Perhaps, all of us encounter at some point of our professional lives where one finds a manager/supervisor who hates the human species. Such managers cannot see a belt without hitting below it. These managers never desire inter-action; being aloof is their creed. They are hermits closeted in their cabins. They remain obscure to their teams. During office hours, they hibernate and the only time colleagues get a glimpse of this “wonder” is when he/she comes in and goes out. Corporate hermits are not rare. They are present in every entity. Dealing with them is no small challenge for the initiated, emancipated and liberated staff. Albeit, the daily occurrence of this is never a shock. These type of managers stand out, not as tall, but as pygmies.
Of these, there are some who are also liberally possessed of deceitfulness. They indulge in expedient duplicity and deception. Sometimes, overtly they appear to be extremely friendly and accessible; while covertly they may be submarines, firing torpedoes at the very stature of their peers or even reports. Such surreptitiously, are men at work, against your interest. The duplicity in behaviour is discovered, usually after the hurt has been caused; and that usually takes a long time for discovery.
The need and importance of engagement with staff can never be under-estimated. It is a necessity. Hate must be met with love. So, any who practices aloofness as a strategy for being seen as an impregnable and stoic leader, will to his peril, realise, that the masks come off from every face. All a matter of time! Teams that have within them a visible and engaged manager are always to be reckoned with.
The engagement with staff can be at both levels, formal and informal. Interaction can take place in formal board room setting or it can also happen with still greater impact, in an informal and impromptu encounter, in the corridors of the office. The effect of informal engagement is more lasting, because of its inherent suddenness. Managers have to consciously imbibe abilities to invite engagement of colleagues; in being inter-connected, at all times is an assurance of a well-oiled and completely gelled team. There is a native American saying: “Tell me, and I will forget. Show me, and I may not remember. Involve me, and I will understand”. A manager’s recognition of a colleague in the midst of other colleagues is usually a “reward and recognition”.
All of us face every workday of our lives, managers whose exteriors are either warm as the hellish sands of Sahara or are the coldest as though from Antarctica. The sandwiched moderates between these two extremes usually make up for most of the country's human resources. A balance has to be made between -- boundaries of cultures and social norms.
Actually, being interested in colleagues and their families’ welfare is the single most potent motivational tool available to intelligent managers. Being involved with staff’s personal aspirations bestows to the manager, the teams unalloyed commitment of performance. It is proven by anecdotal corporate history that when no tool of motivation works, the personal commitment overtakes all impediments to achieving excellence. While interacting with colleagues, as managers, we have to be directional. They must see clearly what is expected of them. There should be no room for ambiguity or confusion, on the task to be performed and the results to be obtained. Clarity of communication is a cornerstone for effective staff engagements.
Face, usually, nay always is what the mind is; the outer person becomes a replica of the inner person. Any dichotomy between the two emerges fast for all to see; the thin veneer of deception comes off expeditiously. Inside each man (managers) resides the beauteous spirit and the demon of animal instinct, so say there is nobility alongside a ferocious wolf; which of these two behaviours would dominate will depend upon, who is fed more? The stronger of the two, will prevail.
Some managers through their actions/ decision spread ill-will all around, the poisonous effect of which permeates through the entire organisation; in as much, it is true also , if goodwill were to take roots within the hierarchy, then its infectious affect leads to a happier organisation. Interpersonal rivalries remain under tight check and scrutiny.
It is a good managerial trait to often step out of an office and indulge in some measure of small talk, with colleagues. Here the significant aspect to determine is what should constitute “small talk”? Intimacy lowers fame. No managers should set aside the accepted axiom that familiarity breeds incompetence; so indulge in small talk with great quantum of restraint, caution and reticence. Jokes or anecdotal stories can be shared occasionally to break ice for more intuitive engagement. And, do not ever force colleagues, to laugh because you as manager have narrated it; the joke, if it is really one, will have the propensity to make “others” laugh too. Readers may be surprised but I am witness to “loyalists” who laughed more than a joke required or demanded! It is said that respect is greater from distance.
The fear of familiarity breeding contempt is a fact, which managers have to be adept at learning ways and means to nip, such overtures of seeking friendliness, in the bud. A rose smelt often loses its fragrance.
Team members are invariably more interested in finding out, how they are fairing and what direction their career taking? Discuss their strengths and weaknesses; identify areas to capitalise upon and on how to plug any gaps of inadequacies of knowledge, skill or trait. Colleagues simply adore such engagements; use these judiciously for motivating enhanced performance. In discussing areas of improvement, there is no need to be either sarcastic or demeaning. Be straightforward; no beating around the bush. A minute of pain is always better than a life-time.
Expression of empathy is one way of positive engagement. A situation that ails the mind of a colleague, whether of a personal or official nature, must be traded with words of solace, comfort and correction, if that’s within the realm of possibility, for the supervision. It is believed that a pat on the back in full view of other colleagues is the greatest motivational tool, and hence for engagement too, managers must put this to use often.
Meet up with staff, if you are the manger, to achieve the goals and objectives; in the process clarify to teammates that the demand is for the highest quality of productivity. In these interactions, it is best to spell out, the expectations and simultaneously, the manager must listen with keenness the staff’s expectations.
Pleasing is not leading; neither is popularity to be confused with being a professional manager. The human instinct of wanting to be liked can actually become quicksand. Where one can walks into, with a bending and malleable approach, towards all overtures of those seeking familiarity and informality. Those who succumb to this instinct, become managers who acquire a guru/sage status in the art and science of pleasing people skills.
As a supervisor, whenever I took a justifiable and rightful stern action/stand that went to hurt emotionally some; I would become restless, as part of many weaknesses; and within the same day or the next day (even within hours) find a reason to call to my office or visit the concerned teammate; and without sounding blatantly obvious of being filled with regret, I would try to bring a smile back on his face. Pleasing others. Not, I believe on hindsight a good leadership trait to process. The proviso here is that dreadful decisions for reasons of “integrity” were never regretted. If one has the conviction of being “honest” in decision making - regardless of outcome or consequences, no justifiable action will ever beget or create any room for remorse.
All staff engagements must lead to creating value for colleagues, for empowerment, for motivation as against disinterestedness in their work or for meeting them to be manipulative.
It is good to seek opinion from others about self. The feedback however, must not surrender or subjugate the autonomy of one’s thinking. In doing otherwise, the manager may be popular but the organisation will suffer. It is of no good to think that to the valet, no man is a hero or important or even to subscribe that one ought to know a colleague (man) seven years at least before you stir his fire.
Staff engagements demand that out of the best, you as manager must get the best efforts and results from your teams.
The writer is a banker and freelance contributor