Our current management model is still based on the military model. I say that because most organizations still use an organization chart showing a pyramid structure, pay-for-performance policies, and the performance appraisal policies to control behaviors.  These are all symptoms of embracing the management model consistent with the military model where you give a command and you follow it.  It is based more on fear than on trust.

Think about the language we use to describe how leaders must lead.  We have managers who must “drive” results or drive outcomes.  Drive is a control word.  Drive is a military term.  In the dictionary even the words “to manage” means “to control.”  Control is a military term.  The General, or manager, gives an order and you need to follow it.

What does it take to move away from the military model?  It has served us well for years but it is as outdated as Windows 3.1 operating system.

The first thing we can do as leaders is to change our language.  If, as leaders, we want to increase trust, leverage our knowledge (increase delegation with confidence), and create higher accountability we can begin to use the word “agreement.” 

An agreement is a specific, measurable, and time sensitive task or action that a person can complete because they already have (or can predictably obtain) all the tools and/or resources necessary to complete the action (task).  A goal is different.  A goal is also a specific objective or task that can be measurable and time sensitive but all factors, resources, or tools may NOT be available.

My wonderful wife and I decided to lose weight together as a team.  She brilliantly suggested that we skip dinners for six weeks and see how well we do.  She most often makes dinner for us because I always work late. I told her this was a great idea for her because it would take the pressure off her to always plan and make dinners.  She could exercise or do something nice for herself. 

Our goal was to lose weight.  We agreed to shoot for 20 pounds each.  To accomplish the goals we agreed to keep the following agreements:

Eat breakfast and lunch and skip dinners
Remove all sweets and snacks from the house
If we got very hungry at dinner time (or afterwards) we could have a treat like nuts or fruit but no large meals
We would support each other

The agreements we made will predictably get us to our goal.  The agreements are actions or steps that will lead us to our goal.  The agreements represent the steps in a process.

Most leaders, because of the military model, still attempt to bribe or threaten to hold employees accountable to the results without thoroughly discussing the agreements that need to be performed along the way. 

A Wall Street Journal analysis of high school Regents test scores in New York showed a “bulge” in scores of 65 or just barely passing.  Apparently teachers saw scores close to the passing grade and just “pushed” those kids over the line to be sure they passed.

The goal of the teachers was to increase the number of kids passing the Regents exam.  There was no apparent clear set of agreements to achieve that goal and avoid the “gaming” of the system.  The teachers made up their own method by pushing kids over the edge.  Also, how much are the teachers learning about their teaching methods and/or future improvements by “gaming” the system.  This approach also damages learning.

Leaders who skip the step of the “creation of a process,” skip the creation of agreement, and then threaten or bribe employees are “driving” results.  However, they risk unintended consequences.  To protect employee engagement, improve performance, optimize learning, and maintain integrity, leaders must learn the skill of “facilitation of agreements.”  They must begin to learn how to study a system, identify those steps necessary to reach a goal and then create the list of agreements from those steps.

It is a lot better (and sometimes easier) to hold people accountable to agreements than it is to hold people accountable for results.


Wally Hauck holds a doctorate in organizational leadership from Warren National University, a Master of Business Administration in finance from Iona College, and a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from the University of Pennsylvania. He is a Certified Speaking Professional and for 15 years his consulting firm, Optimum Leadership, has consulted with dozens of organizations and coached hundreds of individuals in improving leadership skills to boost employee engagement and performance.
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