Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Jenny: Management Theory

Joseph’s here in Tennessee for a training conference. When he came home yesterday, I looked over the material he brought home. I noticed that he had been taught about “leadership styles.” I find the concept of “style” in management, and even the word “leadership” dangerous to any business. It gives lazy (read: laissez-faire) managers and micro (read: autocratic) managers permission to be so, and call themselves “effective leaders.” Whenever a criticism is made about these types of managers, the response will be “Well, that’s my leadership style.”

Leadership in itself is dangerous. Every bloody conflict has two leaders: one who wants the bloodshed, and one who wants to end it. We tend to worship the later, and ignore the former, despite the fact that both are effective leaders.

(Case in point: Adolf Hitler and Winston Churchill)

The purpose of leadership is to subjugate individual consciousness which relieves the leader of the stress of millions of undirected choices. With everybody making their own individual choices, change and progress is slow and gradual. Leadership is used to speed up the process, and exploit individuals into accomplishing a goal that the individuals did not choose, often by means that the individuals do not wholly approve. (See Level 3 below)

My first point is this: the goal, be it financial, business, relational, artistic, or service, is the leader. The goal is the leader. Not the CEO, manager or supervisor. The clearer and more direct the goal; the more effective is its leadership. Obsess over the goal. Stare at it. Write it down a hundred times. Get it printed on note cards and review daily. Tack it in big poster board letters on the bedroom and office wall. Google it and read every hit. Look up the definition of every word in the goal (even I, they, and, the) and copy them down. Visualize the goal. What does it look like? Draw it, paint it, and collage it. Act it out with colleagues and underlings.

Working the goal into the subconscious will help accomplish it. The subconscious mind will give direction towards the goal. It’s like brainwashing that you can do to yourself.

Now brainwash everyone else on the team. Tell them the goal. Don’t tell them the strategy first, because most likely, they won’t understand it. Everybody has their own brain, that’s why you put together a team in the first place right?

Or did you just hire/recruit these people for their bodies?

Every meeting and memo should be focused on the goal first, then strategies. Different people will bring different ideas to the table. When everybody is subconsciously obsessed with the goal, it won’t be hard to select the most direct course of action.

Remember: the goal is the leader.

The 4 Levels of Management

Having worked with different types of managers for the last 7-8 years, I know a lot about them and I formulated this theory around my experiences. There is only one type of effective manager: Level 4. You are either a level 4 manager or you’re on you’re way to becoming one.

Level 1:

A level 1 manager might as well be called a level 0 manager because they aren’t managing anything but their own chaos. This manager is a business owner who is trying to do everything on their own because they don’t trust anyone with their money. Or an artist whose being held back because they don’t want to give up creative autonomy to an assistant.

What these managers are missing out on is that ideas, creativity and consciousness work best on a grand scale, and poorly on a small one. What is a writer without readers? What is a business with no employees or customers? Nothing.

Bringing ideas into the realm of reality requires sharing them with other people. When a Level 1 manager realizes this they become a Level 2 manager.

Level 2:

When a manager hires that first assistant or employee they become, by default, a level 2 manager. The artist or business owner realizes they need help and they think that adding more people is the solution. That’s a good start, but they haven’t made it to level 4 yet.

The employee or assistant quickly gets frustrated and quits because the level 2 manager has no idea what the assistant or employee should do. The manager gets frustrated: it’s obvious what my assistant should be doing! Everything I don’t have time to do! The manager sees the employee as an extension of his/herself and not a being in their own right.

Eventually, the level 2 manager will realize that if they come up with a list or group of tasks for the employee to accomplish, it will make the situation simpler. At this point Level 2 becomes Level 3.

Level 3:

A level 3 manager stifles and controls all levels of production by dictating what the employees should do. Most managers and management systems are based in level 3. They use glitter, mnemonics, catch phrases, uniforms, training regimes, discipline schedules, coercion, incentives, reward programs and persuasive speech to get employees to obey.

Every minute, hour, day, week, month, quarter and year are judged by complex mathematical systems. Judged harshly. Nothing can ever be enough, usually because the corporate goal (whether communicated or not) is: Make as much money as humanly possible, and then some. A level 3 manager feels that eliminating “laziness” and “personality problems” can maximize production. And they are right. Just look at the military. Wipe everybody clean of personal choice and personal identity and you have a perfect fighting machine.

If the manager is running a militaristic operation, they should and often do, stay at level 3. Level 3 is viewed as the pinnacle of management technique. This is where Adolf Hitler and Winston Churchill became effective leaders: using glitter, coercion, distractions and invigorating speeches. It’s also where many potentially good managers get burned out, and “laissez-faire” and “autocratic” managers get stuck.

Level 4:

Level 4 managers are ineffective leaders. They are not in control of production levels, ways or means. They cannot lead by example because they value individual input. They do not want to work with perfectly functional automatons; they enjoy working with quirky, dysfunctional, ineffective human beings. They do not dictate what each team member should do and wait for results or fulfillment of expectations.

Level 4 managers can identify a goal; they communicate it honestly, and then obsess over it. They know how to guide team members who aren’t aware of their own strengths and weaknesses. They know how to get the team obsessed with the goal, and they know team members who aren’t obsessed with the goal will leave. They know that if the team is focused on the goal, they will accomplish it by the fastest and most direct means.

Level 4 managers can deal with hyper quantifiable goals like “We need to make $1900 this hour.” They are even better at complex goals like “Create a sense of community within our store including: management, staff, customers, vendors and service providers, and the community at large.”

At the top of every success is a level 4 manager. Level 4 managers could care less about the rate of success or failure of their ideas and strategies. They don’t need complex financial, mathematical or scientific systems. They go with their gut, and their gut knows the goal inside and out. That “gut feeling” is the subconscious telling the manager what to do next.

That’s the difference between Level 3 and Level 4. A level 3 manager does what the numbers say to do 85% of the time. They risk very little, so they accomplish the same amount. When the management is focused on numbers, they get numbers. When they focus on employee obedience, they get employee obedience.

When they focus on the goal they get the goal.

As a parting note I will recall the scene in Ocean's Thirteen when Al Pacino’s character, an autocratic manager and effective leader, is communicating his goal of winning his fifth Five-Diamond Award to one of his employees: a maid. He shouts out his accomplishments aggressively at her, communicating very effectively his goal: to win the award. He is also communicating something else: if she doesn’t get him this award, she will lose her livelihood. If livelihood is the only thing a manger can offer his/her team, that manager will never leave Level 3.

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