Friday, October 26, 2012

The Role of Teaching and Creating Organizational Alignment

A study released a few weeks ago by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) and conducted by researchers at Stanford and the University of Utah quantifies the value of good supervisors.

They found that replacing a boss who is in the lower 10% of boss quality with one who is in the upper 10% of boss quality increases a team’s output by about the same as adding one worker to a nine member team.  As noted in an announcement of the findings in The Atlantic, the average supervisor is 1.75 as productive as the average worker.

The biggest difference the study found concerns “teaching” which is quantified as two-thirds of a supervisors impact.  In my experience over a 40 year career, teaching is right up there with critical thinking, problem-solving and strategic awareness.

Even in a high performance organization, about 10% of the employees each year become disengaged for one reason or another.  The annual average over a decade among all organizations is an incredible 70% according to Gallup surveys.  It isn’t possible to motivate people but it is possible to create an environment where they find their self motivation and that begins with supervisors who are good teachers.

For a chief exec of a community organization, as I was for most of my career, the importance of teaching extends to external audiences and governing boards as well.

Teaching is a form of communication but it begins first with listening.  A word I wore out over the last two decades of my career is ‘alignment.’  It means arranging all day to day effort, more than half of which in any job is project management, so that everything possible is consistent with the goals, objectives and mission of the organization.

Any misalignment means fragmentation, even if ever so slight and ultimately a loss of energy and productivity and higher costs.  In community-destination marketing, which was my profession, it is also important to achieve alignment with strategic partner organizations, local officials and residents which can sometimes be a bit like “herding cats.”

We definitely need our best teachers in our schools, but the ability to teach is a skill that also needs to be incorporated into organizational management by executives for anyone promoted into supervisory roles.

A promotion to supervisor based on one’s ability and willingness to be a good teacher is far more to success than is basing it solely on the merit of being a good individual contributor.

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