Everyone is concerned with how to attain quality, how to keep it and how to be known for it. Quality is definitely seen as the factor that can distinguish your material handling firm from its competitors.
While in many ways, quality might seem elusive, or, at best, hard to measure, it is easy to determine when quality is present and when it is missing. And we are all drawn to people, companies, products and services that exude quality.
Whenever we speak about quality to executives, among the questions asked is, “What qualities make up a perception of a quality company?” The top-of-mind responses we got included: service, reputation, consistency, integrity, commitment, enthusiasm, authenticity, reliability and availability.
The lion’s share of these qualities have to do with people—the people we select, develop and manage; the ways in which we motivate our employees; the ways we work together, develop our priorities and accomplish corporate goals.
The irony is that management typically focuses the bulk of its resources on other strategies. Finance, sales, marketing and investment strategies are usually thought of as the hard issues and receive more attention than the softer issue of human resources strategies, but better strategies for our people is precisely the area where we can gain a meaningful competitive edge.
Improving our people strategies starts by renewing the way in which we look at our people and the jobs that they fill. We can start out by taking a fresh view of our managers and those whom we manage.
One of the questions we often pose at a convention is, “How many of you are managers?” Almost everybody immediately raises their hands. Then we ask, “How many of you have managers?” Not quite as enthusiastically, everyone indicates they also have a manager. Then, as we discuss the differences between the way we manage and the way we are managed, an interesting point surfaces: Most of us know much more about the people who manage us than we know about the way we manage others.
One of the most common complaints about managers is that they often make us feel manipulated. There is an underlying, universally acknowledged feeling that our managers often try to get us to do things through a variety of formulas and half-truths, which, in reality, we can see right through and which serve to undermine a collaborative, team-building approach to management. Yet we often use these same approaches with those we manage.
The lesson to take in our roles as managers is that we need to be more authentic. The best place to start is with the hiring process. The best managers understand the importance of surrounding themselves with talented people who are true professionals and care about what they’re doing.
When we trust the people around us, we can be straightforward, consistent and fair. There is no need to sugarcoat things, hide information or try to coerce someone into handling certain tasks or projects. Ultimately, the best managers become effective by getting people to do willingly what they might not accomplish on their own. Through the force of their personalities, they set the pace and tone for the entire organization. And that tone needs to be genuine. It needs to inspire trust.
Even when we don’t have the luxury of “starting fresh” with newly hired individuals, building that two-way trust should top our list of management priorities. This entails not only sharing our knowledge and expectations, but also genuinely listening in a way that lets people know they’ve been heard and understood.
The more we know about what makes people tick, the more we can help them use their strongest skills to contribute to department and company goals—and the better we are at rewarding them with opportunities and incentives that truly speak to their inner motivations. This management style helps ensure quality performance, instills enthusiasm and encourages growth.
As people start developing their full potential, they can take on new responsibilities and help us see things from a different perspective. Doing things ourselves can only take us so far. Surrounding ourselves with successful people is the only way to improve personally and professionally. As one manager points out, “When you are leading, if the emphasis is on your ego, you have a problem. You’re there to make those around you look good.” This is at the core of authentic management.
As we learn to better understand the individual strengths, limitations and motivations of those we manage, we can speak their language, tap into their commitment and help increase their overall productivity. We also can ensure we have the right people in the right positions—people who will understand our strategies and recognize how they can add value.
Improving our people strategies is the most direct way to improve service, reputation, consistency, enthusiasm, authenticity, reliability and availability—all of the quality issues that are top-of-the-mind concerns for material handling business managers today.
|Meet the Author
Herbert M. Greenberg, Ph.D., is president and CEO of Caliper, a human resources consulting firm located in Princeton, New Jersey, and on the Web at www.calipercorp.com.