Legend tells us that in the 5th to 6th Century, there lived a great King by the named of Arthur. Many accounts depict Arthur as a fair ruler and general, who led by example, championing chivalry and diplomacy.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention his brain trust, his loyal soldiers and his trusted companions, The Knights of the Round Table. A powerful, battle-tested group of leaders that understood what their leader wanted and would risk it all to ensure that it was done.
It is important to note, there were many knights, but most depictions of the group have the 12 most mentioned knights and Arthur talking and strategizing at a large round table. The rationale behind having a Round Table was for the knights to encourage one another, to prevent quarrels and to be sure that everyone felt as if they were equal and valued.
So even in a time period where what a leader said was law and opinions weren’t given unless they were given to you, it was proven that leading with diplomacy, genuine interest for input and respect were effective. And as a result, Arthur went down in history as one of the greatest and most successful kings that ever lived.
The 21st Century
As HR creates and administers from our castle towers, we’d be wise not to forget those trusted members of our organization that lead and fight on the front lines…our managers, our knights of the roundtable.
I recently held training for a group of managers at my company and I started by telling them, “I can assist and advise you with your people, but I’ve never managed your people.” I told them this to encourage them to reach out to me proactively when they had questions about their specific teams and before issues became issues. To force my ideas on them may be ineffective because their team may need something different. And as I delivered my epilogue, I committed to providing a forum, a monthly roundtable, where they could come together, learn from one another, share ideas and needs with HR, and leave feeling as if they were listened to and treated equally.
So what can we talk about during these monthly “Manager’s Roundtables”? Well hopefully, WE aren’t doing most of the talking. HR should merely facilitate, have a handful of topics readily available, and let the participants teach one another and dialogue. What handful of topics can be discussed you ask?
Common Managerial Challenges
When a manager is having issues with their teams, they may have a peer that just successfully dealt with that very issue or one that was similar. While HR can provide “what I would do is…”, they may be more comfortable with a practical solution from the battlefield.
We have to stop forcing our training suggestions on our managers. What we may feel they need may be the furthest from what they are thirsting for or dealing with at that point in time. There are topics we know our staffs must have, but why not ask them what they want to learn? We might have better attendance in our sessions if we’d ask.
Managers don’t know that we have a wealth of resources available for their use if they’ve never been told. The knights don’t know how many horses are at their disposal unless we occasionally talk about and show them the stables. Demonstrate to your captive audience how you can assist them and with what tools.
Just as we preach to managers to include their employees in planning and change, HR must include management in the development, planning and the change that we have for them. When our managers feel as if their opinions matter, that they are being listened to and know exactly what’s needed, the greater the buy in we’ll get from them. When we have that buy-in, their troops will buy-in to the same vision. When our leaders, generals and soldiers are all on the same page, our forces will be unstoppable and that seemingly never-ending quest for the Holy Grail of engagement and productivity won’t seem nearly as impossible to reach.