First, Break all the Rules – Part 2: (Tips for Business As Mission companies)

Last week in Part 1, we highlighted the twelve “measuring stick” questions that every manager needs to focus on so each employee in the business can provide an affirmative answer.  The twelve questions resulted from the robust research developed by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman1Business As Mission companies are no exception; in fact, BAM companies should be the best at laying the foundation of a strong workplace.

Great managers, suggest Buckingham and Coffman, see their role as catalyst.  They reach inside workers and coax great performance.  By contrast, leaders tend to look outward, into the future; they are visionaries, strategic thinkers, and activators.  Managers need to be recognized for their strength and be allowed to concentrate on what they do well; not develop visionary talents.  A good manager’s strengths are skills needed to select, set expectations, motivate, and develop employees. Here are the four keys:

  1. Select for Talent. This is breaking the historic rules of selecting for experience, intelligence or determination. You cannot teach talent; you can only develop it.  It is either there or it is not.

Ryan, owner of Agency Boon in Romania, told me that when he started his company in Bucharest, he sought out talented people with a desire to learn and grow. He credits this philosophy with the success of the company today.

  1. Define the right outcomes, rather than the right steps. This affirms the employee by allowing him or her to use unique talents to the fullest as he focuses on the defined outcome. Good managers almost intuitively see their role as focusing people toward performance; when the conventional temptation is to control.

The owners of a For Profit Business As Mission English School I visited in East Asia understood this. The sixty teachers were clearly focused on outcome for the students and the result was amazing.  I left the school and the conversations with staff and students thinking, “This is a model school with excellent outcomes … anyone desiring to do something similar should be mentored here.”

  1. Focus on Strengths, rather than weaknesses. It is harder to transform weaknesses than it is to develop strengths.  Instead of continued self-improvement plans, recognize that some workers will be more productive and happier doing what they have a talent for.  Find ways to reward those who don’t really want to move up, make sure they are in a role that uses his or her talents, and let them ‘fly’ with their unique talents.  Don’t treat people alike – treat them as they want to be treated.

I once had an employee who was a medical doctor.  He showed up in my office one day saying he didn’t want to be a physician any longer.  He wanted to be a teacher. I knew teaching was not one of his strengths; in fact, he did it rather poorly.  In order to retain and focus on his strengths, we arranged for an assignment in another country where he could develop his strengths.

  1. Find the right fit. Most managers are guilty of promoting people to their level of incompetence. Help each employee to find the right fit, not what they might think they want – move up the ladder, more status or money, more prestige.  One way to do this is the broadbanding technique.  If a person does move up to a ‘higher’ position, don’t let him or her abandon skills but let him utilize talents they used previously.

IBEC has consulted with companies which hired engineers. Many times engineers like to move into management when their better fit is to do what they do best – a continued role in an engineering task.  A good manager will help the engineer stay in the best fit, and if he or she does move up, it is wise to help him or her keep his hand in the engineering world.

1. Buckingham, Marcus and Coffman, Curt. First, Break all the Rules, What the World’s Greatest Managers do Differently. Simon and Schuster, 1999

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures 

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