The expression ‘control freak’ has become horribly overused. But it remains an appropriate term for those diehards that don’t understand modern workplace management.
So what is required of managers today?
In many hierarchical institutions, the best route to advancement is to be first in and last out of the office. As if mere attendance were some guarantee of productive work! It artificially dilutes your talent pool by effectively ruling out a lot of women, parents of young children or indeed anyone with a reasonable sense of priorities.
The key to managing the modern workplace is to forget about control. Instead, think about motivation, teamwork, creativity and responsiveness. You also need to embrace new technology.
Modern technology has changed many aspects of day-to-day management.
Let’s take just one example: meetings. Throughout the 20th century, if you needed to bring key decision-makers together, you would summon them all to a given venue, and arrange travel by road, rail, sea or air.
It took the eruption of an Icelandic volcano, and its ensuing ash cloud, for video conferencing to take off in a way that airplanes literally couldn’t. And guess what? People discovered that it was as good as being there in the flesh. It saved time, hassle and money, too.
Technology is vital because it changes the way you can do things. It also changes a business’s outlook at the strategic level.
Traditionally, people were hired to do particular jobs. Nowadays, we identify the work that needs doing, then allocate it – sometimes in different parts of the world.
What hasn’t changed is the fact that as an employee your life will still be governed by the person/s to whom you report. If that person tries to control you, it’s only a matter of time before you look for work elsewhere. But if they treat you with consideration, acknowledge and reward your successes, you’ll be encouraged to stay and perform even better.
Too often in the past, people were promoted to managerial posts by virtue of seniority, or simply because they were the most skilful sycophants. These routes are more likely to throw up non-entities or bullies than good leaders. By contrast, the quality most required of the modern manager is an ability to empathize. Thanks to psychometric testing techniques, this is not so hard to identify.
Once identified, suitable managers should be given support and training (not least in technology) to bring the best out of their people. Finally, they should be rewarded according to the results their teams achieve.
Modern businesses really do depend on their people. To get the most out of them, we need the best managers we can find – and absolutely no control freaks!