Reprinted from Chris Mittelstaedt’s column Eureka on Inc.com
How to identify–and root out–your worst human instincts before they infect your team.
If there’s one thing that’s consistent across all businesses around the world, it’s human nature. And if the worst parts of human nature start infecting your management techniques, well, then Houston we have a problem.
Here’s a secular look at the worst seven instincts and what they can do to your team and your business.
Ah, the angry manager. What’s better than walking into a meeting and getting yelled at? It may be a highly effective way to release frustration or bully your people into a fear-based work regimen, but it isn’t a long-term strategy for encouraging employee engagement or nurturing their willingness to take risks on innovation and volunteer new ideas.
There is nothing like the boss that announces cutbacks and then shows up with a new Porsche. Making money is fine, and there is nothing wrong with it. But getting over on others who suffer so that you can get ahead disproportionately is not motivating. Remember your 18th-century history lessons: If you find yourself saying, “Let them eat cake,” you might want to rethink your management style.
There is a natural human tendency for folks to feel (or gossip) that “employee X doesn’t work as hard as employee Y.” While some of this may be true (and should be addressed from a performance standpoint), there are honest misunderstandings that arise when staff members don’t understand your organizational chart or the responsibilities that go along with different positions. Eliminating bad work behavior and changing it into good behavior is important but just as important is letting everyone know the big picture so that different work requirements and styles (if appropriate) can be understood as part of the broader vision.
Having self-esteem is important in decision-making. However, starting from the point of view that you can never fail or that all your ideas are gold is just plain unrealistic and foolhardy. Pride can also take the form of hubris. If you find yourself identifying closely with the management team on “The Office,” it’s time for a bit of self-reflection.
What is the difference between business passion and business lust? If business passion is inspiration and excitement for what you do and can do in the future, business lust is conquest without care of consequences. It’s good to do a self-check-in to make sure that power isn’t your motivating factor as a leader, but that you’re motivated by commitment to a greater goal for the organization. I love to hire people with passion for what they do. I avoid hiring people who are motivated by personal lusts.
Do you find yourself thinking that the grass is greener in another colleague’s yard? Competition is good, but competitive forces that come from envy can derail your focus and take you in a direction that is not strategic to your long-term goals.
Gotta have it all and unwilling to share with your team? Just remember Daffy Duck in the Ali Baba Bunny cartoon when he was turned into a tiny little version of himself hugging his gold and jumping around yelling “Mine! Mine! Mine! Mine!” What you learned in kindergarten still stands: Self-control and sharing can build friends, teammates, and alliances that can take you farther than you could imagine.
How to avoid the seven business sins?
It’s tough to overcome some of the more base instincts of human nature, but there is one way to help root them out in a work environment: Give your organization meaning. Look beyond yourself and build a company culture that values people and their work as part of a greater whole. You’ll give your employees the ability to feel like they are vital contributors to something great.
I believe that profitability, while necessary for the sustainability of a business, should not define its meaning. In my business, I like to talk about how making money is just the air we need to breathe to stay alive, but our lives are not defined just by breathing. In our case, addressing the health of people, the environment, sustainable farming, and helping those people and communities who are in need are really the factors that drive our larger business meaning. Bring out the best in yourself and your employees by articulating clearly your vision, meaning, and mission.
Enjoy and be fruitful!