You manage people better through improving their understanding than directing their behavior

A recent book about neuroscience and management makes the point that the common practice in business is to focus on managing the behavior of workers. Not good. To focus on the values and understanding of workers, says the author, is much more efficacious. Charles S. Jacobs, Management Rewired (Penguin 2009) at 17, gives an example: “If you want to improve customer service, you’re better off stressing its importance and linking it to an employee’s values than prescribing a set of behaviors that will probably be executed with indifference or contempt.”

Process maps and efficiency efforts focus on prescribing behavior; indeed, they channel, monitor, assess, and define it. They pay no heed to someone’s underlying awareness of objectives or the importance of those objectives. In general, I side with those who explain a goal and its value and let people get on with accomplishing the goal the best way they can.

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