New breed of boss reveals trust is more effective than command

‘Command and control’ has become a ‘dirty’ concept in management thinking. In the old days of running a business, the boss was the boss and everyone jumped when he (invariably it was a he) told them to. But being remote from your staff and giving orders from on high just doesn’t cut it in the modern workplace. Use that method these days, and you may as well rip up the ‘psychological contract’ with your staff.

This week’s interviews with two leaders from contrasting industries and backgrounds (Angela O’Connor, chief people officer at the National Policing Improvement Agency, and construction firm Rok’s chief executive Garvis Snook) confirm that the command and control approach is so passé.

The building sector is not renowned for picking its way through the delicate path to employee engagement, but Snook has made this his number-one priority. Even before new recruits pick up a trowel (or a pen, depending on which part of the business they work in) on their first day, they are fully briefed on the company’s values.

Their daily job may be building or labouring, but Snook ensures they understand that, to Rok, all staff represent the bricks and mortar in a much larger construction project – the business. He wants to empower his employees to make their own decisions, and he encourages staff to challenge him on anything and everything via a monthly ‘Ask Garvis’ web chat.

Snook’s definition of a ‘golden cage’, within which employees can do pretty much what they like, may not appeal to all, but it’s an approach that helped win him a ‘CEO of the year’ award.

The common denominator in all of these arguments is how much trust you’re prepared to place in your employees. Technically, a command and control model operates on the basis of not trusting the people who work with and for you. But as this week’s opinion column argues, you will get nowhere unless your relationships with staff are based on trust.

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