There are two main reasons for good leadership, one is to have a thriving, efficient business and the other is for the people who work there. Some of us begin with one or the other but they are both important.
When I find a process that doesn’t seem to benefit people, I try to find the reasons behind the it – there is usually some good intent and if you find it you can start to change things from there. However, there are times when I can find no reason for something other than it is easier to; it appears to save time and therefore money. But does it?
I was talking to some great young people recently who have gone into big organisations with the knowledge and expectation of being used …. exploited …for 3 years and then they escape. I feel they are being let down. These are intelligent people – some top of their class – who want to gain qualifications so they take a job that offers the qualification plus a good salary. The organisation will look good on the person’s CV, although maybe it just proves survival in a hostile workplace rather than the prestige working for a good organisation.
As well as completing projects, the main measurement of a good job was the perception of the number of hours they were glued to a seat. Staying until 10.30 was accepted and even encouraged – so these young people know they have to stay late at night to be visible. I could go into all the reasons why long hours are not sustainable and Parkinson’s Law (work expands to fit the time available) kicks in very quickly but I will just mention one clear inefficient use of people.
These young employees said that occasionally there was nothing much to do and then something came in from a client at 4pm and they have to stay till 10pm or even later to respond to it. To me this doesn't sound organised or efficient. What about relationship building with clients to know what they expect and what is reasonable on both sides? A win- win? Why not show that an organisation respects and values its staff? Why not let some employees come in early and others work from noon rather than sit and be visible? They had also signed away their rights to get any overtime over the maximum working week and what looked like a good salary on paper lost its appeal when they had to work double the hours for the same money.
Now it takes some times, effort and planning to use resources wisely and just because you have a captive audience that has signed away its rights you need to show a duty of care. And for me a leader who does not care about people has no business leading them.
A good leader enables and empowers people and reduces illness and turnover in the process. A good leader doesn’t rely on position, title or contract to get the job done. A good leader can get people to stay and go the extra mile when required, without making them sign away their rights.
Which is why I have coined a new phrase – Idle Leadership – and defined it as ‘treating people as expendable commodities’. Maybe there is a book in this…
What do you think?
Jill Saville is an Executive Coach, trainer and speaker