Do You Control or Develop Your Staff?

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“If you re building a culture where honest expectations are communicated and peer accountability is the norm, then the group will address poor performance and attitudes.”

Henry Cloud

Your greatest asset is a team of committed employees. When you are disappointed in any of them, you may be tempted to choose the expediency and pseudo power of control methods instead of making long-term responsibility in them your top priority. When you choose to control them, you likely do not realize the costly chain of negative events that occurs. In my work, 

I repeatedly see an alarming pattern: employers who do not take time to develop responsibility in those they lead. They use control methods in an attempt to influence thinking and behavior. Whenever you choose control of others, you hold a negative view of them, engage in power-over and diminish their accountability. Below are three common control methods used, sometimes simultaneously and then a contrasting alternative that develops responsibility. The first three are an attempt to change an employee using extrinsic rather than intrinsic motivation, which is never a sustainable solution.

“Because I said so.”

Are you an autocrat? Sometimes you have decided your employees cannot be trusted; that you must stay on top of how they behave and what they deliver. You think you should manage them. The problem is that when you are doing all the managing, the ownership for tasks, relationships and results lies with you. Then your employees become less responsible. You attempt to hold others accountable to your policies or procedures and this top-down approach makes others resentful and rebellious.

“If you do this, I will give you that.”

Are you a proponent of dangling carrots? What you may not know is, according to multiple studies, is the negative results this creates. First, you hold a belief your employees are basically lazy and selfish and that your job is to motivate them. You determine goals and people get busy jumping through your hoops. What you may not notice is that to get the goods, they often hide mistakes, develop a “What’s in it for me?” mindset, cut corners, and teamwork suffers because competition trumps collaboration. Rewards reduce commitment to the desired behavior and discourage people from doing work from purpose and task satisfaction.

“You must earn my respect and approval.”

Are you superior, deserving respect while others must prove themselves? In this top-down approach, you see yourself as right, wise and all knowing and others as suspect, needing to earn your respect and favor. Your approach in keeping people in line is to judge them, bestowing privilege from above. It sure feels good when your employees focus on making you happy but this is at the cost of legitimate care of others. If you are not aware, you develop brown-nosers and conformists who lose their edge, creativity, and initiative.

When you own outcomes, your employees become less responsible. You discourage them by lack of faith in them. No one likes to be controlled, especially by someone responsible for their livelihood. And, the more you control, the more apathetic your employees become, which further confirms your belief control is needed!

The Key: “I have faith in you. I am here to support you in being successful.”

A great leader is one who creates other leaders and who at the end of the day has a team of employees who think and feel, “I did it!” and “We did it!” You expect greatness and are consistent in helping each develop skills and achieve their successful outcomes. You become wise counsel, coaching and supporting them to develop their motivation and initiative. This is a much tougher job and requires you have faith in their goodness and want them to enjoy the ownership of their role and responsibilities. And the payoff is ten-fold. You are now the boss you always imagined and they become the employees you always dreamed of leading!

This article has been published nationally in St. Louis Small Business Monthly in the column The Extraordinary Workplace, October 2015.

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