Recently, having met a long-time friend who opened a franchise in France made me want to encourage his approach of management and leadership to the world. He sees his employees as equals with skills and potential that help his organization grow. He calls them diamonds. While some of them are already well polished because of their experiences, others need some more work to become incredible precious stones.
You may wonder why I speak of him now? In fact, we had a great discussion about strategy and how vital it is to give a mitmacher a framework and goals. At the same time, it is not the leader’s role to tell mitmachers how to do their job.
Below are the nuggets of knowledge extracted from our conversation.
The leader’s blueprint
The leader has a vision and a mission and he takes risks for others. He is the one facing legal and financial issues when things go wrong. In France, we have a tendency to diabolize CEOs because we believe that they “abuse” the poor employees. Unfortunately, we don’t consider that most of the business leaders are investing their own money and time with no guarantee of success and that their main goal is to build a successful business not to abuse people.
A combination of their strategy, luck, hard work and fitting employees lead them to success. The leader knows where he wants to go (vision) and how he wants to get there (mission) but he does not know the minute details. Instead he finds mitmacher who can take care of these.
What influences his strategic decision then?
The answer is quite simple: his values. The leader’s values are his compass. His strategy is influenced by what he believes to be right or wrong. Values can be organized in different themes:
- value of humans
- value of cooperation
- Value of trust
- value of freedom
- value of equity
- value of goodness in men
- value of work
- value of time
- value of communication
- value of leadership
- value of processes
- value of money
The way the leader values each theme impacts the way he takes strategic decisions. It is critical for a leader to clarify his values and see if they serve his vision and mission.
What is a strategic decision?
A strategic decision is any decision made that can have a positive or negative impact on achieving the vision. It starts with hiring, investment, time management, cooperation and partnership. Sometimes, some decisions are made with no congruency with the leader’s vision, mission and values. For example, a leader who values trust may put in place a system of control.
Being a leader requires a lot of introspection and adjustment. Leaders need to identify the beliefs they learned from their families and societies that do not support their vision. It does not make any sense to take a strategic decision making workshop if the leader does not know who he really is.
Taking a strategic decision is looking at the choices a leader has and making a choice within his internal compass. You may need support to figure out what your compass is but do not let others define it for you. This is when leaders lose their identity and create projects and companies that end up failing because these are not representative of who the leaders truly are.
The mitmachers influence
When leaders have a clear compass, they can determine which mitmachers would work well with them. Life is not an easy ride and leaders who have a clear compass and values might have to hire any workers only because they need the job done. Imagine a coffee shop which suddenly become the place to be. The leader needs employees NOW and may not have the time to screen for cultural fit. The leader is conscious that a new employee does not fit to the companies vision, mission and values. In this case, the new employee is not a mitmacher.
The leader hiring the right employee has found a mitmacher. Someone who will, through his own vision and mission, support the growth and development of the organisation.
The mitmachers must learn to make decisions on their own by using the company vision, mission and values as their compass. In the last articles, I emphasized how important it was for the leader to find mitmachers with compatible vision and mission. The logical linkage of all those topics starts to make sense.
The leader is a kind of coach who makes sure that the diamonds (mitmacher) are being polished. The polishing can take place via a feedback session, a workshop on specific topics and so on.
A relationship of trust is needed to achieve the best coach and coachee interactions. Sometimes the leader identifies a mitmacher who can coach and support others in aligning their decisions with the organization’s mission.
Mitmachers who already have the same vision, mission and values will take similar decisions as the leader. This does not mean that the mitmacher are the leader’s clone. For example, the leader may envision a good atmosphere in the shop. A mitmacher with a background in music and a similar vision will decide to put calm music when many people are in the shop to induce relaxation. The leader does not need to tell him what to do.
The mitmachers have a compatible vision but can have very different personalities, cultural background and education level too. Their decision are based on their knowledge, experience and desire to achieve the common vision. Leading them to make congruent decisions. Diversity in companies brings the richness necessary for creative solutions to achieve the company’s vision.
Experts (mitmachers) decide what is best
The main advantage of congruent decision-making and letting the mitmachers make decision on their own is that the mitmachers know best how to do their job. They are the specialists in their area of responsibility and know better than anyone else what can be done or not. Discussing with their leader and other mitmachers are still important to make sure that they are considering all options. An open and transparent communication supports such autonomous decision-making.
At their level, the mitmachers can influence the companies strategies because they are enabled to act without having to ask for permission.
The organization’s life
Organizations that enable strategic decision-making by using self-management need to create self-regulation processes. In these organizations, strategic changes happen in an “organic” way. Part of the organization will sense a need, an opportunity, or a risk and they should be enabled to take a leap of faith to achieve the vision.
It is important to think about the self-preservation mechanism that take place when things go wrong. An accident, an unsatisfied client and so on. The compass (vision, mission, communication) developed by the leader and the mitmachers gives them a basis for decision making in time of crises. They need to answer in advance the question:
“What should we do in time of crises while following our vision, mission, values and communication style?”
A clear set of rules
In order to avoid chaos, communication must be strongly established and all decisions must be taken based on a set of rules that is unique for each organization. This set of rules must take into account who is involved in the decision-making, who will be impacted by the desired change, and identifying all possible positive and negative consequences.
The set of rules can be written in a “constitution” in which the dos and don’ts are written. This constitution clarifies how, when and where strategic decisions are made. For example, a decision of what comes on the menu may be taken by the cook and the waiters in one organization but by the whole shop in another one.
Culture that supports the vision
Furthermore, in order to foster good decision-making the culture in the organization must support it. The leader has a big impact on the organization’s culture because he is the initiator. My friend mentioned how he would organize day trips to other franchises with employees, workshops, personal coaching and individual exchanges to foster reflection on how they could take action that help their store become better.
Empowering and enabling
The leader is empowering and enabling mitmachers to grow in learning new skills, grab the inspiration they need to make better decisions on their own. His goal as a leader is to make sure that the mitmachers develop themselves so well that the company grows as a consequence of it.
Empowering and enabling must be personalized. Each individual has unique needs, competencies, knowledge and potential. There is not one solution fits all. The leader must take the time to consider what each mitmacher needs. Deciding whether a workshop, a course or a coaching is necessary depends on the mitmacher. Leaders must develop their emotional intelligence. I recommend the book Emotional intelligence by Daniel Goleman to learn more about this topic.
The organization’s culture has a responsibility to support individuals in their personal and professional growth and development. A culture of care, support and excellence supports the goal which is to have happy customers that come back to them and not drive them to their competition. The organization is winning over its competitors because it is a human-to-human business.
Strategy in the end is taking the right decision based on your values.
- 5 Ways to Become More Self-Aware by Anthony K. Tjan https://hbr.org/2015/02/5-ways-to-become-more-self-aware
- Emotional intelligence by Daniel Goleman