A Coaching Power Tool Created by Anuj Sharma
(Business Coach, INDIA)
The task of leadership is not to put greatness into humanity, but to elicit it, for the greatness is already there. ~ John Buchan
Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence and making sure that impact lasts in your absence ~ Sheryl Sandberg, COO, Facebook
Some people learn by instruction. They grasp information while listening to others and then process that information to gain insight from it. They like being told what to do and how to do it. On the other hand, there are some people who feel that they learn better when they watch other people work and then trying to do it themselves instead of simply hearing how they do it. They prefer a more hands-on approach and like to learn by doing things. I have always felt that I learn better and quicker when I sit back and observe other people work and then try to do the task myself. This is what inspired me to write this Power Tool. I personally do not enjoy taking orders. Instead, I feel productive when I am motivated and left to perform on my own.
Take the example of a person who wants to exercise, maybe do some Yoga or weight-training. The person might spend hours and hours by watching videos on YouTube – hearing and even watching instructors how to strike a particular pose or what the correct form should be while doing those Barbell Squats. This would make them feel a little confident and they might even visualize themselves doing those exercises. The person might even go to the gym and hire a trainer who demonstrates the proper posture to them and tells them how to do it. But, once they try to do the exercise by themselves they realize that their body reacts to it in a different manner than how their brain sees it. Only when they try out that pose or that squat that is when they realize how it feels and where do they need to improve to perform it in a perfect manner. Hence creating action in our lives is a very important step to achieve success in anything that we do and action can be created effectively by inspiring people instead of merely ordering them to do something.
Managing a Self-Aware Team
It is often taught in Business Schools that a smart manager is not a person who can do the work by himself; he is rather someone who can get it done by others in an efficient and effective manner.
This can be achieved in two ways; either by ordering people to do what is told to them or by inspiring them to assume responsibility for the task in front of them so that they can give their best and achieve the goal.
These days, most people believe that they are quite self-aware. They know a lot more, or at least they like to believe that they know a lot more because of ease of availability of information over the internet. They do not like to be told how to do something beyond a certain point as they feel that they know how to do their job and it can feel patronizing at times. All they need is proper inspiration so that they feel motivated to deliver their best.
Inception: The Idea is a Parasite!
There’s a scene in the movie inception where the main Protagonist Mr. Cobb is hired by Mr. Saito to plant an idea into his rival – Mr. Fischer’s head to dissolve his father’s empire. Arthur (Mr. Cobb’s accomplice), asks why can’t we simply tell Mr. Fischer to do so as apparently he had a strained relationship with his father anyways. To this Mr. Cobb replies that an idea is more powerful when it originates from a person’s own mind. When it is a true inspiration. That is when it sticks longer and drives a person towards achieving it instead of simply being told what they should do.
What is the most resilient parasite? Bacteria? A virus? An intestinal worm?
An idea. Resilient, highly contagious.
Once an idea has taken hold of the brain it’s almost impossible to eradicate.
An idea that is fully formed, fully understood, that sticks; right in there somewhere.~ Dominick Cobb in the movie Inception
People in a team can be told or given orders in numerous ways to achieve a particular goal and they might even listen to those orders and do the work that they have been ordered to do. But, the real motivation is achieved when the people in a team are “inspired” to achieve that goal. That is when they work to their full potential and do not stop till they achieve the desired success.
An “Ordering” Hotel Manager Vs. An “Inspiring” Hotel Manager
Rahul is a General Manager at Hotel Imperial. During his daily rounds across the property he keeps a diligent eye on the working of the hotel and the team members. He makes sure that everything is in order in the hotel and there are no lapses in the service or quality standards. One day, as he walks through the hotel lobby, he sees that there is a piece of paper lying on the floor. He beckons the Bellhop and orders him to pick it up and throw it in the trash. Then, as he passes through the kitchen, he sees that one of the stove burners on the range is firing without any cooking being done on it. He calls the cook and asks him to turn it off with a slight annoyance in his tone. Near the end of his round, he comes across a table in the restaurant which has been cleared since the last diner left but hasn’t been reset by the service staff. He calls the F&B manager and asks him to set the table immediately, his annoyance now turning into a slight irritation. The next day as Rahul walks across the hotel, he sees that there is a chewing gum wrapper lying on the lobby floor. He calls the Bellhop and asks him if he cannot see that there is trash lying on the floor. He goes on to say that he saw the same thing yesterday also and told him to throw it away. The bellhop seems to remember that incident from yesterday but he never registered that it was so important. Rahul continues with his round and walks through the kitchen where he sees that the range has been left burning idly once again and so he calls the Chef and scolds him for being repeatedly negligent. The chef vaguely remembers that he did something similar yesterday but he thinks that it really was no big deal and wonders why his boss is so angry for such a small little thing. Lastly, as he reaches the restaurant he sees that a table hasn’t been set for the next service and so he calls the F&B Manager and blasts him for being repeatedly careless. Rahul is even heard saying exasperatedly that it is not his job to do every little thing in this hotel and he wished that people would at least do what they were told to do! The F&B manager quickly went about setting the table but he had no idea what was such big a deal in missing a table and he felt that his boss was overreacting and being unfair.
Right across the street, Anant is the General Manager at Hotel Majestic. He has a similar habit of taking a walk around the property every day to make sure that everything is in order and as per the required standards. During one such round he came across a piece of paper napkin lying in the hotel lawn. He simply bent down and picked it up and walked towards the trash can. A Housekeeper who had been mopping the floor nearby rushed to take that piece of paper from his boss but Anant simply waved him off saying “It’s no big deal! I will just drop it in the can myself. We got to keep our hotel spick and span for our guests, right?” The Housekeeper was really awed by this and mentioned this to his colleagues during their lunch break. Next, as Anant was crossing the kitchen he saw a pot of water kept on the stove that was about to boil over. He quickly reached and turned off the stove. The pantry cook who was working nearby saw this and gave him a sheepish grin realizing his mistake. Anant simply smiled & nodded and kept on walking. Near the end of his round, as he was passing through the restaurant he saw that there was an empty table which hadn’t been reset by the service staff after the last diner had vacated the table. He simply grabbed 4 dishes from the side-station and began setting it up himself. The head steward rushed to take the dishes from his boss but Anant simply told him to grab the silverware and napkins and help him to setup the table. As they are setting-up the table together Anant says, “Got to make sure that our restaurant is ready for our next guest, unless we wish to keep them waiting!” The steward understood and nodded in agreement. He was so impressed by his boss’ attitude that he made a special mention of this to other stewards in that evening’s team briefing explaining them why it was so important to make sure that we reset the table as soon as a guest leaves. The next day, as Anant made his way across the hotel garden he saw that there was a candy wrapper lying on the grass. But at that very moment the Housekeeper saw it as well and he scooped it up before his boss could reach it and deposited it in the trash can. He grinned at his boss, who in turn smiled and nodded in acknowledgement. As he passed through the kitchen, he saw that all the burners on the range were either attended or turned off and the cook gave him a knowing smile to which Anant responded with a mock salute, “Good job Chef!” As he entered the restaurant, he saw the head steward putting finishing touches to the last table, readying it up for the next meal service. He looked up and smiled as Anant neared him, “All set boss! Can’t keep our guests waiting, eh?” Anant replied with two thumbs up, “You said it!”
Managing an Inspired Hotel
Hospitality is a very human intensive industry. The biggest capital asset of a hotel, after its building, is its manpower. A hotel is not merely room and food. It is an experience. And this experience is crafted by people working in it across all levels. It is hence very necessary for the staff working in a hotel to feel a sense of ownership, belongingness and pride in their property.
The hotel staff can be ordered around but then they will not take pride in their hotel. They will never feel that this is their hotel, their home and they won’t be able to pass on this warmth to their guests. They will merely do what is being told to them by their managers or by their guests. At times they carry out these orders in a half-hearted manner and this can be felt very obviously by a guest who pays even a little bit of attention to the service.
An inspired team of hotel staff on the other hand feels that they are there to delight their guests. They of course do what they are told to be done but they go little beyond that to read their guests and understand their needs to serve them even better. They feel that their hotel is their home and they need to craft a delightful experience for their guests so that they leave their hotel with an unforgettable stay. That is why you feel really pampered and cared for in some of the best known hotels in the world.
In such hotels, the managers understand that they are dealing with intelligent and skilled human force made up of people who understand their job. Working in hospitality industry any ways mostly requires common sense more than anything else because the tasks in a hotel seem fairly routine and of kinds that we even do at our home by ourselves on a regular basis.
A good hotel manager needs to lead by example and demonstrate the service standards required by the hotel instead of merely passing orders. That is when the team realizes that there is no job too small for anybody in the hotel and they all should work together to provide their guests with the best possible experience.
Inspiration leads to Empowerment
Ordering sets out a list of specific tasks for the members of the team. The goal is shared with the team and then specific orders are given about how to achieve them. The extent of limits of every member in the team is defined for them. This leads to restricting the individual responsibility of members of the team. There is also a less sense of ownership among the team members as they feel that they are simply carrying out their part of the instruction to achieve the final goal. This can at times lead to a psychological phenomenon which is known as “Diffusion of Responsibility.”
Diffusion of responsibility is defined as “A sociopsychological phenomenon whereby a person is less likely to take responsibility for action or inaction when others are present.Considered a form of attribution, the individual assumes that others either are responsible for taking action or have already done so.”1 Put simply, when multiple people are responsible for something, they all tend to leave the hard work to the others. It also reduces a sense of belongingness among the members of a group as they pledge their allegiance to the order instead to the person giving out that order i.e.: The Leader.
Inspiration on the other hand empowers people. An inspiring leader shares the vision or the goal with the entire team and then inspires them to reach towards that goal. He allows the members of the team to set their own limits and assume their own responsibilities and encourages them to be accountable for their actions. The members of the team feel a feeling of belongingness and a sense of ownership towards the goal and they work passionately as they believe that they play a very vital role in the overall success of the team.
Ordering limits you to see only the next immediate goal while inspiring allows you to see the whole vision.
Creativity cannot be ordered. It can only be bred out of true inspiration. Inspiring people opens the door for an unlimited potential within them and it encourages them to explore the boundaries of their own abilities. It allows the creativity to grow and flourish.
Ordering disrupts creativity. It discourages people to think creatively as they feel that they are only supposed to carry out the orders in a specific way and if they think out of the box it might be rejected or might not be valued by the leader.
A Boss Orders; A Leader Inspires
Ordering breeds fear; Inspiration commands respect. When managers give orders, they delegate the work unto others. Many a times they would not be acquainted with the situation on the ground. Their subordinates might find these orders difficult to execute because of various unforeseen reasons and unexpected circumstances. But, due to fear or any other factors, the subordinates might not be inclined to report this to the manager, which would lead to a poor execution of order or even an outright failure.
For example, a restaurant manager might order his Captain to mandatorily get the feedback form filled by all the guests dining in the restaurant. The manager even admonishes him if he misses a guest without even bothering to understand why the guest didn’t fill the form. This not only breeds fear in the mind of the Captain but also makes him mechanical. He would then insist all the diners to fill the feedback form and will be adamant even when a guest is not interested or is in a hurry to leave. Such persistence by the Captain might end up annoying the guest who would leave the restaurant with a bad experience even when he enjoyed dining there.
If the manager stays at the restaurant floor during a session himself and observes the guests who might be interested in filling-up the feedback form, he will end up inspiring his Captain. The Captain would first of all see how the manager approaches the guest and backs off when the guest politely declines it. But more than that, watching his manager interact with the guest will make the Captain understand the true value and importance of a proper guest feedback and this will encourage him not only to gather feedback but also to improve the team’s service standards as the feedback becomes a form of a reward, a means of encouragement for them.
So, when you inspire people by your work they tend to respect you because they know you are not merely barking impractical orders; but you have done things yourself and are well acquainted with the situation on the ground.
While coaching the Managers, it would be good if we help them to see the power of inspiration. We can help them to reframe their perspectives when it comes to leading a team and encourage them to take a more participative approach instead of an instructive one.
We, as coaches, can be a source of inspiration for our clients as well. There is no place for “Ordering” in coaching. A coach never instructs, advises or orders their clients. They simply listen, observe, ask questions and help their clients to see the situation for themselves from a different perspective or come up with ways to find the solution themselves. A coach never gives a solution to the client. He “inspires” the solution out of the client. That “Ah-Hah” moment that we all live for as coaches is nothing short of a true inspiration!
While listening intently during a coaching session, pick on the vocabulary that the client normally uses in their conversation. Based on this, the client should be encouraged to avoid certain “Ordering” words or phrases while talking to their team as they can be disempowering. Instead, we should help the client to identify and use words that empowers their teammates.
Following are a few phrases that could help our clients to be inspiring managers:
Ordering: “Go and do this as soon as you can.”
Inspiring: “Let’s do this as soon as you can.”
Ordering: “I want this problem to be resolved by tomorrow.”
Inspiring: “Let’s work to find a solution to this problem by tomorrow.”
Ordering: “What do you mean this can’t be done? You’ve got to do this!”
Inspiring: “I understand that this is difficult. But, I am sure that you will find a way to do this!”
Ordering: “Just do what I tell you to do.”
Inspiring: “Let’s think this through and find out a way to do this in an efficient manner.”
When I talk to Managers I get the feeling that they are important. When I talk to Leaders I get the feeling that I am important~ Alexander Den Heijer