Marine Sgt. at New Orleans, La. By Howard R.Hollem. Library of Congress collection via Flickr.

Love in the Workplace Includes Demanding Performance

Forrest ChristianManaging Leave a Comment

Can you love your direct reports? The guys of Manager Tools say “yes” and add that it has to include demands for performance. Here’s why.

If you want to be a great manager and get high performance consistently out of your team, you must learn to balance to two sides of management: caring and demanding. It’s a tough one to get right as most of us err naturally to one side or the other. Canadian business consultant Nick Forrest (no relation) has said that you often see either the Gutless manager or the Lobotomized manager. The Gutless manager tries to create a cozy environment for everyone and shies away from demanding performance. “Contented cows give more milk,” he says, and the team becomes little more than a country club. The Lobotomized manager focuses exclusively on the tasks and seems to have had the compassionate human part of his brain cut out. Or damaged from being dropped as a child. It’s like working for a Roman slaver. Neither one of them makes a good manager.

Then there’s the Gutless Lobotomized, who cares neither about people nor about getting the tasks done.

The great manager is one how truly loves his direct reports and demands performance. Michael Auzenne and Mark Hortsman of Manager Tools said it this way:

I think a lot of people struggle with the Manager Tools approach of “We love our directs; we care.” Management is an ethical responsibility and if you’re not willing to express love in the workplace, you’ve got no business being a manager.

Being a manager is not about power. Yeah, you’ve got more but it’s not as much as you might think. Being a manager is about respecting others and expressing love, literally professional love in the workplace. And they can’t really balance the fact that we say all those things and the fact that we say, and you can produce an edge at times and expect the edge to work. Because the workplace is not about you, it’s not about your lovely directs, it is about achieving profits for the company. We work for the company and not for our team. We love our team. We work for the company.

[from “Fighting the Downturn Silence“, Manager Tools Podcast, Michael Auzenne and Mark Hortsman]

Love isn’t too strong a word. In Wagner and Harter’s 12: The Elements of Great Managing, they start with an example of a manager — there’s no way else to say this — really loves his direct reports. It happens to produce amazingly high productivity but it doesn’t seem to be the reason that he does it. Love seems to drive a lot of the great managers they discuss, even though it gets expressed differently.

Ken Shepard of the GO Society has pointed out to me that you must start with real feeling, moving from soul to body to mind. You first find love in your heart, which changes the way you feel; that is the way that your body reacts to seeing someone. The head or rational part comes last. You can’t cheat it by trying to reason love first. With love comes the impossible.

At the same time you must demand performance, moving forward to get the tasks done and make money. Love without performance is neutered, the Gutless management that Nick Forrest described. It is extremely hard to do. You have to face your discomfort with talking about performance issues with your direct reports. There’s a real way that honest and truthful discussions around issues of conflict and performance are the expressions of love in management. Willing to risk to make you better, to raise up the team, to protect the community.

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