Are You Manipulating Team Members with Good Intent?

BY C. Lee Smith
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Here’s a paradox in organizational life. A significant percentage of workers say they’ve experienced a bad manager at some point in their careers. But, if you poll leaders, they’ll tell you they’re doing a good job. So what’s happening here? In a recent Manage Smarter Podcast, Brian Parsley, an entrepreneur, global speaker and business strategist, explained. 

Parsley’s position is: “As a manager, as a leader, your goal is to manipulate people.” A lot of people don’t like the sound of that statement. So, he adds the phrase “with good intent.” That's the tricky part. Here's how you can get people to do what needs to be done.

Getting Buy-​in

Too many managers still act like they’re walking the factory floor. They bark orders at their employees like, “finish writing that specification before you leave today.” The employee will probably finish the project, but not with a willing and happy attitude. They’re likely to be thinking about why their supervisor always has to act like a jerk.

A more enlightened manager will use a different approach. They’ll talk to the employee and explain the deadline the group is facing. Maybe, the production line will be slowed down if they don’t get the specifications done before the morning shift. And, when that happens, the company might miss the delivery date promised to the biggest customer. The manager should then ask their team member what they think about the situation. That team member might vent about why it’s a crisis suddenly, but they’ll also see what needs to happen. They’ll buy into the situation and offer to get the specification written before the end of the day. And, as they work, they’ll appreciate that the boss considered their opinion and asked for their help.

Managing Employee Strengths — Two F Words

If you feel like you’re always grinding a specific employee because their skills aren’t where they should be, you’ve got another bad setup. The employee sees you coming and braces themselves for criticism about their follow-​up skills or whatever you've been harping on. Parsley’s take on this kind of problem is that the standard job description is not a one-​size-​fits-​all arrangement. Some of your sales reps will be outstanding at networking. Others will be great at closing. If you want your entire department to shine, remember Parsley’s theory of two F words: Fast and flexible wins the day.

We’re all under pressure to manage smarter and faster. That means we should assign tasks to employees who have the right skill sets. These employees will quickly finish the tasks. This strategy also means you need to allow for flexibility in the job description and let your employees work to their strengths.

Once you start asking for employee input into decisions that impact their workdays and give them the flexibility to use the skills they possess, you’ll see a bigger engagement level. And you’ll also have fewer negative surveys about your leadership style.