Leadership: Take the Risk of Trusting Your People

In my last article on Leadership, I had talked about why Leadership is not a position or designation but a mindset. I had also talked about why people believe their Leaders and go out and take risks, to grow the business or the organization. But now let’s turn the table upside down and see what Leaders should do build trust amongst the team members, and how they should risk themselves to safeguard the Team that they are leading.

The person who truly Leads a Team must have the ability to TRUST his people, and TRUST them so strongly that YOU have to believe that the TEAM YOU lead, can do the job better than YOU. It’s very easy to say this, but when it comes to actual situations, many of us actually would like to get involved in each and every step while the TEAM is doing the job. Many of us believe that ”the team is not doing it the way we expect them to do” and hence our intervention is required. WRONG !! We need to understand that everyone is different as an individual and hence the way a job is done can vary quite a bit when it comes to the steps. There are many people, who are smart enough to find out newer ways of doing things or will do the job in a completely innovative way. I genuinely believe that ”such people must be allowed to do the job in their own way” and if possible, we should also learn new ways of doing things, as they do it differently. What is the point of interviewing hundreds of people, short-listing the good ones and finally recruiting the best ones ………….. and then asking them to do the job in YOUR own way ?? Why did you take so much of pain to select the best minds then ?? And if you DID SELECT the best people for your team/organization, then allow them to do things in their own ( of-course ethical) way, and it may so happen that we all will learn new stuff from them.

However, one word of caution here from my experience, and that is………….. ”When you trust people and leave decision makings on them, THINGS WILL GO WRONG AT TIMES !!! But that’s the COST OF LEADERSHIP. That is the time when YOU have to step in and handle the situation, make sure your team and people are safe and they are taken care of in a difficult situation. When things go wrong then YOU, as a Leader must step in and step forward to lead the team and handle the situation and also take the entire responsibility………………….BUT WHEN things are going smoothly, YOU should let the team be in front and let them take all the credit. Believe me, it’s very difficult to follow this religiously without any bias, but IF YOU CAN DO IT, people will respect YOU, Love YOU and work for YOU with their sweat, tears and blood. Else if they don’t trust you as a Leader………they will work only for the money that YOU provide them, be it in the form of salary or bonus or incentives. Never ever try to take away credit from anyone, because these are those little things that make YOU different from other “so-called” Leaders. I can vouch for the fact that ”People will always allow you to get what YOU WANT …………….. as long as you don’t stop THEM to get what THEY WANT”. The problem is that when we are trying to achieve something in life, we also try to stop others from going for those same things so that we WIN. That’s a very wrong approach, and believe me, it doesn’t work in the long run. Be focussed, go all out, bend the rules a bit if needed, but never deny anyone else to get what he or she wants to get.

A quick real-life incident before I sign off, to summarize what I said above.

Me and one of my team member were trying to do a deal, absolutely at the fag end of the financial year, and the client projected himself to be a spiritual leader, who’s trying to bring honesty & transparency to Indian Political scenario. The client had talked about an advertising budget of about 100 crores, and that’s a lot of money when you know that you will be ending the financial year within 20 odd days with a massive top-line if you can clinch this deal. So, in the bargain, we had long discussions with the client about many things, starting from the political scenario in India or ethical approach to business and the way the advertisement commercials can be played etc. What we did not realize is that this client is ”video-recording” our meeting through a very small ”spy-camera”. After few days, what this client did was to ”edit” certain portions of the conversations and upload on social media to malign us, our organization, and to prove that we are a bunch of stupid salespeople trying to do business unethically. It was extremely shocking for me and my colleague and we were absolutely depressed to have been projected like that on a few social media platforms. It was unfair and untrue, but from the ”edited visuals” people made perceptions about us. The world collapsed for me and my colleague, and there was a situation when we rolled up the windows of our car, and actually cried in pain ………. unable to find anyone who would like to listen to or believe ”our side of the story” without any recording of the entire meeting available at our end.

At this point, the MD of the organization, who’s my Boss ….stepped in ……….. spoken to me, listened to the entire thing first. The good thing was that I had kept her posted about this meeting on the very day that meeting happened, so she knew the background. After listening to the entire thing, she did scold me and pulled me up ( one on one) for not being able to anticipate/judge the real situation ……………. but what followed next was a real demonstration of True Leadership. A meeting was called at the Chairman’s office and all head of the Depts were asked to join. By then almost all HODs knew about this social media video, which was made viral against me & my colleague. What brought tears in my eyes was the fact that My Boss who’s the MD of the organization, along with the Chairman of the organization, stood by me and my colleague because they ”believed & trusted” that WE BOTH did not do anything wrong. They knew that we went all out and took the risk to do a deal with an individual, only to end the financial year with a solid revenue base, and not for any personal gains or to de-mean the organization or its policies. We were told that the ”entire company and its employees” stand by us and will provide any support that we may need. We were also assured that necessary legal actions will be taken against the person involved and against the act he has done.

Now, this is what I had tried to establish about Leadership. My MD had trusted me with decision making. I screwed it up somewhere, and whatever be the reason, I must admit that I should have been more careful when I am dealing with an individual for such a huge sum of money. And when things WENT WRONG My Boss stepped in, solved the situation, and stood by me and my junior colleague, because she knew that we did not do anything wrong. She made us feel safe. She made us feel that we belong to the organization. She made us feel that we are not alone and we won’t be dumped or fired because we made some wrong decisions. Yes, she also made it clear to me that ”we can’t afford to do any such mistakes in future and we need to learn from this mistake” but that’s absolutely a fair point. The great thing is that SHE continued to trust me and my Team …………. and again WE all go out and still take risks to do great business, exactly like we used to do earlier because we know that WE have a fallback option if we fail. This trust and sense of belonging make a great Team. That’s what makes a great organization……….

NOW WE WORK FOR HER ………. because when things go smoothly, SHE puts the team ahead of her ……. but when things go wrong, SHE will step in and ensure that the team remains safe and protected ……… unless the team had done something ethically WRONG.

This learning came to me at a heavy price, but I am happy that I have learnt and try to follow the True Leadership traits, by Trusting My Team and play the same role if the need be !!!

Cheers !!!