Gary Winters

Coach  Workshop Facilitator Author

How is Managing Well Like Operating a Floor Sander?

Years ago I worked for a summer in the maintenance department of my high school. One day I came to work, and my supervisor asked me if I’d ever operated a floor sanding machine – you know, the thing that looks like a giant vacuum cleaner. I had never even seen one, so I responded, “Sure!”

“Good,” he said. “Every two years we have to strip the gymnasium floor and refinish it. This is the year, today’s the day, and you’re the guy who’s gonna strip it.”

He dispatched me to the gym and let me know he’d be by later to check on my work.

I approached the machine with the chutzpah and gumption of a typical seventeen year old. How hard could this be? I plugged it in and turned it on.

Instantly the bottom of the sander began revolving at high speed, and the machine began gyrating about the floor, seemingly with some evil plan. Instinctively I grabbed the handles harder and began pushing down to control the machine. BIG mistake.

The harder I tried to control the machine, the more it dragged me around the floor and gouged the hardwood.

Panicking, I quickly tried to locate the OFF switch. I couldn’t find it.

Finally, the machine moved near the electrical outlet to which it was attached. With a desperate lunge I managed to yank the plug from the outlet and stop the monster. With dismay I realized that several square feet of the floor were close to ruin.

After sheepishly bringing my boss to the scene of the crime, I was given a lesson in floor sanding. Turns out a very light touch, and an almost Zen-like mental state made operating the machine easy. It doesn’t respond positively to being “controlled,” but it shines when it’s allowed to do it’s job, and the operator merely guides it along.

Many years later, I realized I’d been given a good metaphor for managing people.

Turns out, even though they are (obviously) NOT machines, they respond pretty much the same way to their “operator” – their supervisor. Push down hard, and try to control everything, and they’ll take you all over the floor. And not in a good way!

“Leadership,” Dwight Eisenhower once said, “is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.”

He’s right.

When you boil it right down, we all do what we do for one of two reasons:

  1. We have to.
  2. We want to.

You’re the new manager.  You’re going to be making plans, setting priorities, making decisions, and assigning projects to your staff. They will complete these projects (the “things you want done”) because:

  1. They have to.
  2. They want to.

You have two choices to get people to do what you want done.

You can instill fear or you can foster desire.

It’s really that simple. Both strategies work, but I would argue that only one delivers consistent, positive, amazing results. Get people to do things because they want to, and you’re going to be impressed with the results.

Years ago, the prevailing belief about managers was that they were people who could say (and get away with it) things like:

  • “It’s my way or the highway.”
  • “We don’t pay you to think. We pay you to perform.”
  • “When I want your opinion, I’ll give it to you.”

I’d like to say these days are long over, but sadly, they are not. There are plenty of bosses who “rule by fear.” Their power comes from the position they’ve been given in the organization. They want to control everything. They have been given the power to deliver unpleasant consequences to employees who don’t do their bidding. They get people to do things because those people are afraid of what will happen if they don’t do those things.

They get away with it when people fear:

  • Losing their jobs,
  • Their status or reputation in the organization, or even just
  • Their ability to get good assignments.

Unlike the floor sander, people will do things they don’t want to do if their fear is strong enough. But will they give it their all?

Times have changed. Most managers recognize how vital it is to involve their employees in decision-making, choice of assignments and the like. Many organizations have embraced a new model for managers– the commitment model.

When people are committed to something, they invest more of themselves. Commitment means “devotion to a cause, person, or relationship.” When your people are committed to their assignment, you’ll get:

  • Buy-in
  • Loyalty
  • Support
  • Ownership
  • Solid effort

Your challenge, when you embrace a commitment-based model of leadership, is to create an environment where commitment is the “path of least resistance.” Put another way, you need to create an environment where the easiest, most compelling choice is commitment.

Or, as Dr. W. Edward Deming once put it in his famous list of 14 factors for good management, your task is to “Drive fear out” of the organization.

I believe there are four things you can do to foster an environment of commitment:

  1. Develop a compelling vision for your team.
  2. Learn to communicate that vision and mission clearly and simply.
  3. Become a monomaniac regarding that vision.
    (Huh? Monomaniac? It simply means having an obsessive interest in a single thing – in this case, achieving the vision. Talk about it relentlessly. Make sure that everyone knows the part they play, and each assignment plays in the achievement of the vision. Bring everything back to the vision.
  4. Build trust. To do that, you should:
  • Be accountable to meet the standards you set for others.
  • Be honest.
  • Be ethical.
  • Walk your talk.
  • Be consistent.
  • Be accessible.
  • Keep things shared in confidence confidential!

This post is Chapter One of my new book, What Your Boss Never Told You – The Quick Start Guide for New Managers. To order your own paperback version with all 21 chapters for just $12.95, click this link.

“What ELSE Your Boss Never Told You” is the sequel to the very popular “What Your Boss Never Told You.” Packed inside are more tips, techniques, and insights about the challenging, but rewarding leadership position.

“What ELSE Your Boss Never Told You” is written in a conversational tone, as though you and the author were enjoying a cup of coffee and talking about the issues that emerge for new leaders. It stands alone, and/or could be read before or after the first volume, “What Your Boss Never Told You.” You can start with any chapter and read in any order you like.

if you search for a book on management, you’ll find a staggering 600,000+ books currently available. How can you narrow that down? “What Your Boss Never Told You” is the best place to start.

No textbook here – this book is short and sweet. It’s designed to help you “unpack” your new job and be effective from the first day with your new team. It contains twenty-one chapters filled with the wisdom Winters has gathered from real managers – effective, successful leaders in organizations much like yours.

Leaders make decisions every day – big and small. Most know that if they include others in the decision-making process, the quality of those decisions – and the commitment to them – will likely improve. That said, they also know it’s impractical, if not impossible, to include others in every decision they confront.

“To Do or Not To Do” tackles the question of when to make decisions on your own, and when to involve your team. It gives you a deceptively simple but proven method to determine, when you are facing a difficult decision, how to decide how to decide.

Far too many meetings are dreadful, mind-numbing, energy-draining, productivity-sapping, colossal wastes of time. As someone once said, “To kill time, a meeting is the perfect weapon.”

Here’s the deal: if you’re willing to learn and apply the techniques in “So, How Was Your Meeting?”, you’ll call fewer meetings, while vastly improving the ones you do lead. They’ll take less time, have more balanced participation, produce better decisions, and result in concrete action items for follow-up afterwards.

While there are thousands of books written for people about to retire, this may be the only book for people who manage soon-to-retire employees. Written in a casual, conversational style, “Managing the Soon To Retire Employee” will give you everything you need to know to move forward with confidence and grace.

You can be successful with Sooners. It won’t happen by chance, and it’s not a matter of pulling some management “trick” out of your hat. But you can learn how to do it, and you can apply what you’ve learned right away.

Managing friends or former peers can be awkward. When you become the boss, everything about these relationships can suddenly be uncomfortable. There’s a new set of ground rules to establish – as manager, you are going be accountable for the work performance of friends or former co-workers on the team, and they are going to have to adjust to the fact that they now report to you. Everyone involved can feel awkward and hesitant about the future. 

Have you been approached by management with an offer to promote you to supervision? Or, are you mulling over the possibility for the future? Find yourself not sure whether to accept the promotion?

If so, you’ve come to the right place. Help! They Want to Make ME a Supervisor will help you sort out a very big question: Should you accept the offer to become a supervisor? Once you’ve read this book, you’ll be confident that you’ve made the best decision for you and for your organization.