By Chris Gandy
W. Edwards Deming is probably best known for his “plan, do, study, act” cycle, which also has been referred to as the Deming Circle. In the light of this very process based concept, it may surprise some that Deming also placed a heavy emphasis on the value of people and relationships. He understood that good work requires balancing responsibility to the group with personal freedom to make decisions, and that good leadership does not focus on “people’s weaknesses rather than their strengths”. Deming went on to say:
“The greatest waste of management, is failure to use the abilities of people … to learn about their frustrations and about the contributions that they are eager to make.”
Good leaders get people to believe that they can make a difference and that their efforts count. They do this by;
1. Recognising and rewarding aspirational attitudes and behaviour – not simply outcomes. They give positive reinforcement for the behaviours that lead to goal achievement. Activities such as setting goals, taking moderate risks, thinking “outside the box”, suggesting or initiating positive changes, and planning ahead are indicative of an achievement culture. These activities may not lead to a great outcome every time but they do contribute to the long-term success of the organisation.
2. Having clear and effective lines of upward and downward communication. A good leader shares information with their teams. What’s happening in the organisation, how well it is or is not doing, where it is going and what the expectations are. And good leaders listen to their team members. They seek out people’s ideas and opinions. They ask questions. They give feedback. They follow through.
3. Encouraging ownership of an outcome. They instil a sense of accountability and responsibility. “Mary we are relying on you to produce these figures each Friday” “John it is your job to make sure we respond to client queries within 24 hours” etc. Sounds basic but in this way an employee understands that their contribution counts.
4. Acknowledging successes. Sure, everyone (excepting volunteers) gets paid but it is important to go beyond the basic reward system. Celebrating achievements, big and small, sends a message of their importance to all. To have maximum impact however, make sure the whole team is included and everyone knows why they are getting a catered lunch.
5. Having a “finger on the pulse”. Good leaders know who’s doing what and how and why. They also take a genuine interest in their people and the environment in which they operate. Are people adequately resources and supported to do what is asked of them? What are the working conditions like? How does the team interact? Is there harmony? Do they respond positively to suggestions or changes? Is there a pride in what is being achieved? Are some people being excluded? Are there cliques? All these are pointers to whether people are willing and able to contribute and make a difference.
Appreciating that everyone wants contribute and make a difference in the organisation is a fundamental attitude that every effective leader must have in their kit bag.
Have you ever met a new employee who hasn’t, on day one, expressed a genuine desire to contribute and make a difference in an organisation? I haven’t! We seem to be hardwired to contribute– good leaders take advantage of this.
About Chris: Chris Gandy is the founder and director of Cause and Effective – a provider of contingent resourcing and leadership search services to cause-based organisations.