What does it take to lead in the modern workplace? On word: Courage.
The more I've met with company founders and observed good management principles, the more I've noticed that the workforce is widely dispersed. They come and go as they please. They follow leaders they respect, not the ones with the best office or the nicest car in the parking lot. That's why some of the older management ideas (and a few of the new ones) don't really work anymore.
Here are three that great leaders avoid:
1. Managing by walking around
This was the mantra that upper management preached to me when I was in the corporate sector. Oh yeah, brilliant strategy. Walk around like you have absolutely nothing to do. Show everyone on your staff you are stalking them. Avoid showing an example they can model of doing actual work. I know the underlying concept was to build relationships, but there are much better ways to do that. The managing by walking around concept is totally outdated, right? Not so fast. At many startups, I've seen executives dawdle and linger, engaging in witty banter with employees. When the exec leaves, I've seen a few eye rolls. Better to be intentional and not so sneaky. Most office workers can spot this tactic from a mile away.
2. Collecting micro feedback
Dan Lyons wrote about this one in his excellent book called Disrupted. It's a well-established practice at larger companies like Amazon. The truth about getting constant feedback from employees? They hate it. Badgering employees to send feedback constantly might be good for the manager but it's not that great for the employee, who has to fill out a survey at every turn and waste time. What actually works in a management role is developing an actual relationship with an employee, building camaraderie, mentoring for success, and setting aside your own pride and ladder-climbing tendencies to meet their needs as issues arise.
3. Setting stretch goals
Here's the one that might surprise you. I've heard quite a few mantras about good management, including the one about managing to strengths, but the one that seems to get championed the most is setting stretch goals--assigning tasks that will prove challenging for the employee or even outright impossible. Here's why it won't work. Employees are working more and more autonomously and mobile these days. They already understand the work pressures, and if you assign a difficult task, it's yet another item for them to add to their list. Great leaders don't use those tactics. It's better to communicate with an employee about what actually needs to be completed according to the strengths they do have. Don't dangle false carrots. Show the respect employees crave and let them figure out how to get their work done.