“Give them a purpose and give them peace” or Do strong employees need to be managed?

“Give them a purpose and give them peace” or Do strong employees need to be managed?

A strong employee is…

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I gave the following definition to a weak employee: a weak employee is an employee who either does not meet the requirements for the position, or the quality of his work does not correspond to the stated, or his behavior does not correspond to the corporate culture. But later it seemed to me not quite fair. After all, the basis of all these characteristics is either experience or human values. If a person does not have enough experience, and therefore cannot perform a task well, he is not weak, he simply does not have enough experience. If the corporate culture requires an employee to be open, sociable and inquisitive, and he does not do so because he is an introvert, he is not weak, he has such a character.

Therefore, to the formulation of a “weak” employee, I will add a parameter that will logically complement it – the parameter of human potential. Yes, a person with “weak potential” is someone who does not want to reach a new level and/or cannot due to physical and/or intellectual limitations.

Accordingly, a strong employee is an employee who has all the necessary skills and characteristics to perform the functions assigned to him, but in addition, he can and wants more (has potential and ambitions).

If an employee perfectly performs the current job and corresponds to the corporate culture, at the same time he does not want/cannot do more, he cannot belong to the category of strong. He just fits the position perfectly. If you continue to use the terminology weak, such an employee will be classified as an average person. At the same time, it is worth remembering that this category is the foundation of any company and its main driving force. Therefore, it should not be limited in rights, ignored, deprived of motivation.
Therefore, the main indicator of an employee’s strength is his internal potential and how he uses it.


“Management of people”: is an employee really an object of management?

Before answering the question about managing the strong, I suggest you understand the term “people management” and what it really means. So, when applied to a person, the term “management” is not entirely correct and needs to be clarified.

In real life, a person shows full subjectivity, that is, independent activity, self-governance and free choice of decisions. Therefore, it is more correct to talk not about managing people, but about working with people to effectively use their potential, to ensure the effectiveness of industrial interaction and industrial relations.

Let’s list the competencies with which a manager “manages” employees:

  • development and decision-making;
  • planning and organization;
  • delegation;
  • motivation;
  • support;
  • control and feedback;
  • training and coaching;
  • Regulation.

What are the manager’s actions aimed at within these competencies? All of them are aimed at creating external conditions for the most effective human work. At the same time, no matter how favorable the external conditions are, the employee still independently decides how much he will try and perform the work well. And none of the competencies can take away this right from a person.

None of the competencies has the power to influence human subjectivity. Only in a state of hypnosis or with a chip installed in the head (with remote control) can a person be fully called a “control object”. But in this case, a person ceases to be a “person”, accordingly, the term “human management” also ceases to refer to him… but this is already a philosophical topic.

Together: the real object of management should be considered not the employee, but the external conditions and factors affecting the efficiency of his work. As a result, the manager is responsible for creating the most favorable conditions for the effective work of each of the company’s employees.


Do you need to manage strong employees and how to do it?

Many believe that strong employees do not need to be managed at all. Like, “give them a purpose and resources and leave them alone – they’ll do it themselves.” I don’t agree with that. If we agree that managing employees is more about managing the factors and conditions that surround them during their work, it would be a mistake to admit that strong employees do not need it.

Strong employees need to be managed: they need to be directed, they need to be explained, they need to be controlled, they need to be praised and criticized. But it should happen a little differently.
Let’s go through the competencies described above:

  1. Development and decision-making. A powerful employee cannot be given a ready-made solution! By doing this, the manager wastes his time irrationally (if the employee can do it himself, why waste this time), inefficiently uses the employee’s potential, and can even offend him (“I could have done it myself”). A strong employee is quite capable of independently developing and making decisions. At the same time, he may not have information about all areas of the business/project. Accordingly, his decision can be both useful for one project and harmful for another. Therefore, the manager should help the employee to make the right decision. But this should not be done with a directive decree “you are not right – let’s do it like this…”, but with leading questions “what do you think, should we take this into account…?”, “Let’s think about how this project will affect such a project…”. So: the employee participates in decision-making (or makes it himself).
  2. Planning and organization. A strong employee does not need to be given an action plan – he can and should carry out planning and decomposition on his own. But as with the development of solutions, there may be flaws in his plan. Therefore, the employee himself makes a plan, and the manager watches and prompts with leading questions. Together: the employee prepares the plan and, if necessary, agrees with the manager.
  3. Delegation. A strong employee does not need delegation at the level of instructions (I wrote in detail about the levels of delegation in the article). It is enough for him to voice a goal or even just a problem for her to solve it. In this case, if such a task is given to an employee for the first time, the manager must make sure that the employee will determine the right direction. For this, during delegation, you need to do something like this: “Ivan, we have the following problem…. I would like to entrust her decision to you. Let’s think together how to solve it. What are your thoughts on this?”. In addition, it is important to choose tasks that will meet the employee’s qualifications and avoid low-skilled work as much as possible. Together: delegation only at the level of goals/problems and a minimum of routine-weak tasks.
  4. Motivation. Strong employees need encouragement more than anyone else. At the same time, their need is connected not so much with some small buns, but with recognition. It is important for them to recognize their results, their contribution and their value to the company. Although the rest must also be present. Overall: Employees need to know they are valued and appreciated.
  5. Support. Strong employees are more capable of independently solving issues and difficulties that may arise on their way. Therefore, they are unlikely to run to the manager with every little thing. On the other hand, when they do have the need to ask for help in something, there must be access “to the body” of the manager. It is unacceptable to redirect the questions of strong employees to their deputies and/or business assistants. Together: a separate privileged line of communication from a strong employee to the manager.
  6. Control and feedback. The control function must be present regardless of who performs the task. Control can be: preliminary (before the start of work), intermediate (control points during work) and final (control of the final result). With strong employees, you can limit yourself to final control, but only if the employee had no problems with completing tasks before and performed tasks of similar complexity. Together: controlling results and how to achieve them, not details and operations, without micromanagement.
  7. Training and coaching. First, a strong employee wants to learn and grow. Secondly, the manager must use the potential of employees as efficiently as possible and bring them to a new level (for the general benefit). Together: we determine the vector of development, discuss the steps with the employee, plan meetings and develop.
  8. Regulation. A strong employee is not always a systematic employee. And this means that he may need help in organizing regular work. In this case, the drafting of the regulations should take place together, without descending the order “from top to bottom”. And necessarily with arguments of reasons, benefits and consequences. Together: we argue the necessity of the regulation and together we make it.

Despite the fact that all these recommendations are quite good and attractive for global use (for all employees), at the same time, due to the lack of experience, knowledge, and most importantly, desire and potential on the part of the employee, they will all be unprofitable. So, in an attempt to involve a weak employee in making a decision, the manager will spend a lot of time and nerves on explanations, and will not achieve anything. Or imagine an example when the manager sets a task for a weak employee only at the level of the following problem: “Clients are leaving us. Something needs to be done about it…. What can you offer?”. It’s good if the employee is quite honest and directly says “I don’t know”. And how many problems will there be if he takes this task, does not ask a single clarifying question and goes to solve it. It’s scary to imagine.

Therefore, one of the biggest mistakes of a manager is to use a single set of methods/approaches: either “micromanage” all, or trust and freedom all. It is wrong. A manager must be able to use different approaches to different types of employees.


General summary

The manager is an employee of the company who is responsible for the result of the team of employees entrusted to him. For this purpose, the manager is allocated certain resources and given powers. The use of resources, authority and team is called management.

The manager cannot give up management. It is impossible. Even if the manager shuts himself in his office and does not answer calls/messages, this inactivity is also called management. However, the effect of such management will not be quite correct.

As an example, consider a car driver. Any person who sat in the driver’s seat, started the engine and drove off can be called a car driver. While the car is moving, the person in the driver’s seat is considered the driver who drives it. If a person falls asleep at the wheel and the car continues to move, will that person be considered no longer the driver? No! As a result, the report will record that the driver fell asleep while driving.

Employees are different. In this article, I divided them into 3 categories (strong, medium, weak), but this is very global and we must understand that there are many more categories, because each person has an individuality. But this does not prevent us from segmenting employees to identify key approaches to each of the categories.

As mentioned above, the manager is unable not to manage, regardless of the category of employees under his command. Strong employees need management just like everyone else. At the same time, the management of the strong should be based on partnership relations, and not on “I’m the boss – you’re a fool” relationship.

Partnership relations imply equality. Despite the presence of powers, the manager must hide them and forget that they exist (specifically, for this category of employees). At the same time, he should not forget his role as a manager and responsible for the result, and in every possible way participate in the achievement of the goal and contribute to it with all the resources entrusted to him.

You can find more articles about management in my Telegram blog Thoughtful management.

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