How Do You Improve Your Management Performance By Establishing Your Relevance?

by Alan Royal

Originally Posted to Harvard Business Review Online

Traditional Management Practice

As a manager, whenever you take on a new management role, either internally or externally, you apply the totality of your learned management practices. The rationale is simple, the totality of these practices, developed over time, has formed the basis for your success, so you see no basis for change. There is however a management practice, not often practiced, which could improve your current practices even further, which I describe as establishing management relevance.

Contrast Between Traditional vs Relevance Based Management Practice

The best way to illustrate the application of relevance to your management practice, is to consider relevance from the mind-set of your subordinates. The fundamental assumption is that your learned management practice has advanced you to where you are on the corporate ladder, thus the application of the same management practices will yield the same positive outcomes. This results in subordinates conforming to your management style and practices, in much the same way as your previous assignments. The key is that subordinates are conforming to, rather than embracing your practice of management, along with the associated expectations.

In contrast a manager who embraces the process of relevance to their practice of management results in subordinates who become personally invested in your success. The result is an incremental improvement in your overall success as a manager, based upon personal investment by your subordinates. Stated more directly, your subordinates establish personal "skin in the game" to ensure your success as a manager. This attitudinal adjustment will almost certainly improve your overall team's performance.

Achieving Relevance Based Management Practice

Relevance based management involves the tailoring of established management practice to fit the uniqueness of the team being managed. Traditional management practice is reflective of taking "to" vs talking "with" subordinates.

At the core is "observation" of the unique cultural constructs of the team you are managing. While quite possibly taking over management of a team within the same company, or new one, each has its own sub-cultural constructs and practices based upon their collective lived experiences. Understanding the uniqueness of your team's frame of reference is key to establishing management relevance.

Upon taking over management of a new team, either in your current position, or a new one, take the time to meet with each of your subordinates and "listen" to their individual lived experiences, as well inquire as to their views of what makes their current team effective or alternatively lacking in effectiveness. Listening before acting reflects your personal interest in them as a subordinate, personally considering their views on maximizing team effectiveness, as well as allowing you as a manager to become relevant to them as a person who cares based upon your willingness to listen before acting.

This enables you to apply you're learned management practices within the construct of the uniqueness of your team. As you apply your learned management practices, you can relate them to what you have heard from your subordinates in a way which makes you relevant to your team. In this process relevance is established through having taken the time to first listen to your team, and then subsequently apply your learned management practices in a manner that relates to your subordinates as individuals and as a team. By having first listened, the application of your learned management practices tailored to the uniqueness of your team, establishes your relevance and personal buy-in from your team members. The net result is a team which has personal investment in your success, at both the individual, and team level which will surely result in a more positive overall management outcome than traditional management practice.