Sunday, August 14, 2011

Isn't It Obvious?

In this blog, I'm probably stating the obvious quite a few times. I've had that experience reading other business articles and books. This week, I saw an article featured in Harvard Business Review that great leaders treat employees like adults. Hmmm, is this where I quote the inimitable Homer Simpson's "Doh!"?

I also recently did a flashback by watching the movie "To Sir, With Love" with Sidney Poitier. If you're too young to know about the movie, here's a quick synopsis: Sidney plays a young engineer trying to get an job in his field and takes the teaching job as fill-in employment. The school is in a poor part of London and the teenagers, seniors in high school in this case, are unruly. He struggles until he finds his breakthrough--stop treating them like kids and treat them like the adults they will need to be in a few weeks when they have to survive in the real world. He sets the expectations with regard to respect, dignity, honesty and accepting responsibility. They start to meet those expectations of his, and they start to expect it of each other too. The class is magically transformed.

So why haven't business leaders figured this out a long time ago? I know it's hard sometimes when you see silly mistakes being made, or simple misunderstandings get blown out of proportion. It's tempting for some of the bosses I've had to make the decisions for people with regard to benefits, work hours, the mix of higher wages now or more profit-sharing tucked away for retirement, certain policy restrictions so that people don't have to make decisions, etc. I've also see bosses get tempted to not share information with the troops because "they can't handle it and it'll just start false rumors." They also limit employees to using only the skills that the company has bestowed on them rather than exploring what other talents people can bring to and use in their organizations. In those cases, I've seen the bosses get very paternalistic treating them like kids, even "senior" employees nearing retirement and with more years of experience than some of the bosses.

Pretty egotistical on the bosses' parts, and pretty short-sighted...
...for obvious reasons.

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