Where have all the great managers and leaders gone?

Inspired by an article tweeted by the The Undercover Recruiter on the 19th February 2017, entitled ‘What Really Motivates Millennials?’ Managing Director of The Director-e Ltd. #WhereExperienceMatters Les Phillimore raises the question, “Where have all the great managers and leaders gone?”

As an over 45’er who has managed hundreds of people both locally and remotely, the content and suggestions in this blog were oddly bemusing. At the same time though, they were deeply concerning as time after time we see posts and reports about a major shortage of skilled leaders and managers, alongside those that point out the trials and tribulations of Millennial’s in the workplace. Yet here is a post by an employer branding agency that explains what businesses need to do to motivate Millennials.

The reason that I am concerned is that the article identifies six key principles of people and business management; principles that will allow managers and businesses to motivate Millennials; yet these same six principles are the exact same principles that have been consistently used to develop high-performing teams over millennia both within businesses since before the 1980’s in the USA, and within the Investors in People programme in the UK. They are not new traits of management or new traits, behaviours and aspirations of employees at all; they are tried, tested and extremely well proven methodologies for motivating individuals to excel.

The six suggestions are 1) Include employees in your company vision, 2) Provide independence and autonomy, 3) Be flexible, 4) Provide immediate feedback and one-on-ones, 5) Promotion and movement and finally, 6) Offer training.

There is no intention at all to be dismissive or disrespectful of the writer of the article; most people see, judge and write about things as they see them in their own time and space. What took place one, two or three decades ago can often seem to be so old as to be irrelevant, with a current need therefore to re-write the rule-book and map out the new methods and principles as the new generations face and tackle the dilemmas of poor management and the younger employees of their time as they see them.

BUT, and this is the purpose of this article, it cannot be ignored that there could very well be a dynamic and intrinsic link between the endless cry out for experienced and skilled senior managers and leaders, and the new generation seemingly writing about the new way of doing things when in fact, those principles have always been there but somehow seem to have got lost over time and in translation. Could this be because more and more emphasis has been placed on KPI’s and cost base reduction; rather than “empowering” our employees to excel and gain the holy grail of intrinsic rewards which will deliver the required performance which is precisely the likely outcome of the six methodologies highlighted in the article.

Perhaps those who are deemed to be the Millennials of today are actually not that much different to the Millennials of days gone by. Perhaps as we all enter the workplace and new technology emerges and evolves around us, the simple reality is that we are all or were Millennials within our own time and space and over time we “grow up” and mature. No matter what the age of the employee, great management and leadership is and has always been about empowering our people to achieve, and to excel by focusing on and supporting each person as an individual with their own ambitions, expectations, limitations and abilities.

So, praise to the writer of the original article for addressing the fundamental requirements of managers and leaders on today’s terminology; it is though sad to see that we are still having to explain to managers and leaders what it is that they should be doing to motivate their staff. This is nothing to do with Millennials, Generation X, Y or Z; these six principles are and always have been the bedrock of respect for our people and the pathway to empowering our people to excel. Extrinsic reward mechanisms are a reason to join a place of work, intrinsic rewards are the most raw, the most basic and the most fundamental of reasons to excel at work and to stay with that place of work. Why? Because it is simply about self worth and their individual value to the world.


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