The concept of business management has come a long way since the days of the industrial revolution. With exponential change since WWII, management tools continue to evolve and perhaps have reached a new stage in this 21st Century. Here is what social ecologist and management expert, the late Peter Drucker, had to say;
“The most important and indeed truly unique contribution of management in the 20th Century was the fifty fold increase in the productivity of the manual worker and manufacturing. On this achievement rests the economic and social gains of the 20th Century. The most important contribution management needs to make in the 21st Century is similarly to increase the productivity of knowledge work and the knowledge worker. The most valuable assets of the 20th Century company were its production equipment. The most valuable asset of the 21st Century institution, whether business or non-business, will be its knowledge workers and their productivity.”(From “The 8th Habit”, by Dr. Steven Covey)
It is safe to say that as the role of Drucker’s “knowledge worker” evolves so too does the role of management into that of the” knowledge manager-leader”. The whole paradigm for the concept of business management is rapidly shifting into something much more than the post WWII production line and carrot & stick methodology.
Six important terms have become associated with management and leadership in the last decade but are often misused, interchangeably and get taken to have the same applications. Below are the Webster’s Dictionary definitions, can you identify the terms?
1. to cause to know something : to cause to know how : to accustom to some action or attitude : to impart the knowledge of : to instruct by precept, example, or experience: to make known and accepted: to conduct instruction regularly
2. to direct the growth of usually by bending, pruning, and tying : to form by instruction, discipline, or drill : to make fit, qualified, or proficient : to make prepared for a test of skill
3. to instruct, direct, or prompt : to train intensively (as by instruction and demonstration)
4. to urge acceptance or abandonment of an idea or course of action : to advocate earnestly : to deliver publicly
5. to handle or direct with a degree of skill : to treat with care : to exercise executive, administrative, and supervisory direction of : to work upon or try to alter for a purpose
6. to guide on a way especially by going in advance: to direct on a course or in a direction c : to serve as a channel for
7. to control, regulate, or keep in order : to make clean and put in order : to supervise the operation, execution, or administration of to prevent or detect violations of rules and regulations : to exercise such supervision over the policies and activities of
Interestingly this seventh definition is more often identified with the traditional role of the manager but is rapidly being supplanted by the combined effectiveness of the other six. That seventh definition is for the word, POLICE. Here are the other six key terms and some expanded ideas for their role and application in todays business management world.
1. TEACHER – teaching involves communicating the bigger picture the, “why we do things this way” and the strategies or intangible philosophy. Many employees in the 21st century want to grow, expand their knowledge and be challenged at work. Managers must know how to tailor that for each person on their direct team and general learning for all team members. The team asks many questions, there is interactive discussion.
2. TRAINER – training involves drilling a specific set of habits over and over until they are instinctive. That is not the same as teaching. There is limited “why” involved and is very specific and tangible. A triathlete drills in three specific areas; running, swimming and cycling to perfect timing and technique. Effective managers have simple training regimens for all core areas of their business. Everyone practices until it becomes instinctive habit. Good habits will take 30-45 days of daily repetition.
3. COACH – again, not the same as training or teaching. The effective coach use the S.O.S. (Show, Observe, Shape) model in some form. They demonstrate, watch and fine tune the mechanics of a variety of skills. There is some crossover into strategy, motivation and “whys”. Feedback is tailored to the individual or the entire team depending on the circumstance. A good coach knows when to push and when to pull. The coach asks more questions to gauge the teams understanding. If you are going to manage people, you will have to coach them at some point. Coaching can also involve channeling emotions of the moment. Enthusiasm, passion, frustration or victim mentality, they can all pop up quickly with people in any team environment. An effective coach has the ability to direct and redirect those emotions back into productive team action.
4. PREACHER – preaching often gets confused for the previous three. The manager gets on a soap box, rambles on about executing steps 1 through 5 and everyone gets back to work. No discussions. Then managers wonder why no one listens to them. Preaching has one sole purpose and that is to rally the emotions of the entire team, all at once. It’s the end of the huddle, getting the game face on or refocusing in a new direction. It can also serve as a reminder of the consequences of poor decision making, etc. Either way, it’s about directing emotion not process and can be effective in the correct environments. There are no back and forth questions as in coaching but rhetorical questions that are thought provoking can get an audience engaged, energized and inspired to action. That is what you want.
5. MANAGER – The text book definition implies guidance and that “care and feeding of the goose that lays the golden egg” mentality. It involves sincere involvement with the professional wellbeing of each team member. That does not mean getting tangled into personal drama, but helping the team keep the two separate. It’s skillfully guiding morale and career path as much as process and policy.
6. LEADER – leadership is inspiring the team to act, with consistency, with a purpose aligned amongst all members and the direction of the organization. Effective leaders know when to step to the front, navigate from within and step to the back of the team to let others take the wheel at the right times.
True, there are still many today, both employee and manager alike, who cling to the assembly line mentality of the post WWII era. They just want to do their job and go home. They don’t want to learn new skills; they are not interested in getting better. Some managers will still prefer process over people and limited interaction with their teams or dismiss it all as fluff or ‘feel good psychology’. The reality is, however, that in today’s world of geometric change, knowledge workers and a global economy, that thought process is becoming obsolete. Those refuse to adapt may suffer the effects of Socio-economic Darwinism…that which does not evolve, becomes extinct. The effective manager for the next decade will embrace all of these terms and become part leader, part mentor and knowledge resource for the team and the organization.