Social business : fire the managers won’t change the system

manager-destabilisesI am not use to do that, but this post is a kind of answer to Cecil blogpost Social Business Vs Social Status. In fact in his post, Cecil explains that it is very hard to embed middle managers in a social business project, even if as anyone knows, they are key players for a real enterprise transformation. Because it is what is it about, not just emplement an enterprise social network, but really transform the organization with its business process and management way. I’ve already written things about this issue fews years ago and more recently. But it is still topical, and last week during a conference dedicated to management evolution, someone ask me at the end of my presentation about Leadership in network organization, how to embed the middle management. Here is a beginning of answer, even there is no one way or one solution.

Just to sum up the main idea, how to transform manager gate keeper into manager leader/faciltator. As Cecil, quote in his blogpost, I don’t buy Luis answer « ignore them and they will eventually join when they see the change is actually moving forward« . Only for one main reason. For me the enterprise 2.0 is a new kind of organization where the power relationships are changing with everyone. So practically you can’t ignore key players like the middle management and philosophically I don’t share this point of view to trash someone.

Usually middle management is introducing like the main barrier, with this idea highlighted by Gary Hamel « First let’s fire all the managers ». If you have this state of mind, you don’t change the system, you just change the decision maker. An expert instead of a manager is still a pain in the neck for employees, if the mindset is the same. Break the ones who don’t want to go in the same way. So trust is really a core value of social business ?

Secondly, at least in France, surveys show that more than 70% of the manager wouldn’t take this position again. Funny, the same percentage of disengaged employees in companies. Do you really think managers are different of the « average employees », I am not quite sure of that. So if it is difficult to change the mindset of the employees, what should it be different for the managers. And if you think you have to work with employees on this issue, why not with the managers too. Further, we all agree that changing a company culture is a long journey. Why should be different for the managers, just one snap and that’s ok for them, else they are good to through away. A kind of class war remembrance… As Goethe said :

Treat people as if they are what they should be and you would help them to become what they are able to be

May be we should treat middle managers as allies instead of barriers. Many managers took their position without any training, coaching… but being good in a task doesn’t mean that you will be a good manager. Even if many good surprises had happend, but not only. But usually it is the only way to progress in the enterprise. So support them during this transformation could be a good start, and a real switch with the old world. And the order « be social » is a little bit paradoxal.

If 70% wouldn’t made this choice again, you can bet that they are not very happy with this position, even if many of them have struggled to get there. Now you just say, you are wrong. It is not realistic. We have to show that they can change in a better way for the organization, but for them too, like employees. Show how this new organization is not questionning themselves but an evolution of the job description. And this time, they will have some support. So they won’t suffer as they did.

Of course it is a long time work, and as for employees, they have to learn this new way of dealing with process and facilitate teams. As most the employees don’t trust any more their companies, that’s the same for them. The lonelyness of the manager is not just a figure of speech. So as for the employees, they have the right to stumble, make mistakes and feel that they the get trust of the top management. So let’s trust them and support them in their journey, as we do for the all organization.

Don’t think that I am a care bear, of course not all the managers will fit with this new model. Do you have to fire them, I don’t think so, or we are not talking about social business. It’s the company job to find new ways of mobility like expertise for instance. And if we are talking of network instead of hiearchy, find new ways of talent management for them are also the first steps of new carrer mobility, not only related to hiearchy.

May be your manager will be your first movers and greater allies, but you have to support them, give them time too and most of all trust them.