While employees are not children, and we should not manage them as though they were children, it may be that some principals of human relationships apply not only to children, but also to employees.
Several times I have heard of a parenting maxim that warns “rules without relationship produces rebellion”. The saying relates a truth that when we try to rule our children by commands, without taking the time to develop our values in them, it may only work a short time before it blows up in our face.
I know from when our children were at home, that as a Dad, it was simple and easy to make pronouncements. It didn’t take time, or frankly much thought. But without taking the time to explain, to teach, to help them understand, it also didn’t last.
Applying that same concept to managing employees, I would say “dictates without development produces disengagement”.
As an employer, you want your employees to follow the procedures that you have set, you want them to do what you say, and you want it done now and consistently done. But, is simply issuing those dictates enough to achieve employees who use their minds to make decisions that advance your business? I would suggest that the answer is no, at least in the long-term.
We need employees to be engaged in the operation, employees who work to get the desired results, not just to do the job. We want employees who take initiative and express ownership in the herd. Our desire is for employees who are trustworthy and who have a positive impact on the team as well as on the business.
However, we will not achieve those characteristics by command. In fact, Michigan State University Extension believes that through commands alone we will produce the opposite result.
The only way we can hope to achieve them is by developing employees. Here are five areas that employers and managers should be progressively working on developing with all employees: skills and knowledge, teamwork, responsibility, authority, and initiative.
Skills and knowledge is the base area of development for every employee. All employees come to the business with some level of some skills and a certain amount of knowledge or you probably would not have hired them. No matter what level of knowledge or skills, plan to build on that in order to make them even more effective and interested. Development of skills and knowledge can be through formal training or informal instruction, but it should be regular and progressive. You also need to teach them the “why” for practices and help them to understand how cows respond.
Teamwork is a basic level of development as well. People need to learn to work together, coordinating with the others, helping and enabling mutual success. That doesn’t necessarily come naturally. Employees will need to be reminded, told specific ways they can help and recognized when they practice good teamwork. Teamwork must be emphasized and demonstrated by owners and mangers.
Employees who progress in those first two areas of development should be helped to develop in their responsibility. Consider making employees what I call “mini-managers”, that is, give them responsibility over limited things and hold them accountable for these things. Outline not only what they are to do, but the goals for that area and the standards by which you will judge them. As they respond to responsibility in small things, they will be ready for larger areas of responsibility.
As employees develop in responsibility they can be helped to develop in authority. Managing responsibility develops employees’ ability to manage aspects of the business and other employees. Provide those opportunities and use it as a development time, rather than pass/fail. For even when someone has progressed does not mean that they won’t make mistakes and fail in some ways. Use those as teaching opportunities.
With authority there needs to be initiative. Employees who understand what you are trying to achieve and have shown good responsibility should be trusted to make decisions. Review the decisions with them and discuss how they may or may not have differed from what you would have decided, but allow them to make the call.
Developing employees will help foster their engagement in the business. If we understand that simply providing rules to children, without building a relationship will ultimately produce rebellion, it should become obvious to us that dictates to employees without developing them will only result, sooner or later, in disengagement.
What type of employer or manager are you; one who dictates, or one who develops?
Take the time to develop your employees.