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Still Driving

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Still Driving

My recent post DRiVE Me Crazy!, sparked a dialogue in the blogosphere and in particular, blogger Lisa (www.managementcraft.com) and I continued to trade thoughts.

Here is her last entry:

[Lisa] I believe in good, healthy, debate about things of importance like these, and I thank Aubrey Daniels for taking the time to share his thoughts on Management Craft. In his comment, he asked: "When you have a manager who for decades has never told one employee that he liked, valued or appreciated her work, how do you get him to the point of showing "admiration, gratitude, and care?"

[Lisa] This is a common problem, for sure. I would first ask, what is the root cause of the problem? On what basis is this manager deciding what to do, what to communicate, and how to manage? Often what I see is that the only training this manager has received has reinforced the wrong things (paternal practices, a focus on extrinsics, and that people are essentially machines - although it is usually phrased less directly) and that what needs to happen so that the manager can improve is a shift in his or her thinking about how to best manage people. Well intended structure with forms and check sheets will only reinforce the old and inadequate beliefs that underlie a detached management style.

Aubrey also asserts that he thinks we need to give managers pretty specific guidance. I wonder if he is suggesting that I think managers ought to be taught abstract and broad concepts and not trained on the specifics of what great management looks like. Actually, Aubrey, you and I agree that specifics are important. I think that the specifics we each recommend would be quite different, however (as related to motivation).

Also, I think that we know more about motivation - scientifically - than Daniels seems to believe.


My response [Aubrey] In response to the question, "How do you get him (a manager who has never told one person that he liked, valued or appreciated their work) to the point of showing "admiration, gratitude, and care?" , you state, "I would first ask, what is the root cause of the problem?" My question to you is what if he told you that he never felt loved by his parents, that he studied engineering because he didn’t really like people and would rather work alone but because he was an excellent engineer he was promoted to supervise an engineering function?

What would all that information about his past do to help you get him to the point where he was sensitive to the effort and accomplishments of those who worked with him and for him? Would his history change what you would do? Frankly there are a lot of opinions about whether a cognitive or behavioral approach would solve the problem, but few who have these opinions have ever had the task of actually helping such a person make those changes.

Over the last 40 years we have worked with literally thousands of managers who had that problem and been successful in helping these people achieve what others who knew them – before and after – called a "personality transformation" and all without invading their privacy or personal history. I am not suggesting that what you would do would not be effective, but as the scientist would ask, "Which of the two was most efficient?" As a student of science, you understand parsimony. If two steps would solve the problem, why would we need three, assuming equal outcomes. Only science can reveal the answer. On another point you say. "…what needs to happen so that the manager can improve is a shift in his or her thinking about how to best manage people." I would not argue that point except to ask, how do you do that? How do you get people to shift their thinking? Do you tell them, persuade them, and convince them? I can tell you that these attempts are at best inefficient and there is much scientific evidence to support it. A shift in thinking seems to follow a shift in consequences – not the other way around. You say, "Well intended structure with forms and check sheets will only reinforce the old and inadequate beliefs that underlie a detached management style." I don’t know the research behind this statement. I do know that although forms and check sheets don’t change behavior, they can be used as a way to shape behavior from a "detached management style" to one that is involved and empowering. You say that, "We know more about motivation - scientifically - than Daniels seems to believe." I don’t know who "We" is but if you mean that there is more that science has learned than I know, you are correct. I spend some of every day trying to catch up with what science knows, but after 74 years I am beginning to think I never will. In the end Science doesn’t care what I believe. It is what it is. I only hope to know more of what is real.

My concern remains. Too many popular writers present ideas as though they are scientifically supported when they are not. Because it is difficult for most people to tell which are and which are not, they take action that produces unintended and often negative consequences.


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Posted by Aubrey Daniels, Ph.D.

Aubrey is a thought leader and expert on management, leadership, safety and workplace issues. For the past 40 years, he has been dedicated to helping people and organizations apply the laws of human behavior to optimize performance.

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