How Tough Training Equates to Care

Posted on December 30, 2009

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A Commanding Officer in the army once said this: The best care a commander can provide for his soldiers is tough training. Only then can the soldier learn to fight for himself and survive another day in the battlefield. This may sound illogical at first, but if you’d ponder about it for a while, you may begin to find that it makes perfect sense. A leader can choose to pamper his troops, provide them with all the comfort, and make each training as easy as possible, but if this will only result in the soldiers loosing their professionalism and fighting spirit, causing them to be slaughtered by enemy forces in times of war, then wouldn’t it be reasonable to say that it was the leader who killed them?

This concept applies to non-military, workplace setting as well. In this article, we shall discuss how tough training can sometimes be the best care for our subordinates.

You may have encountered subordinates who choose to stay away from tasks they are uncomfortable with, say financial or human resource related assignments. It could even be ad-hoc tasks such as organizing the company’s social function. You may also have come across subordinates who are just unwilling to give their best in their work, yet have huge dreams. They would go on about how they would make it big one day, yet consistently produce sloppy work. You know that such subordinates with dreams or capabilities have the ability to go far, if just they’d take more action, right?

Often, they’d procrastinate at the thought of doing more work, or work they are uncomfortable with. As their superior, we are often in a position to relent to their protests or insist on our way. At this point, it may help if we consider what is truly good for them. Would giving in to their demands really help them? Perhaps it would, say in the case of them being too stretched out and need a break. However, if it is of your professional judgment that they would be able to handle, wouldn’t it benefit them to take up the assignment?

Apart from looking at the issue at the objective standpoint of getting the work done, we, as leaders, may also choose to assign jobs such that we allow our subordinates to strengthen their weakness and further refine their strengths. This may include stretching the laid back subordinate to do more than he believes possible, so as to make him more capable to handle his tasks, bringing him one step closer to his dreams. This may also include stretching the subordinate who lacks confidence to organise the company’s social function to do so, allowing him the opportunity to expand his resourcefulness, rendering him more competent as a subordinate manager.

It helps to remember that as their leader, we are responsible to groom our team members and bring out the best in them. Or subordinates may not enjoy it, but fulfilling the responsibility of stretching them appropriately would help them to grow, just as how tough training gives the soldiers the abilities to survive another day in the war front. From a team perspective, we as the team leaders are also responsible to develop the strengths of the team so as to achieve maximum teamwork and efficiency in the team.

I truly enjoy seeing my team members join the team as individuals who may not be the best at what they do but have a huge potential, and through the course of working in the team, develop this potential to bring out the best in themselves. For each of my subordinate, I would cautiously choose the tasks and responsibilities they take up so that I can allow them to develop their weaknesses and maximize their strengths, and when the time is right, accelerate their promotion. This, way, I can fulfill my commitment to my team members of developing them and at the same time create a dynamic team that functions at an ever growing capacity. Moreover, I always strive to prevent the day where a team member comes to me in regret of not giving his best and blames me for not stretching him as his leader from coming.

Leadership Lesson- While accomplishing our day-to-day objective, it helps to remember our implied responsibility as the leader of our team to develop each of our team members and bring out the best in them. It may take some persuasion against procrastination, but taking the right path as opposed to the easy will reap great rewards for your subordinate and the team.

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