Introduction (Martin Price): During visits with missionaries in Third World countries, I am often asked questions about management problems. After 22 years at ECHO, I have some experience to offer. If God gives you a little vision, you can handle it yourself. But if He gives you a big vision, you will need to learn to motivate and manage a team.
Flying home from one of my trips, I found myself seated next to someone who spoke enthusiastically and insightfully about management.
Calvin Yoke has 23 years of management experience in private industry, both in the U.S. and Europe. He has worked in agricultural services, retail and supply, and manufacturing. I quickly realized that here was a man who loves management and has read widely and thought deeply about the topic. He has a Christian view of management; management as service to others. Though much of Calvin’s experience is in the commercial sector, people are the same everywhere and you will find many of the principles applicable to your situation. We invited him to speak at our Agricultural Missions Conference in November 2000. The response was the most positive and immediate of any of the great talks we heard that year. Both missionary and national delegates obviously had struggles in the area of management. We later asked Calvin to return to ECHO to make a video based on his talk. The video (VHS), “Management Can Be Learned,” is available from ECHO for $19.95US plus shipping. We decided a summary in EDN would be helpful for those who do not have opportunity to watch the video. Following is the summary of Calvin’s talk.
The area of management may seem foreign to many agricultural development workers, but good management can be an effective ministry. Most people spend the bulk of their hours under someone’s management. There is no greater opportunity than that provided by management to make a positive impact on the world.
Before talking about what management is, let’s talk about what management is not. Management is not making people do what they don’t want to do. That idea is completely wrong. Yet it is a misconception I held when, in November 1976, I was selected manager of 28 people. At 32, I was told I was too young for the job, and looking back I know it was true.
Nor is management a matter of “us” and “them.” Too many people imagine a wall between managers and employees. That is a common perception, but it doesn’t work. Rather, management should be looked at in terms of “we”.
You might say to yourself, “I’m not a manager. This doesn’t apply to me.” But if you are in charge of more than one person or resource, or if you need to achieve several results, management is required.
Effective, long-term management involves a continual process of learning. Realize that mistakes will be made until you die, but also realize that no organization will survive if it is not a learning organization. Be open to new things. Management requires a commitment to continual learning.
Effective, long-term management is not all about charisma, power, brilliance or courage. In fact, a good manager will hire people who are brighter and more talented than him/herself!
Effective, quality, long-term management is about two things:
- Creating and/or communicating a vision
- Building synergy. Synergy is when 2 + 2 = 5. For example, imagine that two individuals working alone can each produce 2 of an item, making for a total of 4. Working together they can produce 5. Managers need to take the resources available to them and allocate them so that the total outcome is greater than the simple sum of those resources. I have come to recognize several powerful “tools” that you can use as part of a management tool kit. We’ll go through them one by one.Vision
This refers to the “What” and, to a lesser degree, the “Why” of what people are doing. Vision is how you are going to achieve your statement of purpose.
Create or lead the creation of a vision for your organization if you can. Even if you can’t create the vision, you must communicate it! This is not optional! Vision leads as much or more than the leader does. Vision gives purpose and reason for results. Vision must compel and motivate. Examples of compelling visions are “to help people” or “to improve people’s overall quality of life.” Every single activity of an organization must be able to connect with the vision. Having a vision removes confusion. Keep it short and simple.
You need to have vision before you can create synergy. The large over-riding vision should last forever and should include everybody. All employees should know the vision and be able to remember and recite it. Keep the vision in front of the organization at all times. Changes should be few and for very good reason, and any changes must be communicated clearly and immediately by top management.
Integrity is essential, but very, very fragile. It can be breached very subtly. We are not talking here about overt dishonesty like lying and cheating. Every time integrity is breached, it must be built back if you are to have credibility with employees. Here are some ways to build (and maintain) integrity.
Keep every commitment you make, big or small. People keep a mental tabulation of mistakes and of times when you don’t follow through on something. Say what you mean, and mean what you say. Don’t say too much.
Build trust by balancing courage with consideration. Too much of the former and you will be viewed as a bully; too much of the latter and you’ll be seen a pushover. Sometimes a manager has to be firm with compassion.
Humility is an essential part of integrity. People don’t want to hear you brag. Be consistent in what you do and say. Know the facts of everything you say. Keep your emotions under control. Take a walk behind the building if necessary.
Associate with credible resources. This includes things you read and people you talk to. Treat people equitably (that is, deal fairly and equally with all concerned). People make note of it. Remember that integrity can be breached by a single word or action.
Profile of a Quality Worker/Employee
What should you look for in a worker or employee? You want to find the best people and find the best in them. Generally speaking, character is of the utmost importance, second is a good work ethic, and last is skills. After all, skills can be taught. I look for six specific things in the profile of a good employee. In the order of importance, here are the key things to look for:
- Integrity. The prospective employee needs to understand and desire high integrity.
- Cooperation. Cooperation is not a natural behavior. Our society is doing less today to build cooperation than ever before. And yet this is one thing over which employees have complete control.
- Resourcefulness. This characteristic will not be worth much without the first two.
- Skills needed to do the job. Skills can be learned.
- Meets or exceeds expectations. Can the person you are considering meet or exceed expectations? Will they do so through skills and training?
Solution-Oriented Responses to Mistakes
Above all, you want to build a safe zone for people. People are looking for security, for a place where they know they will be treated with dignity. Most times this is even more important than a high salary. One part of dignity is about looking for solutions without passing judgment.
Encourage people to admit their mistakes so that they can learn from them. Let them know that it is okay to make mistakes. If a genuine mistake has been made, people should not be judged for it. Instead, focus on reaching a solution; don’t dwell on how or why it happened or who made the mistake. Often the “how” and “why” are important to get to the solution, but they should not be used to cast blame. Create an environment where it is okay to make a mistake. But with that said, repeated mistakes are not okay. People must not get the idea that they can be careless.
This is an incredibly powerful tool. Management is best done in service to others. Here we can practice the Biblical teachings of love, compassion and caring. People would rather work with you than for you. People will work as a team when they are treated as a team. You can’t do the job alone.
Give credit to others rather than taking it for yourself. Make yourself last in all situations, even when standing in line at the water cooler. When a decision needs to be made, get input from others first. You have the final say, so make your decision after listening to everyone else. Listen way more than you talk. This is difficult, but something that good managers learn to do. Remember that subordination balances firmness. If you demonstrate your concern by your actions, you’ll have more credibility when the time comes to be firm.
Coaching Model for Resolving Problems
When you have to address a problem, the coaching model can be a helpful way to do so. This model is a way of meeting people’s needs and a way of living out the gospel.
- Wants. People’s wants (both employee and employer) are important. Ask your employee, “What do you want? Are you getting everything you want in and from your job? What is missing?”
- Direction. Ask your employee where his/her behavior is leading him/her. “How badly do you want the things you listed?”
- Evaluation. Ask if his/her behavior is directed properly. “What would you have to change to get the things you listed? Are you willing to make those changes?”
- Planning. Ask the employee what he/she could do to improve, and set a time for a follow-up meeting. “What is your plan of action? On what date will we review your progress?”
Using this model, you help another person to recognize and address the problem on his/her own, rather than being told what he/she is doing wrong. You walk him/her through it. Remember that the coaching model goes both ways. It can also be helpful for employees who wish to understand their employers’ behavior better.
Here is a suggested list of wants you could discuss with an employee who was dissatisfied:
- Do you have the respect from your peers you would like to have?
- Are you getting the recognition you want?
- Are you getting the fulfillment you desire?
- Are you satisfied with your compensation (e.g. pay and benefits)?
- Is your career on path?
- Is there the proper amount of stress?
- Do you have the amount of autonomy you want?
Protect people’s dignity even when dismissing them. Do this not only because it is right and because you want to preserve their dignity, but also because other employees will watch how you handle a dismissal situation.
Discuss employees only in their presence, or tell them that you are meeting about them and then later bring them into the discussion. Never correct someone publicly. Give your employee the benefit of the doubt as much as possible. Don’t form a judgment until the last minute. Don’t deal with people when you are very emotional (unless you consider compassion an emotion!). Know your employees’ strengths as well as you know their weaknesses. Start out with the positives when you confront them. Be concerned about your employees’ wants and needs.
Clear Performance Expectations
People need feedback about how they are doing. No one is going to work to their best ability if they don’t know what is expected of them. First of all, employees need a job description that lists what is expected of them. It can be very enlightening for an employee to learn where most of his/her emphasis is supposed to be placed. Job descriptions can change over time. They should include the broadest list of tasks and duties within the job. Performance expectations attach an individual’s behaviors and performance to the vision of the job description and to the departmental and organizational vision.
Performance expectations should not be abstract. Employees need to know what they should be doing and why. Expectations should result from and include the entire job description. Performance expectations focus on the results that are desired and the changes that are needed. Emphasize only results or behaviors that you want to change or improve. Usually no more than three or four expectations should be given at once; more than this and they probably will not be remembered. All of these expectations should funnel down to one overall result, to help the person stay focused.
Performance expectations must be measurable. Include a quantity and a date by which you expect to see the changes. “How many?” “By when?” Performance expectations must be a measure of an employee’s total fulfillment of their job description. Performance expectations should also be easily understood, mutually agreeable, and repeatable by the employee. Setting performance expectations with employees is actually linked to integrity. Employees need to know what a manager expects of them. In a service organization, a way to measure performance might be to ask, “What are the people you serve receiving?”
Democratic Decision-Making with Dictatorial Implementation
Democratic decisions create the strongest commitment on the part of everyone involved. The majority rules, and the minority agree to support the majority’s decision. Democratic decisions can take a long time to reach, but they save time in the long run. In the decision-making process, be sure to involve people that are responsible for executing decisions.
Once a decision is made, effective implementation of that decision is led, not discussed. A poor decision brilliantly executed is better than a brilliant decision poorly executed.
Creating Win/Win Situations
In situations where an employee is unhappy, make a commitment to look for a “win/win.” “Win/lose” should never be an option. Go into every situation looking for the win for the other person first. You really need to want this for it to work. When you state this as your intention (“I hope you win”), the other person will be surprised and tension will immediately be reduced in any situation. By knowing the other person’s win, you can sometimes shape your win to be even larger. Ask what your employee’s wants are, and thenlisten. Many times, expressed wants are smaller than what you would have conceded anyhow.
Be a Light, Not a Judge
People are ignorant, but not incompetent or stupid. Don’t condemn, but rather teach. Don’t take employees’ treatment of you personally. Don’t argue with people, but probe, learn, and continue to enlighten. In problem situations, look for the deepest source of darkness in the person, rather than addressing surface behavior. You may be able to teach an even bigger lesson than you thought. Persevere and be patient with people.
These are quick phrases or sentences that simply convey a belief or concept. They should be less than three minutes in length. Stump speeches are powerful because they are ready on demand, are easily remembered, and can be repeated often. An example of a stump speech is, “We must preserve people’s dignity at all costs.”
Management can be a powerful opportunity to be of service and to make the work of an organization more effective. I have found these tools helpful as I worked in management positions. I hope that you will find them helpful as well.
Calvin Yoke 2004. Management Can Be Learned. ECHO Development Notes no. 82