In The Workplace

We are part of a small enterprise. Our 65-year-old CEO clings to old-school ways, believing that workers need to be closely supervised to get the best out of them. I’ve been telling him that it doesn’t always work that way. Now that we’re in a pandemic, all of us are forced to work from home with the CEO wanting all department managers to continue with close supervision. Everyone is constricted by this distrust. The managers spend a lot of time checking the work of our respective workers at all hours. Is there a better way? — Golden Girl

Among the five thousand who were fed with the two fish and five loaves of bread were people who without a doubt still complained about the bones in the fish. What I’m saying is — this is not the right time to complain when many businesses are trying to keep afloat due to the recession cause by COVID-19.

Indeed, you are right to talk about empowerment. Unfortunately, these are trying times when management can’t afford to experiment with different approaches. This is not the right time to talk about management styles, if only to avoid conflict with top management. There’s no other way but for you and other department managers to adapt to the old style of the CEO.

In other words, you can’t teach old dogs new tricks. You can’t control or change the style of the CEO. Therefore, you should focus on your own style and how you can blend with that of others, including your boss. Review your motivation in a team setting. Maintain a calm working relationship with the CEO. Other than attempting to change his management style, think of and establish many ways to control your own style.

That way you can strengthen your credibility and hope that future circumstances afford you the opportunity to bring up the matter again. In the meantime, reflect on the following questions: How do I accept the old style of management and reconcile it with my current style? What’s the best way to communicate my ideas to the CEO, other department managers, and the workers?

What are the reasons why my ideas are usually misunderstood? Do I make decisions without facts to support them? Am I fast or a slow thinker? Am I arrogant for ignoring other people’s ideas, even without hearing them? Do I need to first listen to all information or respond to other comments immediately throughout as they arise?

Remember, nobody likes working with a pessimist who focuses on the bones of the fish. That doesn’t mean you have to act like an overrated motivational speaker who talks about all the good things in life using humor to catch people’s attention. You just need to show that you’re an upbeat person despite the recession and the pandemic. In other words, take the time to foster positive interactions with the CEO and other managers and their workers. You can do all of this, by exploring the following ideas:

One, act and think like the CEO or the business owner. This doesn’t mean you should be cocky or make independent decisions beyond your authority. Instead, think of many initiatives or programs that will help your organization move forward despite the crisis and its limited resources. If you do that, chances are, with a CEO mindset, you may be able to discover big-picture opportunities.

Two, be a proactive trouble-shooter. Instead of rocking the boat by continuously promoting employee empowerment, you need to find problems that have been ignored in the past. With the help of your team, you can generate many cost-effective solutions that have not been addressed. Think of many inexpensive and common-sense solutions out there. You’ll be surprised how many eureka moments you come across.

Three, perform difficult tasks with a smile. Rise to the big challenges and the impossible tasks to establish your credibility. The temptation to perform only small, mundane tasks won’t bring you to greater heights. If you take this challenge, you’ll come across as a leader instead of an egomaniac who always wants to impose his ideas on people, no matter how good they are.

Last, play for the CEO, your colleagues and your team. Sure, teamwork is an overused corporate virtue. Even when people are forced to work from home, there is no better way for all of us to work as a virtual team. Try initiating a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis for the organization. With many ideas coming from all fronts, you can visualize what’s in store for your business in the years to come.

Details can make or break big or small organizations. You can always think of and create ground-breaking programs, but if you don’t tie up the loose ends, you won’t make a positive impact. And you’ll be sabotaging your own efforts without even knowing it. After all, what good is a monumental project if the grammar and the budget numbers in your report are wrong?

What else? How can you ever complete a project on time, if you don’t even have a time line? How can you seek the support of your workers when they are blind to, if not ignorant of what you’re trying to do? How can you delegate those little things if there are no objective standards and performance measures?

Now that you’re primed to act like a positive thinker, business owner, problem-solver, team player and a detail-oriented manager in a crisis like this, just the same, don’t forget to resurrect the idea of empowering your own workers subject to certain reasonable limitations, when the time is right.

In other words, start with the workers under your control.


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