May 11, 2008

When Business is a Pleasure

Father Tony has been blogging about his experience in the working world and has offered some seriously good advice on how to move ahead.

In between my stints in the ivory towers of education and religious institution, I had a Corporate Period in which I reached my goal of corporate sales trainer. Having that managerial experience was helpful when I returned to the working world after staying home for nine years with my children.

I currently manage volunteers, which is a whole different ball of wax, let me tell you. But I have had the privilege of working for the best boss ever at my church, and I thought I’d share my thoughts on that.

There are two schools of thought on managerial style: Top/down and bottom/up. (Do not go there. This is business I’m talking about.) “Top/down” is the style you’re all used to. The boss at the top issues edicts and each layer of employees below struggles to meet the demands. It is punitive, powered by fear and can be effective for the short run. But I find it fosters distrust and stealth.

“Bottom/up” management turns the working pyramid model upside down. The owner/CEO is at the bottom point of the pyramid, doing everything in her power to support those people who report to her. She removes all obstacles that prevent them from doing the job they were hired to do. Those in turn do the same for the next organizational layer. This makes the “front line” staff the most powerful people in the organization, and they face the public or produce the product. They have been given the freedom to do what they were hired to do in the best possible manner.

Can you tell which model I prefer? I have worked in both arenas, and I can tell you hands down that the inverted pyramid model works. I used it in my brief tenure as corporate trainer. (I discovered I was pregnant two weeks after getting promoted. It was a great nine months.) In that period, turnover dropped 73% in the five stores where I trained sales staff. The one store whose training came from a manufacturer didn’t change their turnover rate (which, frankly, was unacceptably high).

When Japan surrendered in WWII, the U.S. sent W. Edwards Deming there to resurrect their broken business structure. He taught them the inverted pyramid style of management, and they took it and ran. Japan had to start from less than nothing and became an economic/industrial world power in less than forty years. This management style works. It fosters loyalty, effort, and community.

My boss at church not only used this model, he added two components that made him the best boss I’ve ever had. He communicated so well in our weekly meetings that nothing was ever a surprise (unless it came from an outside source). Our annual reviews were practically parties, because all of it was old news. We were kept apprised every week where we were and where we were going.

He was also flexible. He learned how to keep me happy. Everyone should be able to look forward to going to work as I did. I couldn’t wait to get there and do what was asked of me. What an incredible example of servant leadership he was (and is at the new church where he is now head pastor).

You can insert this model wherever you work, even where it isn’t practiced, as I did. Your department can prosper in this working model. Doing well can send you up the ladder (and down the inverted pyramid) where you can train others to do the same. It makes your workplace somewhere people want to stay and produce.

1 comment:

tornwordo said...

I totally agree. I hadn't heard it put this way before though. I have definitely had both types of boss, but I'm still convinced that "no boss" is the best.