Manage Your Team Through Clarity, Not Just Personality

By Desda Moss Jun 18, 2017
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Most organizations operate by cults of personality where leaders manage by "three P's": proximity, persuasion and position. Shane Yount, principal of Competitive Solutions Inc., in Raleigh, N.C., urged HR professionals to ditch that ineffectual approach and, instead, to adopt the method favored by high-performing enterprises that drive business results by focusing on "three C's:" connectivity, clarity and consistency.

"We, as HR professionals, have to lead beyond the three P's," Yount said. "Most of us work in a culture characterized by selective engagement when we should be creating systems that reinforce collective accountability." He urged attendees at the SHRM 2017 Annual Conference & Exposition to "manage by process, not personality."

"If your employees can't answer the question, 'Are we winning or losing?,' that speaks volumes," he said.

Other signs of organizational dysfunction, according to Yount:

  • Leaders use continuous improvement tools that feel disconnected from the business.
  • Metrics are created in a "hidden factory" and produce data that's hard for employees to understand.
  • Meetings feel like an "addition" to work, instead of an "enabler" of work.
  • Team performance is predicated on the unique combination of the individual members' personalities.
  • Leaders default to the mindset of "It is just easier if I do it myself."
  • Culture is seen as both the problem and the fix, so new initiatives to influence culture change are never-ending.

Then Yount described HR leaders who exhibit the three C's. They:

  • Spend the majority of their time transforming the business, not putting out brushfires.
  • Provide tools not for the sake of adding another tool, but because the tools fit within the business.
  • Use their personality to coach, encourage, inspire, motivate, counsel and correct.
  • Keep meetings laser-focused on actions designed to move the business forward.
  • Communicate regularly within the organization so employees know if the business is winning or losing—and they know why.

Yount advised HR leaders who want to spark a business makeover within their organizations to start by overhauling their organization's governance structure to make goals visible to every worker. To do this, he recommended that enterprises adopt scorecards that show progress toward business objectives and that serve as resources to inform future actions. He also presented a sample form that he called a "personal action register" that allows employees to track their responsibilities, deadlines and completion dates and called for employers to conduct quarterly accountability analyses that document each employee's accomplishments and tie their actions to desired business outcomes. 

Brett Richardson, deputy director of human resources at the Greater Dayton Regional Transit Authority in Ohio, said Yount's session made her realize her own need for professional improvement.

"I was struck by how many of the traits he attributed to 'P' leaders that I have practiced in my own work. When I go back, I will be looking at how I can manage myself, my team and my organization to achieve better performance."

The lesson comes at a time when Richardson said her organization may be ripe for an HR transformation: The chief human resources officer retired two weeks ago.

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