Articles Tagged with: trust
Managing yourself

So much of leadership comes down to being able to manage yourself.

A number years ago I observed a person collapse under the stress of the leadership role he was in. You could tell when he was under stress. He would storm back and forth from the photocopier, muttering things under his breath as he went. He would express his views on the management of the organisation openly in his work area. He would be working late, but make it very clear that it was because the others weren’t carrying their weight.

It didn’t end well. He resigned, stating that it was all the organisation’s fault and the demands placed on him were unreasonable.

Why does it go well for some and not others? I reflected on this.

Leadership does place demands on you as a person. You are taking on extra responsibility. That isn’t easy. But you cannot begin to lead unless you know, and can manage yourself.

The best leaders never let on that they are stressed. They create a sense of calm that pervades the culture of the organisation. This helps people know that everything is, or will be ok, even in a crisis. Leaders who can do this well engender trust in them.

Great leaders are able to manage three areas of themselves:

  1. They can manage their emotions: Great leaders know themselves implicitly. They know what ‘pushes their buttons’ and how they respond in difficult situations. They have learnt to regulate their emotions like they can regulate their body temperature. They recognise when they are under stress, when they are not well, or are tired and have the wisdom to defer a decision, or empower someone else to step in if they are not at their peak.
  2. They manage their health (including sleep): Great leaders know that eating well, getting enough good sleep, and maintaining a good level of fitness helps in the management of stress. They know that a bit of time out exercising helps put things in perspective and creates some thinking and reflection time.
  3. They can manage their ego: Great leaders realise that leadership is not all about them; rather, it is about service. They know what they value and what their purpose in life is. They know that if those values and purpose are inward looking, i.e. all about ‘me’, they will never rise above mediocrity. Instead, if their values and purpose are based on a higher being, they will achieve greatness.

The last area, managing ego, is easier said than done. What does it mean to manage your ego? It means being willing to completely forgo the attention, the affirmation and the glory and readily offer it to another: true humility. In Jesus’ words, “If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it” (Matthew 10:39).

 

How does innovation occur?

When does innovation occur? Rarely, I would suggest. Most organisations don’t innovate unless they are threatened, out of necessity. If things are going along well why innovate?

The theory of the S Curve (or innovation curve) suggests that the performance of a product, or an organisation improves over time as you refine and get better at it. But then decay begins, followed by a rapid decline. We see examples of this all the time. Once great organisations disappear (think Kodak).

More often than not organisations fail to see the tipping point, the point at which their product reaches the end of its time in the spot light. Only when they realise that they are in decline (falling sales, falling enrolments, poor product reviews, etc.) do they realise that they have to innovate or perish.

The good organisations realise that they have to innovate before their current product reaches its pinnacle.

So how does innovation occur?

The secret is in your people.

When groups work well the result is usually a product of more than the sum of individual achievements.

Organisations that rely on the ‘hero’ CEO, or leader will only ever be as good as that single individual. The ideas that he/she generates will only be as great as that person’s imagination.

The role of the leader then, is not to generate the ideas, but to create the conditions for innovation to occur. Those conditions are simple. They have nothing to do with ‘innovation camps’, innovation hack-a-thons, programs or professional development, and everything to do with trust.

Humans are naturally creative beings. We all have imaginations. We love to dream. But when we come to work we leave the dreaming for lunchtime and get on with the business of our job. The boundaries for our work are put in place and reinforced with KPIs, accountability measures and deadlines (and for schools, league tables).

For innovation to occur the leader has to let go of control and allow people to dream, to ponder on the ‘what if’, and take risks with ideas that could at first glance, appear contrary to the organisation’s key objectives. Essentially, the leader has to create a culture of trust.

It is mind-blowing when the leader does this successfully. In high trust cultures people will willingly put in the extra effort. They will work harder. They will do their set job and generate new ideas and solutions. They do this because people love to create. They love to know that what they are doing is making a difference. They are naturally loyal, particularly to places that value and trust them.

How does innovation occur? It occurs when people are allowed to think, dream, take risks, try new things, collaborate and learn. When organisations realise that it is as simple as trusting their staff they will become amazing.

Is reputation everything?

When threatened our instinctive response is ‘fight or flight’. The emotion we experience is fear. This instinct not only kicks in when we are personally threatened, but when the organisation we work for is threatened.  The default position is to ‘protect reputation at all costs’. This is because we perceive reputation, both personal and organisational, to be our most important asset.

It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to destroy it. If you think about that you’ll do things differently. Warren Buffett

However, what happens if you are faced with a choice between protecting reputation or doing the right thing?

There are plenty of examples of the tension between doing the right thing and reputational protection. Volkswagen didn’t do the right thing when it made the conscious decision to cheat the emissions test on its diesel cars. Instead, it wanted to build its reputation as the world’s biggest car company.

Samsung is another example with its recent recall of the Galaxy 7 notebook. At enormous financial and perhaps reputational cost, they chose the right thing by recalling all the phones it had sold.

However, with the advent of social media companies are finding themselves forced to do the right thing. Would Samsung have recalled all those phones if there wasn’t such a public outcry? Up until the point of the recall a mere 35 phones out of the 1million+ sold had exploded into flames. Had they done sufficient testing to begin with, or were they, like Volkswagen, hoping to get away with it?

There are plenty of examples where people and organisations have done wrong and tried (successfully or otherwise) to ‘sweep it under the carpet’ in order to protect their reputation. This is done out of fear; fear that if they don’t protect reputation there will be loss of face, loss of business, and consequences that will have to be borne. In these instances protection of reputation more often than not involves deceit.

We have seen examples of this played out in the way institutions in Australia (and across the world) responded to allegations of sexual abuse towards children. When a young person did have the courage to speak out they were beaten into submission for the protection of the organisation’s reputation. The loss of an individual’s potential (and sometimes life) seemed inconsequential to those in leadership roles.

It takes enormous courage when faced with the choice between doing the right thing or protecting reputation, particularly if it means admitting that you were wrong. But great leaders are more interested in integrity than reputation. They are more interested in the other person than themselves.

Real integrity is doing the right thing, knowing that nobody’s going to know whether you did it or not. Oprah Winfrey

Nelson Mandela said, “I have learned that courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear”.

When faced with the choice, to do the right thing or protect reputation, what would you do? Would you allow your natural fight or flight instinct to rule you, or will you conquer your fear and do the right thing, even if it may mean reputational damage? Great leaders hold integrity far above reputation.