There are many prisms that distort the way individuals and organizations see and act in the world. These prisms are neither right nor wrong, judgment is largely dependent on magnitude, time, space (context) and direction. This is the second of the prism series. See first prism here.
Second Prism – Great leaders put people first.
The above prism is a fact, but the truth is, all people put people first. It really does not matter whether you are a leader, good leader, bad leader, great leader, follower, good follower, bad follower, great follower or just an individual, all people put people first. Even those that seem to put results first, only appear so inclined, because of the people they choose to put first.
The difference this prism really tries to sell, is not putting people first but who you put first.
Every individual has 360 degree relationships in an organizational pyramid.
There are individuals on a higher hierarchical level (individuals who look down on you or who you look up to), individuals on an approximate same level (individuals you collaborate with or square up to), individuals on a lower level (individuals who look up to you or who you look down on) and then of course, there is you (the variable you get to live with every moment).
Thus, you always have 4 choices on who to put first.
Putting “Individuals on a higher hierarchical level” first
Manage your boss(es)
This is the first and most consistent advice you will get from Day 1 in any Organisation. In fact, organisations are built around ensuring everyone understands the importance of getting this right. You will have a hard time succeeding, if you are out of alignment with your boss.
“If you ever catch a great boss, it’s just such a rare thing, and it’s amazing.” James L. Brooks.
This is why your first boss is so important. A boss that is approachable and accessible helps you get comfortable with forming a relationship. A boss that gives you timely feedback and coaches you, helps you accelerate your development. A boss that does the opposite really steals years and joy from your journey. However, you most likely cannot choose your boss, so you must learn to manage up.
Change management successes or failures are mainly hinged on the boss. If you understand this, you will realise that for you to get insight on what works, bring initiative to your work or add any value, getting your boss on board is non-negotiable. A boss that is plugged in to you, is the single biggest leverage you can have. Now I have known some people that have bypassed their bosses and tried to get buy-in from the boss of their boss. It has worked in the short term, but in the long term, such behavior plants the seed of distrust. No human relationship survives distrust and once you lose relationship, what do you have?
There are many ways to manage your boss but most are hinged on a principle – proximity management. Be close enough to get the light and energy, but far enough to avoid getting burnt.
Does this mean “putting bosses first” is the defining strategy of great leaders? Maybe, maybe not, but hold the thought and let us see what comes next.
Putting “individuals on an approximate same level” first
Manage your peer(s)
This is one of the most ignored groups in an organization – your peers. They seem to just be there as a success comparison index, silo mentality justifier, banter exchange market or small talk tribe.
We typically relate with peers in the most unconscious way, thinking that their love or hate pales in comparison to all other categories of people. However, those that quickly win the respect of peers, by managing them consciously, have an easier time leading such peers when and if they get on the fast track. You do not become a leader of your peers when you are handed a superior position, you become a leader of your peers while you are their peer.
“Your peers will respect you for your integrity and character, not your possessions.” – David Robinson.
There are many ways to manage your peers but most are hinged on a principle – be the preferred ear. Be the one they want to talk to and the one they talk to about anything and everything, but defer judgment.
Is “putting peers first” the distinguishing factor, considering it is a blind spot to most? Maybe, maybe not, hold the thought, we have two more individuals to go.
Putting “individuals on a lower level” first
Manage your subordinates
This is the critical mass that determines whether your style is relevant or a distraction. They are the best real time feedback and if you manage them right, you can compound results.
There is a unique kind of respect that comes to the man that manages his subordinates consciously and truly cares for them. I have never trusted someone that did not trust me and no one has trusted me if I did not also trust them. Thus, when you see a man that has built trust with his team, the trust though mutual, started with him.
There are quite a number of people I know that have never understood how to manage their bosses or peers, but they still end up being respected because of how they manage subordinates. Quite occasionally, your peers and bosses have either worked with or care about at least one of your subordinates. Word on how you manage subordinates travels fast and has a strong influence on bosses and peers.
People see subordinates as “the little guy” and everyone loves stories where the little guy wins. When your subordinates win with you, people naturally cheer.
“Employees who believe that management is concerned about them as a whole person – not just an employee – are more productive, more satisfied, more fulfilled. Satisfied employees mean satisfied customers, which leads to profitability.” – Anne M. Mulcahy.
There are many ways to manage your subordinates but most are hinged on a principle – care. Pay attention to the people in your care, and let your actions reflect that you are paying attention.
Surely “putting subordinates first” is the clincher. Isn’t it? Maybe, maybe not, hold the thought, just one more.
Putting “yourself” first
Putting yourself first immediately cuts across as selfish. But is it? Can you truly manage without, if you have not been able to manage within?
To manage self, you must KSB – Know self, Sell self and Be self. I have discussed this in an earlier article.
“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.” – Richard P. Feynman.
Whether you are managing upwards, sideways or downwards, all you are doing is managing yourself for desired results.
Great leaders put people first. Yes, because it is an effective way to lead self.
– Osasu Oviawe