“Do you assume that your employees are by and large creative, intelligent, and motivated? Or do you assume that they are lazy, conniving, and counting the minutes to quitting time? If you believe the latter, then you might as well just give up on creativity and innovation in your organization, because you will not get it. It’s better to believe the former and assume that people have good intentions unless they prove otherwise.”
The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz
This is an excerpt from the book “The Hard Thing About Hard Things” by Ben Horowitz. One may have recruited the best possible people but in the end only a leader’s belief drives the creativity and innovation in a team. Only a leader who believed that it’s team members are creative, intelligent and motivated can drive them on a path to innovation.
No one can “force” people to be creative or innovative. Creativity and Innovation are driven only by a leader’s belief in its team.
If you already believe the team members around you are lazy, lack the “common sense” or are there just to punch in the hours then no amount of money can motivate them to be creative.
What is the prerequisite for becoming a leader or a CEO ?
Many a times people answer from their imagination that the person needs to be selfish, ruthless, callous, conniving and manipulative.
Nothing can be farther from truth if you really look around at the great leaders / CEOs around you. Leaders who have built amazing businesses and delivered successfully are also the ones who have been able to build great teams. They were able to build great teams because smart people wanted to work with them.
Truly great leaders create an environment where the employee feels that the CEO cares more about the employees. Amazing things happen only in this kind of environment.
I am quoting another gem from Ben Horowitz‘s book “The Hard Thing About Hard Things” where he talks about who do smart people work for.
“Smart people do not work for people who do not have their interests in mind and in heart.”
Ben calls this “The Bill Campbell Attribute” after the legendary Bill who he considers the best at doing this.
And this is what differentiates leaders from wannabes.
Many people often confuse “activity” with being productive.Looking busy often gets accepted as being productive or working hard. Edmond Lau in his book “The Effective Engineer” has noted this by saying
“Not all work is created equal”.
Activities like writing status reports, organizing things, creating organizational systems, recording things multiple times, going to meetings, replying to low-priority communications only have a weak and indirect connection to creating value.
I have seen many a times that the productive time of – engineers atleast – gets lost due to meetings where they barely are even asked to utter one sentence or which are one way monologues, the essence of which they could as well have gotten over an email. Or when they have to share the same updates multiple times in different formats or on different systems. Or worse, running around, chasing different layers of management for approvals on mundane things.
All of these eat up their time and in the end they have a false sense of having a “productive day” while they barely generated any real value.
“Take care of the people, the products and the profits – in that order”
Things will always be harder than you expect but never let that impact the way you treat people who joined you in the journey. He shared an advice given to him by another legend Bill Campbell when he had to fire an executive –
“You can not let him keep his job but you absolutely can let him keep his respect.”
If you have not read “Measure what matters” by the legendary John Doerr then read it today. For me the single biggest learning from it is simple – focus.
He says it out loud and very clear – “We must realize—and act on the realization—that if we try to focus on everything, we focus on nothing.” Most often entrepreneurs try to chase too many shining opportunities, all at the same time, only to realise they fell short of resources or simply their own bandwidth.
I admire InVision in this regard which has been razor focussed on their product and users. It has proven SaaS is the way to go for all imaginable type of softwares.
Yes, most often you will need to recruit people to build a team but these two are not the same thing. You can’t build a team simply by hiring people – even putting together a bunch of ‘smart’ people does not guarantee you a team. This is what defines leaders – they know how to build teams, which are not simply a sum total of individuals.
They are able to build teams which have a multiplier effect for each team member, teams which are much more effective and efficient working together, teams which loves to work together setting aside all personal differences.
If we remove the ability to have an emotional connect and being able to form meaningful bonds then we can as well hire AI bots to lead us, don’t really need a human leader. At the end I believe AI is going to make us more human by forcing us to focus on traits which define us as a human, something which no AI can manage (yet). #AI#Leadership
There is another old article from HBR which touches upon the subject of having robots as managers. It kinds of explores the subject with both pros and cons of having a robot as a manager.
In the end it simply depends on people – there are those who have seen abusive managers and leaders and are ready to give bots a chance to manage assuming it will still be better than what they have faced already while there are those who had an opportunity to work with really good humans as their managers and leaders who will never accept AI bots as their managers. Maybe, a time will come when everybody will have to make a choice between the two.