Stakeholding


We are moving from a chain of command to a web of connection, from competition to collaboration, from markets to networks and stockholders to stakeholders, and greed to green.

 – Anodea Judith

Author & Evolutionary activist

Leadership speaks to Stakeholder, “Let us stand in the created future that wasn’t going to happen otherwise. A future which would address the core concerns of both of us. Let us take actions and decisions now to realize the future.”

At its essence Leadership remains an exercise in language which motivates all stakeholders to align into taking actions in the present to realise a common future.

I was recently engaged in a hub optimisation project for an orthopaedics implant supplier. It did not take too long for our team to work out the optimum inventory positions of around twenty thousand items as part of fifty kits. We were delighted to note that our recommendations held the potential of reducing the inventory carrying costs at the hubs by up to seventy per cent. The client’s corporate team was equally elated.  

I was therefore left disconcerted when a subsequent review revealed near zero implementation of the project recommendations and the associated cost savings. The Marketing team had effectively sabotaged the initiative. While the project criteria had been to ensure a 99% assurance of availability of all ortho kits, Marketing insisted that for its clients nothing below 100% was acceptable.

Looking back one could see that the project failed for its failure to identify ‘customer’ stakeholders like the Ortho surgeons and the hospital administrators and what might their pain points be.

Leadership in the new millennium is more about stakeholding than anything else. Today’s world is becoming increasingly granular. More and more individuals are jumping onto the technology bandwagon and getting networked with unknowable connections amongst them. And each of these ‘unknowable connections’ becomes a stakeholder with its ability to influence perceptions and thoughts.

Per Bak, the Danish Physicist, developed a theory of sand running through an hour glass. He concluded that while the sand pile seemed stable with a regulated sand flow, the pressures on each of the sand grains was constantly changing; the internal dynamics of the sand was complex, unknowable and could not be predicted.

The stakeholding world today is like that sand pile.It seems stable but in reality continues to shift in unknowable ways with instability being the only constant.

So how does one manoeuvre the unknowable, unpredictable quicksands of stakeholding? What can leadership do to ensure effective relational assimilation of all stakeholding concerns? You could make a good start with the following questions.

  • Who are your influencing stakeholders? They could be from your investors, your leaders, your staff, your customers, customers of your customers, your suppliers, your community, competitors, consumer groups, social media……. sounds daunting. doesn’t it? Well a good place to start is to observe the conversation networks and the language being used. Use this to discern the contradictions, conflicting ideas and harmonies that form part of the issue.
  • Ask of the identified influencing stakeholders about their interests and core concerns
  • What is the stakeholders’ critical analysis of the situation? How does the issue occur for them?
  • What solution hypotheses could you develop which could take care of the stakeholders’ interests and concerns?

In Learning……

Shakti Ghosal

http://www.empathinko.in

The Dynamics of Arrogance


Dear Reader,

I wish you an empowering and purposeful New Year.

As we get set to usher in a brand new 2019, I would like you to reflect on the following.

What could we do in a fast changing and complex world that would satisfy issues faced by our team?  How could we develop our relational intelligence to gain traction with stakeholders?  How could we construct a dynamic game plan to get our organisation shift from the present to the created future?

What if I told you that the key to each of the above questions lies in one specific aspect of our own personality? 

To understand this some more, let me tell you my own story.

As the business head, I was the top dog in the organisational hierarchy. I felt cocooned by the warm comfort of managers, supervisors and executives being there to do my bidding. Somewhere along the way, this ‘being there’ feeling changed into a ‘better than’ mindset. And this is when my leadership problems started.

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The being there mindset

I began to think of myself as superior. I thought that as a Leader I had to be! And this led to my being arrogant. Over time this became my garb. ‘I had to use every opportunity to make all these little people understand that I was simply better than they were!’ I could just not afford not to know everything there was to know. So the arrogance led to my being inauthentic. Worse, the decision making increasingly started bordering on ‘my way or highway’. For accepting an outside possibility would undermine me would it not! This of course led to my becoming isolated.

Dynamics of Arrogance

My inauthenticity and isolation started eating into the organisation’s openness and team work. And when this impacted overall performance, the blame game hit the roof. With me of course doing most of the blaming!

The turning point came with the plummeting organisational performance. It took the shape of the following.

  • The advent of Self Awareness in me that “I need to curb this feeling of superiority that rears its head every time I interact”.
  • Getting my hands dirty by adopting a ‘walking and talking’ leadership style and thereby becoming curious about people, not results.
  • Practicing the Attitude of Gratitude, realizing how fortunate I have been in receiving support of others inspite of my shortcomings.
  • Leading with Generosity by jettisoning the fear of being taken advantage of. Realizing that even though I would be taken advantage of,  that would be better than being closed to openness and possibilities.

So in the New Year, what could each one of us do as leaders to jettison our superiority mindset and arrogance?

In Learning……..

Shakti Ghosal

Does Leadership theory help Sales?


Leadership and Sales

Yesterday I got a call from the Training Manager of a leading pharmaceutical company. She wanted to know how a Leadership program could support the sales personnel to perform better.

“I do understand the importance of Leadership in rewriting the future of an organisation”, she said to me. “But to a sales guy all this seems airy fairy stuff with no value.  What he needs are tools and techniques which would allow him to effectively close some prospects and achieve his target.”

“So would that imply that the Sales personnel, in-spite of their selling experience and closeness to customers, are falling short of organisational expectations?”  I asked.

“Well that is what the corporate guys in Head Office seem to think”, the training manager confided.

I did not have the heart to tell her that the solution lay not in new tools and techniques but a shift in how and what shows up when confronted with a business challenge. And that in essence is what leadership is all about.

For a start, we need to un-hinge our self from a “fixated to the past” mindset.  To do that we need to first understand what this “fixated in the past” mindset is all about.

Our brains are hardwired to view an emerging situation through the lens of our past experiences.  What is merely needed is copy paste what worked in the past to find a solution in the future. We are thus conditioned to believe that a person with a ten year sales experience would perform better than someone with lesser experience.

But what the above mindset assumes is some kind of continuity of the environment and all that it represents.  The competition and its response. The buyer and his decision making behaviour. The technology and product gaps.  And so on.

The third millennium however is all about discontinuity, disruption and accelerating change. In every which way one could think of. Be it competition and emerging strategies, buyer psyche, technology and products. The beacons of our past experience are no longer effective to handle this.

So we come back to the aspects of Leadership that could support performance in this era of discontinuity, disruption and accelerating change. Be it in Sales or some other business domain.

  • The awareness that you do not know.  You cannot upgrade your performance if you already know all there is to know.
  • Say YES to being pushed away from the beaten track and into the discomfort of the unknown. It is such discomforts that unhinge you from fixated beliefs and mindsets.
  • Avoid assessments during a situation. This leads to hasty reactions based on the ‘what worked in the past’ mindset.   Effective reflection and assessment can only happen after a situation has occurred. And this is when the space for new learning opens up.

 

In Learning

Shakti Ghosal

 

The Millennial Leadership Series : How do you grow your leadership?


This is a question that I am frequently asked by the students of the two business schools where I am a visiting faculty. Knowing about my decades of corporate experience, they assume that I carry nuggets of experience based wisdom that can grow leadership. I do not have the heart to tell them that my so called “experience wisdom” seldom if at all played a role in my leadership initiatives. In fact if truth be told, my leadership situation most of the times was akin to, “I have no idea where I am going”.

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So how does one grow into great leadership?

Well for a start, one cannot think one’s way into great leadership.  It really comes down to putting our feet on the ground, being a “Do- er” under all situations, never mind the nay-sayers and doomsday prophets.  The essence really is “DOING”. We grow when we do things, as we tweak our path and approach intuitively.

Leadership is really about our impact on others. Many of us though confuse this with the great intentions that we hold.  But intentions, which is all about us, has little or no alignment with impact, which is all about others.  So how does one create this alignment? We do this by seeing our self through the eyes of those we serve. I like to see this as a kind of empathy working in reverse.

Literature is full of how empathy is an intrinsic part of great leadership.  Which is all about what we need to do with getting into the other person’s shoes and looking at a situation from his / her perspective. But how often do we think of allowing the other person to get into our shoes and providing a fresh perspective from our vantage point?

Feedback from others who watch our ability ( or otherwise!) to impact others is  really the fuel that can ignite our leadership transformation.

Ask the following questions of your team.

  • What did I do that led to a positive impact?
  • What did I do that negatively impacted the team’s initiative?
  • What Could I do better to encourage the team to perform?

 

………. In Learning

Shakti Ghosal

 

The Millennial Leadership Series: Whatever one resists, persists…….


Pimp Slapped

The other day I was speaking to the CEO of a mid- sized organisation and we got to discussing his intentions and plans.  He told me about how he is currently engaged in bringing in technology and transforming the existing processes and the way of doing things.

“So how successful have you been till now?”, I asked.

“Well I have been able to demonstrate to my Board the trend of costs going down. Which should hopefully result in profits going up”, the CEO responded.

“ So have the profits started going up?” , I continued my enquiry.

The CEO looked troubled.  He confided, “Actually the profits are not up at all. We have been facing significant resistance to adoption of the changed processes by team members. Our team seems to have got de-motivated and are putting in less efforts. So much so that the productivity levels are actually down.”

The above is one more case of a Leadership unilaterally trying to improve profitability through implementation of technology.  When such implementation is done in a ‘command and control’ manner without adequate involvement of various stakeholders, the Leadership might occur to the team as ‘untrustworthy and self-serving’.

Such organisations become locked into a cycle. I call it ‘the cycle of repairing an old tube’. As one patches a leak in the tube and build back the pressure, a new leak starts at a different place. As the organisation resists a problem by trying to fix it, the more it pushes, the more the problem pushes back.

Whatever one resists, persists.

Amidst the whirlwind pace of change occurring in the environment today necessitating the need to constantly shift the technology and process base of an organisation, the millennial leader needs to provide the anchor of a unifying context for such shifts to occur.

What is that unifying context that millennial leaders need to create and exercise for transformative changes to succeed?

In Learning……….   Shakti Ghosal

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The Millennial Leadership Series : To Be or To Do……


“To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And
by opposing end them?

– William Shakespeare in Hamlet

visualisation of a future

A few days back I was reading Richard Branson, the Virgin Group Chairman’s blog on New Year resolutions. What jumped out at me was the section in which he says we need to shift our resolution from a ‘To Do’ list to ‘To Be who we wish to be’ mindset.

As we tick off completed items of our To Do resolutions, we do derive a sense of achievement, do we not. But does such a sense actually support us to move forward?

The world we live in today is all about change and uncertainty. The opportunities and possibilities out there remain optimally aligned to our To Do lists for a limited time. The leader who lacks this awareness is like the guy who patches the first visible leak in an old pipe and puts pressure back only to find new cracks developing. A solution leading to a new problem.  Before we even realise it , we have sacrificed our strategy and ‘To Do’ prioritization  at the altar of day to day expediency.

Some years back, I was part of a corporate group which was in a downward spiral. Market share on most product lines was getting lost leading to the profit targets getting missed. Dissatisfaction and blame game was awash all round, affecting even personal relationships between colleagues. Business alliances with Principals were fraying, lurching from one emergency situation to another. We seemed to be living a corporate death-wish.

We were so busy fire-fighting with the daily ‘To Do’ priorities, the underlying issues perpetuating the problem were left untouched. Leadership and employees alike held beliefs like:

“We are fighting a losing battle. Things would just not work out”

“We just don’t have in us what is needed”

“We’ll just shrink and shrink… till we shut down”

These beliefs and the resulting assumptions, fears and cynicism were leading the organisation into a future of mediocrity and possible demise.

The way the millennial leader could tackle above kind of situation is to jettison the ‘To Do’ in favour of ‘To Be’ mindset. To be the catalyst to rewrite the future. A future that is not derived from the past. A future that would be lived into by all concerned. A future that holds the capacity to shift people’s actions from disengaged to proactive, from resigned to inspired, from frustrated to generative.

What is it that the Millennial leader needs to do to be the catalyst to rewrite such a future for his organisation?

 

…… In Learning     

The Millennial Leadership Series: Authenticity and the Gremlin


Gremlin

Wish you, dear Reader,  a wonderful 2018 ahead! 

On a longish flight last week, I was again drawn to “Taming your Gremlin”. In the book, the author Rick Carson claims to offer a surprisingly simple method for getting out of your own way.  As I riffled through the pages, I came across the various manifested Gremlins who masquerade as us to the outside world in terms of our personality, our beliefs and our behaviours. This inauthentic persona a.k.a. our Gremlin got created somewhere in the past due to certain specific circumstances but has now taken control of who we are.

Millennial leaders are being increasingly buffeted by disruptions and an environment that lacks predictable cycles and trends. Such unpredictability gives short shrift to management tools and organisational decision making processes. In the absence of path clarity Leadership can get subsumed by the Gremlin.

The Gremlin whispers.

“As a leader you cannot afford to lose peoples’ admiration. If needed you need to stretch the truth and hide what is embarrassing or awkward and even…..manipulate situations and people.”

“As a Leader you need to maintain the pretense of loyalty to your bosses and supporters. Otherwise you run the risk of losing their admiration and support in these uncertain times.”

“You need to look knowledgeable and pretend to have understood things which you haven’t. Else people would think poorly of you.”

Increasingly the inauthentic ‘Gremlin’ persona holds sway. But unfortunately, the personality traits, the beliefs and the behaviour which worked earlier might not succeed under the changed circumstances. After all ……………………

  • Can you be effective in what you want to do when you are trying to be someone you are not?
  • Can you put faith and trust in others to handle an uncertain situation when you yourself are faking it?
  • Can you exercise moral authority on people to embrace something new when you are being inauthentic?

The millennial leader needs to increasingly anchor himself to the foundational element of Authenticity. Being authentic is being and acting consistent with who he holds himself out to be for others, and who he holds himself to be for himself.

Also, one cannot pretend to be authentic. That, by definition, is inauthentic……………

So, what is the pathway that the Millennial leader needs to follow to improve his authenticity?

 

In Learning…………

Acknowledgement:  Taming your Gremlins by Richard D. Carson. Harper Collins, 2003