What is your style of business leadership?

When you’re a business owner or a manager, the manner in which you lead will have an effect on the productivity and direction of those under your command.

Here are a few leadership styles – one to emulate, one to avoid, and one that urges caution.

The Good

Some companies look to replicate a particular style of leadership across their business, effectively creating leadership echoes down the company hierarchy. In a recent blog on Amazon’s jobs portal, the company maps out their leadership ideal – one that seems clearly based on Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO.

According to the Amazon guide to leadership, the primary principle that they emphasize in leaders is ‘customer obsession’ – the first imperative is for a leader to win and keep customers. Other traits that are emphasized are a focus on efficiency in operations and expenditures, a focus on facts, and being able to develop the talent under their command. Since the crucial determinant of leadership success is success with customers, this style gives a lot of room for difference in how a leader treats the employees under their command. It provides a leader with an excuse for treating their people poorly, if that harshness comes with the payoff of customer satisfaction. But a wise proponent of the Amazon style of leadership would recognise that respectful treatment of those under them, along with an emphasis on the crucial customer-first ethos, can produce incredible results for the company.

The Bad

Not all leadership styles are good. Alexander Solzhenitsyn, in his novella For the Good of the Cause, tells a story about a community’s good intentions and good works being thwarted by a bureaucrat that leads like the former leader of the USSR, Josef Stalin. The tale was designed as a lesson about how a national leader’s style finds itself replicated further down the leadership chain – this phenomenon has already been seen in the Amazon style of leadership. In Stalin’s case, the leadership virtues that spread mimetically from him included isolated decision-making, opacity, coldness, vindictiveness and insensitivity to those beneath them.

If your leadership tends to have an authoritarian bent, you need to be careful that it does not alienate your workers. An alienated workforce is prone to dissatisfaction, which can undermine the authority that you love to cling to.

The Friendly

For some managers and employers, being friendly with your employees is a crucial part of your role. A happy workplace is one in which workers feel valued, and since feeling valued is an important component in creating value for a business, the leader does what they can to promote goodwill in the office.

The downside of the overly chummy leader is that when censure needs to happen in the office as a result of poor performance, unacceptable behaviour, or some other negative behaviour, the leader may struggle to enforce the necessary action to rectify the situation. Further, too much friendliness can result in an environment in which people spend too little time working. But friendliness, managed in the right way can create a culture of openness. Openness creates good intentions, new ideas, and innovation.

Great techniques for bringing out the best in your employees

When you’re an employer, you want to get the most out of the people who work for you. If you only want to get your employees to complete the requisite amount of work that constitutes their job description, then management is a simple task – lay down clear goals, make sure that your employees have schedules for that task and that they have enough information and skills available to them to complete their tasks, and then set them to work.

But putting a basic limit on a person’s creative capacity is a waste of their energies. Nothing fosters discontent and resentment more than being trapped in menial, seemingly meaningless productive activity. Insisting on a restrictive, uncreative environment can cause your employees to shirk from sharing their insights. A company that cannot listen to those closest to it will be condemned to failure.

Bringing out the best in your employees means encouraging them to make your company a better entity. A better entity is one that is more stable, a nicer environment in which to spend time, more efficient at producing its goods or services, a positive contributor to society-at-large.

Thankfully, there are a few things that you can do that help to bring out the best in people:

  1. Pay your employees better

Salaried South Africans have had to suffer the real value of their wages falling, as inflation has increased more than their salaries. In December 2016, South Africans earned 1.5% less than the year before, on average after adjustments for inflation. Less real income means that life is made more difficult – a month feels like an eternity when your funds run out halfway through.

A huge amount of academic literature has developed suggesting that increased wages are better for a company. Health is improved in a workforce that feels valued. Productivity and innovation gains are more significant when workers don’t have the pressures of monetary shortfalls to deal with. Staff turnover, one of the greatest impediments to a business’s continued growth and good functioning, is sharply reduced when employees are paid what they feel is a fair wage.

There is more than one dimension to this technique. Increasing the base rate of pay across the board can work to the ideal of company solidarity.

You can also consider using open wage structures. This means that wages are knowable by anyone in the company. The principle of equal pay for equal work is guiding here. You can incentivise workers to hit performance targets better when the reward structure is open to interrogation from any within the company. This transparency encourages lower paid workers by providing them with a clear understanding of what they have to achieve and work towards in order to become a higher paid member of staff.

Another way to bring out the best in your employees and keeping your best workers on board is to create an employee share scheme. This has the benefit of discouraging workers from slacking, as there is a direct link between their performance and the company’s success, and allows your company to retain its best talent for a number of years.

5 Difficult Employee Situations, And How to Deal with Them

Management is largely about how you can get the best out of people under your care, but sometimes difficult situations emerge that will test your leadership outside of the commercial purview. Here are some scenarios you may face, and some tips on how to deal with them best.

Management is largely about how you can get the best out of people under your care, but sometimes difficult situations emerge that will test your leadership outside of the commercial purview. Here are some scenarios you may face, and some tips on how to deal with them best

Death in the company

Losing an employee can be devastating – colleagues can be some of the closest people to you, people with whom much of the day is spent. The knock-on effects can be significant. Not only are you and your team suffering emotional repercussions from the loss of someone close to them, but you’re also losing an experienced contributor to your business.

There’s no easy way to conquer grief, but organising group therapy sessions can be an effective way of helping you and your team process the feelings of loss and pain following tragedy.

Personal problems

Life can have any number of unexpected turns. One of your charges may experience a life trauma, from personal injury to a death in their family.

An empathetic attitude is likely the best choice for a manager. Avoid penalising an employee for things outside of their control – the impact for the person already suffering might verge on the cruel, and the consequent reaction from other staff may negatively affect productivity and staff retention.

Bullying and sexual harassment

Claims of sexual harassment and bullying within your workforce are among the most difficult to deal with. Sexual harassment especially requires sensitivity to the victim.

Bringing in an outside mediator may be necessary – while you may feel strongly that both kinds of behaviour run against your beliefs, an outsider might be able to keep your status as an objective authority protected.

Strikes

Industrial action can be motivated by a number of factors; strike action might be motivated by workers acting in solidarity with a larger group of workers, they might have wage demands, they might be striking due to a perceived unfairness in the workplace, or they may feel that there is an unsafe working environment.

If your workers are unionised, you’ll have had interactions with the shop steward, who represents groups of workers. Making sure that tensions are kept low is your highest priority – negotiations will be more successful if there isn’t a hostile feeling rebounding between the workers and the management structures.

Theft/fraud

Finding out that one of your employees is stealing from your company can be devastating. Not only is the loss of goods or money a harm to your business, but you’re obliged to investigate and possibly terminate the employment of someone that you’ve come to trust. Depending on the size and seriousness of the crime, you may need to involve the police.

Sorting out these situations requires that you have the burden of proof on your side – false or under-proven accusations can backfire. Discretion must be applied too to the involvement of the police in criminal matters such as this – the employee may have been caught up in an impossible situation, or the theft may have been motivated by greed.

Though your primary focus in all these cases is the effect that they have on those under your charge, you ought not to dismiss your own well-being. Having to take the lead requires showing strength of character, especially decisiveness and compassion, but can add unusual stress. In promoting your strong persona, you may neglect your own emotional needs. Ensure that you are taking care of yourself as much as you are taking care of the well-being of your employees and clients, or you’ll be neglecting the well-being of the business.

Five mistakes every new manager can make and how to avoid them

“The manager treats ends as given, as outside his scope; his concern is with technique, with effectiveness in transforming raw materials into final products, unskilled labour into skilled labour, investment into profits.” Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue

 

To assume a managerial role is to assume a position that is assumed to confer a degree of power over a group of people, and a responsibility to some end – the well-being of the business, essentially. The ends are always assumed to be fixed, and effectiveness is the quality which you, as a manager, must promote, above all others.

 

In order to achieve that which your role demands of you, you must deploy a variety of means to get those who fall within your purview to do as you expect. You must use your power both coercively and non-coercively, in order that you can fulfil the mandate demanded by your managerial role.

 

Managing people is not, despite the claims of some, a science. There are no general laws that, if followed, will result in guaranteed success. Instead, you must rely on your capacity for understanding, and your ability to act according to the unique demands of every situation. To help you navigate these uncertain waters, here are six fundamental mistakes, and how to avoid them:

 

1. Not taking responsibility for errors

 

Those in positions of power cannot be precious about assuming the burden of blame if things go wrong. If a mistake was your own, own it. If it was another’s, correct it and show them where they went wrong.

 

2. Letting bias sway your decisions

 

It is expected of a manager that they position themselves in a morally neutral manner – they are arbiters between those under their watch. But humans cannot avoid attachment, nor the pull towards favoured others. When making a choice, say between two paths offered by two employees, draw yourself away from your personal feeling, and towards whatever is the most effective choice.

 

3. Not respecting the individual’s work

Battered by pressures from above, and frustrated by a slow, or error prone worker, you may be compelled to stand over their shoulder and take charge. Micro-managing, however, is an ineffective use of your time, and being overbearing may cause the effected worker’s problems to compound. Ensuring that they know what to do is one thing – watching every time they do it is quite another.

 

4. Not talking often enough

 

In seeking to maintain the emotional distance required by the managerial role, you can easily mistake professionalism for coldness. It is important to know whether there are any issues impacting or distracting employees in the office, and it is important to have clear and open lines of communication.

 

5. Not controlling the atmosphere

 

It is easy to mistake being liked for being respected, and it is also easy to over-emphasise a convivial environment for one that allows people to get stuck into their work and produce as best they can. The art of management is in balancing good feeling in the office with a serious commitment to working.