Leaders set the pace and tone in the organisation. The way they live their life at work each day is keenly observed by the employees and the culture gets a shape. Leaders set goals, resolve conflicts, choose methods and directions. Information about these behaviours percolate down the rank and file. Employees conclude what is right and what is not. That sets the tone, which decides if the cost of delivering the product or service for the organisation is going to be optimal and if the customers are going to be happy with the output.
Back to Basics!
Adults look for freedom, dignity and recognition; they value a workplace that treats everyone fairly, practises honesty and exhibits consistency. These basic principles are universal irrespective of culture and the style of leadership. One needs to think if the culture fosters these.
For example, a leader expresses anger and frustration hearing customer complaints; punishes the employees involved. If such a climate stays for a long time and the leadership behaviour is consistent on this, the employees get a clear message about the culture; they fear the punishment and limit their actions to what they are told or prescribed to do. One cannot see innovation here from the rank and file; employees will be focused on their remuneration, lead a mechanistic life at the workplace and could disengage eventually.
While the illustration above is very simple, it gives us an idea of the hidden cost of an overdrive of customer focus by instilling a sense of fear amongst employees. Hence, leaders need to set a culture that aligns with the basic motivators of their people.
Need a fine balance of multiple requirements!
Often human beings are not rational. It is always a mix of rational and emotional approach that works with the employees. And each employee is unique in her/ his predisposition towards rational thinking. This makes the job of a leader interesting and complex at the same time.
So, the leadership has to walk a tightrope in making sure that the right balance is being maintained between both the approaches. On one hand, the leader has to demonstrate his commitment towards establishing a friendly workplace where relationships are valued and individual circumstances are considered while evaluating the employee’s performance and making decisions about the role, career growth and further development. And at the same time, objective measures such as SMART targets, KPIs, predetermined frequencies to evaluate performance, policies around compensation, benefits, rewards and recognition are to be defined.
The right balance of the two makes sure that individual performance is recognised, appropriately rewarded, an environment of healthy competition is created and a drive towards excellence permeates in the organisation.
Job design is critical!
All of us love challenges which test our limits and at the same time, gives us a feeling that we can achieve our goals. Too high a goal is not appealing because one concedes defeat before one goes to the battlefield. And similarly, too low a target loses its purpose of spurring productivity because the challenge doesn’t appeal to the employee.
So, the job has to be designed in such a way that the job is interesting and challenging enough. This has a cultural angle. Something that appeals to people in Japan might not appeal to an average Indian or an American. Hence keeping in mind the environmental factors, one has to design a role appropriately. One of the reasons behind the high levels of attrition in the call centre industry in India can be attributed to this factor of job design.
So, the leaders have to act in a way that supports the basic motivation of their employees, strike a fine balance between a rational approach and a relationship approach; and finally they need to make sure that the role is interesting and challenging.