Are you developing your people or managing them?

At TrainingZone Live this morning, Michele Owens of the Olympic Delivery Authority gave an interesting example of how people reacted to different approaches:

“When we first used 360 degree feedback, we used it as a performance management tool. It was not popular. So we left it for a year.

“When we introduced it again, we presented it as a development tool. Completely different, people loved it – and even come to me to ask if they can do it.”

It is a good lesson. It reminds me of a discussion I had with a doctor about two surgeries he knew. One used ‘performance management’ to deal with any problems and had a support staff turnover around 50%. The other focused on creating a good working environment and supporting people. They hadn’t lost a member of staff in years.

It comes back to MacGregor’s Theory X and Theory Y. The standard approach to Performance Management is implicitly based on the Theory X idea that people are lazy and need to be managed to perform. Instead Theory Y poses that people are self-motivated and eager to do great work.

Remember that lesson from ODA: People don’t generally enjoy being performance managed, but they love being developed & improving their ability and performance.

So the key question: Is your organisation’s approach based on believing in your people?

3 responses to “Are you developing your people or managing them?”

  1. I wholly agree with this post. Most of the time, people simply want to have the opportunity to show just what they can do. From my experience, those who waver whilst in a development environment, simply need direction rather than management. My business Inspired Quill has an amazing team of Interns who love what they do, simply because the management team encourages them to think outside the box; to catch an idea and simply run with it.

    We do have incentives, of course, but the big thing is trusting people to work well and be self motivated…but still having that support structure in place wherever it might also be needed.


  2. With so much evidence-based research about why do people (managers) not attend to it, As I have a long background in management development I am still amazed how few managers actually do not see their role as managers and leaders, but simply as doers who work in the team rather than on the team. In the thousands of managers to whom I have posed the questions, “Do you subscribe to leadership journals or research leadership issues online?” and “Do you take time as part of your job to this?” followed by “Why not, if your job is to be a quality leader?” very few have answered yes to either of the first questions. Perhaps it also indicates a very narrow view of L&D within their organisations.

    Mark Beale

  3. Excellent post – thank you!

    I fully agree that development, encouragement and mentoring work are much better than the alternative and more commonly used management approaches. I am a new manager and am very thankful to Andrew Westoby for having referred me to the Happy Manifesto early on so I can make developing and empowering people my focus. Besides, developing people is a great deal more exciting than the performance management concept. It provides managers with the opportunity to positively influence the life of direct reports (as opposed to making their lives miserable).

    I agree with Mark that leaders should aim to become the best, most effective leaders they can become by constantly learning and, more importantly, putting what they have learnt into practice. Saying that, I believe that leadership style depends a lot on one’s perspective on life. I grew up in Namibia which was affected by Apartheid, much like South Africa. I wonder how much the ‘them and us’ mentality and the desire to cling to power that permeated the system of Apartheid, also forms one of the obstacles stopping managers from empowering and developing their staff…..

    However, systems can change over a period of time, and I am extremely excited about the management principles advocated by Happy Ltd. and others.


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