Motto: „Quality is never a coincidence. It is always a result of intelligent effort. “ John Ruskin
When you work with people for two decades, it yields – beside the usual rewards and challenges – also access to interesting data. The trends… Such trends could be, for example, the frequently discussed change of young graduates’ behaviour on the job market; service ageing of young managers and the resulting challenge in how to motivate them as they reach the top of their career ladder at the age of forty; the increasing performance pressure on managers, now heavily applied as a solution to revenue growth demands and the expense line squeeze dilemma; or the cycle of reoccurring mistakes showing up on every level of management due to the absence of effective know-how transfer processes.
All of these trends represent a unique challenge to people on the top management level of companies, as it requires an accommodation to their thinking process and their management style to new conditions. Unfortunately, the bad news is, that change of management style – i.e. how I approach people through whom I need to generate success, is not something one can learn from the literature and then simply apply. It is not a newly learned skill; it is a new attitude.
Attitudes, as we all know, are at first, and remain for quite some time, only a behavioral prototype, until they get enough fixation to become fully integrated into our behavioral portfolio. To develop a new attitude requires strong personal motivation – why do I want to do it? It is at this point when the number of leadership courses and management development programs fail; they often teach participants what to do, instead of helping them explore the rare, subjective why.
Based on my many years of following the careers and management challenges of professionals and leaders in the business, I have developed my own hypothesis on why the answer to this why is missing and not easy to find. The qualities that traditionally lead to the top successes in a corporate environment are competitiveness, keen decision making, deep knowledge of the subject, analytical thinking, with sharpness of genius and ability to argue their case. New attitude means to step outside of the familiar territory that got the leaders to the top. Intelligent as they are, they know deep down that the good old “what got you here may not work anymore “ is a hundred percent valid. However, the more on the top one is, the more visibility – hence no space for mistakes. There is no time for experiments because they can lead to professional discretization, criticism, and failure. To start experimenting with new attitudes and behaviours in unfamiliar territory is a challenge as there is simply too much at risk.
The solution therefore is to deepen what worked before. The consequence of staying in the familiar is that the effort the CEO or senior leader puts into achieving the company’s success is often disproportionate to the result. In other words: achieving results (therefore success) through people costs too much effort and executive energy. This energy is spent more on mutual escalation of personal stakes and on sharpening mutually opposite arguments than on finding mutual motivation to align. The desire to be right and to win becomes, in its consequence, contra productive, because instead of leading to a solution and execution follow up, it requires the team to increased rates of compromise and concession, that are – at one or more points of the opinion spectrum- considered as failures.
The idea that the team will always pull the rope in one direction is – in my opinion – a sheer utopia; I do not know any team or human system that would be able, in the long run, to sustain such a demanding rhythm of balancing all their personal priorities. In principle, however, the important thing is where the energy is aiming and how it yields the desired result.
Lately, this aspect of leaders’ behavior is more than obvious in their low success/high effort rate to design effective alliances and reach multilateral agreements. It is because the power of the argument always runs up against the variable factors of mutual tension, different agendas, contradictory preconceptions and human “chemistry”. And those are the factors that are hard to work with. We all are sometimes guilty of pretending that they do not matter, despite our suspicion that it is precisely those factors that cause the potential for cooperation and collective effectiveness to leak.
I am convinced, that this Rubicon can be crossed if the leaders finds their true why.
In its essence, it is about strengthening one aspect of human intelligence, the one that allows for effective relationship building. This kind of intelligence is often (by mistake) attributed to women, yet they also have a lot to learn here. It is because relationship intelligence® is not intuitive. It requires strong motivation and significant mental effort of a well-developed human mind without gender preference. I dare to say that an executive team that masters this art will gain a significant competitive advantage, not only in achieving the results through people, with less effort, but also in other aspects of leading a successful business; such as retention of talent, loyalty, higher motivation, positivity and commitment.
In summary: it improves the ratio between the executive effort and performance results.
Tapping into the potential of relationship intelligence® in corporate management is a modern trend that many leaders still reject in the early stages of proposal. The reason is fear, vulnerability, distrust and perception of the topic as a „soft skill . I often hear the opinion that there is no time to deal with emotions or inner motivation of people since there is a need to focus on business.
I propose a different view. Actually, it is a very „hard skill”. If it weren’t hard, we all would do it. It requires perseverance and personal and management courage to approach things differently, smarter and with a wider scope. It is not about dropping what we excel in, and leaving that behind. It is about adding new alternatives and widening our leadership style portfolio. After all, what’s wrong with having more tools to adjust to new realities?
Trust me: the benefits will inevitably follow.