What is your vision?  Do you want a better process to manage people to drive performance and  accountability or do you want a process to create an environment of self-management?   There is a major difference between the two.  The current tools offered by most Human Resources Consulting companies give us choice #1. I want to offer you the choice #2.

I have two dogs. They are dependent upon me for nearly all their needs.  They need me for food, to go out, for shelter, and for exercise.  They wake me up at 5:30 every morning when they have to go out.  Immediately afterward they need to eat.  They are dependent on me.  They can’t let themselves out nor can they feed themselves.  I need to manage them and their needs.  The more I need to manage them the more time and effort it takes.

I constantly look for processes to help them to self-manage.  If they can be independent it takes me less time and effort.  For example, we invested in the “Invisible Fence.”  For those of you without dogs you can imagine what I mean.  It is a system that allows us to let them out in the early morning and know they will not run off.  They will stay within the electric fence area because they are wearing a collar that sends a signal and/or electric shock if they try to wander beyond the electrified wire barrier.  It allows them to self-manage within the context of the barrier.

We invested our time and effort to train them to stay within the boundaries.  Now we don’t worry about their safety because they self-manage.  If dogs can self-manage can’t people?  It seems to me we often treat our employees much the way I must treat my dogs i.e. as dependent beings.  Maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration but please think about it for a minute.  For example listen to the language we use when we talk about improving performance. 

We often use the phrase “managing people.”  Shouldn’t we be managing the environment and managing the process and leading the people?  Shouldn’t people be allowed to manage themselves?  We talk about driving employee performance.  When we drive something aren’t we controlling it?  Do we control people or lead people?

We talk about holding people accountable.  Does that mean punishment or blame?  Doesn’t it suggest control when we use words like “hold?”  Are people responsible or not?  Don’t we want to work with people who are fully responsible instead of those who need to be controlled? 

We implement performance appraisals and use them in conjunction with pay-for-performance to drive employee performance and organizational results.  These are control strategies.  These policies have fundamental assumptions of the need for controlling behaviors. These policies suggest we must either threaten or bribe people to ensure they do what they need to do.  They won’t, or can’t, naturally manage themselves to create improvements and performance.  Is this what we truly believe?  Are all people capable of self-management or not?

We need to set up the system to allow people to self-manage.  There are two things we can do.  First we must start with values behaviors.  Second we must work on improving the system together as a team.  The real enemy of self-management is the system. 

By working together in a team we can improve performance.  Alone, we will become exhausted.  Just like the dogs who are totally dependent upon me, I must stop what I am doing (sleeping or whatever) to feed them or let them out. If they are dependent and I don’t respond, they make a mess.  The same is true with dependent people.  The same is true with management systems that create dependent employees.

First, we must create a context of trust by defining those behaviors we can all agree will create trust.  In other words, we must treat each other with respect and integrity first.  There can be no compromise on these specific behaviors. We must be respectful and keep our agreements with each other.  This creates the trust necessary to allow us to do step #2.

Second, we must work on the system. We must look for ways to create greater self-reliance and self-management.  We must look at our, language, our processes, and our policies and change them to facilitate (and not create barriers) for self-management.  Just like the invisible fence, we must change how we interact and we must base these changes on high levels of trust.  Only then can we move closer to self-management for everyone.                                

Wally Hauck is an EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT GEEK and a PREDICTABLE PERFORMANCE PUNDIT.  Wally is passionately obsessed with eliminating the current performance appraisal process because it creates long lasting dysfunctions and damage to trust, performance, motivation, engagement, and relationships.In 1983, while reading the book the Turning Point by Frijof Capra, Wally realized he had been taught flawed thinking his entire life.  The world of systems thinking and chaos theory resonated and he made a decision to never go back. From that day forward he vowed to share the insights with anyone and everyone.Wally is a Certified Speaking Professional or CSP. The Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) designation, established in 1980, is the speaking industry’s international measure of professional platform skill.  CSP is conferred throughout the International Federation for Professional Speakers only on those who have earned it by meeting strict criteria. Wally has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy from the University of Pennsylvania; an MBA in Finance from Iona College; and earned his PhD in Organizational Leadership from Warren National University in 2008. Wally’s new book, The Art of Leading: 3 Principles for Predictable Performance Improvement, provides three basic principles of leadership that form the foundation of success for predictable performance improvement and employee engagement.
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