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Monday, 6 April 2015

Do You Have The Power? Use It Sparingly and Don’ Ever Abuse It!

It's strange how many entrepreneurs are frustrated by the apparent reluctance of some of their senior people "to be as committed as I am to the business".

They tell me that they (the leader) work really hard, is totally committed to success in the business while some of their people seem to work hard but just don't go the extra mile.

I gently point out that ownership of the business generates a different ethos from those who are employees but they still don't always see it that way.

The fact is that it comes down to two words - Perceptions and Power.

The perceptions of the leader and the team are frequently at opposite ends of the same spectrum.

For example the team sees the car parked in the CEO space, notes when he/she is out for lunch (again), compares holidays and destinations and experience a slight frisson of envy.

They do necessarily see (or want to see) the long hours, the incessant demands on the leader's attention and time, the concerns that are kept from the team for good reason and the constant feeling of responsibility for the business and its employees.

But then again, our perceptions are our reality so that is what counts.

In the other direction, the leader can fall into the trap of expecting everyone to do as he/she does and then feels irritated that the same level of dedication is not forthcoming.

This all seems rather negative but in fact it is a function of the perceived power of the leader to whom the employees normally defer.

Note that it is not necessarily the persona of the leader that occasions these feelings but rather the title and position of a leader.

As an example I had cause to interview the CEO of an enormous paper-making business. He had been in post for only six months or so having been promoted from his previous job of Chief Operations Officer.

He told me that before his promotion the five or six directors worked closely and very effectively as a team, were able to challenge without rancour and met socially outside the business.

When he was appointed CEO, he said, the atmosphere changed immediately. He had told the other directors that "his door was always open" and he expected that the happy relationships would continue.

He was quite wrong, he told me. Not only did they not solicit his thoughts and advice but their very attitude was one of coolness.

It was the power problem raising its ugly head. Irrespective of the individual, the perception is that the leader has power over them and could use it malignly at any time.

Deep seated maybe but there is lille doubt that these sorts of feelings can be there and can affect all round performance.

So what is the solution?

Whatever the leader decides to do it will take time and a lot of patience. The most important parts of the solution are great communication and genuine transparency.

The leaders needs to demonstrate a measure of humility in showing the team that he/she trusts them and their opinions and thoughts are vital to the business.

Whatever the leaders decides to do in order to build relationships, to develop engagement and alignment of purpose, it must be visible to everyone in the business.

A wise sage once said that there is nothing so demeaning as to be expected to achieve other people's objectives.

Trust your people. Build a society of high performers with great attitude and tell them at all times how good they are.

It does take lots of time and lots of patience. Celebrate successes, however small with everyone in the business and demonstrate that you trust them by visible non-interference.


In the end an engaged and openly aligned society is the ultimate objective.  Remember that power is a trait that should be possessed, seldom used and NEVER abused.


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