Simply put, organizations benefit—that is, profit—when managers behave as if their employees are ‘in charge’ of them, not the other way around.
Managers are more effective, in other words, when they listen to and support their employees, as opposed to trying to dictate, control, coerce, or otherwise tell their employees what to do.
This is not, however, how most people conceive of the management role.
‘Good management’ is still widely believed to require the sort of top-down, command and control-style behaviors that we are all likely accustomed to. Managers decide, direct, delegate, monitor, and evaluate. They tell employees what to do, how to do it, and by when. Sure – on occasion a manager may see fit to ’empower’ their employeesthat is, give them some measure of control over their own work. At the end of the day, however, most people still accept that the ‘boss’ is in charge – and this is just how things have to be if your organization is to have even a chance of succeeding.
Or so most people probably think.
According to all the best research, however, organizations are actually more profitable when the supervisor-subordinate relationship is reversed.
Great managing means listening to your employees, and then giving them what they want.
Nor is the logic here hard to follow:
- (1) Organizational success depends on employing great people. Superior products, savvy marketing, or low, low prices will only get you so far.
- (2) Engaged workers consistently outperform their less motivated counterparts. Job engagement is what distinguishes a good employee from one who is not
- (3) Workers engage in their jobs when they feel valued, and that their opinions matter. Job engagement is best achieved when managers support their employees – and that means listening to, and then giving them what they need to do their jobs to the best of their ability.
This ‘upside-down’ approach to managing is what I call management by loearchy®.
Not only does it agree with the best available data on good management practices, it is consistent with some of the more fundamental principles associated with free market economics and capitalism. This means that any business which chooses to adopt management by loerarchy will enjoy a distinct competitive advantage over their more hierarchically managed rivals.
Management by loerarchy also probably agrees with your own career experiences.
Consider it: Who amongst us can honestly say they’d prefer to work for someone who is controlling and punitive, as opposed to a manager who listens to, and supports them in their work? Would you really rather have a manager constantly looking over your shoulder just waiting for you to screw up? Or would you prefer they give you the freedom to do your job as you best see fit – and yet are also there when you want or need them to offer their advice or assistance? I certainly know who I’d prefer to have managing me (and who I’d end up working harder for).
What all this means for businesses and their managers is the following:
- Most managers today behave in ways which hurt, rather than help organizations that employ them.
- Businesses that engage in traditional, top-down management practices put themselves at a disadvantage relative to their less hierarchically managed rivals. In doing so, they jeopardize their own survival.
- Your company’s organization chart (if it has one) is probably upside down.
In sum then, if there’s any one thing a manager can do to be more effective, it’s to treat their employees as their ‘boss’ – or better yet, their customers.
This is the critical insight that will make you a better manager.
It will make your business more efficient, more effective, more competitive, and therefore more likely to succeed.