For generations, the job of managers was to give orders, see that they were followed, and hold people accountable if they didn't comply. Managers were paid to be in charge and to control what happened in their area - to guarantee that certain results happened. If they could deliver the goods expected by their management, they got nice bonuses and were eventually promoted.
by Ken Blanchard
Kenneth Hartley Blanchard (born May 6, 1939) is an American author and management expert. His book The One Minute Manager (co-authored with Spencer Johnson) has sold over 13 million copies and has been translated into 37 languages. He has coauthored over 30 other best-selling books, including Raving Fans: A Revolutionary Approach To Customer Service (1993), Leadership and the One Minute Manager: Increasing Effectiveness Through Situational Leadership (1985), Gung Ho! Turn On the People in Any Organization (1997), Whale Done! The Power of Positive Relationships (2002) and Leading at a Higher Level: Blanchard on Leadership and Creating High Performing Organizations (2006).
All that has changed. Today, the manager's main concern must be how to shape more supportive work environments and how to find ways to help each employee be more productive.
One reason for this shift is the changing demographics of today's workforce. The explosion of two-wage-earner families has taken a toll on family life, makin it more stressful for people to juggle the demands of home and work life. Having more non-traditional families with single parents has added to this stress.
Demographics also account for the increase of younger employees - the-post Baby Boomers - who are entering the work force in droves. These younger employees have very different work and life values that have been shaped in partial reaction to the values of their parents. While their parents became workaholics and slaves to their jobs and careers, today's younger workers are much more interested in a balanced lifestyle. They want jobs which they feel have meaning and a larger purpose than just getting a paycheck.
If these new needs and values are not reflected in the workplace, people are all too quick to leave to find another environment that is more in synch with who they are. This is true even in tough economic times because today's younger workers are also more willing to forego the trappings of material success and to make do with what they have. They may not jump ship the first time they are unfairly yelled at, but they may decide at that moment to leave and then wait until they line up a suitable (not necessarily better) alternative.
Three Primary Values
These new values are reflected in the recent National Study of the Changing Workforce conducted by the Families of Work Istitute in New York. The top three variables that some 3,400 randomly selected men and women considered to be most important in deciding to take their current job were: 1) open communication, 2) effect on personal and family life, and 3) the nature of work.
What do these changes mean for today's managers? The expectation is clear that today's employees want a more caring, supportive management style, and they are willing to forego other aspect of a job - including salary considerations - to get it. The manager that can make these new values a priority in his or her dealings with employees will be more likely to have more productive and satisfied workers now and in the long term.
1) Open communication. For starters, every manager needs to take the task of sharing information with all employees very seriously. Provide people with what you know, when you know it - especially when it is something that may affect their jobs. Information about company finances, new products, competitive practices, and pending changes in policies are all of interest to most employees. Involve employees in decisions that affect them - or better yet - whenever possible let them make the decisions themselves.
2) Effect on personal and family life. Today's manager need also to find new ways to allow for greater flexibility and autonomy in individual jobs to account for non-work needs. I'm always surprised, for example, how some managers can be so insistent that every one of their workers be on the job at exactly 8:30 a.m. and work a prescribed number of hours with any deviations requiring advance permission. Isn't it more important for your employees to be at 100 percent when they are there? For a working mother who has to contend with schedules of a day care provider, a little flexibility in working hours can go a long way in making life less of a hassle and assuring some piece of mind - and better focus - while she is at work.
3) The nature of work. Finally, giving meaning to work is a critical responsibility for every manager. Although you can't easily change what your company does as a business, you can have a big impact on the individual context of how every employee sees his or her job. Let employees know why what they do is important to your company and to providing value to your customers. Allow them the opportunities to develop skills that can make them more valuable employees.
Beyond setting a context, you need to constantly let your employees know that you appreciate their efforts in as many ways as possible. Everyone needs to feel valued and everyone wants to be recognized for the job they do. Taking a moment to thank an employee for a specific achievement demonstrates first, that you are aware of the achievement and second, that you feel the achievement (and the person) are important enough to take time to personally thank the individual.
As the architect Mies van der Rohe once said, "God is in the details." And details of managing today are increasingly moving toward finding ways to better help and support the people who are serving your customers and keeping you in business.
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