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MYTH: MACHO MAKES THE MAN A MANAGER
Like most businessmen, you think you should be able to solve your problems all by yourself. You're not allowed any weaknesses or failings. You should maintain an all-knowing facade and fear doing anything that might make you appear less than perfect before your troops. Given all this, you must monopolize power for yourself.
Have I just written your unofficial job description? I wish I hadn't. This attitude has led to a dictatorial mentality among some managers. Instead of treating everyone they meet as if he were a CEO, they treat people like raw recruits in boot camp. Managers like this think they are Gen. George S. Patton roaring across the face of Europe. Rather than opening communications, this merely makes people duck and avoid the boss. It's like what Detroit
Lions coach Monte Clark once said of hard-driving, all-pro fullback Larry Csonka: "When he goes on a safari, the lions roll up their windows."
Why does this approach appeal to so many managers? Perhaps they think that in football, the best leaders are the toughest ones — the yellers and the screamers. But great coaches such as Tom Landry and Bud Grant got the most out of their players with different tactics, namely, reserve and respect. Landry feels that players need emotion to perform optimally. But not coaches, for whom yelling is wasted energy. Another winning coach, USC's John McKay, once asked, "Does a team have to be emotional to win? After all, nobody is more emotional than my wife, Corky, and she can't play football worth a damn."
Any quarterback who thinks he can order his teammates around like cattle and still get maximum cooperation and effort out of them is in for a long, hard season. No ball player or manager can work well with his troops if he thinks and acts as though he alone has all the answers. On the contrary, when you treat the people you work with as though they were family, you can increase their sense of involvement in productivity and their respect for you as a leader. At Delta Airlines, a very successful company noted for its family-like feeling, even new hirings are made with this sensitivity in mind. Says chairman David
Garrett: "One of the things we look for is that ability to care for others."
People assume that in football, intimidation is as integral to the game as air in the ball. But in fact, the opposite tactic often works better. I remember an encounter with lineman Mean Joe Greene when he was just a young, up-and-coming tough guy for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The first time I played against Joe, he got thrown out of the game for hitting me full-blast after I had run out-of-bounds. I thought to myself, "It is possible to get killed by this man. I'd better be nice to him."
In our next game against the Steelers, Joe sacked me with a shot that made my head vibrate. As I got up, I said, "Nice tackle, Joe." A while later he got me again with another bell ringer. I said, "Good one, Joe. Man, I've been hearing a lot of good things about you." Third tackle — boom! But I still didn't give up. I said, "You know, Joe, you're really the soul of this team."
Joe got up and looked around at the capacity crowd in the stadium and said to me, "Hey, Fran, you really know how to pack 'em in, don't you?"
My last compliment to Joe had finally clicked. He was a little gentler with me from then on. Where would a mean macho approach have gotten me in that situation against Mean Joe? Unlike business, pro football can be like nuclear warfare: no winners, only survivors. If you think that tough guys win; that the louder you yell, the harder (and better) everyone will work; that if you chew people out and get on their asses a lot, that makes you a leader — you're wrong. It's like spanking a child to get a quick reaction even though the long-term response to corporal punishment may not be the one you want.
I remember a depressing moment on one of my teams. During a game, I got sacked just when a receiver had gotten open in the end zone for what could well have been the winning touchdown. I was hit before I could throw the pass because one of our linemen, an all-pro guard, missed his block.
On Monday morning when we were watching the films, the offensive line coach turned off the projector and chewed out the guard in front of all his teammates. He accused him of losing the game for us because he "didn't care enough." He claimed the defensive player was a harder worker with more character, and even made some insulting comments about our player's mother and father.
Now, what did the coach accomplish? Did he do anything to help that guard avoid missing a block in the next game? No. All the coach did was make himself feel good by showing everybody what a tough guy he was. In the process, he destroyed the player's confidence and broke his self-respect before his peers. And, in fact, that guard never played really well after that.
What other approach could that coach have taken? He could have said, "Okay, right guard, you missed that block. You missed it because your technique was bad, your stance was too narrow, you moved off balance and he came through you. So you're going to work on widening your base this week so that won't happen again."
The guard would have been thinking, "Thank you, coach. Now you've given me a way to improve myself."
What the Tough Guy does not understand is that all-too-rare art of correcting people without destroying human dignity. He does not know how to be a leader without being a bully. The Tough Guy thinks chewing people out is a sign of strength — when it is actually a signal of weakness.
With the Tough Guy, people will merely keep the lowest possible profile and try to step out of his way, rather than raise performance. Because they become preoccupied with avoiding the wrath of this leader-by-oppression, they cannot concentrate on their own performance. Fresh thoughts and new ideas are immediately oppressed for fear of a chewing-out by the boss if he does not like the proposal. No one takes an initiative. The
Tough Guy syndrome simply breeds sycophants and yes-men.
I often disarm the tough guys I have come to deal with by opening my spiel with questions. Before long, they are completely wrapped up in a conversation with me, pouring out every detail of their desires and ideas, feeling completely involved with me as a partner — not as a boss or sales adversary. Asking questions gives you a chance to find out what it is that really turns that person on and is likely to get his commitment to you — as employee or customer. But when you start giving more answers than questions, you begin to fall into the trap of the expert.
Some managers think that being a success with people is a natural skill. Each of us likes to say, "I'm a 'people person,' " because most of us like other people and feel popular with our peers. But business is a great deal more than simply being nice to people. Cheerleaders are great on the sidelines of a football field, but cheerleaders don't call the plays or carry the ball. Whoever thinks he can manage through cheerleading alone is just as misguided as the macho man.
The Gladhander is the fellow who has read Norman Vincent Peale's The Power of Positive Thinking and believes he can succeed largely by smiling at everyone and telling them what great jobs they are doing. "Hey, you're doing a great job," he'll say to anyone who comes near the water cooler or the men's room. And people know the Gladhander does not know whether they are working well or badly, hard or easy, carefully or carelessly. Insincere praise — reinforcement based not on specific data but on obvious ignorance — is more demoralizing than no praise at all! The Gladhander undermines the respect of people by telling them things they don't believe.
Toughness in business means mental concentration and willingness to pay true attention to performance and to correct it through measurement and reinforcement. We all crave attention, right? True attention is not the kind of false, fleeting flattery the Gladhander gives; it is, rather, the time and effort it takes to measure a person's performance. It is the most impressive way to show that you care. A person would rather be told with accuracy and sincerity what he is doing wrong than be told he was doing something good when he knows better.
FACT: No good advice has ever been given at the top of one's lungs.
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