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The fear of trying.

I read somewhere that a well-known business executive has a sign on his desk that says: "Lead, follow or get out of the way. "

I don't know about you, but I would love to see that kind of message on my boss's desk. What it tells me is that I have a choice. I can lead if I want or I can follow if I choose. Just as importantly, he's also sending the message that those who elect to be obstacles will not be tolerated. It might be a simple insight, but it sends a strong message, the kind employees like to hear-and the kind of which they apparently don't hear enough.

in their recently published book, The Cynical American: Living and Working in an Age of Discontent and Disillusion, Donald Kanter of Boston University and Washington psychologist Philip Mirvis point to the findings of their 1990 survey of more than 1 1 00 working Americans. Among the findings were: 72% of the workers surveyed say managers try to take advantage of employees; 68% believe managers make an unfair salary compared with average employees; 66% say management does not tell the truth; 42% say it doesn't pay to work hard; 40% say they don't have job security.

Make what you want f rom these numbers, but it all gets back to management and management styles. Despite all the talk about participative management, quality circles and teamwork during the past decade, it seems that, to a large degree, the underlying adversarial relationship between manager and employee remains intact. At the same time, I suspect that if managers were given the same survey cited above, the answers would reflect much of the same attitude that managers have for their work forces as their work forces have for them.

In speaking with a few foundry executives who have tried a variety of participative management techniques in hopes of improving quality and productivity, more often than not they reported that it was an exercise in futility. They say that their workers did not respond and did not really participate. And so, their efforts at involving employees in management failed. In almost every case, the programs were not in place for long. The level of frustration for management grew so quickly that it was just easier to go back to the old way. Others were too skeptical to even give teamwork a try.

It's puzzling that so many managers expect an immediate and positive input from their employees when, for generations, they've been ordered to only listen and work. We have, in fact, nurtured a work force that was not expected to take responsibility, to solve problems or to make decisions. So, it should come as no surprise that both management and employee have an innate fear of trying.

But Ralph Stayer, CEO and owner of a successful sausage company in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, tried anyway. Writing in a recent issue of the Harvard Business Review, he described his company in 1980 asa" successful family business that was in great shape and required radical change." What had him worried, he said, "was the gap between potential and performance. Our people didn't seem to care."

He did. So he set about the monumental task of rebuilding his entire organization. His vision of the new organization was one in which "people took responsibility for their own work, for the product, for the company as a whole." His goal was to eliminate his own job and today, 1 0 years later, he has succeeded. His role today with his own company is that of a "paid consultant." And for anyone who wants to get better performance from any group or individual, here are some of the observations that Stayer offers based on his experience: 9 People want to be great. If they aren't,

it's because management won't let

them be. 9 Performance begins with each

individual's expectations. influence

what people expect and you influence

how people perform. 9 The actions of managers shape expectations.

Learning is a process, not a goal.

Each new insight creates a layer of

potential insights. 9 The organization's results reflect me

and my performance. If I want to

change the results, I have to change

myself first.

Stayer sums up his philosophy of management fairly simply: "Helping human beings fulfill their potential is of course a moral responsibility, but it's also good business."
COPYRIGHT 1991 American Foundry Society, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Author:Kanicki, David P.
Publication:Modern Casting
Article Type:editorial
Date:Apr 1, 1991
Words:729
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