As is with each stroke of an artist’s brush, every management decision, every corporate downsizing and every improvement initiative reveals something about the culture executives are creating. Since information travels quickly, the impact from these actions is felt more rapidly than ever before. Chief executives looking to understand their own cultural challenges can begin by asking themselves six simple questions.
- Do employees see their potential when they walk into or out of work?
- What do I want them to see and experience while working here?
- Are employees eager, cooperative and curious, or simply looking for the emergency exit when they come to work?
- Is the experience I’ve created different than the one I promised myself, my spouse and board of directors?
- What am I willing to do to improve the experience employees have while at work?
- Why do I treat my employees differently than I treat my own family?
If you’re wondering what you can do to change things up – and improve – read on. We’ve identified the root causes of five typical management failures that erode throughput rates, operating expenses and employee engagement levels. Each of the problems is an opportunity to mend your organization’s health and increase cash flow. Fail to recognize these signs, however, and employee’s innovative capabilities, creativity and purpose will be stifled.
Find the root cause of the problem
Failures in a company arise from deeper organizational issues. Tracking down the causes of failures can improve lead times and cash flows, but requires that those investigating the issues set aside their egos. As finger pointing goes away, and egos become less fragile, a standard for collaboration is restored within the organization and employees become important cogs in the wheel of operational excellence.
Drive fear out of the culture
If you are going to identify the root causes of failure within your organization, fear must first be driven out of the culture. Employees who experience fear are paralyzed, often afraid to bring failures to management’s attention for fear of retribution or reprisal. Fear drives out innovation and curiosity from the organization, resulting in missed opportunities for improvement. Executives and managers should perform an audit of their leadership style to determine if they are motivating their employees through fear. By eliminating fear, management can eliminate a lot of fire fighting within an organization.
Eliminate a win/lose mindset
Nothing destroys the human spirit faster than a management team that believes that someone has to win and someone has to lose. This mindset has become the norm today, but it also presents an opportunity for executives to differentiate their company culture from competitors by fostering better cooperation and collaboration. Organizations where these traits are present have higher levels of productivity as employees work towards common goals.
Top quality begins with top management
Quality begins in the boardroom. Management must understand that their responsibility is to improve efficiency while encouraging innovation. Employees have the freedom to innovate when they have a leader’s full support along with an internal belief that their ideas towards improvement matter. The full support of a board and executive team committed to quality and people sends the right message that employees and innovation matter.
Abolish merit ratings
A merit rating system erodes employee motivation. Although a pay-for-performance system sounds nice on the surface, employees doing what they are told in a failing system controlled and set up by management will still have no control over improving the overall business. Merit rating does nothing towards changing this either. Instead, it pits one good employee against another. Because of its randomness, it functions more like a lottery than achieving its intended purpose of increasing productivity. In the meantime, management may not be paying enough attention to the wasteful activities that ultimately drive loss and variation.
It’s time for a leadership transformation in the way we treat our most valuable assets: our employees. Employees and their associated benefit and labor costs can no longer be viewed as strict liabilities. We must use one another’s natural talents to eliminate the root causes of business failures that ultimately drive labor costs up. The value of an engaged employee far outstrips the value of any other business asset.