CEOs need to work on hearts and minds

Friday, 18 February 2011 02:34 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

By Pradeepa Kekulawala

More often than not the corporate world is full of clichés! Boardrooms are inundated with comments from the CEOs and corporate leaders espousing the need to “invest in people” and motivate people.

“People are our greatest asset” is a favourite statement of CEOs. But how many business leaders walk the talk? How many of them really work on the hearts and minds of their employees to bring out the best in them?

Many business leaders think that providing training and development and granting monitory rewards make people tick. It is sad that they fail to realise in their “hurry towards riches” that the most effective fuel that propels people towards performance is concern and care, kindness and empathy and above all appreciation!

Many CEOs act as though they have not heard of the golden rule “Praise in public – criticise in private!” In fact many do exactly the opposite. Some CEOs find praising in public almost an impossibility – a mental block. But they are quite comfortable spewing venom in open fora oblivious to the fact that their actions are despised and have long term negative effect.

Attempting to capitalise on the “fear factor” and obnoxious behaviour is the recipe for corporate disaster and business ruin.

Why do CEOs tend to act in this manner in spite of all proven cases to the contrary? This is a matter worth investigation. Psychology and character traits are fundamental to this phenomenon

High IQ – Low EQ

There is a category of corporate leaders who are of high intellectual capacity. They are often techno savvy and numerical in their approach. We call them “numbers people” These people lack the critical soft skills or human skills. To them every “scenario” is profit and loss based and every employee is a number – a necessary evil.

Such individuals have very low emotional quotient (EQ) i.e. they find it extremely difficult to relate to people and deal with their emotions and that of others. Such people follow the philosophy “If I pay – they must perform” little realising that pay and monetary/material rewards are only but one factor in the whole gamut of motivational factors.

If the suitability to hold high office is tested through evaluating soft-skills and EQ none of these people would make it to a board room. However, since it is not the case and as we also have to realise that you cannot isolate these individuals as they possess other technical skills and business acumen (some run their own businesses), the answer is to expose them to the human side of management and leadership.

This becomes more a personal development mission as it is extremely difficult to forcibly plant soft skills and EQ. The best method is to observe study and emulate people oriented peers, colleagues and/or follow the management styles of successful people who have used people power to their advantage.

Growing up without love and affection

It has also been found out that people who do not display love, care and affection are those who have been deprived of same in their formative years. This holds true for both business and family related interactions. In this category of people – mostly grown up on their own and self made – the “love and kindness” factor is not a consideration as they have never experienced same.

Their effort, grit and circumstances may bring them to the forefront in whatever they do but they find themselves unable to sustain their success due to the lack of a committed and engaged team with them. Such leaders follow the “hire and fire” and “pay and demand work” theories.

This at times works in our types of restrictive and high inflationary economies due to the poor earning power of people – but short-lived. Slowly but surely these business leaders would find that increasingly their people – even the key stars – are abandoning the ship.

Solution? It becomes incumbent on the rest of the corporate leadership in an organisation to step in, and fill in/provide what their leader is unable to extend. Use his business acumen if any and all that he or she has to offer – but keep him away from the people. Easier said than done but a strong team effort can win the day.

Lack of formal education and social interaction

This is a rare case. Some unsuitable and undeserving people are pushed into power and leadership positions due to various unexpected reasons and twists of faith. In business too this is a common occurrence. These types of CEOs are typical “bulls in a china shop” and are categorised as tyrants and dictators.

Businesses with such people at the helm have very short life-spans because the people in these organisations are not treated at all as they should be. The only way out is to remove such CEOs or people with self respect working in these organisations have to find alternate means of employment lest they go down with the organisation.

The key to corporate success and power is to work and invest on the hearts and minds of people. Many (if not all) a corporate success story has people as the fundamental factor of success. A brief recipe to get closer to the people in your organisations would be:

nTreat your people as real assets – look after them, nurture them and invest in them

nNever underestimate the power of people – treat them right and fair

nDo not discriminate on race, creed or caste – focus on the ability and potential

nDo not let other personal biases cloud your judgment of people

nNever attempt to replace  a word of appreciation with monitory rewards

nPraises always in public – criticise in private

nIf you pay peanuts you will get monkeys – pay people for what they can deliver; now and in the future

nMake your people’s problems your own – be  a friend, companion and a brother

nListen even to the junior most person’s idea – nothing or nobody is insignificant

nDo not attempt to divide and rule – when the divisions unite you will get crushed in the synergistic force

One should not misunderstand this content as an attempt to argue that CEOs have to be weaklings. On the contrary they can be much more powerful by using the talents of ordinary people towards extraordinary output.

History shows that it is not tyranny and undue force which have always reigned supreme, but patience, tact and concern.

(The writer is a HRD professional and corporate trainer He is an executive committee member of the Association of HR Professionals and leads The Talent Gallery as Programme Director/Key Facilitator.)