for. As a manager, your job is to manage people by creating the mental and the physical conditions for them to do great work.

Then you can regularly pat them on the back and say…Whale Done!

Paul du Toit & the Congruence Team www.congruence.co.za

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