Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The New Rules of Work

Not sure how many of you caught this recent Fast Company article on the new rules of work. It makes some really good points about how what we do every day is evolving. And that may be too light a word… less evolution, more revolution, it seems. “The old rules of work applied to an economy of factories and offices, a world of "standard," stable employment with large employers, over careers with more or less predictable trajectories. The new rules belong to another universe—flexible, precarious, and entrepreneurial, less and less tied to specific times, places, and employers.”

The piece essentially points out that work now happens anywhere and everywhere at all hours of the day and night, that work-life balance is becoming less of a “thing” as the line between the two increasingly blurs, and that today, doing what you love trumps the paycheck you earn.

Pretty spot on, I must say. I myself work from many places – airplanes, cars, events, my home, and only sometimes an actual office. Work to me is writing, speaking, consulting with clients, connecting with people – they’re things I’m passionate about and good at – and they don’t only happen between 9 and 5.

But there’s one key thought, one critical question the article raised for me, and I wonder if it entered your mind as well. In this new era where work and life are becoming progressively synonymous, where the people who work for us want to be part of something bigger than themselves, want to make an impact in a way that aligns with their personal purpose on this planet, I ask you:

How can we keep them engaged enough to not only stay, but to give us their all – not only their effort, but their discretionary effort – to work for us with their heads, their hands, and their hearts…?

The answer, my friends, lies in how we manage, how we mold, how we support them. Now, we leaders must change the way we think of ourselves and our role in the workplace. We can’t just tell people what to do and how to do it. We can’t just throw up the plan and expect people to march toward some seemingly arbitrary goal with no color commentary, no why, no tie to their personal goals. We must think of ourselves, instead, as coaches. We are there to paint the big picture, to share what we know, to listen, and to ask the right questions, to bring out the best our people have to give. We must show the way but not necessarily how to get there. Rather, we must provide the tools, the arsenal, the motivation, the reward by coaching our people to succeed in their way – to move toward achieving the big picture we provide with our guidance but not our directives.

As work changes, so must we. How are you embracing the new rules of work?

Monday, May 11, 2015

Are Managers Dead?

I recently read Fast Company’s publication of Tony Hsieh’s email to all Zappos employees entitled “Adopt Holacracy or Leave.” I love how progressive Tony is with his business model and management thinking. Even more, I appreciate Tony’s gentle demeanor blended with his blunt honesty. Tony has a vision for creating self-organizing and self-managing business-centric groups at Zappos. His mandate states that as of 4/30/15, “in order to eliminate the legacy management hierarchy, there will be effectively be no more people managers.” Tony has gone as far as telling people that if they don’t like the new model or don’t believe that they will be successful in the model, then they should quit. In true Tony style, he will make it easier for people to leave with outplacement assistance and severance. He is a class act!
I understand the desire to remove the role of “managers” at Zappos, people don’t want to be managed, and they don’t want to be told what to do and to be checked-up on! A dictionary definition of “manager” says “one who handles, controls, or directs.”  Handles?  Controls?  Directs?  I’ve never wanted to be handled, controlled, or directed.  Have you?  Those words are about telling people what to do . . . the outdated management style of “yell and tell.” Where are the words that focus on coaching and developing the people who are the heart and soul of any business? 
The concept of a manager-less organization is one that I talk about it my book, The Un-Bossy Boss. I predicted, that in the future, the role of managers will go away but will be replaced by a “Coach”, a people coach. A coach’s job is to bring out the best that others have to offer, a partner in people’s development. Tomorrow’s managers…these individuals must learn to coach, to engage employees as human beings, and organizations everywhere are awakening to the importance and impact coaches can have on their businesses.  They’re starting to invest in building the skills of managers to become coaches and developers of successful people.  This should be seen as a wake-up call for old-school managers.  For them, the future may be bleak.  But for those who want to coach and develop people, their time has arrived. 

I didn’t see anything in Tony’s email to Zappos employees about coaching. What do you think? Is the role of traditional managers dead? Are coaches the new managers? Is there a place for successful organizations with neither managers nor coaches? Let me know what you think.