Good Management? Set Staff Free

You could fill the American Library of Congress with books about good management and still have enough left over to stack a few aisles in Boston’s Public Library. Despite the plethora of advice, the question of what constitutes good management is complicated and vexed. And the answers, alas, are usually contradictory, says Julian Birkinshaw, author of Becoming a Better Boss: Why good management is so difficult.

But Kiwi and former director of retail at the Bank of New Zealand, Chris Bayliss, tells the British author that good managers sometimes have to set their staff free. He recounts the shock of witnessing his staff at one bank branch putting up a children’s party banner, in contravention of all BNZ rules.

“I just stood there with my eyes open, thinking, well, the customers don’t seem to mind, the staff are on fire, and they’re converting it into sales. So, who’s right and who’s wrong?”

Birkinshaw, a professor at London Business School, argues persuasively that Bayliss’ management style is best practice. “There is a proven better way of managing, one that involves putting people first and creating an environment in which they can do their best work,” he writes. “However, very few companies have implemented it because it is difficult to do, requires long-term investment and makes investors nervous.”

Further evidence, perhaps, and not for the first time, that share price or shareholder-driven decision making is counterproductive to long-term best practice management.

Tags: best practice  books  Employment  Financial Times (The)  management  

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