CIO magazine has another spot on article, this time about management actions that actively demotivate staff.  I’ll spare the point for point recounting of the article, but will offer some relevant anecdotal evidence supporting cases made by the author, Esther Derby.

My favorite is a manager asking for input and then ignoring it.  Ignoring simple input regarding a project is bad enough, but I’ve enjoyed the experience of a manager asking for constructive criticism about his methods and then paying no mind.  A manager asking for feedback from direct and indirect reports is usually thought of as noble, but what good does it do if not acted upon? 

The one time I was given this opportunity, my suggestions revolved mostly around interpersonal skills.  My manager employed a “Wizard of Oz” approach to management.  That is, he stayed behind his curtain(cube wall) and dictated from there, rarely coming out to have actual conversations.  To this point, my number one suggestion to him was to have more one on one contact like we were at that moment.  My comfort level with him through two one-hour conversations doubled compared to the last year and a half of working “with” him.  These talks were always business relevant and not of the deliborate relationship strengthening type, but they opened both our eyes tremendously as to the thought processes and goals we shared and didn’t share.  Ultimately, I was far more willing to approach him over difficult matters.  Prior to, as I explained in the meeting, I was far more comfortable talking to our CTO directly than to my manager. 

We parted with a healthy handshake and a very genuine sounding “thank you” from him for the honest feedback.  Six months later, nothing is different.  He is no longer my manager, but he is someone’s.

Moving to the section on creating an environment for success, I identify the number one missing element as the articulation of the group’s mission.  This has nothing to do with mission statements or vision paragraphs buried in a 20 slide presentation.  This is an actionable philosophy for how things get done.  This is especially important in the technical world, where uber-nerds have a tendency to stray from current tasks to whatever new technology sounds interesting that day.  Too many brainy shops lack significant direction, perpetuating a daily loss of focus and eventually the failure to meet deadlines or quality standards.  Not only does this remove the manager as a decision bottleneck, as the article states, but it naturally reduces the opportunity for manager dictation, saving oneself from that possible coaching pitfall.  Get a techie on board with the what and why, and the how comes without effort.

Spend some time and read through this article from CIO Magazine.  It addresses an, until recently, ignored situation common in IT shops where senior management spends more time fighting fires or using employees as tools for solving technical issues instead of providing their staff with the tools to solve those same problems.  Using people to manage incidents is not the same as managing people.  Moreover, the article takes the appropriate angle of not preaching to management, but helping them realize that fostering leadership below simplifies their lives a great deal.

Executives must first cultivate leaders in their organization.  Susan Cramm, IT leadership expert and founder of ­Valuedance said, “There should be opportunities for people everywhere in IT to create a difference.  But you have to create a culture that enables people to step up and see leadership as their role.”

Too often employees quickly recognize the culture they’re a part of includes management shoving them under the bus in instances of failure.  The article states, “sanctioning leaders at all levels also means allowing for less than stellar results too. It’s all part of creating an open environment that encourages people to take leadership risks.”  Anything less and who would want to takes risks and stretch knowing there is not support from above?

What seems harder for management to grasp, is that it isn’t enough to just cultivate leaders.  You must empower them. 

“Empowerment means giving them the tools they need to succeed. Chief among those is a clear picture of IT’s mission and their role in it.”

“Empowering leaders also means giving them tools for success, from equipment to people.”

It is not enough to simply recognize potential leaders.  Management needs to provide opportunities.

Cramm said, “A good CIO will say, Let’s figure out what your capabilities are and understand how we can bring your unique gifts and talents to the organization.”

One method Cramm explains, I think is incredibly simple and yet often not used in providing opportunities.  “You don’t always have to manage through tasks and milestones.  With promising leaders, you can just create space in front of them. If it plays into their interests, they will fill up that space.”

Truly talented employees and high potentials don’t always like being the square peg forced through a circular hole.  This directly points to a manager being able to adapt to the desired coaching style of each employee.

Kudos to Stephanie Overby for a well-written article.

Marissa over at CultureRx recently threw up a new blog entry attaching a personal perspective to the growing issue of Gen Yers exerting particular pressure on the conventional workplace. She references an older USA Today article speaking to how Gen Y workers maintain high expectations of self and employers, and require dynamic environments offering growth opportunities and immediate responsibility.
I myself fall into an all-encompassing demographic of Generation Y, also falling into the more specific millennials. That being said, I can attest to the accuracy of the article.
I would place a smaller emphasis on such pain points as casual dress and flexibility of schedule. The primary stressors revole around the Gen Y relationship with managers and older co-workers. To Gen Yers, traditional managers and the Gen X workplace environment moves incredibly slow with too few opportunities for increased responsbility. They have an expectation to not so much receive kudos for a job well done, but a reward of increased responsbility and a chance to perform again. Generation Y is rather confident in their abilities and simply want a chance to showcase them.
Truth be told, managers that cannot adapt to this change will soon be obsolete. What is now considered progressive (result centric performance reviews, flexible and adaptable coaches) will soon be the norm. New members in the workforce want to work with their managers, not for them. Not only will those in the ‘old school’ camp see their talented employees jump ship for more open climates, but also see their own environment change around them. Those managers better get ahold of the Situational Leadership II Model quickly and recognize what a difference a letter makes.