Balakarthik Venkataramanan
November 04, 2016

ARTICLE: Are you a 'What' Leader, or a 'How' Leader?

Screenshot 2016-11-04 16.41.40.pngHow many times, have you sat in a business review where someone was presenting how well a metric performed and asked, “Great job, you folks. By the way HOW did you guys do it?”  Vs. moved on saying “Great work & well done!”.

Maybe a few leaders want to know the HOW piece and a great majority is pleased with the results and move on. You got the results, the outcome you wanted, why do you care about the HOW?

And this (the culture of HOW) is probably the biggest thing corporations can learn from the world of sports, say soccer. A goal is scored and the team wins. Well, thats all you watch on TV. Back in the dressing room or in the next coaching session, the team looks at the replay of the goal over and over again. Wonder why?

This enables the team to;

  1. Analyze and understand how the goal was scored so it can be repeated if the team runs in the same situation again
  2. Identify mistakes/errors that could have been avoided to be flawless
  3. Use this as a coaching material for the future players
  4. Evaluate whether the team members exhibited team work and sportsmanship while scoring
  5. Assess how the team communicated, worked together in the process.

Makes sense, right? So, lets take the same points and translate them in to the world of business. Say, you are a customer service leader running large service operations. Your team exceeded their productivity goals resulting in $xm savings for the quarter. It’s important you celebrate this achievement with the team and reward the team members who made this happen. But at the same time, its your responsibility as a leader that you are not just rewarding for the output but the whole process through which the team achieved it.

It starts with you as the leader but very soon the “HOW” becomes an integral part of any improvement process in your organization. You are now leading an organziation thats not just focused on getting the output but the entire process of it.

One of the the most respected leader that I used to work for had an interesting practice. Her first slide during any all employee meeting started with a quote: “WHAT you achieve is important. But, HOW you achieve is equally important”.

And that’s a powerful quote. The impact this simple practice had on the entire organization in terms of promoting organizational values, team work, collaboration, proactive problem solving is significant and quickly trickled down to all levels of the organization. Every single time anyone shares a success story, she is keen on the HOW as much as celebrating the success. No matter how big or small the impact is.

Same thing on the performance appraisal process as well.  Most teams don’t just reward the top performers for what they have achieved but the HOW as well. This is a great sign of a healthy organziation delivering great results while balancing the culture of collaboration, values and problem prevention.

Not just for the corporate world, HOW is a powerful word for parents as well as teachers in schools who are building the next generation of leaders.

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