Treat staff like adults and equals

There is a sea change in work, whether within IT or outside. It's a renaissance: a complete shift in how we think about employees and management. The portmanteau is usually "Agile" but it is far far more than that. It is a confluence of many new (and not so new) ideas. At their heart is a restoration of humanity, of human values, a unification of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. One of the most important consequences - for me anyway - is we treat people better.

kidWe must treat our staff like they are over 18 (unless of course they aren't). If you treat people like children you will get childish behaviour. When I worked as a manager I was always deeply uncomfortable at the idea of management talking behind closed doors about their personnel as if managers were somehow superior (in that case they most definitely weren't).

There are two groups that often set themselves up as superior, and act in a patronising manner to the rest of the workers. These are managers and consultants. As soon as you allow yourself the belief that you know better than the people doing the work, all of your advice and relationship will be dysfunctional. If managers don't trust and respect staff, they will get the same in return.

Let the people doing the work design the work. Our role as managers (or consultants) is to inject additional knowledge when necessary, to provide guidance and advice where we do actually know more, and to facilitate extracting agreed answers from the group.

Consultants who are "binder-droppers" - who produce large documents full of formalised answers - are doing nobody any good. I'm guilty enough, I have done this often in the past. I am trying to reform: to stop telling and start listening; to stop dragging and start guiding.

For managers, the change is clear and is the topic of our new book. Managers should be gardeners not commanders, creating an environment where people and systems can grow and flourish.

Patronising people is never inclusive. Consultants should provide theory, expertise, experience, perspective, not answers. Sometimes people are so neglected, restrained, and belittled they've lost the ability to come up with their own answers. Just because someone has forgotten how to walk properly is no excuse to put them back in the box. People grow by doing, not by being told.

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