We talk a lot about caring for those who you’re in charge of. You have the responsibility to care for those who follow you. Much of our discussion surrounds your role as a leader to mentor and support your team members. But we must not forget that in business, you too have a responsibility to the business whom you work for. How you balance your responsibility versus your loyalty to your team is a very tricky and touchy topic.
I’ve sat through many seminars talking about how leaders should care for the well-being of their team members. I’ve also read many books, articles and researches on the benefits of caring for the individuals who follow you. Doing so improves emotional and physical health to your team members. In addition, it produces better productivity and moral. All of which are true.
There are also plenty of books and articles on how to get the most out of your team. Plenty of information are available on best business practices and how to maximize you profits. What I find to be lacking is the discussion on balancing the responsibility to the business versus loyalty to the team from a leader’s perspective. This particular topic is one that I find many leaders struggle with, particularly new leaders. How do you best take care of your team while still pushing for business needs? Sometimes the two needs conflicts with each other and leaders are caught smack dab in the middle.
Seasoned leaders encounter this on a regular basis. New leaders, don’t worry, you will faced with this sort of situation too soon enough, if you haven’t already. Balancing employee satisfaction versus business demands are no joke. Sometimes things work out and there are good compromises for everyone. Other times, you just have to make the difficult decisions and sacrifices must be made.
This balancing act which must be done regularly is something I think more of an art than a science. There isn’t a formula that you can use to determine who gets what when and who must sacrifice under what circumstance. Wouldn’t that be nice? Unfortunately, leadership isn’t like that. Don’t get me wrong there are plenty of mathematical formulas that we can use to help us do our job as leaders. But no such thing exists for this case. My advice to help in dealing with balancing responsibility to the business versus loyalty to the team is to follow the CHIE leadership philosophy. You can read more about CHIE here. But here is how I would break down CHIE in this case of balancing act.
- Consistency – When things just works out for so that everyone gets what they need, everyone is happy. But when the business demands conflicts with individual needs, you must step in as a leader to make the difficult decision. It is an unpleasant situation to be in, but that’s why you are who you are, a leader. To put yourself in the best possible position to come out with amicable solutions, you must be consistent in your leadership role. Show your team that you will consistently take care of their needs whenever possible. When your team understands that you genuinely care for them and that you will make sacrifices for them, the will reciprocate with empathy, when you have to make the difficult decision. A decision which they must sacrifice personal needs and preference for the betterment of the business.
- Honesty – Making difficult decision is “difficult”. The best thing you can do as a leader is to be honest. Be honest with yourself on the limitations you have. Make sure you’re honest with the business on the capabilities you and your team are able to deliver. And absolutely be honest with your team with the decision you make and the circumstances you have to make them in. You’re already in a difficult situation as is. Don’t pile it on by coming up with stories to put yourself in a better light, or to ease the blow to the individuals who must make sacrifices. If your story are untrue and reality is revealed, you lose all credibility. Once you lose your credibility, you lose your ability to be an effective leader.
- Integrity – As you’re balancing the business demands versus employee needs, you must not forget your personal integrity on the line. You must do what’s best for the business and your team. Placing your personal needs, such as personal performance, above your team and your organization must be avoided. We all want to succeed and we want to perform well. But our integrity must come before that. Take care of your business and your team. Your success will naturally follow.
- Empathy – We briefly touched on empathy earlier when discussion honesty. But practicing empathy will allow you to come out ahead in these sorts of situations. When you show others empathy and you care for their individual well-being wherever you can, they will do the same for you. Caring for your team members when it really matters to them, they will show you empathy when it matters to you. When you have make the difficult decision to put the business needs before your employees, they will remember all the other times you took care of them. The times when they truly need it. They will be more willing to support you in the difficult decision you had to make, even when it comes to a loss to them personally.
Balancing business demands versus employee needs is difficult. But ultimately, you have a legal and contractual obligation to the business which you must uphold. That doesn’t mean business must demands must win out each and every time. Make the decision to care for your team members whenever you can. When it comes time for you to make the difficult decision for the business, this decision will come more natural. Empathy from your team will be shown and you all will come out successful together.
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Denny Nguyen, a veteran IT leader and experienced operational manager with 15+ years working in the software and software related service industry. Currently, Denny oversees global operations of LogiGear including IT infrastructure and services, and facility worldwide and marketing and business development for the APAC region.
Started out as a test engineer, Denny has excelled his career into project management, IT management, account management, customer relation management, and marketing and sales management. In 2004, when LogiGear began to establish its present in Vietnam with two Software Testing & Research centers in Saigon and the third center in 2009 in Danang, Denny was instrumental and the key leader who was chartered to build out the entire foundation and infrastructure for LogiGear to grow for the next twenty years.