I was working with a client recently (let’s call her Mary) who had a sales problem. No big deal, not uncommon in business people operating in the SME space. Recently, we were dealing with a set of issues ranging from prospecting, to pipeline management, to customer management. But Mary kept veering back to an issue she had with the occasional attitude of her office manager. In order to progress the sales issues I had to delve deeper into the office manager issue, as it was breaking Mary's concentration.
Mary had started her business from the ground up and was very hands-on - down to the very last detail. As the business grew she found it difficult to check everything herself and eventually employed a really great person as office manager. However, trouble surfaced about three months later when my client was checking that things were being done to her satisfaction. On these occasions the manager would get a little abrasive in reply or not reply at all. What should she do?
Well for starters I reminded Mary of the company history, her own core values and what might be important. Her core values were not that things were done as she prescribed - the company was bigger than that. He core values were about professionalism, customer care and ethical trading. My thoughts to her were that; as long as the office manager followed these guiding values then the actual detailed physical process was not really a worthwhile issue to stress about. I took time to mention what I could remember about Douglas McGregor's Theory X and Theory Y on human motivation (noted below) and told her that whilst she had previously looked at some of her early employees as X types. She now had a manager who was and wanted to be treated as a Y type. Lucky Mary!
I went on to ask Mary which trait would she prefer in her employees X or Y? She replied with another question. 'In the current market is there room for any type of employee other than Y?'
Notes: Theory X, which has been proven counter-effective in most modern practice, management assumes employees are inherently lazy and will avoid work if they can and that they inherently dislike work. As a result of this, management believes that workers need to be closely supervised and comprehensive systems of controls developed.
Theory Y, management assumes employees may be ambitious and self-motivated and exercise self-control. It is believed that employees enjoy their mental and physical work duties. Accordingly, to them work is as natural as play. They possess the ability for creative problem solving, but their talents are underused in most organisations.