In all my years of participating in and observing presidential elections, I have never heard so many people—both Democrats and Republicans—expressing disappointment with what’s going on in Washington. The complaints are not so much about the leadership capability of the current president as they are about the political system in general. Probably at no time in our country have we had so many major problems—yet we don’t seem to be making much progress in addressing them. Both parties seem to be more interested in getting their incumbents reelected than in problem solving.
A lot of people ask me, “What’s the difference between leadership, management, and supervision?” Most people think it’s about where you are in the hierarchy—if you’re at the top, you’re a leader; if you’re in the middle, you’re a manager; and if you are closest to the people who are actually dealing with the customers, you’re in supervision.
I’d like to break the mold and forget about those labels. I believe all three are leadership roles. No matter whether you’re at the top, in the middle, or supervising people on the front lines, as a leader you first need to make sure that everybody is clear on goals. The first secret of The One Minute Manager is One Minute Goal Setting. All good performance starts with clear goals, which is the vision and direction part of leadership. The next thing you need to do is to help people accomplish those goals. That brings to mind the second and third secrets of The One Minute Manager. The second secret is One Minute Praising. After people are clear on what they are being asked to do, you need to wander around and see if you can catch them doing something right. Accent the positive and praise them. If someone does something wrong, but is a learner, don’t punish the person. Just say, “Maybe it wasn’t clear about what we were working on,” and redirect. However, if you are dealing with an experienced person who for some reason has a lousy attitude, give the person a One Minute Reprimand, which is the third secret of The One Minute Manager. That’s where you make clear what the person did wrong: “You didn’t get your report in on Friday, and I really needed it. Let me tell you how I feel – I’m really upset about it.” Be sure, though, that you always end with a reaffirmation: “The reason I’m upset is that you’re one of my best people and I always count on you for that.”
Every level of leadership starts with clear vision and direction and then moves to implementation. Remember that managers, supervisors, and CEOs are all leaders. Don’t let yourself get hung up on labels.
It’s not uncommon after I have given a presentation for someone to say to me, “If only my manager had been here! He (or she) really needed to hear this.” I feel it’s a bit of a cop-out to blame your work problems on others. It’s a safe way of not taking responsibility for your own circumstances and initiative to make things better. The fact of the matter is that, during the span of your career, it’s likely that two out of every three managers will not be very good at the job of managing. Are you going to let that keep you from getting what you want and need in your job?
If you’re going to succeed, you need to train your manager to give you what you need. Fortunately, this is easier than it may sound—perhaps as easy as 1,2,3:
1. Give your manager what he/she needs to be successful. It’s going to be difficult to get your manager to make special efforts to help you if you don’t first show, through your actions, that you are worthy of such special effort. Be responsive both in promptly doing what is asked of you, as well as volunteering to help on special projects and responsibilities. Be proactive, try to anticipate your manager’s needs, and help to meet those needs. Take a moment on occasion to ask what else you could be doing to help out. Your attitude and behavior on this first step paves the way for the next step.
2. Tell your manager what you need from him/her to be successful in your job. After you have confirmed with your manager what is expected of you in your job, state what you’ll need from him/her for you to succeed. This is where your knowledge of One Minute Management can be used to get the results you want. Identify simple, clear, and specific One Minute Goals for each item you will be counting on for your manager to deliver, and then set realistic time frames for when those items can be done.
3. Follow up on 1 and 2. By doing what you say you’ll do, when you say you’ll do it, you will build a reputation for being dependable and responsible. By tactfully following up on items your manager agreed to do, you will build the expectation of reciprocity.
When your manager follows through on a commitment to you, use One Minute Praising to positively reinforce the behavior. I am constantly amazed at how many employees feel that managers don’t need praisings! After all—so goes the logic—that’s why managers are paid more. It’s as if by making more money managers graduate to being appreciated less! Let me let you in on a secret: People are never too old or too high up in an organization to not want praisings—it’s human nature. Everyone likes others to notice things they worked hard to achieve. Give your manager a praising today and see for yourself! And remember to praise progress—don’t wait until something is done perfectly before you say something.
If your manager does not follow through on a commitment to do something for you, you need some subtle form of a One Minute Reprimand. Either reestablish the goal while checking on what you could do to move things along, or redirect your manager’s efforts toward a more feasible and realistic task. Of course, you won’t have the position power to reprimand your manager, but the more you have built your personal power with him/her, the more likely a subtle reminder will work to get things back on track.
So don’t lament that your manager hasn’t created the perfect working environment for you—do something about it! Take control of your work life, and learn how to get what you want from your manager in order to make things happen for you and the company. People who learn the skills of managing up will soon be the ones who move up in today’s organizations.
Do you ever go home feeling that you’ve spent the whole day doing jobs on other people’s “to do” lists instead of your own? Do you feel that you’re doing more but accomplishing less? Your life may seem out of control, but it doesn’t have to be if you learn the art of monkey management.
Several years ago I had a chance to work with the leading expert of monkey management, Bill Oncken, Jr., who authored, with Don Wass, one of the all-time best-selling articles published by the Harvard Business Review entitled Managing Management Time: Who’s Got the Monkey? Bill and I joined forces with Hal Burrows to write The One Minute Manager Meets the Monkey (Morrow, 1989). It was a fabulous experience and I learned quite a few things about managing monkeys that still hold true today.
For those of you who are still scratching your head, allow me to explain. A “monkey” is the next move after two individuals meet, as illustrated here: Say you meet an employee in the hallway. He says, “Can I see you for a minute? We have a problem.” He explains; you listen; time flies. Twenty minutes later you know enough about the problem to realize you’ll have to be involved, but you don’t know enough to make a decision. So you say, “This is very important, but I don’t have time to discuss it now. Let me think about it and I’ll get back to you.”
The detached observer understands what just happened, but when you’re in the middle, it’s harder to see the big picture. Before you met your staff member in that hall, the monkey was on his back. While you were talking, the matter was under joint consideration, so the monkey had one leg on each of your backs. But when you said, “Let me think about it and I’ll get back to you,” the monkey moved squarely onto your back.
The problem may have been part of your employee’s job, and he may have been perfectly capable of proposing a solution. But when you allowed that monkey to leap onto your back, you volunteered to do two things that this person was generally expected to do as part of his job: (1) You accepted the responsibility for the problem, and (2) you promised him a progress report. Just be sure it’s clear who’s in charge now, your staff member will stop in on you several times the next few days to say, “Hi! How’s it coming?” If you haven’t resolved the matter to your employee’s satisfaction, he may begin to pressure you to do what is actually his job.
To avoid this travesty, monkey management is necessary.
Managers must be careful not to pick up other people’s monkeys. When they do, they broadcast the message that the employees lack the skills to care for and feed the monkeys themselves. Managers who grab monkeys off their people’s backs often kill employee initiative, and everyone is left waiting for the boss to “make the next move.”
Nobody wins when you take care of other people’s monkeys. You become a hassled manager and don’t feel very good about yourself. And you have workers who look to satisfy their needs elsewhere, because they feel underutilized and unappreciated. They often become dependent upon the boss. The care and feeding of other people’s monkeys is the ultimate lose/lose deal.
Bill Oncken, Jr. developed four rules of monkey management to help managers give back monkeys without being accused of buck-passing or abdication. They are:
1. Describe the monkey. The dialogue between a manager and a staff member must not end until appropriate next moves have been identified and clearly specified.
2. Assign the monkey. All monkeys shall be owned and handled at the lowest organizational level possible.
3. Insure the monkey. Every monkey leaving you on the back of one of your people must be covered by one of two insurance policies: (1) recommend, then act, or (2) act, then advise.
4. Check on the monkey. Proper follow-up means healthier monkeys. Every monkey should have a checkup appointment.
If you follow Oncken’s rules, you’ll stop viewing your people as the major source of your problems and will soon start seeing them as major solutions, because each of their backs can be a depository for several monkeys.
Try monkey management—it works!
Some of you might know that I’m good friends with Colleen Barrett, who stepped down as President of Southwest Airlines two years ago. It’s interesting – at Southwest Airlines, they say that all of their people are leaders, including those who don’t have management positions. It’s because they think everyone can have a positive impact on others. That’s consistent with the way we at Blanchard define leadership—it’s an influence process. Anytime you’re trying to influence the thinking, beliefs, or development of someone else, you’re engaging in leadership. I think the reason people like the title of The One Minute Manager better than if it had been called The One Minute Leader was that a lot of people don’t think of themselves as leaders. When I do sessions, sometimes I’ll ask big groups of managers, “How many of you think of yourself as a leader?” and less than one-third of them raise their hands. Somehow they think the word leader is reserved for high-level positions like Presidents and CEOs. In reality, when I ask folks to list influential people in their lives who have impacted them the most, they very seldom mention managers or supervisors at work. They usually talk about parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, coaches, or teachers. So there are life-role leadership roles as well as organizational leadership roles. It’s an interesting thing.
So I want every one of you to remember that you are a leader. Each of you has the ability to influence other people, whether it’s a coworker, a kid at home, a spouse, or a friend. Because anytime you attempt to influence the thinking, beliefs, or development of someone else, you are engaging in leadership. So we’re all leaders. It’s just a challenge to get people to think that way. So be good to yourself. Be a good leader this week. Impact people in a positive way for the greater good!