Tuesday, February 17, 2015
Lead and Then Get Out of the Way
Allow me to re-introduce Ron Thomas. Ron appeared on my blog and shared some leadership insights back in April 2011, so it’s time for a repeat appearance. Click here for the original post. Back in 2011, the world of social media was quite different. Facebook and Twitter were not as widespread as today, Instagram and Pinterest were not as popular, and we did not depend on our mobile devices in the same manner as we do today. That said, Ron and I met through social media (Twitter) and spoke by phone when he was based in New York. I witnessed his move to the Middle East for a company that found him via social media, and we stayed in touch across the miles. Ron's new role is CEO, Great Place to Work - Gulf Region, based in Dubai, and formerly, he was the CHRO for a defense contractor in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Follow Ron on Twitter @ronald_thomas and read his posts on CEO.com and TLNT.com. We recently discussed some timeless leadership tips, and highlights of our conversation follow.
QUESTION: When we first connected, you were based in New York City. You now work in the Middle East. What are some of the leadership and management differences you have encountered since working outside the USA?
RON THOMAS: The culture of doing business is different in the Middle East. It's more about building relationships than the hard charging way of getting it done. When in a meeting, you will spend a lot of time talking about things that have nothing to do with the business at hand. In the final stages, we will revert back to the topic and close it. If not, we will meet again after those points are cleared. The relationship side is important because it is about getting to know the actual person, not just about the business person.
QUESTION: When President Obama nominated Janet Yellen as Federal Reserve Chair, he said, “Janet Yellen is a proven leader who knows how to build consensus…the kind of person who makes everybody around her better.” As a leadership expert, what three tips can you provide to create this type of leader? (Click here for my blog post referencing this quote.)
RON THOMAS: Such a powerful quote. To me, that means hire competent people and let them run it. This type of leader is not a manager but more of a coach. She coaches her team to greatness.
* If you hire them for a job, get out of the way and let them do it.
* Your role is to coach your people, not manage them. Managing is an old and fading concept of organizational dynamics.
* Look at the people you manage as peers. Forget about the dotted line concept. These are your partners.
QUESTION: Every CEO/President has his or her own style for achieving success. But if that individual is not a people-person, how can he/she create a positive corporate culture? (For example, management by walking around won’t cut it in this scenario.)
RON THOMAS: I agree, MBWA works for the people person, but if that is not your style, the bottom line is fostering some type of collaboration with your team. Act more like a trusted advisor and leave the manager's title on the coat rack. Get to know your people, their wants, desires, career plans, family, etc. The more you know them as a person, the better you know them as an employee.
QUESTION: One of the things we both agree is necessary for all new employees to be successful is the implementation of an effective onboarding strategy. What are your four must-have tips to all businesses when it comes to creating effective onboarding strategies?
RON THOMAS: The most important question a new employee is asked on day one comes not from the organization. It comes from a new employee's significant other, friend, or family. That question comes at the end of day one throughout the end of the first week. How do you like your new job? The best way to ensure that the response is positive is to have an onboarding strategy.
* It's a celebration. This new arrival has “chosen” your company to say yes to her talent. Design your program around that celebration.
* Develop your plan into two parts: part 1 is the orientation into the organization, and part 2 is the orientation into their department.
* Follow up at the end of the first week and throughout the next 3-6 months.
* At the 6-month interval, bring back all the new employees hired during that time period for a “New Employee Luncheon."
QUESTION: One of my favorite quotes about leadership is from author and consultant Mark Herbert: “Leadership is a gift, not a position. It doesn’t require you to be the smartest person in the room. It requires you to trust and be trusted – and block and tackle for others.” What does this quote mean to you?
RON THOMAS: Lots of times people who are in charge of others tend to feel that they must show how smart they are. This is especially true with newer managers. NEVER EVER go down that road. The worst description that you want tagged to you is being or thinking you are the smartest person in the room. I call it SPIR syndrome. This type of attitude smothers your creative people for they know that whatever they do, you are over their shoulders showing them how “you would do it." If this is the case, why did you hire them in the first place? In order for your people to grow, you have to let them go out and run. Sometimes they will make mistakes, but if you hire right, they will, for the most part begin to develop their own style. And that is where the creativity and resourcefulness creep in.
My gratitude to Ron for sharing his thoughts from across the miles.