Leadership Is More About Your Staff Than You
FMI’s Future Connect did what a valuable conference should do—make you think about your work, and your life, in new ways. Make you think about where you’re going in the future (hence the name) and the best path to take you there.
There were three ideas presented at this year’s Future Connect that I have continued to think about in the days since we arrived back home from Dallas.
1. The more you understand your staff, the better they perform.
This idea was brought out by Roger Nierenberg, who presented the first general session of the conference called “The Music Paradigm.” Nierenberg, a conductor, used a local orchestra he had assembled just one hour before the session to teach business lessons. The musicians were scattered among the audience to allow the audience (at least those with a good seat) to see the musicians’ faces and body language as they followed the conductor’s lead and their sheet music while playing complicated musical passages. While it is certainly important for musicians to keep an eye on their conductor, Nierenberg said that it is more important for the conductor to understand the reality from each chair than it is for the musician to understand the conductor. In a lot of businesses, the opposite is true; the leader spends little or sometimes no time understanding his or her employees, focused instead on the job at hand. But the best results are achieved when you take your employees’ strengths, weaknesses and even their personal situations into consideration. He also showed how each member of a team, no matter what kind of team it is, plays a valuable role in the whole. He had the percussion section play a piece of music, and it sounded fine, but when their part was added to the rest of the orchestra, it was beautiful. In the elevator on the last morning of the show, a woman that works for a major grocer told me that the conference would have been worth it just to see “The Music Paradigm.”
2. Ignore some things.
Coach Mike Krzyzewski, head men’s basketball coach at Duke University and Team USA, said during Wednesday’s first general session that this was valuable advice he received from Chuck Daly, the famed Detroit Pistons coach who was Coach K’s predecessor as coach of Team USA. (Daly died of cancer two years ago.) On Coach K’s first day as an assistant coach on Team USA—the “dream team” made up of NBA stars that competes at the Olympics and other international events—he and PJ Carlesimo, another coach, sat with their notebooks open, ready to write down their every observation and suggestion. Daly told them to put their notebooks away and to ignore some things. What he was saying was that if someone is doing something terribly wrong fundamentally, point it out. But if someone is getting the right results but getting there a little differently than you expected them to, leave them alone.
3. Money is a motivator, but it’s not the only one.
Author Daniel Pink writes about motivation as it relates to work, most recently penning “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.” While many employers believe that money is the best motivator of people, after a certain point—the point at which an employee believes he or she is being paid well for the job they are performing—they begin to look to other factors to motivate them. They want some autonomy, Pink said. This means they want some level of control over their time (not having every minute of their day mapped out for them); their task (choosing the jobs they are best at); their team (whom they do the task with); and their technique (how they get the job done).
They also want to feel they are mastering new skills and that there is a greater purpose in their work. (More on Pink’s presentation can be found in the FMI Future Connect coverage in this issue.)
One of FMI Future Connect’s missions is to prepare tomorrow’s leaders. These and other speakers at the 2011 event provided interesting insights on what makes a great leader. Some of these ideas may seem counterintuitive, but if they bring out the best in your employees, they’re certainly worth some thought. Good employees reflect well on their leader.