Friday, May 22, 2015

Human Resources: Trust local managers to get the job done

By Steven M. Worth, President at Plexus Consulting Group, LLC

“What do you want me to do, trust you?” In this era of command-and-control management styles and techniques it sounds like heresy to suggest that trust might have a place in management; but international management best practices have shown that trust is a critical component to success. Cultural, personality, and language differences, not to mention real and assumed differences in law and business practices, provide many opportunities for misunderstandings, inefficiencies, and missed opportunities. Time and again employees respond to detailed operating instructions from distant managers with a shrug of their shoulders and compliance to the letter—with lackluster results.

However, left to their own devices, local managers, who know the market best, can usually be counted on to find the best way to achieve their objective. And in the course of doing so, they may also identify new products and methodologies that could have applicability upstream back at headquarters or in other parts of the organization.

Clearly one of the world’s most successful global enterprises, McDonald’s, learned early on during its quest to open fast-food restaurants in nearly every country that micro-management tactics weren’t an option. For global success, the reigns of responsibility had to be placed in local managers’ hands, along with a blueprint for achieving what the company defines as success. McDonald’s developed and implemented a strategic plan with a vision, mission, values, and goals that could be easily understood by every employee. Its vision is ambitious: to have a presence in every community worldwide. Its mission: to feed people. And its values are three: cleanliness, convenience, and affordability.

Within this framework local managers are given fairly broad operational latitude—including being encouraged to change the menu to fit local tastes and needs. Strict reporting procedures are in place, but apart from that, the world’s most successful restaurant chain is remarkably decentralized. Call it trust, but McDonald’s managers know what is expected of them and are encouraged and rewarded for identifying better ways to get the job done. You too can develop a circle of trust that empowers your local managers by:

  • involving them in the association’s strategic planning process;
  • encouraging them to cultivate and suggest better ways of doing things, through public recognition and performance incentives; and
  • sharing best practices for addressing challenges and creating new ways to realize opportunities.

Remember, trust lubricates relationships and opens channels for creativity and better performance.

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