One Change Principals Might Make To Their Management Style

I’ve now surveyed 20,000+ employees in the marketing field, and there are some real gems in the findings about all kinds of things. I was struck recently by how one issue had surfaced repeatedly in many ways over many years, and it’s worth mentioning to you here.

The one thing you might do differently is to pursue a strategy of measured involvement. That means that when and how you’ll insert yourself at work is predictable.

Employees don’t care too much about less than normal involvement or more than normal involvement as much as they don’t like surprises. They like your input, usually, but they absolutely hate it when you swoop in at the last minute and put everything on a different path, whether that’s how a client problem is being solved or an employee situation is being handled or whatever.

This whiplash style is disrespectful because it doesn’t honor all the hard work that the team has invested. It doesn’t treat their time and effort as valuable. It’s dispiriting to be working hard on something, knowing that at any point you’ll bound into a room, clear the table by pushing everything on the floor, and then save the day, further reinforcing how central you see yourself in the problem-solving process.

The problem could very well be your systems. For example, maybe the client relationship manager isn’t getting all the information they should from clients. Or maybe they are getting it but not passing it along in an organized, written fashion. So fix that instead.

It could be that your people haven’t consistently demonstrated an ability to solve complex client issues. They been given multiple opportunities to succeed and some mentoring along the way, but for some reason it’s not sticking or you aren’t ready to give up on a few individuals.

Again, you’ve got to fix that instead. It is not a solution to be unpredictable in how you insert yourself. In the face of that uncertainty, even the best employees will begin to give less than their best.

Say someone’s teaching you how to shoot a gun for the first time. No matter how much you’ve been warned, you are shocked at the violent sound and kick that occurs a split second after you pull the trigger that first time. Because of that, the second time you pull that trigger, you know exactly what’s going to happen but you don’t know when it will. Your muscle memory can’t help you flag the exact spot that the trigger will cause the explosion, and so you are tentative. You pull it slowly, cringing and tightening up. You might even decide to lay the gun down and decline your shot.

That’s what your uncertain involvement feels like to employees. They know what happens when the trigger is pulled (when you swoop in under an explosion of energy to save the day), but they don’t know when it will happen, and so they hold back, cringe, and give up.

Here’s a suggestion. First, ask them how much insertion they really want. Second, aim to provide that as predictably as possible. Third, establish a signal that a trusted partner or key employee will flash to you when you’re violating your own promise to employees.

Your job is to take care of the team. Their job is to take care of clients!

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