Unleashing your leadership potential for breakthrough results
All leaders, whatever their ranks, occasionally find themselves in situations that aren’t of their own choosing. A few situations may be pleasant, such as an enjoyable chance meeting with a stranger that leads to a new valued relationship. But most of them are unpleasant; for e.g., your boss requests you to get 10 percent more sales volume from your division than the agreed current quarterly budget. He explains the company needs more short-term funds due to a crisis.
You can respond to any unpleasant situation in one of the two different ways: (1) By being a helpless victim – feeling bad and talking negatively about the request. (2) By being positive and making the best of the current situation! The second option makes you (what is known as) change agent.
In the new situation, you can become a successful change by adopting two positive attitudes.
(1) First, stay calm and confident.
(2) Be purposeful (a) In looking for opportunities to improve processes, systems and ways of working that enhance the performance of your team. (b) By explaining the reasons for the change and the likely effects on those people affected by it. (c) Encourage your team members to express their views and feelings. Listen to them and take notice of what they say. (d) Sense people’s commitment to the change. (e) Remain realistic. Be prepared to be flexible, modify your plans and if necessary settle for a less than perfect outcome and speed of change in order to sustain people’s commitment to the change.
Cruising with your crew
Engage the members of your team in continuously looking for ways to improve all aspects of how the team is performing. Remember, through this approach, you and they:
(1) Become used to making changes and also more receptive to change happening in your organisation.
(2) Have pride in the improvements you’re all making.
(3) Build a stronger sense of identity and teamwork through working better together.
Hold regular meetings with your team to ask and answer questions such as:
(a) What’s working well? Seek to identify strengths, reinforce good practice and recognise the contributions and achievements of individuals and your whole team.
(b) What’s working poorly? Ask people to describe what frustrates or annoys them in doing their work. Look for shortfalls regarding the targets and objectives that the team are expected to achieve.
(c) Identify where or how processes and systems are malfunctioning. Suggest actions to overcome the problems they identify. What if we could improve ... by 10 percent?
(d) Encourage the team members to question and challenge the current ways of working and to think differently. Allow them even to change the paradigms that constrain their views about what the team’s capable of achieving. Your team is capable of achieving significant improvements in performance if together you strive continuously to identify opportunities and solve problems. In this way, deliver small step-by-step improvements.
Leaders at all levels of organisations from the managing director or chief executive officer to the team leader or supervisor occasionally have to implement decisions that aren’t their own. So, you may as well get used to handling the dilemmas caused by having to implement changes as a result of someone else’s decision!
Behave like the professional change agent and ask your immediate boss to find out:
(1) The reasons for the change, including the benefits of the change and the consequences of not making the change.
(2) Why the change has to be made now rather than at another time, because the members of your team are likely to ask you the same question.
(3) How much control you have about how the change is to be introduced.
(4) Represent your team to your boss by conveying their suggestions, hopes and aspirations,
concerns and fears about the proposed change. Attempt to address the issues raised by the members of your team with your boss rather than just passing the matters over to him.
You now have the basis for getting everyone engaged, rather than fuelling resentment.
To sum up -- As a leader, you’re going to experience occasions when you have to do what’s right for the business or organisation, even though you and your team may not like what needs to be done. Certain proposed changes may adversely affect you and/or few members of your team.
There may be situations where you have to implement that you disagree with. Those are situations when you need patience, intelligence, courage and expertise to discuss things with your boss to arrive into a compromised position that is acceptable to you or you at least get a proper understanding of the company hierarchy why you have to do it.
Behave like a professional change agent when introducing changes with which you disagree and also do the following:
(1) Be willing to challenge a decision if you really believe that the decision is going to affect adversely the productivity or success of your division and whole organisation.
(2) Propose an alternative solution or course of action highlighting the benefits justified by facts and evidence and any disadvantages of your proposal to demonstrate that you’ve been objective in your analysis of the situation.
You may not get what you want but you have the right to ask!
Leadership in the 21st century not only requires the ability to continuously manage crisis and change – but also the ‘circular vision’ to see around, beneath and beyond the obvious. Such action will help you to anticipate the unexpected before circumstances force your hand.
“Where does one start to get into this circular vision?” you may ask.
The starting point always begins with you, your relationships to others and the quality of those relationships, especially under duress.
(1) Rebuild trust among your peers and colleagues.
Your team members will work for, be loyal to and follow those they trust. This is a strategy that holds true in every avenue of business as well. Utilize it well and you’ll have support for whatever change you would like to carry out.
(2) Change your own perception.
Don’t think at any point that your concept or plan is pointless or futile. Always visualise the possibilities and opportunities that can benefit others. It’s important to embrace a perception of “hope” because with that, you become contagious!
(3) Decide what’s truly important.
Would you rather be happy or proud? You cannot have both. Would you be more willing to be stubborn on a point just because you didn’t want to give in? Or are you willing to put down being combative for the greater good of the project at hand and everyone involved? Being happier rather than proud is far more productive and team members will respect you more for it.
(4) Be predictable.
Use the 3 Cs in everything you do. Be clear about your vision or task at hand. Communicate often. And be consistent in your behaviour. People want to know that you are predictable. This also holds true for how you engage others, your personal code of ethics and belief of fair play. They will know what you will and will not do. How you will and will not engage others on a personal or professional field. Being predictable helps others feel safe.
(5) Reconsider your position.
Reconsider your position. Are the changes you are suggesting for the betterment of all or for a small group? When others see that you are in it for the betterment of others, you are more likely to create a movement others are willing to jump on board.
(Lionel Wijesiri is a retired corporate director counting three decades of senior management experience. He is now an independent consultant and a freelance journalist. He may be contacted on email@example.com)