Leadership Lessons

After spending over twenty years in the corporate world and the last few years working in a start-up company, there is no doubt in my mind that it is the people who make all the difference in the success of any organization and they need to be nurtured very carefully. The role of a leader should be that of a mentor, coach and guide. In this article I share some of the thoughts that helped me in enhancing the performance of individuals.

  1. Have the right person for the right job

It is very important to have the right person for the job. One should spend a good amount of time in selecting an individual. This doesn’t mean that the person should have the right technical skills suitable for the job, as most of the time core skills are easily transferable, but it is the attitude of the individual that matters the most. Is the person enthusiastic, willing to listen, learn, and ready to take the responsibility? It is good to check the person’s track record in their previous assignment. The consequences of not doing so can ruin the team dynamics and impact productivity in the future. It is also important to have the right blend of experience, skills and expertise to help the company achieve its objectives. Therefore, depending on the job, it is worthwhile to explore people from different backgrounds and not necessarily from a similar industry/role as these people will bring in fresh ideas and thoughts.

“Expending energy trying to motivate people is largely a waste of time… if you have the right people on the bus, they will be self-motivated” – Jim Collins

  1. Build trust in the person you selected for the role

Having selected a person with the required skills, it is time to empower them. It is the trust and faith that you demonstrate through your actions, which acts as a catalyst in the performance of the individual. A person needs some space to execute his/her ideas, it is the role of the leader to comprehend this and give the person much needed space. Delegate cautiously the responsibility that you feel the individual can handle with minimum intervention and give him/her comfort that she is capable of doing it. The manager should create an atmosphere that encourages people to express themselves freely. Avoid micro-management as they are unlikely to perform if being constantly monitored and criticised. You succeed when your team performs better than you, but this is possible only when you fully trust them and they start to sprint freely.

Trust is the lubrication that makes it possible for organizations to work – Warren Bemis

  1. Set high performance standards

If a company has to grow and achieve great results, it is extremely important to set high performance standards for the people. It is time to challenge them with stretched goals. A lot of people don’t realize their potential and like to stay in their comfort zone. When challenged, they not only surprise themselves but also learn new execution skills and go the extra mile, which they wouldn’t have otherwise ventured into. Keep raising the bar gradually and help them achieve higher deliverables. It is important for an individual’s growth to be groomed for higher responsibility in the future and to keep them excited about the job.

Let us be about setting high standards for life, love, creativity, and wisdom. If our expectations in these areas are low, we are not likely to experience wellness. Setting high standards makes every day and every decade worth looking forward to –Greg Anderson

  1. Encourage people to take risks

Having delegated the responsibility and set high performance standards for the person, it is important to support them in making decisions that will help them to build their confidence. Encourage them to take calculated risks and support them even if the decisions go wrong. It is from the failures that people will learn. As a leader, you should validate the risk and guide them with your experience having been in similar situations, but the decision should be taken by them.

It seems to be a law of nature, inflexible and inexorable, that those who will not risk cannot win –John Paul Jones

  1. Structured periodic review

It is extremely important that you have a periodic review with the team. As you delegate some of the responsibility and trust them for actions, people should not go unmonitored for a long period. Set-up a review metrics that is measurable, which is discussed and debated at a periodic interval i.e. weekly, fortnightly or monthly depending upon the nature of the job. The idea is to encourage the team towards great achievements and jointly take ownership for the things that didn’t work so as to learn from mistakes. Encourage them to take corrective steps and show a position of strength so the team has your full support. If it is a team meeting, individuals can share best practices and achievements. Incentivise people to make better decisions.

  1. Sense of humour

As a leader, one should maintain the right atmosphere and sense of camaraderie at the workplace. A regular dose of humour can ensure that people are comfortable and enjoy their work. Nobody wants to work in a company that is dull and full of stress.

Anyone who takes himself too seriously always runs the risk of looking ridiculous; anyone who can consistently laugh at himself does not – Vaclav Havel


Sandip Kohli is the COO of The Change Initiative, one-stop destination specializing in solutions that reduce human impact on the environment and promote sustainable development. It caters to Consumers and Corporations interested in making environmentally responsible purchases for their homes or workplace. He has over 20 years of diverse Strategic and Operations management experience working at senior level positions in various multinationals in Asia and Middle East.

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