Oct 11, 2010

“Let’s do it Leadership: My Review of Sir Richard Branson’s Interview on Entrepreneur’’ – Part 2

In my last post, I introduced blog article series, where I reviewed Sir Richard Branson’s leadership interview in Entrepreneur magazine. If you’ve found this post first, you may want to go and read the beginning, which discusses Sir Branson’s first three secrets to building successful business practicing good management and leadership. My complete review of Sir Branson’s leadership and management interview is also in audio form.

Let’s continue with secret 4 – being a good leader.

Secret 4. Be a Good Leader

“As a leader you have to be a really good listener.’’ -- Sir Richard Branson

I know. Everybody talks about listening. You hear this in management courses, sales courses, customer service courses, etc. Let’s see exactly what he means by ‘’good listener”.

“You need to know your own mind, but there is no point in imposing your views on others without some debate. No one has a monopoly on good ideas or good advice,’’ says Sir Richard Branson.

This blows me away, not only because it is hard to find anyone listening to you in private life, but also to find someone caring enough to state that others might have good (let alone better) ideas sometimes. Throw in the big ego of a successful business owner, seasoned executive, or manager with a great track record, and it sounds nearly impossible.

It’s only normal to bolster your confidence after years of being successful, but it’s easy to end up trapped in your own mind and judgment. It not only de-motivates others but misses some fantastic opportunities to grow or improve business. Without stopping to consider other ideas (possibly fantastic ideas), you’ll miss opportunities because of your overconfidence.

Sir Branson further explains. “Get out there, listen to people, draw people out and learn from them. As a leader you’ve also got to be extremely good at praising people.”

Everyone knows that, but how often do you do it? What about your managers? Is it once a week, once a month?

Make sure your managers not only know it but that they use it consistently. This technique is an important element of great management, and it costs nothing.

It is a powerful and free management tool.

Here’s another example on how Sir Branson demonstrates his good leadership.

“Never openly criticize people; never lose your temper, and always lavish praise on your colleagues for a job well done.”

This means never criticizing people in front of others. I can’t agree more.

He continues. “People flourish if they’re praised. Usually they don’t need to be told when they’ve done wrong because most of the time they know it.”

This is the one I would do slightly differently. I don’t miss my boss losing his temper, but now I appreciate being criticized more than at the time it was actually happening. It happened to me only a couple of times, so it doesn’t matter so much.

If someone does something wrong, I would tell them to make sure he realizes I know. People are more engaged when given negative feedback rather than not getting any at all. At least Gallup's research says so, and my experience is in line with their research results.

The problem is that most managers hate breaking bad news and criticizing people. When managers and supervisors don't know what to say, they say nothing.

However, people will trust you more if you say things to them rather than hearing from a colleague you have complained about them behind their back. It can damage your credibility and respect, and it can have negative consequences on the performance of that person.

There are ways and techniques on the best ways to do this, and I can help if you need to know that.

Sir Branson explains what to do when you have problems with an employee.

“If somebody is not working out, don’t automatically throw him or her out of the company. A company should genuinely be a family. So see if there’s another job within the company that suits them better. On most occasions, you’ll find something for every single kind of personality.”

This is amazing but very hard to do. It is truly unbelievable leadership and management in action. I’m not sure how he creates a genuine ‘family’ atmosphere. However, finding a role for every employee is a neat strengths-based management approach, and I strongly believe in it.

You’ve probably had employees who shined in certain roles and were mediocre in others. I was also one of those employees. I was great in certain tasks and roles, and in others, I was hardly average. I wasn’t happy about it obviously.

Your managers must know their strengths and the strengths of their people. Make your managers accountable for that. It will help them ensure excellent levels performance. You’ll get the best return on your resources and gain loyalty.

If you aren’t doing this, I can help you with the exact steps to train your managers.

I will talk about management training more in the next post, as I continue with the last part of my blog series on Sir Branson’s secrets to great management and leadership.

What do you think so far? Do you agree with Sir Branson’s secrets? What do you think makes a good leader? What ''secrets'' help you and your people in your job or your business?

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