Do you build consensus?

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Democracy is the largest form of governance in the world now… close to 60% of the world’s population live in democratic nations. Our societies value freedom of speech, majority view and the power of making choices. Organizations are microcosms of our societies and hence, we behave the same way at work. We expect our leader to be consulting us, acting upon our views, figuring out the majority view and updating us about the state of affairs from time to time.

Long and Arduous

Leaders often are worried about the time it takes to arrive at a decision if they open out the process to their team. Given the diaspora of our society, it is natural that the manager gets wide-ranging opinions and perspectives. Firstly, it takes time and effort to explain the issue to the team; secondly, it takes time to listen to the opinions of people. And most importantly, given the diverse suggestions one receives, it is not easy to decide. In the leader’s mind, there might be something very compelling but the team might not be seeing it with equal fervour. So, the leader takes time to re-position the issue and repeat the process. This is undoubtedly a long and arduous process.

Apply it in the right context

It is not possible that a manager builds consensus for each and every decision. As long as the guiding principles and values are clear, governance becomes easy and non-controversial. So, first of all, organizations need to create appropriate methods and platforms to co-create the guiding principles which determine the way of life. Secondly, a manager must recognize when the issue is complex either because of the inter-dependencies or it has a conflict with one or more principles. Those are the situations which need a larger involvement of people at different levels of the organization.

This is easier said than done. When one opens up the issue to the larger audience, various possibilities come at play. Some people see various lacunae in the capability of the boss; some people come up with utopian ideas due to their lack of knowledge or experience; some people in their quest of coming under the spotlight raise various issues. So, a manager ends up spending a lot of energy in cancelling the noise.

One needs to know which level of the organization needs to be involved and to what extent in the process. At times, discussions with colleagues help simplifying the issue and evolving new possibilities. Hence, participative style of leadership has to be applied in the right context!

Sustainable method

It is unlikely that the manager or the leader knows all. And at the same time, one must have the humility to learn new perspectives and develop solutions in collaboration with others. While making a decision, one has to be clear if the decision has a long term impact on the organization. For example, evolving the 3-year strategy, introducing a new product, launching a new advertisement, entering into a new wage agreement with the union, modifying the rewards scheme and so on have far-reaching consequences on the organization.

An organization can ill-afford to let all such decisions rest squarely on the shoulders of one person or a handful. While building a consensus takes time and calls for efforts to dialogue, it is critical to invest these efforts for the long term health of the organization. Participative style on all strategic issues for the organization assures sustainability.

The leader has to know when to apply democratic style and involve whom in the process.

Are you a Laissez-faire Leader?

The High Call of Church LeadershipIn our world today, a significant part of our workforce values freedom, demonstrates self-confidence and sets high ambitions. This phenomenon is not restricted to the white collar workforce, rather all-pervasive. Leaders  having the experience of directed people and having seen their managers directing teams in a certain way, find the changing environment discomforting. They are trying to readjust their styles and adapt to the new situation. It is common knowledge for a leader to practice clear communication while delegating tasks, but the trick lies in the manner of delegation, the tasks are organized and distributed.

Micro-managing or Hands-on Leadership?

Leaders in their quest to be clear, get highly task-focused at times. They tend to break down the goals into miniature steps, direct their team members in carrying out each of those steps, measure the results and tell them what to do when the results differ from the desired goals. Is this micro-managing or leading the team hands-on?

It depends upon the context in which the leader operates, the experience and the maturity level of the team members. Let us say, the team is highly skilled and the members have a good level of understanding and co-operation. This is a good situation to adopt a laissez-faire leadership where you need the team to know the end-goal, the near-term milestones, the purpose behind achieving the milestones and the timelines. Since they know the ‘how’ and ‘what’, the leader does not need to tell them the break-down. It is good enough for the leader to keep an eye on a few parameters at an appropriate interval of time. The team needs a pat on the back at the right time; a few insights and suggestions as and when needed. However, at times, leaders in their quest of ‘being in control’ get anxious and micro-manage. They hurt the team dynamics by over-monitoring, nit-picking and meddling too much. One must know what kind of delegation works the best in the given context!

A team which is newly formed or has many freshers or relatively inexperienced members needs support and direction. Managing them by setting a high-level goal, defining the objectives and a process might not sound wrong. However, the team could potentially feel lost, un-cared for and dull given this style of delegation. They need a style of hands-on leadership where the leader is always eager and available to help the members on-demand, coaching real time, enthusing the team when a task is done well and course-correcting when needed. In this context, the leader isn’t micro-managing, rather showing hands-on leadership.

Are you abdicating your responsibility by Laissez-faire style?

One argues that the laissez-faire style of leadership could create a lot of free time for the leader if the primary responsibility of delivering the results is passed on to the Direct Reports.

Experienced people look for independence in decision-making and a certain amount of latitude in going about achieving their goals. Hence, the top boss has to provide the space for them to function and steer their respective teams towards the predefined goals.

Given this context, the top boss has to find a way of adding value by providing the necessary encouragement to his team crafting a space to support them and continuously evolving it in tune with the challenges that they face. This is easier said than done since this space that we are talking about, is fuzzy and more often than not, determined by the dynamics in external environment.

A leader fails miserably when he passes on all his responsibilities in the name of delegation and takes on the administrative role of aggregating information and presenting them to the others. The team stops looking up to him and relating to the larger purpose behind the goals. It loses momentum and often looks forward to holidays, breaks and off-sites. This is worst that can happen to any team.

The Leader has to be playing alongside his team.

Every game has multiple stakeholders and there are umpteen challenges. The leader has to be playing alongside his team or the concerned member in the team solving the tough issues rather than merely being an observer.

It is easy to divide a target into a few parts and assign each part to a member in the team. However, the leader’s job doesn’t end with it. Rather, it starts right there. The critical contributions of the leader must be in creating an environment for the team to succeed, providing the right strokes of rewards and reprimands, getting hands-on to solve an issue or create a process or a system. The energy levels, confidence and the determination of the team must be held up by the leader.

Laissez-faire works well. But, there is no one particular style that works for all the situations. While the leader delegates, one must know what to delegate, how to monitor and what to get one’s hands dirty with.

How about the leader being a facilitator?

ciel blog - facilitative leadership

Every leader is invested with some authority, given the command over a set of resources and asked upon to deliver predefined results. Leaders make decisions each day how to marshal their resources. Some of them arrive at the decisions themselves and make announcements to their team. Some of them involve others in the team and arrive at an action plan by consultation with them. And some of them empower the others in their team to take the decisions required to achieve the results. Which style is better than the other? Does one style work most of the time?

Adapt to the market!

Today’s time has heightened economic uncertainty. Customers are increasingly discerning and in constant need of speedy action; they are looking for maximizing the value that they derive from the supplier. The environment is highly competitive and the boundaries in the world are getting highly complex due to socio-political changes all over. Technology has been changing fast and disrupting not only the internal environment of a firm but also the marketplace. Given this context, it is near impossible for any leader to be able to comprehend all relevant information, arrive at the insights and conclude the action plan. The erstwhile leader was considered a superhero who had all the wisdom and prowess to decide the course of the journey; the team followed him. However, the macho style of leadership which was commonplace a decade ago does not work now. One has to necessarily discuss the state of affairs with the others in the team and co-create the path to the destination.

Telling style or directive style is not going to work any more unless the situation is simply a task-based decision which has limited risk on the ultimate results. Rather the leader of today needs to show empathy, trust and respect the members of the team; be listening deeply. That is facilitating the team.

One size doesn’t fit all!

There are situations in the team which are unique to an organization and the leader of the team. For example, many members in the team could be new and the team could be establishing the practices and norms for their performance. Another situation could be that the person is a first-time leader or a young manager; most members of the team could be inexperienced. The organization could be a start-up. In each of these situations, the demands on the leader are not only to get a set of tasks done but also to build the team. Hence, one needs to balance between directive style to complete the tasks and democratic style to build ownership.

On the other hand, if the organization is established, the leader is experienced and the members of the team have a track record of performing well, the leader’s style should be largely delegation and empowerment to the others in the team. The leader largely should be happy with information coming in at regular intervals rather than intervening every now and then to take stock and direct next course of action.

It is impossible to prescribe a leadership style without taking into consideration the internal dynamics of the team and the extent of risk posed by the situation towards achieving the ultimate goal. However, irrespective of the style, any situational leadership these days has to be that of facilitation.

The leader has to facilitate in such a way that the members in the team have to be clear about the end goal, the processes to follow and the rationale of doing what they are expected to do. They value freedom and independence; but do not expect to be left alone to learn swimming by themselves. They expect appropriate amount of coaching and guidance along the way to reach their full potential. The leader has to facilitate all of these along the way!

Facilitating Course-Corrections:

One of the important roles that the leader performs is to keep the ship steady and safe on the course. Given the context of our times, the leader has to move fast, negotiate sharp turns and create alternate paths creatively. Driving these change programs is one of the most challenging aspects of leadership. This gets exciting when the pace of change is fast in the external environment as well as internally.

The leader constantly looks at the results and the process if everything ran as expected. More often than not, things have to change : they may be the metrics, the benchmarks, the process, the equipment or the raw materials. When there are changes in the external environment such as government policies, technology, the approach of the business partners or the competition, the need for change becomes all the more complex.

It is critical that the others in the team get involved in observing such trends, analyzing them and making course corrections. Such programs are critical for the leader to initiate so that the changes are co-created, co-owned and hence, implementation on the ground gets better. While the top boss cannot abdicate his responsibility of delivering the results, it is important to facilitate these change initiatives across the the entire spectrum of leadership in the firm rather than mere announcement of change measures and asking the team to implement them.

The leader’s authority in the current times do not mean much unless there is active facilitation. Let’s take these on!

Are you a disruptive leader?

ciel blog disruptive leadership

Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi, Charles Darwin, Lord Buddha, Prophet Muhammad and some more such people challenged the status quo, traversed the uncharted path and created history. I am sure, there are million others who tried to emulate a similar path, had the ambition to drive such major changes, were passionate but did not make the cut. Why?

Do you keep an eye on what is coming?

In the business world, we have seen challenges faced by organizations like Kodak, Blackberry and Nokia. Their Boards had learned and capable leaders; had access to the best advisors and experts that one can think of. Still, they did not see what was coming. Their bets did not work in their favour. They were slow to disrupt the status quo and missed the bus. Reports say that Fortune 500 list in 2010 does not have 40% of those listed in Fortune 500 in the year 2000. So, 40% lost their way in a matter of just one decade. And at the same time, there are leading institutions like GE, Coca Cola, Exxon Mobil, 3M, Citigroup, Ford Motors, Kellogg, Xerox and many more who have lived more than 100 years already! There must be something right that the Boards of these companies have done to weather various storms that came their way.

Leadership in these organizations have continuously challenged the status quo and examined what lays ahead. They did not fear to chart new paths. They watched the developments in various industry sectors closely and connected the dots to come up with new possibilities. They listened to various stakeholders. They were not scared to try various new initiatives and fail in some of them. They kept discovering new formulations.

If we have to talk about the current times, we see new technologies such as automation, artificial intelligence, robotics; social changes such as rise of self-centricity, right-of-centre approach, radicalisation and so on. It does not matter if you are in the field of education, transport, food, health, chemicals, machinery, energy, infrastructure or technology. Any of these changes staring at us is likely to challenge the business model. If we see this ahead of the others, we can win!

Does your team care about it?

In an organization, it is not enough if the leader sees or suspects what is coming. People at all the levels of leadership need to believe that status quo has to be challenged and they have to open their minds to new vistas of doing things. The top boss has to be communicating across the rank and file in the organization about the need of being unassuming and looking at the external world. It has to be in the DNA of the organization.

Some leaders love stability, believe in making small course corrections along the journey and accordingly drive those behaviours in their teams. There is nothing wrong in this approach if the ship is sailing in a calm sea. However, given the fact that our business environment has been dynamic, it is impossible that an organization will not encounter choppy waters every now and then. A bit of chaos is the order of the day. The leaders must learn how to stay calm in the midst of a chaos and at the same time, they must be enthusiastic and dynamic to look through the window and spot opportunities as well as challenges.

What matters is Execution!

It is not enough to have the top boss keeping an eye on what is coming and aligning the leadership at all levels about the need to look at the external world. While those are the first two essentials, the most critical aspect in the jigsaw is execution.

The leaders have to determine what needs to be done and how it will be done. They need to agree on the results to expect and define the timeline. Responsibilities have to be fixed and the team driving the disruption has to be in the direct visibility of the top boss of the organization. Frequent communication on the progress of the project has to be all over the place to increase visibility and drive the message home that the organization cares for innovation and is taking to uncharted territories.

It is equally important that the leaders know when to abandon the project for there are several possibilities to disrupt. It is not easy to let go of initiatives created with a lot of efforts, emotion and fanfare. However, a significant large number of disruptive steps do not bear fruit, but all of them teach valuable lessons. It is important that the leaders have the courage to wind down projects, announce the closure transparently and protect the people who worked hands-on.

Let’s do it!

Rise of Well-informed candidates

JOBSEEKERS ARE WELL-INFORMED
Candidates are consulting an average
of 16 sources before applying…
…and only 36% apply witho...

Over the last decade, internet has become ubiquitous in recruitment across the globe. Employers and potential employees alike use the internet to meet one another directly or through an agency. In either case, the candidate and the company make a choice based on their individual perception and judgement of how well they fit the requirements of the other. Traditionally employers and candidates meet one another and conclude if there is a fitment. However, in today’s time, candidates rely on information available publicly as well as what they gather through their contacts and the social media. Candidates have access to a lot of information other than what they learn during an interview. How does this impact talent acquisition?

The Moments of Truth in a Recruitment Process

We see experts in Communication and Advertising specialise in the domain of employer branding. They advise companies how to stand out in the crowd of HR Leaders seeking talent and communicate their value proposition to the potential employee.

Crafting a communication is a skill of high order. Done well, this helps a company tremendously in building an image that creates curiosity in the minds of potential candidates. We have seen it at play for several IT and Outsourcing companies in the last couple of decades. However, such communication becomes a hyperbole if the attendant parts in the organization cannot deliver the experience that the candidates expect. This is easier said than done. The moment of truth for a candidate starts right from the time he or she comes across a recruitment advertisement. Then starts several action steps such as applying for a job, receiving feedback, various communication through various stages of the selection process, the visits and contacts during the entire process till the person successfully comes on board.

At each of these stages, different stakeholders interact with the candidate. The moot challenge before the HR leaders is to ensure that all stakeholders in the process are aligned to what is being promised in the value proposition and deliver the experience consistently. It is a massive transformation program for the organization!

The Social Media is on an Overdrive

ciel blog - well informed candidate

Ex-employees and current employees of the organization express their views about working in a firm. Candidates who attend interviews with a potential employer talk about their experience. The social media and the search engines have made things easy for broadcasting these moments of truth all over. Companies do invest huge energies to communicate who they are, what kind of talent they are looking for and build an image that describes them as an employer.

One cannot escape from the fact that there are grapevines within an organization, a lone wolf who is an internal adversary, some unintentional cases of negligence that spoil the party and some disgruntled souls who are out there. The team has to be alert and proactive in warding off the evil eye. And at the same time, one needs to be fast enough to attend to the mistakes and failures; recover the lost ground. There should be no let up in one’s efforts to spread the positive news that takes place in different parts of the organization.

Today’s well-informed candidates form their opinions looking at various such intimations, undertones and nuances. So, the employer organization has to be fast enough and hitting the bull’s eye consistently.

Match expectations and stay agile

Life is fast today : decisions are being taken faster than ever before; thinking through is often understood as procrastination and viewed with despise. Organizations have to keep pace with the likes of their target audience. The cycle times are coming down in every aspect of our life. So, it is natural that candidates expect quick answer, the interviewers need more choice and the jobseekers have access to several opportunities at the same time. This trinity makes the task for the HR folks exciting and challenging.

Leaders have to organize a good set of candidates at one go and make a quick decision. They need to decide when to keep looking for the illusive ideal candidate and when to be happy with the best available candidate. Long cycle times aren’t going down well – organizations have to be agile.

Expectations are mutual and dynamic in a relationship between the employer brand and the talent pool. Hence, it is important that a winning organization keeps a tab on the trends in the talent market and makes adjustments in its actions on a regular basis.

The rise of well-informed candidates has made life simple for the Talent acquisition specialists and HR leaders in many ways. They get an enviable advantage if they tune in to the signals in the market with respect to their employer brand and make course-corrections. This calls for agility and rigorous execution!

Are you the Indispensable Employee?

ciel blog - indispensable employee

Artificial intelligence, cognitive computing and automation are redefining jobs and creating uncertainties for various professions. Robots, sensors, computers, internet, cloud computing and software are going to rule the roost. Several transactional jobs are likely to be performed automatically and human beings carrying out simple and repeatable tasks are likely to lose their jobs. What can an employee do to stay indispensable?

Do you have the Skills that are relevant and use them generously?

These days, emails, websites, e-commerce sites, social media, chat-bots and various such digital methods have shortened the sales cycle and reduced the need of salespersons. Going forward, these developments will be ubiquitous. This is just an example. For each industry, we will have more and more such automated tools making human effort redundant. So, this is going to be something similar to the time of industrial revolution, movement of manufacturing jobs to China, near-death of handicrafts, movement of call centre jobs to cheaper economies and so on.

To stay relevant, one has to have the skills that are going to build the future. For example, someone writing software codes or testing it, has to acquire new skills such as machine learning, big data techniques, cloud architecture, mobility and business analysis.

Often we see the change round the corner but we think that the change is not going to affect us. However, the change process like any other event of nature happens slowly and hits us unless we are sensitive to our environment. Irrespective of one’s profession, may it be finance, HR, sales, production, legal, medical care, teaching or singing, one has to keep an eye on the latest developments in the industry sector and function. We have to keep reskilling ourselves to be on the cutting edge. We will not let ourselves down!

Getting reskilled and certified is not enough! One has to be an expert in it; the best in the team as far as the skill is concerned. One has to be the go-to person in the team on the subject. If we think a bit deeper, we know, it is not only knowing how to do that complex problem but also about solving it hands-on and showing it to the others in the team.

Do you see the big picture and act benevolently?

Many of us do not see how our day to day contributions make a difference in the overall scheme of things. We think and operate in silos; many of us do not bother much about the targets of the team, the department, let alone the organization. Missing the big picture can never make one the organization-man.

Leaders and all other stakeholders in the business always look to work with people who see the big picture, feel for the organization, act benevolently keeping the big picture in mind, extend the hand of support when needed and walk the extra mile to fulfil the bigger goal. You are indispensable if you are this person!

Do you believe you are indispensable and over-reach?

Truly speaking, nobody is indispensable to an organization which has a purpose and spirit. No one person can hold a system its hostage for ever. There could be a vacuum temporarily, but the system recharges itself and gets on the road again.

If someone believes that the organization cannot survive without him or her, the actions will speak of the person’s attitude. Arrogance becomes visible; the members in the team see the person exceeding his brief often and taking a larger than life approach. This is a sure recipe for failure. It is possible that one will be dispensed with!

The key to a secured job is staying agile on skillsets, applying them at work, making the job of the manager easy, acting in view of the bigger picture of the organization and building a strong network within the organization. Let’s do it!

 

How to provide feedback to your team members?

ciel blog - how-to-offer feedback to employees

One of the most critical contributions that a leader must make to the team members is to provide feedback. The environment in the team exudes positivism when the feedback is received with openness and is worked upon by the team members.

Most organizations and their senior leaders like to take pride in the fact that their organization promotes a culture of performance and meritocracy. However, this intent does not get translated into action because they do not invest adequate energies in building an environment where employees feel safe to voice their opinions and speak up when they face discomfort or a challenge. Employees must feel adequately empowered to perform their duties and trust their leaders for their judgement on a day to day business. Further, they need to believe in the strategic vision of the organization for its long-term survival.

Set the goals right!

Given this background, goals or targets are the starting point of a performance-based culture. Leaders must define broad contours of the goal setting process and live it in a transparent manner. The organization needs to see that goals are being set fairly and there is a room for discussion on the goals. Leaders must take care to explain the rationale of the goals, induce confidence in their folks about achieving them and invite them to discover their strengths which can be leveraged to fulfil the goals.

Organizations build systems and processes that reward and recognize performance against the targets. Hence, goals become a critical variable in the equation and determine the bonus or the variable pay. While some leaders like to set audacious goals, their team members might feel scared of these and resign to their fates. In this unfortunate scenario, the leader fails in the critical duty of listening to the employees, addressing their concerns and giving them feedback about the possibilities. Goals need to be set in a collaborative manner; employees must discover their potential and feel empowered to achieve them rather than feeling the pressure of big targets.

Discuss performance every now and then!

Annual performance feedback is passé now. It has outlived its utility. Given the times that we live in and the nature of the workforce, the supervisor must not wait for the performance review event to appear on the calendar or the HR department to remind him about it. Rather, it needs to happen as often as required. One should sit down with the team members for a one-on-one discussion to review the efforts put in and the results achieved, as often as required.

Most often, leaders think that fun activities, birthday celebrations, family days and so on engage employees well and productivity improves as a result of these. Another common misconception would be that if an employee shows up each day and seems to work 9am to 5pm at her desk, she is focused and dedicated. However, the fact is that the fun activities are mere hygiene factors and do not guarantee a positive impact on the productivity.

An employee who doesn’t seem distracted at work is someone who cares for the pay-check and not necessarily, someone who is committed to the cause of the organization. She may not walk the extra mile without being pushed by the manager to keep customers happy. Leaders must be clear about this and act accordingly. The employee who walks the extra mile must be provided with clear feedback that she is valued the most. Leaders must invest their best efforts in developing this exceptional talent so that the organization grows stronger over a period of time.

Employees who generally meet their goals and care about the purpose of the organization are very valuable for the company. However, they might not have hitched their hearts and minds to the leadership and its vision; they may be at the stage of evaluating various aspects of the company’s environment and how well they fit into it. And similarly, the leader might be in the phase of observing and evaluating the commitment levels of the employee. This is a transition phase for both the employee and the organisation; the leaders should be smart enough to understand this phase of engagement and provide the necessary support to make the desired change. In either case, the employee must receive the feedback about his/her performance and feel cared for.

Similarly, there are employees who achieve results but do not demonstrate the behaviours that the organization desires. This is a tough situation for the manager to offer feedback and make early corrections. Most often, managers fail to demonstrate the leadership character in such cases and let the person get away with the excesses. Again here, the feedback has to be clear that the person has to shape up fast or leave at the earliest. Tough but one has to bite the bullet!

There are employees who miss their targets often. Leaders need to evaluate if their efforts and the behaviours are in alignment with what the organization expects. If the results as well as the behaviours do not meet these standards, it is easy to move on. It is tough when the person shows all the right behaviours and puts in the efforts, but the results continue to be elusive. The actions of the manager are observed by one and all. People might feel that a long rope is being provided unfairly and hence, the leader has to be transparent and open about it so that the most people understand the reason.

Don’t rub it in!

Some managers take the advice of offering immediate feedback too seriously. There are bad days; things do not go right. It is obvious when one makes silly mistakes and loses. The manager need not be obsessed with the urge of offering a feedback. This is like rubbing salt on the wound and accentuating the pain further. One must judge the right time and offer feedback in such a manner that it is received and acted upon.

Offering feedback is one of the most challenging tasks a manager could face. There is no silver bullet that can be panacea for any leadership challenge. One has to gather experience by handling multiple situations, introspecting and learning from mentors and seniors.