July 2017

Tasks vs People

Tasks vs People

How Do We Position The Talkers Versus The Doers?

Over the last 3 weeks, I’ve written about Type 1 vs Type 2 jobs, patience and paying attention to detail.

In the penultimate episode of five blog posts, what about tasks and people?

It’s often assumed that you simply need to focus in order to to get on with your work. We hear things like, “Apply yourself, get down to work, concentrate on the job, stop talking …”

But what if you prefer talking to people than doing tasks?

When young people are told “you have the gift of the gab, you can do anything”, they’re being lied to. The assumption that being a talker means you have potential to do anything: rubbish.

I should know.

I’m an extrovert. Leave me behind a PC for too long or on my own for too long and I get grumpy. Give me a person or a group of people to talk to and I’m at home.

But that’s me. My father was happiest at home with only family and close friends around. If he could engineer any social function to be at home rather than out, he was pleased. Holidays for him were about quiet, untouched beaches. We used to visit Mpwekweni before Sol Kerzner messed it up by destroying 20 rustic cottages to build another hotel. Sorry Sol, my father didn’t approve. A hotel meant more people, more strangers. Yuk! More footprints on the beach!

Why? How can a son be so different to his father?

It’s about focus.

My father focused on the task to be done. He liked to garden, he ran a printing related business and he focused on quality, kept the business small and had trusted staff who stayed for decades. At home, he read, complained about the government and listened to the radio. He liked to walk, he fished and he read some more. My parents had a small circle of close friends. Perfect, as far as they were concerned.

But for me, the garden was that thing out there, upon which people could socialise! My focus was people. As a student, I took jobs on that fed my social needs: I was a mobile DJ, book store night supervisor, barman, waiter, social researcher, bank teller and poster up-putter!

Guess which job I hated?

The poster one of course: I had to walk around the streets alone putting up posters. By the time I was done, I was bored and frustrated, not to mention useless at putting up posters. I could never get the bubbles out!!

So here’s the thing:

If you’re patient AND detail oriented AND task focused, what jobs make sense for you?

It sure makes no sense to take people with these traits and put them in sales, service and management.

But it does make sense to put them into jobs that require a focus on quality, accuracy, perfection, standards and compliance.

Jobs such as accountant, auditor, engineer, security guard, software programmer, machine minder, driver, technician, administrator, gardener, surgeon, dentist, scientist, mortician … You get the idea.

And if you’re impatient AND not detail oriented AND people focused, what jobs make sense for you?

Jobs such as sales person, manager (almost any type), entrepreneur, event organiser, service rep, supervisor, foreman, politician (yup, even they get a mention), director, head chef and in South Africa: taxi driver*

How many of your people are in the right jobs? How much better could performance be with the right people in the right jobs? Contact me to find out.

The tools and methods to understand these issues are readily available. They’re not expensive, but they’re definitely underutilised or misunderstood across the board.

Have you noticed that some of your staff just don’t fit? Or do you wonder why you’ve chosen your career? I’d love to hear from you.

Thanks for reading this. Your comments and feedback drive my enthusiasm for the great big puzzle called people!

*  That should be a joke but isn’t. The job is poorly structured. Taxi drivers are incentivised to break the law, they’re put under pressure to get there faster, they’re not sufficiently trained and they see no reason to respect the law. They’re the wrong people in the wrong jobs. But until the taxi industry is formalised and brought to book, expect thousands more to die and get injured. Good taxi drivers require patience, attention to detail and a task focus. They also need to be co-operative – see next week’s blog.


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Critical? Easy Management Tool To Hold On Tight To Your Patient People

Two weeks ago I wrote about two distinct organisational roles:

Type 1: I am responsible for my work

Type 2: I supervise, manage or direct the work of other people

Last week, I wrote about the speed of patience and how managers should appreciate the patientdetail oriented people application of Type 1 people to their work on a daily basis, week in and week out.

I received a few comments about this and noticed an interesting assumption:

Patient people are detail-oriented.

Which leads nicely into today’s blog.

This week, Part 2 of astonishingly simple management techniques to unleash the best team performance.

It’s often assumed that if you’re patient, you’re also detail oriented, careful and risk averse. We assume this at our peril. The two traits are not linked by default.

Patience ≠ Attention to Detail

We agreed last week that Type 1 individuals are patient and steady, require a fairly repetitive or stable work environment with a fair amount of certainty and predictability.

Attention to Detail?

But what happens when our patient person isn’t terribly interested in detail? Doesn’t pay attention to structure, rules, regulations and norms? What happens when we put this person into a job that requires attention to detail: E..g. an accountant, scientist, auditor, surgeon, detective, technician or analyst?

Simple. They patiently apply themselves to the work but when it comes to the nth degree of checking something, they might slip up. For example: if an accountant is not detail-oriented, he gets bored doing the checks and double checks associated with financial figures and accounts. So, he might check twice and conclude “I’m done”. The patient and detail-oriented person says, “I’ll just run those figures one more time to make sure”. Now, if we’re worrying about the petty cash, this may be less important. But if you’re finalising a budget for a project, it could be crucial.

When It Goes Wrong

It happened to me a long time ago. My boss naively asked me to do the financial budget in Excel for a large project many years ago (This information has recently been de-classified …). I built the budget and presented it at the next meeting with the client. After the client agreed, I was looking at the numbers again and noticed that something seemed odd … I had made a school boy error of not copying a changed formula through to the end of a column of figures. It had a profound impact on the budget, my stress level and my boss’s sense of humour! Now, a patient, highly detail oriented person would never have made that basic mistake.

This is not to say that I’m some impatient Maverick. Not at all. I can do the detail and I can be patient. I can run the numbers, analyse results, write a report etc.

But ask me to do that every day, all day, that’s trouble.

The Importance of Detail-Oriented AND Patient People

You see, we can all do some things for a short time. We can all be detail-oriented when we think our Lotto ticket has come up! We can all pay attention when the new bonus scheme is presented! But what about the detective who has to comb the crime scene for the second time to spot the clue that could lead to the arrest of some nasty criminal?

Imagine the men and women who spend their days in the service of society uncovering highly elaborate money laundering schemes specifically designed to be hidden from Joe Public’s view. There’s one or two of those in South Africa right now … well maybe more!

The people who uncover these schemes need to be patient and detail-oriented, highly analytical, able to spot small clues that suggest something is amiss. This talent applies equally to any level of profession.

Think of the doctor who connects the dots from different pieces of a disease puzzle to realise that X is happening which no-one else had picked up.

Or the security guard who noticed something odd on the camera and investigated to discover a crime.

Or the bookkeeper who looked at the weekly cash payroll and frowned because the number seemed high only to double check and discover a few phantom staff members added by the payroll clerk.

Or the machine minder who picked up a noise on a bearing and notified the maintenance crew instead of waiting for it to seize.

How to Care for Patient, Detail-Oriented People

Managers, look after the patient and detail-oriented people in your company. They are the salt of the earth, without whom, our organisations would be chaotic.

They are sensitive to criticism – provide them with thoughtful and considerate feedback when they mess up. Aggressive criticism shuts them down and you break their commitment like a twig under foot. Not clever.

They require a steady, predictable environment where change is planned and well-communicated.

They require the opportunity to give feedback without fear of being ignored or shouted down.

They require regular positive feedback to know that they’re on track (They never assume they are).

They like ongoing training and development which makes them feel their competency is always on the up.

Do these astonishingly simple things and highly patient, detail-oriented people will give you their all. Treat them with respect, value their input and never dismiss their opinions out of hand. They take criticism in any form very personally and they shrink from ever speaking again.

I wonder how many disasters could have been avoided if the ‘big’ people had listened to the ‘small’ people?

Take the Johnstown Flood for example. The people who should have known better should have listened to John Parke, a local engineer involved with trying to avert the flood. He rode on horseback to South Fork to warn people. But he was ignored. 2209 people died when the dam broke following a big storm.

Managers: it takes patient and detail-oriented people to run the organisation behind the success. Pay attention to your people management style. They don’t appreciate what you appreciate.

It’s a simple case of manage people the way they liked to be managed.

The tools and methods to understand these issues are readily available. They’re not expensive, but they’re definitely underutilised or misunderstood across the board.

Have you been critical or unappreciative of a detail-oriented person? Or have you been unappreciated? I’d love your feedback.

Thanks for reading this. Your comments and feedback make my day!

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Astonishingly Simple Management Techniques Unleash The Best Team Performance

Making simple changes in attitude and management style to build team performance and commitment

Last week I wrote about two distinct organisational roles:

Type 1: I am responsible for my work

Type 2: I supervise, manage or direct the work of other peoplebusiness strategy

Now let’s focus on how Type 2 bosses can frustrate the performance of their Type 1 people!

I see the mistakes again and again and they’re easy to fix. We’re all guilty of seeing the world only from our own perspective, but it doesn’t have to be that way when we manage people. In fact, it shouldn’t.

If you understand the incredible value of having people with Type 1 personalities, you’ll hold one of the vital keys to building morale, team spirit, commitment and performance.

We often use negative terms for personality traits. Co-operative becomes weak, introverted becomes boring, extroverted becomes loud mouth and patient becomes slow.

This week, Part 1 …

Patience is a virtue


How do Type 2 Managers Frustrate their Staff?

Type 1 individuals are patient and steady and require a fairly repetitive or stable work environment with a fair amount of certainty and predictability.

Type 2 managers are mostly comfortable with change, variety, a little chaos and uncertainty. They like to work at a quick pace and get bored quite easily.

So think this through: Managers may change their minds, change priorities, reset tasks, move deadlines, make fresh decisions which change delegated tasks and disrupt workflow. What does that do to your Type 1 staff member’s day?

Simple: It messes up their basic requirement for a stable work environment with a fair degree of predictability.

When managers get a reputation for chopping and changing things without obvious reasons, Type 1 staff begin to question their capability. Rolling eyes follow.

What’s the Solution?

Stop for a minute while you ask yourself if disrupting the work of your people is worth it, especially when we know that patient people take time to build steam and fire on all cylinders. Once trained and given time to practice, patient people will outperform impatient people doing Type 1 work easily.  It’s a case of the hare and the tortoise.

Take four minutes to marvel at these great examples of patient people who’ve perfected their disciplines through practice and repetition. The manager who doesn’t understand that it takes patient people to work like these people do fails to hire patient people because either he (or she) can’t measure patience or he may perceive patient people as slow and therefore lazy.

When he hires an impatient candidate who flies through the interview with lots of passion, quick answers and apparently a ‘fast’ work ethic, he runs the danger of hiring a short-term solution who will resign when they realise the work requires patience.

To summarise: When managers see patient people through their own impatient (Type 2) eyes, their natural bias can blind them to the value of people who can maintain a high work rate for long periods of time without tiring.

You’ll notice from the YouTube video that the people performing their work at incredible speeds weren’t talking much. Next week, we’ll talk about task focus and how extroverted managers try in vain to get their patient, task focused (boring?) people to come out of their shells and join the party!

The tools and methods to understand these issues are readily available. They’re not expensive, but they’re definitely underutilised or misunderstood across the board.

Have you been critical or unappreciative of a patient person? Or have you been unappreciated? I’d love your feedback.

Thanks for reading this and for the useful and insightful feedback you send each week. It’s always valued.

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How Many People Actually Have The Potential To Become Managers?

Many of my people conversations with clients contain 3 questions:

  • Which of my people can be developed into management?
  • Why is my manager so involved in the work being done by her people?
  • Why is my manager not managing the performance of his people?

The answers are often easier to understand than we think.

At the risk of oversimplification there are two distinct organisational roles:

Type 1: I am responsible for my work
Type 2: I supervise, manage or direct the work of other people

Here’s the thing.

The essential behavioural requirements for these two types of work are completely different. Yet organisations promote Type 1 people to Type 2 roles due to their good performance doing Type 1 work.

What can possibly go wrong?

Should I be a manager?

Most people spend their careers in Type 1 positions. Billions of people work in jobs with a fairly specific output in a particular area. The development of competency can be a life’s work for most people. It doesn’t mean that their work is menial or less important than the work of managers and leaders. Without Type 1 work, Type 2 work is irrelevant.

To name just a few Type 1 jobs: salesman, surgeon, policeman, administrator, scientist. Dentist, cleaner, gardener, chef, accountant. Self-employed anything, actor, writer, bookkeeper, receptionist, fireman. Psychologist, technician, software programmer, security guard. Musician, shopkeeper, soldier, consultant, optometrist. Career coach, driver, lawyer, store assistant, web developer, artist and so on.

A much smaller group of people find that their talent is not well utilised, specialising in something.

These people are better at managing the priorities and tasks of other people. Let’s call them managers. Some people will remain at the supervisory or team leader level. Others will progress to middle management and some to senior leadership positions.

However, with the requirements for these roles being worlds apart, why do organisations insist on celebrating the great performance of people in Type 1 roles by asking them to take on completely different types of responsibility in Type 2 roles?

What does it take to become a manager?

We underestimate the importance of behaviour at work. We assume that jumping from working to managing is an experience, qualification and competency issue. In fact, it is all of these plus a crucial ingredient: behavioural competency.

Behavioural Competency – Qualities of a good manager

If we don’t understand the behavioural competency of our people, then we blindly risk putting the wrong people in the wrong jobs. Asking successful Type 1s to become successful Type 2s is risky. Some will, most won’t.

Over the hundreds of job profiles I’ve created or read, Type 1 jobs have 3 distinctive characteristics:

Attention to detail, quality and accuracy

A need to comply with standards, laws, rules and regulations. People who become masters in these fields are often known for being precise, accurate, meticulous and careful with detail. They hate making mistakes and take criticism personally. But they deliver such important work from auditing to science, design to production, engineering to manufacturing, PR to marketing. All of these disciplines require these behavioural traits.

Their confidence derives from their competence

It’s often the case that the most talented people in particular fields are self-critical. They’re always searching for more, to be more capable. They tend to be self-effacing. This comes from an essential missing ingredient: confidence in themselves. Instead of saying “I can do this”, these people will say “I’ve been trained to do this, so I think I can do this. I have lots of experience doing this, so I think I can do this”. Promote this kind of person into Type 2 work and they’re likely to carry on doing Type 1 work whilst paying lip service to their Type 2 responsibilities. These micro-managers gain respect for what they can do. Not for what they lead, manage and direct. Problems soon appear. People need to know who’s in charge and in which direction they’re running.

Patience and steadiness

I had a knee operation a long time ago. Speaking to the surgeon just before surgery, he told me that I was number 3 of 18 for the day! (I felt sorry for #18 and I was quite glad to be #3!). But it struck me then that I’d have no chance of being able to focus on a very important piece of work such as a knee operation 18 times a day, 2 days a week. What the specialist had was patience. A comfort with the routine of diagnosing joint problems. Fixing them via surgery and handing off to the physio. Every week.

But if you don’t have the patience to do this work on an ongoing basis. If you don’t have the ability to focus on the same tasks repeatedly for years. If you have a major need to get things done quickly and you need variety to stay focused. Then becoming a specialist surgeon is not going to work for you long term. You’ve heard the stories: young medical graduates who give up on medicine and go into business. They’re probably Type 2 people. The consulting room was their prison.

So the logic follows. When we promote the surgeon to become hospital manager. When we promote the musician to become the music director. The bookkeeper to become the supervisor. The software programmer to become the team leader. The security guard to become the supervisor. The soldier to become the officer. The optometrist to become the practice manager.

We can expect problems. Problems with their origins in behaviour.

The behavioural competencies that mark the capability of people in Type 1 jobs are only partly useful when they enter Type 2 jobs.

I’ve seen it time and again when staff members complain that their boss doesn’t take charge. Lets people get away with all kinds of mistakes or insubordination. Gets too involved in the work, micro manages and rules by the book. What we’re seeing is the result of mistakenly promoting a Type 1 person to a Type 2 job.

So when we promote people to supervisory, management and leadership positions, it’s critical to understand their behavioural capability. It’s not enough to be qualified, to be experienced, to be technically competent, to be respected.

The respect gained for Type 1 work is irrelevant for Type 2 work.

A great employee doesn’t automatically make a great manager.

When we promote excellent Type 1 people, we gain ordinary or bad Type 2 managers.

The tools and methods to understand this issue are available. They’re not expensive, but they’re definitely underutilised or misunderstood across the board.

Have you promoted a Type 1 person to a Type 2 job? I’d love to hear your story.

Thanks for reading this, it’s always appreciated.

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