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Management Is a People-growing Machine

culture effective communication management mindset

We don’t enter marriage perfect or finished.

Marriage therapist, David Schnarch coined the phrase, “Marriage is a people-growing machine” in the 1990s, pointing to his beliefs that:

  • If the relationship is working, it must begin to confront the individuals in the relationship
  • Key relationships confront that in every human being which is yet unformed, yet undeveloped
  • Marriage shines a terrifyingly bright light on our character flaws and pushes those flaws to the surface
  • Marriage provokes and awakens whatever is injured, stunted and scarred in our psyche
  • It stirs discomfort, and the discomfort that emerges is evidence that the marriage IS working

Stephen Kalas, a behavior health consultant and writer, said (2013) that, “The closer you get to a person, the more you will bump into their defense mechanisms.” Kalas was referring to marriage and dating, but the same could be said about the manager-employee relationship as well.

Managing is development in action.

Becoming a manager also forces our own biases, preferences, beliefs, and shortcomings to be held like a mirror, in front of us. We have to get clear about what we stand for, in order to assert it with others who we lead and shape.

Given the nature of the time we spend with our colleagues and direct reports at work, our staff relationships can become primary relationships in our lives. And we know from employee engagement and retention research, that one of the top few determining factors in an employee’s choice to stay or leave an organization is the relationship s/he has with his/her boss. This relationship really matters, for both the boss and the employee. Yet unfortunately, this relationship can feel negatively charged and holds more tension than it may need to.

An alternate way to think about boss-staff relationships

What if we talked about the people-growing aspects of this boss-employee relationship AT WORK? What if this idea —

that part of our job at work is to use relationships to grow and become better people

— settled in to your organization as part of the ethos?

Wouldn’t performance management look different? Perhaps less punitive and threatening, and more positively-framed, future-focused, respectful?

How would conflict or communication in general, change if there were a people-growing focus that unified colleagues, layers in the organization, and directed energy in the workplace toward growth?

[Intrigued by this concept? You may also like to check out therapist and personality, Dr. Robert Glover.]

This next idea will appeal to some of you and repulse others. . . one could think about management (and marriage) as an ongoing “project”. Defining the goal or desired outcome of this project could be illuminating and help focus your energy. And, goal-setting makes us more likely to take action towards reaching the desired outcome after articulating it. Setting milestones, dates, and even celebrations of results could be useful and motivating.

These ways of thinking about the manager-staff relationship can release/propel an organization FROM being stuck in an adversarial model of this pairing TO a more productive, less stressful, and far more growth-oriented future.

The concept of management as a people-growing machine is included in my “Managing With the Brain in Mind” program, which can be brought to your organization. I also hold public offerings of this session periodically. On May 5th, in Bloomington, Minnesota, you can attend this workshop through Normandale Community College’s Continuing Education department.

Interested in discussing this session being offered in your workplace? Click HERE to let me know.

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