Usually, I don’t watch soccer, with an exception for the Dutch National Team during the 2014 World Cup Soccer Games. That is when it occured to me: a coach must know all about strategy and learn to apply this as much as a CEO or politician. Since I do not have a clue about soccer games rules, I leave that to the experts. I take a look at leadership, motivation and strategy, of which I do only have the slightest comprehension, but it is at least something I understand.
I only saw it when I watched it: the way Louis van Gaal managed the team. Of course, he must have his personal favorites, but he values everyone in the team equally for his own capability and added value to the team. In my opinion, that is one of the core values of a great leader. Initially, I thought it would be a good idea to write something about Louis van Gaal as a leader. Then I stumbled upon this article (Dutch), and it said about everything I wanted to say, only better. With this subject taken, I felt I had to come up with something else, so why not writing from an employee’s perspective?
The power of intervention
Do not believe in coincidence, but prepare yourself for eventualities. This is not only valid for leaders, but for subordinates as well, and even on individual level it works out good. Well prepared, I can plan my work better, while still having time for incidents and emergency-actions. When I work in a team, I always assume that everyone has his or her own strengths and weaknesses, which perfectly fit in this team. If not, it is also a team responsibility (including mine) to help discover the best of myself and my co-team members.
Stay cheerful, even when disappointed
Employees do not benefit when having a manager who is running around when things are not going according to plan. Personally, I’d rather follow a calm leader who seems to be confident in a good outcome of whatever situation, than a stressed or disinterested person. This is a lesson which Dog Whisperer Cesar Millan proclaims as well and seriously: it works with humans too. Because two people is a couple, and three is a pack. The calm assertive energy is what helps me and my co-workers to stay positive.
The best team wins, not the players
Team playing is not only important in top sport, it is of high importance in a business environment as well. And ‘the team’ does not only consist of those visible to the customer. The receptionist, the clerk, the cleaning department, the caretaker, the restaurant personnel… everyone is part of the team and deserves credit for their efforts. Even when working in a team, the non-visible colleagues are often forgotten. I believe in involving everybody in the mutual effort, when mutual benefit has to be gained, and thanking everybody when the mutual effort has a positive result. Really, a ‘thank you so much for your cooperation’ is so small a sentence, but has huge results, in my personal experience.
Discipline as the base for success
Every top strategic leader, coach and mentor can tell you: keep focused and keep disciplined. But this is not only for top management; the same counts for individuals. Quick changeovers between tasks are great, but it is also important to keep your focus on what is important and what isn’t, and to execute the tasks disciplined to achieve your goal. It doesn’t matter what the task is.
For me, focus is especially important when a specific goal is set, and I have the discipline to finish my tasks timely, taking my colleagues into account as well. After all, it may be the case that they are waiting for me to finish something before they can move on. Every Lean guru can tell you that waiting time and excess inventory (queuing tasks) are two of the seven (or eight) forms of ‘muda’, waste. As a Lean novice, I would not want to create this. Ever.
Facts as base for your method
Sometimes, it is necessary to explain why you do what you do and how you do it. As much as I am a ‘gut-feeling’ person, I understand why some people need facts. In my experience, the chosen method is better accepted when it is based on facts. Fortunately, for me facts are not restraining methods. After all, new facts are constantly discovered or proven, and they can be combined into a whole new way of working or thinking. As long as thorough research has been done before starting a new way of working, people usually will accept it. Because it’s based on facts. In a Lean environment, this is can be considered front-loading: put more effort in the first stage (research, gather all the facts) to understand your customers (or colleagues) better so you can actually implement your method without a lot of problems.
Change, surprise, trust
Sometimes, radical change is necessary. Not only in the company strategy, but also in my own way of thinking. In Lean, this is known as ‘kaikaku’. For me, it has no use to stick to the past, even though learning from it is always for the better, and new insights can lead to new ways of thinking, acting or working.
People tend to stick to routines. That is okay, because routines allows people not to consciously think about all actions all the time. But sometimes, I like to do something unexpected. This is not only good for my environment (or so I like to believe), but good for me as well. It forces me to consider actions, should I do something or not, why (or why not) should I do things, what is the estimated outcome, how does it help me / my colleagues / my company and so on.
However, before I can change and surprise people (including myself), I need to gain people’s trust. For me, it doesn’t mean that I need to learn how to give a presentation, but to be me. If I am who I am, everywhere, every time, people still may not like me, but they at least respect me for who I am and what I am. The only thing I have to take care about is my way of presenting myself, considering where I am and with whom.
The complete human
As I don’t have the capabilities, I do admire those who can be highly sociable. To be able to talk about business subjects on one hand, and do social small talks on the other is a skill I don’t have. I usually forget to compliment someone’s new hairdo and I see new shoes when they are not so new any more. Therefore, I am not too good in ‘making friends’ with the management or ‘just’ networking.
But no worries: when you have a story to tell, I make some coffee.