“We have no need for leadership development”. So said the director in a business I met with recently. “We’ve been in this market for years. We’ve got ambitious goals which everyone in the business knows about and if someone doesn’t share them, then we tell it like it is and part ways”. I was impressed, to be honest with his frankness. There aren’t many people who would stand there and say, “I’ve got nothing to learn”. But maybe their style of high pressure high turnaround yielded results. And they definitely did know what they were doing from a technical standpoint as hundreds of happy customers could attest to this.
However their business had grown five fold in employee terms in under 2 years and – whilst not stratospheric growth – was certainly enough to change the dynamics of their business considerably: no more knowing every interaction the customer had with his team; no more knowing the ins and outs of every employee’s lives. And sadly it seemed, no more static employee numbers.
Because it turns out that whilst this culture of searing honesty sat well with the boss, starters and leavers were going through a revolving door (both leaving of their own free will as well as being ‘ nudged’) and for the last year they were haemorrhaging money through not being able to keep their staff at any level below their management team, not to mention the time it was taking to hire people and the frustrations felt by colleagues as yet another person left and they were there to take the extra work .
And things always started with the best of intentions: from day 1 all team members were given very clear goals which linked to the business ones. They had an ambitious team culture and a thriving service. So where were the issues? Well, here’s the thing: people management is where arts meets science: a place where you can use data and structure to support people achieving your goals, but where you cannot simply follow a template and expect to get the same out put every time or just to impart a goal to someone and expect them to follow it to the letter. Because people just don’t perform as algorithms and they don’t behave as you expect them to all of the time (ask any HR person who’s been behind the scenes in any business for longer than about two weeks!).
We humans are complex creatures and rarely will go about doing something we either don’t understand, don’t believe in or don’t respect. We may not even realise it ourselves, but we need to be ’sold’ to, for someone to engage us in their vision and linking our motivations to achieving the same shared goals.
So when you’re business relies on your team members to get stuff done – make sales, handle your customers – you need to do more to than just ‘direct’ and show them the outputs of a spreadsheet you have just pulled up of their performance: you need to show them ‘the love’.
Today, the world’s best leaders use their head and their hearts.
Emotional intelligence is the term most used to describe the ‘heart’ at work: using your combination of self-awareness, motivation, empathy, social skills and self-regulation to get results.
Psychologist Daniel Goleman studied leadership for the Harvard Review and states in his findings that “The most effective leaders are all alike in one crucial way: they all have a high degree of what has come to be known as emotional intelligence.” It’s not that he – or anyone else – is suggesting that you don’t need to have technical capabilities or a certain level of intelligence to be a leader. It’s just that they’re your entry level ticket to leadership rather than the full blown package.
Our heart is a poor statistician however and definitely needs some support
All of this chat about ‘soft’ skills is not to say that using data, logic and your technical skills in you leadership style are in any way redundant, as both sets of skills come into play best when used together.
If just having and sharing the data to show someone is not performing doesn’t motivate them into changing their behaviour, then neither does just being empathetic about their situation. You need both. Using data and logic can be your ally when it comes to difficult conversations. It’s the ‘proof’ you need to back up your message and make it objective. As a leader, it’s tough to say to someone you respect and like that their performance isn’t cutting it, however armed with some data, it makes your conversation a whole lot easier.
Using your heart means getting to know your team members and their motivations: it means changing your style of communication to suit them and listing to what they have to say about the way you run things.
So next time you are tempted to tear someone off a strip for something they haven’t done (or you think they haven’t done), just challenge yourself to behave differently and see what the results may be.
If you want some extra help on the people front, we can support you through your goals, and ensure that you reach your full potential.
Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more or sign up here for free tools and guidance.
TheHRhub: the ultimate support for startups and SMEs.
P.s – For more reading on giving your own leadership style a bit of a kickstart , then download our FREE eBook: Leadership 101: The Ultimate Guide to Being an Inspirational Leader.