Articles

Attributes of a 21st Century Leader

It is imperative that leaders in the 21st century should radiate certain attributes if they are to flourish, let alone survive in their organisation. Paradoxically, the key to becoming successful is to become faster, smoother and smarter in running operations but certainly these remain only as means to an end and not an end in themselves.

This article will not delve much on what is a leader, whether they are made or born. No, this debate we have heard. The objective of the article is to bring to the fore attitudes, behaviours and skills a leader should endeavour to embrace and exude in the organisation they lead despite them being made or born.

Today’s organisational leadership calls for what has been termed ‘dual focused management approach’ that seeks to incorporate what is best for individuals and best for a group as a whole, simultaneously. Developing an understanding of the various parties’ worldview is critical. By world view, we mean learning to incorporate everything an individual believes about the organisation and operating environment. In our Zimbabwean context, a leader needs to understand how the current economic trends are likely to impact on the various individuals in a workplace. For some the world is coming to an end, for others its business as usual. An individual‘s worldview therefore defines an individual’s beliefs, attitudes and opinions. Regrettably, this worldview translates to one’s operating instructions on how they interfere with the world. If as leaders we do not take into consideration how individuals interface with the world, their perceptions and attitudes etc. we tend to lead from a weakened and incoherent position. Knowing and appreciating the composite views of the world by individuals becomes a pillar for any successful leader notwithstanding the many diverse and sometimes conflicting views of  individuals within the organisation. This worldview will also help shape the leader’s ethical, moral and communication styles.

Successful leaders of the day will need to capitalise on their strengths and manage their weaknesses as a 21stcentury attribute. To be successful in this role, understanding oneself is critical. Identify your own style, and then gain insight into the way your preferences unconsciously shape your style of leadership and communication. You can be surprised to discover that your very style stifles the very creativity and innovation you seek from others. 21st leaders set the tone for behaviours and subsequent culture they want to see in their teams. Leaders watch out on the extent we understand ourselves.

The how of communication has become a critical business tool when individuals interact. Always tailor your communication for the receiver, bearing in mind all the time that a message send is not necessarily received. Effective communication takes place when you as a leader understand what is known in business as VABEs (Value, Assumptions, Beliefs and Expectations) of those you are communicating with. 21st century leaders have moved beyond communications barriers like appearances, vocabulary, looks, accent etc. of an individual and now focus on the message of the speaker.

This type of leadership is not about being in charge, it’s about enabling staff to participate towards the attainment of organisation’s goals. A key skill therefore, is influence and not authority! This occurs when leaders understands that organisations now thrive on broad based skills set, diversity, innovation and adaptability to change. 21st century leadership is therefore based on relationships and network at all levels. There is not much room for bureaucracy, hierarchy and high protocol here. 21st Leaders empower staff by decentralising decision-making thus enriching and empowering lower positions and relieving dependency on a few people at the top. The almost 2 centuries old, words of former US president John Q. Adam have remained relevant in the 21st century, ‘If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and became more, you are a leader.”

Rapid changes in the market, changing customer and employee preferences require leaders who are able to exercise their emotional intelligence to adapt to these changes. Interestingly, the 21st century business environment also calls for pace setters and visionaries, who jumpstart change and do not just wait for it.

Your ethical conduct also plays a big role in defining your success or failure. Ethics help in balancing truth and loyalty. It is the lens by which any leader approaches a problematic situation. Ethical leaders always strive to look out for hidden alternatives in ethically questionable situations. They uses the ethical compass to navigate not only the right versus wrong in a situation but also the right versus right, according to Rushworth Kidder in his book, Moral Courage. Always demonstrate empathy and considering beyond the business case a person’s social position.

The question now is, ‘Is it possible to master these attributes and more?’ The answer is in building strong teams to support your leadership. Innovation is most likely to come from frontline staff, way down from the top. Aspiring 21st century leaders, need to weather this storm, by undergoing a shift in mind-set. Move away from the thinking “I have got to stay in control” and start operating outside your comfort zone. Lead from a different place which entails transforming the operating state and space.

Emmanuel Jinda is the Managing Consultant of PROSERVE Consulting Group, a leading supplier of Professional Human Resources and Management services locally, regionally and internationally. He can be contacted at Tel: 263 773004143 or 263 4 772778 or visit our website at www.proservehr.com

Gender Pay Gap

It is now a common practice by most countries world over to adopt measures that promote an increase in women’s representation on corporate boards as well as other leadership positions. Empirically, it has been proven that there is a strong economic rationale for making progress on women representation in the corporate domain. Numerous reputable sources from the academia, management consulting firms and other research organisations have demonstrated that firms with higher representation of women on boards and in senior leadership exhibit stronger financial performance. Despite the associated benefits of placing women in the executive suites, there have been persistent gender pay gaps across nations.

Gender pay gap is defined as the average difference between remuneration for men and women who are working. Although the gap has narrowed from the 1960s to the 1990s, women are generally still paid less than men. Studies done in Australia and United States have shown that every state has a gender pay gap though differing in magnitude. The gender pay gap for Australia   was reported to be around 14.6% for the past twenty years and between 15-19% in the previous decades. These gender pay gaps are internationally established measures of women’s position in the economy hence these pay gaps cannot be compared against nations. In America, data from the Census Bureau has consistently shown that men out earn women in salaries.

Some of the reasons for this perpetual disparity are reasons such as bias and discrimination in hiring and when making pay decisions. Historically women and men have been made to work in different industries and different jobs, where Female dominated industries have jobs attracting lower wages. Even where they are working together, there has been an inclination to pay the women employee lower than their male counterpart. Could it be that women’s output is valued less? ‘Most of my contributions in EXCO meetings are rarely adopted by other fellow male members, until one of them twist them a little bit!’ a common statement from female executives.

Research has shown that this discrimination has emanated from reasons like women having greater time out of the workplace which ultimately impacts their career progression and opportunities. Traditionally held notions of a woman have had lasting impacts which now require a paradigm shift if they are to be changed. Resultantly such notions have resulted in gender gaps of various forms including gender pay gaps (GPGs).These GPGs are said to start from the time a woman enters the work force. The reasons for this are mainly attributed to the times when women are out of workforce for caring reasons which is viewed as directly impacting on the economic security of a business.

Closer home, issues of gender gaps are a reality as well. The Finscope study commissioned by New Faces New Voices in collaboration with the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe and GIZ on Gender Access to Financial Services in Zimbabwe attested to the research above. Though not concentrating on pay gaps the study revealed a lot of thrilling information on the levels of exclusion by gender. In the same study it was established that the majority of the population earns between $1 and $100 a month, and of these 59% are female and 57% male. Additionally, the report notes that as the monthly income increases, the study saw a trend towards men having a higher earning power. In UK a study by Price Water House and Coopers showed that 85% of companies in the UK disclosed a mean pay gap, and 80% a mean bonus gap, in favour of men. The key factor for the gender pay gap appears to be relatively a high number of men in more senior and more highly paid jobs than women. GPG was also exposed at the BBC were men earn on average of 9.3% more than women. Consequently, most governments have embraced strategies and measures to address these long term induced disparities. The Zimbabwe National Financial Inclusion strategy 2016-2020 is one such. The Grace Machel Trust, a network of chapters operating in seventeen Pan African continent countries focuses on women inclusion especially in areas of financial access and advocating for women to be appointed in leadership positions. That same PWC United Kingdom study on the large retails, hospitality , travel and leisure and banking and insurance industries resulted in the UK government setting up priorities for all organisations to address the gender pay gap. These priorities include:

  • Companies coming up with a plan to monitor implementation of equal pay
  • Review of pay governance systems by looking at internal pay architectures ensuring that mechanisms guarantee pay equity.
  • Robust action plans to close the GPGs while adopting changes to improve the diversity of organisations and support inclusion. HR policies and processes to be strategically aligned to support the initiatives.
  • Compliance visits by the government

Across the globe gender pay gaps are a reality and prevalent at the executive level. Time is nigh for the leadership to join hands with governments and address the slow pace of progress seen on growing the proportion of women in the executive suites.

Emmanuel Jinda is the Managing Consultant of PROSERVE Consulting Group, a leading supplier of Professional Human Resources and Management services locally, regionally and internationally. He can be contacted at Tel: 263 773004143 or 263 4 772778 or visit our website at www.proservehr.com

Recognizing employee achievements in organizations

In today’s business world, senior managers are under continuous competitive pressure to boost company performance. Leaders, is it key to note that while so many questions are being asked to improve business, the answer may also lie in recognising achievements towards attaining that goal?

Employee achievement recognition is an important management skill. It involves identifying achievement, communicating it and at times rewarding it. This skill goes beyond (or comes before!) the structured performance evaluation systems. Here managers do not have to wait for the annual performance appraisals to recognise achievements.

There are several ways to recognise achievements and these include worker of the month programmes based on top sales, or any other goal related standard, rewarding personal accomplishments and professional advancements. Programs like employee anniversary recognition schemes are very effective as everyone know that their anniversary date will come. The whole idea of employee recognition systems is to reinforce and ensure that as the employer, you will see a continuance of the positive behaviour that is recognised. For these systems to work, senior management needs to establish the criteria for what performance constitutes rewardable behaviour or actions. Tell the human capital the behaviour you want to see and set employees up for success and accomplishments. As another requirement make all employees eligible for the recognition and never should you exclude an employee or group of employees. The more clearly you design and communicate the criteria for eligibility for the award, the easier it is for employees to perform accordingly. Achievement rewards need not be costly to the company. They can be a certificate, lunch voucher, discounts on company products, grocery hampers and or in monetary form etc. Studies show that rewards need to occur as close to the occasions as possible in order to have greater impact.

An organization that periodically rewards its staff for being the best dressed down, they select on the very day and are awarded their recognition on the day. In this way behaviour gets to be reinforced. It is best practise that such systems that do not require managers to select the people to receive the recognition and neither should you use random selections, otherwise employees may see this as a process of managerial favouritism. Let the staff pick the eligible colleagues. If it’s the best dressed Manager program, let staff where possible identify the deserving manager.

In one organisation, the Chief Executive Officer traditionally bought lunch for all employees every Friday. The challenge with this system was that the incentive was turned into an entitlement. Such traps can ensnare your employee recognition efforts. Have your ducks in a row, and come up with systems that wow your staff and avoid those that sap their moral and make them fail to understand the criteria needed for competition and winning.

Recognising personal achievements in the workplace actually benefits organisations. The second home notion of the workplace is reinforced, staff certainly will belong and be motivated to achieve the organizational goals. To buttress your systems you may also want to consider use of inspirational quotes about rewards and recognition. These you can put in your newsletters and even during business presentations. For example you can quote some of Jackson Brown‘s quotes like, “Don’t work for recognition, but do work worthy of recognition.” With employees being human, they may take a job for more money but often leave it for more recognition. Communicate with them continually that they need not worry if they are not recognised but strive to be working for recognition so that the concept becomes clear to all. Such education encourages employees to stretch and set new challenges to maximise their ability to contribute.

Today there is an approach in business known as Open-Book Management (OBM) which rests on the idea that in addition to caring about quality and efficiency, leadership needs to care about the success of the business. Though not much of a program but a coherent system that promotes financial and operational information sharing with employees to ensure success. It underlies some innovative rewards systems such as profit sharing and employee stock ownership plans. However, such plans are but only half of the measures needed. Owning a few shares does not magically enable employees to think like owners. As leaders you need to do more around sharing all business information, making employees accountable for profits as well as compensating them for success of business.

In terms of rewarding performance, define the real accomplishment as negotiated in the performance development system and ensure a consistency application of the criteria. Employee recognition systems work well if they are coordinated through an HR department. Where anniversary salaries are done, HR is better placed not to leave any one out as well as the system to use. Make use of your HR departments to provide that pivotal role in the employee recognition process which is fast becoming an imperative in modern business.

Leaders always bear in mind that even top achievers suffer insecurity until they are recognised!

Emmanuel Jinda is the Managing Consultant of PROSERVE Consulting Group, a leading supplier of Professional Human Resources and Management services locally, regionally and internationally. He can be contacted at Tel: 263 773004143 or 263 4 772778 or visit our website at www.proservehr.com

The importance of trust in work relationships

Today’s dynamic markets and technologies have called into question the sustainability of competitive advantage. Because managers are always under pressure to improve productivity, they   have had to embrace innovative tools like reengineering, reorganisations, system upgrades etc. There is a lot of talk on breaking functional silos too. But these have improved operations and not necessarily results. Gurus in management have argued that operational effectiveness is necessary but not sufficient for the ultimate success of a business. The answer lies more in choosing unique strategies and valuable positions rooted in systems of activities that are much more difficult to match. Managers are said to have under estimated the actions necessary to transform the way employees work with one another.

Yet, successful companies are built on relationships between employers and employees, staff and customers and internal and external stakeholders. At the foundation of all relationship is TRUST. Why then does trust matter in this business equation? Having a feeling of trust between colleagues help strengthen an organisation. Benefits like reduced turnover, improved moral and decrease in workplace anxiety are often realised. Such factors can positively assist in retention and recruiting efforts.

However, this trust does not always happen organically or spontaneously in organisations. It develops from consistent conscious efforts that show colleagues that as managers you are reliable, cooperative and committed to team success. As managers you need to remain honest with employees at both positive and negative aspect of the business. Employees who feel management   values   them are more likely to instil trust in those leaders. As   part of the on-going trust building process, managers it’s your duty to continually   value input from employees , encouraging them at all level as well as listening with an open mind even if as management you do not ultimately chose to follow a suggestion made by an employee.

Existence of a positive culture is a building block to encouraging creativity. Managers, please  show employees that as leadership you trust their ideas .When making company decisions, always consider benefits for everyone not just your own personal gains while demonstrating openly that as management you are concerned about employees future. Forge collaborative relationship and ensure availability of an enabling environment. Your actions and not just words should help you as managers to build that organisational trust.

A workplace will be productive and ultimately successful if there is genuine trust of one another. In trust building, stakeholders need that confidence  to count on each other. Teamwork begins by building trust.

Experience has shown that in organisations where trust is basically   words only and not backed by  action, it is a challenge managing such an environment, it may actually be impossible. Some of the senior managers here would usurp   employee’s ideas, steal credit from them and talk to staff in a in a derogatory manner. What carries the day in such organisations are problems of mistrust which are gossip, undermining, suspicion, doubt, bullying etc. and staff will ultimately be disengaged or they develop a very confrontational attitude. Senior Management will lose credibility and respect in the eyes of employees. However as leaders we should never create a comfortable clone syndrome where everyone around you has to think like you. It is only through creative abrasion that you can demonstrate your trust for others as a leader.

Trust is also when as a leader you appreciate and embrace diversity in people as well as the support they bring to the team. A key component in trust building is understanding that not every staff member, including yourself has strengths in all aspects of the business. The strategic approach for a leader to rely on the strength of others while himself offers to contribute his own level of expertise builds unshakable trust within the organisation. It therefore ensures a huge platform of knowledge and competences and an intricate network of relationships whose aim is to achieve the organisational goals.

Leadership need to know that it’s them to model trustful behaviour. It’s for leaders to break the functional mind set in organisation where someone is allowed to go about bragging about everything they claim to be doing. We could learn from the words of NBA acclaimed, ‘greatest basketball player of all times,’ Michael Jordan ‘’ Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships.’’

In as much as thousands of businesses have reorganised their work to focus on processes that clearly provide value to customers. These efforts have paid off in the form of lower costs, greater customer satisfaction but many others have resulted in disappointments. The answer is because most managers have underestimated the actions necessary to transform the way employees work with one another. Employees want procedures that allow them to better collaborate, grow trust among themselves while cultivating collective responsibility.

Today’s managers need to mould employees who think constantly and creatively about   the needs of the organisation, employees with as much intrinsic motivation and deep organisational stewardship. The foundation of such a strategic imperative is assured reliance on another and that’s TRUST.

Emmanuel Jinda is the Managing Consultant of PROSERVE Consulting Group, a leading supplier of Professional Human Resources and Management services locally, regionally and internationally. He can be contacted at Tel: 263 773004143 or 263 4 772778 or visit our website at www.proservehr.com

The practise of Management By Wandering About (MBWA)

Management by Wandering About (MBWA), also known as Management by Walking Around is a widely adopted technique by managers where they directly observe employees working. MBWA is generally perceived as an effective method to achieve organisational goals.

This management technique relies on managers making frequent but random unstructured learning-oriented visits to subordinate’s work stations to observe on-going work, equipment, processes, customer interactions and solicit employees’ opinions. It only succeeds if one has good listening skills and promotes employee engagements during these visits. Additionally, an organisation needs to instil a culture and common belief that every job is important and that every employee is trusty worthy. If the above enablers are in place, MBWA as a concept can be a strategic driver.

When used correctly MBWA, is akin to the Toyota “Gemba walks’ where managers go to the location where work is performed, observe processes and talk to the employees there. The whole idea is to see problems in context, which should aid problem solving in the long run. Organisational leadership should note that MBWA makes teams stronger by increasing information sharing. This alone will result in managers and employees being on common ground and therefore more likely to quickly solve challenges faced in achieving departmental goals. These synergies will ultimately improve performance of organisations.

Experience has shown that in some cases what senior managers observe and hear from employees is off on a tangent with what their supervisors would report. Machines could be turned off due to very simple reasons like a fuse blow that was not being purchased on time and such protracted processes could cost an organisation thousands of dollars. This practical example indeed demonstrates that adopting the MBWA technique can expedite problem solving.

In organisations that are going through a lot of change be its structural or technical, MBWA acts as a catalyst of the needed paradigm shift and enhance managers’ capabilities by letting them appreciate how simple problems can cause serious bottlenecks which affect business. MBWA clearly takes the ‘open door policy’ to another level. Here walls are actually brought down and the Manager’s office is taken to the employees. Interestingly, in the services sector this management style also aids Managers in ‘Know Your Client’ principle. Random branch visits also offer an opportunity to engage with clients, understand their expectations and help build mutually beneficial relationships.

These informal unstructured contacts from MBWA yield positive results like early identification of warning signs before disaster strikes. Additionally, there is control of the processes as the leader can communicate what needs to be done as well as verify progress. Strategically MBWA also aids the leadership by broadening their business knowledge which helps them to make informed decisions. While all organisations are working on securing employees’ commitment, engaging their emotional energy and attention is critical. As leaders endeavour to put their company’s whole brain to work, incorporating new learning styles and approaches like MBWA is a critical skill of   the age. Employees need managers who listen and take visible interest in running projects and by so doing they build team enthusiasm and individual job satisfaction.

While MBWA can improve moral, it needs to be managed though. After weekly contacts from managers, the staff moral can wane due to these frequent visits. Also note as leaders that when this technique is applied, it has to be done evenly to the whole organisation. If all staff do not experience this direct contact with the leadership, they will feel they are targets of unjust exclusion and discrimination. Therefore, the leadership needs to be mindful of these possible perceptions when implementing MBWA. Empirically, it has been proven that there is no system to record and measure this process’ effectiveness.

As leaders it is good to always appreciate the adage, ’If you wait for people to come to you, you will only get small problems. You must go and find them as the big problems are where people are yet they do not realise they have them ‘. What dead truth!

Other leaders in organisations are applying it as a means to boost morale, while for others MBWA can be developed as a technique for checking with staff about the status of the work in progress by walking around in an impromptu way. In the words of G.K Chesterton, “One only sees great things from the valley; small things from the peak.”

Nowadays organisations need leaders who make people reflect on their work and behaviour. This requires leaders giving the employees that space to contribute to issues that effect on their work stations. Managers should also reflect and review MBWA observations and discussions and take action accordingly otherwise the management style will indeed just be ‘wandering around!’

Emmanuel Jinda is the Managing Consultant of PROSERVE Consulting Group, a leading supplier of Professional Human Resources and Management services locally, regionally and internationally. He can be contacted at Tel: 263 773004143 or 263 4 772778 or visit our website at www.proservehr.com