lt’s no secret that customer service can make or break a company. It’s the reason why companies like Zappos, Starbucks, and Amazon are dominating the markets. They get this. They get that happy customers equal happy profits. It’s also no secret that companies who, in the words of Southwest Airlines founder Herbert D. Kelleher “treat their employees like customers” are more successful and profitable than their peers who don’t.
Andy McAfee recently pointed out in his SXSW talk “What Does Corporate America of 2.0” that “CEOs are now forced to face the new reality that customers control the market and the message.” This means that corporations not only need to be listening to their customers, but interacting and having conversations with them in a meaningful way. Now replace customers with employees and some leaders and managers start to convulse. The notion that employees have any control whatsoever is scary – at least to companies and organizations that don’t know how to evoke great performance.
Management is about direction, not control. There’s a pervasive sentiment in the business world that the current set of tools and technologies available to knowledge workers will essentially force managers out of a job. But anyone who thinks having transparent, open platforms for employees to work in means that everyone is looking around, seeing what the other is doing and automatically achieving psychic-symbiosis is just plain off their rockers. The role of management isn’t going anywhere. Whether it’s systems, project or community management, it’s still a critical element to large and small organizations alike. And whether managers arise organically or are appointed officially, the fundamentals of the role remain the same.
Businesses and enterprises need individuals to help grow their employees, to maintain appropriate elements of structure and conduct, to foster solutions and resolutions (and be responsible for them) to issues when they exist outside the capabilities of an employee or group, and to look at the business as a system to identify areas of growth and provide direction. Now, however, instead of doing this with opacity, it’s done with transparency, instead of acting from a rung of hierarchy, participation is that as of a member of the community, and instead of simply dictating orders, management engages in discussion. Why is it considered SO revolutionary for a manager to have a blog, to update information in a wiki or talk to employees in twitter?
There’s a saying that managers have subordinates while leaders have followers. To me this just sounds like the difference between bad managers and good managers. So if the new corporate playing field helps delineate between good and bad managers, I’m all for bad ones getting their licenses revoked.