Thursday, November 29, 2007

'Too simplistic' - A compliment ... I think!

I’ve always had an obsession to make management and leadership simpler. As a result I’m often accused of being 'too simplistic' in the complex world of business. I take that as a compliment but I somehow think it is not always meant as one.

As far as I'm concerned the best leaders concentrate mainly on two things - their customers and their staff.

I am sure great leaders are also interested in process and numbers and all the other ‘hard stuff’ – they just get others to do that stuff for them.

I am firmly in the camp that if you look after your staff and your customers, the bottom line and all the other ‘hard stuff’ will take care of itself.

Some people probably think I don’t rate 'process people' which is the way off the mark.

I have the ultimate respect for people who are turned on by the process side of any business. Good processes and governance are essential parts of any business and some of my best friends are accountants. I am just not good at that stuff. I have to have people alongside me who are good at that.

In my experience the folks obsessed with process and numbers usually have less time or concern for the 'people bit' and do not make the most effective leaders.

So … what is my conclusion?

I will continue to actively promote simplicity and a focus on people above process for business leaders.

Let the folks who are good at ‘process’ work effectively in the background but don't let them get in the way of leaders. These people can 'muddy the waters' by creating myths that everything in business is complex – it just isn’t!

Looking after your people (staff and customers) is not complex … it is just caring about them and that is simple.

I would value comments.


Unknown said...

I agree completely Trevor (as usual). It really is about caring, about Listening, as Tom Peters said on his blog today.

The best process in the world won't save the business or make it worthwhile if the people part, the caring part, the connecting part is ignored.

Thanks for the reminder!

Trevor Gay said...

As usual Dan we are on the same page! - Simplicity rules!

Hope you are well my friend :-)

Anonymous said...

Should a successful process be a manageable balance/combination of all?

Complications present themselves naturally through the course of dealings, being able to solve them simplistically are skills needed to help create broader and wider reaching solutions.

By allowing others to do the 'hard stuff though, there is a risk of losing your place in the loop of communication, nothing to be concerned about if you know who and when to ask for updates... inability or reluctance of that that might be a case of once bitten twice shy !!

It does seem unfair that many at the fore of decision making are in so deep that their day to day has little flexibility for shaking off the complicated and allowing things to be whittled back down to the simple !!

*wheres that drawing board gone ? lol

Personally I am seeing more and more opportunities online for gathering ideas, asking for information and requesting feedback .. I can only cross my fingers that the very simple 'Submit button' sees my imput heading off in the right direction !!

Simple can be very complicated.

Trevor Gay said...

Thanks Ruth – excellent response!

Yes I think the key is to have balance – I just worry that the ‘hard side’ of the equation gets too much emphasis in business. I think that balance has to swing in favour of the ‘softer end’ – i.e. concentrate on people rather than process.

I would never suggest ‘letting go’ completely as a leader of the process stuff. I just think the leader must recruit people she/he can trust completely and leave them to get on with the work they are good at. The important thing is that the leader must ask questions and show interest – but not get into the detail of the hard ‘processy’ stuff. That is not the job of a leader.

I am pretty sure Richard Branson is acutely interested in finance but I bet he is not interested in reading every line of 1000 line excel profit and loss statements to find out where Virgin money is being spent.

It is the job of managers to free up front line staff and let them use their initiative – there is plenty of it!

The basics are the new cutting edge.

Great discussion!

Anonymous said...

ahh .. but who is freeing up the time of the Manager and his/her initiative ...

Trevor Gay said...

Good question Ruth – my view is that a good manager will create their own time by letting go of their ‘apparent’ power and give that power to front line staff. This frees the manager to spend more time for creativity and thinking time to plan how to get rid of more of the work they don’t have to do. Many managers worry about ‘letting go’ of perceived power but my view has always been that the best way to gain power is to let go of power. Managers in 2007 are first and last coaches and mentors as far as I can see and not merely ‘supervisors’ of processes and people. Most people are more capable than their job description states and that applies to managers as well as front line staff.

Glenn said...

Found your blog through a comment you left on Tom Peters' blog. I especially like your 2nd rule. You're now in my aggregator.

I'll be reading...



Trevor Gay said...

Thanks for that Glen and welcome aboard :-)

I believe the requirements of a manager in 2007 bears no resemeblance to the needs of 10yeers ago. Today's manager needs completely different skills - mainly people skills - i.e. coaching and mentoring - and this to me is an exciting opportunity rather than a problem.

I hope you enjoy the content of my Blog - where are you based?