Leadership Blog

Servants and Kings

Tuesday, November 15, 2016 | Category :
    • Leadership
    • Avo Vision

Management theory is like hair, it continues to grow and change sometimes depending heavily on the fashion of the day. But there are a few truths that seem to have settled into their favourite chairs in front of the fireplace with no indication of budging!

One of these is to promote our star performers to managers

What we should be doing is an assessment of each individual situation to see if this is in fact the right move for that individual, whether or not they have the skills required to manage people, and whether the fit is right for the team. If it’s not, who is to say that the star performer can’t be rewarded in other ways? More money, more leave, the opportunity to work on unique projects or with interesting consultants. There are a myriad of ways we can reward our stars, and not all of them are about title.

Although not a uniquely South African phenomenon this does appear to be especially prevalent in the South African context where many organisations feel that team members can’t be paid more than their superiors, and thus to reward - we have to promote. I have, for example, seen it happen in the software development sphere, where a particularly fantastic developer, who simply oozes code, is moved to team leader much to his (and often the team’s ) collective astonishment. They are then performance assessed not on their own productivity, as was the case, but their teams productivity as well. Not being skilled enough to manage people and lacking basic interaction skills which often come easily to the less technically inclined, the then-developer-now-manager fails to get the best out of his team and so by the organisational standards, he fails miserably. Often this leads to the person in question leaving and so the company loses a star performer, who really just wanted to cod. Alone. Preferably in a dark room with pictures of Darth Vader on the wall.

We tend to forget that managers are there to facilitate the productivity of the team. Oil the wheels, make their team happy and protect them fiercely. Much like politicians, though, we seem to think that managers are there to be untouchable and unquestioned. When did the servants among us become kings? At Avocado Vision we believe that your success should be measured by your successful project contribution, not on the number of people underneath you on the organisational chart.

The change is hard to make and won’t be completed overnight, as it takes a cultural and mind-set shift from every level of the organisation. Language has to be changed, personal development plans and reward structures have to be amended, the list goes on. But no cultural change is quick and no mind-set easily shifted. But any king worth the name will commit to it, because it’s the right thing for the company and ultimately their people.


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