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What leaders expect

business / Columnists
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ALL IN THE FAMILY

What leaders expect

/ 05:22 AM November 10, 2017

Family businesses can only work if both leaders and followers are on the same wavelength. I receive letters from company heads wondering how to attract and motivate employees, and I also hear from workers about bosses who play favorites and make their lives hell.

Let us look at what a seasoned boss has to say. Larry Bossidy, former chair and CEO of AlliedSignal and Honeywell, writes in Harvard Business Review what he expects subordinates to deliver, and what they can expect from him in return.

This week, we look at what employees are expected to accomplish.

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Get involved, collaborate

Because they fear getting blamed, workers often do not go beyond daily routines. If a crisis erupts, they distance themselves as much as possible. While this might work sometimes, it also reveals that they do not care enough to help the business succeed.

In the past, workers who prefer to work on their own—and hog all the credit—might do well in their silo, but in today’s sharing economy, collaboration is essential. Projects often require more than one set of skills.

In the academe, the buzzword is “interdisciplinary”. So too in business. Sales, marketing, finance, HR, IT are often at odds, but good businesses find ways to have them working smoothly.

This doesn’t mean that they never argue. They just need to discuss matters openly and come to decisions as a team, rather than sniping at each other or ignoring problems that might arise.

In the Asian context, group harmony is still prized in many family businesses—and young people with creative ideas often feel they are not taken seriously.

To avoid the three-generation curse, family businesses have to grow, and this cannot happen unless novel ideas are put on the table. Followers need to speak up and take responsibility for their ideas.

Develop your people, you

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These traits are best explained through a true story.

Nena, finance head in a family business where I was consultant, hired Maria, an older candidate, to help in accounting. Maria was not fluent in English, even if she was meticulous in accounting.

Nena hired an English tutor, and soon, Maria became indispensable to the department. Maria showed her gratitude by working extra hard to ensure that accounting tasks were finished on time.

Nena also took on harder roles, including HR tasks when the head left. With little background in HR, Nena took courses in labor relations twice a week.

Nena also asked for advice from the corporate lawyer to mentor her. When the company finally got an HR head, Nena became VP to oversee finance, accounting and HR.

Stay updated, stay the course

My husband Smith, a bank senior vice president, stays current not just with local economic news, but also world political events. He has an intelligent research director who manages a good team, but Smith makes sure he stays on top of things.

He and his team try their best to anticipate the market, and provide the best service for their customers. As a result, many of his customers ask for him personally (some have told me so) so he can help them make the best decisions.

In school, students hate teachers, however senior, whose lesson plans are outdated and who are reluctant to learn new things. In business, clients dislike executives, however high the rank, who have no time to stay current or who depend on their underlings for new initiatives.

Next week: What followers expect from leaders.

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TAGS: family businesses, Harvard Business Review, Larry Bossidy, leaders and followers, motivate employees
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