Henry Lee, managing director of Culture Forte, shares tips on rallying teams and being their champion amid disruption

Experienced business leaders and managers have one thing in common – they have been through crises and disruptions, and have lived to tell the tale.

While surviving a crisis is indeed a relief, how have they stepped up as leaders? And how will they be prepared come the next crisis?

That’s what Henry Lee, Managing Director and Executive Coach at Culture Forte, aims to help them do.

He co-founded Culture Forte, then known as Glides Consulting Partners, in 2012. Since then, he has coached numerous employers on how to improve their leadership skills. 

On top of his experience as a leadership coach, Lee has a long track record working for Microsoft. 

He joined Microsoft in 1995, working different roles from Director of Midmarket Sales in Singapore. to Business Manager in Beijing, China, as well as regional head for Customer Services.

Lee deep dives into how leaders should rise above challenges, at Greater’s launch, at Increasing your leadership value during disruptions.

Great leaders elevate their teams

Leadership expert and author John Maxwell once stated that success is about “me,” but significance is all about others.

“The quote sums up what an exemplary leader should be – to be more than just a manager of staff, but someone who can impact lives”, says Lee.

But crises are also a chance for leaders to prove themselves. Great leaders have mobilised their teams during the pandemic, a black swan event that no one could predict.

“The weathering of such an unprecedented crisis shows that human beings are resilient even in the most unpredictable times, ” he adds.

Here are some ways leaders can tap into their teams’ inner resilience, according to Lee.

The 10-80-10

The 10-80-10 rule breaks down the three ways employees respond to crises – 10 percent of your team will be in panic mode, while 80 percent will be ‘stunned’ and do nothing.

The remaining 10 percent will take control of the crisis. They remain calm, and start coming up with solutions to the problem.

An effective leader in a crisis is made up of three parts, describes Lee.

“The first part galvanises the 80 percent, while the second part involves delegating tasks. The third, and possibly the most challenging part, is creating a sense of purpose, and making employees “feel good about what they do”.

“It doesn’t have to be the manager who’s doing the motivating. It could be a de facto leader, or someone who is looked up to in the organisation,” says Lee.

But how does one rally the 80 percent to begin with?

It helps to create a clear vision, and tell a story that people can associate and identify with. “Make sure your teams are included in the vision. Make them feel the impact, and they will move with you,” he says.

Avoid the blame game and recognise your team for their efforts

Below the line narratives and language do nothing to calm heated arguments and clashing egos. Sunderland Coaching explains the below-the-line concept succinctly below:

“Below the line behaviours often indicate the presence of victimhood mentality or failure to take personal responsibility. When someone operates from below the line they view life through the lens of a victim, always being at the affect of life and interpreting it through a “to me” lens.” 

While it is only human for us to take cheap shots or be sarcastic from time to time, the key is to minimise it as much as possible.

It is counterproductive, and does nothing to defuse tense situations. “Nothing happens when you are stuck below the line,” he adds.

Instead, Lee encourages leaders to “see it, own it, solve it and do it”.

Seeing it is acknowledging the problem, owning it means taking ownership of the problem, solving it is asking what I can do to solve the situation, and doing it is the execution of the solution, says Lee.

“It’s all about learning fast, acknowledging it and moving on. You can spend all this time discussing the problem, but in reality, it is still there,” he says.

Recognising your team’s efforts or even helping them to rectify mistakes also goes a long way in engaging your employees.

“You don’t always have to recognise the result. You can recognise hard work, innovation and risk-taking,” he says.

The makings of a successful leader

According to Lee, there are five values that competent leaders practice.

  1. Clarity

It pays to communicate with team members how their jobs impact results. Lee suggests asking your staff point blank on what your company’s goals are for the year. “And if they don’t know, it’s your fault for not communicating it well,” he adds.

  1. Agility

Don’t let bureaucratic processes hinder your company’s progress. “I’m not saying it’s a complete free-for-all, but look at your processes to see if which one is still valid, or which one’s use-by date is up,” he says.

  1. Visibility

Communicate on a regular basis on where the company is headed and what targets there are. “Do it frequently. Without frequency, you cannot build trust,” he adds.

  1. Accountability

Ensure you delegate well with realistic goals and timeframes. But don’t forget to look at your teams’ capability and capacity so they are able to take on work realistically, says Lee.

  1. Empathy

Putting yourself in your team members’ shoes is the most important out of the five. Great leaders need to look at themselves through the lens of those around them. “If you don’t know how they are feeling, just ask,” he says.

Don’t underestimate the importance of workplace culture

Renowned management consultant Peter Drucker once said that culture eats strategy for breakfast.

Drucker doesn’t mean that strategy trumps culture – in fact, he believes culture boosts a company’s chance of success.

But many corporations don’t prioritise creating a positive work culture. According to a 2014 survey of 40,000 respondents by Partners in Leadership, about 74 percent spent more time formulating business strategy, while building workplace culture lagged behind. 

Culture’s ethereal and intangible nature makes it hard for managers to pinpoint. “There are plenty of discussions, workshops and training on strategy. But they have never attended a course on how to shape culture,” he says.

A positive work culture gives your staff more reason to stay the course when the going gets tough, says Lee. “It is how you bring your people together,” he says.

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Being a great leader is a never-ending learning process. Greater offers insights and more for those seeking to become better managers and team leaders. Contact us for more information.