Dann’s Principles of Management, Round 2

40+ years ago, our founder Bill Dann, created the Dann Principles of Management based on his experiences both leading organizations and watching others lead.  He posted a blog several years ago, listing the 9 principles and defining them for our readers. At the time, he wrote “Some of the principles still hold very true, some I would modify based on what I have learned since then, and I absolutely would add to the list were I starting anew today.” This post and several that will follow take a look at the changes, the additions and most importantly, how you can use Dann’s Principles to greatly improve your management skills. 

In this first post, we want to give the context for Dann’s Principles and provide a foundation you can build on in the coming months. To start that off, we asked Bill if there were one or two of the Principles that are essential or foundational to the others. Bill responded that rather than a particular principle that is more important, there are two predominant themes he discovered as he looked back over the original list years later and added to them.  Those themes are integrity and empowerment.  

The original set of 9 Principles grew largely out of the failures that Bill had experienced either in his own leadership or that of others he witnessed, and in looking back he realized they almost entirely centered around leader integrity.  Says Bill, “I didn’t fully understand the concept or importance of integrity when I wrote the first set of principles. So instead of it being a single principle – I had it broken down into components.  It wasn’t until later that I realized integrity was the most important principle for management and leadership. Most people aren’t aware of it, but they have a strong ability to identify someone who is not operating with integrity. And they will pull their support, because the individual is dangerous and cannot be depended upon.”

The second group of Dann’s Principles was penned nearly 40 years, hundreds of clients, and a full spectrum of experience later. While the first group focused on integrity, the second set gravitated toward productivity and empowering staff to do their best work. Says Bill: “My first set was developed prior to going down the path of continuous quality improvement and creating our Process Advantage toolbox. They also came before we developed Vision Navigation, which brought in voices of employees.  The core theme of the second set is the importance of empowering employees. In other words, it was less about what management should and shouldn’t do and more about what you enable employees to do and not do. What I have learned since I wrote the first set of principles is the tremendous reservoir of talent and information that resides in the workforce. If you use methods that give employees more power and more self-determination in how they work, you get to high performance.”

An additional word on empowering your staff.  Research in recent years shows that employee engagement is very important. How best to get it? Listening to employees, understanding their points of view and involving them in solving problems that impact their work. If all communication is top-down and one way, employee engagement can’t happen. To engage employees and learn the truth about the organization from their point of view, you must be willing to listen. This goes against the typical “strong leader paradigm” in which the leader dominates the room and the discussion. In contemporary organizations, that paradigm is not the pathway to success.  (Check out our Leadership Series post on Feedback for more on this)

So what to do right now, before we begin rolling out the full set of Dann’s Principles of Management over the next few months? First, assess your integrity. Do you do what you say and say what you do?  Can you be depended on? Are you trustworthy? Ask your team members and direct reports.  Next, listen to employees.  What are they saying about the organization, about top leadership and middle management? What innovative ideas do they have?  

We are excited to roll-out the full set of Dann’s Principles of Management and break them down for you in our upcoming posts. Stay tuned! In the meantime, what Principle of Management have you learned that you believe is essential to the success of a manager? Give us a call or email to join the conversation.