Creating A Workforce of Olympians
Edmund Morris found fame writing the biographies of Ronald Reagan and Thomas Edison. He even won the Pulitzer Prize for his biography of Theodore Roosevelt. Also, known by his publishers as a slow and methodical writer.
He would limit himself to writing 300 words or less per day. He felt that was the maximum of his talents, 300 perfect words. Writing to him was a slow and deliberate act
Most times work isn’t eight hours of straight activity. Sometimes it is research and long thought with a little burst of effort. This is how great solutions and insights are created.
This model doesn’t fit the modern office though. We pretend that workers must be producing 8 hours a day and looking busy to be effective. Logically. we all realize that production doesn’t work like that, knowledge work is not a factory job.
Management feels a natural pressure from above to keep people busy. The company must get the most for their money. Your metrics change when you enter a leadership role. The focus shifts to team execution and performance. Execution is easier to measure, but performance is a hard measurement to codify. The default measure then becomes the easiest, busyness.
Managers looks to make sure their team is engaged. At least looking busy when their boss’s boss or executives comes around. It is reminiscent of the old axiom that “if you have time to lean, you have time to clean.”
So as leaders, you feel the pressure to keep engagement high. Which leads to hovering and micromanagement. It forces the employee to hide their efforts and intentions. Instead, they create more effort in putting up false bravados.
The modern-day office and most systems are not designed for peak outcomes. They are designed for efficiency and control which goes counter as your role as a leader. Hence, why leadership is so important and figuring out how you get the best outcomes.
To simplify the leadership process, ask one question. How can I get the optimal performance from the people I lead? Which leads to the next question of what does that consist of? Hopefully during this introspective time, you conclude that inspiring optimal performance doesn’t come from looking over someone’s shoulder.
Each person you lead is different. You will have to find the right combination to each one. Then you unlock the understanding of what makes each person tick. The world is your oyster then where you then get to shape the environment that lifts them up.
A common goal for manages is to achieve the team’s maximum performance at work. As a leader typically you establish performance goals. Why, do you have special knowledge as to where the company needs to be over the employee?
Let’s take a timeout and reframe the office as if it were preparing your team for the Olympics. Most of Olympians’ efforts come from within, having their own level of self-efficacy. An Olympic coach doesn’t pick a random child and say you will be the next pole vaulter for the US Team. Then force them into years of training.
It is the other way around with Olympians. As a kid they have a dream to do something great. The coach is there to support and help them achieve that goal. Why isn’t that the mind set with managers and employees?
The role of the manager is to coach, push, and create the conditions to succeed. This means building the culture where people thrive. This cannot be a one-sided conversation in designing the culture and environment.
First focus on creating a mutual partnership. As a leader you need to open the door on company and its perspective. This consists of being transparent of conditions, good and bad. Each employee that will build the environment must understand where the company needs to go and how they can help.
Transparency opens the door to co-planning. The team understands how they can help and provide insight. It is the opposite model of receiving goals and having that be the organization’s limiting factor. Ideally, you want to turn goal development into a good discussion of how to help move the organization together.
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