I have managed teams for many years, and I have my fair share of highly competent subordinates and not so competent subordinates. If your subordinates are above average, you have it good. Work gets done on time, and you can safely delegate work and projects to them. However, if you have less than able subordinates, you will end up correcting errors, following up on projects you have already delegated, and ended up doing a lot of things yourself.
The best ones are those who can even exceed your intelligence, creativity and skill levels. These workers are hard to find, or highly ambitious. However, once you get them, you can exceed your business results, get things done quickly, and create a dream team that makes your company an outstanding leader in the market place. You need to train them, give them the goals and targets, and let them loose to achieve those results.
On the other hand, if you have subordinates that are less than able, don’t fire them just like that! There’s usually reasons why they did not perform to your expectations. Start with the belief that most people want to achieve, and be a good team player. Have frequent heart to heart talks with that person, and be a friend to find out if there’s a mismatch in roles, training or communication. Be patient, positive and always persevere. Be a career coach and help that person find an alignment with his passion and skills.
Apple has seen a massive revival in recent years. Before Steve Jobs return to Apple, Apple products were very niche, and only a few of my friends used them then. Now, most of my friends have at least an Apple product. Apple is no longer for the few, but rather a successful mass product company.
I have experienced the Apple products for myself, and read a few books about the Apple company. Biggest lesson?
‘Less is more’. That’s it. The biggest lesson of all.
Look at the first successful product under the i-series. The i-Pod. Simple design and simple to use. Does the design look good? Sure it does! Even the box that contains Apple products are carefully designed to be easy to open.
Steve also insists that Apple focuses only on a few products at a time. With more focus, they can create better products that delight consumers. They make big bets, and refuse to spread the risk through launching many products. Whatever few products they have, they invested all their effort and money to design, make and market them well. Look at the success rate of their product launches.
How do you motivate your team to change for the better? You need to touch the mind and hearts of your team mates holistically to get their buy in for change. Here are 3 tried and tested methods to get them to do so:
1) Use communication strategies from the movies. A lot of good movies start off by introducing a protagonist or a hero, who is likable and is someone whom the audience can relate to. The hero encounters difficulties and obstacles. He eventually resolved the problem, and is a changed man at the end of it all. With this plot, you can inspire your team by telling them that they are the ‘heroes’, there is a difficulty now, and the team needs to overcome it together for a transformation to be better.
2) The second way is to use a situational analysis method. Tell them what is the current situation. Offer them various scenarios of what they could become if they choose a different path. Entice them with a better future if they will embrace the changes, and motivate them with the potential rewards at the end of it all.
3) The final one is to inspire the team using an analogy referring to parts of the body. Use logic to satisfy the head. Use emotions to satisfy the heart. Use humor and passion to satisfy the gut. Use the spirit to conquer it all and be a winner.
Are you satisfied with where you are now? Is there a limit to your abilities and capabilities? Are you already at the ‘Golden Age’ of your life?
If you stretch yourself further, you will find that your capabilities are only limited by what your mind perceives. Unchain your abilities from your perceived limitations.
Do not think that you are already an expert or one of the smartest guy around. Be humble, and always seek to be better today than yesterday. No matter how good you already are, you can always be better. Do not settle for good, go for great.
When others praise you for something you have done, ask for the criticisms as well. Ask them how you can further improve on your achievements. Never settle for what you have achieved currently, but stretch yourself for the next level continuously.
A lot of people may pull us down to the ‘average’ level, so that we can be just like one of them. Be conscious of this. In whatever you do, exceed people’s expectations by going the extra mile. The standards of excellence lie in yourself, and not with others. Set your own excellent standards, and never violate it at all times.
Strategy is simply making choices of what to do and what not to do. This impacts the direction of the company, and how you invest your money, time and energy. A good measurement system is necessary to ensure that you are reaching your destination in all the things you do.
Strategic positioning on the other hand, is doing different activities vs. your competitors, or doing similar things in different ways. This differs from operational effectiveness, which is trying to do the same thing as competitors, but better at it than them.
I was a real type A personality before, and early in my career, with all its mega stresses and tremendous focus on achievements over everything else took a toll on my leadership capabilities. I drove my team nuts sometimes with my strong driven attitude.
Everyone in a team can be as different as night and day. And to be a leader, you need to be liked. Yes, liked. You think liking comes with authority? Think again. Your subordinates will show that they ‘like’ you in front of you, and they can be busy stabbing your back once you showed it to them. This is because you are not liked by them.
You need to be liked to be respected as a leader. How to be liked? Have the energetic attitude to help your team members. Help them whenever they need help, and when the succeed, celebrate!
Do this everyday, not just once a while. Consistency is key. Don’t show up moody and lifeless, but be happy. Treat everybody in your team equally well. Come early and stay back late to show your solidarity with the team.
And hire the right guys! Most important criteria should be a driven attitude, proven past successes, integrity, smart, independent and happy. Someone who can become a leader in future.
The lone ranger Indiana Jones kind of leadership is really cool and good on the ego, but it is getting dated. In the new millenium, you need inclusive leadership from all your team mates. Treat them all as leaders in their own area, and you will get better ideas, solutions, and greater ownership of their work results.
Leadership is not just needed at the top for strategizing and planning, it is needed at all levels. Empowered leaders at all levels will be able to exercise greater speed in decision making, and grow in their leadership skills. Even for executions that seem to be no brainers, leadership can bring cost reductions, faster executions and better quality results.
Good leaders are those who work alongside their sub-ordinates, and not there to show off their egos and ability to empty talk and boast. They are the generals who charge into the fields together with their soldiers, and not a king that stays in the palace waiting for the battle results.
Be humble, and learn from the seniors. If they have been there longer, they know and experienced more than you. So learn from them. Every senior can teach you something new.
Be approachable. Listen to your team mates, and seek to understand them, not judge them. Respect them as humans and individuals with ideas and motivations of their own.
As marketers, we not only have to lead the marketing team, we often also have to lead a complex matrix cross-functional team of sales personnel, financial analysts, consumer knowledge specialists, advertising agencies and media buyers.
We need to persuade and ‘sell’ to them our ideas, so that they will buy in to them. One good method is to use analogies. The common analogies used are military terms like ‘gaining a beach head’ and ‘flanking competitors’, often using military strategies as a parallel. However, we also can use movies, inspirational historical leaders and simple every day stories as analogies.
Persuasion is also a process of give and take. Team mates may not buy in 100% of our ideas, but we can incorporate their suggestions into the whole scheme of things. They will feel that their ideas are respected.
Learn to like your team mates. Your team mates will learn to like you too.
Everybody has something that you can praise about. Don’t keep looking for something to criticize on, faults to blame, or gossip behind people’s back. Praise them on something, no matter how small it is. It will pay off in loyalty over the long term.