You know? There are a lot of management theories and guidebooks out there. Theory X, Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs. The five levels (good book, by the way). I don’t subscribe to any of the more-than-dozen I’ve studied. As with most things, they have enough truth to be valuable, but not enough to be reliable. There are some basic ideas which I use when leading people.
First, even when I owned the business and employed several consultants, I have always relied on influence rather than authority to move the people with whom I work. I get far more results per effort-hour from motivated (and especially from inspired) employees than I would from two people working because they fear for their position. I begin by building a one-on-one relationship with each one where I understand the levers which motivate them. In other words, I find out what they want, then explain to them how what I need from them will move them toward what they want. Then I deliver. This generates respect and trust.
This goes hand in hand with my practice to pass along kudos – they’re for my people, not for me – and intercept any blame. The only person allowed to blame my people for anything is me. In a crisis situation, while on a bridge call to restore a critical service, I heard people saying, in essense, “No, that wasn’t my fault, it was the other guy’s fault.” I immediately stopped the conversation by saying “No, It is my fault. Blame me. Now solve the problem.” I knew exactly who had caused the problem, and we had a conversation the next day when the service had been restored. He never made such a mistake again.
On the other hand, I had two people loaned to my team to help out on a difficult project. They went above-and-beyond, really helping me get the job done. I made sure that their boss, his boss, and her boss all knew what those two had done for me. From that day on, I always received instant attention to anything I needed from their group. This is one of the ways I lead by influence rather than authority.
This same thinking applies to global groups, including outsourcing. Many seem to think that if the work is being done by an outsource company, the paycheck they receive is sufficient. I know that treating each one as an individual, and filtering their motivation through a cultural lens based on their culture not mine, makes them perform better. My projects with outsourced resources do not fail because of communication or lack of domain knowledge issues.
There are a couple of rules I try to never forget, stemming from my time running my consulting company. First, I always remember that I have some measure of responsibility for the food on their table and the roof over their head – which makes me accountable to them. I must treat them fairly and make sure they know where they stand so they can make sound decisions about their own future and wellbeing (for good or ill). Second, helping them to develop into the best they can be only enhances my productivity and chances of success. In my case back then, it literally affected the amount of food on my table.
There are many other guidelines I use, such as ways to foster collaboration, consensus, and creativity, but I’ve already spouted enough platitudes for one article. Help me out and tell everyone here how you encourage creativity in your group.