Lead with Humility
Don’t Abuse Your Power As a Leader: There can be no humility in leaders who place themselves above the people they are paid to serve. If you think that you might be taking advantage of your position, sit down with your boss or manager and ask for his or her opinion. Chances are your boss knows the truth. Like the $1-a-year CEOs, come up with your own ideas for showing the people who work for you that you are not only their boss but a colleague as well.
Eliminate Any Barriers That Set You Above Your Employees: Look around your office. Is it inviting or intimidating? How far away is it from your employees? Is it closed off, while the rest of the office is open? How many gatekeepers would someone have to pass to get to it? Do you use the common kitchen and bathroom, or do you have private facilities? How many of the employees who are below your direct reports in the corporate hierarchy do you pass in the hallway each day? How many would you like to pass? Do you say hello to any of them? Remove the figurative papal thrones from your office. All of these things can be fixed to bring you closer to your people.
Refrain from Ultraexpensive Dinners That Only Top Management May Attend: Instead, encourage all of your leaders to host a monthly breakfast with their direct employees. This will prove to be a much better use of your budgets and your time. If you are accustomed to hosting off-site meetings solely for senior managers, consider off-site meetings for middle managers and their direct reports as well.
Smell Like Your Flock
Manage by Walking Around: Manage by Walking Around (MBWA) became popular years ago but is making a comeback today. This technique was how Bill Hewlett and David Packard managed their computer company. Steve Jobs, of Apple fame, also lived by this management principle and included customers in the mix as well by calling them in order to get their assessments of the latest Apple product.
Before providing additional tips on MBWA, let’s see if you are a natural or need a little help. Please ask yourself these questions:
- Do you feel like you have your pulse on the inner workings of your department?
- Do you feel that you know the strengths, weaknesses, and current morale of each of your direct reports?
- Do you regularly have unscheduled, informal discussions with your people?
Make MBWA a regular and frequent thing. Consider using different restrooms so you can conveniently bump into new people all the time. Never bring an aide or an entourage, and over time make sure you get to everybody in all departments. Ask each person for one great idea on how to make things better, and recognize the ones you implement. Do not criticize; asking for suggestions is more of a fact-finding mission, so learn to hold your tongue.
Who Am I to Judge?
Always Remember Pope Francis’s Five Words “Who Am I to Judge?”: As a leader, you must be sure to leave at the door any biases that you may have against anyone or any group under your leadership. Just as important, even if you are a skeptical type, you must learn to trust your people unless they give you a reason not to.
True Dialogue Is a Two-Way Conversation: When engaging in dialogue with your people, remember that listening is just as important—if not more important—than talking. Spend all your time talking, and you will do nothing but confirm your own biases and prejudices. Spend your time listening, and you will gain new perspectives and learn your reports’ goals, desires, and strengths. If you involve your team in true dialogue, you will be able to help them improve their work, which will ultimately make you a better manager.
Focus on Strengths: With each of your direct reports, start with a clean piece of paper. Make a list of their strengths to ensure that all of your people are in the right jobs. Do not assume just because someone has been in a job for years that he or she belongs there. Empower your employees to develop their strengths as well. If they want to take a class that conflicts with their work schedule, give them flexible hours if possible. Allow them to take opportunities within your organization as well, if the opportunities are aligned with their strengths.
Make Inclusion a Top Priority
Leave No One on the Bench: As a result of the still-recovering global economy, most corporations and other organizations have learned to do more with fewer people. This is why world employment figures are down in most countries, most notably in European countries such as Greece, Italy, and Spain, where unemployment rates are an eye-popping 25 percent, and twice that for younger demographic groups. As a result, today’s companies are far leaner than they were just a decade ago. Therefore, you must make sure that every person you are responsible for in your organization is a high-level performer. In order to achieve that, your people need as much information as possible.
Put Together Your Own Decision-Making Panel: Why should only CEOs have a board of directors? If you are a leader, you could use the best possible advice from the most diverse group possible. Whether you establish this group in a formal or an informal manner, the key is empowering people to speak their minds when called upon. Convene this panel on a regular basis, and always have a few key items on the agenda ahead of time so your “consultants” have some time to ponder these issues in advance. Next, in order to make sure that you are not leaving out any important topics, ask each member of the group to bring in two or three bullet points that they think require your attention. This way, you develop a two-way mode of communication with this group.
Eliminate Insularity Within Your Own Organization: This is a very important imperative. It is bad enough to be too inward looking and not know what is happening in the outside world and the markets in which your firm operates. It may be worse for departments within your own organization to be so insular that your people don’t even know what their colleagues down the hall are doing.
Invite Another Leader from a Competitor or a Related Industry to Speak to Your People: This would have been an unthinkable premise two decades ago. But today many companies are involved in sharing best practices with other firms. If you are in a position to invite the CEO of a not-so-direct competitor, do so. And offer the same opportunity to them in return.
Choose Pragmatism over Ideology
Pragmatism Starts with a Mindset: Pragmatists see the world for what it is, not how they wish it to be. As humble as Pope Francis is, he describes himself as a “political animal.” He knew that to become the 266th pontiff, he would have to understand the politics of the conclave, even though he was too humble to actually campaign for the job in any covert manner. Likewise, Francis urges people to engage in office politics, because he is a pragmatist and knows that those people who do not engage in the underlying culture or politics of an organization will be left behind. Rather than avoid office politics, which albeit are frequently a waste of time—or, worse, spending your time instead wishing you lived in a world without them—participate, but don’t succumb. Use the dramas as a way to demonstrate your own leadership skills by solving problems, bringing antagonists together and turning them into teams, and creating a more collegial atmosphere instead of a poisonous one. You may have to be ruthless and get rid of those who would root for the poison, but most people don’t like office politics and they’ll be glad to see the snakes banished, too.
Open Up New Areas: Pope Francis urges people to chart new paths in their field of endeavor. Experimenting with new ideas and products or services is certainly consistent with a pragmatist’s view of the world. That’s because the pragmatist knows that one day something that worked well for an individual or organization won’t work anymore. Intel’s founders learned that the hard way, which is why its cofounder Andy Grove urges managers to always be experimenting with new ideas and products. Evaluating new processes can also help your company keep up with trends. Make sure your procedures are as efficient as possible by assessing work flow and deciding whether new technologies can be implemented to make your time go further.
Live on the Frontier: Although frontier—or new frontier—were popular words and phrases for John F. Kennedy when he campaigned for president, Francis has a slightly different meaning for the word today. In American parlance, he means pushing the envelope by doing courageous things on the front lines. Don’t be afraid to push yourself beyond limits that are self-imposed or placed on you by society or convention; you might be surprised what you can accomplish if you do things Francis’s way.
Confront Adversity Head-On
Turn Adversity into an Asset: Adversity can be a positive thing, as long as you make it one. Adversity can help you make sure that you and your management team are not complacent.
Sidestepping Adversity Seldom Works: Francis learned this lesson the hard way. Adversity is something that needs to be tackled head-on. By sweeping a problem under the rug, you are doing a disservice to yourself and, more important, your organization.
Be Proactive in Rooting Out Problems: Consider putting together a small task force with the sole charter of discerning adverse issues and realities that could hurt your firm. You do not need to be a part of this task force. In fact, this group of employees should be closest to the customers and markets you serve. It is often the people on the front lines who get the first whiff of a problem or a competitor’s move that might make one of your offerings obsolete.