Everybody grows up knowing “how to manage.” Down deep the word “manage” means to “be in control” of other people’s behavior. It’s a part of our deep cultural learning (Post two), our Elephant mind:
- Recorded the behavior of parents, teachers – every person who controlled our lives – and
- Built up a non-conscious image and a behavioral script – an easily recalled schema for being “in control” and then,
- Dedicated synaptic connections to its storage, and
- Waited for the right moment.
With the right situational cues (Welcome, to the position!) the “being in control” schema – with character and action guidelines – jumps into our consciousness automatically.
The Character of the “Automatic Manager”
When people are asked to name the first words that “come to mind” to describe the key personality traits of leaders, dominance (determination), intelligence and masculinity (aggressive, decisive) persistently lead the list.
The Action Script For the “Automatic Manager”
- View employees – from a distance – look down on them from your higher position.
- Protect your “objectivity.” Avoiding caring about them as individuals. Provide little recognition for good work: “That’s what they get paid for.”
- Know their work as a set of job descriptions. Set goals responsive to higher management despite limited understanding of the work required to achieve them.
- If employees raise issues, tell them to “suck it up!” ‘Smart, dominant and decisive’ people don’t take advice, they give orders,
The Emotional Mind At Work: A Paradox
The mind that drives us to make positive connections and provides the positive motivational energy is the same mind that stores the automatic responses to prevent such connections: our deep habits for managing by “being in control.”
The problem is that our Elephant mind reads any effort to control us as a threat to our sense of self. It automatically arouses wariness and hesitation. As employees, since we can’t flee or fight, we retreat emotionally and work less.
Not only does this explain the persistently low employee engagement numbers produced in the past 15 years of Gallup’s studies but also why a range of truly successful firms – from food processing to on-line shoe sales, to ruling the world of information – have eliminated most of their managers – or in the case of Google – kept managers but removed their power to directly control employees.
To defeat pervasive, cultural learning, these firms changed their managers’ situations and took them “out of control.” Since our behavior is driven more by situational cues read by our Elephant mind than by conscious choices made in our Rider mind, it worked.
Start From Where You Are
In traditional firms there have always been managers who have ignored situational cues that evoked controlling behavior. Like them, you can wake up to your situation, get “out of control” and lead consciously by following the 5 C’s of mindful management:
• “Manage by talking around” – get to know your employees – be friendly or at least courteous and respectful.
2. Caring Clarity
• Be clear about the work to be done and your idea of work “well done.” And when it’s “well done, “ say thanks.
• Tell less and ask more. Engage your employees’ minds in telling you about their work and how it can be done better. Decide with them.
• Keep your promises and if you can’t, explain why in a timely fashion.
• In difficult situations, downshift your emotional responses so your employees will “read” a non-threatening approach to solving the problem.
The first four guidelines get you “out of control.” You can’t be controlling when you’re trying to connect with people.
Now, you may think this won’t work for you because you’re uncomfortable making connections. Re-read 1A: “be friendly or at least courteous and respectful.” Large studies show that employee enthusiasm and trust are built on respectful treatment. Steps two through four tell you how to do that. There is cool respect and warm respect and warm works better, but whatever your style – respectful leadership always engages.
Finally, when sh-t happens at work, it instantly arouses your “automatic manager.” At that moment, you need to follow guideline five. More details on how to do this are in the book and will appear in future posts.