Meg Manke — August 7, 2019

Have we made a bad habit of organizing things too much in business? Obviously, budgets, reporting structures, policies all must have some semblance of organization but what about leadership? How are we “organizing” leadership responsibilities? I recently had an opportunity to speak at a DisruptHR event and, as you might imagine, the conversations focused on how we can alter our perception and action to match the current state of business. Those conversations really got me to thinking – are we trying to compartmentalize responsibilities into certain departments or hands of people when really, we should be working on these things together.

The management and leadership of people does not lie solely on the shoulders of Human Resources and, certainly, Human Resources wouldn’t expect each manager to work alone in these areas. While we know and understand this in theory, we aren’t doing a very good job of practicing it in reality. Manager Molly is frustrated when her people aren’t “doing things the right way” and so goes to HR Harry for support i.e. “We need to fire Employee Ed”. Of course, this is the first HR Harry hears of Ed’s foibles and inquires as to previous documentation of bad behavior, attendance, or attitude and find that none exists. Manager Molly expresses frustration with HR Harry’s lukewarm reception towards this request and in contrast HR Harry doesn’t understand how Manager Molly could possibly think any action can be taken without documentation. The drama ensues.

Now Manager Molly and HR Harry are at odds trying to manage the same situation with different perspectives and experiences. Molly thinks, “Harry requested to be in charge of every personnel matter, now he won’t even help me!” Harry thinks, “I just taught a class for our Managers on documentation and its importance, wasn’t Molly even paying attention!?” Meanwhile, Employee Ed is getting away with bad behavior, dragging down morale on his team and reducing production!

Historically, we’ve accepted this as “the process” and it’s high time that we change the approach! Imagine this, Molly keeps Harry in the loop with documentation, email updates and even meetings with Ed and the two of them. Harry checks in regularly with Molly to ensure the improvement plan put in place for Ed is working. Molly and Harry give each other a little grace, knowing that the other is busy, and shows support through transparent communication and providing a united message for Ed and the whole team.

Technical business processes are built in silo-mode on purpose in order to track expenses, bottlenecks and revenue generation respective to each part of the system. That makes sense. Managing and leading people that way doesn’t. Human Resources and Managers must work together and look to each other as a resource, not an enemy. Seems easy, so why don’t we do it? Here’s why:

  • HR is scary – the unknown is scary and there’s a lot to know around employment law and leadership. ASK QUESTIONS. Human Resources is exactly that, a resource, for the business. If you’re a Manager of people, your best friend should be HR. Don’t let your fear make HR an enemy.
  • It takes time to do it right – managing people well takes time. The days of the loyalist generation is gone; folks want options, advancement, questions answered, to engage. Engage them then, hold them accountable, answer questions and present a united front with your HR folks so your people can see with their own eyes that the organization is built on support.
  • Our assumptions are wrong – we think people don’t want structure. WRONG! Humans are tribal; we might not care for dictatorship, but we want some structure. Don’t fall victim to the assumption that people want a willy-nilly environment. Even when children ask for chocolate every hour at Easter, it doesn’t mean it’s good for them. Just sayin’.

Let’s stop compartmentalizing and making enemies within the organization. It’s hard enough to make alliances, friends, and good decisions. Don’t make it harder. Leadership by silo is NOT a solution. Partner with other managers, partner with HR, partner with safety and all departments. The goal, after all, is to make the business more successful and I guarantee that all those folks are working towards that, give them a chance to prove it.


Author: Meg Manke

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