“I need some advice: How can I force my team to focus on what I know is important.”

This was a call from a "leader" in a formerly massive organization that's downsizing quickly. Those left standing have become embittered because the workload doesn’t seem to get any smaller even though there were fewer of them to get the tasks done.

With the question he posed, the guy showed a predisposition towards his direct reports that’s pretty common among managers when times get tough. It's part of the bigger problem ailing many of companies today.

My advice to the caller? Unless you're ready to change jobs, you need to learn to embrace at least these two concepts:

1. Power is not the same as force - There’s a real difference between power and force but it’s widely misunderstood. Consequently, when times get tough, in an effort to get more productivity with fewer players, most managers simply try to push their teams ever harder.

This kind of like trying to break your dog of a bad habit by using a whip – it’ll work for a while but at some stage the law of diminishing returns kicks in. And you may end up getting bitten in the butt.

People appreciate being asked for their advice. Especially if the manager is sincere about using it. Team members will give power to the boss if she or he doesn’t use it against them. And, if it's clear he's on the employee's side, the boss will get much more done than would be the case by simply trying to force his decisions downward.

2. You can tell the quality of an organization by those who are leaving it - not those who are joining it.

In an environment where the contribution of everyone is paramount, watch carefully to see who is leaving on her/his own volition.

Sick companies have a way of causing the good players to bail out even if they’ve been told they’re being kept during downsizing or difficult times. The result is that the new players who are recruited end up joining a team of losers and don’t make the hoped-for contribution.

The outlook for the global economy is dicey and my guess is that it’s going to be tougher. Truly great managers will succeed. The rest, holding onto obsolete management approaches, will fail sooner than later.