Are You Wasting Time & Talent By Dictating Methods?

 In Articles, Books, Business

If you’ve read the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, you’ve no doubt encountered this lesson. The video below sums up an important management principle, that’s easy to forget in American work culture. Many managers are held responsible to a win-lose relationship and they pass that cycle onto their reports, creating a vicious cycle of, at best intense drudgery, and at worst utter inefficiency and eventual turnover.


The parable below illustrates a father and son making an agreement that the son will care for the yard, and they set two simple metrics in their agreement: the success measure is a green yard free to trash and debris. They also agree that the father will help when available and the son will the judge of his own success towards those two metrics.


Related to your business, there are key areas that managers can learn from in this lesson. The first is setting one, at max two, key goals for a team or individual. We’ve discussed this before on the blog, but this principle is absolutely crucial to managing by metrics. If you gauge success across too many areas, you divide the focus of employees and sew the seeds of responsibility creep.

The next area is to agree upon and clearly communicate what success looks like. In business, it might not look like “green and clean,” it might look something like “increase sales by 10% over last year, which was X units per month, ” or “increase customer review response rate by 5% year over year.” Any employee or manager can look at these metrics and clearly see how close the team is to success.

Finally, the most important lesson is that the father doesn’t dictate the methods for getting the job done to the son. He makes some suggestions and keeps an eye on the project, helping direct the son when he is not achieving their mutual goal. That said, managers can learn that not only is this approach effective, it also saves time for the manager to be useful in other areas that are in real crisis. Letting employees decide their own methods for accomplishing clear goals increases employees satisfaction by reducing micro-managing. This in turn decreases turnover and can save departments money, making it even easier to accomplish the stated goals.


What do you think of the video? Do you practice setting clear goals and letting employees decide their own methods to accomplish them?


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