Every story needs a hero. Every hero needs a villain. A hero needs a guide or teacher to defeat the antagonist and win the girl, find the treasure, survive the storm, or become the winner in the game of life. Why is this plot repeated over and over in movies and books since the beginning of the human condition? The simple answer is we can all relate to overcoming something, battling something (or someone) in order to achieve a desired outcome. We all get it and it keeps our attention. In his book, “Building a Storybrand”, Donald Miller relates this simplicity to overcoming the noise of life.
In a typical organization, the worker is the true hero. The worker as the nurse, engineer, machine operator, welder, or salesman is the protagonist. The villain (antagonist) can be the workload, lack of training, negative co-worker or bad manager. The guide or teacher is the front-line supervisor that helps the hero win the game of work and life. Luke Skywalker had his Yoda. The Karate Kid had Mr. Miyagi. Harry Potter had Professor Dumbledore. All heroes need someone to help them achieve the seemingly unachievable.
Teaching supervisors this role may seem odd or different from common thinking. However, stay with me and it will all make perfect sense. As a supervisor, we are no longer the hero (even though we may still desire to be). We must now achieve success through the achievement of others. We are akin to coaches that are no longer allowed to play in the game. We find success by helping others (the hero) win. Every employee is the hero of their own life story. They must win in order to pay the mortgage, feed the family, pay for a child’s college, etc.
This role clarification is critical to helping supervisors understand the true path toward organizational success. When trained properly they can relate to a simple reality that has been part of the human condition. Winning organizations understand the supervisor is the most important job because they are the hero’s mentor and teacher. Management delegates down to the supervisor and employees look up to the supervisor. The supervisor is the proverbial “rubber meets the road” position in any business. They are in essence the face management to the employees in their department. Managers influence has become too diluted to occupy the role of teacher or mentor due to the number of people in the organization.
Occam's razor is the problem-solving principle that states simpler solutions are more likely to be correct than complex ones. Developing the right supervisors to be successful is less complicated than most organizations realize. It all starts with a simple role clarification that when done properly, awakens the true nature of the purpose they occupy in the organization. Once this purpose has been acknowledged, the supervisor can be given some simple tools to execute in the role. Attempting to train supervisors without this important first step is like giving a two-year child old a calculator. Until they learn the concept of math and the symbols that represent quantification, it is merely another toy object.
How do you plan to help your supervisors realize they are no longer the hero? How will you convince them they are the guides in the game of business? How will you convince them to be more like Yoda and less like Luke? “Try not. Do or do not. There is no try.” ~Yoda