#Leadership: Humanizing Our Approaches

I remember being inspired by a Maths teacher who once told me, “If you start loving the mental stimulation and excitement you get when solving a problem, mathematics is easy.” He did not try to inspire me by the grades I must achieve, but by something more deeper. That did not change the fact that I still needed to score well but now, scoring well was a by-product of chasing the stimulation and excitement.

The practice of business is driven by hard stuff. We need more revenues, better margins, higher utilization, more leads, strategic diversification, differentiation, operational efficiency, lower attrition, strategic focus, branding et al. For a business, these are crucial but..

…but on their own, they often fail to really inspire people.

That is because people’s needs are different than a businesses’ need. People often look for being a part of a larger vision. They want to be valued when they deliver value. They want to be respected for who they are. They need to constantly see the meaning of their work. They want to be understood. They look for learning and growth. They need a conducive space to perform. They need independence.  They want to be cared for before they care for the work. They need love, belongingness, trust, honor, honesty and purpose. All extra-ordinary human accomplishments have their roots in some of these virtues.

In business as well, we need more intrinsic motivation. We need to address precisely those things that inspire human beings. We need to create an environment where people can thrive.

We need to humanize our leadership approaches and communication to build a system where intrinsic motivation is more likely to happen.

Hard stuff then, is the by-product of doing the right things for right reasons.

Related Reading:

Training: The Change Agent

Organizations that embark on process journey initiate rigorous training programs to ensure that everyone is trained to perform activities associated with specific roles. While these initiatives start with a lot of zest, somewhere, it loses steam. I have seen training programs becoming more of a “necessary evil” over a period of time. Trainers take these trainings for granted and completely lose the sight of their objectives. They conduct trainings simply because they have a budget/training process/calendar that they have to comply with.

Imparting training is a costly affair. So many people from your organization spend those precious hours either conducting or attending training. Trainings done as a “necessary evil” is one of the biggest wastes I have seen in organizations. Effective trainings have become absolutely critical in knowledge oriented world to maintain the competitiveness and innovation.

For training to really deliver value, we need a shift in mindset. Trainings are not a just one-way affair – they are the change agents. Trainings, if done with right intent and zeal can transform the organization. Trainings are a great forum to set the expectations on behaviors you value and build the culture.

In one of the consulting companies I know, the Managing Director/Founder attended the quality induction training in the very first batch. He gave a clear message across the organization that attending the training was crucial, and that if he can attend it, no one else should be too busy not to attend it. Top management championed the cause to set the right example at the onset.

Training a mass may be a good way to drive expectations, but for training to be a change agent, we need to influence one person at a time. I know a technical leader who is very conscious about on-the-job mode of training. He believes that doing things together is the best way to teach. He uses a combination of class room training and interactive/short one on one sessions to drive learning in his team.

Bottom line: Whether you are a business leader, training manager or a trainer, ask this question before planning any training, “What change do I wish to see as a result of this training?” and your perspective would change from “imparting knowledge” to “inducing change”. Treat training as a change agent.

Engagement, Leadership and Power of Storytelling

Last week, I had a short conversation with one of my colleagues in HR about the all important topic of employee engagement. In an impromptu conversation, we touched upon a very important point: People love (and remember) stories, not facts.

We loved it when our grandparents wrapped important life lessons in form of stories. Vivid situations weaved in words and narrated with great zeal. The stories I heard in my childhood, and the messages therein, are still afresh in my memory. My daughter almost gets hooked when a story is narrated. We grow up on stories, so do our belief system and our world view.

For leaders, ability to communicate using stories, choosing stories in line with listener’s current context and structuring them for maximum impact are very crucial skills.

Here are a few ways you can use power of storytelling:

  • As a speaker/presenter, you can use stories to capture the imagination of audience. The lessons we learn as conclusions of interesting stories make a bigger impact than getting directly to the lessons. Great presenters tell great stories, anecdotes and experiences that truly engage the audience. They make a point at the end of each story.
  • As a business leader, your biggest challenge is to keep your people engaged with your mission and with their work. Inspire them with stories about the organization. Show them the future. Tell tales of triumphs and trials, of success and failures, of past and future. Stories reinforce the belief system. Stories validate people’s aspirations and empower them. Stories create alignment and hence culture. Your people, new hires and aspiring leaders are not as fascinated by numbers as they are with the stories associated with the organization. Listen to their stories as well.
  • As a sales leader, you can use power of well crafted stories to project your organization. Numbers and explicit details are fine, but stories of your inception, growth, challenges, success stories (in similar context) can help you a great deal in establishing comfort and confidence with your prospective customers.

Critical Question: How can you leverage the power of storytelling to enrich your conversations, build great relationships, truly connect with people and make a difference?

Have a FANTASTIC Friday and a great weekend ahead!

Seven Key Thoughts About Managing Human Resources

Here are SEVEN most prominent thoughts that stuck me this week about managing “human” resources. These thoughts can be useful if you are a business owner, a human resources professional, a project manager or a leader at any level in an organization:

  • ‘Human Resources’ are more ‘human’ and less ‘resources’. I almost hate it when living, breathing, emotional, intelligent people are addressed as ‘resources’. They are not a part of a machinery. They are humans!
  • Yes, they can be your most valuable ‘resources’ only if you focus on managing ‘human’ aspect (alignment, motivation, growth, empathy in your policies, human interactions etc)
  • Fundamental of managing people is to realize that when people come to workplace, they come with an intent of doing a good job. No body ever wants to spend 8 hours doing poor work.
  • So, next time when your people don’t do the job right, ask yourself – “Are they doing it intentionally?”. The answer would be mostly “No” and will lead to some food for thought on leadership.
  • People work well when they do something they love doing. Leverage their strengths.
  • People work well when they have some power to take important decisions about their work. Give them that space.
  • Abraham Maslow said that one of the fundamental needs of human beings is “Esteem” – a desire to be accepted and valued by others. If you understand this, you will never behave in a way that kills other’s self-esteem. Recognize them and while you play to their strengths, accept their weaknesses. Let them know how their work counts in a larger perspective.

The most ‘delicate’ part of managing work in a knowledge economy is the art of managing people, engaging them in worthwhile pursuits and manage their motivations.

Sometimes, the ‘soft’ aspects of your work (inspiring, motivating, respecting, building a culture) as a leader can become ‘hardest’ part of your work.

Think about it!

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P.S: The "Dwarka Lighthouse" photo (see below) I took in Dec 2008 is selected/included in University of North Carolina’s Directory of Lighthouses! Check it out!


Experiences and Learning on Respecting people

Here is an interesting experience I had some time back.

I went to one of my colleague’s desk to discuss an important point with a prior intimation. As I was speaking, his eyeballs kept focusing on his laptop screen and then back on me. His attention span to what I was saying was very limited. It was when he interrupted me just because someone pinged him on MSN that I had to revolt. I stopped speaking and suggested that we would only discuss when he is done with all his mails and chat. He got the point.

On the other hand, I had a colleague few years back who made sure that when someone drops in to meet (even without prior intimation), he would immediately shut the lid of his laptop and assume a very relaxed position. He would attentively listen and acknowledge that he is getting the message. He guaranteed his complete attention.

People resort to a number of ways to demonstrate that they are higher in the hierarchy – in process of exhibiting this, they loose respect. Isn’t humility even more neccessary and important when you climb higher in the corporate hierarchy?

Key takeaways for me from these experiences –

  • People only respect you when you respect them. People reciprocate acts. Give and you graciously receive. Respecting people at workplace is mandatory!
  • Respecting people means listening them. With all social applications, chat, mobiles, blackberries and emails, it is very easy to be always pre-occupied with something or the other. But is it more important than a person who is sitting in front of you, wanting to tell something important? Respecting people means listening them. Really listening!
  • Respecting people means respecting their time – because that’s the most precious resource we all have! Scheduling meetings only when they are required, sticking to agenda and adhering to meeting time is a great way to respect other’s time.
  • Respecting people means doing what you said you will. Keeping on promises means you respect your commitment and expectations of the other party.

In this regards, I liked what I read at LSS Academy blog post titled “7 Practical Ways to Respect People”. I also loved 10 tips on how to respect people.

Have you experienced situations when you felt that you were not respected? What did you learn from it?

I am keen to know and I look forward to your comments.