It’s unfortunate that mid-level executives are called managers. It really sends the wrong message and drives engagement down. We all know, for instance, that executives oversee the execution of business plans. And we understand that directors provide direction to teams, just as supervisors offer supervision to their teams. But managers?
You could say that managers are responsible for managing projects and resources. But the danger is that managers tend to manage people as well. And as we also know, “things” get managed, but “people” get led.
To compound matters, most managers attain their position by being promoted through the ranks, with the principal qualifications being technical expertise and their ability to get things done. But those abilities don’t make someone a good leader – they make them a good “doer”.
The consequence of all this is that managers tend to treat people as “things”. In other words, they treat them as resources. I’m really not picking on managers here. I’m simply explaining why so many executives and leaders tend to also treat people like things. It carries through from their days as a manager.
What do I mean by “treating people like things”? We treat someone like a “thing” when we’re insensitive to their feelings and their needs. When a leader is dismissive with someone, they’re treating them like a thing. If, as a leader, you don’t care about the hardships your actions cause or the inconvenience created, you’re treating people like things. A great book on this subject is, “Leadership and Self-Deception” by The Arbinger Institute.
What happens when people get treated like things? We all know what happens, because we’ve all experienced it before (and perhaps you’re experiencing it at work right now). When people get treated like things instead of people, they tend to disengage. They become less loyal, less interested, and less enthusiastic. They view the other person (usually the leader) with less respect than they did before. And they feel less valued and less appreciated than they thought they were. The bottom line is that creativity and productivity suffer, and when creativity and productivity drop, a drop in profitability isn’t far behind. If you really want to boost engagement within your organization, have your leadership team – at all levels – strive to treat people like people.
How do you go about treating people like people? The simplest strategy is to ask yourself how you would feel if someone spoke to you the way you’re about to speak to someone. People respond to leaders who are empathetic and who care about them. This doesn’t mean you accept mediocrity or give up holding people accountable. In fact, just the opposite is true. It enables you to hold people even more accountable and bring out the best in them. Bringing out the best in others is the essence of exceptional leadership.
If you’d like help with getting your leadership onboard with treating people like people, please give us a call: 503-928-7685
Oh, and as to what to call “Managers” – there’s no special term. How about “Overseers”, or “Performance Leaders”, or “Captains”? The label isn’t so important. It’s the thought that counts…