The Virtuous Cycle of Trust

The starting point for McGregor’s ‘Theory X’ is leadership values. Do you believe your employees are inherently work-shy? With this view, you set up your enterprise to closely supervise and control your teams. You need a hierarchy, specified spans of control, punch clocks and payment by results, to name but a few ‘Theory X’ systems. Small wonder that many people react to such an organization with no enthusiasm, no ambition and minor contributions. It is a vicious cycle of mistrust, which can kill collaboration, stifle responsibility, and cripple productivity.   

McGregor's Theory X and Theory Y

Meanwhile in the parallel universe of McGregor’s ‘Theory Y,’
the opposite is happening. This view of your employees is that they are self-motivated. They welcome responsibility and self-manage to success. When you share responsibility with, and involve your people in all aspects of your task, you create a virtuous cycle of trust. You empower and support your teams to be more productive, creative and flexible, to the profit of all concerned. ‘Theory Y’ has you tearing down the barriers to the self-actualizing efforts of your teams.

Watch Out, There are NIPS About.

At PBC our values emphasize ‘Theory Y,’ but we know that motivating your people is not so simple. It is a leadership skill that needs continuous practice and improvement. The coaching view of any work team is that they are a complex combination of individuals. For most organizations, the following 2-6-2 bell curve generally works well.

  • 2 out of 10, employees will generally be MVPs. When you look at your team you will know who they are; the self-motivated star performers. Your job here is train them, give them the resources they need, and get out of the way.
  • 6 out of 10, employees will be solid performers. Most people are conscientious, helpful team players, with a vested interest in the success of their unit. Your job here is to give support without removing responsibility. To champion continuous improvement and give them every opportunity to be involved. To encourage creativity and the sharing of knowledge and best practices. In short, your job here is to respect them and remove hurdles that get in their way.
  • 2 out of 10 (less if you are lucky), employees will be NIPS. You know who the NIPS are in your teams. You can tell them by the things they say. In response to any change, you will hear…”Not invented here”. “I know this stuff already”. “Prove it to me” or the catch-all excuse for doing the minimum; “Ah but I’m a Special case.” Leaders too often spend their time and effort trying to turn around the NIPS, but it often can’t be done! The unintended consequence is you ignore the real source of wealth creation, right under your nose. Nothing undermines your credibility more, than failing to deal with poor performers. Your job here is to fire them if it is clear that they are not a fit for your organization. A business school classmate of mine once famously said “Life is too Short to Develop People.” While this was said just to be provocative, he might have been referring to NIPS.

In our experience way too many businesses inadvertently fall into the NIPS management pit. You can’t trust 2 out of 10 of your people, the NIPS, so you don’t trust any. You treat your solid performers and even your MVPs the same. This is the seed from which ‘Theory X’ control systems grow.

At PBC we trust clients want to solve the problems of their lives and their work. We coach reflection on values and ethics. We encourage and challenge new ways of thinking. Coaches model ethical behavior and lead by example. Coaches start with…belief. We aim to guide you in building teams, not with supervision but support. We promote the avoidance of management practices that distract your people from the task, as they feel scrutinized and compared with others. We help you think of alternatives to incentives that make people avoid helping others or undermine teamwork. For some additional thoughts on Motivation, here is a link to a Daniel Pink Video that I have shared in the past that does a great job on the topic of motivation.

Watch the video

We know that top performance comes from interdependent behaviors, like cooperation, knowledge sharing, and mutual help. We guide you to drive out internal competition that creates a few ‘winners’ but holds everybody else back, and stirs up resentment. Teamwork isn’t a ‘race’ or ‘game.’ Relative or comparative evaluations are unfair. If you want to know more about any of the issues raised in this newsletter, call PBC for a free consultation.

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