Psychology of Managing 101

October 24, 2008

No matter how good of sense an initiative makes to you, no plan will succeed without sufficient buy-in from employees. This is where a crash course in psychology can be very important.

It is not what you say, but how you say it. The best ideas for changing work processes often come across as “just another task” when the boss tells you what you are going to do.

What follows is the backdoor way of getting your ideas into your people so that it feels like it is their idea. It may be easier to just tell employees what they should do, but if you don’t want to be looking over their shoulder all the time to see that they are complying, if you want them to internalize the changes, then take the counseling approach:

  1. Ask your employees or representatives from the group for their help.
  2. Define the objective. Ask them why “the old method” didn’t work/isn’t working as we had expected. (Note that it is very important to talk in the plural we/our/us to make it a team effort.)
  3. Work out the new solution together as a puzzle, one piece at a time, even if you think you have the solution. Be sure to follow the throughput process from beginning to end. You may be surprised what kind of effect a seemingly minor inconvenience at the beginning of a process can have by the end.
  4. Highlight the good logic and ideas they have along the way. Let them own those ideas.
  5. When you arrive at the best solution, let them tell you again why “they” think this was the best way to go about reaching that objective.

Another benefit of the process above is that you get to test the waters with your idea without incurring any penalties for demanding something that won’t work. If you are managing to improve rather than managing to control, this counseling style approach will get you there.