THE FISH ROTS FROM THE HEAD. HOW TO GROW FROM A MANAGER TO A LEADER.
There are two levels of senior responsibility in Wesley Mission. These two levels have a primary accountability to God, the members of our church, our boards, councils and governing bodies, donors, governments, corporate partners, denominational structures, staff, and other stakeholders.
In previous addresses at these conferences I have discussed the qualities required in our leadership. The few who have the privilege of leadership must have the qualities of a leader. For managers who aspire to be effective leaders and agents of strategic change, there is no magic recipe for success. Particular organisational situations necessitate unique approaches. Nevertheless, certain features of strategic leadership can be taught.
Effective strategic leaders are more often: well informed about their organisation and its environment; good organisational politicians; effective time managers; and communicators and motivators. Even that is not enough. Successful strategic leadership is built on both effective planning and effective action. (Management April 1995). Within Wesley Mission specific Christian maturity, abilities and communication skills are required along with an obvious commitment to Christ and His Church.
Leadership requires vision. In a time of rapidly changing market forces, consumer preferences, government regulations, and industry conditions those who proactively diagnose, anticipate and strategically plan for change prosper. Those who passively react to each change in their environment often develop a patchwork set of activities that ultimately fail in the marketplace or stretch corporate resources beyond capacity.
Chief executive officers and their senior managers have the most significant involvement and influence in the organisation’s strategic management process. They are usually considered responsible and accountable for its introduction and success. In our situation as a Mission, the support and insights of key elected lay people from the church, provides for our leaders stimulus and accountability. The effectiveness of our leaders will be determined by their success in leading strategic change and strategic implementation resulting in achievement of the Mission’s goals. Outstanding leaders need good managers. Leadership is dependent upon management.
By way of definition I would suggest that management for the Christian worker is getting things done through other people. Basically, management is a set of skills that an ordinary person can acquire and develop. (“Management for the Christian Worker” Olan Hendrix – pp.4/5) Four aspects of management should be highlighted.
First, is the ability to plan ahead. Louis A. Allen, “The Management Profession” defines planning as, “The work a manager performs to determine a course of action.” According to him, the all-encompassing view of planning includes the following:
1.Forecasting: The work a manager performs to estimate the future.
2.Establishing objectives: The work a manager performs to determine the end results to be accomplished with the people involved.
3.Programming: The work a manager performs to establish the sequence and priority of action-steps to be followed in reaching objectives.
4.Scheduling: The work a manager performs to establish a time sequence for program steps.
5.Budgeting: The work a manager performs to allocate resources necessary to accomplish objectives.
6.Procedure: The work a manager performs to develop and apply standardised methods of performing specific work.
7.Policies: The work a manager performs to develop and interpret standing decisions that apply to recurrent questions and problems of significance to the enterprise as a whole.
A manager’s capacity for developing his work lies in direct proportion to how much workers perceive he cares for them as individuals. Caring for others is not just a Christian quality that we should always demonstrate. It is simply correct business practise.
Third, is the skill of the manager to be an innovator. The concept of innovation defines the task of the truly excellent manager of a management team. Tom Peters found innovation was a key to excellence. Every manager faces times when decisions that impact upon his or her centre requires fresh thinking, new approaches, unique solutions. Managers who think outside the square for an innovative solution lead their team and centre on to significant development. General Managers have much experience that can help a manager who first discusses the new idea, so that the value of shared thinking allows for a creative response.
Fourth, is the capacity of the manager to set clear lines of responsibility, authority and accountability. We frequently fail to establish accountability and delegation because we are afraid of people. Management involves us eyeball to eyeball with people in direct personal encounter. It takes time. We think we are too busy to perform management work. Yet if we blend these three ingredients in delegation, we can improve the performance of our colleagues tremendously.
The stewardship of our managers has been the theme of this conference. Here, 100 competent managers with high degree of commitment and dedication have been considering the stewardship of our positions and responsibilities. As a leader of this vigorous and rapidly growing church, now with more than 2000 paid staff and 3,500 committed volunteers, I would mention five principles of management that encapsulates what I hoped you would learn in this conference. I would call it the A,E,I,O,& U, of successful management.
One of the key ingredients in good management is the positive attitude of the manager. I know of a capable and well-educated person who has been very successful in his chosen field in his personal achievement but who has been totally unsuccessful in management. The major reason is that this person lives with negative and self-centred attitudes. Other workers see that and they do not co-operate.
The navy talks about a ship’s company. In the entertainment world, we talk about a theatrical company. The word “company” is an English form of the French for “companion.” It carries the idea of fellowship, literally of sharing your bread. Managers who forget that they are members of a human “company” risk making all kinds of unnecessary mistakes in relating to people. The right attitude to people and your employer is vital.
To have a positive attitude to your work and to Wesley Mission as your employer transfers to other employees. It is amazing how small and negative attitudes by managers, come to the attention of the executive staff. It may be that staff sees some advantage to themselves in informing about their manager, but on many occasions I have received messages from staff about what they perceive as poor attitudes from their manager. Good management exudes good attitudes. A person’s mental attitude plays a far more important part in success or failure than does mental capacity.
It is absolutely essential that mangers improve their management education. All General Managers and myself continually undertake management education. We often initiate recommendations to managers to undertake certain courses. I write and invite a dozen or more managers every year to undertake extensive leadership courses through the Australian Institute of Management. We give considerable financial support for managers undertaking courses that will be of help in their work.
In an era when information technology is advancing so rapidly, managers must be armed with contemporary computer skills. Intellectual property is today the most valued asset of organisations including our church. Singapore, which calls itself the Intelligent Island, recognises in its latest plan that the traditional sources of wealth and comparative advantage – land, raw materials, money, technology – can all be bought in, provided one has the people with the intelligence to apply them. Singapore and Hong Kong have exported all their manufacturing activities to cheaper places like Sumatra, the Philippines or Guandong in China, but they retain the managerial control, the design and the distribution – the intelligence quotient. (ref. Charles Handy.)
In January 1992, Microsoft’s market value passed General Motors. The New York Times commented that Microsoft’s only factory asset was the imagination of its workers. Tom Peters proclaimed this was the symbolic end of the Industrial Revolution. Peter Drucker heralded the post-capitalist society.
Organisations, including churches and those in all the serving and healing ministries and individuals everywhere are waking up to the fact that their ultimate security lies more in their brains than in their land or their building. We can buy land and lease buildings, but if we do not have an educated and intelligent workforce, we will achieve little. Rapidly changing market forces, consumer preferences, government regulations, and industry conditions are an ever present phenomenon for all of us involved in caring for the poor, the ill, the disabled and disadvantaged in our community. Those who proactively diagnose, anticipate and strategically plan for change prosper the work. Those who passively react to each change in their environment often develop a patchwork set of activities that ultimately fail to aid our Mission serve our clients. Education is fundamental for good managing.
Good management includes a manager’s ability to innovate with new strategies and ideas. Imagination is a key ingredient in good management.
An educated manager with good attitudes needs to be able to constructively and imaginatively approach management issues. This is why sometimes we appoint people from outside the Mission to senior positions. We are looking for someone to think outside the square and to intelligently and creatively deal with old issues in new ways. Lack of creative imagination in this way has been the reason why some people have not been promoted. At Wesley Mission we imaginatively developed the concept of retirement village with a continuum of care in the late 1970’s in a way that no one else was doing.
The result led to a hundred million dollars of building and the provision of wonderful, secure living environments for hundreds of older people. Since then many have copied our efforts. We approached the problem of old and out-of-date city buildings in an imaginative fashion never before tried by any other city church. The result was a new Wesley Centre in a total redevelopment worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Imagination is an essential ingredient in good management.
Part of the deal however, is that imaginative ideas must be communicated to others so they can share the vision. This means the manager must be able to communicate the dream both to those within with whom the manager works and with those in the outside community. That is part of the stewardship responsibility that goes with being a manager.
Imagination is required to handle the many paradoxes in the work we do. We are both a church and a charity. We are both caring and professional. We accept people as they are, but we are not satisfied that they remain as they are. We serve in a secular community but with a spiritual motivation. We care for the body and we pray for the soul. It takes imagination to understand that and to design a work performance that can accomplish both.
John Stopford and Charles Baden-Fuller, in their study of rejuvenating businesses, report that the successful ones live with paradox, or what they call dilemmas. They have to be planned and yet be flexible, be differentiated and integrated at the same time. They must be mass-marketeers while catering for many niches. They must insist on new technology but allow their workers to be the masters of their own destiny. They must find ways to get variety, quality and fashion, and all at low-cost. They have, in short, to find a way to reconcile what used to be opposites, instead of choosing between them. That is what a good manager at Wesley Mission must learn. In this era of total change we manage their centres that are no longer what they used to be nor what we have been so used to seeing. That takes imagination!
Every manager must organise the task at hand, the people who will accomplish it, the resources that will be required, the budget to fund it, the income to achieve it, and the way change can be accommodated with the best possible outcomes in a caring and spiritual environment. Without that capacity to organise, the manager will leave large numbers of fellow workers, clients and the general public confused and disappointed. To be able to organise well requires is quality management!
The lack of such organisational skills will result in what we are seeing in churches everywhere in The Uniting Church in Australia. This is due to the most recent directive from our Assembly to every parish in Australia. The Assembly has just spent enormous amounts of energy and money in committee meetings, printing booklets and writing to every congregation in Australia to make some changes in the structures of churches. The word “parish” is now politically incorrect. A minister’s “settlement” is now a placement. The Elders Council and the Parish Council are now combined and renamed the Church Council, and so on.
This huge restructure has some good aspects to it and it will benefit Wesley Mission and the congregations that want to cluster with us. But there is little by way of rationale of how this will benefit local church members. There is little or no theological reflection on why what was directed was to be preferred. I personally am not troubled by any of the directives. But this restructure has involved a huge effort and impacts upon the lives of several hundred thousand people.
Yet it will not win one more person into the Kingdom of God. Nor will it involve one more person in the mission of the church. Nor raise one more dollar to serve the needy. Hundreds of thousands are confused in at least part, many are uncertain, but ironically, the people involved in directing the reorganisation will find a great sense of satisfaction.
For by making a restructure, they feel they have done something! It reminds me a Praetonius, a Roman Governor in the first century who wrote: “Every time we were beginning to form up into teams we would be re-organised. I was to learn later in life that we tend to meet every new situation by re-organising and a wonderful method it is for creating the illusion of progress while producing inefficiency and demoralisation.”
Organisational skills are essential for a good manager. It is a salutary fact that there are few, if any, persons in the administration of the Uniting Church at Synod or Assembly level who have any graduate qualifications in Administration, such as we have among many senior executives at Wesley Mission.
Even so, the organisation is still subservient to the purpose and core values of the organisation. Our core values come first. All organisation must be for the sole purpose of achieving those core values and purposes. A changing world requires intelligent organisation. But change for its own sake, or change without an understood rationale, or in the case of the Church or Mission, which is not seen to fit in with core values, will only result in frustrated workers and clients.
Understanding cannot be implanted where it does not exist. But it can be expanded, sensitised, deepened and Christianised. It is important that a manager at Wesley Mission understands our heritage. That is why we start every Orientation Program for new staff with the video that explains who we are and from whence we have come. Our heritage influences our destiny. Likewise we must understand our core Christian values and those other humanitarian values we espouse.
A good manager will also understand the needs of our clients, consumers, members, and other stake-holders.
The American businessman who built the international “Holiday Inn” chain, William B Walton, writes: “An excellent manager operates on the assumption that even the most gifted people need all the help they can get if they are to reach their maximum capability. A lot of brilliance and talent go to waste in the business world every day because people don’t know how to apply their gifts to what they are assigned to do. If you care about people, you will recognise that channelling their abilities has to be the immediate follow-up to challenging them. Modern business leaders could do a lot worse than to review the instructional approach of that one often referred to as the master teacher, Jesus of Nazareth, as depicted in the New Testament Gospels. Even a quick reading shows that he used such time-tested methods as theory and application, laboratory demonstration, apprenticeship and internship, field testing, and review and evaluation.” Understanding the people with whom we work and for whom we care is a basic ingredient of a good manager. The example of Jesus can help us all.
These five principles can make good mangers of our centres and services even better managers.
And my title of this talk? An old Chinese proverb states “The fish rots from the head.” That is why what our managers are and do is a most significant factor in our continued growth and effective service to God and the community. If the head rots with complacency, immorality, inefficiency, incompetency and so on, it is not long before the whole body is rotten. There are many examples about us, where fine organisations have grown up, served well, and then died. And death always starts at management and executive level.
Our task these past two days has been to make sure the management team of Wesley Mission is fresh and vigorous, full of life and spirit.