There are real consequences for employing a driving people philosophy in its fullest measure. Sometimes you get fired.
Last night I read with much interest the Naval Inspector General Report on the conduct of Captain Greg Thomas when he was Commanding Officer of Norfolk Naval Shipyard. Captain Thomas was relived of duty earlier this year and official fired in late October. Navy Times and other news agencies covered the story.
According to nine of the 45 employees the Naval Inspector General interviewed, Captain Thomas regularly used profane language and was heard to say to subordinates, “I am about to fire you.”
The tale of Captain Thomas’ behavior is an interesting case study because it is clear that Captain Thomas was driving people at Norfolk.
Driving people: using some coercion (e.g., orders, fear of negative consequences, removal of positive consequences) to externally compel someone to change.
It appears from the report that when his subordinates failed to respond to his coercion or threats, Captain Thomas applied more pressure and upped the negative consequences he suggested. It’s a sad tale, but entirely predictable as the result of employing the driving people philosophy to its fullest measure. It’s interesting that some of the news reports include this claim by one of the interviewees:
“He believed that at some point someone was going to ‘snap under pressure’ being applied by” Thomas, the report said.
The sad part of this story is that there remains a shipyard of over 8,000 people with a mission to do (repairing, modernizing and maintaining the U.S. Atlantic Fleet) that still needs to be done, and done better.
Now that the report is out, and it seems that driving people will not be tolerated, what are managers left to do if they want to improve performance? For a lot of the manager–in all industries, not just military commands–driving people is the only skill they have. They could be thinking of Captain Thomas and saying, “There but for the grace of God, go I,” because most of them have employed various coercive tactics over the years, probably even some of the same ones that got Captain Thomas fired.
What is a manger to do? You won’t be surprise to hear me say that they could try driving change for a while.
Driving change: choosing a change for yourself and clearing the obstacles for others to internally choose the change too.
It won’t be easy and they’ll have to start the change within themselves first (an untenable prerequisite for some I’m sure), but if they want to achieve the results that their nation truly needs from them, then I don’t know what other options are left to them.
Why not try driving change? It just might (okay, it will) work.
What do you think?