So many people try to lead or manage their workers by focusing on actions. People are told exactly what to do, how to do it, and when to do it. It’s as if the manager/leader is a “slave-master” and the employees are slaves! Some of these dinosaurs are still around today! When they run their whole country, they are called “dictators”. Understand that for people who are incapable of growth this is the only valid approach. I believe that people in some circumstances must be ‘cared for’ in this way, but those people that are very far from what we would consider ‘healthy’.
This makes me think about dictators and whips. Such a short-sighted view. Trying to force, or cajole people to do what we want them to do is not successful unless we have taken care of the two things below. Without them, it’s a tyranny.
Some more modern managers consider themselves enlightened enough to know that one should not try to control another’s actions. Instead they go for control of attitude! Yes, they will praise you for having the right attitude, or correct you for having a bad attitude. This is slightly more humane and somewhat more effective.
However, sometimes we have an emotionally bad day in which we are productive. We can also have an emotionally great day where we are not productive. Attitude doesn’t always relate to short-term performance. Besides, good actors and actresses can fake it. America is not the only country that has many good actors and actresses. Some of them are in the entertainment business! Besides, whenever I was told I had a bad attitude, I never got constructive feedback on what they meant. It often meant one of the following:
- I didn’t respect them, for whatever reason.
- I hadn’t yet earned their respect.
- They were having a bad day and taking it out on me.
I am sure there are others! Focusing on actions is not a way to keep quality workers long-term. Focusing on people’s attitudes is a step up, and the good news is that there’s another step up! Neither of these approaches to dealing with people is as effective as focusing on controlling the atmosphere in which people work.
Atmosphere and Farmers
No farmer can control the amount of rainfall on their farm, but they compensate for it. The farmer can not control outside air temperatures but can compensate for them. They can’t control the soil when they first start, and they can improve the soil. The farmer learns what conditions are best, and then as much as possible keeps the crop under those conditions.
That’s why the farmer is so busy plowing, sowing, watering, covering, checking soil acidity, and so on and so on. The farmer works very hard to: learn about, create, optimize and maintain the conditions optimal for growth. The farmer chooses the best seeds to plant. Every few years, the farmer gets new equipment to maintain those conditions at their optimum. That makes sense to all of us.
The wise manager does the same things. Creating a great atmosphere actually strengthens the workers. Sooner or later they will feel like they are under a frost, or drenched and flooded, or scorched. Taking steps to compensate for these events before they happen, helps people survive and even flourish.
Just as the farmer doesn’t doubt the crops’ ability to grow, neither does the manager doubt. They have hired people with the ability to meet their challenges. Trusting the judgment of those who hired the people in the first place is very important. You have good seeds! Well, most of the time anyway. Remember the farmer does get rid of a bad crop. So does the manager.
By the way, the sweetest oranges and other citrus fruits get that way only after they have been through a frost or two. Some of the most humane people I know have also been through a frost or two.
It is short-sighted to influence actions by working on them directly, especially if your people are capable of growth. A step in the right direction is to focus on a person’s attitude. However, giving quality direction and feedback is difficult to do. At least people are not being micro-managed. That freedom alone allows workers with greater potential to grow.
The best way, in my experience, has been to focus on the atmosphere. Work on the atmosphere, the environment in which the person works and thinks. In time this will best influence the person’s long-term attitude. That will in time influence their actions.
Why do so few do this? Because they are too impatient and overly concerned with short-term results instead of long-term gains. The manager’s boss may be micro-managing the manager! The company is overly focused on results, instead of focusing on having high-quality workers. Someone’s faith in people doesn’t match their focus on visible results.
As someone once said, “give your people a lot of rope. Some will use it to pull themselves up, others will hang themselves”. Obviously, that saying refers to how people treat their own futures and careers.
Thing long-term and let your people develop and shine! Do you love people? Then trust that they have the ability to grow into their destiny, learn the conditions best for their growth, maintain those conditions in your relationship with them, and be patient about harvest time. Become a “farmer of people”!
Please comment and/or respond to what you heard inside of you as you read this! Let’s share!