What Goldilocks And The Three Bears Can Teach Us About Management

Christel Deskins

Dan Ryan is the CEO & President of ryan partners. This firm aids clients as they acquire and Vistage and exit planning their business. getty Goldilocks and the Three Bears has to be one of the most told and well-liked stories for young children. While giving this some thought, it also occurred […]

Dan Ryan is the CEO & President of ryan partners. This firm aids clients as they acquire and Vistage and exit planning their business.

Goldilocks and the Three Bears has to be one of the most told and well-liked stories for young children. While giving this some thought, it also occurred to me that there are lessons about managing others that can be learned from this story. I’ll share a little about what Goldilocks learned from her visit to the bears’ home and then explain how it might apply to your world. 

As you may remember, Goldilocks tried porridge, chairs and beds when she visited the bears’ residence. In every case, there was typically something wrong with two of her options, but one of them was just right. This brought to mind how we manage others in the workplace. In many cases, we as managers may over-manage or micromanage those around us with the result being angst and frustration felt by those we are trying to grow and develop. In other cases, we may under manage, paying little attention to the needs and the circumstances at hand and, as a result, those we are responsible for don’t get the feedback and oversite they need to grow in their roles. What we need is a way to know when things are “just right” in how we manage and lead others in our workgroups. Finding that right setting in how you lead and oversee others makes for happy times for those in positions of authority and those working their way up the ladder.

It can sometimes be challenging to know when we reach that “just right” setting. When considering whether to dial up or dial down how we interact with those we are responsible for, there is a helpful model I have often referred to that comes from Spencer Johnson and Ken Blanchard’s book One Minute Manager. Some may say that is a little dated, but I think the principles are just as true today as they were when the book was written in the 1980s. In simple terms, the book looked at employees in two ways: their willingness to do their work and their ability to do their work. This reminds me of another business practice that I’ve read about how Southwest Airlines hires for attitude and trains for skill. Some of you may have adopted the same philosophy in your own managing of others while some may have focused on finding people with the right skills and experiences to hit the ground running.

Goldilocks seemed to always be looking for that right fit and the same holds true when it comes to how you manage others. Managing others in more repetitive roles may require a little more oversite at the outset, but less when they get the hang of what they need to do. On the other hand, managing others who have more complex and less repetitive roles may require a little more oversite and input as you help them grow into roles of competence. It all depends upon their ability to grow and learn in what they do as well as their attitudinal willingness to put in the effort and time to become better at their roles.

As a leader in your organization, one of the things you will also need to do is foster and support a culture that allows your team members to feel appreciated and supported to do what it takes to grow in their roles. Leaders have to manage and provide an environment to allow our team members the ability to find their right spot, their right chair on their career path. Part of this process will involve fully understanding what competencies you are looking for when you make additions to your team, as well as understanding how to instill and support a culture that fosters the right environment to help the team grow. With the cost of turnover high and the amount of time it takes to bring a new team member up to speed, this should be a top priority. Keep in mind what you are doing to foster this culture so that when new members join your team, they will find that right fit quickly.


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