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Your people management philosophy drives execution, results

Jorge Estrada Published on 24 February 2015

In the beginning, your dairy company probably didn’t need to spell out a people management philosophy. You did everything yourself. You managed as you saw fit.

As you have grown and now execute and produce results through others, it is key in business to have clarity around what your people management philosophy is and how that is helping you (or hindering you) in accomplishing results.

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Maybe you never really had to articulate it, or it may seem like a waste of time to attempt to summarize all of the intricacies of your people management style into a few principles you could call your unique management philosophy.

However, similar to the role of a mission statement, it does help to communicate to yourself and others those core beliefs that should be fundamental to all of your management decisions.

Taking the time to think through, and write out, your philosophy helps you learn what it actually is and gives you a foundation to align with when making critical decisions. Your philosophy affects how you delegate work and develop people.

It supports conversations and decisions with your managers and supervisors at the top, middle and front lines over how to manage people. And it comes in pretty handy when you hire new people so they have an idea what your philosophies are.

Self-assess

So what is your people management philosophy? If you are like the majority of dairy managers, you have never given any thought to this at all. You just chug along, “doing your job” as you see it. You worry about deadlines, tasks to perform and monitoring work to get results.

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You probably lack a consistent model as the basis for your most important management decisions. But we all have some sort of intrinsic management philosophy, even if we don’t realize it. Your philosophy provides the reasons for your style of management.

When it comes to your philosophy, there are no right answers. As you are well aware, there are many different types of managers, and many successful managers have very different management visions.

There are countless management theories out there to learn from. Let’s look at the Managerial Grid Model by Blake and Mouton, which identifies styles based on two attributes: concern for production (task) and concern for people (employees).

Regardless of how you arrive at your philosophy, the purpose of this article is to encourage you to spend the time becoming aware of your people management philosophy and discover how it impacts your decisions and how you manage people.

We all create perceptions about other people based on different factors. What and how we experience life play a huge role in forming such perceptions. Let’s take Dan, a manager on a dairy in west Texas.

He is a person who has experienced a number of disappointments, who is a pessimist, has a negative view of people and only a positive experience will prove it otherwise. On the other hand is Jake, a manager on a dairy in Indiana whose experiences with others have been pleasant throughout life.

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He is an optimist and has a positive perception about everyone unless proven otherwise. These basic perceptions influenced how these two people became managers. Their fundamental people management philosophies get developed based on trust or lack thereof.

Let’s use Figure 1 to identify where your philosophy fits. As stated above, if you consider your concern for people versus task, you will know where you tend to manage.

leadership grid

If you are Dan, you have the highest concern for task; your style’s key philosophies are to measure, to monitor – maybe even micro-manage. If you cannot measure it, you cannot manage it. The basic assumption in this style is that the worker, given an opportunity, will prefer doing something else other than the work. So the managers with this style, like Dan, will micro-manage employees.

They ask questions of employees on what they are doing and how they are doing the things assigned to them. These managers measure every possible metric (e.g., number of issues assigned, number of tasks completed, delays in completing tasks, number of defects in the tasks and so on). These managers firmly believe in monitoring employees.

Ideas like time sheets, daily reports, weekly meetings and so on are planned from that perspective. The downsides of this style, or negative impact of overmanaging or micro-managing, are stressed employees, ones who feel like they can’t make mistakes, won’t take risks, shut down their creativity and disengage, “I’ll just do what I am asked” is their attitude; high performers leave this environment.

If you are a manager like Jake, you have the highest concern for people; your style’s key philosophies are to educate, to enable and to empower. The core assumption under this school of thought is that given an opportunity, employees will step up and perform better than expected.

Like Jake, these managers communicate the needs, strategy and requirements clearly to employees. They educate their employees not only on how to perform their job but also on the overall picture and how their job is helping the organization as a whole.

Then they enable employees by providing appropriate resources. This could be a monetary budget, machines, people, technology, tools and so on. This environment creates a positive atmosphere and fosters motivation. The capstone ability of this style is to empower employees.

Managers who have mastered this skill provide decision-making capabilities to these enabled, excited employees and get in return people who want to achieve over and above the call of duty. The downsides of this management style is undermanagement at times, including lack of structure, lack of accountability, employees who don’t assume responsibility, low performers who never increase performance and wasted time.

Your people management philosophy probably swings between these styles depending on the situation and the person, but you likely have a more dominant style. Managers and supervisors within your dairy do as well. As you think on this topic, become aware of and execute based on your management philosophy, build your management principles based on the following:

  • Think about what underlying code of conduct guides you in your decisions already.
  • Then think about what is missing or misused in your current decision-making.
  • Consider what other managers you admire do.
  • Use high-level principles that can apply to almost any situation.
  • Keep it simple.

With these management styles in mind, we will be covering different principles that affect each of these styles in future articles. Let’s look at two of these principles and how they apply to Dan and Jake. You can use these principles to assess, build and fine-tune your own philosophy with your own management team.

Leadership: The best managers are leaders

The best managers are more than administrators or controllers. Beyond focusing on structure and processes, they innovate, create and influence. They focus on people and personal development.

Both Dan and Jake have leadership strengths in their management philosophy and should leverage them. They should also, as many leaders do today, fine-tune their management approaches by learning from the strengths of each other’s philosophy.

Respect: The Golden Rule

Regardless of their management philosophy, Dan and Jake will find that practicing respect as a management principle will pay big dividends. In Dan’s effort to micro-manage at times and stay on top of people, he might come across too direct, maybe even being interpreted as disrespectful, so he would benefit from toning himself down if he is aware that he is coming on too strong.

Jake may be afraid to be more firm, for example, when a male milker’s performance is not up to par, because he’s afraid of being disrespectful. However, if he watches his tone and body language, being firm will respect the employee by letting him know what the boss truthfully thinks of his work while also addressing the performance issue.

Conclusion Bringing your own management philosophy to your awareness is the first step on the path to noticing how it impacts the way you manage your dairy. Exploring improvements to your management style is also an important step in defining yourself as a manager. This process forces you to take the time to define and further craft your own management philosophy.

When you plan, decide and execute on your people management philosophy, you will produce sustainable and fulfilling results. Give your people a clear understanding of your beliefs by reviewing the management philosophies discussed in this article yourself and then with the leaders helping you in different parts of your organization. PD

jorge estrada

Jorge Estrada
Leadership Coaching International Inc.

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