Shallow Management

There’s an interesting concept I came across the other day called shallow teaching. It can also be extended to what is called shallow management. It seems contradictory at first glance to what a teacher to pupil or manager to employee relationship seeks to achieve (by straight interpretation of the term) but there’s so much more to it. The concept is based on the most effective form of motivation and that is that an individual’s motivation is strongest (or most effective) when it’s wrapped around a sense of ownership.

For instance, I could tell an employee (if I had employees!) a possible solution to a problem and explain at length the steps he/she should take to get it done. The motivation that drives that employee would be centered on pleasing the supervisor, maintaining a good relationship and ultimately keeping the job!

A shallow management style would approach the situation differently. The supervisor would approach the employee and appear ‘out of depth’. For example I’d approach my hypothetical employee (let’s call him Tim) and inform him of the problem at hand. I’d sit down with Tim for a while in an attempt to ‘nut out’ the problem and rather than just come up with solutions, I’d guide him towards the solution and an action plan (which I already had) but also I’d give him space to add his individual spin on things. When we get to that solution, I’d complement Tim on his great idea and tell him I look forward to seeing how it all comes about. This might take a little longer than a directive approach but it’s worth the time when you consider the outcome. The directive approach also tends to launch the sabotaging ‘I want to prove him wrong’ thing.

So, Tim now is not just motivated but becomes inspired. He came up with this great idea (he now owns it – he probably put a good spin on things anyway) and now he’s all fired up to get things happening and to see the idea come to fruition. He’s no longer motivated by external factors (pleasing the boss / keeping the job), because he’s now inspired by his own ideas and his motivation (or inspiration) comes from his positive sense of self (and holding on to that). So Tim is now inspired and becomes so much more effective.

There’s another take on this called the shallow selling. Its about setting up a situation where your potential client solves his or her problem by coming across your product.

7 thoughts on “Shallow Management

  1. Jill Noble

    I like this positive ‘shallow’ spin on things, its a cut to the chase type approach which is very outcome focused.
    Also the notion of intrinsic motivation is described well using the hypothetical employee. The power of job satisfaction as an intrinsic motivator is underestimated as a retention strategy in todays workplace. I would be interested in finding out if results (and achieving job satisfaction) truly motivates folk today more than recognition or remuneration??

    Keep up the blogging!


  2. 3mahappiness Post author

    Hi Jill,

    Thanks for your query – I thought I’d put it to the experts:

    Here’s my query:

    Hi there, I was wondering if there’s any evidence based research on the merits of job satisfication? I brought up the idea of a management practice that enhances an employee’s personal sense of accomplishment and that way contributes to a person’s job satisfaction. By doing so there would be a host of positive outcomes for the employer such as productivity, work effectiveness, job loyalty, job satisfaction etc. In a nutshell: tapping into a person’s sense of ‘being inspired’ creates a happy and effective employee.

    The reason for the query comes from a reader’s question:

    “I would be interested in finding out if results (and achieving job satisfaction) truly motivates folk today more than recognition or remuneration??”

    Any insight into this would be highly appreciated


  3. David

    All these variables are important; that is, remuneration and recognition undoubtedly play a part in contributing to workplace satisfaction but so too do other variables, often overlooked when the focus is purely on monetary factors, such as finding meaning in work, being clear about one’s purpose, having positive relationships in the workplace and optimism and gratitude. There is no one secret to happiness but rather, it resuls from a complex recipe that’s different for different people.

  4. Pingback: Leadership theory - 4 types of leaders « 3MA Corporate Happiness

  5. scotchcart

    Shallow selling? So you lnk to a new post several months after you write yours.

    I track back to see.

    ??? Don’t get it?

  6. 3mahappiness Post author

    Hi Scotchcart,

    Thanks for your comment. I’ll jot down my best attempt to “get it” – so you might feel assured I acknowledge, understand and have learnt some things since reading your observation.

    The post above explored the idea of minimizing a directive approach for more effective results in a teacher-pupil, manager-employee, perhaps sales-client relationship. This is linked to the notion that the most powerful form of persuasion is when a person needs no persuasion.

    What does this mean?

    Well, you don’t need to persuade people about an idea that they have already come up with themselves, right?

    Of course, they don’t need persuasion as they’re already convinced, but more importantly when someone conceives an idea of their own, it becomes part of that person’s identity – he/she own this idea and is willing to fight for it!

    The term “shallow” then, describes one’s approach in relation to seeking such motivation. The idea is that when your approach appears “out of depth” you’re more likely to illicit the type of internal motivation described above. (This idea was not as developed as I would have liked, so please anyone with other ideas on spurring such motivations – let me know here..).

    So, as Jill wrote (first comment in this string), I was putting a positive spin on the term ‘shallow’ – usually meaning something like ‘ignorant’.

    Now, I just recently edited this entry and linked it to an article I found had some great techniques to improve workplace productivity and effectiveness:

    This may have been your blog, Scotchcart?

    The thing is, when you link to another blog, sometimes this comes up as a comment on that person’s blog (if they approve it). It creates quite a nice link exchange for articles with similar topics and usually works well for both parties.

    So, I think your reference to ‘shallow’ selling was taking the negative / ignorant spin on the term in regards to linking to a post a few months after it was written. When the intent is distribution and not to elucidate a topic further, it could appear like self-promotion which has a shallow undertone (in the negative sense).

    In this case I intended to:

    1) Update this post (some typos and changes to make it clearer),
    2) link to an article (I thought would be helpful for those interested in this topic),
    3) and distribute this blog…

    So if distributing this blog is seen as ‘shallow’, I’m 100% guilty as charged.

    But I wonder, would it be worth writing blogs if no one reads them?


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