For businesses to function, let alone grow, the importance of people can never be overestimated. Management is about people. It is not only about having the right people for the right job but in equal measure, if not more, about providing the necessary structure and environment that will facilitate individual growth along the stages of capability quotients.
Every organization is composed of unique individuals who come from different backgrounds, talents, drivers and priorities. It follows that employing a single standard approach to engage and motivate this disparate set is bound to be ineffective and counterproductive. The need to identify what drives the self against what the role demands is critical to successful execution. The greater the delta between the two, the more acute the challenge in achieving organizational outcomes. Reconciling self-drivers to the organizational drivers thus becomes a business imperative.
The Stages of Work
In most organizations, a lot of focus on career advancement is on cognitive abilities, with little emphasis on emotional capabilities. The general approach to people management and training tends to ignore an employee’s emotional frame and work stage, trying instead to force fit people into certain roles. The formulaic approach to managing an individual simply doesn’t work.
Instead, first take into account that individuals in the corporate world typically go through levels of increasing autonomy, the ability to impact business and people, and the scope of work. This is manifested in the way we categorize the stages of work into first-time contributors, first-time managers, mid-level managers and executive managers. Accordingly, arrival at each stage reflects a transformation of one’s key mandate, going from Execute to Enable to Empower to Envision over the course of the journey.
To execute is to perform a task assigned independently. To enable is to remove roadblocks for others. To empower is to endow others with the autonomy to assess and remove roadblocks independently. To envision is to engage in holistic and strategic thinking that drives systemic transformation.
The minimum capability quotient required to meaningfully carry out the key mandate of each stage of work is aligned to stages of transformation, towards professional and philosophical maturity. These stages of capability quotient range from having Knowledge Quotient (KQ), to Experiential Quotient (ExQ), to Emotional Quotient (EQ), and finally to Spiritual Quotient (SQ).
It is crucial to note that the mapping reflects the minimum capability quotient required to perform a mandate, but in no way implies that an individual in given work stage cannot exhibit a more evolved quotient. For example, there may well be a case of a first-time manager who already demonstrates a high level of SQ.
At the earliest stage, most people start at the individual contributor level. The focus here is on gaining knowledge in functional areas and executing independently in it. From a business/alignment perspective, this is about ensuring the right training to build and hone required skills.
The key responsibility is to execute on one’s skills and building the fundamental tenets of functional expertise and managerial needs.
As an individual progresses to the managerial stage, it is important to note that this progression is often a function of the growth in the pyramid of the firm, and not necessarily a recognition of the maturity of the individual in question. Suddenly the need goes from delivering eight hours of work in a day as an individual contributor to delivering 80 hours of work, for example, if managing a team of ten. As first time managers, the need is to tap into one’s cumulative experience to enable teams and stakeholders to execute independently.
Besides execution, the key need is to enable people to deliver the outcomes.
As employees move up to the senior manager/ leader stages, success is largely dependent on their emotional capabilities, such as self-awareness and empathy. Self-awareness is about recognizing and being in tune with your own strengths and inclinations, and their manifestation at the workplace. Empathy is the ability to look at the world from a perspective other than one’s own.
Besides executing and enabling, the key need is to empower people to scale and grow, creating an environment that aligns and performs.
At senior-most levels, leaders need to operate from a position of being neutral, non-biased, and with a deep sense of humility to drive what is best for the organization. ‘Spiritual’ is about doing what is right with not letting personal egos and opinions shadow decisions.
Besides executing, enabling and empowering, the need is to envision and create an organization that is ready to manage the demands of the future, and create the foundation for it.
The likelihood of long-term success increases when an organization is able to address any delta between the business demands and individual drivers. If an individual does not adequately demonstrate the minimum quotient required for a work stage, organization objectives may be compromised. On the other hand, if individuals who exceed the minimum capability quotient required are not provided the opportunity to grow to a higher work stage, employee engagement outcomes can be adversely affected.
In summary, taking a differentiated approach to managing talent based on the needs of each work stages, acknowledging their self-drivers and then creating alignment to the overall business outcomes drives higher engagement and higher performance.