We had an important review last week. I was nervous and had spent the past few weeks preparing for the review. A lot of people were also engaged in helping me prepare for the meeting. The meeting was organized as a discussion over a conference call late evening. Though it was expected to be an intense discussion, we were confident. The discussion went well and we received a pat on the back at the end of the review. However, we felt that something was amiss. The reviewers just did not connect with our story. There were more questions and advice given than the effort to understand the work we put in.
As always, I blamed the reviewers and wondered why they didn’t connect with our story. I did not sleep well that night. Next morning, when I was out for my morning run, I started reflecting about the previous night’s meeting. Then, it dawned on me—how many times had I been on the other side of the table and behaved in a similar manner? In a leadership role, it is very easy to think “we know the best” and make sure that the lesser mortals have looked at all aspects.
In this VUCA (Volatile uncertain complex ambiguous) world, do we really know all the answers? How do we inspire others so that they deliver their best and the organization collectively moves forward? As I think of some of the leaders who have inspired me in the past, a few thoughts emerge:
Be Accessible: Recently, I was travelling internationally to a location where multiple GE businesses are headquartered. One of my ex-managers, who is now a very senior leader in GE, lived in the same area. I sent this person a note saying I was around for a day and would love to catch up, least expecting to receive an affirmative response. To my surprise, he not only said yes, but also sent an invite for a one-hour meeting. Each one of us has 24 hours a day. We all struggle through lots of challenges such as priorities at work or home, sometimes a crisis or a reporting need hijacks the day. It only gets more complicated as we grow into roles with larger responsibilities. We make a difference by investing and growing talent and none of this can happen, if we don’t even spend time to know them or are available when they need us.
Don’t review, enable success: We have been groomed in such a way that we have come to believe that our role as a leader/manager of a large organization entails conducting reviews. It will help us in knowing what is happening and we can use this opportunity to guide the youngsters who don’t have the relevant experience. If we look at some of the most successful organizations in the recent past like Facebook or Google, they came into existence with an idea from a 20-something individual. Every idea counts, every person counts. To unleash the unprecedented capability, should we not listen more, focus on removing roadblocks, coach and counsel more than advise and ask questions? Help enable success, help enable ideas to fruition, help enable decision-making.
Don’t be a mokito guy: Mokito in New Guinea stands for truth that everyone knows but nobody speaks. It’s unbelievable that we have terms like “career derailers” for speaking our mind. We live in an era of increased transparency. We have an opportunity to accept the truth, learn from mistakes and move further and faster. We also have the responsibility to create an environment where everyone feels comfortable to share his or her thoughts and ideas freely. To energize teams and make them feel valued, its critical that they are able to express freely and feel that their opinions are not only heard, but sought out. As someone once said, they are the SWAK- someone with actual knowledge…they will drive success!
Do you invest more in maintaining the current tools or in learning new tools and capabilities? Research has again showed that learning and growth excites everyone. It’s a commitment to a better future. It’s a commitment to enable success for the learner. It’s a hope, a promise and there is nothing better than hope to inspire!