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 Management Minute

It’s All About the People!

By Michael R. Fraser, PhD, CAE, Chief Executive Officer, AMCHP

As I reflect on my almost five years at AMCHP, the one thing that I know contributed a great deal to our successes – and will continue our successes well into the future – is the team we have built to carry out our work. I think we have all heard the familiar line from management guru Jim Collins who wrote, “you got to get the right people on the bus” in his book Good to Great, and I think he’s right. Not only that, you have to get the right people on the bus, in the right seat on the bus! And I think we have accomplished that here at AMCHP by recruiting and retaining excellent, dedicated staff ready to move AMCHP forward in so many different ways. Like an effective sports team you cannot rely on just one or two players to prevail; you have to tap the talent and develop the skills and abilities of the entire team to really win the game. Maybe that’s why AMCHP consistently receives excellent member satisfaction ratings (in our recent survey 85 percent of members agreed or strongly agreed that they were satisfied with their membership) and staff are rated as highly effective in working to meet member needs.

When leading and managing a large program, it is easy to forget that one of the biggest tasks of leading is to motivate people to achieve a shared goal. We can get so caught up in our day-to-day activities that we forget to walk down the hall, check-in with staff, listen to what folks are saying and probe what they are thinking in order to get a better handle on how we can lead and motivate our teams even better. Often leaders forget the work of leading really isn’t about them at all – it is about supporting the people they rely on to get the work done. We all have examples of ego-driven leaders, most of whom are eventually unsuccessful (because the work is about them and not about their team). And we all have good examples of leaders that are more like coaches in their leadership style – pushing us to do better in a tailor-made way that motivates and inspires. Perhaps that is why Gary Burnison made “people” his fourth absolute of leadership – he too knows the power of having a great team.

I guess Burnison should, he runs one of the largest executive recruiting/talent management firms in the world. In thinking about his Twelve Absolutes of Leadership, I was glad to see the topic of “people” clearly toward the top of the list. But I also wondered how he might change his chapter on people if he was writing about people working in government. Clearly, the challenge of human resource management and team building in government is very different from the private sector. Incentives are different, performance improvement can be hard within large bureaucracies and, frankly, it’s difficult to get the right people in the right seat on the bus given the constraints of a complicated civil service system. The challenges of managing people in any setting are hard – doing it in government can be even more complicated. I hear about the challenges of team building and managing people from members in state and local governments on a frequent basis.

As you think about leadership and team building, you might want to think about how you are approaching the critical task of “people” development in your work. Are you coaching, teaching and motivating your team? Are you clear about your goals and comfortable letting your team develop the strategies to meet those goals? Are you willing to enjoy success that is shared, versus success of your own? To me, and many students of management, leading really is all about the people – our people. Our task is to motivate, lead, encourage. As you think about the challenges of your work setting and the work you do as an MCH leader, consider how you inspire your team to do their best. As I know from my own experience, the time invested in developing people will lead to great results. Let me know what you try!

[This is the fourth installment in a continuing series on The Twelve Absolutes of Leadership by Gary Burnison. If you would like to get your own copy of The Twelve Absolutes of Leadership and follow along over the next few months, you can order it online via the AMCHP link to AMCHP receives a small royalty for all orders placed via this link. The opinions of the author, and of Mike, are their own and are not the official position of AMCHP.]