It's been almost three decades I have been working in the telecom sector and throughout this period, I have lead a lot of complex projects, managed diverse teams, and had the privilege of working with professionals. It has been quite an exciting journey which taught me a few management lessons that most B Schools don’t.
A manager is only as good as his team and Human Capital is one of the most complex resources to work with. In today’s world assigning tasks to people and getting the job done from them while keeping them motivated throughout is one of the toughest tasks to do. One who excels in it can achieve great things in life. In three decades of my experience, I too learned a few valuable lessons, and I am sharing five of them with you.
1. Turn your Employee Mistakes into Learning Lessons for Them
Every mistake is a learning opportunity, and this applies to you and your team as well. When your team commits a mistake, instead of reacting to the situation, you can spend energy on resolving the problem and be optimistic with them. A Paul Schoemaker, co-author of Brilliant mistakes states, ”The best mistakes are those which are of low cost but give you great learning for life”. To err is human and your team cannot deny this basic human nature, errors are bound to happen.
Focus on the symptoms/processes which led to an error rather than pinpointing the team members. — Initiate an open discussion with the concerned employee, it can include making them responsible for a process improvement plan or if the individual failed to follow a process, then working with them on a timeline to fix the solution. This way, you make them accountable, and responsible. When you do so, you are indirectly motivating them to use their brain to think of the most efficient way to prevent similar mistakes from happening in the future.
2. Hire Talent as per your Cultural Fit
Once someone asked Steve Jobs, what do you think is the key to the success of Apple? He replied, “Hiring extraordinarily talented people whom I call A-players.”
These employees he called A-players weren't necessarily skilled experts but were people who understood his vision. Most leaders, talent managers, and HR’s know the importance of good hiring and assess the candidate on technical skills/business acumen, etc. What takes a backseat is a discussion on the culture. Steve Jobs said, he hires extraordinarily talented people, but there was one thing in common among all his hires - Understanding his vision.
In my opinion, it is okay to leave a role unfilled for some time rather than to fill it with someone who won’t sync with the team. When you are hiring someone, think long term, let the members of the team the individual would be working with have genuine conversations with them. Give the candidate a glimpse of the kind of work, culture, and surroundings they will get into. Keep it as real as possible; this will help you understand if the candidate is willing to be a part of the organization. Doing so will take some effort, but the probability of making a bad hire will decrease to a great extent.
3. Develop the Skill to Manage a Mobile Workforce
With digitization happening all over, it is changing the way people work rapidly. Today you don’t need an office to get your work done. Just a laptop and a mobile phone are enough. BYOD, digitization, and ease of access have made the workforce truly mobile. This changing work style of professionals/millennial is hard to accept and manage for leaders sometimes.
Being a senior leader myself, I have learned that we need to adapt to changing times and be the pioneers of modern technology. That is how we can understand the needs of our employees and manage them better. If you look at it with a positive angle, working from anywhere is a boon and can increase the productivity of an employee manifold.
You should focus more on the results and ensuring timely deliverable without compromises on security, quality, etc. rather than micromanaging.
4. Have Faith in Your Team and Let Them Execute
It is understandable to be a control freak at times. Most of us feel that the safest hands are ours but unless we don’t trust our employees, how will you as an organization scale up? How will you grow or how will your employees grow if you are the bottleneck for every task assigned to them? As leaders, we have a tendency of delegating tasks and then working hard on those delegated tasks not allowing our team-mates to fully execute the plan without our inputs.
The best form of leadership is when you assign goals to your employees and trust them to execute. It will help them grow and respect you immensely. Mentor / Coach / Advice them as and when necessary but don’t be the part of the task, direct the process, and let them be the lead players.
5. Go Back to Basics When Things Get Complicated
As leaders, there are times when things aren’t going the way we planned. Complications arise, and we lose sight of what we ought to do during such times. During such times getting back to basics is the best thing to do. Think from Outside In perspective, take yourself away from the organization and then review.
Observe the work culture within your organization, and see if your employees are positive or are they bickering around? Are they passionate about what they are doing? Are they happy working as a team? Are your employees rewarded for the excellent work they are doing? Are they being given unrealistic goals? Look into the most basics of your business, and you will get solutions to the deepest complications.
After all, change begins from the top; when you fix the upper management, the hierarchy beneath automatically gets set. Small things make a huge difference; as a leader, you need to remember that.