Toward Higher-Level Performance

Just imagine if those you managed were more self-acting and self-directed, had greater levels of creativity and had (really) good interpersonal skills.  Wouldn’t this make for a higher performing team enhancing organizational performance, not to mention having a positive influence on your effectiveness?  Obviously, for many, the next questions are do such people exist and how do I get them to be my team?

Understand The Cause

The answer to these rests with an understanding of what guides people to manifest these qualities.  Given that one’s system of orientation prefigures behavior, we need to understand how such people would be oriented.

The above list of qualities is characteristic of people who are development-oriented or as Maslow labeled it self-actualizing or growth-oriented and not deficit-oriented.  According to Maslow this latter type includes  “the needs for safety, belongingness, love relations and for respect can be satisfied only by other people.” The point being that growth-oriented needs satisfaction comes from within and deficit-oriented needs satisfaction comes from without.

So the critical issue becomes whether the people you managed are focused on their development needs or their deficit needs.  However, according to Maslow’s needs hierarchy, these development needs are sought more consistently and fervently when the lower level needs are being attended to and thus their satisfaction is not in doubt.

So the answer to the questions where do such people exist and how do I get them to be my team rests with how you are managing.  If your management practice makes the satisfaction of deficit needs conditional on performance, then (people’s) deficit needs satisfaction is in doubt and thus it is quite likely those you manage are deficit-oriented.  Wouldn’t greater certainty over chance be preferable?

So what should you do?  Stop using deficit-needs as leverage for getting people to do what you desire! Cease managing by fear: cease using carrot-and-stick (if you do this then you will get that) incentive management methods. Why do you suppose most everyone is seeking to realize more creativity from among those they manage!

The popularity stems from the fact that deficit-needs are common among all people and so management’s use of these as the basis of influencing behavior affords a one-size-fits all approach—it is so easy it is almost mindless. Moreover with fear-based management, there is no need to understand each person as an individual since all that is needed is an impersonal method, one that relates to everyone as if they are the same individual—the impersonal faceless individual.

According to this way of relating to people any Skinnerian stimulus-response (i.e. reward-punishment) scheme will do just fine toward getting others to do what you desire.  It provides one solution to the management challenge of how to get people to do what they may not be inclined to do but what management wants them to do.

Hence the issue of motivation is reduced to an issue of deciding on the kind and amount of external force to employ.

And when these fear-based methods for getting people to move with desired speed and direction doesn’t completely work then the herdsmen (a.k.a. management) need to thin the herd.  One popular innovative technique of thinning the herd is rank-and-yank.  The rank-and-yank is like a non-physically violent genocide where instead of killing off you lay off the bottom 10% of the herd.  It is a fear-in-the-extreme-based method brought to management popularity in the 1980s and 90s by a well-known CEO (earning the moniker neutron Jack).  Yes the very same genius CEO who established the maximization of shareholder value as the business of business.  Popular management practice owes a lot to this person.

So if stimulus-response (a.k.a. reward-punishment) methods are popular how bad can they be?  Painting everyone with the same brush—whereby everyone is just a faceless member of the herd—covers up individuality and avoids having to deal with the associated complexity.  Individuality is denied and so too is the need for what C. G. Jung called individuation—the process toward becoming a developed (whole) human being.  Unfortunately, the construction of an individualist egoic persona (or mask) is not an adequate substitute for a developing self.

Enable The Development Orientation

Since each person is unique relative to the enfolded and yet to be actualized potential that lies within, we each manifest our actualized potential differently. Hence we each need to be related to as individuals and not as individualistic egos where fear-based methods focus our attention. And keep us from developing as human beings.

Relating to others as if faceless parts of the herd can’t possibly work!

Making the basic needs satisfaction a non-issue will enable people become development-oriented as you begin using the positive energy triad of self-initiation—non-attachment—engagement (as opposed to the popularly used fear-desire-pride negative energies) to facilitate and support them in their development needs as they perform the organization’s work.

Additional benefit of employing positive energy and focusing on development of people is that in addition to the previous mentioned qualities, according to Maslow it also brings forth changes in a person’s value system.  Associated with this change, as Maslow noted, is an acknowledgment of our interconnectedness and thus a greater identification with and caring for (all) humankind—this would contribute greatly to collaboration and synergy in organizations. Also manifesting is a more democratic character structure and less attachment to the materiality of reality.

Furthermore, in the words of Maslow “the deficit-motivated man is far more dependent upon other people than the man who is predominantly growth-oriented…they depend less on other people, they are less ambivalent about them, less anxious and also less hostile, less needful of their praise and their affections.” Further “they are less anxious for honors, prestige and rewards.”  Accordingly, development-oriented people are less likely to be influenced by or submit to negative energy managers who employ carrot-and-stick, command and control methods.  Obviously this poses a considerable problem to those attached to fear-based methods even while they expect synergy and creativity to emerge.  No wonder these managers find little success!

So back to the question: how do you realize higher-level performance? Managers have to manage differently and to do so they will have to transcend self-interest and undergo a transformation of orientation themselves.

The problem is clear; it’s management that must transform itself—Deming was right!  Those in management must enact trust if development is to be realized.  Managers must become resonant leaders: But this requires courage and the inner strength to know that it is their personhood—not the position they hold or the rewards-punishments they can dole out—that makes the difference in their effectiveness and the performance of the organization. It is the difference that makes the difference.

2 thoughts on “Toward Higher-Level Performance

  1. It was also the same Neutron who developed or at least implemented forced ranking–only 6 people in your organization can be a 10 (excellent) and only 4 can be an 8 (better than average). Everyone else (25 or so) must be average or below average. Another reason creativity is diminished. Why should we–the great unwashed–give our best ideas, only to be “forced” into the average or below (because the 8s and 10s follow the rules better) ranking?

  2. Great article. I would propose if managers “managed differently” and “transcend self-interest and undergo a transformation of orientation themselves” they would no longer be deamed managers, but leaders.

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