Offers managers advice on understanding human behavior, choosing a style of decision making, learning to effectively communicate with superiors, co-workers, and subordinates, and coordinate group problem solving.
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Tony Alessandra has a streetwise, college-smart perspective on business, having realized success as a former graduate professor of marketing, Internet entrepreneur, business author, and keynote speaker. He is the author of seventeen books, including Charisma and The Platinum Rule.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
"Oh, wad some power the girlie gie us to see oursels as others see us."
Robert Bums, 1786
Building Productive Managerial Relationships
Have you ever wished that you could magically know what other people are really thinking about you when you are interacting with them? There are plenty of reasons why this information could be very valuable to you as a manager. There may also be plenty of reasons why you would rather not know.
"That incompetent SOB. He's trying to get me to do his job again."
"Another phony smile. She doesn't really care about me."
"He makes me feel so stupid and helpless."
"She's treating me like a child. When I get the chance, I'll slip it to her good."
"He asks questions as if doubting everything I say."
"She does all the talking. Obviously, my opinion doesn't count."
"His poker face keeps me guessing whether he understands me or is even listening to me."
"She argues with everything I say. I'm always wrong. She's always right."
Thousands of managers have such things said about them every day. But because they can't get inside the heads of their subordinates, peers, and superiors, they are unaware of why they are having such problems. In fact, many of them are unaware of any problems existing at all. And we're talking about some of the brightest managers with the best technical track records in industry today. In most of these cases the problem is not lack of experience, energy, intelligence, or dedication but neglect of building and maintaining productive relationships with others. In attempting to determine what managers need most to be effective, a countless number of surveys have produced a very consistent answer. More than anything else, a manager needs to be able to get along with other people. You probably aren't too surprised with this answer. Then why is it still such a monumental problem for so many managers?
One reason is that managers typically are not well trained in relating productively with others. Many managers today have advanced degrees in business administration, engineering, or the like, but such technical expertise does not magically confer equivalent expertise in managing relationships. And neither do years of successful experience in a technical area. Consequently, most managers simply are not as well equipped to deal with people problems as they are with technical ones. Even if they were, chances are that most managers would not think in terms applicable to people problems.
In the business world, management is almost always viewed in terms of productivity. Why? Because productivity is the key to the success of the organization and to your future as a manager. You evaluate your subordinates on how much they produce, because you are evaluated on how much they produce. Under this one-dimensional system of evaluation, it is easy to slip into the point of view that people are similar to such other resources as material and money, which are to be exploited as much as possible for the company's good. Today's employees will not tolerate this type of treatment without severe negative consequences for both their own well-being and their contribution to the company's goals. Successful managers realize that for employees to be most productive, they must have opportunities for satisfying their own needs built into the work environment. Consequently, managers need a thorough awareness of employees' values, needs, and reasons for behaving, as well as personal skills in communicating with and motivating employees toward the accomplishment of organizational goals in ways that will be accepted and not resented.
Getting the work out is only one side of the productivity coin. For long-term effectiveness, you must accomplish this work by being sensitive to the needs of those who work for and with you. In fact, management by definition is getting the work done through the efforts of other people. You may be able to get short-term results by exploiting and dominating people, but your effectiveness -- and maybe your career -- will no doubt be jeopardized in the long term. The resulting hostility and resentment that will have built up will eventually be released, either openly or secretly, to cause your failure as a manager.
An analogy often used to illustrate the two sides of the productivity coin is that of a bicycle. Technical knowledge and people knowledge can be thought of as the two wheels. Technical knowledge is the back wheel, which makes the bicycle go. It supplies the drive that you have to have to go anywhere. Obviously, technical management is important. The front wheel is the people knowledge. It steers, directs, and takes the back-wheel power where you want to go. You can have all the back-wheel expertise in the world; but if people won't cooperate or don't know where to go with it, you won't go anywhere. This is what Interactive Management is all about!
No matter how ambitious or capable you are, you cannot be an effective manager without knowing how to establish and maintain productive relationships with others. You must know how to relate so that others want to work with you and accept you rather than reject you.
Does this mean that you become mushy and other-directed, primarily concerned with servicing the needs and desires of others? Or that you should develop a master strategy that will give you the breaks at the expense of others, or enable you to play up to those who can do you the most good while paying little attention to others? The answer to these questions is, of course, a resounding no!
It does mean, however, that you should sincerely do everything you can to develop strong, friendly, honest, and trusting relationships with all of the people you work with, including your bosses, subordinates, and fellow managers. In your position as a manager, you automatically assume two responsibilities: (1) to do the best technical job you can with the work assigned to you, and (2) to interact with all people to the best of your ability. It is with the second of these responsibilities that this book is designed to help you. The goal is to develop your skills of managing transactions with others in ways that spell success for yourself, others, and the organization as a whole.
THE INTERACTIVE APPROACH TO MANAGING PEOPLE
Research on human personality suggests that healthy individuals need to be treated with respect and to have opportunities to feel competent and independent as they actively pursue goals to which they are committed. Unfortunately, research on technical management indicates that its directive, production-oriented characteristics tend to create situations where employees feel dependent, submissive, and passive and where they use few of their important abilities, let alone developing them. Their activities are aimed at the organization's and manager's needs rather than at their own; and they often end up frustrated, resentful, and underproductive. Under these conditions, employees will tend to adapt by leaving, manifesting defense mechanisms (such as daydreaming, aggression, or ambivalence), or rebelling openly against the manager and the system.
If employees leave or use defense mechanisms to suppress their frustrations, management may not even be aware of the problems being created. In the case of open rebellion, however, the technical manager's responses are usually in the form of "corrective actions" such as increased controls, stiffer penalties, or other actions that tend to compound the employees' frustrations. The result is an increasing distance, mistrust, and resentment on both sides. Nobody wins.
The interactive management philosophy was developed to overcome some of these manager-employee relationship problems. Although the ideas are not radically new, how they are combined in establishing the supervisor-employee relationship makes this approach unique. It is based on the philosophy that it is neither healthy nor profitable to manipulate or exploit other people. This philosophy incorporates the belief that people perform effectively because they understand and feel understood by the supervisor, not because they are forced to comply by a mandate from above. It revolves around helping people understand procedures rather than forcing them to comply. The entire process is built around trust-bond relationships that require openness and honesty. Table 1-1 points out some major differences between interactive and technically oriented management.
Company Oriented versus Employee Oriented. In technical management, the manager is predominantly interested in the task instead of the employee. Getting the job done, regardless of the human costs, is the primary motivator. Verbal and nonverbal behaviors suggest urgency, impatience, and dominance.
On the other hand, the interactive manager fills the role of a counselor, consultant, and problem solver. Helping the subordinate determine the best course of action and how to implement it takes top priority. All verbal and nonverbal behaviors project trust, confidence, patience, empathy, and helpfulness. The result in this new form of management is a close, open, trusting manager-employee relationship -- a win-win relationship.
Table 1-1 Differences between Technical and Interactive Management
Company oriented Employee oriented
Tells Explains and listens
Forces compliance Develops commitment
Task oriented People oriented
Thwarts needs Satisfies needs
Creates fear and tension Establishes trust and understanding
Tells versus Explains and Listens. The technical manager dominates the conversation, asking for little verbal input from subordinates except to indicate compliance at appropriate points. Conversely, in interactive management the emphasis is on problem solving that incorporates two-way discussion and feedback. The manager is knowledgeable, competent, and confident in the verbal communication skills of questioning, listening, and feedback.
Forces Compliance versus Develops Commitment. Power and authority are key buzzwords for the technical manager. "Do it my way or else!" "Managers are the thinkers. Employees are the doers." "Management makes the decisions around here!" These are familiar phrases in technical management. Thus, the manager controls, persuades, and figuratively "browbeats" employees to do as requested now, whether or not they are ready. Although this technique may work in the short run, it generates dissatisfied workers who are apt to rebel subtly or quit when they get the chance.
An effective blending of short-term and long-term objectives is the trademark of interactive managers. They allow employees "breathing room" to solve their own problems in a reasonable period of time. Immediate compliance is not as important today as building an efficient and effective work team. Although this orientation may take a little longer in getting positive results from the employees, it leads to less resentment, more manager-employee trust and goodwill, better long-term morale, and greater team effectiveness.
Task Oriented versus People Oriented. Meeting production deadlines is more important to the technical manager than developing people. This orientation very often leads to frustrated employees who only give the minimum required effort.
Interactive management is people oriented. The employee's problems and/or needs are as important as the task. The interactive manager's ultimate objective is to develop relationships with employees so that they are motivated to accomplish organizational goals of their own volition.
Inflexible versus Adaptable. Technical managers typically approach and interact with different employees in the same way all the time. They are not sensitive to variations in the styles, needs, and problems of their different employees. Technical managers often are insensitive and oblivious to cues that an individual employee has unique and pressing needs at this particular time or under the present circumstances.
Flexibility is a key skill used by interactive managers. They are flexible in communicating with all different styles of employees. Their management style is adapted to each individual employee and situation. They are simultaneously perceptive of the verbal and nonverbal cues that a subordinate sends and are willing and able to change their approach and objective if necessary.
Thwarts Needs versus Satisfies Needs. When you tell someone that you know what the person's problem is and proceed to present the solution to it without getting much feedback, the person tends to become defensive, secretive, and resentful. The interaction becomes more like a battle -- a win-lose situation. An employee will not freely share important information with a manager under these conditions and often will create "smoke screens" (false fronts) to throw the manager off balance. Obviously, this is not a productive relationship.
In interactive management, the supervisor is skilled in information gathering in order to help the employee openly and honestly discover personal needs and problems. With this approach, the employee perceives the relationship as a "helping'' one. Trust, confidence, and openness are free flowing in this "win-win" association. In addition, the employee is totally involved in the solution process with the manager. This allows the employee to be more personally committed to the implementation of the plan.
Creates Fear and Tension versus Establishes Trust and Understanding. The six previously discussed behaviors culminate in a supervisor-subordinate relationship based either on fear and tension or on trust and understanding. In technical management, fear and defense levels are high. Both the manager and the employee play games with each other (for a detailed discussion on games, refer to Chapter 5). Management becomes more of a process of persuasion and control rather than problem solving and facilitation. The supervisor-employee relationship deteriorates as defensiveness and distrust continue to increase.
Conversely, in interactive management, trust, acceptance, and understanding are the norm. The supervisor-employee communication process is open, honest, and straightforward. Information is openly shared, and problems are genuinely resolved. Whether or not a decision is made, both supervisor and employee feel good about each other and about their interaction. Both sides win.
PRINCIPLES OF INTERACTIVE MANAGEMENT
There are four basic principles behind the interactive management philosophy. They are aimed at developing a trusting relationship between two adults. This is in contrast to technical management, which typically develops as a suspicious relationship between a naughty child and a critical parent.
1. The entire management process is built around trust-bond relationships that require openness and honesty on the part of both the supervisor and the employee.
2. Subordinates comply, not because they are made to, but because they feel understood by the manager and understand the problem.
3. People strive for the right to make their own decisions. They resent being manipulated, controlled, or persuaded into making a decision even if that was the decision they would ultimately have made
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