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June - 2011 - issue > People Manager

The Lasorda’s Law!

C Mahalingam (Mali)
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
C Mahalingam (Mali)
The Lasorda’s Law! Well that is what world’s one of the most leading thinkers, Dr Robert Sutton calls as key to being a successful manager. This is attributed to Tommy Lasorda who served as the Los Angeles baseball team as a player, and then as a coach from 1949 onwards including a two-decade long stint as its manager. According to Lasorda, good managing is like holding a dove in your hand. If you hold it too tightly, you kill the dove; but if you hold it too loosely, you lose it altogether! In effect, what Dr. Sutton conveys is that the essence of managing lies in the delicate balance that every manger seeks between managing too much and too little.

Let us accept that it is not easy to get this balance even if we readily recognize this as critical. In fact, most of us managers do appreciate this balancing act, but when it comes to practicing it, there is so much of a challenge. Effective managers understand that it is best to leave the people alone except where a decisive intervention is necessary because the junior is a rank outsider to the organization needing handholding or is handling a difficult job that requires a bit of frequent guidance. Keeping a close eye or snooping over the shoulder often has no effect on performance, but worse still such micromanaging may actually undermine performance.

It is far from being warm and fuzzy! Balancing does not imply that managers shower their people with unconditional warm fuzziness. Savvy managers travel through every day at work in search of the sweet spot between interjecting too little and too much. Management literature is full of advices on delegating and coaching the teams to take responsibility. Situational leadership shot into prominence and has remained very relevant till date. Here, managers are advised to understand and assess the ‘task-relevant maturity’ of the team members and determine what style of leadership would be best: directing, coaching, supporting or delegating. When a team member’s ability to do and motivation to do are both high, a delegating style becomes a more appropriate one. When both dimensions are low, a more directive or telling style works. And therefore, it is not one style that helps a manager be successful, but the ability to adapt a style that fits in with the maturity of the team member that does the trick in balancing.

Prof Robert Simons of Harvard Business School has researched extensively on this subject and has even written a few articles and books sharing his perspectives. In his path-breaking article titled: “Control in an Age of Empowerment” published by HBR (March-April, 1995), Prof Simons has the following to say:

* Competitive businesses with demanding and informed customers must rely on employee initiative to seek out opportunities and respond to customers’ needs

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