!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-strict.dtd"> Streamline Training & Documentation: For Your Consideration: Tough Love

Monday, December 04, 2006

For Your Consideration: Tough Love

Another item from the December issue of the Harvard Business Review caught my eye because it prompts further thoughts on the subject of a previous post, namely, the wide range in the quality of management that exists in just about any industry you care to consider.

HBR senior editor Gardiner Morse interviews Larry Winget, a widely traveled speaker and self-styled "Pitbull of Personal Development." Winget's central point:
Your poor business results are your own fault. You created them. You can blame the customer, Wal-Mart, the economy, the Republicans, the Democrats, whoever you want. But the bottom line is, somebody's successful in your industry, and if they can do it, you can do it.
I find it easy to agree that the managers of a company performing below the standard set by industry leaders should be encouraged to look in the mirror when considering what might explain the gap. Winget, however, seems to leave the analysis at a crude level. In what he refers to as "irritational speaking," he takes as his mission making his audience
so uncomfortable with where they are that they'll do anything to be someplace else. And that's what I think managers should do: create irritation through high expectations. As a leader, you should say to employees, "This is how I expect things to be. And if you're not comfortable with that, go somewhere else where less is expected of you."
No mention of how to arrive at appropriate expectations, or of how to engage employees in a common sense of mission.

Admittedly, I have only the page of interview excerpts in the HBR and Winget's own website to go by, so I can't form a definitive view of what he has to offer business audiences. Still, I can't help thinking that, with a style that seems closer to a drill sergeant than to, say, a company president bent on winning support for needed organizational change, Winget's approach has limited power to help companies get up to snuff.

My own bottom line: The process of advancing to better performance has to begin with managers themselves deciding, preferably with customer and employee input, on the direction in which everyone needs to move in order to improve company fortunes.


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