This is an African proverb I came across recently and thinks it’s an excellent metaphor for the challenges a manager faces.
So yes as a manager or leader your job is to make sure that your team/department company is heading in the right direction, and most importantly that your team know what direction you are heading. Your team want to know why they are moving these rocks – what’s the point!
Deciding the direction is the easier part of the process, once you’re clear on the direction making sure every you do is imbued with that goal is the only way you’ll get there.
I use a few techniques to help me:
- Set your system password to be your goals, if they are SMART then they’ll include numbers, this reinforces the goal several times a day. eg “Wewillgrowby20%”
- Record the overall goal along with the steps towards it at the back of your notebook, that way you can refer back to them whenever you are in a meeting to keep yourself on point.
This for me is the real work of management, making sure the rocks are moving in the right places, the best people are doing the moving – that’s hard really hard.
Frederick Herzberg is one of the fathers of management theory, he is most famous for his work on “hygiene factors” these state that things like work environment, conditions & controversially pay are hygiene factors, if they are bad they can be demotivating but if they are great they aren’t motivating. This plays to the commonly held belief that pay is a short term motivator to which I totally subscribe, anyone who I know who has asked for a pay rise has left with 12 months – being given one totally different.
For him the primary motivators are job enrichment, that is giving people challenging interesting work to do, think about the scientists behind the Rosetta missions – they aren’t motivated by their salaries, they are motivated by doing some incredibly challenging stuff with freedom to chose how they do it.
Now getting people excited about landing a robot millions of miles away is quite easy but how about growing sales in a software business by 20% – yeah bit tougher…. but the principal remains the same – people need to feel that the work they do matters, that they are in control.
It’s really easy to make the interesting decisions yourself leaving the day to day to your team but thats giving them rocks to move with no view or influence on the mountain – that seems unfair to me!
Don’t delegate tasks, delegate goals, the mistake people make in this situation is that they think that because you’ve delegated a goal that you can’t check progress, this comes back to the way you delegate. Pulling this together an simplified exchange moves from:
“Move those rocks”
“we need to move this mountain, by this route”
“We need to move this mountain, not sure how I’ll leave that to you, we need to get there this year so you can get back for your wedding, can you put together a plan we can regularly catchup on”
So next time you’re delegating or addressing a new goal, check
1. Am I being consistently clear on the goal
2. If delegating am delegating goals or rocks
3. Am I making it matter to me and those around me?