Management Myths that are Stifling Performance, Productivity and Profit – Part 1

This is the first of eight myths that are hobbling organizations, stifling employee performance, and drastically reducing productivity and profits. Over the next few weeks, we will be presenting all eight, examining the lens through which each is currently viewed, the behavior that results from that view, the result of that behavior, and the long-standing trend that keeps the myth alive.

The good news is that, if the myth can be dispelled and a new, more accurate view adopted, engagement and productivity will be enhanced, performance will improve, profits will increase, and the job of leadership will become easier, more effective, and much more enjoyable.

MYTH #1: Leaders must control people to get results.

LENS: People don’t like to work and are not self-motivated to act. Leaders must therefore monitor and control their actions to ensure results.

BEHAVIOR: Theory X, authoritarian leadership style; tell versus connect and engage; push for results; make sure people are sequestered in a central place where they can be watched; don’t bother getting to know employees on a personal level because that has no real value; focus on external motivators.

RESULT: Disengaged employees who are over-stressed, risk averse and under-performing. Such employees adopt dependent behavior and obey out of fear. Motivation must be regularly induced and enticements increased. Intrinsic motivation is lacking.

TREND: Resistance is high among managers and leaders as they struggle to bring the new generations into line. The inability to manage Gen X and Millennials using the old model is creating wide gaps in communication, increasing stress and stress related consequences, and creating conditions that are costing time, money and energy. It’s a no-win situation. When communication, connection and consideration are lacking, the approach of the newer generations is to simply walk out the door. They continue to exit the corporate world in droves and companies continue to search for talent, never realizing they are just spinning their wheels and creating the very conditions that keep the best and brightest from staying.

      REALITY: With the new attitudes and values of the emerging workforce, the authoritarian style is not working and never will. Those who cling to this style will find themselves with greater challenges than they will be able to handle as Millennials dominate the workplace in the next ten to twelve years. This myth is what keeps the Theory X management model alive.

The fact is, neither Theory X nor Theory Y, first introduced by Douglas McGregor in The Human Side of Enterprise, work well as stand-alone styles. Authoritarian styles don’t work well because very few people want to be controlled. This style has always been a demotivator. Most people actively resist being controlled. They dig in their heels and do only as much as they must to keep their job. The authoritarian style should not be confused with strong leadership, however. Most people are followers who want and value strong leadership as long as they also have some freedom and flexibility within the set boundaries (McGregor 1960).

Where Theory X managers are too controlling, Theory Y managers often fail to lead strongly enough. People want and need clear boundaries which come from clear, concise and complete communications. When people are clear about what’s expected of them and believe the leader has faith in their ability to achieve the goal without micro-managing; when they have clear boundaries to work within and the freedom to decide how they will get the job done, most will rise to meet the challenge.

Today’s workforce meets challenges so well that under the right conditions and leadership, huge empires have been built almost overnight. Empires like Google, FaceBook, LinkedIn, Starbucks and Zappos have leapt to the top in earnings and influence in record time even as problems keep mounting for businesses with leaders who continue to cling to the old ways.

While old school companies are laying people off and tightening their budgets in an attempt to hold their bottom line, those using the new leadership model are thriving. And it isn’t just the fresh, new companies. A few well-established companies have successfully adopted the new leadership model too; companies like Apple, Bridgestone, Adecco Group, Publix and Costco.

Southwest Airlines is a successful company that was ahead of its time. Herb Kelleher, the founder of Southwest Airlines, was a visionary who saw the value in leading differently well before it was a necessary or even popular concept. Kelleher was once asked if he was concerned that the competition was looking at his model and attempting to emulate it. He replied that he was not the least bit concerned because his competition was looking at processes and procedures, not at the real secret to Southwest’s success—its people. The deeper secret is Kelleher’s leadership style and the way he structured his company. Most people can be motivated to exceptional performance and most are willing to follow a great leader. Herb Kelleher was a great leader. He created a people-centric culture first, then built an infrastructure to support it, systems to facilitate it, and a succession plan to ensure those who followed him would be great leaders as well.

To use the metaphor of Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, Kelleher first got the right people on the bus (in his case, the plane) and in the right seats, checked to ensure his vehicle was sound and would get his people where he (and they) wanted to go, and then got the plane in the air (literally and figuratively). He also made sure that his people continued to enjoy the trip and that the next “pilot” would be just as good as he was.

Companies like Southwest Airlines prove it’s possible to have an organization filled with engaged, committed, loyal employees who support the company’s vision, values, mission and goals; employees who are dedicated to serving their employer and their customers well.

It’s no secret that the ability to attract, retain, and motivate the best and most qualified employees is key to generating a high-performance workplace and healthy profits. How to do that seems to be the mystery. That’s because too many organizations are focused on what to do (the process) rather than on why an initiative is working or not working. Only in understanding why, can a leader know what to adjust to get and sustain the desired result.

The question leaders need to ask when things are not going as planned is not “What should we do?” or “How do we get better results?” But rather “Why is what we are doing working or not working?” When you know and address the why, what to do and how to do it become apparent and can then make beneficial changes that are sustainable.

If you are not getting the results you want in your organization, do you know why? We would venture to guess that you don’t because, if you did, our bet is that you would have already made the right changes.

We can help. Schedule a free discovery session to get the answers you need to take your company to the next level.

Email Sherry at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or click on the link below to schedule a free 30-minute call: https://calendly.com/sherrybuffington/30min

Sherry Buffington helps leaders, teams and sales professionals identify and build on intrinsic motivators that lead to fully engaged, high-performance teams who are self-driven to help their company reach the heights of success.

Marc Schwartz helps corporate leaders, managers, and sales professionals identify and build on intrinsic factors that drive and motivate them to reach their best both personally and professionally.
Email Marc at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Gina Morgan is a master coach that helps leaders and teams get to core issues, eliminate non-beneficial patterns that have prevented them from achieving their desired outcomes, and rapidly develop patterns for lasting success.
Email Gina at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.





Power Shift

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