Your subordinates look to you for leadership and your mood reflects on their morale: be it positive or negative. Success or failure in contingencies depend on how they are approached.
Set a clear direction
Unless you direct your team in the right direction seldom do they reach the right destination. Understand what and where you need to be and communicate them appropriately.
Create a work plan
Plan well and work optimally. While no plan should be set in stone and should be adapted as situations call for, it is universally understood that "one who fails to plan has ultimately planned to fail"
Secure sufficient resources
Just words and directives won't suffice but ensure you supply your team with the necessary resources to achieve their tasks be it time, money, tools or training.
Hear more than you say
Listen more and lecture less
Do not hold meetings without agendas
If you do not have clear cut agendas for meetings, do not hold one. Plan and communicate meeting agendas nefore setting up meetings and stick to them religiously. Meetings held just for the sake of holding meetings lose their credibility and with it the leader's
Do not criticize in public
Follow this religiously and avoid resentment
Praise in public
Follow this religiously and improve the morale to perform better
Do not ask a subordinate to do something that you wouldn't do yourself
Be it big or small, think before you delegate. Would you do it yourself if you could or are you just trying to pass the buck
Do not micromanage
Delegate authority to your subordinates according to their job profile and encourage them to accept ownership of their decisions. If you insist upon making every final decision, the progress of the organization will grind to a halt: even worse, making you the bottleneck. If you cannot delegate you have no business calling yourself a leader.
Give your team the credit
Make sure you give credit to your team when you succeed and try not to pass the buck to them when things do not go as planned. This in itself is a great trait of a true leader
People get their MBA's graduating from Business schools after learning lots and lots of stuff about business, strategy, best practices and tools to aid business management. Even then, business schools seldom address simple stuff which they consider too simple to be addressed at their level. Yet these "too simple to be taught" things hold great importance for real world success. A few of those are addressed below. If you are a manager consider practicing the following religiously for greater reputation and success.
Jargon - Avoid them like the plague
Most people misuse it without actually understanding what they stand for and giving rise to unwanted mistakes and misunderstandings. Force yourself to spell out what you mean in simple plain language. It will help your thinking and communication.
Organizational Design - The Why before redefining the What
Figure out what is causing the problem, and then think about how to avoid the problem. A lot of problem solvers identify bad decisions, and then suggest reversing it, neglecting to address the issue of why that particular bad decision was made, and how to make sure the same mistakes wouldn’t be made in the future.
Don't define problems as your perceive - Learn more with different perspectives
Never ever jump to a solution without understanding the whole picture through different perspectives and deciding on a solution before considering atleast one another closely contested solution to the problem. Also consider the fact that the problem may not actually be what you initially perceive it to be unless you see it from another perspective.
Trade off - Analyze costs to benefits for all possible solutions
Every solution has costs as well as benefits. If you list only the benefits, it makes your analysis seem like an ex post rationalization of a foregone decision, rather than a careful weighing of the benefits and costs. If you spent some time thinking through the tradeoffs, show it. If not, then you should. It is not the solution but your rationale in deciding on one that matters in the long time or if something goes wrong
Language - Always keep it simple stupid
Write simple declarative sentences that clarify rather than obfuscate. Form is not a substitute for content. We are running businesses where communications need to be crystal clear and not writing poems for people to analyze and discuss for is being communicated.
The Simple Stupid Way to Build Customer Trust and Loyalty
Reducing the cost of Customer Acquisition, Increasing Repeat Customers and Maintaining a Loyal Customerbase
Aggressive or clever pushing is the only way to market a product, service or a concept seems to be the most popular mode of operation to grab a greater share of the market nowadays. Recent lower than cost sales festival of FlipKart (August 2014) and a few other etailers including snapdeal and Amazon prove it without a doubt. These companies are losing money by selling products below cost to acquire clients (more appropriately known as "Loss Leader"). But what these companies do not realize is that customers acquired by such deals do not tend to be loyal to the brand once such offers dry up and jump ship to another retailer if offered better deals. For the customer who was only brought on board because of the low prices, there is no incentive to stay loyal.
So, what do they need to do build a loyal customer base which would rather spend more than move to a competitor. Brands like Armani, Apple, British Airways, Harley-Davidson, Tag Heuer, etc., have created a large loyal customer base being the envy of organisations worldwide. I am not exaggerating when I say that each one of the above companies started with zero customers and worked their way up to where they are now. While aggressive pushing and clever penetration strategy works out to a certain extent, these alone do not help sustain the long term.
The Harley-Davidson Story
A leaf out of companies that command great respect, love, bonding and customer loyalty will educate us with the knowledge required to build one of our own. Let us take Harley-Davidson for example.
It would be hard for this generation to believe that Harley-Davidson, the sought after name in the motorcycle industry had a hard time competing with the low priced, affordable, high quality Japanese motorcycles in the 1980's and losing a lot of marketshare to the Japanese manufacturers unable to compete with them on price. Harley-Davidson, back then did not have the cult following it enjoys now. Though they made motorcycles of reasonable quality (read - not so reliable as the Japanese makes), they were just another brand fighting for the same piece of pie against superior quality reliable, affordable Japanese brands.
Harley-Davidson had two must do's: They had to increase their quality and compete with the Japanese brands on price. Improving the quality of the motorcyles was a necessity to survive but that increased costs eventually. Harley-Davidson already much more expensive than the Japanese motorcycles were in no situation to compete on price selling lower than cost (refer first paragraph of this article), take the loss just to survive and were pushed to the edge to survive which made them give birth to a strategy that gave birth to the cult following it currently enjoys.
After improving their quality to challenge their Japanese counterparts, Harley-Davidson's knowledge of their customer's needs and their appeal to hedge their emotions yielded good returns building great trust and bonding with the brand. They made them feel they cared. They made them feel they belong. They made them feel they were special. This increases trust in the brand and eventually salesTheir managers to this date meet customers regularly at rallies, where new models are demonstrated, feedback is collected and acted upon. Strategic Advertising reinforces the macho brand image and promotes customer loyalty. Harley-Davidson still works hard to make the customers feel that they don't just own a motorcycle from the company but are an integral part of their global family. This initiative changed Harley-Davidson from just another to the "privileged to ride" brand of the world.
Harley Owner’s Group (HOG)
The Harley Owner’s Group (HOG) is a exclusive membership club that entrenches customer loyalty and Harley-Davidson ensures customers receive benefits they value. The result is that customers trust Harley-Davidson; this trust is used to develop stronger bonds and greater profits in a virtuous circle. Rich Teerlink, former chair of Harley-Davidson, once said, “Perhaps the most significant program was and continues to be, the Harley Owner’s Group (HOG). Dealers regained confidence that Harley could and would be a dependable partner and capturing the ideas of our people, all the people at Harley, was critical to our future success.”
Lessons learnt from the Harley-Davidson saga to build brand loyalty
• Deliver a consistent (and ideally a “branded”) experience each time customers deal with your business.
• Be clear about the value proposition you offer.
• Provide incentives for new customers to return and reorder.
• Reward loyalty benefits for established customers.
• Be competitive. What seems like a good deal to you may not match your competitors.
• Make the customer’s experience as smooth and enjoyable as possible.
• Reassure customers with reliable services and products.
• Use customer feedback to continuously improve your processes.
• Work with partners and invest in resources to deliver reliability.
The above are not new strategies but are relevant businesses of the past, present and the future. A few business leaders tend to forget these basics in a bid to capture the "NOW" market to establish their market share quickly. But the important thing about running any business is to sustain through the passage of time and grow albeit steadily than to flourish one day and begone another.
Take heed and Prosper
Nazi Germany? No more.
Gone are the days when Germany under the Nazis was all work all day long, all through the year without much emphasis on the recreational side of life. Back then, Germany was efficient, reliable and technically advanced yet the Germans led a life which was more or less non existent outside of work.
Even now, Germany still does mean perfection, a progressive economy, efficient workforce, reliability and the authoritative business entity in continental Europe. The only difference is that, Germany has transformed itself from the "drain the life force of the workers" work culture of the Nazi period in to a "Treasure your life " work culture nowadays.
Germany has transformed from a war torn piece of trash economy of the world war II days, into this great industrial super giant which even has trade surplus against the world's largest exporters - USA and China (Trade surplus - When your exports outperform your imports)
What makes Germany is not just their technical advancement and their long lasting machinery but the people running their businesses - right from the bottom level employee to the CEO of the company. Let us see what is so unique about their business etiquette that makes them so successful.
In German Business Culture, if you promised something to do, you have to do; If your colleague promised you something, it will be completed as promised, and the same goes for external upstreams and downstreams.
The Germans just do not like surprises. They have learnt from experiences in life and work that a single break in the work chain wreaks havoc in the entire chain costing time money and effort that spoils it for everyone and have come to respect the fact that what is expected to be done has to e done. If they plan something, it has to be done within the timeframe.
In Indian workplaces, we see a lot of troubles about broken promises which affect our business greatly.
German businesses offer direct and realistic TATs of the work in question and not compromise on it. They commit to it only if it is possible to do so and just do not make empty promises to their clients just to get business. When a German business makes a promise to deliver something at a certain time, you can be sure of getting it done by that time.
This simple etiquette makes German business certain and powerful.
Work at Work, Play at Play
Germans work just 35 hours a week and yet they are one of the most productive countries in the world. Compare this to some our Indian IT / ITES companies where techies work more than 80 hours a week yet failing terribly on their deadlines. How? Actually, the heading gives the idea. Germans just focus on work when they are at work. It is quite logical to say so and you can say that even that is what happens mostly in India too.
Think about your workplace: How many hours you spend everyday for gossips, cricket chats, making weekend plans? Yes, a lot. I strongly believe that working 6 hours with perfect focus and productivity is better than 12 hours with lack of it.
German business culture revolves around working hard and playing hard. German laws forbid any business communication outside business hours. That means no business emails, SMS', calls after work etc. Therefore, a German mind is completely free after work to socialize and be happy. Happy Employee = Increased Productivity.
Germans get a whopping 31 (24 vacation + 7 holidays) days of paid holidays a year apart from their weekends to have a life outside of work.
It is one of the best things about German behavior that is actually that being direct about everything and we Indians do practice it efficiently meh., in the unorganized sectors. But when it comes to proper workplaces we have lost the touch. The fact that most unorganized Indian workplaces function efficiently is due to this principle or the lack of it is what affects productivity in large corporations. Trying to be more polite and avoiding to be a "rude prick at the workplace", people avoid direct instructions and lean towards suggestions.
German businesses are run on direct instructions as compared to indirect suggestions or requests. What is the difference between "It will be great if you can..." and "I need you to do" or "I will be so happy if you finish it by 5PM" and "I need this by 5PM"?. The latter is more direct and defines what is expected. It is strict but effective. Studies on human psychology show that employees are more responsive with increased focus and adherent when they hear direct instructions from their bosses. They realize the importance.
Maybe it time for Indian businesses to run their operations like the Germans do and maybe someday promises made by Indian companies can be trusted to delivered upon.