Magazine article Workforce

Manage the Right Leadership Skills

Magazine article Workforce

Manage the Right Leadership Skills

Article excerpt

Dr. Frank Petrocks innovative work as the warden of a maximum security prison back in the 1970s served as the foundation for the management consulting firm, General Systems Consulting Group, which helps newly appointed corporate leaders build their transition process, and companies build their leadership teams.

Dr. Petrock brings more than 30 years of leadership experience to his job in behavioral and organizational change. He has written and spoken extensively on the topics of leadership, change management, organizational culture and self-managed work teams, and he serves on the faculties of many corporate executive development programs. He maintains that no business person can be a successful leader "unless your followers truly see your leadership traits."

What sort of strategies did you use during the early 1970s to change the behaviors of the inmates in a maximum security prison?

As warden of a maximum security prison in New Jersey, I built a successful prison program by involving inmates in the decision-making process and creating a token positive-reinforcement economy where they could buy their way (based on behavior) through the prison process, up to the point of release. This helped inmates become more responsible for their own behavior, which is a concept I still use in business and industry today.

What's the No.1 leadership problem in companies today?

Companies today spend a lot of time focusing on how to motivate workers to be more productive, as they should. Yet most managers see the cause of low productivity as the employee's responsibility, but really it's the managers who typically don't bring the best out of employees to change the organization. Look at how much money is spent on training. HR managers always think it's an issue of employees not having the right skills, as opposed to managers not having the right leadership skills. It's too easy for managers to blame the employees, just as it's too easy for employees to blame the managers. Managers need to take more of a leadership role and look at what they can change in the organization-its culture, its values, its systems-to bring the best out of their employees. This is a more holistic approach, instead of focusing on just the individual.

So what should HR managers focus on first?

Typically, HR managers are focused on the individual part of the equation. They rarely look at the whole equation-which includes the organization. HR managers need to help other managers understand what's going on in the department and the company. HR professionals need to help managers look at the broader understanding of why performance may not be what it should be. It's not always the employees who are the cause of the problem.

How should HR managers go about showing line managers the broader picture?

One way is to help them see the need to have everyone live up to the core values of the company. Values help people understand what behavior is expected of them. Usually companies say they value such things as people, integrity, excellence, dignity and respect for others, but they also value results. HR managers must help other managers ensure that everybody lives up to these values. In many companies, people who get results but don't live up to the values often get promoted, sending a mixed message to the employees.

Are goals and measures important in this process?

Absolutely, but you've got to make sure they're aimed at the right behavior. Most companies measure the negative: lost time, missed budgets, poor quality. The only time most managers talk to people is when they've done something wrong. …

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