Friday, November 15, 2013

And The Answer is: Inspiring, Coaching, and Mentoring!

I hate bad advice.  A friend of mine sent me an article as part of an “Expert Reference Series”  It was entitle Emerging Trends in Project Management.  In it, the experts ask and answer the following question: (My friend knows that I will take apart bad advice especially when it tries to address "leadership".)

“How can the leadership gap be bridged? The answer is in inspiring, coaching, and mentoring.” 

Here is what they say:
Get the right people on your team to begin with; Inspiring team members who already buy into the project and your organizational goals is much more easily accomplished than motivating someone who is only inspired by a paycheck.

We see no inspiring going on here at all.  They say you should hire people who are already motivated.  There is no leadership gap being filled with this strategy.  This suggest that if people are not inspired it’s because you got the wrong people on the team.  

Here are counter examples.  When David Marquet took over the submarine Santa Fe he was given the freedom to change personnel.  He did not know anything about the crew except that they were the worst submarine crew in the fleet, nevertheless he didn't change a single person.  A year later this crew earned the highest naval rating ever given to a submarine!  When Grant Halverson took over the credit card company in Australia it was in terrible shape with a disgruntled workforce and a negative bottom line.  He didn’t replace the people.  In just over five years in a mature industry operating in a saturated market he grew the company from A$400 million to A$6.3 billion.  When Toyota took over the NUMMI plant in Fremont California they hired back the worst workforce in GM’s experience.  GM had fired these same workers.  In less than a year these workers delivered stunningly good results, far surpassing any GM plant in the history of that company.  That is leadership.  All of these successes relied on leadership from the bottom up.  Grant Halverson famously inverted the organization chart: customers at the top, below them all the employees who interacted with customers, and below them everyone else whose job it was to support those employees at the customer interface.

Here is what they say:
In a coaching relationship, the coach is set on improving performance in a directive style and assumes responsibility for the outcome. The project manager makes the project management plan and directs project members on how to work to the plan.

We don’t see any leadership going on here at all.  This is just deciding what needs to get done, how it should be done, telling the human robots what to do, and taking credit for the outcome.

Ironically, people often think this is how the US Army operates.  Officers give the orders and the men comply.  But it’s not true.  Decades ago, the army discovered that what actually wins battles isn’t a great plan.  It’s the ingenuity and resourcefulness of the front-line soldier.  The army built it’s training around this idea with great success.  Robert Galvin ran Motorola for over 30 years back when it was truly and extraordinary company.  He realized that the less instructing you do, and the more leadership you expect from every person in the company, then the more innovation, production, and quality you will enjoy.  You paint a broad picture of where you would like the business to end up, and give the people the freedom to get you there.

Here is what they say:
New team members should be encouraged to find a more senior member of the team with whom they would like to establish a mentor-mentee relationship.  The payoff for the junior members is receiving guidance and career advice, which strengthens their commitment to the team and to the project. The payoff for the project manager and leadership team is that committed team members will deliver better results.

We don’t see much leadership going on here either.  The concept of ‘senior member to junior member’ and ‘mentor-mentee’ relationship fosters a Parent/Child dynamic.  Nobody likes playing the Child role.  That role is corrosive and demotivating.

Companies that do well recognize that fresh faces bring fresh ideas.  Mentor-mentee is about “how we do things around here”.  There is no expectation for the mentee to show the mentor anything.  When David Marquet organized the Santa Fe crew he knew the Navy used a mentor-mentee model too.  But he also recognized that the ’junior’ person was a full-fledged thinking adult who could play an equal but perhaps different role.  He set up a mentor-mentor program.  At Method cleaning products company, the two founders recognized the power of collaboration and made it part of the DNA of the company.  People collaborate as equals.  When Grant Halverson set up the organization in Australia he stripped away all titles that implied rank and everyone became a “Colleague”.  People could interact on an adult-to-adult level.  Equals use a different criteria for judgements and thus, innovation can flourish.

The reason so many “leaders” end up being “managers” is due to fear.  If you don’t do all the thinking, directing, (and sometimes stepping in to do it yourself saying ‘It’s faster if I just do it myself) then it feels like you’re not in control and chaos will sweep in.  However, great leaders devise methods to give the control away and avoid the chaos.  We sell Behavioral Advantage.  It is a simple set of tools that enable any leader to give the control and leadership to the team.  You don't lose control, in fact you end up with very powerful control with lots of people owning it. Then, because Behavioral Advantage also delivers tools that truly tap into sustainable motivators, we can promise you that your people will deliver truly spectacular ongoing results.
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