Fifteen years ago, I started managing people for one of the leading life insurance companies in the Philippines. I was confident that my four years of work experience in the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) and Transportation industries, plus my newly minted master’s degree, would be enough for me to be a successful manager. I was only half right. My formative years as a direct manager of a small team were full of “a-ha” moments mixed with humbling learning experiences on how to manage others.
Filipinos can do great things when they work together, a phenomenon that has been called the Bayanihan spirit. However, this presupposes that everyone in an organization has a common goal and that everyone pulls their own weight. Roles should not be confined by what is stated in one’s job description. When the situation calls for it, members at all levels of the organization need to be flexible. While I had been initially hired to instruct my team on their tasks, I realized that telling my colleagues how they should do their work was not effective and would only discredit me in their eyes, especially since some of them were already very proficient at their tasks. Therefore, I decided to refocus my efforts towards improving my skills as a manager. To me, this meant being able to help my colleagues/teammates succeed in their individual roles within the team.
My management style went through three distinct phases.
I started by “managing people.” I gave my staff detailed instructions on how they should specifically do their work. Like any new manager, I wanted things to be done the way I would do it. I micro-managed and constantly reviewed the work of my staff. Not only did this require a lot of effort from my end, I also realized how this management style encourages distrust within the team and holds back innovation.
I then changed my style to “leading people.” I made sure that I had a good understanding of the work performed by my staff so that I could identify the best way to help them with their roles. I started to collaborate more with my staff in order to find ways to make their work better and faster whilst maintaining the work quality standards expected by the organization. Furthermore, I focused on augmenting my staff’s capabilities through regular training and by giving them ownership of some activities like data collection, metrics generation and report presentation.
I saw lot of success using this management style but the “I’m staff and you’re a manager” behavior among my teammates still prevailed. As this continued to affect the team’s performance, I felt the need to change this behavior. However, to change the culture of my team meant having to transform my management style again — I needed to undergo a paradigm shift on how to manage people.
That shift came when I committed myself to “mentoring people.” As a mentor, I needed to change my perception of people. By treating people as “colleagues” and not as “staff,” my people stand on equal footing as myself, with the only difference being the roles we perform for the organization. This new approach required me to explain the purpose and importance of my teammate’s roles, particularly how their jobs fit into the bigger picture — to the success of the company. I poured in tremendous effort to get my colleagues to understand the company strategy because, as key organizational stakeholders, their commitment to the strategy will be the key to success. Giving my colleagues a real purpose for doing their jobs well really unlocked their full potential. I noted how the team became more collaborative and how ideas were actively being shared, discussed, agreed, implemented and monitored. An added benefit to this was that it seemed that the Millennials I worked with preferred this type of management style.
These are some of the personal experiences that I share with clients when they ask me about leading practices for staff/manager performance management. I also share how I wished that I learned about my firm’s performance management methodology years ago, since it teaches a lot of the lessons and skills that I had to learn by myself.
The methodology is about transformational behaviors that really stick. It is based on proven concepts and have been applied to numerous organizations across the globe. While the techniques are not new or earth-shattering, when properly executed together, these techniques will create a transformational culture in any organization.
The methodology focuses on building the right behaviors. It seeks employees’ understanding and buy-in of the organization’s goals. It also instills the importance of gathering the right data and transforming this data into useful information which the team and organization can use for business decisions. A collaborative environment is where proper and timely tactical and strategic operational decisions can be made to address business problems and challenges, resulting in better planning and control. It will also improve process standards, as well as develop sustainable routines and practices.
What I really love about this methodology is its potential to transform managers into mentors and staff into leaders who can lead themselves and influence others. Best of all, no technology investment is needed to implement this methodology in any organization.
Organizations who have implemented this methodology have seen an increase in employee output and a reduction in operating costs across the implementation areas. It has created additional full-time equivalent (FTE) capacity even without any changes in the current staff headcount. Furthermore, it has allowed department heads and team leads to spend less time firefighting and to devote more time for coaching and mentoring staff. Staff, on the other hand, have more opportunities to attend training and mentoring sessions with their department heads or team leads.
To navigate a constantly changing business and technology environment, an organization must future-proof its most valuable asset — its people. It is only by instilling the right behaviors in your people would they be able to adapt and thrive regardless of what may happen in the future.
The views or opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of PricewaterhouseCoopers Consulting Services Philippines Co. Ltd. The content is for general information purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for specific advice.
Victor Gabriel Ona is a senior manager with the Operations Consulting practice of PricewaterhouseCoopers Consulting Services Philippines Co. Ltd., a Philippine member firm of the PwC network.
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