As leaders in the workplace, we set goals and objectives regularly. It makes business sense to decide where you want to go before deciding what to do and how to do it. And what most of us learn is that the more clearly we set those goals and objectives, the more success we have reaching them. So then, what is your goal for managing people?
Some managers have thought this through, and others have been given or have devised what they think are goals for managing their people, such as a culture to maintain and project. But let’s go further and define a universal goal that maximizes our ability to be successful, prosperous managers and leaders.
At its simplest level, managing is the act of directing or controlling how something is used. In business, management entails making the most effective use of something, whether money, machines, material, supply chains, accounting, engineering, people, or any other resource.
To succeed at managing something in the workplace, you must thoroughly understand that thing, including how it works and what it requires to perform at an optimal level. For example, the best way to manage a machine is obvious: use the machine as it was designed and run it in accordance with its operating manual. But if we only use the machine and never properly care for it, the machine’s capacity would steadily degrade over time and eventually suffer a casualty that would render it useless.
Therefore, effective management of the machine includes routine corrective and preventative maintenance to keep the machine in tip-top operating condition. To get the best use from the machine, its parts must be replaced when worn, and it must be kept well oiled and appropriately fueled or powered. The better the manager maintains the machine, the better its output. No rocket science here.
Like a machine that ultimately fails when not kept in proper condition, employees, if not properly cared for, will eventually fail too. But people differ from machines in one very significant way. They have a brain. They have a brain entirely capable of deciding what they should do, when they should do it, and how they should do it, and a brain capable of directing them to do it. This means people cannot be operated like a machine, which implies managing people is more about maintaining their condition and helping to improve that condition.
Now the question is what is tip-top operating condition for people and what is the most effective use of this resource? Is tip-top condition extremely high morale, very low morale, or somewhere in between? Is it a strong sense of ownership for their work or no sense of ownership? Is the most effective use of this resource, people, having them acting like robots, or maximizing their creativity, innovation, productivity, motivation, and commitment on their work? The answer may be obvious, but is the difference in performance level worth pursuing?
Management and leadership experts, including Stephen Covey and Tony Robbins, contend the productivity gap can approach 500% between the top and bottom of the performance spectrum: for example, from extremely low morale to very high morale. Personally, I’ve realized gains of 300% per person in workplace productivity, so the gap is truly significant and with results such as these, the answer as to what tip-top condition should mean becomes clear and so does the goal.
As leaders, our primary goal should be to maintain our employees at their highest possible performance level and to even enhance their natural capabilities.
And now, armed with a clear goal, we can establish what to do and how to do it. In other words, we can define what our leadership is and what it needs to be to close performance gaps and create a highly motivated and committed workforce, whether that be one person or thousands.