Lowest Common Denominator

Manage for your winners- don’t resort to designing your management systems for your bottom tier!

If you were awake in sixth grade math you probably remember the concept of the lowest common denominator in order to work with fractions. The concept was to evaluate and manipulate the numbers to obtain the lowest common number in order to make the denominator the same in order to solve the problem.

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This general concept is also used in management by instituting a series of rules to control issues that are occurring with employees. This set of rules are typically directed to only a few violator employees who are not performing or typically ride the edge of acceptability.

The root of the problem is that these employees are either disengaged, not managed properly, or are lacking feedback on a regular basis. Management by the lowest common denominator is a passive-aggressive style of management. Rather than attack the real problem, the manager will attempt to “hem in” the problem employee by developing a set of often silly rules in order to address issues in an attempt to keep employees productive.

The issue here is that this management theory requires that these rules apply to all employees. Your best performer and your worst performers.  Your best performers will resent being held to stupid rules. So you are actually catering to the lowest common denominator instead of attacking the real problem.

Don’t default to this style of management. Concentrate on the relatively few violators and address the issues at the root. Using a rules based system to lead your team is never the best way to lead. If your team members are not engaged and need constant attention then replace them. Resorting to the lowest common denominator style of management will cause unneccessary damage.

Lead your team. Provide continuous feedback. Let them know where they stand at all times.  Give them specific tasks and deadlines. Be a leader. Don’t punish your best performers by forcing them to comply with stupid rules.

Rules are for math problems, not leadership.

So what do you think? Have you experienced this management style before?  Click on “Leave and Comment” and tell me about your experience.

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