Having Goals Matters

Kevin P. Dincher

[Originally posted on the Professionals in Philanthropy Blog]

Let’s Make a Deal

During the 1980s, the popularity of TV game shows declined so dramatically that networks would only commit to a 13-week run—and rarely kept tapes of the shows.  But in their heyday of the 1950s and 1960s game shows were a staple of both primetime and daytime TV—with shows like What’s My Line?,  I’ve Got a Secret, The Match Game and Let’s Make a Deal. 

Let’s Make a Deal required very little of its contestants.  They were automatically given aalice prize.  Something like cash or a TV.  The host then offered them the opportunity to trade that prize for another prize hidden behind one of three curtains or doors.  There was no strategy involved in the choice.  Just a willingness to risk the prize that they already had on the possibility of getting a prize of greater value.  Sometimes contestants went home with a vacation at a beach resort in Florida.  More often they got “zonked” and went home with a blow-up kiddie pool.   Risk was certain while success was purely accidental.

Having Goals Matters

When it comes to leading organizations, like being a contestant on Let’s Make a Deal, risk is certain—and without clear goals, each decision is a bit like saying, “I’ll take what’s behind curtain #2.”  You don’t know if choosing curtain #2 will take your organization where you want it to go because without goals you don’t know where you want to go.

Yes, maybe it turns out that there is a high-end luxury car behind curtain 2; but you are just as likely to get a rusted-out Radio Flyer wagon.  Without goals, success is pretty much accidental.  This is where strategic planning comes in.

Strategic Planning

Strategic planning is a critical tool for your organization’s success.

  • A strategic plan describes where your organization is going over the next three, four or five years by laying out measurable goals and explaining why those goals are important.
  • A strategic plan also describes how your organization is going to achieve those goals by creating a consciously-chosen and clearly defined framework for moving forward.

Organizations in every industry, in all sectors and of all sizes utilize strategic planning to enhance their ability to succeed.  Does yours?


moonKevin P Dincher is an organization development consultant, professional development coach and educator with 30 years of experience that includes not only OD consulting but also work in adult education,  counseling psychology and crisis management, program and operations management, and human resources.  Kevin currently provide services to non-profit organizations through a partnership with Professionals in Philanthropy.

LinkedIn: kevindincher           Twitter:  kdincher

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The Best Leaders are OK with Being Wrong

Kevin P. Dincher

For 15 years, I’ve kept a book called The Joy of Being Wrong on my office shelf. It is a work of theological anthropology, but that is beside the point. I keep it around because of the title. Anyone who knows me well knows that I really like being right—and I mean I really like being right—and I keep The Joy of Being Wrong around because the title reminds me that there are more important things than always being right.

Taking pleasure in being right is a universal human trait. I suspect humans became hard-wired to feel good about being right when being wrong meant becoming dinner for a saber-toothed cat. Of course, success does require that we be right more often than they are wrong. As a result, leaders devote a great deal of energy to making sure they are right, and they become quite good at fighting for their own point of view. However, as organizational anthropologist Judith E. Glaser explains in Conversational Intelligence: How Great Leaders Build Trust & Get Extraordinary Results, when people argue and win, their brains are flooded with adrenaline and dopamine. This makes them feel good, dominant, and even invincible. It feels great to be right, and the human brain begins to crave the positive feelings generated by being right. People essentially become addicted to being right.

Addictive behavior, however, interferes with productive sharing of information and ideas, stymies creativity, and damages work relationships.

We Can’t Both be Right

Leaders who are addicted to being right tend not to give dissenting voices a fair hearing and will cut off discussion prematurely. Often, however, an extended discussion is exactly what is necessary to bring out new perspectives, to recognize additional complexity, or to improve on an idea or a plan.

Such discussions, however, can only happen when leaders can entertain the possibility that they might not be completely right and someone else could be. When leaders know that they don’t have it all wrapped up in cellophane they work to become better listeners. Someone else might have the missing piece or even a better idea altogether. Leaders who are willing to risk being wrong encourage discussions that that include opposing ideas knowing that better decisions can be reached.

I Thought I was Wrong Once, but I was Mistaken

Leaders become very good at fighting for their own point of view and ideas. When they are getting high off the feeling of being right, however, they keep arguing until others are browbeaten into agreeing that they are right. Bullied into submission, people disengage. They shut up, hide behind group consensus, or simply agree to make the pain stop. These bullying bosses are usually unaware of the inhibiting impact they have on their people and see acquiescence as further evidence that they are right.

However, leaders need their people to stay engaged so they do their best work and develop their most creative ideas. Leaders who are willing to risk being wrong are more apt to build collaborative relationships instead of browbeating people into submission.

Mistakes were Made, but Not by Me

When things do fall apart, as they inevitably will from time to time, it is common enough to see leaders dodge responsibility and put great effort into covering up and rationalization. Just think of the many political scandals of the past few years. Those cover-ups seem like bungled attempts at PR and poor crisis management. In Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts, however, social psychologists Carol Travis and Elliot Aronson explain that our brains are hard-wired for self-justification. Being right makes people feel good about themselves; being wrong does the opposite. In order to calm the negative feelings that arise from being wrong, people cover up, rationalize, and lie—even to themselves.

People who are addicted to being right create fictions that they actually believe themselves in order to restore their belief in their own goodness, morality and rightness. Consequently, there is no need for them to change their thinking or behavior since they have convinced themselves they were actually right all along. The best leaders, however, are those who deal honestly with their mistakes when they make them, learn from those mistakes and then make changes. Moreover, being honest when we are wrong has a powerful benefit: it teaches people that they can trust us to tell them the truth—even when we are not the hero of the story. People know when their leaders are covering their own tracks, and they lose respect, confidence and trust in those leaders who do.

Among all the attributes of the great leaders discussed in blogs, discussion groups and articles, one stands out: they are all highly trusted. Having a compelling vision, an unshakable strategy, innovative insight and a skilled team won’t get you very far if people do not trust you. To earn that trust, you will have to admit that you can be wrong sometimes and be honest about it when you are.


Kevin P Dincher is an organization development consultant, professional development coach and educator with 30 years of experience that includes not only OD consulting but also work in adult education,  counseling psychology and crisis management, program and operations management, and human resources.  Kevin currently provide services to non-profit organizations through a partnership with Professionals in Philanthropy.

LinkedIn: Kevin P. Dincher


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Micromanagers are like Vampires – They Drain Your Company of its Lifeblood

Kevin P. Dincher

In its 2013 State of the Global Workforce report, Gallup called engaged workers “the lifeblood of their organizations.”  Companies with the highest levels of employee engagement have significantly higher productivity, profitability and customer ratings, much lower turnover and absenteeism, and fewer safety incidents than their peers and competitors.  If that is true—and who am I to argue with Gallup?—then one of the ways to drain your company of its lifeblood is to micromanage your workers.

Lately I have been hearing quite a bit of  chatter—complaining, really—about managers who micromanage.  Apparently, people do not like being micromanaged.  Top executives and star performers find it insulting, and anyone with any sort of a positive work ethic finds it stifling.  Being micromanaged tells them that their managers do not trust their work or judgment—so they shut down.  They stop making suggestions, and they stop doing their best work.  They put in time but little else.  Moreover, their apathy is contagious, affecting not only their own productivity but also that of their colleagues.  Micromanaged employees easily become disengaged.

In CEOs:  Beware of Micromanaging I borrowed six questions from The Consequences of Micromanaging that managers can ask themselves to get a sense that they might be micromanagers.

  1. Do I spend a considerable amount of time telling employees how to do a job correctly and specifically telling them what to do?
  2. Do I devote a lot of time to overseeing the projects of my subordinates?
  3. Am I irritated when subordinates make decisions without consulting me first?
  4. Do I sometimes wish I were back in my previous lower-level job?
  5. Am I the one who signs the checks?
  6. Am I spending more time with operations then planning my company’s strategy and growth?

If you answer YES to two of these questions, then you are probably micromanaging your employees and may need some help to get out of the micromanaging trap.  But let’s take this mini-assessment a little further.

autonomyLevels of Management and Autonomy

Like many things in life, micromanaging is not all-or-nothing; it is not a case of either you micromanage or you don’t.  There are levels of micromanagement.  Another way to think of micromanagement is the degree of autonomy (and the power and authority that go along with autonomy) that your employees have to do their work.  At one end (Level 1) is total micromanagement; employees have no autonomy at all.  At the other end (Level 5) employees have the highest level of autonomy.

Assess Your Level of Micromanagement

Think of just one routine project that you tasked a staff member or work group with recently.  Do not pick an unusual situation that necessarily demanded a higher than routine level of involvement from you—like work you assigned an intern or a new and inexperienced hire.  And don’t pick some out of the ordinary and highly critical situation.  Stick to something routine.

Now, thinking about just this one routine project, read the descriptions of the degree of management and autonomy operating at each level combination of management and autonomy — and identify which level explains your management of that project.

Level 1

Level 1 is pretty much the zenith of micromanagement. Employees have no autonomy at all. You keep all the power and authority, and you control all aspects of the project. You assign the project, and tell your workers what to do and how to do it. The employees may (or may not) be tasked with doing some research on the project—but they do not make any decisions or have any input into what will be done They report their research to you so that you can identify possible alternative courses of action, decide what will be done, and tell them how the work will be done. You monitor every aspect and detail.

Level 2

Level 2 is slightly, but significantly, different from Level 1. You still hold the power and authority to make all decisions.  You monitor and control all aspects of the project.  However, you allow your employees some input into the decisions you make. The employees do the needed research, identify alternative courses of action and maybe even suggest a preferred one for implementation. You decide which one to implement and how.

Level 3

There is a significant difference between Level 2 and Level 3. At Level 2 employees have input, but at Level 3 they also have power and authority to make decisions.  You, however, retain the power and authority to approve or disapprove any and all decisions before they can act. The employees do the research, and they decide which course of action they intend to take. They report to you—and wait for your approval before taking any action.

Level 4

At Level 4 you take a major step away from micromanaging. At Level 4 you hand over real decision-making power and authority to employees—but you hold on to the power to “put on the breaks” at any time. The employees do the research, report what they intend to do—and move forward unless at some point you say “no” or “stop.”  Of course, things can get very tricky here: your employees need to know ahead of time what might cause you to say, “no” or “stop” as the project moves forward so they don’t find themselves wasting time, energy and resources heading down a blind alley. Better work on those communication skills if you are going to ease up on the micromanaging!

 Level 5

Level 5 is where you really stop micromanaging. You communicate the desired goals and outcomes, the time constraints and the available resources—and then let the employees run with the project. They do the research, develop a plan, take action, and periodically update you on progress. They get help from you when they have questions or when they run into obstacles (because good managers remove obstacles). They give you progress updates, but the project is in their hands. Level 5 is the point where employees feel they have “arrived”. They work on their own and take full responsibility and ownership for their work and projects. They feel that they have earned your trust. They do their best work and are at their most creative and innovative.

One Swallow does not a Summer Make

So, where did the project you were thinking about fall on the scale of 1 to 5? Since you should never assume something is true just because you have seen one piece of evidence for it, select three or four other projects and do the same assessment.  (And, of course, if you are truly serious about getting a handle on your micromanagement, ask some of the people who work for you to do the same assessment from the perspective of the level of autonomy they feel they have when you give them work to do!)

Is there a pattern in your assessment?  Are you generally somewhere in the range of Level 4 and Level 5?  If so, then you are doing pretty well when it comes to micromanaging– and just need to learn who to be more consistently at Level 5.  However, if you are generally in the range of Levels 1, 2 and 3 – well, you need to consider that you may be standing in your employees’ way and need to take a step back so your company can move forward.


Kevin Dincher is an organization development consultant, professional development coach and educator with 30 years of experience that includes not only OD consulting but also work in adult education,  counseling psychology and crisis management, program and operations management, and human resources.

LinkedIn: Kevin Dincher

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Good Managers Hire Slow and Fire Fast—Not Vice-versa (Part 2)

Kevin P. Dincher

The most important thing a manager does is decide who to hire and fire.  Making good decisions about who is and who is not on the payroll is critical to your company’s success—and to your own success.  That’s why it is important not to hire too fast (Good Managers Hire Slow and Fire Fast—Part 1).  Unfortunately, no matter how hard you try you can never really be certain you hired the right people until after they’ve been hired.  When a hiring decision doesn’t work out as expected, acknowledge it and move on quickly.

Don’t Fire too Slowly

If firing people ever feels to easy, then it is time to get out of business.  You’ve been doing it too long.  Firing people who aren’t working out and doing it quickly, however, is the best thing for the company, for your team and for the person who needs to be let go.  In fact, the speed with which you fire may be more critical than the speed with which you hire.

Bad Help is Worse than No Help.

Replacing an employee is expensive; it can run you up to 150% of that person’s annual starting salary in recruiting costs, lost productivity and other costs.  But the cost of hiring the wrong people and not firing them right away is immeasurable.

There is the obvious cost of the new hire’s low productivity—but having a new hire who doesn’t work out as expected has other costs.  When the wrong person is hired the ability of teammates and coworkers to produce high quality work is affected—potentially affecting customers and clients and damaging your brand.  If someone is damaging the organization and the environment that you are trying to build, that creates trust issues, and you may lose good employees.

Trying to Make Good on a Bad Decision

You should have a good onboarding and development program for all new hires that helps them fit in quickly and gives you the opportunity to pass on the culture you are trying to build.  However, when you realize you made a bad hiring decision, your first thought is probably not to fire the person.  Your first thought is probably “how can I make this work?”  Then you spend countless hours coaching, correcting, directing, pushing—and countless more hours creating work-arounds.  Then you end up either performing the work yourself or tasking others to do it.  None of this solves the problem but merely perpetuates it.  It’s like my grandmother used to say:  you can’t make a silk purse our of a sow’s ear.  None of these efforts solves the problem of a bad hiring decision.  They only perpetuate it.

Good Managers Remove Obstacles

When you fire fast, it has a positive effect on productivity and morale.  When you take too long to fire someone, it is like a virus that spreads quickly and hurts productivity, morale and the bottom line.  When it becomes clear that an employee is not going to perform at least satisfactorily, accept it and cut your losses.  The second most important thing that a manager does is remove obstacles so that employees can do the work they were hired to do to the best of their abilities (Good Managers Remove Obstacles—but How?).  When that obstacle is a bad hiring decision, removing that obstacle quickly is only fair to all the stakeholders—even the person being fired.

Never lose sight of the ultimate hiring goal: a high performing employee who meets your needs and is a good fit for your company and team


Kevin Dincher is an organization development consultant, professional development coach and educator with 30 years of experience that includes not only OD consulting but also work in adult education,  counseling psychology and crisis management, program and operations management, and human resources.

LinkedIn: Kevin Dincher

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Good Managers Hire Slow and Fire Fast—Not Vice-versa (Part 1)

Kevin P. Dincher

I’ve never watched The Apprentice, the TV series that turns getting fired into a game show, because I don’t find firing people particularly entertaining. 25 years ago as a new and inexperienced manager, I fired an employee for the first time. She already had a lengthy history of poor quality work, low productivity, bad judgment, negativity and troublesome work relationships when I inherited her; nevertheless, firing her was a drawn-out and excruciating experience. As a result, however, I learned early on the importance of hiring the right people—and not hanging on to the wrong ones. You need a top-notch team to do your best work, and so the most important thing a manager does is decide who to hire and fire. Making good decisions about who is—and who is not—on the payroll is critical to your company’s success—and your own success.

Don’t Hire too Quickly—but not too Slowly Either

Because the pressure to fill vacant positions is enormous, the tendency is to rush. The wrong help, however, is worse than no help—and hiring the wrong person is costly. You need to take time to really think about each and every hire you make and not settle for a warm body. Never lose sight of the ultimate goal: a high performing employee who meets your needs and is a good fit for your company and team.

Identify What You Need. 

Before you start recruiting, whether filling an old position or creating a new one, figure out what your real need is. If your business is growing, identifying the need can be especially difficult but also incredibly important because you need to be forward thinking and hire for where you want your company to go, not where it has been. But every hiring manager needs to remember: you are hiring to fill a need, not a slot. And don’t forget the intangibles; how important are collegiality, commitment, passion, confidence, communication skills, patience, high energy, and the like? Identifying these intangibles is just as critical to making good hiring decisions as identifying technical skills.

Put It in Writing

After you have identified your needs, create a job description with as much detail as possible. You want candidates and new hires to be clear about responsibilities from the start so there are no confused expectations. Additionally, be sure to have your company policies and procedures for employees in writing. That will save you big headaches later if someone doesn’t work out.

Don’t “Wing It” at the Interview

I am always amazed when managers tell me they don’t prepare their interview questions ahead of time. There isn’t enough space here to go into all the reasons why this is a bad idea—and how that contributes to hiring the wrong person. Prepare your interview questions before you start scheduling interviews. Yes, a good interviewer is flexible because a good interviewer is a good listener and knows when to follow-up on something unexpected, unusual or unique. But remember your ultimate goal:  a high performing employee who meets your needs and is a good fit for your company and team. In order to achieve this goal, you need to come away from the interview with the right information. If the interview process ends without your having obtained that information, then the interview was a failure. Forbes has a list of some good standard interview questions—but be sure to include some company specific questions and to ask questions that give you a sense of the candidate’s personality.

By the way, never be the only person to interview candidates; have other managers and team members do interviews. They provide important perspectives and make sure that the new employee fits with the existing culture.

Finding someone you like, your team likes and fits your needs and company can take time. Don’t rush it.

But Don’t Take Too Long Either.

Hiring too slowly can create its problems. It is possible to over-process a hire. I have seen teams who think “just to be sure” they should interview 3 more candidate—and then just 3 more, and then just 3 more. I recently spoke with an HR Director at a company that had recently filled a large number of new senior level positions. Candidates went through 15 rounds of interviews! 15! The best candidates withdrew from consideration before finishing the process. When you take too long, you actually risk losing the best hire.

When you are too slow to hire, you also risk your team members becoming overwhelmed and falling behind as they try to fill in or work doesn’t get done. Your organization goes into firefighting mode, and acting strategically becomes increasingly difficult. It becomes harder to solve the hiring problem; the more behind you are due to everyone being so busy, the less time you have to devote to finding and interviewing candidates. In the end, hiring too slowly then flips into hiring too fast as companies over-correct. “Just hire someone so we can move on!”

You need to find a balance so that you are hiring slowly, but not too slowly

Fire Fast … continued


Kevin Dincher is an organization development consultant, professional development coach and educator with 30 years of experience that includes not only OD consulting but also work in adult education,  counseling psychology and crisis management, program and operations management, and human resources.

LinkedIn: Kevin Dincher

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Good Managers Remove Obstacles – But How?

Kevin Dincher

After two conversations with team leaders this week about frustrations they are experiencing at work, I have been wondering how aware CEOs, executives and managers are of all the work-arounds their people and teams do to achieve success. You know what I mean by work-arounds:  those creative efforts to work around obstacles like bottlenecks, outdated rules, inefficient procedures, broken processes, and that co-worker who just can’t deliver.

Because work-arounds generally get the job done, we probably don’t give them enough thought. There are, however, good reasons for identifying work-arounds—and eliminating the need for them.

  • Work-arounds mask problem. Work-arounds are necessary because something isn’t right. Insufficient resources? Inefficient or broken processes? An outdated rule or policy? A co-worker who isn’t up to the demands of the job? There may be any combinations of problems. But because work-arounds get the job done, the problems stay hidden and can’t be fixed. Success rarely drives us to ask, “What went wrong?”
  • Work-arounds have hidden costs. If they are busy creating and managing work-arounds, your people cannot perform at their best. They are using up their resources—time, energy, creativity and budget—trying to bypass obstacles, and their productivity suffers.
  • Work-arounds negatively affect employee satisfaction.  Successfully working around the occasional snag can be a morale booster, but creating and managing work-arounds as an ongoing part of your work is like hauling rocks up a hill. It is frustrating, exhausting, and no one likes it. People can become unhappy and negative, and the impact of employee dissatisfaction is far-reaching, ranging from high turnover and low productivity to loss in revenue and poor customer service.

The Most Important Things Managers Do

The most important thing that any manager does is decide who winds up on the payroll and who doesn’t—that is, ensure that the right people are in the right jobs. The next most important thing a manager does is eliminate obstacles so that people can actually do their jobs to the very best of their abilities. If you don’t support your team members by removing the things that prevent them from delivering, you are setting them up for inefficient and unpredictable results.

Eliminating the Need for Work-Arounds

 1.       Set an Example.

 Start with yourself. The power of setting an example should never be underestimated. What you say is always critical—but what you do speaks louder. Identify your own work-arounds and the obstacles that make those work-arounds necessary. Make changes and improvements so that your work-arounds are no longer needed. You example can build an environment in which seeking improvement is valued and expected—and making things better can become standard operating procedure.

 2.       Listen Carefully.

 Listen to what your people are saying about “the system”—about your company’s rules, procedures, methods, customs, policies and the like. The way your people talk about “the system” will tell you where they experience roadblocks if you listen. Take what the people who do the work say seriously. 

 3.        Ask Questions.

Develop the habit of asking questions when you hear your team talking about “the system” in ways that make you suspect they are experiencing obstacles. Get them to clarify for you the need for work-arounds. Asking for this clarification reinforces the environment in which seeking improvement is valued and expected—and lets people know that you are actually listening.

Also develop the habit of asking what-went-wrong questions—questions about snags, challenges and difficulties—even when the work was completed successfully. Don’t assume there weren’t obstacles just because the outcome met your expectations. The outcome may have only been successful because of a number of work-arounds. Furthermore, by asking what-went-wrong kinds of questions, you do more than uncover obstacles; you acknowledge that the person or team overcame challenges. People like that kind of acknowledgement.

 4.       Do Something. 

 You do need to be prepared to do something about the obstacles you uncover. If you aren’t, then don’t bother with 1, 2 and 3 above. You will only frustrate your people further and show them that you aren’t actually interested in making things better. Remember:  what you say is critical, but what you do speaks louder.

Whenever possible, you should use the resources at your disposal to make the obstacle simply go away. No fuss. No bother. Obstacles do, however, come in a variety of complexities, and sometimes removing obstacles requires real organizational change. In those cases, involve the people who do the work. When it comes to change buy-in by the people affected is good, but ownership is better. Additionally, if you have done your job well—and hired the right people for the right job—no one knows how to do the work better than the people you hired to do the work. Use their knowledge and expertise.  You might just avoid creating new obstacles for them. Of course, if the obstacle really is a co-worker who isn’t the right person for the job, that’s a problem that falls back to you to solve.         

 5.       Celebrate Improvements Wins

 I hope that celebrating wins is already a part of your corporate culture. However, in the non-stop pace of business, it is easy to focus on what is coming up next and forget to acknowledge and celebrate what has been achieved. If you ignore your team’s wins, you miss a critical opportunity to inspire them to even greater successes. You also miss an opportunity to strengthen your own personal leadership brand—but that’s a subject for another time.

So, which of your own work-arounds are you going to tackle first?


Kevin Dincher is an organization development consultant, professional development coach and educator with 30 years of experience that includes not only OD consulting but also work in adult education,  counseling psychology and crisis management, program and operations management, and human resources.

LinkedIn: Kevin Dincher

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Become a Manager who Leads

Kevin P. Dincher

A long-time client surprised me last week. He called to update me on his pursuit of a new position within his company and in the course of our conversation said that his CEO “is an extremely talented manager but not much of a leader.” The assessment itself didn’t surprise me; I have known this CEO for over 30 years and agree completely. What did surprise me was hearing Dave make the distinction. We have often talked about the differences between managing and leading. Like most people, however, Dave generally use the terms interchangeably and doesn’t really make a distinction day-to-day—just the kind of thing that drives leadership experts like John Kotter crazy.

For over 40 years, Kotter has been on a mission to get people to think about the distinction between management and leadership. Our ongoing transition from a manufacturing-based economy to a service-based economy, however, has made Kotter’s work much more difficult. We still need to understand the difference between management and leadership, but it is increasingly difficult to be an effective manager without also being a good leader.

In the Industrial Age, ownership of capital—i.e., factories—was the basis of wealth, and in those factories, manual workers were to a great degree undifferentiated cogs in an industrial machine to be managed. Managers didn’t have to give much thought to what they were producing or to the people who were producing it. Managers followed orders, organized the work, allocated resources, assigned the right people to the necessary tasks, and ensured completion of the job as ordered. A good manager was one who could keep a large, complex organization operating reliably and efficiently.

Things are different in the Information Age when the basis of wealth is access to people’s knowledge. As management guru Peter Drucker foresaw, the rise of the knowledge worker has profoundly changed the way business operates (Management Challenges of the 21st Century).  If you are a manager in the Information Age, to be successful you can no longer simply organize work and assign tasks. You need to be a manager who leads.

  • You need to define purpose and inspire results. While manual workers could focus narrowly on the specific task assigned them, knowledge workers can only produce if they know how their work fits into and contributes to the big picture. They need to know the purpose of their work—and they look to you to provide that purpose.
  • You need to nurture skills and develop talent. Continuing innovation is part of knowledge work; therefore, knowledge work requires continuous learning.  In the Information Age, it has become your job to create a climate for learning and to design work not just for efficiency but to build competence. You now need to be a coach and a mentor while facilitating formal and informal learning opportunities.
  • You need to treat workers as an “asset” rather than a “cost.” These days we hear a great deal about employee engagement, satisfaction and retention—and the high cost of turnover. The crux of the matter, however, is that the basis of wealth in the Information Age is access to people’s knowledge. Disengaged manual workers may become slow or sloppy—but the assembly line keeps them moving, and they still need to get the nut on the bolt. However, when knowledge workers become dissatisfied and disengage, then you lose access to your primary asset—their knowledge. Knowledge workers need to want to work for you and your company. Therefore, you have to create the working and cultural conditions in which employees not only feel challenged by their work but are recognized and valued as well.

Engage employees. Nurture skills and develop talent. Define purpose and inspire results. Now we’re talking about leadership rather than management.  There are still good reasons for understanding the difference between management and leadership—and one of them is that it is increasingly necessary that good managers learn to be good leaders. In the world of knowledge workers, Drucker said, “one does not manage people. The task is to lead people. And the goal is make productive the specific strengths and knowledge of every individual.”


Kevin Dincher is an organization development consultant, professional development coach and educator with 30 years of experience that includes not only OD consulting but also work in adult education,  counseling psychology and crisis management, program and operations management, and human resources.

LinkedIn: Kevin Dincher

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