If you don't know anything else about management know these things.


Publishing Date: Fall 2014

K. Palmer Hartl Christian management
K. Palmer Hartl Christian management



Christians are called upon to respect and care about all people; managers are, too. This is the underlying philosophy of The Ten Commandments of Management. Using proven business models mixed with appropriate Biblical references, The Ten Commandments of Management provides the ten things managers need to know how to do. Following these commandments will make you a more successful manager and those who report to you more effective, productive and successful as well. What could be better than achieving a win/win outcome in your business? Sometimes this means moving people out of the wrong job, sometimes it means offering a hand up. Too many managers and too many employees relate to each other within a parent-child paradigm. Read the Ten Commandments of Management to learn how to manage Adults through being an Adult. If you know nothing else about management, know these Ten Commandments.


Key Points


1. Rev. Hartl has 40 years of experience in developing this list of techniques and behaviors and in using them in a variety of business and non-profit situations. They work.

2. This work is relatively short and understandable, with examples that explain how these “commandments” work in action.

3. Thousands of managers are looking for help and need help on how to do the job of managing.

4. Thousands of Christians are managers who would like to honor their faith as they do the work that puts food on the table.

5. The Ten Commandments of Management is a way to reset the management paradigm and learn how to be an Adult to manage Adults.



Managing change


When Peter Vaill (Management as a Performing Art) talked about the decade of the 90's being a decade of permanent white water conditions, he was prophetic. In fact his prediction is carrying on right into the 21st century. In fact I have not seen anything in my practice that would suggest to me that there is any possibility that things will slow down soon. Most companies are in a situation that we might call continuous overlapping change. The result of this is that people are bewildered and beleaguered by the rapidity of the change and the fact that many of the best laid plans have gone awry.


It is therefore critical for those of us who have the responsibility for planning for change to know how to do this work and to do it well. There is just simply too much change going on for us to continue to be novices at the critical skill of managing it. No one to my knowledge has yet written the definitive piece on this subject. However, as I review the work that I have done helping organizations to manage change, several key learnings emerge. This paper therefore is intended to record these learnings to-date with hopefully more to come, as experience and wisdom increase.


Change is a Process


One of the most frequent mistakes I have seen managers make is to view change as a project. All too often in the corporate world managers view change as one more project to be completed, one more item to be checked off the 'to do' list, one more deadline to meet. Change is a process - always has been and likely always will be. This means that those managers who understand process and use process to accomplish their ends are those who are most likely to "get it" and make real change happen. Understanding change as a process requires us to understand the spider's web of complexity that we are required to pay attention to, if we are really going to make significant change.


One of the most consistently made errors in the change management business, emblematic of not understanding process, is the failure to attend to building the case for change in the minds of the group which will need to change. Even using the phrase "building the case for change" begins to illustrate what I mean. Many managers enter a change situation from the point of view that the necessity for change must be obvious. "How could anyone fail to see it as I do?" The fact is that people rarely see things exactly the same way, and therefore each person involved in change needs to build his/her own case for why this change makes sense.


Management's job is to know how people typically build a case for change in their own minds and what issues need to be covered, and then to provide people with the information they will need to fill in the blank spots and make up their own minds. The result is the difference between commitment and compliance; it is the difference between short term acquiescence and long term real difference; and usually it is the difference between success and failure.


Where to Begin?


A second issue that I see many management and change teams struggle with is where to start. Almost invariably I will hear "the only way we will get this done is if we have buy-in from the top, so let's not even bother to move ahead until we have 'them' on our side. " Margaret Wheatley (Leadership and the New Science) has the best handle on this when she speaks about the systemic nature of life and most organizations. Almost any real change in the corporate "body" will eventually be felt in the rest of the "body." Obviously, the extent of the effect will depend on the magnitude of the change. Most organizations refuse to look at change systemically because they are mesmerized by the corporate governance structure. They believe that the top must drive change because of the basic Parent to Child governance structure we are saddled with. Organizations that try to drive change from the top typically do not succeed in getting what can really be called change, but rather compliance. Once the search light and attention is turned off of the "cause de jour" the inevitable happens - the system returns to normal. Again Margaret Wheatley's insights are appropriate - "a body at rest tends to stay at rest, a body in motion tends to stay in motion"; hence, all systems are prone to return to "normal".


The wise change leader then picks a spot where the workforce is amenable to change, where there are circumstances on the side of change and where there are business imperatives that will support the change once the change team has left. This is not always at the top of the organization, nor does it need to be.


Don't Depend Only on Staff


A third often-made mistake in the change business is delegating the responsibility for change to a staff unit. The staff of most organizations will rarely be able to accomplish a major change in an organization, because they are not the core business of the organization. The staff's role in the change process is to outline a process by which change can happen. The meat on the bones of this outline will have to be provided by the core business groups. This is the only way that the change effort will have the impetus of the business imperative. If the change does not in some way relate to and benefit the core business, than we are again back in the compliance business and not the change business.


Recently I worked with an organization where this principle was being adhered to. A "staff" group had been convened to create a change in one of the major processes of the core business. The team was made up of leading practitioners of the core business, plus some staff folks who knew about change. What they set about doing was to create a new process that made sense to those who were doing the main business of the firm, and one that also made sense to their customers. The twin drivers of practitioners and customers leading the way helped this company avoid a "try it, you'll like it" approach to change management. Every step of the way, the pieces of this change effort were first partially designed by, and then put into practice by, core business practitioners. It was their excitement about the potential of this new way of doing business that then fueled the momentum of the change. This was not a castor oil pill from corporate, but rather a well-orchestrated effort to stay in touch with the ''client" and to remember who that was. The fact that the customers of the firm were also an integral part of this process helped the practitioners who doubted the value of this effort to overcome their misgivings and questions. The orchestrators of this effort understood how to conduct a change process and avoid the project mentality as well.


Change Takes Time


A final observation on managing change suggests that all too often managers are insensitive to the time it will take, and to timing in general. A recent engagement found me trying to mop up some of this insensitivity around time. This story involved an acquisition situation where management totally miscalculated the time it would take people to be ready to accept their "new life". The CEO of this organization decided that the new beginning was something that happened on the day that the final approval was received for the acquisition to take place. This artificial date had nothing to do with the stages that the people were in, relative to letting go of the old and making way for the new. This kind of blindness and insensitivity to what it takes for us to change is rampant and more the norm then the exception.


In this period of continuous overlapping change we are asking ourselves and our people to move through these stages at a dizzying pace. Managers and leaders who are desperate to save their companies or to be more competitive rush ahead at breakneck speed to force change down the throats of their people in hopes of catching the next brass ring. These same folks are prime targets for publications and schemes that promise rapid-fire change and overnight success. Leading change is in fact an art - the art of "knowing when to hold 'em and knowing when to fold 'em," when to push and when to back off and give people time to assimilate, grieve, etc. Those who know how to paint their way through the change process and come out at the other end with a masterpiece are those who know something about human nature, those who care, and most of all, those who are willing to listen and be led, as well as lead.

copywrite  K. Palmer Hartl Associates, 2000





Six tips for turning a Seasonal Job into a Permanent Job



In this tight job market there may be any number of people who land seasonal work who wish to turn it into full time work.   Don’t,  underestimate the value of “ having your nose under the tent”.  What I mean by that is that there is nothing like having exposure to the business and its people for a period of time to better position yourself for longer term employment. 


Most managers will tell you that it is not easy to make a successful hire.  Even with the best employment  process there is nothing like being able to live some life with someone to see how they really fit and how they really work.  


So if you are able to land some part time work and you are looking for full time work, take advantage of the great opportunity that you have to show who you are and what you can do.  Here are some tips for how you might be able to turn a part time season job into a full time situation. 


1     Strut your best stuff  - First Impressions are lasting.

Great attention to detail is a key part of putting your best foot forward.  , when you , how , your willingness to than what the minimum that the job description requires are all places where you have a chance to make an impression.  Even if the seasonal job isn’t the job you want, if you can make a good impression on the boss you have a chance of leveraging this to see what else is available in the company.  By all means make sure you demonstrate that you related to being employed. 


2     Share your perspective on how well the work is being done

One of the things that being a new employee gives you is the opportunity to see what is happening with a fresh pair of eyes.  Most long- term employees have already been compromised by the system and have learned to live with it and in it.   Maybe it is a good system and there is nothing much that you can add, but maybe there are things that you see that could improve the way work gets done. 


Of course it is potentially difficult to give the boss feedback about the unit that is not flattering, but if you are careful, you can do it in such a way that you position yourself as a person who is wanting to be helpful, not a critical accusatory Parent.   


If you do have something to say, one thing that makes it easier to hear is to ask permission to give the feedback.  It might go something like this.  “ Boss, if you are interested, I have some thoughts about how the operation could be made more productive.”


If you get permission to go ahead, stick to the facts, and definitely do not “trash” any specific individual.  This has to be a strictly Adult conversation.  “As I see it, here is what is not working and here is an idea about how it might be better”.   This feedback will be better if you wait until you have been there several weeks. 


3     What can you do that needs doing?

Having you nose under the tent, will also allow you to see whether they are things that need doing in the organization or business that no one is doing.   Offering yourself as the person to fill that need, is way to create a position for yourself.  In the best case the employer will agree with you that it needs doing and find a way to employ you to do it. 


4     Do you love this work?  If so, say so!

If you find that the work you are doing really turns you on, let the employer know that.   In a time when so many people are disengaged from their work and just going through the motions, many employers will experience it as refreshing to find someone who really wants to do the work that he has to do.  Studies show that currently only about 13% of workers world- wide say they feel engaged at work. 

Of course this will fall flat on its face if you are making this up.  It must be genuine, and come from the heart to be credible.  Perhaps it’s not the whole job, but just one aspect of it that you like.  If so, say that!


5     Resume Building

Whether this season job becomes a full time position, you can certainly use this experience for building your resume.  This is especially true for those who are new to the workforce.  Many jobs are advertised as wanting experience.  Part of this is because employers do not want to have to “break in” a new employee.  Even if the job is short term it is a job and you did get paid and it can be put on your resume


6     Get a recommendation

Some companies have a policy against giving recommendations,  but other do not.  If you have done a good job and your boss agrees ask for a recommendation.  You can even offer to make it easy on the person and provide a draft of a recommendation highlighting what you thing are your outstanding skills and attributes.  If the boss likes it and is willing to sign it, you can type up a final copy and get the signature and you have something that is worth while for your next application. 

The Dark Side of Political Life: 5 Ways to Promote Civil Discourse


K. Palmer Hartl wants to know if we’d really rather sling mud and throw stones than talk about the real political issues facing our society today.


Do we have to continue with “I’m okay and you’re an idiot” in our political life? The short answer is no, but getting there will not be easy.  For months now we have been subjected to unremitting political ads that attempt to portray the opponent as a bad person.  “They will do this to you”……   “They are this (negative) kind of person” and so on. As people came out of the polls from the 2014 Midterm elections, one of the common things said was how people were looking forward to the end of relentless attack ads.

We can be assured that the ads will stop, but will the rhetoric and interaction get any better?  I believe it can if people are willing to affirm the essential worth of the opponent or the person with a different idea.

What was remarkable about this campaign was that for the most part there was very little discussion about the key issues that are confronting our country.  The attacks, you see, are all about discrediting the other person, so that we are not even interested in what they have to say.

We can be assured that the ads will stop, but will the rhetoric and interaction get any better?

The solution seems to lie in actually having a discussion about the issues.   We need a conversation about immigration reform, we need a conversation about tax reform, we need a conversation about the role of government in our lives, and most of all we need a conversation about how to deal with the changing economy that continues to not produce the kind of jobs that will allow many people to make a decent living.

To do this we will have to focus on some specific techniques and practices that promote civil discourse.

Stick to the subject:

Whenever the conversation drifts away from the topic, the economy, the tax code, etc., someone needs to bring it back to the subject. This mean that all parties must be good at side stepping the temptation to slam the other person and to portray them as stupid.

Tell me more:

Use the words – “Tell Me More.” When you hear the other person say something that either you don’t understand or that makes your blood boil, ask them to tell you more about what they are thinking.   Elaborating on a bad idea will eventually show it to be what it is, no good. On the other hand when the person “tells you more”, it may be that you will hear something that actually starts to persuade you that they have a point.


Listening is not just waiting for the other person to stop talking.  Listening is being able to say back to the other person what it is that you have just heard them say.   “So if I am hearing you correctly, what you are saying is that you think that we need a Value Added Tax instead of what we are doing now.  This is a technique called reflection.    When a person repeats back to you or summarizes what you have said, they can determine whether you were listening or not.  The benefit of this is that people like to be listened to and if they understand that you are listening to them they may do you the reciprocal favor.

Meet with people face –to- face:

Our cyber world has created distance in our relationships.  This makes it easier to treat the other person with less respect.  Even though these electronic statements are part of the permanent record, people seem to be willing to say all sorts of things in e-mail and other forms of electronic communication that they would never think of saying in a face- to- face conversation.

Stop catastrophizing:

If we are to return to a situation where civil discourse if possible, we need to dial back the dire predictions that we have been making about where the other guy is taking us.   There is little short of nuclear war that will change the face of the world in one day.  The policies that are under discussion and which have brought us to such a state of enmity and dysfunction will not and can not destroy us in one day or one month or one year for that matter.   Almost all of the policy disagreements that face the country will take a long time to play out.   Those who hyperbolize and claim that the sky is falling would have us believe otherwise.  We must confront that kind of thinking and take our time to hear each other out to come to the best solution.

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To Train or to Fire, That is the Question


Most managers at some point in their careers will face the dilemma of whether to provide an underperforming employee with training or to fire the person and find someone who can do the job better.  This is a difficult decision to make and making the wrong choice can mean a waste of resources and perhaps the continuation of a job not being done the way it should be. 


So how should managers make this judgment?  The main question that managers need to ask themselves is whether the underperformance is the result of a lack of knowledge and skills that the job requires or whether the lack of performance is due to a problem with attitude or behavior. 


If the answer is that it is a skill deficit, then all else being equal the manager should pursue a training solution.  Most people can learn new things and new skills to put them into action. 


If,  for example,  you have a designer working for you who grew up designing with paper and pencil and you believe that he needs to learn how to use a cad program and the computer, then given time there is a good chance that a good designer can learn how to use this new technology.  What he may need from the manager is a line in the sand saying you need to do this to stay in this job and be competitive and the resources to support the training. 


If on the other hand you have an employee who has a behavioral problem, let’s say that the person is abrasive and maybe even abusive to his employees, the likelihood that training will solve the problem is much more remote. 


I have had many such cases over the years, both in the training room and in coaching sessions.  Behavioral problems like this are difficult to change and managers are notoriously bad at being the ones to help. 


One of the main reasons that managers are poor at doing this is that they are not trained to deal with psychologically motivated behavioral problems.   This is what therapists are for. 


Secondly,  many people with these kinds of behaviors have no intention of changing.  Even when threatened with being fired,  many will only pretend to do something about it.  A person with behavioral problems needs to decide that they want to be different.  Even when this is the case the road to new behavior is long and difficult. 


To embrace these notions a manager will likely need to become more comfortable firing people.  Instead what I see all too often is managers who try to “ fix” the underperformer.   


One final way to check yourself is to ask yourself the following question, “Between me and the employee, who is working harder at improving the underperforming employee’s performance?”  If the answer is you, the manager, you will know that you have made the wrong choice about whether to train or fire.  

Coping with the Holidays


We all know that for those who observe the late November and December holidays life can be hectic.  Most of us no longer have someone at home who is polishing the silver, decorating the house and baking the cookies or what ever treat goes with your holiday celebration. 


Today’s workers are doing it all.  They are bringing home the bacon and having to cook it as well.  During normal times this can be stressful, but during the end of year holidays it can be even more difficult.  Added to this is the fact that in these post recession times, workforces are leaner than ever.  Additionally people are also worried about the security of their jobs.  All of this all adds to the stress. 


The wise manager knows that this is the case and does some thinking about what might be done so that the stress from work does not make things worse.  At a minimum this means planning the workload so that it is not at the peak during the holidays.  Maximally it means doing some of the following things:


Six ways for managers to help employees reduce stress during the Holidays. 


Don’t Mind-Read  - We may think that we know what everyone in our unit is going though during the holiday, but the likelihood is that we don’t.  So in the spirit of “servant leadership” ask them individually and collectively how you can help make the season better for them. 


One size does not fit all  - In our pluralistic, secularizing world,  don’t assume that the holidays are the same for everyone.  For some they may not be holidays at all.  In fact, finding out the situation for each of the people who report to you might help you do a better job of initiating some trade offs and balancing the workload.  


Get the team or working group to help itself  - In addition to talking with people individually about what is ahead for them during the holidays, have a team meeting where folks can share with each other what is up for them individually and how they can work better together to shoulder the workload so everyone can have a less stressful holiday season.


Oil the Machine - This is a time of year when one of the best things you   can do for your people is to have the unit you manage working optimally.   In anticipation of the holidays convene the team to deal with things that are getting in the way of the unit working optimally.  If there are individuals who are not pulling their weight and you have procrastinated about speaking with them, better now than later. 


Encourage people to take unused time off  -  American workers are not taking their vacation time.  They are afraid that if they are not at work, things will pass them by and in the worst case people will decide that they can get along without them and that they will be fired.  Assuming that you can get the work done, reassure them that it is okay with you for them to take some time off during the holidays to enjoy themselves and their families.  Not only give them permission, but give them encouragement to “recreate” themselves.


Do we want a Holiday Party?   


There is no doubt that there is a long tradition, at least in some workplaces, for the office Christmas party.   The question that is raised by this in a pluralistic secular society is whether this is still a good idea. Here again it might be that the best way to approach this is to ask the people who work for you whether they indeed still want to have this function.  Over the years I have heard many people, regardless of their faith persuasion, talk about this event as an obligation.   Sometimes you just need to ask to make sure that these traditions are really what people want. 



Two Underutilized Management Tools


How to work to Outputs, not Inputs

When to Fire and When to Train


One of the things that CEOs and other senior managers often puzzle about is why they don’t get a greater level of innovation and creativity from their employees.  They say that they are looking for new ideas and people who will take some risks and plow some new ground. 


It’s likely they and other managers in the organization are making a management error in managing to Inputs, not Outputs.  In doing that,  they imply, if not require, that employees not innovate or take risks. 


Working to Inputs means that managers basically describe a job in terms of what they want to person to do.  For example, if I have a lawn to take care of, I might say,    “I want you to cut the grass every week. “  This is managing to Inputs.  In fact we write elaborate job descriptions that contain many Inputs, things that the employee is supposed to do in order to do the job correctly.  This long list of Inputs often causes us to lose sight of what it is that we have actually hired the person to do. 


What are the Outputs of the job?  


In my grass-cutting example, the Output of lawn maintenance is a green lawn that looks neat and trimmed.  One of the Inputs to lawn maintenance, of course, is cutting the grass, but at certain times of the year cutting the grass once a week is a great way to end up with a brown patch in front of the building. To achieve a green lawn, I may need to water, to rake, to plant (more Inputs), or to do nothing at all. 


If I tell my employees what the Output of the job is, and additionally say “I will leave it up to you how you accomplish this,” I have immediately opened up the possibility of individual expression and individual action.  Who knows what people might dream up as a way to accomplish the job? Possibly things that we have never thought of! 


To manage in this way requires that the manager, the employee and the organization all be willing to take some risks.   With latitude for individual creativity will come some failures.


An organizational culture that rewards obedience and compliance will continue to manage to Inputs.  It is safer and more predictable.  An organization that wants to engender some creativity and innovation might explore managing to Outputs and see what happens.  This will definitely send a different message.


When to Fire and When to Train


A second management practice that can soak up a huge amount of time,  resources and lost productivity is trying to “fix” employees who should be fired. 


None of us like to fire someone, or at least most of us don’t.  Often managers, when they encounter an employee who is not performing well, will seek to provide the employee with training or coaching.   This is fine when the problem that the employee is presenting is something that training will improve.  But it is not the right thing to do in many cases where it is used. 


Many of the things that cause employees to fail are personality related.  The non- assertive person who is in a job that requires her to be assertive is an example.


The non- assertive manager is not going to suddenly become assertive because the job requires it or because the manager sends the person to assertiveness training.  


First, does this person want to be more aggressive? People don’t change  easily and especially when they haven’t decided that they want to.    Even if the person does want to change, it will take a lot of work to make this happen.  Most managers do not have the capability to do this change work and should not even try.   This person likely needs to be fired or moved to a different job that does not require assertiveness.    



A training problem is an older worker who finds himself in a job requiring computer skills he doesn’t have.   Given a normal intelligence this is something that can be trained.  People can learn new computer skills. 


Firing someone who is not performing is hard to do, but can be good for the manager, the organization, and ultimately for the employee.  No one likes to constantly fail at what they are spending 40 hours a week trying to do.   Better to cut the tie and find something they can do where they will be successful.  This is the more humane thing to do for all concerned. 

Thou Shalt Manage People as Adults Not as Children


How to get more creativity and productivity from your employees


Entrepreneur  Magazine  fall 2014


We hire grownups,  don’t we?  Or do we? 


We manage as adults,  don’t we? I am not so sure. 


Unfortunately far too many managers operate psychologically as Parents and far too many employees function psychologically as Children. 


The consequences of this, is that many American businesses are not realizing the full potential of their labor forces and creativity and  productivity suffers.


Managers who operate psychologically as Parents do several things that are counter productive:   


  • Parent managers make far too many decisions for those who work for them; just count the number of e-mails they get.

  • Parent managers can and do use their positional, one- up power status,  as a way to intimidate and demand conformity and obedience.

  • Parent managers can find themselves in the position of trying to “fix” employees who should be offered training by experts or  should be terminated. 



Employees who operate in the workplace from the Child position do the following:


  • They seek and ask for permission for most any action, especially anything that could be deemed controversial or out of the norm.

  • They rarely take creative risks, and often operate from survivor mode, doing little to distinguish themselves or call attention to themselves.

  • They spend an inordinate amount of time worrying about the security of their situation; “Does the boss still love me?”  “ Am I about to get fired?”


All of these behaviors are less than what most senior managers, especially entrepreneurial ones, are looking for from their employees.

What we want our bosses to do is to leverage their own capabilities, so that they can go on to new things, not do the same job as they people they manage.     What we want from our employees is for them to find the new more productive ways to get work done, discover the next big thing and use their creativity - their minds.   


The Parent to Child management employee paradigm does not get us there. 


So,  what to do? 


  • First bosses need to have an honest conversation with themselves about whether they are operating psychologically as Parents or Adults with the people who report to them. 


These questions will help you decide:

  • How many e-mails do you get a day where you are being asked to make a decision for one of your employees?

  • Do you have any people who work for you, where you are trying to change their behavior?

  • Do you wonder why you can’t seem to get a straight answer from anyone?


  • Ask for some feedback from a coach, your employees, or your colleagues.  Better yet,  get some from all of them.  It is easy to delude yourself about how you come across.


  • Stop making decisions for those who work for you.  Instead say, “What have you thought to do about this?”  This will likely be difficult for both you and them at first, but you must wean them away from the dependency of having you decide everything.


  • Find out what the employees need you to do to support them.  Servant managers and leaders who are focused on what they can do to enhance the productivity of their employees are less likely to be in the Parental position.


  • Be willing to manage to Outputs, not Inputs.  Outputs are the product you want the employee to produce, Inputs are the things we often see in job descriptions.  Often these Inputs are a series of duties that the employee will perform.  Managing to Outputs means that you are leaving it up to the employee to figure out how to achieve the Output/Product of the job.  Who knows,  someone may discover a better way to do this work than you ever thought of.


  • Be willing to risk a failure.  If you are a manger who is a “control freak” you can almost guarantee that you are managing as a Parent.  Adults are wiling to risk the possibility of a failure.  No kid ever got to be an effective functioning grownup without having the chance to fail by doing it on their own. 



The beauty of this notion is that both the manager and the employee will find that there is more satisfaction at work.  Should you decide to move in this direction,  don’t underestimate the difficulties of the transition period.   Some people will find it very unsettling to make this shift.  The promise is greater satisfaction, greater productivity, and enhanced creativity. 



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