Monday, December 9, 2013

How Leaders Build Trust: They are the Voice of the Person on the Ground

In leadership roles, it's common to find oneself in the middle of some directive or initiative from a level  higher  in the organization than you. Inevitably the leader finds himself in the position of implementing something that is difficult for the staff in his organization.

In my experience this particular leadership challenge usually involves some sort of change initiative.  In global organizations this often takes the form of standardization.  One of the big advantages of a global structure is the opportunity to scale activities and through standard processes reduce internal transaction costs and achieve efficiencies.  The benefits of these efficiencies are often not visible to the staff on the ground who have to change the way they have done their work.

Stated another way, there are things that make sense at a higher headquarters level that make no sense at all to the person responsible for implementation.  In addition to the disruption to their own work, the person on the ground often must deal with key stakeholders or customers. In some cases local staff have to give up relationships with trusted suppliers and partners in favor of global ones.  It's common to hear change-weary staff talk of initiative overload or "the flavor of the month".   Sometimes these changes come with a new leader who is eager to achieve a dramatic short-term improvement.  In global organizations, the decision makers often are not even in the same country as those most affected.

There is always resistance to change.  No matter where located in the organization, the effective leader has to distinguish between the noise that always accompanies doing things differently, and a serious problem with implementation.  The HQ level leader has to be willing to listen to the "voice of the person on the ground" and adjust implementation plans when warranted.  The local leader has to be that amplifier of important considerations going back up the chain....and they have to find balance..  The local leader can't just complain about every global lose your voice when you complain about everything. On the other hand, the local leader can't be a mindless "yes man",  afraid to articulate local concerns.  Sometimes staff....especially since many have been through wave after wave of standardization and change....don't expect the latest initiative go to away.  They just want to know that "those guys up there"  know how hard it is down here.

The leader who is that voice...the amplifier of the message from the person on the ground...builds trust by demonstrating that he too knows "how hard it is"

No comments:

Post a Comment