Why Being Neutral Works

Elanden Book Review Series: “The Hands-Off Manager” Pt. 2

Be Neutral.

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It sounds zen. It sounds new age. It sounds like you don’t have time for that and things don’t get done that way. You need pressure, panic, always flashier and shinier incentives to motivate your team! Something new and inventive and defining!

Very often these incentive plans, especially in high pressure environment like sales, feel like we’re being asked to do the impossible. And maybe we feel that way because it really just doesn’t make sense.

Using sheer force to rally the troops through the next quarter, to close the deal, to launch the product within your timeline constraints, takes more of you than the 40 hours it says you’ve given on paper. During those moments, the last word to describe your state of mind would be free or relaxed.

For your sake, and for the sake of those around you, practicing ways in which you can best find a neutral ground to stand, will help you define your limits and the limits of your team. If you learn how to best work within those limitations, you’ll have gained some of your sanity back, as well as increased the productivity of your team in the long run.

We’ve found a lot of very valuable and applicable advice in “The Hands-Off Manager” by Steve Chandler and Duane Black relative to this topic. We review some of the loudest, “wow, that makes sense” advice from this book and others, and share what we’ve learned with you.

There have been a few points in “The Hands-Off Manager” that we felt were valuable in helping make a case for how and why being neutral works. Chandler and Black identify an outstanding hands-off manager as one that knows how to take a neutral position. They identify the best negotiators — and everyone, everyday is negotiation something— as the ones that stay positive and neutral.

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Maintain a neutral stance when managing.

Chandler and Black identify a less-successful manager, let’s say, a micromanager, as someone who blocks themselves from their goal by being resistant, instead of neutrally accepting that if it’s meant to be, it will be. Attaching yourself to a certain outcome can end up pushing what you wanted most away. These authors also identify neutrality as an attractive force, while “what we resist, persists.”

In all, forcing your team to perform through coercion or radical incentives is likely an unproductive avenue to pursue. And, as someone who knows that I hate doing the dishes — but only when asked even though I was going to do it anyway happily, being forced is the least effective way to motivate your team.

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Embracing the system.

Easier said than done where there’s things that could just be changed or improved upon in your eyes. Unfortunately, unless we’re blessed with the opportunity to be an executive and encourage change from the top down, or working for a small company open to feedback and improvements, accepting the situation for what it is is the first step in finding the best way to succeed within that environment.

Taking a neutral position, and accepting that your situation (insofar as force isn’t necessary for improvement), is the first step of effective hands off management. Chandler and Black make a good point in acknowledging that the best and most lasting professional relationships are developed when there’s no feeling that long-term success is being forfeited for short-term wins.

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Neutral partnerships, in a best case scenario, also mean neutral management. When you choose to work with the talent and skills that your team can bring to the table, rather than lessening your team’s moral by trying to “fix” them, you’re going to end up with a team interested in giving their all, because it won’t be about what they’re giving, it will be about what they’re

As our authors would say, your employees don’t need to be fixed, they need to be found. The next time you’re presented with lofty team goals and are asked to create a plan to tackle it, it may be in your and your team’s best interest to spend a moment thinking about the skills you can help bring out in others, rather than a quick fix solution.

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Lindsay and Nicole cover management, workplace culture, and how to keep yourself sane in today’s fast paced world.

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