As I continue to observe and reflect upon the behaviors of human beings in a work context, I have developed standards for judging the usefulness of people as they go about their assigned tasks. What I am looking for in others is:
- Orientation to reality
- Competence (and it won’t develop/exist without orientation to reality)
- Some evidence of basic goodwill – not a false altruism that thrives in the absence of an orientation to reality
If you haven’t got the first or second of these qualities, you’re not going to be able to produce value or function as a leader. If you haven’t got the third of these qualities, you will fail to build and maintain trust necessary for the work group or unit to function. Failures to have and develop these qualities lead inexorably to the Potemkin Village model of public service and, unsubsidized by redistribution of taxpayer wealth, to the collapse of commercial and industrial ventures.
Do your own work. People will find out if you don’t, and it will be ugly.
If as a manager or supervisor you can look back and see that you’ve wrecked every unit you’ve supervised and that long-time employees are all actively seeking other employment or those able to do so have been or have been talking about retiring, look in the mirror – the problem is you.
Can you do better? Are you willing to make the effort? Is the actual job beyond your abilities, and is that why your management “style” or focus is to “major on the minors (issues)?” If you’ve got any sense or good character, you should be able to answer these questions truthfully, if only to yourself, and take appropriate action. If you don’t, the system may.
If you’ve been hired to supervise or manage a team and find yourself unequal to the task, quickly find another job before you wreck the unit you were hired to supervise. Remember – having done well at interview is a far cry from succeeding on the job.
If you think that as a supervisor or leader of some type you need to”leave” or “make your mark” on the organization, try to have enough sense to make sure it’s legible.
If you’ve been hired to work as a manager, understand the “product” the unit you’re responsible for produces. You’ve got to understand two things in this regard when you work in an agency that provides services:
- What it is the agency has been chartered to do
- What the agency actually does
In regard to each, if you have a lick of sense, you will apply a value test. Simply put, you will ask yourself, regarding the service or services provided, “Is it valuable?” Your task is to promote and encourage what is valuable and, if you find your agency or company is all about something loathsomely else, to find ways of providing or producing value. You have a moral obligation to promote value and work to transform a bogus waste of “customer” money into a producer of value.
If you got your job because you convinced the person or group that hired you that your goal is exact abject compliance with their demands, that you would, in essence, “suck-up and kick-down,” then you are an unworthy person deserving of nothing more than contempt. If you are a careerist hack committed to the Potemkin Village model of public or any other service, you have another kind of problem, but are still deserving only of contempt.
You have a moral obligation to foster, to promote value.
If you’ve been hired to supervise the work of others, supervise their work. If your managerial skills extend only so far as making those you were hired to supervise feel “managed,” aspire to and work for something better. You have a moral obligation to try.
You lead from in front. You develop and model competence. You do your own work. Where there’s a gap, you fill it with your own effort until it can be repaired. If you created the gap through your own failure or series of failures, you own up to, learn the lesson that teaches, and immediately start doing better. You will be held accountable.
In the context of leadership, or really, any other, respect is something that is earned, never given. If you want respect in the workplace, develop competence and produce something of value or add value to the overall process. Additionally, if you are a person of goodwill, others will see that over time, just as, over time, others will discern your character, whatever it is.
To sum up – develop competence, produce value, exhibit good character if you wish to be respected in the workplace or any other place.
All anyone is entitled to in the workplace is common courtesy and compliance with lawful directives.
Anyone who aspires to serve in a leadership role should remember and think about these things many times throughout the workday.