As some of your know, I’m teaching a workshop at General Assembly in Santa Monica. The image above is one of the slides from my presentation. I chose it because it sums up everything I believe about management (the quote is below for those who have images disabled). It lays out the direct link between how you treat your employees and the profit your business makes.
To some, that may sound as if I only care about treating employees well because of the effects on the bottom line. That’s absolutely correct. The only reason business enterprises exist is to achieve a goal. That goal is a profitable return for the stakeholders. Without a profit, there is no business. Without a business, the employees would be stuck trying to provide for their families.
Employees who believe that management is concerned about them as a whole person – not just an employee – are more productive, more satisfied, more fulfilled. Satisfied employees mean satisfied customers, which leads to profitability. – Anne M. Mulcahy
Some managers struggle with the concept of being concerned about their employees on a personal level. They worry that showing too much empathy will lead to their employees taking advantage of them. Requests for leniency will become greater each day and, eventually, their team will grind to a halt from lack of motivation, respect or efficiency.
Here’s the thing, this worry has less to do with showing too much empathy and far more to do with being unable to hold boundaries and to hold people accountable for their actions within those boundaries.
Let’s keep a couple of points in mind:
- As a manager, you always have a fiduciary responsibility to the company. This requires you to filter all your decisions through a “is this good for the company” analysis. This alone makes it nearly impossible to fall into the trap of not managing your teammates because you’re too close to them personally.
- You are not your employees’ friend. Even if you actually are their friend, within the boundaries of manager/employee roles, you are not. One of my best friends, Jerry, has worked for me twice. Each time, during the interview process, I stated, “Despite our personal relationship and the things I know are happening in your life, I may be required, for cause or not, to make a decision that may have a negative impact on your life. I’ll have to do it to fulfill my responsibility to the company. Hopefully, that never happens but, should it, I need to know if you can respect the boundaries of our professional and personal relationships and accept that?” Odd conversation for friends? Perhaps. It was the perfect conversation for establishing the rules of the road for how we can work together successfully.
- Human relationships have challenges. If you’re unable to hold a teammate accountable for their actions, you’re not doing your part in that relationship. Your job is to develop your team and there is no development that occurs in an environment free of limitations, accountability and consequences.
While it’s possible that someone may try to take advantage of your empathy, it’s ultimately up to you to allow it to happen. It’s also highly unlikely that most people would do this. It’s not in human nature to abuse those who care for us. The people who would try to take advantage of you were likely to try it whether you showed empathy for them or not.
Given that, by holding back, you’re only impacting the teammates who would not try to take advantage of you and would genuinely thrive in the environment you’re afraid to create.
As your team’s leader and a management professional, that’s the kind of profit-blocking fear your organization can’t afford.
Some Good Reads: Power and Change
We’ve all heard Lord Acton’s quote “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Well, now we have some research to help us understand why: Psychologists say that power does 4 crazy things to your mind.
The tricks our minds will play on us go beyond those that come from feeling powerful. This short piece from Seth Godin touches on the drama our minds can create around random numbers: The tyranny of random numbers. He has another piece that talks about change and the inevitability of decline for brands (or anything for that matter) in Things we don’t see that much any more.
Along those lines is the article from Fast Company on the new CEO of The Gap and how he’s using his new role to keep The Gap from being on the update to the “things we don’t see anymore” list. I like reading turn-around stories (or attempts). It’s in those moments where managers and leaders stumble by holding on to what’s dying or soar by taking a chance on a different direction. While Inside Gap’s Plan To Get Back into Your Drawers isn’t the final chapter on the iconic brand by any means, it’s a solid profile into the thinking of a CEO who is coming at the business from a decidedly different direction. Of note in this article is how the new CEO asks his direct reports what they need from him to be successful. The answer is to remove a barrier and that’s then what he tries to get done. This is right in line with the question I’ve started every one-on-one with since 1998: “what do you need from me to do your job more efficiently and effectively”?
Removing barriers to success is a manager’s core job.
Being a manager is a powerful role in many cases. It’s key that we never let that power keep us from being our best. It’s also important to use that power to identify opportunities to grow the business through process improvements and market niches. Invest your time in your team – as individuals – and finding ways to improve your processes and you’ll be two steps closer to success.