Most senior managers will acknowledge the importance of having the support, loyalty and ideas of their subordinates. A company of any size cannot sustain growth on the back of one person. Without a team effort the entrepreneurial spark can be extinguished in the rainstorm of turmoil created by success.
Desirable employees want positions that satisfy an interest or because they are excited about where a company is going. They want to be a part of the accomplishment. The enthusiasm they bring to the table is vital to the creativity that sustains growth. Merle Crowell stated this eloquently; "It's the men behind who 'make' the man ahead."
So how does a manager on this walk through the corporate jungle end up squishing creativity like a bug? The fundamental building blocks to success are easily stifled. Here are some suggestions on how you can smother any chance of being a successful manager.
First - Fail to acknowledge the importance of other people. Take credit for all creative thinking and problem solving. "Protect" your subordinates from the scrutiny of top management by never conceding the part they played in your latest accomplishment. Deceive yourself in to believing that they take pride in serving you and that your light is enough to keep them tanned.
Second - Do not ask other people's opinions. After all who knows more about running your department than you? That's right. How could someone toiling in the trenches with no Big Picture mentality possibly grasp situations and problems as well as you? Believe that you alone have the candlepower to illuminate the dark crevices that big problems create.
Third - Give your opinion first, forcefully and often. It is imperative for your subordinates to know where you stand. Won't they be like sailors at sea without a compass if you don't give them direction? Naturally they will turn to you for guidance. Why wait? Give them the answers before they ask the questions. Remember, no one knows more about the operation than you.
If any of the behaviors in the last three paragraphs seem a tad similar to your own management style, then you may be guilty of squishing the bug. People need...not just want, but need...approval. This is a fundamental principle of human behavior. To maximize our potential, we all need recognition. George Houston clearly summarized what happens when a manager fails to encourage subordinates when he said, "Anything that interferes with individual progress ultimately will retard group progress."
The primary role of a Senior Manager should be the development of those who report to him. It is through their growth that the company will prosper. Now that we've identified how to manage people poorly, let's look at how to get the most out of all your employees.
First - Acknowledge the importance of people. William James, the Father of modern psychology said, "The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated." Repeated surveys have shown that employees leave companies most often not because of salary but because of lack of recognition. The effective manager gives credit to whom it's due. Try catching people performing well. Praise noteworthy behavior. Smile more. You don't need to carry pom poms and become a cheerleader. But you must take responsibility for the morale of your department.
Second - Ask other people's opinions. I once owned a medium sized manufacturing company that supplied the hospitality industry. We were having some serious issues in our shipping department that nobody seemed to be able to solve. I presented the problem in an open meeting and a nineteen year old kid who had been working for me about three weeks came up with a solution that was elegant in it's simplicity. We were in the forest, he saw the tree! Tap the creativity and differing perspectives of all your employees. Take every opportunity to ask and then listen. The benefit is incalculable.
Third - Foster creativity by allowing open discussion of any and all possible solutions. At the Leader's Institute we call this Green-Light thinking. It is the quantity not quality of ideas that is emphasized. There are no wrong answers in this process. Your role is to encourage the free wheeling generation of ideas. If you defer judgment, people will hitchhike a solution on another idea that had little merit. In this atmosphere the magic of creativity flourishes. When the process plays itself out (no more than 10 minutes), then have the group begin to winnow the possible solutions down. Again it is important for you to allow the group to make the judgments. You might prompt thought by asking questions. For example, "What effect could this solution have on other departments?" or "How much might that cost?" When the group has selected the most effective solution then work on specific steps toward implementation.
In closing, I'd like to quote Dr. Marcus Bach, "Success, or failure, very often arrives on wings that seem mysterious to us." It is up to every manager to serve as the conduit rather than the short circuit of creativity.