Popular Posts

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Don’t Trust Someone to Achieve? Have You Ever Given Then the Freedom?

A word which seems to come up time and time again in any discussion of leadership is Trust and it elicits several and varied reactions. 

A simple definition of trust says that when an individual is trusted, the trustor (if that is the right ward) effectively abandons control of the situation and allows the trustee to perform the allocated task without hindrance. 

Easily said and difficult to achieve simply because of the perceived lack of control especially when the leader may have a tendency to wanting to know at all times what is going on. 

The question is: how long should it take to be able to trust someone to undertake a task without the aforesaid hindrance from any one? 

If the leader is courageous it is feasible to take that route from the beginning on the basis that he/she will be able to learn from the results and either begin to develop trust or realise that some coaching may be required. 

For many leaders it can be a painful experience to relinquish control of the achievement of a task particularly when the individual is relatively inexperienced and consequently needs to learn. 

When I started my working life in engineering we were allocated to some machine operator for example who would show us what to do and we would learn from an expert. 

Eventually  the operator would allow us to do the job ourselves but under his strict supervision until such time as he was content that we had learnt what to do and how to do it. 

At this stage trust was established and the operator often felt that he could wander off for a chat somewhere to leave us to it and frankly to earn some piecework on his behalf. 

It was a micro-version of the one of the functions of a great leader who understands the necessity of the coaching role.  In effect if the leader knows what to do and how to do it then it stands to reason that he/she should demonstrate, coach and teach until a level of trust has been established which enable to leader to stand back and allow the work to proceed. 

I still think, however, that the leader who is prepared to take a risk, the very act of allowing someone to undertake a task without interference can be a significant learning experience in itself. 

The clue is in that word Interference which, it must be said, is the usual complaint when the leader tries to influence progress.  It’s an irritation to both sides, in fact. 

So then, if the leader has trusted a team member to undertake a task, then he/she has one or two criteria to consider.  Firstly whatever the reason it is essential not to be seen to be interfering and that can take quite some strength of character.   

Secondly there must be a no-blame environment so that even if the team member ostensibly fails to achieve the task, then it must be considered a learning experience. 

All in all, trust must eventually be a two way process so that with mutual trust, there will be mutual success and a developed relationship.

Download my book "Leading to Success" from Amazon Kindle Store
Follow me on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook


Sunday, 18 August 2013

Offering a Status Symbol to an Individual? It’s Performance in the Role That Matters!

A couple of weeks ago I posted a blog about the proliferation of titles in business and I had a really valuable comment from TV presenter and Vistage speaker, Art Halai.  Arti suggested that there is much more to the use of titles in business and for that matter in general and it is a subject that would repay some discussion. 

Lee Thayer, noted US Vistage speaker and author, considers that the most important factor for people in the business is the role description.  Please note: NOT the JOB description which is too restrictive. 

Logically then if the role description has been defined accurately, theoretically there is no need for a title as such. Of course that is not the case in general and titles of all kinds abound especially in the public sector where perceived status can be considered as a reward. 

The question is why do people need to have a title?  Is it so that others know what they are there for, could it possibly be for reassurance that there function is important or is the basic fact that some people need a title to give them status. 

When I started in business a long time ago, status was relatively easy to define.  It rested on which canteen you ate in, where you parked your car and did the parking slot have your name on it, was your name (and title) on the door of your office and did your title express your seniority in the company. 

The matter of canteens is an interesting one.  I went at one stage to a subsidiary company on secondment for a period of a few months and was astonished to find that I had been allocated a seat in the mess; not, you will note the canteen.  I discovered that lunch in the mess followed a strict routine with a defined pecking order. 

Following an obligatory dry sherry, the senior director carved the joint, which was a fixture every day by the way, and seating at the table defined where you were in the aforesaid packing order. 

It was all a little surprising to me although I have to say that I soon dropped into the very pleasant routine.  However, what on earth had it to do with the effective running of the business? 

The fact is that it was all a matter of visible status.  When you were invited to join the mess it said that you had arrived and were accepted as important, admittedly in the very small world of that company. 

It stands to reason that they were also fixated on title because a title would tell the world who you were and what you did in the company.  Status was all important and because it was a small company (in a small town as well) by comparison with the patent group, they felt that they needed the reassurance of a splendid title. 

In essence we need to decide whether a title is merely a status symbol or a genuine assistance to the smooth operation of the business.  Does it add or detract from the individual? 

The question then is: what is more important, the title or the role?
Download my book "Leading to Success" from Amazon Kindle store
Follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook


Sunday, 11 August 2013

A Problem to be Solved? Have You Assessed the Risks as Well as the Response?

About three years ago I wrote a blog post following a session with Vistage speaker Nigel Risner www.nigelrisner.com who gave us a little equation which I have used on many an occasion ever since. 

The equation was E+R=O or Event + Response = Outcome.  In essence, there are two possible uses: 

The event has happened and is immutable so the outcome depends absolutely on the response to the event. 

Alternatively again accepting that the event has passed and can’t be changed, if the leader decides what outcome is desired then it defines what the response should be. 

I was again reminded of the equation when I discovered a website in Atlanta, GA, USA, www.kentjulian.com selling wristbands bearing the E+R=O and in five different colours no less.  Even better, they also say: 

“I own the response” 

It once again gave me food for thought and I wonder if there isn’t a case for a slight modification to the equation.  After all, the outcome decision could be one of a list of options each one defined by the risk involved. 

If the leader is risk averse, then the result is likely to be stability if not sterility simply because any successful business decision demands a modicum of calculated risk. 

In general the higher the risk the greater the likelihood of enhanced reward so the level of risk needs to be carefully calculated.  It needs a decision as to the result required so that the response and risk elements can be determined. 

I am not convinced that many leaders actually undertake a formal assessment of the risk options; rather they tend to use gut feel as to the best option. 

How do we determine risk, then?  In general the financial aspects become paramount but the effects on the people in the business also need to be assessed. 

I recall an interesting technique called the Decision Tree which went like this.  The event is defined and the options, as the leader sees them, listed in a horizontal line below. 

Each option is them analysed as to what is needed to achieve a successful outcome with a final estimate of the potential revenue as well as the time and costs involved.  From those results it is then possible to make a cultured decision as to the best option and hence the risk involved. 

What I am saying is that leaders need to make decisions not only based on gut feel but also on a sensible assessment of the risks and the desired results. 

Perhaps the equation should be restated as: 

·       E + R1 +R2 = O  

where E = the event, R1 = the risk involved, R2 = the response and O = the desired outcome.   

The problem is that I don’t know where to buy the wristbands.
Download my book "Leading to Success" from the Amazon Kindle Store
Follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook



Sunday, 4 August 2013

Appointing Business Development Staff? Do You Really Mean Sales People?

There seems to have been a proliferation of rather high flown new titles in business for people who are doing jobs which have been done for ages under their original names. 

Wondering what I am going on about?  I ask myself, why for example are Sales now known as Business Development and why is the Works Manager now called Operations Manager and Purchasing now known as Supply Chain? 

As far as I am aware they carry out much the same functions so what was the need to change their titles? 

I am particularly exercised about the dramatic change in the status of sales personnel because sales, under whatever guise, is the life blood of any trading organisation and, let’s face it, every business including professional practices and charities, is a trading entity. 

Some years ago I heard a poem (doggerel really) which went like this: 

“He who whispers down a well
About the goods he has to sell
Will never make as many dollars
As the guy who climbs on the roof, and hollers” 

and that, to my mind sums it up.  The sales function is central to the effective operation of any business and whatever new title we give to it, it will still demand the dedication and enthusiasm which any great sales operative brings to the job. 

Some years ago, I was asked to go into a company to look at their marketing which was at the time the new and fashionable way to describe the sales function.  In fact, Sales is a function of Marketing as is advertising, PR, social media and the rest. 

The company manufactured small electronic components and had been started from scratch by three like minded electronic engineers.  It prospered until for some unaccountable reason, sales had started to fall away. 

The first thing that I asked them was how were they achieving sales right now and I wasn’t too surprised to be told that “we don’t do anything like that as we have a great reputation and people come to us”. 

I suggested gently that when they started up in business they must have done some selling as it is difficult to build a reputation when nobody knows you. 

“Oh yes,” they said “We went to see some people we knew and they gave us some business and it grew from there.  Now we find that the same people are buying imported components”.  They didn’t know from where they were imported, they didn’t know the prices they were offering, in short they knew nothing about the competition. 

Nothing came of the meeting for me because they were adamant that they weren’t going to get involved with sales people so I made an excuse and left. 

There is a strange reluctance on the part of many businesses to look upon “sales” as a vocation, preferring to regard it as a slightly rude activity, equated with flashy used car salesmen, hence the gentrification to Business Development. 

If my old sales mentor, Phil Copp, the Sage of Wythenshawe, could hear them he would certainly have something to say.  He was proud of his function in selling great products on behalf of his company and, by the way, without earning any commission for doing it.  He was totally professional and viewed the activity as a profession. 

That was the best sales force I ever experienced and they operated without financial incentives, just a desire to be successful and to give unparalleled service to their customers. 

Selling is a profession and should be looked upon as such. 

No sales, no business.
Download my book "Leading to Success" from the Amazon Kindle store
Follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook