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Turning managers into leaders at Heinz

How many beans make five? Heinz has taken the cliché that a company’s staff are its best asset at face value – and shown that ...

By Anthony Landale 01 September 2005

How many beans make five? Heinz has taken the cliché that a company’s staff are its best asset at face value – and shown that challenging staff to choose their attitude to work can lead to a cultural transformation. Anthony Landale examines how this has led to significant growth for the company – as well as being an inspiring human success story.
Turning managers into leaders at HeinzMost companies will talk loudly about how the employees are their best asset. They then carry on operating in ways that are designed precisely to demotivate and obstruct that very asset.

They do this by imposing controls that slow staff down, and by implementing procedures that frustrate and over-complicate life for the staff. This is all caused by the need for managers to control; but the performance of staff is something that cannot be controlled. And until managers understand this, and develop a different kind of mindset for handling employees, they will never get the best out of their workers.

Managers do have an essential role in helping to create the conditions for high performance. But the real breakthrough for optimisation of human resources appears when employees begin to lead themselves – and make the commitment to bring more of their passion for self-improvement to their working environment.

The evidence that such breakthroughs are within reach comes when you ask people what difference it would make to their performance if they felt inspired. Most people say they could improve by at least 30 per cent. And many people feel confident that they could even double their impact. If these startling figures are true, are there any viable ways in which managers can help people to release this discretionary effort?


Squeezing the bottle


The answer for companies lies in turning their managers into leaders. Firms are always under intense pressure to achieve bottom-line improvements and this typically translates into a demand on people to work harder, faster and more efficiently. But trying to do this through management command is self-defeating. Make this the foundation of an improvement strategy and you will quickly find a workforce that is stressed, exhausted and demoralised.

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