"The defining aspect of what we call 'civilization' is not art or architecture, fashion or furniture but how people with power deal with people without power." — Noah Ben Shea, poet and scholar
Richard Boyatzis, one of the founders of competency theory and a professor at Case Western Reserve University reports, "From my research I'm left with the impression that half of the managers in organizations are decreasing value, not adding value." One of the reasons for this serious performance gap is that too many managers believe that their place on the organization chart gives them power. They are in control. They are the boss. Their attitude seems to be, "I am really easy to get along with once you learn to do as I say."
Of course, a manager's position gives him or her rank. But authority and true power to lead can't be given or commanded. It can only be earned. As Margaret Thatcher, the former British Prime Minister once put it, "Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren't."
A big reason for the poor performance of so many teams and organizations is that they suffer from ineffective managers who subscribe to the old-fashioned model of the "tough, take-charge boss." Traditionally, such individuals often used command and control, bullying, intimidation, and "riding staff hard" to get the job done. Generations of managers yelled their way up the corporate ladder.
But the days of automatic deference to authority are long gone. We don't live in the world of might-is-right any more. Dictatorships are being replaced by democracies. Experts don't have as many answers as we once thought. We all have many more job or business options available to us. In today's workplace, a management style of pushing people around often pushes the highest performers right out the door.
During a workshop designed to identify moose-on-the-table issues (see page 102 of The Leader's Digest), a manager was surprised by the very clear and strong feedback he got from his organization that his management group was not behaving as a team. They contradicted each other, waged petty turf battles, and reinforced departmental silos. His response was like threatening to cut off an infected arm rather than then diagnosing and treating the cause of the infection. At their next management meeting, he read them the riot act. In a variation on the age-old bully boss tradition of firings-will-continue-until-morale-improves, he warned them, "If you don't behave as a team, I'll replace you with managers who will."
Unfortunately, such management mentality is not an isolated case. I once had a recently laid-off manager tell me about the horrible, soul-destroying organization he had just left. They had a 50 percent turnover rate and were struggling to stay afloat in the highly competitive automotive parts industry. He said that behind closed doors, one of the CEO's favorite comments about the organization's people was "use them up and throw them away."
The "tough, take-charge boss" has long been associated with the military. "Well," snarled the tough old sergeant to the bewildered private. "I suppose after you get discharged from the Army, you'll just be waiting for me to die so you can come and spit on my grave."
"Not me, Sarge!" the private replied. "Once I get out of the Army, I'm never going to stand in line again!"
Lack of compassion and understanding can adversely affect a company's turnover as we see in a message posted on www.busreslab.com. "I used to be the Public Relations Coordinator and Editor for a local nonprofit organization… my grandmother became very ill. After a phone call from a family member I was told to come to her bedside, as death was imminent. I told my boss that I needed to leave for a family emergency and explained the situation and how close I was to my grandmother. My boss replied, 'Well, she's not dead yet, so I don't have to grant your leave.' And, I was told to complete my workday. Suffice to say I did not finish my workday."