Simple practices also win the day. For example, the CEO of a Toronto-based growth-driven technology company launched a monthly gathering where staff could join their boss for breakfast. Employees loved his efforts and connection, and engagement and innovation rose. The additional benefits of simply walking the halls and production lines, and having meaningful conversations with employees about who they are, their concerns and ideas, can work wonders.
The best boss I ever had was never a boss - he was a mentor, a collaborator, an inspiration. His name was Jim Brownell, and he had a bar night named after him. With Jim's encouragement and support, those of us on his team made the impossible, unrealistic happen.
A man I will always have a great deal of respect for is Dalton McGuinty. I don't agree with everything he did as Premier, but I never once questioned that his commitment was pure and his heart was in the right place. The reason for this is because I continuously saw him make time to connect with staff, to recognize and support completely non-political activities of team members and 9 times out 10 you could count on him to be the adult in the room in any situation that got messy.
The worst kinds of bosses I have seen are those who staff dread to see making rounds, because it's sure to come with criticism, rebukes and undermining challenges. A close second are those bosses who can't be bothered to connect with their staff at all. When it takes two years for a boss of a small business to sit down for a chat with an employee, that employee knows they and their ideas don't matter.
We like to talk about "different leadership styles" and how people need to adjust to them. To me, that's a bit like saying every problem has to reshape itself as a nail if the tool that's hitting it is a hammer.
Leadership is a tool, a method of catalyzing action. It's a completely different function than management, which itself is a completely different model than micro-management.
Yes, there are certain jobs where adverse pressure can improve results - traditional manufacturing fit this bill. Offer bigger carrots and drive your donkeys hard, they'll move faster for you.
When it comes to cognitive labour, though, it's not necessarily speed your after. Measure twice, cut once, etc. Because we don't look at work culture this way, we focus on speed and who's getting to market faster.
Is it better to have a crap product (or policy) out the door before the other guy finishes designing their quality product? We tell ourselves yes, but really it's marketing and oppositional undermining that most detracts from another brand. Regardless, if people don't like the product they're buying and have no confidence in any other products on the market, they're perfectly capable of keeping their money (and votes) at home.
I don't think even Stephen Harper would consider that smart business, and he's an economist after all.
Where innovation, or participation, or brand loyalty are the goal, hammers don't work. Shrinking the platform doesn't work.
If you don't need people or creativity for your business, knock yourself out. But if you want to grow in the modern economy or in modern politics, you gotta commit sociology.
It's just good business.
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