A New Bosship model: Partnership and Release
We are being tasked to create new solutions, or new approaches to old problems, and to open new vistas of opportunities. The older generations happened to create a lot of wealth but also matched them with problems. To survive, to resolve the quagmire, to match their success or to even exceed it (which is actually what is required), would task the ingenuity of each of us and most importantly, the collaborative energies of us all. Therefore the new boss model should be one that is focused on partnering with junior colleagues to release the locked potentials in our synergistic efforts. Therein lies the opportunity to birth out-of-class results, and thereby deliver the future of our dreams. Even the loyalists to the command and rule management style cannot lay claim to such a possibility.
Does this describe the boss you seek? “Many years ago, a mouse scampered across the floor of a Detroit classroom and then disappeared. The teacher, Mrs Beneduci, asked one of her students, Stevie Morse, to help her find it, even though he was blind. The teacher valued the child’s special ability to acutely hear things, which compensated for his lack of eyesight. It was one of the first times somebody appreciated the boy’s keen sense of hearing. The children became silent as snowflakes as Stevie listened for the mouse. The little boy pointed in the direction of a wastebasket. Sure enough, Mrs. Beneduci found the little critter hiding behind it. Years later, Stevie Morse would change his name to Little Stevie Wonder and would reference his teacher’s act of appreciation as a turning point in his life. Stevie Wonder has earned seventeen Grammy Awards and an Oscar. He has sold more than seventy million LPs and ranks alongside the Beatles and Elvis Presley in having the most Top Ten records” ( Aesop and the CEO, David Noonan).
Does this better describe the boss you need? “In Success Is a Choice, Pitno describes how he helped professional basketball player and late bloomer Mark Jackson to realise his unique talents. Jackson was the eighteenth pick of the first round of the National Basketball Association in 1987 when Pitno was head coach of the New York Knicks. Jackson was an outstanding at St. John’s, but the fact that seventeen teams passed on him raised concerns about his future as a professional. The line on Jackson was that he was too slow, couldn’t shoot very well, and would have trouble keeping up with quicker guards in the league. From the beginning, Pitno was determined to raise Jackson’s confidence and self-esteem, especially as his top draft pick went through a period of self-doubt. Jackson believed he was destined to fail, fueled in part by what he read in the New York tabloids. “Too slow for the amount of money he’s being paid,” they said.
Pitno explains: “One of the first things I did was tell the rest of the team I thought Mark had a legitimate chance to be Rookie of the Year because he would flourish in our system.” Understandably, the rest of the team did not believe Pitino. An eighteenth-round draft pick doesn’t go on to become Rookie of the Year. Pitino focused on accentuating Jackson’s strengths – his passing, his ability to lead, and his personal charisma. He dispelled Jackson’s self-doubt about his slowness by telling him that there was no other point guard in the league he wanted more n his team, except for Magic Johnson. Jackson’s self-esteem and confidence grew daily. And so did his level of play. The next spring, Mark Jackson was selected as the NBA’s Rookie of the Year. No other player before or since has been picked as low in the draft as Jackson and gone on to win Rookie of the Year” (Aesop and the CEO, David Noonan).
A Nigerian who was working as a lawyer in a law firm in the US said this the other day about his boss, who happened to be Caucasian. He said she came to the court to sit in on a case that he was handling. He said he had stayed up late getting his case together. Even though it was a tough case, he won. His boss later tells him that she notices that his strength is in the oratorical part of law. So she said to him that she would begin to place him in situations that gave him a chance to speak and argue such as in front of a jury, a commission of inquiry, a panel etc. Of course he flourished on it and met and even surpassed the challenge. His boss also noticed that he disliked all those voluminous writings that lawyers usually engaged in. Fueling this dislike was the fact that his writing skills could be said to be average – somewhat below what was required of a top lawyer. But she did a remarkable thing. Because she had identified, supported and sponsored his strength, when she now wanted him to improve on his writing he was willing to give it his best shot.
Partnering and Releasing Junior Colleagues
Partnering and releasing your junior colleagues is a concept that requires a whole new thoughtware by bosses. It calls for a need to expand our bandwidth on the manager-employee relationship. As the name goes, it would require us to see our subordinates as partners in progress. It ends the era of “We” vs “Them”. To give you an idea what it would require, this excerpt from Marcus Buckingham’s, Now Discover Your Strengths, just nails it.
“There are many things you can do to avoid failing as a manager. You can set clear expectations. You can highlight the underlying purpose of people’s work. You can correct people when they do something wrong. And you can praise people when they do something right. If you do all these things often and well, you will not fail as a manager. However, neither will you necessarily succeed. To excel as a manager, to turn your people’s talents into productive powerful strengths, requires an additional, all-important ingredient. Lacking this ingredient, no matter how diligently you set expectations, communicate purpose, correct mistakes, or praise good performance, you will never reach excellence. The all-important ingredient is Individualization, and this is what it sounds like:
Ralph Gonzalez works as store manager for Best Buy, the phenomenally successful consumer electronic retailer. A couple of years ago he was charged with resurrecting a troubled store in Hialeah, Florida…Now no matter which number one uses – sales growth, profit growth, customer satisfaction, or employee retention – the Hialeah store is one of Best Buy’s best. When interviewed about his success, this is what Ralph had to say: “Everything comes down to knowing your people. I always start by asking each new employee, ‘Are you a people person or a box person?’ In other words, is this person drawn to strike up a conversation with our customers, or does he love arranging the merchandise so that each product looks as if it’s about to jump off the shelf? If he is a people person, I will keep watching to see whether he is just a natural smiler, in which case I’ll probably put him on a checkout register or in customer service, or whether he also has the talent to sell, in which case I’ll set him up to give multiple presentations of our newer, more complicated products during our busiest times. And I’ll watch to see how he likes to be managed. Right now I have a merchandise manager who needs me to be firm and challenging; he’s that kind of guy, and he expects the same from me. But I also have an inventory manager who needs something very different from me. He wants me to explain myself very clearly why we need to do something. I keep watching like this, getting to know each of them. If I didn’t, none of the other stuff would work.”
When Phil Jackson, the coach of the six-time NBA championship-winning Chicago Bulls, went to the L.A Lakers, he brought with him all of the techniques that had served him so well in Chicago, the Zen philosophy, the meditation session, the triangle offensive system. But he also brought books – a different book, it turned out, for each player. To the young superstar Kobe Bryant he gave a copy of The White Boy Shuffle by Paul Beatty because he felt that the story – of a black boy raised in a predominantly white community – reflected the challenges of Kobe’s own upbringing in suburban Philadelphia. To Shaquille O’Neal, one of the most recognised and celebrated basketball players in the world, he chose Friedrich Nietzsche’s autobiography Ecce Homo because it dealt with the subject of a man’s search for identity, prestige, and power. Rich Fox, who is said to have aspirations as an actor, received a copy of the noted Hollywood director Elia Kazan’s autobiography. Why select different books for each player? According to Jackson, “The books are to show that I appreciate them and am focused on who they are.”
“In your role as manager you have the same opportunity. You will need to focus on who each employee is. You will need to learn each one’s behavior…and find the right language “to suit their brain.” The expectations you set will be slightly different for each person. The way you set them will also be different for each, as will the way you talk about your company’s mission, the way you correct a mistake, the way you nurture a strength, and the way you praise, what you praise, and why. All your moves as a manager will need to be tailored to each individual employee.
Marcus Buckingham continues by saying: “Daunting though this may sound, there is no getting around it. Each employee is wired just a little bit differently. If you are to keep your talented employees and spur them on to greater performance, you will have to discern how each one is unique and then figure out ways to capitalize on this uniqueness. For a couple of reason this is often difficult to do. The first reason is that the great majority of organisations, with their formalized processes and their detailed lists of competencies, operate under the assumption that most employees are the same and that, if not, they should be trained until they are. Second, it is hard because individualizing your management style is more time-consuming than treating all employees the same. Faced with many other responsibilities, it would have been so much simpler to ignore each employee’s pattern and say, in essence, “Look, this is the way I manage. If you like it, good. If not, either adapt or go somewhere else.”
Where do you and I start from?
The moral of the gist is that this ‘command and control’ style though easier to deploy would not get us the heart-to-work connection that we seek from members of our teams. Partner and release is the new black. Where do you and I start from? Find out the strengths and passions of members of your team. Accept that each person is different; what you want they may not want. Some are early starters, while some are late bloomers. Partner with them during periods of personal challenge and illness. Partner with them while they are learning – be the coach. Ask for their personal growth plans. Release them by giving them room to blossom. Release with responsibility and corresponding authority. Allow them platforms that would allow them utilize their strengths. Put them in the spotlight. Marshal organisational resources their way. Continually stretch them. Hold yourself and them accountable to excellent performance. Give your power away by using it to empower your subordinates. Then obviously, get to the bookshop and buy them a book! Thank you.