It Ain’t That Hard

When I was in the 6th grade our teacher conducted an experiment by mixing several chemicals to create a unique odor. I don’t recall any details of the experiment or the particular odor. What I do recall was my thought process as the test tube was being passed around the class. The tube was being held by a clamp and as it was passed from one classmate to another, I was processing whether I had to just grab the clamp and hold it or squeeze the clamp to keep the tube secure. Before it reached me, I had made the decision that squeezing the clamp was the proper way to hold the tube in place. When I squeezed the clamp, the tube was released and crashed to the floor, shattering upon impact. The odor was bearable when it was isolated in the small space of the tube, but once released into the atmosphere of the classroom it became intrusive and we had to evacuate the room. My mistake was taking something that was pretty simple and easy and making it complicated that resulted in an outcome no one anticipated and had no positive impact.

As I speak with friends, family members, business colleagues and employees of clients about their work environment, I am reminded of that embarrassing moment as a kid. To make my point, one has to understand my perspective on management, leadership and my portrait of the proper work environment.

A manager’s responsibility is to be an advocate for each employee’s success and to provide all the tools, resources and support to help each employee become successful. A manager’s role is NOT to make sure employees are “doing their job”. If that is the case, management training is needed or the employee’s career needs to be freed.

A leader’s responsibility is simply to provide a positive, inspiring and motivating example and to communicate the vision and focus within the leader’s area of responsibility. A leader generally has the ability to impact change, but the leader does not have to be the owner, or the CEO, or the manager, or even the supervisor. EVERY employee can be a leader.

With these two perspectives in mind, my portrait of the work environment is where EVERY employee comes to work every day with two goals…to work to the best of their ability to be successful at their job and to help their teammates be successful at their job. In my business utopia managers and supervisors clearly communicate the expectations of the job. Managers and supervisors provide regular feedback on performance versus expectations and then positively redirect or refocus the employee to meet the expectations. Employees are highly engaged and pursue their full PIPability—Peak Individual Performance.

In my conversations with the groups I mentioned above, I hear over and over the most common dynamics that take an easy process (in my opinion) and make it difficult.

Company executives, managers and supervisors:
• With personal agendas for personal gain that are not necessarily aligned with the organization mission or vision.
• Who leave employees unsure of exactly what the company expects of them.
• Who spend most their time trying not to get blamed for things that go wrong or trying to take credit for things that go right.
• Who don’t treat their employees with respect, kindness and courtesy and it destroys morale.
• Who lack the ability and/or desire to hold others accountable for meeting expectations, which impacts the morale of the other employees.
• Who think all their employees are out to get them and have little to no trust.
• Who are just incompetent.

How depressing and unhealthy! Sadly, these elements exist in the work environments of too many companies. I hear all too often “I hate going to work”. It DOES NOT have to be this way.

It has been my pleasure to have managed several high performing teams over the years. I just never found it that complicated or difficult. Maybe I learned my lesson back in the 6th grade.

To your success,

Richard Davis, SHRM-SCP, SPHR
McClain Group, LLC
Twitter: @PIPability


2 responses

  1. Great article, well written. As a semi-retired manager and now leader, each of your points resonates with me. Creating a positive environment is so important for a manager. I believe celebrating success and affirming positive behavior is also under executed. I’m not into celebrating “breathing”, but affirming someone for an extra effort is often overlooked. This simple catching someone doing something right can catapult someone’s perspective from job doer to world changer and difference maker. In a world that seems to be breaking everyone down, a little positive encouragement will go a long way! Thanks again for writing the blog!

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