The relationships you build provide the organization with strength

courtesy: www.pinterest.com
courtesy: http://www.pinterest.com

Last week I was catching up with my eldest son and a couple of his friends all of whom are millennials. One of them asked me –
how can we contribute, to the organization, as employees outside our functional roles. This post is a result of that chat.

For an organization success is measured by differing metrics depending on the nature of business and industry. One common thread is the fact that employees make all the difference between success and failure due to the extent of their engagement and involvement with the organizational goals.

Whilst employee engagement is the responsibility of organizational leaders, employees, too, have an individual responsibility in developing healthy relationships with their co-workers.

Whilst an organization may have product or service advantages, innovative patents and technology in use, at the end of the day the strength of any organization is in the relationship its employees have within themselves.

It’s the people who make all the difference.

Developing strong and rewarding inter-personal relationships come about from the way we are socially conditioned to make friends, network and influence, communicate and give value to each other. This is where communities and groups emerge from.

So as an employee how do you go about creating beneficial relationships?

  1. Interact: Use the official events, such as team building sessions, training, sports, employee parties and community services, to reach out and connect with employees from other divisions. In large organisations one of the key issues is that people don’t know who does what in which divisions. So provide your fellow colleagues a-face- to- a- function so that they know they can reach you when they have the need.
  2. Volunteer: Step up and volunteer for projects that are not in your functional area. These project teams, usually, are set up to deliver key goals for the organization and is a great way to:
    — Get yourself to interact with the organizational leaders and show       additional initiative that goes into your annual performance.
    — Helps you identify possible mentors and work functions that you may want to move into in order to grow within the organization.
  3. Talk: In any group meetings there are always issues being discussed. Put aside your fears of looking stupid, in front of your bosses and peers, and speak up. Make sure you understand the context, of the issue at hand, and then put forth your suggestion.
    On a personal level, when you see a fellow colleague from a different unit at any time of the work day, stop for moment and ask how he or she is and how their families are.  Share a minute or two connecting on common personal areas.  Be careful when you do this. Do it meaningfully and not in passing.
  1. Help: If another colleague, either from your own unit or otherwise requests for information or assistance, help them. Not only would you be earning respect and gratitude of your colleague but you’ll be communicating to the leaders that the interest of the organization is what matters to you.

 

 

I’d be happy to know if this post is useful to you.  Do share your views on ways in which you have nurtured  internal relationships for the benefit of the readers.

Behaviour Impacts the Choices You Make

Visual Courtesy: The GOODVIBE.CO
Visual Courtesy: The GOODVIBE.CO
Often leaders are in a tough situation and faced with tough choices.

A key role of a leader is to make decisions. In other words exercise their choice based on evaluating all the facts available to them and factoring in the impact of that choice on the long-term strategy. Whilst many are able to have that line-of-sight often times there is a knee-jerk reaction.

This reaction comes about from the individual leader’s behaviour.  A leader’s daily habit is formed through the behaviour expressed. Unknowingly many a leader displays leadership traits that set the cultural tone through behaviour. If the leader is in survival mode—fear & flight—then choice comes across in behaviour as one that ensures self-preservation. What that means is that there is indecisiveness and inordinate delays on critical decisions. On the other hand if the leader has strong engagement, both at the C level and operational levels, then choice exercised would be expressed as a best-case scenario based one.

As leaders how can we ensure our behaviour matches what we say?

As the saying goes—lead by example. There’s no better way than to set an example, by doing what you want others to do. What this means is that one has to get one’s hands dirty but getting into execution and influencing the desired output. This sends a very strong message to all in terms of culture and expected behaviour.

This is more so important in the Asian context where employees behave as they see their bosses do.

As leaders how can we get the engagement?

Getting employee engagement is hard. Not impossible but hard. You can’t make all the people happy all the time. You can make some people happy some of the time. So it is with getting employees to be engaged.

As a leader it’s critical to have an open door relationship with your operational leadership team and actually practice it. If the operational leadership team has to always make an appointment to discuss an issue or an idea, then it’s not open door. On the contrary, the message communicated is that the leader of the organization is not interested.

The impact of such behaviour affects choices greatly.

Lack of regular interaction and access to the C suite leadership coupled with lack of ownership within the C suite, of critical organizational initiatives, leads to:

  • Lack of morale
  • Lowering of trust (in the leadership)
  • Questioning the time, energy & effort (spent) on critical initiatives

Ending in the organization losing the operational leaders and losing its way.

Is your organization showing any of these?

If yes, it’s time to have a very open, no-holds barred, heart-to-heart chat with the concerned leaders and to put the facts on the table for the leadership to imbibe, evaluate and choose wisely for the long-term benefit of the organization.

 

To Be or Not To Be Vulnerable

Visual courtesy: www.pinterest.com
Visual courtesy: http://www.pinterest.com

Classic leadership thinking is all about being stoic, firm, and decisive. Of not having a chink of weakness anywhere in one’s professional behaviour and of not showing any emotions.

Such behaviour is present due to belief in the Darwinian theory of survival of the fittestwhich is usually used to refer to individuals being fit for positions and tasks in comparison to others being unfit. Examples of firm and decisive leaders abound. Simultaneously examples of great leadership in the form of raw courage and humanitarian services and are available aplenty.

Is either leadership approach wrong?

No.

In the last decade our world, especially our societies and our economic environment, has changed tremendously. This has directly impacted on our behaviour in our roles as a citizen, a customer and, most importantly, as a professional.

Behavior forms our habits.

Whilst we may wear many hats every day, under each of those hats, it’s our behaviour that frames our character and creates our identity as an individual and leads to how we are perceived as a leaders in the roles we fulfill. Given our business models and management processes and the fixated need to hit the quarterly ‘profit numbers’, in the corporate scenario, we seem to avoid taking into account the behaviour of leaders and people and its resultant impact on business.

There are tons of great research available that clearly depict the behavioural changes of the past decade as a result of the financial meltdowns  & of technology becoming more user-friendly and more accessible.

The financial crisis’s left us being more prudent in our purchasing decisions and making better choices of our wants & needs. Technology in the form of smartphones and social media has given us the benefit of obtaining an unbiased third-party perspective on any issue and has created a world full of interest-based communities.

This has a huge impact on organisations. 

Within this changed (and still changing scenario) comes the issue of vulnerability (here’s the article that triggered this post) where corporate leadership is concerned.

To be vulnerable or Not to be’.

Corporate leadership has yet to take vulnerability as a positive. A decade back, vulnerability would have been an absolute no-no for a leader. It was akin to being weak, indecisive and wishy-washy.

Today showing vulnerability shows the leader to be humane i.e. caring and wanting the best for the other person; it shows an intent of listeningi.e. willing to take on board suggestions and advice and showing that the leader alone does not have all the solutions.

All of this is can be summed up as people-value.

Today’s leader has to be truly interested in delivering benefits that are valued by his people, in terms of their self-development, in order to achieve the long-term business goals.

Being vulnerable or expressing one’s vulnerability enables people to see the authentic side of the leader and not see it as a weakness.  Vulnerability enables the team to connect on an emotional level and acts as an enabler in the leader & team relationship dynamic. It leads to creating trust and with trust comes commitment that aids the leader in guiding the team to achieve the goals successfully.

Islamic Finance: Employee Engagement, Brand Advocacy and Social Media

Visual Courtesy: www.loyalty360.org
Visual Courtesy: http://www.loyalty360.org

 

Is there a need for employee engagement, brand advocacy and social media in Islamic finance?

The overwhelming consensus in business is that it is about people and about providing value to people. Over the last decade the business world has changed drastically; the deterioration of trust in the financial sector coupled with organizational practices that demonstrate detached leadership and an ever-increasing preference of people to trust referrals and word-of-mouth more than paid advertising – in many ways, thanks to social media – has resulted in employee engagement and savvy social media utilization.

For the Islamic finance industry the task is more than having a few social media accounts and putting up a corporate message now and then. The challenge is to engage the man-on-the street and have a conversation that leads to business.

Demystification

For decades Islamic finance has been shrouded in its technical complexities. As trust becomes more and more critical in business relationships, the industry needs to demystify it’s technicalities in order to be able to present simple value propositions that ‘mainstreet’ understands. Similarities with financial sectors like responsible finance from the conventional world need to be explained in simple terms. Such alignment will open a greater opportunity area for the industry.

Employee Engagement

At an organizational level to achieve social demystification the premise begins with employee engagement.

Today employee engagement is a critical strategic organizational requirement for any company interested in achieving their goals successfully. There are many experts available online on how employee engagement can be done. Needless to say for each organization the needs would be different and a prescribed and formatted approach would not work. But that is a topic for another day.

For Islamic finance organizations a good starting point for getting employees on board is with its business objectives. Involving the employees in developing the business strategy and its initiatives creates ownership and trust as the employees themselves have recommended the actions and would be executing them.

With some strategic human resource planning, in the area of both functional and behavioural competencies, the departmental results can be tied back to employee performance and thus provide the employee a direct line-of-sight to results of performance and non-performance. While most do have this, the question to ask is: what is the impact and how is it measured, if at all?

For an employee, having contributed to the business strategy and understanding how self-performance would affect the achievement of the goal, the performance comes in the form of brand advocacy.

Brand Advocacy

Research shows that when an employee pitches for the organization, as its brand advocate, it’s the strongest form of recommendation that works. Whether it’s the CEO presenting to the board or it’s a front-line executive answering customer queries, the interaction creates an experience for the recipient. An experience based on which critical decisions are made.

Effective brand advocacy is only possible when there is complete trust, ownership and understanding of the business objectives. It’s tough to build such brand advocacy but not impossible. Based on the emotional intelligence of the organization, adequate time has to be given to build this up.

The process of building up effective brand advocacy involves use of social media by employees and the organization.

Social Media

The advent of smartphones and internet technological developments has created a distinct shift in communication habits among all. Key among these habits is the use of social media.

S1

S2(Social media data courtesy: We Are Social)

With the world literally living on social media, it’s necessary to get authentic conversations going through this channel of communication in order to create relationships that lead to business growth.

Brand advocacy enables employees to reach this conversation through personal network of friends and family, while an organisational social media account engages directly with the key stakeholders. What this dual conversation does is provide a transparent and authentic platform for a brand to pitch it’s story. As people engage, feedback flows and a genuine rapport emerges through the message of the organization, the brand has a great opportunity to grow.

As we adapt to more technological advances and as the Islamic digital economy goes from strength to strength, it’s time for the global Islamic finance industry to connect the dots between employee engagement, brand advocacy and social media to give people the service they so badly need.

To Be or Not To Be Vulnerable

Visual courtesy: www.pinterest.com
Visual courtesy: http://www.pinterest.com

Classic leadership thinking is all about being stoic, firm, and decisive. Of not having a chink of weakness anywhere in one’s professional behaviour and of not showing any emotions.

Such behaviour is present due to belief in the Darwinian theory of survival of the fittestwhich is usually used to refer to individuals being fit for positions and tasks in comparison to others being unfit. Examples of firm and decisive leaders abound. Simultaneously examples of great leadership in the form of raw courage and humanitarian services and are available aplenty.

Is either leadership approach wrong?

No.

In the last decade our world, especially our societies and our economic environment, has changed tremendously. This has directly impacted on our behaviour in our roles as a citizen, a customer and, most importantly, as a professional.

Behavior forms our habits.

Whilst we may wear many hats every day, under each of those hats, it’s our behaviour that frames our character and creates our identity as an individual and leads to how we are perceived as a leaders in the roles we fulfill. Given our business models and management processes and the fixated need to hit the quarterly ‘profit numbers’, in the corporate scenario, we seem to avoid taking into account the behaviour of leaders and people and its resultant impact on business.

There are tons of great research available that clearly depict the behavioural changes of the past decade as a result of the financial meltdowns  & of technology becoming more user-friendly and more accessible.

The financial crisis’s left us being more prudent in our purchasing decisions and making better choices of our wants & needs. Technology in the form of smartphones and social media has given us the benefit of obtaining an unbiased third-party perspective on any issue and has created a world full of interest-based communities.

This has a huge impact on organisations. 

Within this changed (and still changing scenario) comes the issue of vulnerability (here’s the article that triggered this post) where corporate leadership is concerned.

To be vulnerable or Not to be’.

Corporate leadership has yet to take vulnerability as a positive. A decade back, vulnerability would have been an absolute no-no for a leader. It was akin to being weak, indecisive and wishy-washy.

Today showing vulnerability shows the leader to be humane i.e. caring and wanting the best for the other person; it shows an intent of listeningi.e. willing to take on board suggestions and advice and showing that the leader alone does not have all the solutions.

All of this is can be summed up as people-value.

Today’s leader has to be truly interested in delivering benefits that are valued by his people, in terms of their self-development, in order to achieve the long-term business goals.

Being vulnerable or expressing one’s vulnerability enables people to see the authentic side of the leader and not see it as a weakness.  Vulnerability enables the team to connect on an emotional level and acts as an enabler in the leader & team relationship dynamic. It leads to creating trust and with trust comes commitment that aids the leader in guiding the team to achieve the goals successfully.

Listen to employees if profit is your goal

A recent business review meeting brought home the fact that business is all about getting to the  revenue target. It’s a process. A process that’s been in place, for most organisations, for some time and has delivered results.

 But if we keep doing the same things that we have done how do we get a different result?

Goal setting and target achievement is a process. There are times when processes need to be evaluated in light of the environment in which a business operates. Such an evaluation takes place by listening to the front line managers for the ideas they bring forth in such meetings. 

Are we listening?

Most of the times, the senior team desires a good outcome and executes activities that they believe will help them get to their goal.
Note the emphasis on “executes”! This can either, be a tick in the box or attempting a new approach that could be successful or not.
But in the process of execution only what’s affected is the strategy development and deliberation process which gets left out in the
eternal rush of execution.

They can’t seem to hear the advice that will help them get to their goal in a strategically planned way. Environmental pressures, legislation, competition etc all add to the rush to simply do ‘something’! As a result the activities become ad hoc and lack direction and end up being akin to shooting in the dark.

Is it possible to change this existing pattern of thinking and approach ?

There is. Here’s how:

1.  Approaching the issues simplistically and listening to find the right solution.

2. Being open-minded and receptive to listen to new ideas and kick those around. Not kick them out!

3. Bringing the right attitude to the table.

People caught up in the “No. It’s not possible” line of thinking mistakenly think that having done the same process for years, it will still deliver and no change is needed. Unfortunately, this is a disguised form of negativity and negativity sabotages the chance of success by keeping the team from seeking a solution.

It creates an extremely unhealthy environment which in turn simply kills the process of ideation and thus any innovative approaches.

An attitude of being  willing and able to listen, discuss and evaluate simple, cross industry practices and strategic options can enable growth and profitability. Which, in turn, would lead an organisation in having a motivated, passionate, engaged and objective oriented team of employees who would be iconic brand ambassadors for the organisation simply through the delivery of their day-to-day activities when in contact with the stakeholders.

 

Engaging perception through customer-centric CSR initiatives

Most organisations undertake CSR programmes as having to fulfill the corporate duty of giving back to society. Often the development of the program becomes the responsibility of the marketing team and is tied to the brand being seen in good light.

 

Here’s my article on this, published in the Islamic Banker Asia: