American Managers are Spoiled. Some are even brats.
Imagine managing on an island. Your island has limited human resources, was hours away from anything and you spoke a different language. Attracting employees to your island is difficult due to the native language and the island. The island isn’t in the orient or the Caribbean, it’s cold and damp with some months only providing hours of daylight. Growing up, your employees have been educated to speak two other alternative languages since your language is little known outside of your island.
As a manager and a member of the island, it’s your responsibility to move your employees into positions where they can succeed. You have to work hard to keep employees; because, though it is their home, they can leave the island whenever they would like to pursue other opportunities. You must invest much money in your employees both in salary and resources. Each employee starts with 5 weeks of vacation per year. You may not be able to promote people swiftly because employee turnover and resentment could bury your business.
The island is Iceland. The city is Reykjavik. It’s a fascinating country. Its people are rich in culture, history, and have one of the healthiest and richest cultures on the globe. Fishing and tourism are the top industries in Iceland. They have the best seafood in the world. The island is rich in fascinating geological features from glaciers, geysers, to lava fields.
My company sent me to Iceland this week to assist one of our clients. From the time we landed, we were in awe. The culture of the organization, the professionalism and dedication of the employees was far different than any American company I had ever worked with. The fact is, I think we’re spoiled.
In America, if you don’t like your employee you can simply fire them, ask them to leave, or make it uncomfortable enough that they leave. If they aren’t productive, you need not apply resources simply get a new one. Our productivity in this nation is well-known throughout the world but it’s not because of our great managers. It’s because of the huge resource of humans we have. It means that we need not manage. We don’t need to lead. We don’t view company longevity as an asset often the longer an employee is with a company; we target them for their weaknesses.
The client we visited is a profitable business in an international industry that is floundering practically everywhere else. They face more challenges than we do. In fact, their competitors in our country can go bankrupt as part of their strategic business plan! They focus on quality, while their competitors focus on price. They have long term strategies, while their competitors are worried about today’s stock price. Their livelihood requires it, and they deliver.
In all areas, their culture and the adversity of their environment demands that they be better marketers, better business people, and most of all, better managers. As we sat in our meetings with dozens of employees, we could not tell which were front-line and which were senior managers – all of them were knowledgeable, committed, vocal, and engaged.
In my career, I have met 1 or 2 managers that might be able to compete in this environment. Sadly, the thousands of others I have worked with don’t hold a candle. To be honest, I think I am one of the latter…. I’m not sure that I could succeed there either.
Our managers are spoiled. They need not manage, they don’t need to adapt to their environments they simply change the environment to mask their inability to lead. In some businesses, employee turnover is even an advantage because it can keep pay down. Some believe it’s cheaper to get a new employee than to keep an experienced one.
Nathan Myhrvold, former Chief Scientist, at Microsoft said, â??The top software developers are more productive than average software developers not by a factor of 10X or 100X, or even 1,000X, but 10,000X.â? I’m fairly certain this statement can be repeated throughout most organizations. The fact is – good employess are not worth more than other employees, they are worth exponentially more.
As our world continues to integrate, our island is getting smaller. America is now becoming a customer of the global marketplace and we will not succeed unless we hold our managers accountable. What demands Iceland to perform is not too far in the future for our country. Our good employees and managers will be taken away by companies who value their worth. Bad managers will ride their bad companies into the ground.