What does focus and obligation have to do with a first line manager’s responsibilities? Focus and obligation are the keys to a successful organization. If you can draw; you can draw a focus.
What does focus and obligation have to do with a first line manager’s responsibilities? Focus and obligation are the keys to a successful organization.
When I was a young boy my parents did not let me have a magnifying glass. They said it was dangerous; I could start a fire with it. When I got one the first action I took was to start a fire. When you bring the Sun’s rays to focus, they are powerful. Energy in focus is powerful.
I remember someone did my Father a favor; he replied, “I am much obliged to you.” Later I asked my Dad what obliged meant. Dad told me it meant obligation. “Son I was saying that I would do something for him in return. An obligation is my commitment to do a favor for him. It is my promise to do a favor in return for a favor. I will honor my obligations.”
Now, how does focus and obligation apply to effective first line management? We are obligated to perform for our company and our department. This requires our focus
If you can draw, do this. Draw a rectangle on a piece of paper; inside it place the word, “employees.” From each bottom corner draw a line to meet centered about two inches below this rectangle to form a triangle. Now draw a rectangle below the point of the triangle with its top touching the downward point of the triangle. In the lower rectangle place the words, “Department Mission.” Inside the triangle between the rectangles place the words, “employee energy.” Now you have a powerful diagram to visualize the concept of focus. The point is to focus your employees’ energy on your department’s mission. A well-defined mission and your support creates a burning employee desire to achieve it. You hold the magnifying glass; you focus the energy of your department on the mission. (I have drawn this diagram for each of my employees; they get it.)
A well-defined mission is the key. Not the mission for the company; but, the mission for your department. Your department’s mission dovetails into the company mission. You must clearly define this mission for your department. The managers you report to must support this mission. The department’s mission is a simple statement of purpose. The entire department’s focus must support this mission. Each employee must clearly understand this mission. Each employee must obligate themselves to accomplish this mission. There is no accountability without obligation.
You must be careful of what you obligate your employees to do.
Maintaining this focus is the first line manager’s responsibility. Go back to the diagram you drew. On the bottom rectangle draw another rectangle on top. Put in that rectangle “another departments work.” Notice the diminished focus on your mission. This is what can happen if you accept work that does not pertain to your department’s mission. This is hard for you to avoid. This is why your manager’s agreement on the department’s mission is critical. You must tell managers of other departments, your department can not do their departments work. This takes great courage. We all want to be helpful; but, not to the detriment of our department. Your focus must be clear.
Here is what I mean about maintain focus on mission.
We created our new control center in our division. Its mission is to” keep our customer’s lights on; and, when the lights go off get them back on safely and quickly.”
One employee that folded into the control center completed accounting orders for a business office. I talked to the business office manager; I told him we were not going to complete these orders. I explained how this process did not fit into the control center’s mission. He said he was short one employee and could not do it right now. I agreed we would continue to complete these orders until he hired and trained an employee. Now this is the key. I completed the accounting orders not my employee.
My employees’ obligation to the mission is the key to its accomplishment. If I continue to allow that employee to complete the accounting orders, I dilute his obligation to the mission. I want to imprint the mission on the employees in the control center. When I ask the employee why he did not achieve our mission, he could say. “I was behind on accounting order completions.” Then, what could I say? I had only one choice, I did the order completion until the business office manager took the process back. By doing this, I showed how committed I was to our new department’s mission.
You and your employees’ energy must focus on your department’s mission. You cannot get employee commitment unless you show how obligated you are to the mission. This simple formula will work. Focus and obligation will make the mission’s accomplishment a burning desire in you and your employees.
Keep it simple; focus all obligations on the mission.