Dispelling a Myth by Celena Collins

Posted on May 21, 2013 by From the Front Management 1 Comment


There is a movement in the business world, in that many large companies have recognized that the
frontline employees are the most important asset to the company. But what is being done about it? It sounds good when mentioned in the required quarterly company meeting, however, in many cases, companies are doing very little to support these employees. Instead of having managers that respect unique talents and implement human-based values, these most valued employees are given under-trained, unsupported managers that most often lack leadership skills.

I have actually sat in company meetings and was told that all the employees should manage themselves, that their supervisors should not have to acknowledge or encourage us, that we should be more Self-Managed. They had said that since we were so valued to the company, we had a big responsibility to perform at a higher level by ourselves. Hearing this made my stomach hurt, and I vowed to never go to any of these required company meetings again.

Hearing that only gave me one more reason to not care about my job, and to try to just be grateful that I had one at all. As it turns out, I was not alone. There are a few myths that big companies operate under, one of which includes the very same one that I had just described in my own experience.

Myth # 1: Employees can and should run themselves.
Though it is incredible to see employees doing a great job individually and as a team with little or no supervision, in a short amount of time a team will break down without supervision and attention.

I have watched my entire team of co-workers leave one at time until I was the only individual left. I was not the only one that could manage my workload, however, I was the only one that did it with very little supervision, and was more afraid to be out of work than to continue to feel alienated, undermined, and even laughed at. The misery that this self-managed  expectation created went beyond having a few bad days, it destroyed my ability to function at the high-capacity that was expected of me, and it left me believing that every workplace would be the same, so there was no reason to look for a different job.

There is a difference between being skilled in self-management as an individual vs. being an individual employee that is left to self-manage their workload and position in his/her team. Being self-managed is a wonderful, personal skill; however, it is not a replacement for being supported by an effective leader.

As employees, we want to be encouraged, given direction with a purpose, and be made to feel like we are an important part of the team. Being expected to “Self-Manage” this leadership ourselves only alienates us as employees, especially those talented individuals that do have well developed self-management skills.

Not everyone is skilled in self-management, but those who are and do not receive the leadership they need may find themselves sitting on the sidelines with good work going unacknowledged by his/her supervisor. Given time and a few horror stories about the boss, or just plain being yelled at by the boss in front of the team, the sidelines will become more crowded, with fewer and fewer players in the field, until eventually they leave the game, the team, the company. This is what we call disengagement.

The players of the game are eager to do a good job, they are supported by their manager, and perform better when they are able to take risks and be involved in the bigger picture or team goal. The players are engaged employees, and their managers lead them, encourage them, and even fight for them when necessary.

As employees, we really do want to be in the game so to speak. We want to know what is expected of us, that we can work with our teams to get our jobs done, and done well. We want to be acknowledged, challenged, and supported. We want to be lead.

So can we dispel this myth? Can we change the way we manage employees, and train their managers?

The answer is YES.

There are many different leadership seminars and even one-time workshops available, however, there is a program that trains managers into leaders, and then coaches them individually to implement new skills and make necessary changes. This program designed specifically for these managers, to transform front line managers into compassionate, effective leaders over a years time.

Keeping our frontline or customer-facing employees engaged keeps the company running, and keeps people gainfully employed. It is time to change the way we manage and lead these employees, and that begins with changing the way we train their managers.

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