Persuading managers to be themselves

Simon Wilsher looks for people motivators, not boardroom mimics

For successful entrepreneurs, having vision, keeping focused and maintaining
creativity is second nature. Being at the top of the food chain grants them an
escape from their desks and the freedom to take a bird’s-eye view of their

But for managers, staying true to who they really are and developing their
people, is an endless challenge.

Many managers mistakenly think that to be a great businessman, they must
adopt traits associated with renowned entrepreneurs. Business mimicry is common
as many confuse being like a great businessman with actually being a great
businessman. They should have the confidence to be themselves, not boardroom

Imagine the stress of trying to be someone else in the day-to-day cut and
thrust of business life. Such pretence can leave individuals and organisations
burnt out. It is common for people at all levels to lose the freshness,
enthusiasm and character that first made them successful. Bright sparks are
turned into bureaucrats, teams become demotivated, and fast-track companies
lose their distinctiveness and direction. Instead of being regarded as a
leader, employees see an apparatchik who tows the line, not a motivational
force to be reckoned with. When managers lose confidence, it stands to reason
that their employees will follow suit.

Company jewels

The biggest knock to employee confidence comes from job uncertainty and
‘survivor syndrome’ following redundancies. When times are tough, managers
reviewing the balance sheets always find that staff are the biggest outlay, so
talent is always the first cut to be made. The biggest challenge for the modern
manager is holding on to their talented people – the ‘company jewels’ – while
chopping off the dead wood. But, it is talent that will drive your company and
set it apart from your competitors, so pruning staff should be the last resort.

Retaining good people is a two-way thing. Once you have resolved to keep
hold of them, it is vital to ensure they actually want to stay. If left
unchecked for too long, problems with team spirit can often arise and balloon
into morale-denting issues. Once this occurs, managers will find it
increasingly difficult to tackle the issue.

Managers should see that trying to figure out what makes people tick is not
a waste of time, as it will directly impact the bottom line. You can’t make an
omelette without breaking eggs, and you can’t make a team without breaking down

Rather than calling in outsiders to manage change, companies need to look to
their own people to help solve problems. Nobody knows an organisation better
than those who work for it, and the best solutions will be suggested and
delivered by these people.

At the heart of the transformation process is confidence. Managers need to
sit down with their teams in a non-confrontational environment and begin to
work out their motivation for change. Employees need to be pulled out of their
comfort zones and encouraged to drill down to their raison d’àtre, shrugging
off the day-to-day concerns that have engulfed them.

Allowing your team to have input into future plans enables them to align
their personal goals with those of the team – team successes are also construed
as personal triumphs.

During an economic downturn, all the benefits of teambuilding efforts can be
wiped out in a flash when redundancies are made, damaging morale and
undermining management who frequently claim ‘our people are our greatest

Downturns are an area where drastic short-term change is not the best
practice. Instead of changing the people, change the culture. Managers need to
look at their budgets as though the organisation were their own business, not
an open-ended expense account. To do this, they need to make the operational
link between what they do and resource/cost implications. Take heart, though;
some of the best business decisions are made during downturns – they force
organisations to focus on what their customers truly want.

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