RRGwrites

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Posts Tagged ‘People Leadership

A Leadership Crucible – Managing Below-Expectations Performance

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Almost everyday, we hear the phrase – ‘performance-improvement plan’ or PIP, as it is famously, or rather infamously, known as. This is a scary word, most of the times, for the employee in question. And if we are talking about an employee who is either new to the company or role, and is not found doing as well as it was envisaged, the phrase becomes all the more grave – again for the employee, i.e..

But what about the role that the supervisor need to play in making this employee successful? Aren’t her stakes as high as the employee himself? And more importantly, what is the role the senior leader(s) play in this entire episode? Because for them, the task is two-pronged – one, to ensure fair chance be given to the employee in question, and two, to make the supervisor and other seniors in the hierarchy learn to deal with this crucial leadership challenge, thereby in the process making them better leaders… and the team-leader has to tread this double-edged sword without losing the sight of organisational goals of result-orientation and productivity. Some challenge, this is!

I have faced this challenge many times in my career as a HR leader. And experience has taught me one thing – there is no shirking of responsibility that can happen, if the leader really wants to make his team successful, in all aspects.

Few years ago, one of my lieutenants came to see me with his subordinate, who was herself a young, promising people-manager. They were perplexed with a similar challenge, as I discussed above. Her predicament was – a newly inducted subordinate of hers, who showed a lot of promise at the outset, was struggling within 6 months of joining. Despite a lot of coaching and guidance by herself and even her own supervisor, this new team-mate’s performance wasn’t up to mark. And worse, the business had started to feel the heat…

A long discussion ensued in my office. For my readers, I am sharing a note that I wrote to this manager, outlining my thoughts and an action plan.

Let me share upfront; this is a rather long note, which I felt was required to cover my thoughts on managing performance and developing a high-performance team. To assist in your reading, I have made necessary modifications. Other than me, the other three characters in the case are:

  1. Ms.ABC – the young people manager;
  2. Mr.JKL – her manager, also my deputy;
  3. Mr.RST – the employee whose performance is being discussed.

Here goes the advise that I gave her:

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Dear ABC

Yesterday, we discussed at length the performance & aptitude challenge that we are currently managing with RST. I heard both you and JKL, and shared my thoughts too. I am writing my notes, as under, to encapsulate my thoughts on this critical leadership challenge that we have on hand.

I have always firmly believed in the gospel of ‘making everyone successful.’ Having said that, to do so is indeed a daunting task for a leader; for multifaceted as the team is, no one ever seems to behave & perform like the other! Out of the lot, the toughest ones to manage are those, who showed a lot of promise & capability while being inducted into the job, but have slipped off the performance charts somewhere.

Now, it requires meticulous thought and concerted action, to bring such team-mate back to where he belongs – road to success for self and team.

Firstly, let me thank both you and JKL for showing commitment towards your team-mate’s development. This is by no means a small act – requires a lot of honesty and courage to stand up and say, “Hey! My team needs to do better, and I am game to make them better, whatever it takes.” Thank you, for recognizing the need for improvement and showing the promise to do better.

Our first step with such a below-expectation performer is to figure out what went wrong. Something did go wrong. Nearly all employees start their new job with positivity, enthusiasm and are raring to go – we all know RST did start like that. Maybe, something along the way diminished his enthusiasm. Or, he killed his own enthusiasm; both are possible in the workplace. Ascertaining the primal cause of this poor performance is the key if you are committed to help teammates like him become, not a poor performer, but a contributing member of our team. No employee decides to have a miserable day at work and feel failure as he leaves the workplace daily. Even an otherwise incompetent or misfit employee wants to do well for himself!

Very importantly, you need to ascertain if RST has his intentions right; for, if he is really a work-shirker, there is little hope for improvement. However, you have all hope if he really wants to succeed. That said, whatever conclusion you arrive at about why he is a below-expectation performer, you must try your level best to turn him around. Start by assuring him that you have faith in his ability to succeed. Inspire through showing the big picture – help him see the what fruits his efforts shall bear – why should he strive to succeed and improve. Guide him and make him set several short-term, achievable goals; which should be time-bound, with clear outcomes about which you agree. Once the goals are set, track execution and progress. And don’t forget the power of daily engagement – make sure he gets an opportunity to record small daily wins; that should take care of the morale front.

We also discussed yesterday the need of a written performance monitoring document. For those who feel that the team-mate who needs a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) will never succeed, I have many success stories to offer – we have seen so many of them succeed. In fact, I have used this to my benefit many a times, in making my team successful. So, I am a believer in the power of a well-planned, measurable PIP that is reinforced by well-intentioned and demonstrated support and encouragement provided by the manager.

We discussed at length yesterday the key ingredients of such a PIP. Some points that I wish to reiterate:

  • Clearly outline parameters of expected improved performance. Please be objective in setting these parameters and explain clearly, leaving no room for ambiguity.
  • State the minimum expectation level of performance. Ensure there is an appreciation of consistency of this improved performance. This is crucial as sporadic spurts of improvement aren’t really sustainable.
  • Discuss and agree the upon feedback mechanism. Specify the time and periodicity of performance reviews. Set the documentation mechanism of each review stage.
  • Ensure he understands measurements of improvement evaluation.
  • Specify what role you shall play in order to make him successful.
  • Explain upfront if he needs to make any changes in behaviour or attitude towards work. Share examples.
  • Focus on ‘what if’ – clearly outline what is the road ahead if expected performance levels aren’t achieved on every parameter, at various review-stages.

With above seven parameters considered, you’d have a robust PIP document ready. With this, ensure you provide any other support, resource, training, et al, which will help him expedite his improvement.

Let me say, I’ve always regarded problems as opportunities to do better, gain experience, and learn more, just to be a little bit smarter and perhaps wiser on how to handle life issues and situations. After all, as they say, we learn best, not by being taught and not by studying or reading, but by experiencing and then reflecting on what we did and what happened and then drawing conclusions and experimenting.

As a coach, I’ve practiced this method with considerable success; it helped me build and develop stronger teams. I am quite inspired by this leadership nugget that I read long ago – ‘the tactics espoused by great managers of people are very simple, they select people based on talent; when setting expectations for the team, they establish the right outcomes; when motivating an individual, they focus on strengths; and, to develop an individual, find the right job fit for the person.’ As we speak, you are currently managing the second and the third aspect, and what will make you successful is the willingness to make your team successful. I am sure; you have it in you do so.

Please do reach out, should you need any support from me.

Happy leading!

RRG

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A rather long note, wasn’t it? However, it helped me manage the challenge at hand. Let me tell you, this worked for all the characters in the story above, it helped each one of us become better. This helped the struggling employee receive a fair chance to demonstrate improved performance, guided and backed by her supervisor’s encouragement and intention to make her team successful. It helped her supervisor learn the leadership lesson in managing poor performance; and helped my lieutenant resolve a crucial team-managing issue and not miss out on either productivity or morale of his team. Given the fact that both these managers were young professionals, they learnt the invaluable lesson on people leadership and taking responsibility for their teammates in an utmost well-intentioned manner, unlike a lot of managers who consider PIP only as route for creating documentation and exiting the employee. What did I get? Well, I got three super-engaged team-mates in return! What more should have I asked for 🙂

Do you agree with my approach? Have you too experienced or observed a similar approach to managing below-expectation performance? Or have you witnessed poor leadership doing the irreparable damage? Do share your thoughts…

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Image-credit: whatisonthetable.wordpress.com

Story Of A Boss Who Cares…

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Caring LeadershipIn the leadership series of my blog, there is a strange trend that I have noted over the period of years. Every time I have written about poor bosses/managers/leaders, the readership of my blog swells. A clear signal that there indeed is a leadership deficit all of us face across levels, industries and geographies!

However, the world also has some brilliant managers; who give us hope that we shall continue to come across good leaders in our careers. Hence, it becomes imperative for me to write and share about good leaders, as and when I come across them. So, this one is to share a simple, yet superb story of one such great manager…

Here is how it was experienced by someone I know…

So, this person worked with a renowned management consulting firm. Got a good offer and wanted to move out after serving an appropriate notice-period. However, it wasn’t as easy. He was an integral part of the senior team involved in a crucial client project, which had just begun. The project was ambitious and relationship with client delicate; and required all attention, commitment and experience that this team could bring to table. So, an early exit was simply out of question – and the conversation with senior leadership wasn’t encouraging at all. “No early release”, he was told clearly…

To make an early exit an even more complicated issue, there was a pressing personal reason too. This person and his wife were expecting a baby, and the doctor had allowed only a small window for safe-travel for a vacation. And those of you who have gone through parenthood would appreciate that if this couple weren’t able to avail this vacation, they would not have found time or energy for at least next couple of years to break away, with a baby and allied changes coming in their lives.

Well – three intertwined issues needed resolution – timely and smooth handover and exit, in time to encash that miniscule window of travel, and be back in time to joining the new role!

It was here when the Boss took over. She heard the issue empathetically, took pains to understand the issues at hand and showed genuine appreciation of the same. Fully aware that the outgoing person was a key member of the crucial project they were in and that replacement wasn’t easy, she assured the best possible cooperation to her subordinate. Well, don’t all bosses promise the same, you’d ask, and yet end up delivering only lip-service? No, not this one. She meant it for real. In order to help, she mobilized her network, organized support, looked for possible replacements, spoke with the client & made them understand, and above all, also convinced her own boss! She took a bold risk, indeed. All so that her subordinate and his wife do not end up missing out on that crucial break!

When I came across this story, I was overwhelmed! And I was also pleased to note that while we all keep cribbing about bosses from hell and what not, with such managers existing, there is hope for leadership, indeed there is. In my view, she could do it because she cared, authentically. Authenticity and Genuine Care for One’s Team – twin bedrocks of true leadership. And it did remind me of what Henry Gruland said,

“Being the leader is more than just wanting to lead. Leaders have empathy for others and a keen ability to find the best in the people… not the worse… by truly caring for others.”

I am sure this story would inspire some of us, and will help us be better leaders… I know for sure that this subordinate was truly inspired!

Now it is your turn. Do you have a story, an experience of a great boss? Do share…

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Image-credit: alameleadership.com

How Will You Fare As A Boss, As Compared to Your Own Boss?

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Time for LeadershipHow often you’d observe someone cribbing about his or her boss? Quite ubiquitously, you’d say. And how often YOU would do so yourself – crib and find follies in your own boss?

Every day, I meet a LOT of people complaining and finding errors in their bosses. However, in my experience, only a rare few also try and look inside inwards, check their own leadership styles and introspect, asking self, “What kind of a supervisor am I?” and “How do I better myself so that at least my juniors do not crib and complain against me, especially for the same very things that I find objectionable in my boss…”

Now, isn’t that’s one hell of a difficult question to ask self?

This one is to all the supervisors, bosses, managers and leadership aspirants – let’s spend some time introspecting on this moot question, at the very outset of this brilliant, promising new year 2014, and become better people leaders.

To help you begin this journey of introspection, I am leaving you with what F. Scott Fitzgerald, one of the finest American authors of the 20th century, wrote in his novel, ‘The Love Of The Last Tycoon’:

“Credit is something that should be given to others. If you are in a position to give credit to yourself, then you do not need it.”

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Image-credit: practiceprinciples.net

Do You Work On Your Strengths?

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I have been a big proponent of following my strengths and bettering them year after year, than only focusing on what my weaknesses are. Not that I do not work on my development areas, it is just that I focus more on my strengths – and believe you me, it pays.

strengths-vs-weaknessesToday, I am writing this blog to share with you what Marcus Buckingham, a British-American bestselling author has been saying. A key promoter of ‘Strengths’, he has written extensively on this subject, basing his writing on far-reaching survey data from interviews with employees working all over the world. He has been stressing that people will get the best results by making the most of their strengths rather than by putting too much emphasis on weaknesses.

As an ardent student of leadership, I have been following his work for a while. And I must tell you; quite a lot of his writing has given me a lot of learning in the realm of people leadership. Some of his thoughts are quite simple, yet astonishingly effective.

Now, let me say, this one is a rather long blog… and in these twitter-happy times, it may appear even longer to some of you! However, in case you aspire to be a leader, do read on…

Here are the top 12 nuggets of his wisdom that I wish to share with you:

  1. Hand Off Praise. One key to success as a manager: when praise comes to your team, hand it off to your people; but when criticism comes, stand in front of them and be their shield. Deflect the praise and take the criticism, and they will do anything for you.
  2. Break the Golden Rule. The best managers break the Golden Rule. Do not treat each person on your team as you would like to be treated — this assumes that your team members each share the same strengths as you. And they don’t. Instead, treat each person as he or she would like to be treated. Treat each person as his or her strengths demand.
  3. The Two Things Your Team Members Need. Although your people want many things from you, their two most pressing needs are: 1) Does my team leader know me for what I do best? 2) Has my team leader set me up to do what I do best most of the time? Meet these two needs and your team will win. Miss on these two needs and everything else you try as a team leader will be less effective.
  4. Do You Make Your People Feel This Way? Think of the best team leader you’ve ever had. Get him or her clearly in mind. How did that team leader make you feel? Did he or she know you for what you do best? Did this team leader give you opportunities to show what you were capable of? Did he or she know how to focus, recognize and challenge you? Did you know this team leader would support you if you made a mistake? Do you make your people feel this way?
  5. Focus on Their Wins. You can’t be insecure and be a great team leader. Your insecurity will cause you to compete with your own people, which is the opposite of what a great team leader does. You are there to speed up their success, not compete with it.
  6. Experiment More. You value experimentation and hands-on experience. This drives your people. They know that it’s okay to make mistakes. They will soon appreciate that you expect them to articulate what they learned from those mistakes and thereby increase organizational wisdom. Make this an explicit part of your leadership.
  7. Strengths ROI. Great team leaders invest in each person’s strengths for these three reasons: a) Strengths are an accelerator: people will learn faster in an area of strength. b) Strengths are a multiplier: people are more creative in their areas of strength, more collaborative, and more insightful. c) Strengths are a reinforcer: people are more resilient in areas of strength — if they experience a setback or poor performance in an area of strength, they bounce back faster.
  8. The Real You. Show your people your personality. Sometimes they feel they don’t really know you. Take the time to tell personal stories and they will feel more connected. You don’t have to be the entertainer at the front of the room; just look for opportunities to make personal connections as you walk the office or share their successes.
  9. Practice Individualization. The most important skill you must develop, as a team leader, is individualization: namely, do you know how your people are different from one another, and have you figured out how to make the most of those differences? Perfect this skill and you will excel as team leader.
  10. Know Their Triggers. As a team leader, your job is to speed up the reaction between the strengths of each of your people and the goals of your team. You can do this job only if you know clearly how to trigger each person on your team in the right way. Remember, strengths are an accelerator, a multiplier and a reinforcer.
  11. The What, How and Why. Ensure that your people are prepared. Clearly articulate the what, how and why of “quality” and the steps needed to maximize it. Create opportunities to practice activities your people might be expected to perform. That way, when it comes time to measure the “quality” of their work, they won’t fear this; they will look forward to it.
  12. Get In Their Shoes. Support your people’s training and lead by example by keeping yourself up-to-date. Take over for someone on your team occasionally, to keep abreast of system changes and challenges. Keep in mind, if you’re able to use a system more efficiently than your people, that’s probably a good opportunity to give them additional support and training.

With these leadership nuggets from Marcus Buckingham, I am signing off for the year. Hope some of these learning will help you take on the leadership journey in 2014 with all your ‘strengths’.

All the best…

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Image-credit: thebloodsugarwhisperer.wordpress.com

5 Things You Should Say Today As A Team Leader

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LeadershipWhen I wrote my recent blog on ’10 Mean Things You Shouldn’t Say To Your Star Performers’, many of my readers, friends and colleagues, who were team-leaders themselves, asked my views on the things they should be saying to their teams. That made me think… for there isn’t any dearth of to-dos on this subject. Try googling, and you will get a laundry list of things leaders should be saying to their team-mates.

However, after much deliberation and digging into my own experience of observing leaders and managers and managing large, diverse teams, I am of the view that as a Team Leader, you should be saying these 5 things to your team, given the opportunity, daily:

  1. I am observing the efforts being put in by you. Thank you and keep up the good work. I am sure many subordinates don’t get to hear this sentence from their Team Leader. And worse, at time when they do hear it, it is mostly a lip-service done. Authentic and timely recognition is what a team looks for from their manager.

  2. Hey, all conflict is not necessarily negative. Let’s use it constructively to get better as a team. At times, two or more teammates, either in their pursuit of excellence or otherwise, enter into conflicts of all sorts. Affirmation from the leader that all conflict is not necessarily negative, will not only bring positive energy, but will also help teammates connect better, resolve the issue and not confuse conflict with personal vendetta or mala fide intentions.

  3. It is great that you disagree with me on this subject. I am sure It will bring a different view, let’s understand what you have in mind. This one’s a real big gap today. Leaders often have and/or demonstrate, sometimes inadvertently, big egos. Allowing your teammate to disagree with you is not only helpful in building an open culture, it also saves you from falling prey to the ‘The Boss knows it all syndrome.’

  4. Let me know if you need any help; I am there. All of us look for help from our leaders, and the need is all the more crucial when we fail or make mistakes. When the team hears its leader say that it is OK to fail, and that she will help if they do, it does wonders to the team’s morale and output.

  5. Hey, I told you that I will call you back when you reached out to me. Sorry, mate, I was not able to. Let’s connect quickly now. We all know boss is always busy; but if he is so busy that he forgets to call back most of the times, disconnects start. Even if you say this sentence once a day to one of your team-mate, albeit authentically, not only he, but others will also appreciate your leadership.

Are you a team-leader? Then do you agree with above? Please tap into your experience feel free to add to the above list.

Do you work with Team Leaders? Do you hear above sentences from your leaders? Do share your experiences.

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Post-script: You would have observed the extra stress I have laid on the word ‘Authentic’. Well, that is the real key in leadership & communication. You may read about it in detail here (‘Are You An Authentic Leader’).

My Deputy Is Doing Well. And I Am NOT Threatened!

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BossExamples of quality leadership in our daily lives are almost a rarity. It is even uncommon to see a supervisor allowing & appreciating the growth of his second-in-command. In fact, the world knows so-called-leaders who rather feel unduly threatened if the deputy performs brilliantly and is ready to take on higher roles!

So, today it felt food quite good to read what Mahendra Singh Dhoni had to say about his deputy – Virat Kohli. The most successful-ever Indian Cricket team captain was not only all praises for the vice-captain’s coming of age and successful captaincy stint during the series at Zimbabwe, he was more than pleased to see the youngster easing into the leadership role.

Appreciating the evolution of Virat from a consistently performing star batsman into a mature player and leader, Dhoni said, “The best thing about him is that he is very expressive, and that helps a captain… He now has all the ingredients to lead a side…”

Now, that’s a true leader talking. Mind you, he isn’t only praising; he is rather making a strong case for Virat as a captain. And yet, one can note that Dhoni is least bit insecure to do so, while he knows there can be only one captain of Team India – and right now, he himself occupies that role! Some self-belief, team-spirit and personal integrity, this is…

Not only such examples of leadership magnify high self-assurance and self-confidence, it also amply demonstrates the leader’s commitment towards nurturing his subordinates, timely succession planning and talent development, in a concerted and committed manner. Much unlike than the unauthentic gibberish that does the rounds during annual talent management exercises in the corporate world.

My first boss taught me a valuable lesson – the key to success for any deputy is to do such good work that his boss gets promoted and recommends him for taking his spot!

And here is what I derived from my own experiences of leading teams – another imperative lesson – the key for any boss to do well and become successful is to grow his subordinates; nurturing them into leaders, sometimes even better than him. And certainly, not feeling threatened when they perform exceedingly well!

While the world is replete with poor managers (I refuse to address them as leaders), who start feeling vulnerable when their subordinates outperform them and get ready to take on their mantles, I am also sure there are many like Dhoni around.

That’s the light of hope in the arena of leadership, the biggest skill required in today’s times.

Have you also experienced supervisors who were threatened to see their subordinates out-perform them? Or, you did experience a Dhoni like leader too? Let me know what you think.

10 Mean Things You Shouldn’t Say To Your Star Performers…

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Angry BossWell, you are the boss. And like to believe that you are a good one.  You lead a bunch of smart, hardworking and well-intentioned subordinates or, as I call, teammates.

These subordinates are real stars; they are result-oriented, ownership-driven and work with high passion & commitment. They have a reputation of delivering consistent results.

And then, there are those rare few occasions, when these smart, hardworking and well-intentioned teammates make mistakes; sometimes, really silly ones.

Well, since you are the boss, the said mistake of your teammate makes you suffer poor results, undue embarrassment and/or undesired pressure from seniors, you get to hear not-so-nice words from your own boss, and what not.

And with all the right and might of being the boss, you would like to reprimand the one who erred.

Oho! That could be really tricky.

Many of otherwise well-meaning, well-respected and admired managers make an uncalled for error on such occasions. They end up saying undermentioned ten sentences whilst engulfed in the fist of fury, or shall I say, in a weak moment of lapse of good judgement. These 10 sentences, once uttered, can be the real deal-breakers for the motivation of your star subordinates.

Let’s see what they are:

  1. “Well, you are really turning casual in your approach these days.”
  2. “You let me down, terribly. How could you?”
  3. “I should not have trusted you with this big responsibility.”
  4. “I trusted you, and you broke it.”
  5. “Henceforth, don’t even try this. Let ABC do it.”
  6. “Can’t you do just one simple thing right?”
  7. “I knew it. You are just not up to the mark.”
  8. “You failed all of us.”
  9. “It is because of your stupidity that the entire team suffered embarrassment.”
  10. “You will not be able to successfully complete this. Let me take it back from you.” 

Well, well, well… there you go. Above cut-&-dry sentiments, once verbalized whether using same words or similar, leave a casting negative impact on the recipient. Worst, it affects their personal sense of dignity and hurts their self-pride. Remember, the very fact that these are your star performers also makes them feel a higher sense of pride in themselves and their achievements as a professional. As a result, such criticism hits them even harder.

One such sentence, uttered in one such momentary lapse of good sense, ends up alienating your star teammate from you, most of the times. And that is where the entire disengagement at work begins.

Dangerous, isn’t it? Then think of it, do you too say similar things when your star performer goofs up?

I encourage you to share your experiences when you were the recipient of such a bashing. I am sure our experiences will help many managers reflect and become better leaders…

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Image-credit: chrismower.com

Do You Too Like To Work With Your Clones?

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Clones

“I would like my team to think like me.”

“I am proud of my team’s bonding – they are all like-minded people.”

“In this team, we do things in the same tried and tested way. Our experience says that always works.”

“Why can’t my teammates think and behave like me?”

“Can you hire for me a person who can do this exactly the way as I?”

Chances are, you would have heard at least one of the above statements quite recently from a team-leader or a manager around you.

Often, I meet employees who work in a team and are unhappy with the way the leader behaves or operates, with the culture of the team, with lack of respect and recognition, and many other similar gaps leading to their poor engagement at work. However, one striking aspect that makes them most annoyed and disengaged is the leader’s expectation of them having & displaying same operating style and similar thought process as him. Not respecting diversity of opinion and styles of working, to my mind, are the biggest elements behind poor engagement of any team. I concede that it is the leader of the team who decides the path ahead and selects the team-membes to execute that vision. However, it is an abundantly misplaced notion that a great team is one in which everyone was hired for similarity of style, attitude and experience as the leader. In all my experience of building & leading high performance teams, I learnt that a strong team is one where everyone brings diversity of traits, experience, operating style and interests.

Let’s take an example of a Gardener, who, let’s say has space for planting about fifty small plants. To achieve a lush, blooming garden, will she sow the same species of flowers or plants in her garden? And then give every plant the same type of soil, same quality of manure and amount of sunlight? Or will she water all of them in the similar fashion? And then expect the garden to bloom with flowers of all colours? Won’t that be naïve?

Think of it; if a team is expected to behave just like the leader and is rather built with an intention to mirror the leader’s thinking and execution style, who would perform the quintessential task of raising questions or bringing different perspectives while dealing with a situation? Now, won’t that be too risky a proposition?

A really effective leader is one who has developed a skill of managing a diverse team, and I am not only referring to the diversity of gender, but diversity of thought-process, experience and interests, style and attitude. And then nurture and lead them all into forming a strong, cohesive unit, delivering consistently superior performance.

I am leaving you with my favourite quote on team-leadership:

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”

– Antoine de Saint-Exupery

 Do you know leaders who like to work only with their clones? Do share your experiences…

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Photo-credit: theideabrand.com

People Observe Leaders All The Time…

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ObservationA chance encounter over my last blog introduced me to a young employee at my workplace today; she was following my blog and knew me, though we had never interacted earlier. During a very brief conversation that we had today, I realized a very powerful thing – people observe leaders all the time! She shared her observations and mentioned an incident where she noted one of my traits, which helped her form a view about me.

That conversation left me thinking; in large size organizations of modern times, people observe us all the time. And they do so even more specifically in case you’re holding a leadership position. I was forced to ponder – I manage human resources for over five thousand people and if in all these years I met each of them just once, that one happenstance would have defined their memory, their reflections. It doesn’t matter whether that encounter was good, bad or just plain simple indifference; their opinion is made, probably forever.

That made me wonder about many more who just observe us from a distance; people with whom we never even interacted, they too form an observation. They do so by simply following what you say to others, how you say it, and sometimes, by the way you treat your people. All of these pass a message to these observers, what you are, how you operate, what works with you & what doesn’t, et al. Moreover, each of these messages from a leader carries a distinct weight because of the authority of the position behind it. Now, that’s something, isn’t it? Think of it, if relationships are the key to build sustainable businesses and chart the growth of self and organization, these observations go a long way in establishing your credibility and acceptance as a leader. Your mood swings, your positivity and negativity, your smiles and frowns, your warm handshakes and shining eyes, your rude demeanor and a curt nod – people would remember those actions and conversations, which you may yourself forget. And basis these memories, some of these people will write your legacy one day…

Let me share an example. I travel to a lot of stores, located across over hundred cities of India. I walk the aisles, talk to customers, meet and greet some associates. I mostly speak with them individually and sometime address them as a group, albeit never for over 2-3 minutes and certainly couldn’t get to speak with each & every associate working in these stores, yet, I notice everyone working on the floor observes their HR leader so keenly. I am sure even those minutest, tiniest conversations, behaviours and actions get noted and remembered by most of these associates. And since I don’t get to visit the same location for more than twice a year and certainly never during the same shift-hours, there is a great possibility that the associates I meet won’t see me again for good six-to-twelve months and hence, those memories for the last encounter become their final ones! I am sure, this example would be true for many of you, of course in different settings.

Now, I am not advocating we take every step keeping in view what others would think or opine; that would be too difficult for a leader. Yet, it is indeed important for all leaders to consider themselves as a ‘message‘ – every time you say something, behave in a particular manner or even use a specific word, ask yourself, does that convey your values, your thought-process and what you wish others to note and follow? Or do you end up conveying something else? I am sure that’d help you send the right ‘message‘ every time.

My learning of the day is a big one – there are ‘no casual actions, no casual conversations’. Your words and actions carry a lot of weight, especially when you carry the baton of being a leader. The remarks you made while walking the hallway, jokes you shared in the cafeteria, words written in emails/text messages and social media, even which of the posters made you stop & read the noticeboard – all these actions and gestures are ‘messages’ and ‘vital forms of communication’ and while you are at it, people are making their notes.

Did I make you think? If yes, just think of it, what ‘messages’ did you give out today?

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Photo-credit: wemovetogether.me

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