Care- The Fastest Way to Achieve Targets

Posted on December 23, 2009

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I was recently reminded of one of my proudest achievements in my leadership journey- achieving the set goals with caring for subordinates at the foundation.

All too often, leaders of all fields consider welfare for their subordinates as a “good to have”, a benefit that could be given when the targets are met and the goals achieved. Some even go to the extent of viewing welfare for subordinates as a trade-off with standards, that should too much benefits be given, standards will drop. With such limiting beliefs, it is no wonder that an effective and functional team sometimes seem elusive.

So, is it really possible to achieve standards and ensure welfare at the same time? Of course! First, let us differentiate between welfare and benefits. I view welfare as the basic care and support for each individual for their services to us as their leader and the larger organisation. They are entitled to no less. Benefits on the other hand, would be rewards that are granted to individuals for a job well done, and would be subjected to the performance of the individual.

As can be seen from the above definition, welfare is, in fact, a prerequisite for standards. In other words, welfare has to be present BEFORE our subordinates are willing to follow our leadership to produce standards. Another way to look at the matter is this: People do not willingly follow a leader due to threats or slave driving tactics. Only when they recognise that their leader understands their issues and problems and genuinely has their well being at heart will they follow this person.

By caring for subordinates and placing their well being before your mission, you will find that you are able to inspire them to go beyond their line of duty to contribute, hence increasing productivity. Moreover, they do so happily and of free will and this will only serve to foster teamwork when a group of motivated people come together, focused on a goal. This is especially true in the military. Military leaders will know that regardless of the level of regimentation, a soldier’s fear of death on a battlefield would far outweigh their fear of punishment by their superiors. As such, in order to convince them to risk leaving their loved ones and way of life and step onto the battlefield, a military leader would have to inspire dedication in his soldiers through showing that he understands their difficulty and cares for them.

So, how do we go about setting our subordinate’s welfare at the foundation? To start, remember to always think along the lines of “Are their working conditions ideal?” and ” How more can I aid them to achieve our goals?” Also do regularly take the time and effort to communicate with them to find out some of their concerns and difficulties. The key to this is to be proactive. It is easy to rest on our laurels and assume that no news is good news. However, it is often only after some effort and creativity on our part will we be able to come out with how to better their working environment.

Having said this, it would be wise to be very clear between welfare and benefits. After all, the last thing we want is to start dishing out benefits only to have our subordinates start taking them for granted. Remember that welfare addresses the basic needs of our subordinates and create a conducive environment for them to deliver their best. There’s also an element of solving their existing problem and improving their work life, and not making them happy so that they like you for the benefits you give.

A friend called Lionel who was a junior officer in the army once related this analogy to me: After a day of regimental duties in the rain, many of his troopers were wet and cold. Half an hour before the last parade for the day, a subordinate commander came to him to request to cancel the parade as the troopers all felt rather miserable after enduring the rain. After thinking about it for a while, Lieutenant Lionel decided that the parade should still go on, but he’d allow the troopers to turn up in garrison sandals, PT shirt and shorts.
How does this analogy relate to our topic at hand? First, by allowing his troopers to turn up in garrison sandals, PT shirt and shorts, Lieutenant Lionel shows that he recognises the soldiers had a hard time in the rain and that wearing wet clothes for a long time would result in hygiene issues such as foot rot and rashes. Hence, his actions address valid fundamental hygiene issues of the soldiers and allow them to stay fresh for another day of duties. By insisting on the last parade to be carried out shows that he still fulfills the higher intent of gathering everyone at the end of the day to ascertain that the strength is right and to disseminate information. After all, it would be poor repayment to his troops for enduring the rain if someone was injured by possible lightning but was not discovered as the manpower accounting process was not carried out. Canceling the last parade could also be seen as a benefit and could result in the troops taking that for granted every time there’s a downpour.

Ultimately, caring for our subordinates is our duty to them, just as their service to us and the organisation is their obligation. By providing them with the best care, we can ensure that they are inspired and have the best resources to contribute, resulting in our goals and targets being achieved. So maybe you can start now by communicating with your subordinates about their issues or doing something that would improve their work life?

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