Controlling Employees

by | Leadership, Resources, Work Culture

controlling-employeesPreviously I wrote about defining outcomes and paying your employees to accomplish those, rather than simply paying them to perform a specified list of duties and responsibilities. This suggested approach comes from the book First, Break All The Rules, by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman. The authors note that while the real role of any manager is to tap into the talents of each individual employee and turn those into performance, managers typically find excuses for why they do not define outcomes and use them as the basis for compensation.

Previously I wrote about defining outcomes and paying your employees to accomplish those, rather than simply paying them to perform a specified list of duties and responsibilities. This suggested approach comes from the book First, Break All The Rules, by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman. The authors note that while the real role of any manager is to tap into the talents of each individual employee and turn those into performance, managers typically find excuses for why they do not define outcomes and use them as the basis for compensation.

To do so means the manager needs to give up some ‘control’, and that is hard for many managers. Let’s go back to the example of a teacher. For most of the day a teacher is behind a closed door, alone with his or her students. Is it any wonder that principals and school boards feel the need to create extensive policies and procedure manuals, meant to guide those teachers step by step through what it OK and what is not in the performance of their jobs? They are basically working without direct supervision for most of the day.

But as the authors point out, the same is true of many employment positions. Like it or not, most employees can decide to follow a policy or not. They decide what they will do and what they won’t. You can tell a waiter to offer the daily specials, but how do you know if they really do? Managers think they have control through their policies and procedures, but the real control is held by the individual employees.

Buckingham and Coffman note that this dilemma “is compounded by the fact that human beings are messy”. Employees each have their own needs, motivations and styles. Thinking otherwise is the equivalent of trying to market a ‘one-size-one-style-fits-all bathing suit’ to the female population.

That’s the strength behind defining outcomes rather than duties. It accepts that employees are unique individuals and will approach issues from different perspectives. The approach therefore does not attempt to create step by step procedures that have to fit everyone’s individual style. It instead defines a common outcome that is the same for all employees, but lets each individual find their own way to it. You standardize the end rather than the means.

This is not carte blanche. Every job has certain lines that cannot be crossed. Rules that have to be followed. But not everything needs to be ‘policyed’ to the nth degree. If one salesman is good at building relationships, another at persuasion, and another is successful because of their attention to detail, why would a sales manager want to try to force them all to adhere to only one of those methods?

 

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