“Employees are the most valuable asset that any organization has. In the past managers said ‘jump” and the employees said, ‘How high?’ Now, the managers are jumping with employees.” — Jacob Morgan, American business writer
During the past generation or so, something unusual has happened in business: managers have evolved from the boss to a team player.
Figuratively, they are still in charge, of course, but leaders realized they got farther by being in partnership with their employees. They act more like a visionary facilitator, rather than a strategy imposter.
Improvement the Burns Way
Why? By necessity, given the new reality of rapid strategic execution — strategy has become more fluid and responsive to change — and wise leaders encourage team members to execute in whatever way works best at a particular moment.
In the wake of the Great Recession, managerial and rank-and-file jobs have begun converging toward a single continuum. No longer can leaders consider ourselves completely distinct from our non-managerial teammates, whether the unions like it or not.
Business has always been a collaborative endeavor, and must become even more so in order to facilitate efficient execution and greater productivity. More than ever, a dictum first expressed by former Shell Oil Company President H.S.M. Burns holds true: “A good manager is a man who isn’t worried about his own career but rather the careers of those who work for him.”
Geophysicist H.S. Mackenzie Burns led Shell Oil in the 1950s, ascending to the Board of Directors in 1957. His strategy of focusing on employee contentment and development was not only ahead of its time, it proved remarkably successful.
During his tenure, he helped Shell grow into the world’s second-largest revenue producer. An excellent communicator, he also pushed Shell to adopt computers in the early 1950s — the first company to do so.
Let’s look at a few ways you can tap into the potential of your team members as you improve their lot, strengthening the beam of your leverage machine on the way to more effective execution.
1. Sincerely view employees as your greatest asset
Everyone says they do this, but in our precarious economy, most leaders still see employees as replaceable.
In a sense they should be, so they can be promoted; but they’re not interchangeable machine parts. They’re people. If you take care of them, they’ll take care of you. In a knowledge-based business, your team members become especially valuable.
Treat them well so they’ll stay with you; good workers cost a lot to replace.
2. Communicate your leadership by word and deed