By Scott Howe – April 2016
“When you command you ought to know each man in that command better than his own mother does. You must know which man responds to encouragement, which to reasoning, and which needs a good kick in the pants. Know your men.” – Field Marshal Sir William Slim
A company is only as good as its employees. They hold the key to the success of your business, and need to be led confidently and within clearly understood business boundaries or constraints.
However, both the employees and the leadership need to fully understand one and other. If there are layers of hierarchy, the employees can feel victimised or in a vacuum from the rest of the organisation. Similarly, in creating this vacuum, the leadership will not hear the ‘jungle drums’ early enough to make essential and timely decisions that could make or break the business.
Mutual Understanding enables the CEO to set the conditions for success. But the success is very much dependent on the whole organisation working collaborately and effectively with each other/other departments.
I’ve had great success when leading teams in the past simply because I always try to promote an environment of creativity and individuality by ensuring every member of the team understand the roles and responsibilities of the other members. Only then can we conduct operations in a cohesive and effective manner. This is Mutual Understanding.
One method I used to achieve this to promote trust and respect from the outset of my tenure in role was during a training exercise in Egypt. I had been in the military for some time by this point and was confident in my ability as a leader, but had just been given a new team to lead and manage. Going on exercise is the military’s method of conducting continuous professional development and team building. So I thought I should capitalise on the fact we weren’t going to be facing a ‘real’ enemy and develop some mutual understanding.
My idea was simple: swap roles with one of the lads and take up a position within the team that shows I had a full understanding of that role and complete confidence and trust in any of my men to carry out my leadership role. And even if they didn’t know how to, I could seize the opportunity to train them to do so, showing I had their professional development high on my priority list.
It was a pitch black night, and I sat them in a semicircle around me and initiated a glow stick. I told them “whomever this points towards is going to take on my role and I’ll swap with them.” I could just make out the smiles. I repeated this a few times until all the leadership (headquarters) roles were swapped out…which I was afforded a wry smile from my troop sergeant about!
This simple, but noteworthy event enabled the whole team to gain mutual understanding of one and others roles and bound us very closely prior to deploying on live operations.
Now working in large organisations I try and utilise this style of thinking as it affords flexibility within structures. It becomes somewhat more tricky when the organisation has a silo culture. Breaking down those walls (metaphorically and physically, as I have done I might add) is the key to achieving great things in business. But it all stems from a shared understanding of what it is your business is trying to achieve.
About the Author:
Since completing an 18 year career in Britain’s elite Royal Marines Commandos, Scott Howe has firmly established himself as one of Australia’s leading authorities on leadership and business transformation. A highly experienced business strategist who ‘operationalises’ business plans, he has extensive understanding of managing and delivering major transformation programs in both private and public sectors. In additional to these highly successful programs (including the unique ‘Commando Experience‘), Scott is a ‘C Suite’ mentor who appraises, counsels and rationalises ideas to realise business goals.
For more information on the solutions Scott provides and engaging his services, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1300 746 287.
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