- “Self-reflection is the school of wisdom” – Baltasar Gracian
- “Ambitious New Year’s resolutions often end in disappointment. So instead of setting unrealistic goals in 2022, business leaders should consider making smaller, simpler changes—and they just might see better results”, says Harvard Business School Professor Hirotaka Takeuchi.
Even before changes can be made, I strongly recommend a period of sober reflections by leaders of today. Knowledge plays an important role in the productivity and prosperity of economies, organisations, and individuals. Therefore, learning from direct experience can be more effective if combined with sober reflection and knowledge of the key lessons taught by experience. Indeed, reflecting on what has been learned makes experience more productive, and builds one’s confidence in the ability to achieve a goal.
Who is a leader?
In simple terms, a leader is someone who can see how things can be improved and who rallies people to move toward that better vision. For purpose of this column, I will concentrate on personalities in the corporate world. Are you a Board Chairman, a CEO, Management staff, Head of Department, a Supervisor or Line Manager, a Front Desk Manager, a Branch Manager, Area Manager, Marketing Manager? The list goes on. Anyone placed in authority over another, or others has a duty to rally them round and constantly improve on the status.
Why should leaders reflect?
Self-reflection in leadership means carving out time to review yourself as a leader. This is critical for your leadership development. It involves examining your current level of skills, your strengths, weaknesses, behavioural patterns and how you seek to influence others. Self-reflection allows for an increased awareness of problematic performance traits, creating avenues to develop solutions on how to adjust those aspects of your leadership style. This action paves the way for action while developing you as a leader. Be aware of the impact you have on other people through your interaction with them and understand how your own behaviour and actions can drive effective outcomes forward.
Leading from the Heart
The fourth revolution has come to stay. Despite the strides made in artificial intelligence, some roles will always be immune to this new ground-breaking technology. Dear Leaders, do you realize that great leaders are the ones that exhibit a skill set that is not easily replicable? In fact, they lead from the heart and know the hearts of their team members. Passion, drive, and commitment to quality are all important, but a passionate commitment to your team is what will determine your success, effectiveness and enthusiasm.
The Closing Bell
My last article in this newspaper for 2021, was on “The closing bell”, that is, how leaders evaluate and re-strategize their operations at the end of the year, to prepare for the approaching new year with better and more achievable goals. Jack Ma, Founder of Ali Baba conglomerate in China, has a quote which always resonates with me. “You’ve got to make your team have value, innovation and vision.”
As a leader, do you have what it takes to improve your Teams for more value-creation, using innovative and visionary ideas?
As we enter the new year, a self-reflection can reveal your strengths and weaknesses. This period of self-audit can be done through a simple but effective self-questioning exercise of your leadership as well as the status quo of your business. At the end of this simple exercise, you may end up knowing whether your institution is on the right path, policies are working, processes are relevant, staff are well trained to do the right things, supervision by managers are on track, controls and regulatory issues are on track, and last but not the least, whether you as the leader are also doing the right things!
The core mandate of your company is obviously to make profit. Is your company making profit or losses?
- Has there been a positive or a negative trend?
- Are the profits real or window dressed and what are the main facts behind the figures?
- Is there a concentration risk in the sources of your income or profits, making the situation volatile?
The nature of the business
- Is your company facing stagnation? What is its position among your peers in the industry?
- Is the industry also facing stagnation and over-regulated? Have you thought about diversifying into other ventures?
The People- Your Human Capital
- Do your staff feel valued?
- Are the working conditions appropriate for the jobs being performed?
- What about staff placements? Are there any square pegs in round holes?
- Have you considered a skills audit of your staff? A “non-performer” in one department or unit can eventually become a star performer when transferred to a place where he or she best fits.
- What about the staff attrition rates? is it average for the industry or greater?
- Are your line managers giving you the right information?
- What is your leadership style like? Are you involving your Team in decision-making?
- Are there proper lines of authority in approvals and controls? Are you finding signs of ethical breaches by some of your line managers?
- How do you handle personality conflicts in the workplace?
- Are you a fearful person, surrounded by “yes men” only, and not easily approachable? Beware, “Yes men” have an agenda.
- How often are controls reviewed?
- Are you using the same techniques to solve new problems?
- Are the inspection and audit functions performed by routine or risk-based?
- Do your internal auditors understand the activities and functions that they are auditing?
- Do you take audit reports seriously and get a root-cause analysis done on incidents reported? You may be sitting on a time bomb. Some line managers may be acting as tin gods in their jurisdictions and not transparent in their reports to you.
- How are incident reports handled? Are they used as lessons for sharing and training?
Does your Organisation have a Soft Skills Gap?
When your workforce has many technical skills but an absence of soft skills, you have a soft skills gap. Soft skills are what accompany the hard skills, and help your organisation use its technical expertise to full advantage.
- If you’re really good at getting clients, and not so good at retaining them, chances are you have a soft skills gap.
- If you have a high staff turnover and have to keep retraining people, chances are that you have a soft skills gap.
- When you have a high number of managers who are not leaders – that’s a soft skills gap.
As a Leader, are you able to capitalise on the wealth of knowledge, experience and proficiency within your team? Please assess the level of communication and interpersonal skills that are present in your organisation. Soft skills are increasingly becoming the hard skills of today’s workforce, including the leaders. It’s just not enough to be highly trained in technical skills, without developing the softer, interpersonal and relationship-building skills that help people to communicate and collaborate effectively.
It’s important for you to recognize the vital role soft skills play within your team and not only work on developing them within yourself, but encourage their development throughout the organisation.
Use Self-reflection as your Personal Exam
Dear leaders, please use this period of the new year to look within yourself as well as around you. Please never underrate the soft skills. In this day and age, if this is practiced throughout the organisation you can build a better workforce and better culture. This time is specifically focused on questions about your goals, your behaviour, and your general state of mind. By using this process, it gives you an insight as to who you really are.
Dear leader, I am not a guru in organisational behaviour and my opinions are based on reading, studying, observing as well as my personal experiences in some leadership roles that I have been involved in during my professional career. This is my wish for you in 2022 – that you will use self-reflection in your quest to chalk bigger successes in your leadership journey. May your self-reflection open meaningful ways to remain competitive and be more productive in the years ahead.
HAPPY STAFF= AWESOME SERVICE = DELIGHTED CUSTOMERS = GREAT BRAND = HAPPY LEADER!
Have a good and prosperous new year.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Alberta Quarcoopome is a Fellow of the Institute of Bankers, and CEO of ALKAN Business Consult Ltd. She is the Author of Three books: “The 21st Century Bank Teller: A Strategic Partner” and “My Front Desk Experience: A Young Banker’s Story” and “The Modern Branch Manager’s Companion”. She uses her experience and practical case studies, training young bankers in operational risk management, sales, customer service, banking operations and fraud.