June 07, 2016

Leaders' responsibility to create a safe workplace

As understood from the 'Information, Knowledge and Awareness workshop', leaders of organisations are hugely responsible for creating a safe and aware work environment. Senior management members of companies often put in 'Zero accidents' as one of the goals to be achieved by the company in the next five years. Unfortunately, the actions and demands of the senior managers do not support the creation of a safe environment and most often they do not realise that they were equally responsible for the accident; may not be directly (hence, not very evident) but indirectly. Hence, the blame is usually put on the employee who was directly responsible for the accident and the immediate supervisor/boss. In most of the cases the immediate cause of the problem may have been rectified, but as the root cause is not resolved, a similar problem could occur again but in a different form.

To create a safer work environment, it is important to first create a safe and positive mental environment at work. Leaders are primarily responsible for creating this kind of an environment. As discussed during the workshop, senior managers preach about best practice but their actions often do not match their words!

Leadership-safe mental work environment

In order to create a safe mental work environment, it is important for leaders to understand the issues and problems that are actually causing trouble to the employees and are in some way responsible for the accidents. To do so, the leader needs to be open to feedbacks and receiving information from his/her followers. The communication in most organisations is just one way- from top to bottom but as we can see here to create a safe work environment awareness is very important. Hence, two-way communication is important. To get useful information from employees, the leader needs to create a culture where employees can voice their concerns without any fear.

Understanding the problems at the lowest level is critical to understand the true cause of the problem and to make sure it does not repeat in any form. The information obtained from the employees is very useful knowledge and needs to be shared and not hidden!

March 06, 2016

Making robust decisions

In life, we are needed to make decisions about everything, some of these decisions may be trivial and some may be significant. Irrespective of the significance, everybody always wants to make the right decision. But we can not spend too much time on making rational decisions about trivial issues and at the same time, we can not take important decisions very quickly without rationally analysing.

During the study week of Robust Decision Making module, through many examples and a test I realised how a lot of our decisions are influenced by heuristics and biases. Heuristic is a shortcut our brain uses to make decisions faster without much of analysis. And being biased means making unfair judgement based on prejudice.

Heuristics can be both helpful and harmful. They can be helpful when the dicision to be taken is trivial and requires fast decision making. In such cases analysing the situation and then taking a decision could be extremely time consuming.

Important decisions need to be taken based on analysis of the situation, need and probability of success/failure. During the study week many tools and techniques were introduced which help in making rational decisions. Some of the tools are easy to use such as SMART and AHP whereas some are relatively difficult and time consuming such as scenario planning, simulations and soft system methodology.

The important learning point was that these tools do not make a decision for us, they just help us to consider all possible aspects/risks associated with a particular decision hence helping in making a more robust decision ( the results of which will not be greatly affected by considerable changes in the situation).

February 25, 2016

Servant leadership

The term 'servant leadership' was introduced to me by my supervisor. It is a new term to me as I had not heard of it before but, when I went through some literature and videos I realised that I am quite familiar with the concept of servant leadership.

As a leader, if we can treat our followers as our customers, make sure to understand their needs and lead in a way that every follower grows and gets better through the process, then the leader is serving his/her followers. I believe as a leader it is imperative to be able to serve your followers and not expect your followers to serve you and follow your orders just because you are the leader.

There are some successful companies (especially service companies, e.g., South West Airlines) which associate their success with practising 'Servant leadership' in their organisation. They believe that when an organisation gives top priority to employees and makes sure that they are enjoying their job, it reflects on customer satisfaction. And it's obvious for an organisation with satisfied customers to do well.

February 21, 2016

Damage caused by unfair leadership

A leader needs to analyse the situation without being judgmental about somebody who he/she does not like.It is not about the person, it is the work done by that person. But as human beings, we all have different likings and what one likes might be disliked by another. We always tend to be biased towards what/whom we like. As a leader, it is very important not to be biased. Hence, it is better to have a system in the organisation where the performance of an individual is evaluated by more than one person who works with that individual (like the 360-degree appraisal method) as opposed to being evaluated by the boss alone.

I would like to give an example. The day before yesterday, we were discussing in class about the dissertation evaluation system in WMG/University of Warwick. It was said that our dissertation would be evaluated by a panel of evaluators and not just our supervisor. This is a really nice system as over the period of our course we might develop a good or bad relationship with our supervisor and in either case, the evaluation of our dissertation could be biased.
But the system in the university where I did my undergrad was very different. Firstly, the project was a group work and my group had three members including myself. At the end of the course, our project was evaluated by the Head of our department with nearly no input from the supervisor. Still fair enough, because we were being evaluated based on our work. But the problem was that each one of us was going to be graded differently based on just one piece of work and most shockingly without any inputs from the only person who had seen all three of us work throughout the course of our project, our supervisor! Now this was not known to us at the beginning and I am very sure if it was known, it would have killed the teamwork. Ironically, it so happened that the team member who had done the least amount of work got the highest mark and there was no evident criteria based on which this was done. I am glad that our project received a gold medal but it was given only to the person with the highest mark in the group as though the project was done only by one person.

What I understand from this is that it is so important for the leader of an organisation to establish a fair system of evaluation. And the details of the system needs to be explained to everybody in the organisation so that all have faith in a common system of evaluation. If not, 1)it will kill teamwork 2)Employees will lose faith in the system and the leader who is part of this bad system. And hence, employees will be disengaged because no matter how well they performed they know that the system is not fair and hence their work will not be recognised.

February 20, 2016

To do the impossible is a LEADER

During the period of Leadership and Excellence module, there were discussions about many different aspects such as training, not firing without analyzing the cause, going down to the shop floor and interacting with lower level employees, trusting the decisions of followers, etc. I repeatedly observed many saying, " I can't do this because there are XYZ problems ". I understand that there are different cultures, but I believe if doing something is right as a human being, telling that you can't do it because of your culture is just an excuse for not trying to do it. Which culture, has people who do not want to be respected and not being treated like machines?

I am sure in any culture a shop floor worker would feel very motivated if a top level manager came down and interacted with them. For people who say it's their culture that does not allow them to do so, I would say it's their ego and nothing to do with the culture! It's just that people are used to working in a certain way over the years and nobody wants to change it as nobody wants to take a risk and as basic human nature, we all are resistant to change.

Even then if people think it is impossible because of the 'culture', then I think somebody has to start somewhere, only then can you change the 'culture'. I completely agree that it is not easy, it could be nearly impossible in some cultures. But that's what great leaders are- making the impossible possible!

Impossible is nothing

February 19, 2016

Looking at the bigger picture

Most of the time we get carried away working too much on the details and trying to be perfect. But something that we forget to do is to step back and look at the bigger picture. Doing this helps a lot in understanding so many things that we would have never thought of when we were completely engrossed in the details.

A good leader will always look at the bigger picture with the mindset of the end-user (customer/audience), and also keeping in mind the final destination (goal) that is expected to be achieved.

I learnt to do this after analysing the feedback given by Paul on our mini-projects. Almost all the things that we had missed out on could have been thought of earlier if we had stepped back and looked at our work keeping in mind the audiences' perspective.

Hence, for a leader, it is very important to step back once in a while and look at the 'Bigger picture' and accordingly give feedback to their followers and align them to the Vision/Goal that the team wishes to achieve.

Leaders need to play different roles

All through these two weeks, we have been learning how different followers expect different followers have different expectations from their leader and also have different needs. Its very important for the leader to understand what his/her followers want/need and lead suitably- SITUATIONAL LEADERSHIP'.

I have always thought, " Which is the best/perfect style of leadership?". After the L&E module, I have understood that there is no one perfect style of leadership, that one needs to follow, to become a good leader. A good leader is one who based on the situation and needs of the followers can adapt to different leadership styles.

Here is a picture that I found to be interesting and depicting situational leadership-

Situational leadership

We always have solutions to our problems !

Earlier to Graeme's session on coaching, I had a completely different view of who a coach is and what he/she is expected to do.

My earlier view: A coach is a person who has very good knowledge of the field in which he/she is coaching and can be approached with problems expecting solutions to be given by the coach based on his/her experience.

My present view: A coach is a person who does not necessarily need to have good knowledge about the field he/she is going to coach. The coach understands the problem of the coachee and tries to facilitate the process of bringing out the solution from the cochee itself.

After I understood what a coach is actually supposed to do, I have learnt two things: 1) If I am expected to coach I should understand that the solution lies within the coachee and I need to bring out that solution, and not give my solutions to their problems and I realised that Paul has always been doing the same whenever he has been coaching us (as a group or individually). 2) Knowing that the solutions to all my problems are within me and also having understood the process of coaching, from now on, first I will try to find the solution to my problems myself and not rely on an expert to give me solutions.

February 16, 2016

With great 'power' comes great 'responsibility'

Most people are interested in being promoted/being a leader just because of the power and better facilities that come along with being a leader. But, they forget that what also comes along is being responsible for the people and the activity one leads. Many not so good leaders are very happy when there is a good job done and also take credit for it but when the opposite happens they blame the followers and get away with it!

Followers have always been okay with the leader being treated better than them or at a higher level than them. At the same time, followers also expect the leader to protect and guide them and take responsibility, 'especially during crisis'. So when one expects to be promoted to a higher level of leading others, he/she must always reckon if they have the ability to be responsible for their team, their work and protect them during crisis (as it is much easier to do so when everything is just normal) and not want to be the leader just for the benefits and power that comes along with the position.

February 13, 2016

"TRUST"– such an important part of leadership

Writing about web page https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=llKvV8_T95M

I happened to be watching a couple of videos on leadership for the purpose of my project as well as the LE module. Something that really struck me was the importance of trust between people.

I just loved an example that Simon Sinek, one of the speakers whose videos I have been watching, gave in his talk: "If you don't understand people, you don't understand business" hence I decided to share it here with all of you. He says it's absolutely amazing how we are drawn towards people from the same place that we belong to, in a foreign country. This is because there is a feeling that we have the same beliefs, there is an instant connection!

I believe, we tend to trust people who share the same beliefs as us. We know we can rely on them as they understand what we think/need and hence will not misjudge us even if we made a mistake. This means we can work to the best of our ability and take risks without being afraid. Isn't this what we exactly for in our leader? And hence, I feel that it's very important for the leader to believe in what his/her followers believe or find a group of people who believe in what he/she believes. This is what we have been calling 'having shared goals'.

A leader will always tell you why he/she believes the team should do something as opposed to being authoritative and telling people what to do. Hence, the people who agree with their leader would develop trust not only with the leader but also with their teammates as they all share the same belief.

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