Success Hs of Leadership

After my last leadership blog – The Four H’s of Leadership - I had a number of comments. Two stood out. Both telling me I had left out two essential H’s. One was Hunger, the other Humour. So thank you Richard and Miriam – you are spot on.

I thought I would take a look at both:

Hunger

Hunger was described at the ‘undying passion to ensure these qualities are constantly applied’. But this is no small ask. We are all human and likes, dislikes, moods, stress, indecision is part of our make-up. So a consistency of motivation and application of leadership can be tough. That said, we all know an undyingly passionate and consistent leader when you meet them. They are described as ethical, honest, fair, driven, determined, focused, calm. Their team works for them because they like and respect them; people know where they stand; team performance is continually high; everyone goes the extra mile.

It would be too easy to simply say that such leaders simply apply the four, now six, H’s consistently. It might be more useful to look at what they avoid. My experience tells me the following (but please come back with comments and add more):

  • Favouritism. An inconsistent leader has the in-crowd who know more, get more and go further. They are treated as special while the others get a very different, more distant, style of management. The result? Differential productivity, low morale in the ‘out crowd’ and lack of respect for the leader. A hungry leader believes every member of team or staff has potential (if they do not, why are they there?) and deserves equal respect to their colleagues. This does not mean everyone is managed in the same way, but it does mean they are managed with the same six H’s.
  • Stress peaks. Mood swings and stress is contagious. If a leader is calm one minute and reacting with high drama and anxiety the next, their team will feel rattled. It goes back to our childhood – if the adults were scared then so were we and the same goes for our leadership as adults. But as adults, we have the added anxiety that the stress can be directed at us and so we hunker down and stay under the radar. The result? Lowered productivity and morale. So a hungry leader will calmly explain why the pressure is on and pull in people to help, giving a message of action over panic and control over chaos.
  • Hoarding.  A leader with everything on her of his desk is filling up their time with work and putting management to the bottom of the in-box. They are also in danger of limiting utilisation and productivity of their team and minimising development and experience. In the longer-term, they are increasing flight risk as people feel they cannot progress. A hungry leader focuses on mobilising the whole team, driving energy and making success collective rather than controlled.

Humour

When did you last have a good laugh at work? When did you put down the pen and just shoot the breeze with your team and simply enjoy a joke or something ridiculous which has happened in your world? Let’s face it, most businesses have a rich seam of mad happenings to mine.

If you are reading this and rolling your eyes while thinking that work is for profit and fun is a frivolous luxury, then consider the 2015 research by the Social Market Foundation and the University of Warwick’s Centre for Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy.   [http://fortune.com/2015/10/29/happy-productivity-work/]. They took 700 people in business and randomly allocated them to either a control or a happiness group. The happiness group were simply shown regular ten minute comedy clips. The result? Productivity in the happiness group rose to 20% over the control group. The conclusion of Dr Daniel Sgroi was: “Having scientific support for generating happiness-productivity cycles within the workforce should … help managers to justify work-practices aimed at boosting happiness on productivity grounds.”

I have seen the effect myself. If in a training session the delegates have some fun and laugh at challenges, they rate the session as more relevant and useful than if the trainer is very serious and downbeat.

This is not to say you should be a stand-up comedian or comedienne for your team – that might put some leaders into a stress peak, but do you have to make everything so serious? Think about the following:

  • Laugh at yourself once in a while.  It makes your team both like you and also increases your Humility and Humanity ratings. It also makes you more approachable and you are more likely to hear about issues early because people will not be frightened to report.
  • Find the funny side of little problems.  Few issues in a business have the potential to pull that business down, in which case you would not be laughing. Generally, we face many small annoyances. Make light and find a solution. Then have a talk about how to avoid it in future.
  • Help your team to find the humour in themselves.  Encourage banter which is non-hurtful and includes all. Be careful of teasing – it can hurt – and banter should never embarrass a team member.
  • Increase social relationships.  People who play together are more likely to work well together. I recall working with a team in silent conflict after a merger. They simply did not work together despite there being no competition. My strategic away-day solution was to finish early and set up an evening of cocktail making. On Monday morning all talk was about who had made the worst cocktail and conflict was significantly and permanently addressed. They had fun and saw the human being behind the stranger. Simple. 

And so to conclude, the additional H’s – Hunger and Humour, could appear to be in conflict. I think not. You can work hard and laugh hard too.