Can a supervisor be too goal oriented?

Plant Engineer Gordon Beasley was growing concerned over the number of gripes and grievances emanating from Project Supervisor Ron Corwin's section in recent months. He asked Dave Runyan, his assistant, to look into it. Runyan blew out his cheeks.
By Raymond Dreyfack December 1, 1998

Plant Engineer Gordon Beasley was growing concerned over the number of gripes and grievances emanating from Project Supervisor Ron Corwin’s section in recent months. He asked Dave Runyan, his assistant, to look into it.

Runyan blew out his cheeks. “Ron’s one of the most technically qualified supervisors in the department.”

“I know he is. So why all the beefs?”

Good question, and a tough one to research. Runyan kicked it off with an informal chat with Corwin which yielded little more than frustration. Ron Corwin was as conscientious as they came; he was also a stiff and formal man.

“My responsibility,” he told Runyan, “is to get the job done right and on time. Unfortunately, not everyone conforms to the same high standards.”

Runyan nodded thoughtfully. “Thanks, Ron. Mind if I talk with some of your people?”

“Not at all. Why should I mind?”

He was back to square one, or was he? The assistant plant engineer next conducted discreet interviews with a few key men in Corwin’s section. They were reluctant to say anything that might be construed as derogatory, but Corwin assured them his objective wasn’t to lay blame, but to make the job more pleasant, harmonious, and productive for all parties involved.

It wasn’t easy, but to a man two viewpoints appeared to prevail.

1. Corwin was tops from a technical standpoint, conscientiously goal-driven. For this he earned his peoples’ respect.

2. From a personal and human standpoint, he didn’t rate so well. He was often brusque, and lacked interest in subordinates’ problems and welfare.

Armed with this information, Runyan reported back to his boss.

Question : In the plant engineer’s place, how would you deal with this problem?

Beasley’s strategy: Plant Engineer Gordon Beasley summoned Corwin to his office and asked him point blank: “Ron, what constitutes an effective manager?”

The project supervisor knew why he’d been summoned. “Getting the job out on time and maintaining high quality standards in the process.”

Beasley smiled. “I couldn’t agree more. Goal-orientation is a critical attribute and I won’t underrate it. But people-orientation is equally important, human compassion and personal interest in one’s subordinates. You score very high as a goal, or production, oriented manager. What I’d like you to do now is take a closer look at yourself as a people- oriented manager. Do you see what I’m getting at?”

Corwin was no fool. “Yes, I do.”

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