Managing People Effectively by Ray Haight


I had an epiphany about 10 years ago when I, along with the other members of the senior executive of the company I was working with, took a training course titled “Management by Responsibility”. This eight-week course opened my eyes to both human behaviour and my own behaviour to the point that it literally changed the way I look at the world. I know that the other managers enjoyed the course but I don’t think any of them were affected to the extent that I was by the material.

The course was designed by Dr. G. Michael Durst and presented to our executives by Mr. Lorry Schneider. I have to recognize not only the creator of the course but the instructor as well, as I believe that Lorry’s style of instruction was the secret ingredient that resulted in the message having such an impact on me.

The training delivered many important messages but the first, most important lesson that I learned is that you should be 100 per cent responsible for your actions and be sensible enough to realize that you are in the position in life that you are right now because you put you there. You did all of the things that were necessary to be where you are right now, be it a good or a not-so-good place. As many of you know, this is a big issue for our industry; I love trucking and all things truck-related and I always have… but we are rampant with the victim mentality.

All you have to do is spend a little time in most drivers’ rooms or listen to the CB radio for more than a few minutes and you know exactly what I am talking about. People aren’t as successful as they want to be because of the company they work for…the government is keeping us down… the oil companies are keeping me from making the money I want…the shippers are screwing us all…the load brokers are all thieves…the list goes on and on. The last couple years I drove I only turned the CB on when I needed directions or needed to know if a route was open; it got to the point where I couldn’t take all of the negativity that came at me mile after mile.

Even then I wanted to challenge all of the whining I was hearing. Maybe that’s why this course I took had such an eye-opening effect on me. I was smart enough to know that there was no sense in arguing with people who have the victim mentality embedded into their DNA; what I wanted to say to these folks was, “If you don’t like the company you’re working for, find another one. You’re not chained to that one and if they’re all the same, then get out of the industry. I won’t miss you, I promise! The government does stupid things that are counterproductive at times, no doubt, but what have you done to try and change any of those things? Do you even vote? Complaining sure isn’t getting much done. The price of oil is the price of oil and it’s too high, what do you do to minimize the expense of fuel? If you’re an Owner Operator do you know your cost of fuel out to 3 decimals? At the end of the day do you focus your attention on being as productive as you possibly can, or do you go about your daily toil like a robot complaining about every challenge that comes up?”

The other key lesson I learned was the fact that people are not all alike and if you want to challenge people and have them perform at a level that will help your organization succeed, you’d better learn what motivates each person on your team.

Durst broke each person into five separate categories or levels:

  1. The Unconscious Level – is someone who is not tuned into reality. This stage is usually reserved for young children, but many adults continue to go unconscious as a defence mechanism.
  2. Self-Protective Level – which represents folks who protect themselves by blaming others when things go wrong, your misery can never be your own fault when you can lay the blame on someone else
  3. The Conformist Level – people do as they’re told without ever questioning why; they check their brains at the door and only do what they have to do and nothing more.
  4. The Achievement Level – folks need to be continually challenged and recognized; their self-worth is decided by their latest achievement and recognition. Everything is a crisis and an emergency and these folks also have a sense of independence, are goal driven and are productive.
  5. Responsible Level – is the type of person successful companies have an abundance of. These folks have a strong sense of who they are, what they need to do and why they are doing it. They take responsibility for failure and in doing so they are much more resilient and they don’t play the blame game. They know that “I am the one who will answer for my every action and I will profit or suffer accordingly.”

Effective managers in today’s companies need to understand the dynamic of the group they are responsible for, and recognize that each individual is motivated by different interactions. Don’t get me wrong, a manager must deliver discipline even-handily, that’s not what I am talking about, I am talking about the fact that we are not all made from the same mould. We have had influences during our formative years that have made us who we are and sometimes, if those influences were not good, that is evidenced in our personalities as adults. Bringing in a manger who understands this and is willing to take the time to ensure that helping your people learn, grow and to be productive could not only help them but could result in being the highlight of one’s career.