Keep those Kleenex handy

Leadership and good management should include listening to staff. Too often, leaders fail to learn what they need to suceed.

You know, it really makes me cry, the number of times I come across stories like the one I heard a few days ago. A young smart (very smart) IT person, who also had a degree in mechanical engineering from a major university, sat down in exasperation.


He worked for a business that had been privately owned and that grew by providing great IT and technical support to utilities. There were guys in teams who had developed great working relationships and were regarded highly by the customers.


The business sells out to a multi-national that hires an MBA guy who calls himself the “operations manager”. He comes along with the MBA model in his brief case and, without consulting any of the staff, gets them all together at great expense and announces the “restructuring”.


Gasps of disbelief! Teams broken, people put in charge of teams that did not have the support of their peers; interface with customers altered so that the customers would have to develop new relationships overnight. Goodness, the list went on and on.


Worse still was the news for this very smart guy that the company had a problem in Perth, and he had been appointed to fix that problem despite the fact that he lived with his wife and three children in Melbourne. Worse again was the fact that this very smart guy took the job in the first place because he was sick of travelling to the city and this business was located in a suburb close to his home.


So what is the first thing that this very smart guy in IT thinks about? Dead right – leaving! There were other very smart people in the company and guess what they are thinking?


I believe that recruiting gun IT people these days is not like picking up the phone and offering people jobs. It is more like trying to find a needle in a hay stack.


For quite a few years now I have been conducting an overseas study tour each two years in association with friends in American academia. What has emerged with the people who attend the program is that their businesses have continued to expand and in examining the reason, it seems that businesses that expand have great leadership. It is for that reason that my up-coming conference at Case Western University in Cleveland in the US is on this very subject of leadership.


Leadership does not involve the MBA coming in with the organisational model in the brief case. The organisation is a living thing within the business and is made up by the people in the business. Whether it is working well or badly, is something that the MBA needs to discover.


What is likely is that he or she will find people in the organisation that are smarter and have their own ideas as to how effectively the business should be organised. By listening to them, they will get a better organisational result and there will not be a lot of smart people wanting to leave.


Every business has a story and it is the collective story of the people who work in the business. One function of management is to be sure that they know the story, which is trickier than you think (most people interviewed in the workplace come up with a story that is unknown to management).


If employees cut management in on the story of the organisation and management responds, there is no stopping it, and the need for the smart MBA to come in and reorganise smarter employees will not exist – and I will not want to cry.




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