In On Writing, King suggests that “reporting from behind enemy lines” (as Grisham did in The Firm) is a way to inject credence within fiction. The characters in The Firm are mobsters who lure a young lawyer with promises of over the top compensation.
“The enemy” is not how you as manager wish to be perceived. A delayered corporate environment calls for unleaders (e.g., coaches, facilitators, expeditors), who are viewed as equals. Below are ways for “traditional” managers to appear in a more positive light:
(1) Craft policy in accordance with worker input. Policies should not be presented retroactively, or as an authoritarian response to punish workers. Rather, they should be collaborative efforts which make enforcement effortless. Cooptation begins with making people a part of the process: “If unity of action demands consensus, that consensus would not be forthcoming in a divided society” (Belbin, 2001).
(2) Plan informal events. People will see you as “one of them” if they can relate to you in a different setting. Stick figure persons are a far cry from colleagues. Ice cream socials, picnics, informal gatherings, and sporting events can make workers feel like they’re members of community.
(3) Talk to “employees” like they’re co-leaders. Feeling that your opinions are solicited, valued, and respected takes artful management (and frequent connection). Larger spans of control make this a challenging, but not an impossible task. Each day, select one person with whom you’ll spend five minutes. Not all conversation must be work related – but it should be a way to connect with people you consider peers.
(4) Share information – through town hall meetings, in newsletters, on intranets, and in other in-house mechanisms. Employees want to feel like they’re integral, and this won’t happen if they’re kept in the dark.
(5) Be uplifting. Use of coercive power (in which compliments are dispensed sparingly, and managers are bossy) is an ineffective way to create cohesion. People need encouragement, the knowledge that you have their back, and the security that you won’t discuss them with other people.
(6) Appear even keel. If someone has to “test the waters” to talk to you, they most likely won’t. No one likes to be on the receiving end of a communicative grenade.
(7) Keep your promises. This may entail making detailed notes, following through, and asking for additional information. If you say you’ll do something and don’t, people will take their projects elsewhere.
(8) Realize there are stylistic differences. A different means to a similar end doesn’t signify error. In fact, if you observe long enough, you just might learn something.
Belbin, R. M. (2001). Managing without power: Gender relationships in the story of human evolution. San Diego, CA: Elsevier Science & Technology Books.