Building high-performance teams - Gordon Tredgold [Interview]

Sneha Moorthy
I
43
min read
Building high-performance teams - Gordon Tredgold [Interview]
Building high-performance teams - Gordon Tredgold [Interview]

About Gordon Tredgold

Gordon is a leading inspirational speaker helping a multitude of organizations for operational cost saving. He is the most sought after leader to turn around failing departments of multinational organizations and is the author of the book F.A.S.T, which was a finalist for the Management Book of the Year 2017. He's also the founder and CEO of Leadership Principles Ltd. A Leader who is passionate to learn more, an internationally acclaimed keynote speaker, and a contributing author at leading websites like Forbes, Fortune, and Business Insider. 

Building high-performance teams - Gordon Tredgold [Interview]

Aishwarya Jain        

We have the pleasure of welcoming Gordon today to our interview series. I'm Aishwarya Jain from peopleHum team. Before we begin, I just want to start with a quick introduction of peopleHum. peopleHum is an end to end, one view, integrated Human Capital Management Automation Platform, The Winner of the 2019 Global Codie Award for HCM, that is specifically built for Crafted employee experiences and the future of work. We run the peopleHum blog and video channel, which receives upwards of 200,000 visitors annually and publish around 2 interviews with known names globally, every month

Aishwarya

Welcome, Gordon. We’re thrilled to have you. 

Gordon

Thank you. I'm thrilled to be on the show as well. Thank you so much.

Aishwarya

So the first question I had for you Gordon was, tell us something about the interesting work that you're carrying out at leadership principles. 

Gordon

So, I do coaching, consulting, and speaking. Unfortunately, with the Coronavirus, I was due to be speaking in India in April in 'People matters' in Bangalore, Mumbai, and Delhi but due to the travel restrictions, a lot of those conferences are rescheduling for later. In the end, I was, due to speak at a number of HR conferences.

So I speak of those events and my passion is looking to give people the tools to become better leaders and show them how to create, engage teams, motivate teams, create culture, and deliver results.

I have worked in that turnaround arena for the past 25 years. When I first started, I was doing a lot of small turnarounds. So for that, it was much more about my own personal capabilities to be able to turn things around. I was very hands-on, but as you develop and go up, I was leading teams. Then I was leading teams of teams of teams. And it's at that point, once you get 2 to 3 levels back, then It becomes less about your technical capability and now it's all about your ability to lead, mobilize and motivate.

“"It becomes less about your technical capability and now it's all about your ability to lead, mobilize and motivate."”

Over 20 years, I've really focused on trying to understand and simplify it and what I do now is sort of speaking and writing and coaching and I look to share simple techniques to empower people to be better leaders.

Aishwarya

I see. And what do you believe are the primary focus areas in building high-performance teams? 

Gordon

So I've written about 1200 articles on leadership, motivation, team building, engagement, delivering results, and being successful. But I think one of the things that we need to do to build a high-performance team, is we have to create an environment in which people could be successful. A lot of times, I hear people say, 'the performance of my team is terrible. I need to get rid of my team.'

And then I say "So, what are the things that are causing problems?" And they say 'my team's terrible'. OK, but why can't they perform? And more often what I find is that the team has not been told what they need to do. They haven't been told what the goal or objective is. So not only do they know what to do, they don't have clarity over what success looks like.

They haven't been given the tools to do it. They might not even have the skills to do it all. They might not have the time to do it and sometimes it could be because they just don't want to do it. But in terms of percentages, that last one is less than 5%.

So the fact that they don't know what to do, they don't know how to do it. they don't have the tools or the time or the skills, this is not the problem of the team. This is the problem of the manager. So to create high performing teams, we've got to put our teams in a position where they can be successful. And the four simple things that we can do are we can give clear direction, be very specific about what success looks like.

“"We can give clear direction, be very specific about what success looks like."”

We can give our teams the space to be successful. Don't micromanage them. We've chosen them for a reason.

Let's trust them to do their job and then let's ask them, "do you have everything you need to be successful?", and when they say yes, they've accepted ownership because they now know they can do it.

And then the other two things we need to give are: if it's going well, give them recognition. If it's not going well, ask them what they need and give them that support.

So,

  1. Give them a clear direction.
  2. Give them space.
  3. Give them the tools they need.
  4. Give them recognition when they do a good job.

If you just do those four simple things, your team will start to perform better and if you do that consistently, you'll create a culture of high performance.

People want to be successful. Nobody wants to be on a failing project so it's you who pulls them in a position to succeed. In my experience, 99% of people will choose the option of succeeding.

Aishwarya

I see. And if they do really good work and you want to recognize them, then what is the time frame of recognizing? Because probably if you recognize them a bit too much, it might get to their head or they would start underperforming? 

Gordon

So how many times would I have to tell you 'you're beautiful' before you got sick of hearing it?

Aishwarya

Oh Yeah, that's a good one.

Gordon

I've worked with teams where we've increased performance by 50 to 500% and in some cases, our performance was at rock bottom.

I worked with one team where we were trying to achieve our service levels and our achievement of service level was 0%. As we started to go through that turnaround, once the team started providing accurate reports, I gave them positive feedback.

"Good job producing reports. They're accurate. They're honest. We're just not doing a great job." And then as it starts to improve, then you start to give them positive feedback for the improvements. Then when it is met for three months in a row, you give them feedback. You're not giving them feedback for the, "it's a nice, accurate report." We've moved on.

So I have to keep raising the bar for what we want them to achieve in order to motivate them to keep becoming, a higher and higher performer. 

Aishwarya

Got it, Got it

Gordon

We have to start right at the beginning. One of my key talking points is that we start recognizing people before they are successful.

We recognize them for the effort and a lot of people tell me we shouldn't do that. And then I asked them, "Do you have any children?" They say "Yes". I asked them, "What did you do when your child took its first two steps and then dropped onto its bottom?" And they said, "We cheered."

Really? They didn't walk. They didn't win a 100 meters, didn't run a marathon, and then they tell you, yeah, but I wanted to encourage it to take a few more steps, then a few more. Because if I encourage it at the start, it will start to walk along quicker. Yeah, completely agreed. Now apply the exact same principle to your team but after three months, you're not praising them for two steps. Instead, you're praising them for walking, running, sprinting. 

Aishwarya

It's a gradual step process. Right? 

Gordon

Yes,

Aishwarya

Right.

Gordon

Yeah. You don't go from par to brilliant overnight. It takes time. And if you go from par to brilliant overnight, then how sustainable is that? Like if you increase that quickly, you can easily drop back.

What we want to do is, we want to make it part of the culture. We want to embed these improvements and with one of the companies, I worked with, I was there for five years in the senior Vice president role. Once we started giving them credit, people started performing in different areas.

So what they did was, in order to get more praise, they looked for other areas where they could go and improve things and do more work. So they became an organization that not only did great work but then looked for other areas to work on. I didn't tell them to do that, it became the culture of the organization. We want to create that almost 'addiction to success', and I just keep lifting the bar a little bit higher and the things will follow it. 

“"Keep lifting the bar a little bit higher and the things will follow it."”

Aishwarya

Right there, so pushing them little by little, for them to get addicted to their success.

Gordon

Clearly effort is what gets recognized and gets repeated. We want them to repeat the effort until they are successful. And then we celebrate their successes.

If somebody does a good job now go on, give them praise, public recognition, immediate, sincere, inauthentic, and enthusiastic. Go and do that. 

Aishwarya

Well, that's wonderful advice. I think that would really help in creating a  successful team. 

Gordon

Well, I'm just working for Fujitsu and I was brought in, I was the fifth project manager to take over a project that has been difficult. We managed to deliver it by taking that approach and giving people a clear direction.

Tell them what you expect. Give them the space to get on with it. Ask them, do they have the tools that they need, If they don't, give it to them. We delivered that project. We turned it around in 3.5 months. We were the fifth group of people to try. And now the people are asking what other projects are you working on? What else are you doing? I can come and join. People want to be there, have a successful organization. They want to work for a leader that makes them successful.

“"They want to work for a leader that makes them successful." ”

Nobody wants to work on a failing project or underperforming in a poor performing department. 

Aishwarya

Talking about the future, right? How do you believe the workplace is going to evolve in the future and how should organizations need to focus on what is termed as the future of work?

Gordon

So interestingly, I've worked in IT For 30 years, and the project I just talked about that I worked in Fujitsu that I've worked at the start of my career.

I managed a team that was in the same office as I was and then I managed bigger teams that were on the same floor of the same building and then multiple buildings and then teams were offshore or they were with the supplier.

My career as it's grown, it has constantly changed to different organizations. But this was the first time I've ever worked on a project where I didn't meet 100% of the people. All completely virtual. I worked from home. I had a team in India, in Pune. I only met one person that was when I spoke at an event in Pune. It was nothing to do with the project.

I guess I was in town somewhere for dinner. There were teams from UK, Switzerland, Germany, and I was actually based in Belgium and when you're working in an environment with a 100% virtual team, we've got to have state of the art collaboration tools.

We've got to have tools that allow people to be connected and things like we tend to use Skype for the business and that allows us to do Skype chat either during a meeting so we have a side conversation while the meeting is going on.

You've got to have the video conferencing tools like we have on Zoom that allows us to have meetings. They've got to have all the tools so that they can work on their device. Because when we do that, we've given people the tools they need to be involved and to participate.

Then we need leaders who understand how to engage, motivate, and lead people in a virtual environment and that is one of the things that requires significantly more communication.

Because you're not going to be able to see me sitting in my office, working, or trying to take some cues from what I'm doing in the office, you can't see me.

One of the key management terms is called management by walking around. But how do you do that if you're in a virtual environment? It's a great tool but it no longer exists in the current scenario. So we now have to have leaders who understand how to do virtual managing by walking around. We've got to get better at communicating not just verbal communication but also through chat and email.

Email is still a big part, but I've seen the decline of E-mail over the last five years, so we've got to find a way to be able to make that connection and make people feel involved in order to drive that commitment.  

Aishwarya

Right!

Gordon

So I don't think it's a different leadership style. It's the things that make a good leader, you could previously have everybody in front of you. But now it's virtual.

Those interpersonal personal skills allow you to create, make connections, and keep people engaged because, man, you are 6000 miles away, how do I maintain your involvement in the project?

Now, to answer your question, another thing about collaboration tools is shared document management system. I work with a product and we use SharePoint. We're working with multiple customers and we have multiple share points because not everybody can access all the share points which is a  sharing of documentation disaster. You need to have a common area where we can all share documents, see documents. A shared documentation repository or a shared work area. 

The better that is, the more seamless the work will be between people. 

Aishwarya

Yeah, and as I see it, it's kind of like a pyramid with the tools and tech stack and the cross and then the people part of it, right? I think if you have the right tools for it, you can follow it. You can look at the process and the people.

Gordon

Yeah, Absolutely. And you know those tools like Google Docs where you edit in the same document at the same time? We can't do that on the version of SharePoint. We need to be at the bleeding edge of collaboration because one plus one equals three when you get great collaboration.

If we don't have the right tools, we're just gonna be stuck with one plus one equals two, maybe even 1.5.

Aishwarya

Yeah, I think that Peter Drucker management days are over, you have to accommodate yourself with tools, tech, etc. The set of values that a leader has not changed, I think from the past.

Gordon

No, no, I completely agree with you. What made Alexander the Great, a great leader is just as valid today as it ever was. I think the challenge is that some of the poor leaders could get away with it in environments where you see people all day, every day. Now there's a bigger distance between the people and you've got to be able to close that gap.

Aishwarya

Right.

Gordon

You've got to be more inspiring. You've got to be more emotional. You have to be more engaging. I have a tendency now to over-communicate. It would definitely be over communication if we were in the same physical location.

But the fact that we're often thousands of miles away, on different time-zones, I think it's more difficult to over-communicate now. Under communicating? Dead easy. Over Communicating? not so much.

Aishwarya

Right.

Gordon

I think that the other thing that we need to look at before we started this video, we had a five or 10-minute chat and we've got to find the time for that social aspect of that chat by the coffee machine and the water cooler. Those are not possible when we're not in the same location. So we've got to find a way to make ourselves accessible, which is always in a formal meeting. 

I know. I've experienced it and I still managed it. 1000 people would connect with me on Facebook because they wanted to go out, communicate with me through an informal channel.

I would learn so much information about, you know, this is going wrong. You need to look at this where they didn't want to put it into a formal meeting, formal memo where if you're in a company, in 20 years ago, they could just, you know, catch as you walk into the camera and say, hey, I just want to let you know. This is going on. You need to build and take care of it. 

So we've got to find a way to have the Former landing formal and have relationships.

Aishwarya

Absolutely. 

Gordon

That's more difficult in a non-physical stain. On the project I just worked on, we had no video conferencing. It was all audio conferencing. It's like I'm watching you nod your head. I can't see that on the audio conference. I don't know what the percentages are, but I think 87% of communication is nonverbal.

So how are we gonna pick that up? The body language and everything when we're not in the same physical location. So these are the skills that we need to work on and develop.

Aishwarya

Right! And I think I see a move into the future. There will be millennials. It'll be all about millennials.

Gordon

It's all about Millennials now!

Aishwarya

Yeah, about informal meetings. You know, they don't like rules. They don't want to be in silos.

Gordon

So yeah, so I just disagree with that. Are you a millennial?

Aishwarya

I am. 

Gordon

I'm a baby boomer. Yes. I don't like, I don't like rules. I don't like being in silos. I don't like formality. I don't like structure. The problem is, as we get older, we get beaten down. You know, it just conforms, conforms, conforms. And by the time we conform, we forgot that we were rebels. And then we complain about all of the young rebels coming, not beaten down as we are.

So I find leadership, good leadership. It works with everybody. If you give people a clear direction, give them space, give them the tools, give them the praise, that works with everybody, you don't have to worry about millennials.

I think that the challenge that people face with millennials is that millennials, in my opinion, are much less tolerant of poor leadership. They will tend to call them out more now. Whereas before, my generation might have been a little bit quiet about criticizing the manager, so they tend to call it out or let you know that they're not happy, which is great.

But I led the team in Germany where the average age of the team was 40. The average tenure in the company was 15 to 20 years. At the same time, I led a team in Kuala Lumpur and the average age was 24 and I had a team in India where the average age was around 25-26.

That same leadership style worked with all of them because you're putting them in a position to be successful and everybody appreciates that, no matter how old they are. Good leadership is good leadership. Bad leadership? Millennials are less tolerant to a bad leader. So don’t be a bad leader.

“"Good leadership is good leadership. Bad leadership? Millennials are less tolerant of a bad leader. So don’t be a bad leader."”

Do not blame millennials for you being a bad leader. I see that a lot of people complaining about millennials and it's like, are you sure you’re not just the bad leader? 

Aishwarya

Yeah, that's interesting. You know, I was talking to Debra the other day and she was telling me the same thing. It's, you know, millennials, you have to be inclusive about them, we have to work. 

Gordon

Yeah, absolutely, one of the things I always talk about: People tell me, have you seen the statistics for employee engagement? You know, in the US it's 33% and worldwide it's 15%. When I asked the question, have you seen the statistics for management engagement? And the management engagement is 30% and Employee engagement is 33%.

So which came first? Management disengagement, or employee disengagement? It's impossible, nearly impossible for the team to remain engaged, if their manager is disengaged. How does that work? It's the management's job to engage people and if they're not engaged, the engagement’s not gonna happen.

So stop blaming your team for being disengaged, be engaged, and then engage your team. That's our job to engage them. It's not their job to be engaged.

Aishwarya

Right! And there's a lot of hype around, you know, the gig economy, and what's the future gonna be like with gig economies? How do you engage the gig workers?

Gordon

I worked as a freelancer for many years and as a full-time employee, so I've been part of that gig economy. And it's like, now I'm working on Fujitsu. I'm a freelancer but they treat me as if I'm one of their own employees. When you go to meetings, you don't know who's a contractor, who's an employee, who's the supplier? Who's the customer?

And I think you cannot just assume that just because somebody is an independent gig worker, that they're gonna be independently engaged. If they're part of your team, you have to engage them. It's our job to go and do that and you know people talk to me about, well, how did you get them to take accountability and leadership defines culture, leaders defines that attitude and the people that you lead might not be part of your company. 

“"Leadership defines culture, leaders define that attitude."”

But if they're, if they're in your expanded team, they're still gonna pick up your attitude, your culture. So if you focus on being accountable, engaged, engaging, then they will respond.

Likewise, I think leadership is gonna become a much more important skill because if you just focus on managing people, I think management's important. Leadership is one side of the coin, management is the other. If you just focused on management and used to assume that everybody is engaged, you're not going to create a high performing team. You're gonna end up with a team doing just enough.

So leadership is going to become much more critical as we go forward on people who have that empathy, emotional intelligence, that ability to communicate, engage and motivate at a distance, is gonna become much more valuable and successful. That differential between good and bad leadership is going to come. 

Aishwarya

Right. And how important is it? You know, as a leader, to give critical feedback. And how often should one give critical feedback? 

Gordon

So I hate critical feedback. I think we should ban critical feedback.

Aishwarya

Really?

Gordon

Yes. Yeah, because as soon as you use the word critical it already has a negative connotation. If I said to you all, by the way, I want to give critical feedback. You're really gonna be thinking, oh, my God, what have I done wrong now? So we have to think of forgetting the word critical and just think of it as feedback. But even better is to think about feedforward.

It's like, you know, it's like I could see you're wearing a green top. If I didn't think that was a good color for you, I could say to you, by the way, I don't think green's a good color for you. That's feedback. Or what I could say is, you know what I always think when you wear blue, it really looks amazing.

So give people feedforward, give them things that they can do, tell them how to be better. Tell them what they could do to improve performance. Whereas when we give feedback, it's backward-looking as a negative connotation.

So think about the forward. It has to be supportive. If it doesn't give people guidance on how to be better, then you're just being negative. You're just being critical.

And criticism is not an engaging and motivating factor. Coaching is more of it, encouraging is more of it, empowering is more of it, so we've got to be thinking, feed-forward. This is what we can do to make it better next time.

We have to do that whenever we have an opportunity to do that, we should take the opportunity to do it, and it has to be done from a position. For me, the feedback has to be feed-forward and has to be one of two things. It has to be praise or supportive. If it's neither of those two, then just keep it to yourself because the employees are not gonna benefit.

“"For me, the feedback has to be feed-forward and has to be one of two things. It has to be praise or supportive. If it's neither of those two, then just keep it to yourself because the employees are not gonna benefit." ”

And when we're giving feedforward, it's always about benefiting the employees so that they could benefit the team and the company in the short and long term.

Aishwarya

Right.

Gordon

Well, it's only a small change of words, when you are thinking feedforward, you're now in a positive mindset and that positive mindset will become contagious. You're thinking feedback and you if have any negativity, people are gonna send something back up. So just a small change of word - feed-forward has a huge impact on how you give it, how you prepare and how it's received.

““So just a small change of word - feed-forward has a huge impact on how you give it, how you prepare, and how it's received.””

Aishwarya

So as leaders, we should be more mindful and make that small tweak, drop the critical, and make that feedforward.

Gordon

Feedforward. Yeah, absolutely. Feedforward. Could you tell me how fat I was yesterday? I don't care. That's just hurtful. But if you could just tell me, what I can do to be better tomorrow or today, that's helpful.

You know, I'm gonna be more interested and more likely to act on it. But if it's just backward-looking, then it's more hurtful than beneficial. As leaders, we should be looking to make every single encounter with our teams as positive, as we can, to leave them more engaged afterward than they were before we met with them.

And if you think a critical feedback session is going to do that, then you're smoking crack, it's not gonna happen. Think feed-forward. Our job is to nurture our teams, to grow them, and put them into positions where they can be successful.

Aishwarya

So motivation is the objective.

Gordon

Correct. The understanding is so simple, isn't it?

Aishwarya

Yeah, I think people don't practice it.

Gordon

Yeah, well, once you make that mindset shift? A change is your outlook on it. So it's only it's a small change. Feedforward, not feedback. But the impact that will have when you're showing the messages will be amazing.

There's always somebody who's going to be not accepting of whatever you tell them and that's just life. Whether you give them negative feedback, positive feedback. "I don't care. I'll go my own way." But that shouldn't stop us from being positive. Always be positive. Nothing positive comes from the negative.

“"Nothing positive comes from the negative."”

Aishwarya

Got it, Got that, and I just want to understand because there's so much feeling about the virus, right, of how do you think a way of life in work is now gonna change when we come out of the crisis?

Gordon

I do think it's a major crisis and I do think that a Modi is doing a great job of telling people right at the start. Stay home. Let's beat this early.

I think that's good, clear, decisive leadership. I think what's gonna happen, hopefully, too many managers want people in the office Monday to Friday, from 9 to 5 in front of them in order to see them doing the work.

I think one of the benefits of this might be that if people do a good job of home working during this 2 to 3 week period, they can show that:
1) They can get online
2) They can do their job and
3) Actually do a good job.

It might allow us to have more people doing more work remotely than in the office, and I think that will be a great thing because it gives people more flexibility, more control over their day, less pollution. It makes people better off, more productive.

I mean, in Mumbai. How long does it take you to get to the office? I worked at a job where it used to take me an hour to get there, an hour to get back and when you factor in ironing your shirt, taking a shower, I've actually got two hours more work time if I want to put that to work. If I decide I'm going to spend that time on myself, and I think there's a lot of time that's wasted on travel, a lot of costs that's wasted on getting ready to go to work.

But I think can, it can be beneficial for both the company and the individual if we can do more telly working. That requires more leaders who are confident in their ability to lead people remotely. 

Aishwarya

Yeah, I think we're not prepared yet. Our mindset is not yet prepared to look.

Gordon

As I said, I've just led my first project where I've never met 100% of the people, If you just told me to do that five years ago, I would have been like, What? We want to do what?

You tell me that 15 years ago, I would have been like, No, no, no, no. I want everybody in this office where I can see them, where I can walk up to them and make them do it. But you know, that way we've got the tools. We've got a generation. Now we're much more adept with online collaboration than the older generations because we weren't brought up with the tools.

So yeah, I think there's a big opportunity and the companies that can master that are going to be the ones that are going to be more attractive to the high performers and it's possible to create a high performing team out of average to good people.

It's a lot easier to make a high performing team out of high performing individuals. If you've got a football team with the 11 best players in the world, they're going to be a high performing team. It is a question of how high performing?

So it's going to allow you to have a better quality of employees and if you've got great leadership, great employees, then the sky's the limit for what could be achieved.

“"Sky's the limit for what could be achieved." ”

Aishwarya

But let's say if there is one person, in the team that is not really aligned with the culture that you are trying to bring out into the workspace, then how do you address that as a leader?

Gordon

What is culture? Culture is the character of the organization, it's the values of the organization. It's the way the organization operates and culture reflects leadership.

So if people are not aligned with culture, is this because you're not doing a great job of demonstrating? Letting people know what it is you want and what I find is that since I've been writing on leadership. I'm much more observant of cause and effect. Before I would just do it and I was oblivious to it.

But now I'm much more observant and what I find is that there's a great graph called the diffusion of innovation, which is about who were the people that were early adopters, the early movers, the middle movers, and then the laggards. It's exactly the same with culture adoption. It's a bell curve.

Whatever it is you want to do, there will always be somebody who wants to do it, and you've got to have different strategies for each of the sections. And you create your own role models, and the role models of the people are very early adopters, so you have to give them recognition for it. And I have different strategies for all of the people.

But there's possibly gonna be 5% of the people that were just not going to adapt to the culture, and at some point, you have to decide whether it's necessary that they adapt. And if it's not, then we don't worry about it, or if it's critical then we have to try harder and if they won't change then we have to let them go. Let them go be successful somewhere else.

Gordon

But I mean, what I find is that if you create a culture where people can be successful, everybody wants to be a part of that culture.

Aishwarya

Right

Gordon

So you have to make the culture attractive. If the culture is one of hard work, weekend work, evening work,  and no fun, no bonuses, no good pay then you're going to find that a lot of people are going to reject that culture.

There's got to be something in it for them. They need to understand what are they going to get out of it. It might be success. It might be recognition, but one of the projects I worked on, we had the majority of the project team worked weekends for 40 weekends in a row.

Why did they do that? Because we were on a mission-critical project that five teams had failed on. Once we started to be successful, everybody wanted to be involved in every minute of the success.  

So and if somebody doesn't want to be successful, then we just have to say thanks for no thanks. Clearly you're not enjoying this. I'd like you to work somewhere where you're enjoying. What can I do to facilitate that?

A lot of people say to me, I think I should leave, this is not for Me. Okay, Cool. What can I do to help you? But if you're making people successful, a lot of people will be very happy to go on that journey with you.

Aishwarya

And there has to be an incentive in it.

Gordon

Yeah, When I went to DHL, we were doing a project where we had to increase our on-time delivery and send project problems. When I was a project manager, the business manager asked us why is this project important? What's the goal of this project?

I was, like Increase profits? No. Increase revenue?  No. Increase market share? No. Increase customer satisfaction? No.

Okay, what is the goal of this project? And he said, the reason, the objective of this project and the reason why this project is important is that there is no Santa Claus and it is our job to get Christmas presents to children in time for Christmas.

It is our job to get birthday presents delivered to children on their birthday, not two weeks later. That project, people worked evenings and weekends in order to deliver that project.

We delivered ahead of schedule and under budget because people felt it was important. So it's not just about monetary value that they're gonna pay and then we can get them engaged and committed.

Aishwarya

Makes a lot of sense.

Gordon

But we have to be creative and think about these things! In the project that we just worked on, we were the fifth team. So when I did that, I said, you know, this project is important because it's gonna be costing the company a lot.

We had to migrate the service out of a system that wanted to close down. But the other thing that motivated the guys is that, five teams have failed,  Imagine what will happen when we as a team deliver it.

Just imagine the bragging rights that we'll have against other things. So it was “you guys, we have an opportunity, to, you know, use this to really boost our reputation and credibility within the company,” people were like, “yeah, Gordon, Let's do it”.

So we have to be creative. Look at Maslow's hierarchy of needs, understand what people's fundamental needs are, and then feed as many of them as possible.

Aishwarya

Exactly. And I think, you know, we've already come to that stage with the first few stages of Maslow’s Hierarchy, you know, we've already conquered them.

Gordon

Salaries have covered their security, shelter, food. But what gets people to come to work? Leadership, motivation, engagement, empowerment is what gets them to come to work and do a great job.

If you just think people turn up and do a great job. Then again, you're smoking crack. We've got to create that environment, that opportunity for them. Show them how they can be successful. And when you do that, most people will go an do it. And if you give them a higher purpose, let them know why it's important for them.

I did one project where we did the outsourcing and offshoring to India and it wasn't staff headcount reduction. It was a movement of work so that we could free ourselves up. You know, we moved the application support, when we did that so that we could move the people that were in the company onto the higher value work.

So we're now doing this so that I can put you on the higher value work which is gonna give you a more valuable, scarce set of skills. It allows you to get paid by the commodity work that we're doing will put you in demand with all the companies. When you tell people that they go, okay, yeah, I get that now I get that, is this bad for me? Absolutely.

So we've got to be creative and think about people. This is why empathy is important. Put ourselves into other people's shoes and ask the question, if I was on this, what would be important for me and when we can do that, that allows us to make a much better connection and, impact on them for their motivation and involvement.

Aishwarya

So you say that empathy is the most important quality, that a leader should possess?

Gordon

It is one of them, yes, I actually put a post. I actually put a post on LinkedIn that said, If you don't have empathy, you shouldn't be a leader

“"If you don't have empathy, you shouldn't be a leader." ”

I think it is creative, but you also need to know how to be successful. You know, it's like in sport, it's great that you were really, a really nice person but if you don't know how to coach this sport, then you're just a nice person, in charge of a losing team!

There has to be a fundamental understanding of how to set up projects, how to deliver, how to coach, and achieve success. You've got to have that as well. But you've also got to have the empathy to get people bought into it enrolled, engaged and then we'll be able to deliver the results

Aishwarya

Right.

Gordon

The more empathy you've got, the more successful you will be there. Absolutely.  

Aishwarya

That's wonderful, Gordon. The ideology behind it is, it's really, really it's experiential in learning. I think so. This is it.

Gordon

So when I was actually on a high-performance leadership training, I was supposedly doing it last week in Dubai, but for the Coronavirus, And for that, the four components of the first part is about leading yourself.

That's about understanding, you know, your character, your authenticity, motivations, your branding, on how you act and operate and on the second part was about leading teams that are more about empathy, engagement, motivation on understanding how to create teams.
And day 3 was about delivery. How do we deliver projects? How do we run departments, the actual mechanics of delivering success?

And what I find with a lot of leadership training, It covers the first 2 days, but it doesn't do that third day and then for me, the last day of the training is about culture, which is about how do you take all of the stuff we learned on day one, two, and three on how do we make it sustainable, repeatable, and embed it into an organization. So as a leader, when you leave, it will carry on in your absence because the culture is what guides people when the leaders are not there to give them direction. So it's all about your legacy.

“"So it's all about your legacy"”

...and what happens when you're no longer there and this is critical for a leader. If you don't know how to create culture, then it's all a point in time. It's one initiative. Another initiative. Culture is what allows you to think about it holistically, embedded, make it repeatable.

Create an organization that's ready, willing to accept challenges, and be successful. Once you've successfully got that culture, it becomes so much easier and everybody is just like “Okay, what are we gonna successfully delivering now?  

The organization has a different mindset. They have a success mindset right from the start. And that as a leader is what we should be looking to create. Because if people think it's going to be a success right at the start, you've broken the back of it. You know, I'm in such an awesome position.

Gordon

I am passionate about this stuff. I don't know.

Aishwarya

Absolutely. It's about having a purpose, you know, being passionate about what you're doing. Absolutely.

Gordon

And it's not difficult, but it requires us to do it every day and to be consistent about it. Consistent about asking yourself, what can I do to put my team in a position to be successful? What can I do to put my team in the position to be successful, then, the other thing you have to ask is, as they've been successful today, and if they have given him a pat on the back if they haven't asked them, what can we do to make you successful? It's a very simple process. There's a lot of complexity embedded within that, but you know fundamentally, it's very simple.

Aishwarya

Wonderful! That is a wonderful ideology and just to sum it up,  is there some advice you'd like to give to our viewers or some sound bites? What would that be?

Gordon

Yeah, exactly that if you want, if you want to be a leader, focus on putting your people in a position to be successful and don't forget quite often they are an expert and if you want to know what they need to be successful, ask them.

If I want my wife to cook something special, you know, what do I need to buy from the shop in order for you to make that? If I go and provide that, then she can do it.

If I don't do that, then if you don't have the tools or the ingredients, then it's gonna be difficult to be successful. But if people can't tell you what they need, then they don't understand, then we need to work with them to help create that understanding so they know what to ask for, and then we can give it to them.

Aishwarya 

Yeah, we are not mind readers.

Gordon

No no. And it's not a leader's job to know all the answers. It's a leader's job to know all the questions.

“"And it's not a leader's job to know all the answers. It's a leader's job to know all the questions." ”

Aishwarya

Right! That is deep.

Gordon

But again, very, very simple. But a lot of times, leaders get bogged down in there, 'I need to know all the answers. I need to know all the answers.' No, you need to know all the questions and then you need to get them answered, and the more of them you can answer yourself, the better, but you don't have to be able to answer them all, you need to get them all answered.

Aishwarya

Right?  That is beautiful, Gordon. I think I thoroughly enjoyed the interview because this helps me so much. I am also a first-time leader, and this kind of helps me get direction.

Gordon

Yeah, the first time leader. It is difficult. The other thing is, well, what do you do? Do you lead a team of people?

Aishwarya

Yes.

Gordon

Do you lead teams of teams?

Aishwarya

Not teams of teams

Gordon

Being a first-time leader is difficult because it's just a step up, you know, it's not what you could do with your hands. It's what they can do with their hands and that's a difficult step to make. The next step to make is when you're even one step further moved and you are managing teams of teams.

The higher we go, the less critical our technical knowledge becomes, because we're not in a position to empire to the people in the front line.

So this is why we need to be constantly learning, and when we get those promotions. Look to learn, understand, you know, find them and get some guidance, read some books, go on training. 

I mean, it's a fantastic journey, but every time you take that step back, it's that, that next, step up, it isn't different environment and the things that made you successful as a team leader are not necessarily the things that will make you successful as a department manager or organizational manager or a CEO, the skill sets become less and less connected to the actual, day to day execution. If that makes sense.

Aishwarya

It does, it does, and I think it's going to help me a lot in my journey too. So thank you so much for that. I really, really appreciate you sharing your views with us, and it's been an enriching experience.

Gordon

You're welcome. You're more than welcome. I enjoy doing it and I'm passionate about it. I think when I was appointed my first leadership role. I was given management training,  So I'll just tell you a quick story.

So I went to a company called London electricity, and I've seen the designer of the billing system and then I was head of testing and then I was the implementation manager and then they asked me to be a project manager. So a bigger leadership role here. I'm leading teams of teams. I don't know they had me for project management training, which was all about the mechanics of projects.

And on my first day as the project manager, my test manager came to me and said, I need to speak to you urgently And I was like, okay, I was a test manager. I did your job. No problem. Let's go meet, let's sit down.

We went into the meeting room and I said, what is it? And she said, "I have a lump in my breast. I think it's cancer", and I thought, wow, I have had no training to prepare for this minute. And yet here she is coming for me as a project manager asking for your guidance, advice, I don't know. Have you been to see a doctor, you got money, you know?

So that was me, that was my first activity as a leader and had to deal with somebody who thought she had breast cancer. And I'm telling you, none of the training I've been on before that point had prepared me for that and the thing that you need in that, of course, is empathy. You've got to build in and empathize with her.

Aishwarya

Absolutely.

Gordon

So I just, I just share that so that, you know, as a leader, you have to be prepared for anything. You know, people not performing, what's going wrong? Yeah, my wife's left me. Okay. Right now, how can I take the work off you because obviously, this is a bad time for you? How can I feel, allow you to be successful? I have to take half the work off of you.

Aishwarya

You have to be prepared for all kinds of scenarios.

Gordon

Correct. Absolutely, Absolutely. We have to, as leaders, people are always looking at you. They're always watching you. And I think we see this now, you know, in the U S. with Trump and his daily briefings on the Coronavirus, people looking to him, thought for guidance, and people are always looking at you, whether you're in a meeting, whether you just walking past, they want to know, Do you look worried? Do you look happy?

Whether you think you're doing a leadership task or not, just walking down the corridor as a leader,  he's leading. There will be somebody somewhere that's looking at you trying to find out if he is worried? Is he happy? Is something going on! We just have to bear that in mind.

Aishwarya

Yeah. Yeah, its a lot of responsibility, but if you do it with your heart then I think we’re almost there.

Gordon

Absolutely. Absolutely. With authority comes great responsibility.

“"With authority comes great responsibility."”

Aishwarya

Right. Absolutely. With that, I think we're at the end of the conversation. I've had a lovely time, Gordon, like it's been phenomenal talking, and thank you for taking out so much of time. And  I really hope that this fall has been good there.

Gordon

All Right! Thank You very much 

We hope you got some great insights from this blog. Its now time to apply it. Get started with peopleHum for free today. No credit card needed.

We hope you got some great insights from this blog. Its now time to apply it. Get started with peopleHum for free today. No credit card needed.

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