On Leadership

Some-where – I knew then and firmly believe now – there is a simpler way to lead organisations, one that requires less effort, produces less stress than the current practices – Margaret Wheatley & Myron Kellner Rogers – “A Simpler Way”

Whenever human communities are forced to adjust to shifting conditions, pain is ever present – John P Kotter – “Leading Change”

It has long been my mantra that the old model of micro-management and motivation with a stick will not work effectively for very long.  It may have worked in the past where many roles (prior to the widespread adoption of IT and the internet) were highly process driven. 

In more recent times, we are wanting to engage the people with whom we work to provide their intelligence, not their brawn, in their work – both with us and with the customers whom we serve.  The use of intellgence (especially emotional intelligence) is critical in more and more professions today than it may have been in the past.

Much of the information that customers now want they can access themselves – it is the interpretation and application of that information that is critical for them in the success or otherwise of their business ventures.  Here is where the professional comes in.  Our work in the “professions” now requires us to have proper interpersonal relationships with people rather than remote contact.  As people become more connected to information, they generally become more disconnected from each other.  Hence the need to connect properly as professionals.

In the “here and now” of the current age, people are craving real contact.  This requires people to step out from behind the computer and get off email Facebook, Twitter etc and actually relate.

This is where leadership comes in.  This is where we, as leaders of our businesses, need to enable our people to thrive and engage.  We need to provide the environment that enables this to occur.  We need to encourage them to take ownership of the customer relationship and to invest the time and effort to establish, develop and nurture relationships (internally as well).

Many of the frustrated business owners I speak to express concern over the fact that their people won’t engage with their customers.  But the truth is often related to the fact that they implement management systems and processes that actively discourage such relationship building.  The timesheet is one of the most perfect examples I can nominate.  It is used to assess peoples’ performance based on inputs of time, not outputs of results, quality of relationships or support to co-workers.  These are the qualitative things that matter to your people.  They want to produce results for their customers, they want to learn, develop and thrive.  In so doing, they become far more effective in their roles and become far better team members for your business.

The previous thinking that an employee was a “cog in the wheel”, a servant for you and/or your business or a follower of the “Dear Leader” needs to be replaced. 

How about we replace that thinking with the view that your team members are resources for the business and each other, partners with you in the business and innovators who can help create new and better ways of doing things for your customers and your business?

So, when it comes to leadership, what thinking are you adopting and what tools are you using to lead your people?  Are they going to get you to where you want to go or are they installed to maintain a system that is inherently flawed?

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