Monday, October 29, 2012

Why Do Leaders Need to be "People Smart"? The Changing Role of Supervision - New Workforce Values and Supervisory Skills Needed

The whole world did change, and seasoned managers, those with 20 to 30 years of experience, unanimously agree on one issue: the role of the 21st-century manager and the skills required to get the job done today are significantly different from the role of the supervisor/manager as recently as 20 years ago.

Typically, people are promoted into supervisory roles based on their technical expertise. Some newly appointed supervisors make a smooth transition into leadership. Others stumble and experience multiple challenges with managing people. In addition to technical expertise, to be successful in a leadership role today, the manager or supervisor needs a whole new skill set based on being "people smart."

Why do leaders need to be "people smart"? No doubt you earned your leadership role by honing your technical expertise, working harder than most, and being loyal and committed to management and the success of your organization. Your organization recognized your talent and promoted you, giving you a supervisory title. However, when you were promoted, they forgot to tell you that supervisory title is not a guarantee for your success as a leader. With your title comes a degree of authority, but no assurance that your employees will get the job done. Effective leadership is all about a good working relationship between the employees and the boss. Your title gives you authority, but it's the working relationship you've got with your employees that gives you the power. The test of leadership is whether you have followers—people who are willing to do whatever it takes to ensure you and your team's success.

In past decades, just having a supervisory title was enough to ensure that you had your employees' attention and respect, and the job would get done. Those days are over. Today, due to a wide range of environmental and economic changes, the role of supervisor has changed substantially, requiring a whole new leadership skill set.

Values of the 1950s and 1960s Workforce
Values of Today's Workforce
Good craftsmanship
Concern for health
Happy to have a job
Job stability
Flexible schedule/Need for time off
Loyalty to boss
Work/life balance
Loyalty to company
High concern for self
Desire meaningful work
Savings account
Input appreciated
Technical ability
Interesting work

Open communication

Opportunity to advance

Personal growth


Supervisory Skills Needed: Historically
Supervisory Skills Needed: Today
Ability to control
Clarifying expectations
Coaching and counseling
Problem solving
Strong authority figure
Technical expertise










Problem solving



Team building

 The challenge for all supervisors today is to gain the attention, trust, enthusiasm, and commitment of their employees. It is no longer adequate to assemble, organize, and manage capital, raw materials, and a workforce within a tightly defined system of production. What is required is the leadership skills to create work environments of creativity, innovation, and enthusiasm so that once in, our employees are committed, loyal, and stay with us.


Sunday, October 21, 2012

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs - What Makes People do Things?


Abraham Maslow (1908–70) is one of the most well known psychologists of the 20th century, and his theory of human motivation, first published in a paper towards the end of the Second World War (Maslow, 1943), remains one of the most popular theories explaining human behaviour.
In a nutshell, Maslow argued that people have a variety of needs and that their behaviour at work, or elsewhere, is directed towards getting these needs met. His initial model set out five classes of human need:
1.     Physiological: to have the food, drink and sex you require. He described these as the most basic and biological needs.
2.     Safety: to be in an environment that is safe physically and psychologically.
3.     Social: to have a sense of relationship with people as individuals and groups.
4.     Esteem: to believe yourself to be successful and worthwhile in your own eyes and the eyes of others.
5.     Self-actualization: to desire to become all that you are capable of becoming.
Maslow (1954) proposed that the needs are activated in a hierarchical manner. So once basic physiological needs are satisfied, people will aim to meet their safety needs and so on up the list. He defined the first three needs on the list as 'deficiency needs' which, if not met, will prevent the person from becoming a healthy person. The top two, esteem and self-actualization (a term he coined and which has now become part of everyday language), are 'growth needs' which help people develop their full potential as humans. Maslow suggested that the hierarchy is open-ended, so once we reach the top we become aware of even more potential in us to grow than we at first appreciated. This spurs us on to seek more opportunities to develop. In later work Maslow (Maslow, Frager and Fadiman, 1970) expanded the notion of self-actualization to include personal growth needs, the appreciation of beauty, and self-transcendance (to find something beyond oneself and to commit to helping others grow).

Motivation to satisfy need
1. Challenging projects, opportunities for innovation and creativity, learning at a high level
2. Important projects, recognition of strength, intelligence, prestige and status
3. Acceptance, group membership, association with successful team, love and affection
4. Physical safety, economic security, freedom from threats, comfort, peace
5. Water, food, sleep, warmth, health, exercise, sex

So what?

While Maslow never offered specific applications in his writings, management theorists have subsequently readily suggested what managers can do to motivate employees. These recommendations range from ensuring safe work environments to pension schemes, positive team working, job titles, promotion opportunities, public recognition awards and development opportunities. These all make sense to most people and have meant that Maslow's ideas have remained popular. It is, in part, the all-encompassing nature of the theory that has contributed to its longevity.
What remains problematic is being able to be clear both about what needs people are trying to meet at work at any point in time, and what actions managers can reasonably take to meet those needs in a way that motivates for better performance. This has consistently been viewed as a major flaw in the theory. Critics like Buchanan and Huczynski (1997) say that what works for one person may not work for another. People try to meet a range of needs at the same time and not necessarily in a systematic hierarchical order.
These critiques have been confirmed by researchers over the years (for example, Neher, 1991; Salancik and Pfeffer, 1977; Ventegodt, Merrick and Andersen, 2003; Wahba and Bridwell, 1976). The consensus is that no empirical research has confirmed the validity of the theory in its entirety. Buchanan and Huczynski (1997: 62) helpfully describe Maslow's theory as more like a social philosophy than a 'psychological theory', with its concerns about the values implicit in the idea of the 'good life'. Hofstede (1980) added to the criticism by arguing that it was middle-class American ideals that Maslow wrote about, rather than a more universal approach to motivation which needs to incorporate a multicultural perspective.
To be fair to Maslow, he acknowledged at the outset that the hierarchy model was not a perfect one. He wrote of reversal in the order of the hierarchy being observed at times and that all individuals may not require all needs to be met under certain circumstances. He also recognized that there may be determinants of behaviour other than specific motivations.

What else?

In spite of the criticism, Maslow's model has remained popular for reasons that include:
§  the way it acknowledges that human beings have needs that they strive to meet;
§  the prompt it has given managers to think about what they are doing to motivate their staff;
§  its positive view of human nature and the recognition of the seemingly innate sense in people to strive to improve;
§  the use other theorists and researchers like Alderfer (1972) have made of Maslow's thinking to refine and develop our understanding of human motivation;
§  the acknowledgement it gives to the notion that human behaviour is influenced by a number of very different motives.
Abraham Maslow's theory underpins the thinking behind what he called the new discipline of humanistic psychology which came to the fore in the 1950s. This school of psychology holds the view that human beings are essentially good and that the role of psychology is to investigate what will help them reach their full potential. In recent years, Maslow has also been credited with being one of the founding fathers of the positive psychology movement (Seligman and Csíkszentmihályi, 2000).


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