I was recently visiting with someone about the goals of young professionals in a specific location. She said that everyone wants to be a manager.
So I asked why:
- Was it about the title?
- The perceived power?
- The paycheck?
- The perception that it is an easier job?
She said they want to sit behind a big desk and sign things.
Instantly I visualized a “manager” sitting behind a big desk with their feet resting on the desk reading a newspaper. A clap of his hands and someone comes running with a hot beverage. A loud shout results in several people running into his office – varying ages, heights, and ethnicities – all cowering in fear. “Yes Boss…” (True story!)
In 1999 I read Stephen Covey’s book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People for the first time. One of the stories in that book that captured my attention was about David Lilienthal, a man that was commissioned to head the new Atomic Energy Commission.
He brought together a very diverse bunch of influential individuals. And although they had a huge agenda and the press was pushing them for results he believed that efficiency was not the first priority – synergy was. So he wisely invested time facilitating relationship building, causing them to deeply understand each other’s history, goals, passions, and perspectives and transforming a group of individuals into a passionate team.
This is how Stephen Covey describes the result: “The respect among the members of the commission was so high that if there was disagreement, instead of opposition and defense, there was a genuine effort to understand. The attitude was, “If a person of your intelligence and competence and commitment disagrees with me, then there must be something to your disagreement that I don’t understand, and I need to understand it. You have a perspective, a frame of reference I need to look at.”
Not long ago I met with someone that was struggling because new team members were speaking up and contributing at a higher level than he was comfortable with. He had a bigger title, more experience, and a deeper understanding of the organization’s history. He trusts the detailed work that the founders of that organization did to set it up and feels like is his it responsibility to ensure that their guidelines are followed. The new team members either don’t know or don’t fully understand that history, but they have strong skills, great experience, a huge desire to serve and are unafraid to challenge the status quo.
It was good for me to hear this man’s perspective, as I am usually on the other side of that experience –Deeply believing that:
I was leading a small team in a culturally diverse city in the U.S. when two of my employees asked why all the titled leaders on our leadership team were white.
I was raised in a part of the country that was not culturally diverse, today – nearly a decade after their question 89% of the population in my home state is white and 95% of the county that surrounded the town I grew up in was white. As a result, it was a question I didn’t see coming and one I did not have a good answer for.
For years I’ve been asking executives and hiring managers what their biggest challenge is. At least 90% of the time I get the same answer: “People.” That comment is quickly followed by an explanation about how hard it is to find enough qualified and caring people to do the work.
It is interesting to note that some titled leaders are so desperate for people that they hire anyone that can “fog a mirror” which often results in skill gaps and behavioral issues that can damage their culture and reputation and stunt their growth.
Other titled leaders hold so tightly to a specific checklist of requirements that they miss hiring a stronger applicant that has the passion, drive and emotional intelligence to take their department and organization to the next level.
Often their decision to wait a long time to fill a needed position adds stress to their teams, and doesn’t guarantee a cultural fit, the drive or the fresh perspective that instigate growth.
If your organization is struggling to find smart, caring, committed people that will improve your culture, your service and your reputation then consider this.