Drucker: Treat Employees Like Volunteers
Lousy leaders think pay checks are
permission to treat people like slaves.
I caught an awkward glimpse of myself when I asked my wife, “Would you like me to tell you what I think you should do?”
Surprisingly, she said, “No, not really.”
In that no-moment, I felt helpless. If I don’t tell you what to do, what can I do, I thought to myself? What can I say?
I asked, “What would you like me to do when you feel stuck?”
She said, “Do what you do best. Ask questions. Help me find an answer.”
I enjoy the power of telling. Its funny how telling is easy to do, but hard to take. I don’t like being told. Do you?
If leading was telling, we’d have more leaders.
Danger of pay checks:
Lousy leaders use pay checks as permission to control. You feel like you own their time because you paid for it. Technically, you’re right. But, who enjoys being controlled?
- Demand obedience.
- Exclude from decisions.
- Control rather than give control.
- Tell rather than ask.
- Talk rather than listen.
- Disrespect because their salaries are less.
- Ignore praise, thanks, honor, and recognition.
If employees were volunteers leaders would:
- Focus more on people with passion and less on people with talent.
- Seek agreement on expectations and deliverables.
- Ask permission to hold people accountable.
- Express gratitude sincerely.
- Address tough conversations kindly.
- Focus on aligning organizational and individual values.
- Build relationships.
Bonus: Help people get where they want to go by understanding their goals and leveraging their strengths.
How would things change if you ignored the fact that employees are paid and treated them like volunteers?
I believe in this so strongly. To test it, I find it helpful to keep working as a volunteer… it’s amazingly humbling to lead when no one has to follow. http://smartblogs.com/leadership/2013/02/21/why-volunteering-makes-you-a-better-leader/
I’m glad you extended the conversation.
When someone looks down on leaders in the nonprofit world, I ask, how many people would follow you if you didn’t pay them. It’s overstated of course, but it usually get the point across.
You would have a deeper appreciation for the effort and sacrifices made to carry out the tasks assigned
You’d probably, quite frankly, pay more attention to what they were doing and be able to address any issues or short comings more quickly
You’d definitely say please and thank you a lot more
You’d be more patient because you would not “assume” that they knew it all
Your feedback would be more constructive than critical
You out did yourself today. Thanks for all the great suggestions.
The last one..”be more constructive than critical” is pure gold.
Dan, companies who treat people as valued humans before they treat them as valued employees are far more successful than those that do it the other way around.
Why don’t senior managers/ executives get that? Surely there would be more bonuses and stock options and the like… Is it too risky?
I’m not sure it’s too risky…perhaps leaders don’t value people because:
they don’t know how
they don’t think it’s necessary because they pay them
they fear losing power
I think the last one is a major factor. Weak leaders need power.
I always wondered why some bosses don’t get that the basic manners their grandmothers likely impressed on them are good business practice – for employees, coworkers, customers, even the competition. Beats me!
Very useful. Another way if thinking about this is treating our fellow workers/reports as customers.
You open a whole new avenue of thought. Although, much of the talk about treating employees/colleagues as customers doesn’t apply because customers have way more control than we give employees. 🙂
Great perspective Dan. It got me thinking about teachers and students.. perhaps the same prism can be applied to teachers…what if teachers viewed students, not as having to be in their class- but as having a choice to be there….How might that influence the nature of their interactions?
Thanks for stimulating my thinking, yet again!
I find the thought that people “don’t have to be there” both enlightening and challenging.
Volunteer = someone who doesn’t have to be there. KaPow!
Maybe its the wording. Or perhaps its not about higher education. I have been teaching for 28 years in higher education and I have never met a student who felt they had no choice. They are free to pick the school, pick the major, pick the course and some times they can even pick the teacher.
I agree with u there is a lot of choice in higher ed-
i was reflecting on grade school, students who often have little choice …over ‘what, when, how’…they learn or demonstrate learning-
Well, this is EASY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Just how many will DO?
All the sum total of Leadership in America today has a RESULT. It is HORRIFIC!!!!!!!!!!
Now some do not like it cause they have so dearly fallen in love with their thoughts on Leadership. Instead of looking at the RESULTS with NO EMOTION and SEEING, they romanticize singing a beautiful song in their head instead of looking at and smelling the stench right in front of them.
Folks have the right to their own opinion and we all got them, right?
We do not however have a right to our own FACTS.
FACT 70% of US employees leave work feeling no one cares about them. Then they have a 30% higher rate of coronary disease. Then they STEAL 998 Billion dollars from employers. FACTS!!!!!!!
Then there is a company getting almost the polar opposite in results. FACT. Barry Wehmiller. 72% employee satisfaction, feelin the LOVE! Truly Human Leadership, in a word, BETTER!!!!!!!!!!
So what are you gonna do? You a Leader or a person in love with your own thoughts that blind you to the stench of the Leadership crisis we got going on RIGHT NOW?
Leaders in my world look at the FACTS. Then determine is this our agreed upon goal?
So LeadershipFreak folks, is 70% letting people down our agreed upon goal for our Leadership effort?
If NOT, watch Bob Chapman describe for you in glorious detail exactly what his company is doing different.
You want 70% negative results or 72% POSITIVE? How is it even possible that is even a question that takes more than a half a second to answer? How is that possible?
You want a marriage counselor that the folks they work with 72% stay together happy or a marriage counselor whose clients get divorced 70% of the time? DUH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Truly Human Leadership Dan is my answer to your question. I if I was not already doing it I would STOP everything I thought I knew about Leadership and copy Bob Chapmans every thought word and action and belief.
WHY? He gets results I WANT!!!!!!!!!!!!! His way works better than anything I have EVER SEEN and I looked and seen a lot cause I am a curious type of fella.
Only thing I would change in your question Dan is instead of volunteers I would use HUMAN BEINGS, God’s Kids.
Treat everyone like that I always say. Ok never actually said that but will start today!!!!!!!!!!!!!! hehe
I also suggest googling The Rabbi’s Gift if you want to know how to treat God’s other kids. Really GREAT inspirational warm loving story with a message that packs a great punch!
Now this is JUST MY VIEW, felt and believed with GREAT PASSION. If you have a different take NO PROBLEM!
Different isn’t bad, it is DIFFERENT. So if you feel pinched by anything I say, that is not my intention. My intention is to share what I believe passionately. If it bothers you I suggest a long look in the mirror cause it bothers you cause something about it rings true in you, not me.
Take care, have a great day! Decide today 70% negative blows and learn everything you can from Defining Moments youtube free video about Bob Chapman, Barry Wehmiller and Truly Human Leadership.
SP back to NOW!
Are you a leader if no “wants” to follow you…
My answer ABSOLUTELY!!!!!!
One is always leading themselves are they not? It isn’t really even a question it is a reality.
Also Patrick you know there was a fella who worked at a watch company in Switzerland. He discovered, created something called quartz technology.
He showed his great discovery to all his bosses and got a resounding THUD NO!!!! Even ridiculed!!!!!
The genius bosses were blinded by their own success dominating at the time the watch industry!!!!
They instructed this fella to give the technology to the Japanese. He did…think you know the rest of the story.
Truth 3 stages everytime
2. Violently opposed
3. Accepted as self evident
Civil rights, yes? World round not flat, yes? Desktop Computers a good idea, yes? All ridiculed, Violently opposed, Accepted as self evident. All truth develops on this way cause the folks getting the most out if the old way fear the change will cause them to loose what they got. Simple human basic instincts.
So for me Leadership begins with ones self. Happening if you know it or not, like it or not. Reality
My understanding done effectively my life works cause of how I lead me and by ATTRACTION not promotion others want what I have.
When that happens and they ask and are willing to go to any length to get what I got, they simply do what I did.
Pretty simple design for effective living I’d say!!!!!!
Working for me think it would work for anyone who DOES it!!!!!
Rarely have I seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed the path!!!
SP back to Now!!! Great question by the way Patrick
I agree and appreciate your insights that pay checks create differences among people. It crates differences with employees in the organizations and people in the society. It means it creates difference at both the places- workplace and society. The advantage of pay check is that individual can get almost everything by checks but lose so many things in the process. I have seen people running to earn more get more money but many times,they do not get time to enjoy that money. They struggle to enjoy time,but unable to get it. Over a period of time, it becomes difficult to come out of that clutch and hence people prefer to remain part of such cycle.
It is true that employees work in the organizations because they are paid. Volunteers are people who come forward to offer service without expectation. They only expect internal satisfaction and happiness. So, if leaders want that they employees should volunteer, then they should create culture of ownership in the system. Such ownership should treat everyone fairly. Respect should be ingrained in the process, behavior and any transaction. When leaders can create such environment, employees will volunteer.
I always enjoy reading your replies, Ajay!
In 1840, a culture of economic slavery existed across the United States. The hours worked in the northern industrialized states were on par with slaves in the southern states. Between 1863 and 1865 the ownership of humans was outlawed in the United States. As a result, by 1880 the seeds of Scientific Management began to sprout. Those seeds are still growing.
My expectations would be based on what I find out about them instead of how much they get paid or what is their title.
Some people get the idea that because my salary is high I must know it all and do everything myself.
As if a title or a salary change the fact that someone is new to the task or department.
I relate this to my expectations of food quality and taste. If I go to a restaurant and pay $50 for a steak, that steak better be good. Yet that doesn’t happen every time. Sometimes the steak at a local place is better than the signature restaurant.
I like this idea very much. As a servant-style leader, one challenge I see in this approach (and I’ve served for over 30 years in non-profit and religious-based volunteer roles) is that with volunteers, you almost always have people who have a personal commitment to the goal/cause/group they are volunteering with. Many times, in corporate settings, you have people who ARE just in it for the paycheck. So a leader’s first objective needs to be to guide them toward a commitment in my company’s or department’s goals.
The mind set of the author is a critical factor. Drucker coined the concept of the “knowledge worker” in the 1950’s, so competency is a huge assumption. Workers must be viewed as volunteer partners, not volunteer workers.
Scott, you raise an important point and distinction between employees and volunteers- one of motivation.
Perhaps there is an opportunity to enlist employees in some degree in goal setting, so they feel and in fact can be more invested in the goals…. and to ensure that the goals make sense from their perspective, and where possible reflect some autonomy- and their individual perspectives/ interests…
Dan Pink in his book Drive, teaches that motivation relies on autonomy, mastery and purpose- volunteers are drawn to the cause because it likely resonates with their values and sense of purpose- and they typically have significant autonomy in executing on their volunteer work- in terms of when, how….
Perhaps, if we expand on Dan Rockwell’s suggestion, around treating employees like volunteers, leaders have an opportunity to work with employees in ensuring they connect with a greater purpose, that they have some autonomy and that they have an opportunity to develop mastery, where possible…
Enhancing a shared commitment to a greater purpose, and building in some autonomy may help to blur the lines between “volunteer”- participants by choice-drawn by nothing but the cause, and “employees”- paid participants- in terms of motivation and engagement.
Lori sounds EXACTLY what Simon Sinek says in his book Start With Why
Connect why’s amazing things happen.
He also has the 2nd most watched TedTalk. For reasons!!!
Hope if you have not watched you google and take time to grasp what Simon says.
Doing that has been a life changer for me. Hope the same for you.
We will never know if you don’t google. Simon Sinek understanding people and business. What u got to lose?
SP back to my present!!
Lori Polachek is one sharp lady. Amazing insight about “an opportunity to develop mastery”. Most people want to do a good without having their hands held.
Working with volunteers, my philosophy is “the best person for the job is the one who shows up.” I am wondering now if that applies with paid employees – if I could let go of everything and just work with who is there in the best possible way, would that change how I lead? I’ll have to mull that over for a bit. Hm.
I love simple reframing like that – brilliant. 🙂
Have a greater respect and appreciation for their contribution to the team.
Definitely listen and provide feedback more and in the most respectful manner.
View every person/position as essential, especially the cleaning staff. Too many people see them as invisible or unnecessary until they don’t show up.
I find it funny that most companies do not consider leading a volunteer effort any type of experience for entering management. Yet, as a volunteer leader, I’ve had to “fire” people, resolve disputes, set goals, negotiate schedules, make plans (including contingencies), handle sudden departures, deal with personality conflicts, manage budgets and be accountable for the outcome. All without the “stick” of a paycheck to hold over anyone’s head.
Ravan, you make a great observation. I should state that leadership and management are not the same. Management receives “authority” by law. Leaders “receive” authority by respect. Management is a legal agency that exists to make legally binding decisions on behalf of the organization. Thus, managers have the legal authority to hire and fire. Leaders do not. Anyone who follows a leader does so voluntarily. Most companies treat management as a tribal reward for loyalty, not as a professional science. How many project managers do you know understand the legal liability of being a manager? Because management authority is delegated, a hierarchy is formed. While the CEO is legally the leader of the managers, they may or may not be the leaders of the workers. When the worker leaves, so does their value creating capability of applying knowledge, skill and experience. Because management controls the assets of the company, they can only exchange the assets of cash for the value produced by workers.
” Management is a legal agency that exists to make legally binding decisions on behalf of the organization.”
Leaders in volunteer organizations also have financial responsibility. That’s why I noted “manage budgets and be responsible for the outcome”. Just because an organization is 501(c)3 doesn’t mean they aren’t accountable for money, and performance of the “job” they have to do with it. They just usually don’t get paid themselves. They have a board of directors to answer to, and customers to serve. They can ‘hire’ and ‘fire’ volunteer staff, and are often responsible for recruiting as well.
The only difference between management in a regular for-profit and a non-profit is that the staff usually does not get paid – they are all volunteers, and aren’t held to work hours or paid labor laws. Motivating them then requires actual leadership, not just the mantle of management.
Bad managers in 501(c)3 orgs end up with no workers and failure. Bad managers in for-profit companies get promoted and rewarded.
Ravan, allow me to see if I can bring greater clarity with a re-statement.
The governance of an organization has two dimensions. A formal dimension which is considered the legal domain and an informal dimension.which is considered the culture domain. In the legal domain, management is granted the authority to represent the entity by the state government. In the culture domain, leadership is granted authority to represent followers, by the followers.
If you have the authority to hire and fire, you are legally a manager, not a leader. If you convince your friend to come to work with your company, you are a leader, not a manager. While it is true that one person can hold the roles of manager and leader, it is not required by law. That is because a managers legal authority is limited to property owned by the entity. Since 1865, people are no longer property. If people are involved, they made a choice to follow.
There is a famous quote by Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper – “You manage things; you lead people.” This is pretty much how the law sees it as well.
So true. Thanks Dan.
I love your point about the “power” of paychecks. Wow! What a terrible thing to think. Perpetuated and reinforced, this way of thinking can darken the heart.
Dan, thanks for voicing this vital issue.
My way of saying this is that everyone is a volunteer. The only two things we have to do in life are breathe and eliminate waste. Everything else is a choice.
Our teams (paid or not) choose how they show up. When you realize that every unit of human effort, creativity and problem-solving is a gift, it changes everything. Leaders begin to bring out the best, not wring out the worst.
Everyone’s a volunteer, so lead with gratitude! 🙂
Great post, would like to reblog.