I once had a manager in a large American company, who said, “If all employees understood what I wanted and did what I said, I would have completed my career in 15 minutes”.
At that time, I thought it was a very arrogant opinion and far removed from the typical Danish style of leadership. Today, I understand what he meant, because as a leader, you are constantly fighting for your employees’ attention and priorities. And their work can be very difficult to influence, especially when your employees are far way in a different time zone or have a different culture. But that is exactly what leadership is all about, influencing and providing empowerment through employees in order to achieve common goals.
So how do you influence and ensure achievement of common goals at the sharp end of the organization, where the seller meets the customer or where production completes the products – because this is where the company generates real value.
My management philosophy consists of three things:
- To set clear, ambitious and realistic goals and expectations
- To follow up consistently and ensure that deviations are handled
- To praise and give feedback on the results and be open about areas to improve
A leader must of course be able to use different tools depending on the situation and the people that surround you. On the whole I believe that employees are motivated by having clear and ambitious goals, receiving continuous feedback and finally by getting recognition and reward when goals are achieved.
Actually, it’s quite simple. It is about telling the employee what is good and what can be done better! And actually, I also expect my employees to give me feedback on how I perform and how I can improve as a leader!
A prerequisite for achieving the goals is of course that the employee has decision-making authority. I do not believe that you get far with command management, where rules and restrictions dominate. Freedom, trust and participation gives the best results. My main role as a leader is to chart the course and make sure we stay on track. Employees are in the best place to take the decisions that are closest to their work.
Therefore, it is important to synchronize and set in stone the goals for the company, the leader and the employee’s, so everyone can see that their role make sense in the big picture. It also makes it much easier for the employee to take the right decisions. To put it in another way; employees must be in the same boat as me, so we all “row in the same direction”.
It is essential that employees understand and agree on their objectives. If employees do not understand the company’s strategy and how the individual targets make sense, they cannot act on it. And that was precisely the problem, my former manager had; the people around him did not understand what he wanted them to do. That arrow only points in one direction and that is back to the sender. Because, if the leader fails to understand how to set objectives, so they make sense for each employee, the plan will fail. And that is the manager’s responsibility.
Every employee has the right to have specific, agreed upon objectives, that are in line with the corporate objectives and to receive regular feedback. This way you ensure that the employee is dedicated, produces results and creates value for the company.
Thomas Honoré is Chief Executive officer and President of Columbus.