Decades ago during the industrial revolution, leaders of companies settled on a management style that involved relating to their employees that I call, “Park your brain at the door."
These managers apparently decided their employees were unable or unwilling to be engaged in the business, understand metrics, make suggestions for improvement or even be productive.
So managers decided that their employees should arrive at work each day and park their brains at the door.
Regardless of how productive employees were at home, such as being president of the local parent teacher association, leading a Boy Scouts troop or participating in church activities, they were seen as incapable of transferring that knowledge and skill to the workplace.
Management told people to show up each day, not to ask questions or make recommendations, not to analyze things and just do what they were told. At the end of the day, people had to pick up their brains again and go home. I believe this poor leadership style was one of the reasons for the rise in union activity.
It seems inconceivable that management behaved this way and got away with it for so many years because as today’s leaders know, the most knowledgeable employees about a process are usually the people who perform it everyday.
Process decomposition, mapping and documentation efforts rely on groups of employees who actually perform a job. For this reason, not only is it desirable; it should be mandatory that employees are not allowed to leave their brains at the door.
Employers should want, need and expect employees to think on the job, make recommendations and suggest steps for improvement.
This obvious but critical concept is even more important with the new employees that companies are hiring today.
When I was a young manager my boss just had to tell me what to do and I did it. That was why I received a paycheck.
But today, some Gen X and Y employees not only want to know what you want them to do; they insist on knowing why you want them to do it. This puts pressure on today’s leaders to become “servant leaders,” a phrase coined by Robert K Greenleaf to describe the leadership concept of tailoring your style to the needs of your employees.
These contemporary workers are less likely to park their brains at the door and instead tend to be vocal even if their boss doesn’t ask for their input.
Remember that the #1 reason employees leave companies is due to a bad relationship with their boss or manager. This means that today’s leaders have to be very sensitive about the feedback they provide subordinates.
If leaders want to keep their best and brightest, they should regularly solicit and welcome recommendations, suggestions and input about company processes.
Do you insist your people bring their brains to work? If so, how do you encourage their input?