What leaders must do to be ‘right a lot’

The stakes are high for organisations and business leaders in today’s fast-paced world, especially with a market that rarely forgives bad decisions. Managers, sometimes, are so focused on keeping the pressure up on their teams to get results that they forget that the way they ‘manage’ their teams significantly impacts the team’s work ethic and performance. It can help create a results-oriented, highly motivated and satisfied team— one that has the freedom to debate and disagree, but also make quick and effective decisions together and get the work done.

A leader is given the authority to deliver results for an organisation. The trajectory chosen by him or her to achieve the results sets apart a true leader from the rest. Those who follow the ‘right’ path to achieve the targets will find that they are able to consistently generate results.

Choose fairness

A good leader’s first trait is ‘fairness’. Teams are quick to understand when a manager is playing favourites and no one likes it. A manager needs to be transparent in his or her decision-making, so that the team understands the clear rationale behind a decision. When a process is seen as fair, then team members will accept adverse decisions — like missing a promotion to someone who performed better. They may not like it, they may not like you but they will accept it and in the end, they will respect you.

Treat with respect

You need to give respect to get respect. Often, organisations, very vocally, place a premium on performance and not on how the work gets done because the core focus is on business targets. It is implicit that respect is integral to the whole process, based on the principle of “Earn Trust” that says leaders need to be attentive, candid and respectful and are self-critical vocally. But how do you demonstrate ‘respect’ to your team?

Begin feedback with honest appreciation. Find areas you are truly appreciative of and highlight those before proceeding to the actual task of providing feedback on what needs to be done better.

Everyone is fallible, even the best leaders, so readily accept mistakes that you make.

Instead of giving orders, try asking questions. For example, “So how do you think we can solve this?”

No one sets out to make a mistake, so do not question intent. Question the root cause and understand the process that failed. 

Actions and behaviour speak louder than words. Be consistent in your approach, punctual with your meetings, do not cancel one-on-ones, be responsive and genuinely listen. Walk the talk — exhibit the behaviour that you expect in your subordinates.

Differences in opinions

‘High Velocity Decision Making’ is a necessity in today’s business world where waiting to have all the data points at your fingertips before making a decision might make you fall behind. That, however, doesn’t mean managers bulldoze their decisions through. Encouraging on-point debates will ensure different opinions and ideas are aired, so that leaders can get diverse perspectives, resulting in better decision-making.

However, you must not encourage arguments which are made for the sake of making an argument and do not add any value to the decision-making process. As a leader, you have to foster a culture where there is freedom to debate but, this should improve the quality and velocity of decision-making and not slow it down.

At the end of the time-bound debate, there might be two different points of view but a final decision has to be taken. Here’s where it is incumbent upon the leader to truly demonstrate that you might disagree with a course of action, but once that decision is taken, you will drive in that direction.

Don’t slow down for consensus. But do remember to be humble enough to accept when your team member is right.

These are, by no means, the only principles that matter. Instilling a sense of higher purpose, long-term focus and insisting on high standards are just some of the other important traits of a true leader. But, ensuring fair play and creating a culture where opinions can be openly aired in a respectful environment will allow you to establish yourself as a leader who makes right and effective decisions, no matter how fast you need to move.  

(The writer is Director of Middle Mile Operations, Amazon)

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