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February 11, 2020 Tuesday 03:25:21 PM IST

Motivating the Workforce


In an organization, we can accomplish so much more when we work together. Yet our obsession with ever-shortening financial goals is making us lose-sight of what is really important — the employees. Leaders are making a corrosive environment that is killing cooperation and trust.  It is a holy grail of leaders on how to create organizations and cultures that allow workers to go home at the end of the day feeling fulfilled by the work that they do. By creating an environment built on trust, teams will pull together, again and again, to help their tribe not just survive, but the flourish. Simon Sinek’s Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t explores how to encourage loyalty, commitment, and teamwork within any company. Devoted to helping individuals find fulfilment and satisfaction in their jobs, Sinek teaches leaders how to inspire and motivate their personnel.

In Leaders Eat Last, Sinek attempts to answer two fundamental questions—why we should follow a specific leader, and why our current world is divided into groups of leaders and followers. He concludes that any leader is only as powerful as the team around them. Our ability to lead, according to Sinek, depends on a key factor—our ability to comprehend the impact that leaders have on everyone, from the most senior to the most junior of staff members. Just as pioneering leaders can have a positive, nurturing effect on their employees, toxic leaders create ineffective, inefficient businesses where no one is happy and employee turnover is high. Staff happiness levels, their achievements, and their engagement are direct reflections of a leader’s ability to lead. Lets discuss the three main conclusions drawn by Sinek.

Protection from above

Leaders, firstly, are there to protect their employees. They bolster morale, treat every employee as important, and encourage the team to work together. Sinek’s conclusion is that employees work harder for managers and leaders who put their people first. Employees who feel valued will, in turn, value their jobs. Richard Branson developed Virgin into a global powerhouse by concentrating on two key words: customer service. Astonishingly, Branson latelyexposed that Virgin does not put the customer first. In fact, Virgin workforceis the organization's top priority. It may appear contradictory to conventional business wisdom, but it has worked so well for Virgin that Branson says he's surprised more firms haven't implemented an employee-centric management approach. To ensure that his employees are well taken care of, the founder even goes so far as to gather feedback by walking around the cabin and interacting straight to the employees during his Virgin flights. As Branson sees it, the prescription is very simple: Happy employees’leads to happy customers. Likewise, an unhappy employee can destruct the brand experience for not just one, but several customers. True leaders don’t expect employees to work well for them if they don’t give them a reason for respect.

Be empathetic

Empathy is critical because employees respond to leaders who care about them individually. Employees are more likely to follow an empathetic leader than a detached, distant leader who treats employees as nameless statistics. During his entire life, the late Steve Jobs was known as being one of the most persuasive and inventive leaders of his time. Steve Jobs had a dreamabout the future of his company and this creative vision dared his workforce and drove them to act with vision as well.  His life is rife with instances where he displayed empathy towards his workforce. In 1997, he was handling a session at the World Wide Developers Conference. At that point of time, he was aware that some developers would be irritated about the acquisition of NeXT. Their anger has much to do with the changes that would come with using the NeXT OS. So, he took a deviation from giving his normal presentation by turned the mic on the audience to hear their stories. Jobs said he wanted to talk about whatever audience wanted to talk about. By listening and conveying empathy instead of quoting all the explanationsfor going with the NeXT OS, he cut the tension in the room and gave his developers the chance to vent their frustrations. 

Courage to do the right thing

Finally, Sinek believes that it is the responsibility of a leader to provide cover from above for their people who are working below. When the people feel that they have the control to do what’s right, even if it sometimes means breaking the rules, then they will more likely do the right thing. Courage comes from above. Our assurance to do what’s right is decided by how trusted we feel by our leaders. Year 18th July 1980 was a landmark day for India. Dr. Abdul Kalam was the leader of the ISRO team which successfully launched Rohini satellite into the orbit. The missile man conducted the press conference along with his team. But, his success was not easy, nor was it isolated. Year 10th August 1979 was another landmark day for India. This day, we failed to launch Rohini satellite into the orbit in the first attempt. This time, the press conference was led by Dr.SatishDhawan, the ISRO chairman. You might be wondering what he would have delivered in a callous situation? He just uttered these words: “We failed! But I have a trust my team and they will make us proud next time”. A true leader leads from the front in the face of crisis and takes the blame upfront. Likewise, in the face of success, a true leader allows the team to lead from the front.

Leaders Eat Last reminds aspiring leaders that employees can make or break their company. A motivated workforce will do all it can to implement a leader’s vision, whereas a stressed and unhappy workforce is unproductive and dysfunctional. Sinek hopes that all leaders can take something useful from his study to build a happier, more stable workforce.

Dr. Manu Melwin Joy

The writer is an Assistant Professor at School of Management Studies, CUSAT

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