Sunday, 12 May 2013

Between the Head and the Heart: A Manager's Dilemma

What works? The head or the heart?

Who to follow? The head or my heart? Head insists I follow it. Heart smiles shrugging its non-existent shoulders & says, "of course, go ahead."

They have always been at loggerheads. Head insists that one should follow it to save the heart from trouble and often we do. However, the result is not always fool-proof.

The debate of head vs heart is endless. In both personal and professional lives it continues relentlessly like the eternal 'chicken or egg' question.

People management is difficult because it involves balancing customer satisfaction and aspiration management. Your team is your customer and even if there is no 360 degree appraisal you still need a happy and satisfied team to get work done.

Your first priority should be to build trust.

No human can be slotted into a type and therefore, there is no knowing what and how a team member will respond to at any given time. There are countless examples where people when treated with respect and compassion have turned around and faced their manager with a sneer because they feel they are being patronized. Then there are times when there is no other way than to push and shove to get work done. Many  do their best when facing an irreversible deadline hanging over their head like the sword of Damocles and the manager breathing fire down their neck. The adrenaline rush they say is mind blowing!

So, what works? Head or heart? I'd say both but, please go with the gut feeling because there is no accounting for human behavior. It is of utmost importance however, to have a plot. A manager without a strategy is a lost cause.

Another thing that is very important is to have is answers - even if they are spur-of-the-moment pop solutions. Just try and give it. Don't worry you can always go back and change it later. Under no circumstances can you look at the team and say, "Ummm... I'm yet to plan this out..."

When growing I heard a quote that was often repeated, "respect is commanded. It cannot be demanded."

I totally agree. Just being the elder sibling is not enough, you need to be able to lead by example. It is the same in a team. If the manager is not hands-on or quick with solutions, if the door to his/her cabin is mostly closed, if the channel of communication is lopsided or non-existent the team will drift. Of course, shouting, belittling and passing the buck is a complete turn-off.

Leadership is not possible without being a part of the team. If the manager is aloof and keeps a distance trust will also stay away. A manager who does not share happy and sad moments with the team will never get voluntary support in times of crisis.

Taking interest in the aims and aspirations of the team members will win unshakable goodwill. But, having said that I'm also not saying that you fall over backwards to please. Not at all. Just be there when you need to be. A weekly lunch session, a once-in-a-while meeting in a cafe, an interest in the growth path/plan of the team member on a slow day will go a long way in cementing relationships.

Do something unexpected. Even random impromptu discussions on latest trends in clothes or weather goes a long way in having a humanizing effect on your otherwise stern personality and workaholic demeanor. It will help you forge a bond. That you are human will also go a long way in your team members writing-off your sometimes errors in judgement. But, ensure that the kindness is returned by you.

Another very important time when you need to follow your heart is while deciding when to become the shield for your team. They expect it but are never sure if it will come and that is the way it should be too. They cannot take your support for granted but, they should know that if they are in the right then, you will stand up for them. Remember, if they fail then you fail. It was your plan they were following after all.

...And as I type this post, the head scratches it's crown, looks down at the heart and nods - sagely.


  1. I love the saying regarding the three gates! Interesting points on the head/heart dilemma. I think great managers somehow bring the head and heart into unity, caring about the team deeply, but also having deep commitment to business success.

    1. Thanks Bryan for pointing out that the image I had used originally was not going with the posting and I have changed it.
      You are of course right that the head and the heart working together can make good decisions and that is the way it should be.
      Here what I said was that often we lock our heart away and use only the head since there is a huge amount of responsibility on a leader but, without the heart it does not really work...


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