Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Effective operational execution means never taking your staff for granted

Posted in HR and personnel, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on September 11, 2010

There are a lot of ways a business can run into trouble, and there are a lot of ways that businesses can define and pursue a great unique value proposition and succeed. There are, however, some common traits that set them apart as performance categories, and my goal in this posting is to discuss one of the most reliable of that list. Walk into a business and look at the body language that staff members exhibit, and listen to how they talk with each other. Watch how they connect or fail to do so with customers and potential customers. When a business is in trouble, morale and communications disintegrate. When a business is really succeeding there is a positive energy in everyone and an enthusiasm that is contagious. And a loss of this can be a self-fulfilling prophesy for problems to come.

This is expressed peer to peer but much of it is shaped by the tactics and approaches of managers as they lead their teams and set the basic rules that people work by. So this is as much a posting about management style as anything else.

I have written repeatedly about strategy and planning, and effective execution thereof in business processes. I have written about creating a unique value proposition and about how this can be achieved at the level of the product or service, at the level of supporting infrastructure, and in general at any level where an effective distinction can make a difference. And more recently I have written about sustainability and doing this for long term success. All of that can unravel in the clumsy hands of the inept manager, and one of the most telling sources of weakness here is in how managers do or do not effectively communicate, motivate and lead. The problem is that effective leadership at all levels is often taken as a lower level priority if it is considered a priority at all. And I say that with annual performance reviews in mind where issues such as how managers manage is often overlooked in the ongoing review of more directly bottom-line oriented metrics.

Good and great businesses are built around a culture of shared excellence, and are built around support of the people at all levels who make the business run. Businesses loose track of the value of that approach at their own risk.

I am writing this posting with some recent experiences in mind, but I also write it against a backdrop of years of experience and observation in a wide range of organizations and types of organizations. When I see real problems in employee morale I have learned to more specifically start looking for strategy, planning and execution disconnects that would call for change management approaches. Morale can be seen as a business organization’s counterpart to the miner’s canary – miners used to bring them underground with them as warning indicators for when the air is going bad.

This is not a long posting but it is an important one, and perhaps particularly now when markets are contracted and frustrations can be significant and for everyone in a business. This puts pressures on everyone, and perhaps especially for managers to succeed and to meet their numbers goals. This is also where managers can learn to be good and good managers can become great – and that is largely by supporting their team and enabling their team members to really achieve.

Management style is important, and so is the attitude that managers, including your lower level and middle managers bring to work with them. This should inform how managers are trained and groomed for advancement, and it should be considered significant in their performance reviews – and most definitely for any business that feels increasing marketplace pressures with the potential for interpersonal tensions that this can create, and where less than supportive management styles can turn to much worse.

I will continue to post on management and leadership in this blog and in a number of series I run in it.

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