Win allies, influence peers questions answered

Q: Recently our company had an outside consultant assess our organisation. One point that came up was that we are a "relationship-based company" versus a "data-driven decision company." The fact that our fairly new CEO now wants us to be less relationship-driven is good, but according to your article, it sounds like a pipe dream. Do you concur?

A: Even though your CEO wants to put numbers in the people, I am sure he understands that it is impossible to take the people out of the numbers. If it's true that your decision-makers do not let facts get in the way of their assessments, then tipping the balance toward data-driven decision making should be a welcome relief to customers, competitors and frontline employees.

Q: The CEO in your column dealt with the employee one-on-one. Is it more appropriate to deal with "problem" employees that way, or is it better to use the new managerial approach of chastising the entire unit--thus creating a negative attitude across the board?

A: Scolding an entire unit, rather than dealing with those accountable, is not a new managerial trend. Typically it's the desperate act of a leader acting out of fear because he doesn't know what to do. It is similar to a frustrated parent resorting to screaming at the children. Nobody learns anything, nothing changes, and everybody wants to move out (of the house or the company) just as soon as they can.

Q: Nice article, but sometimes these hints are not applicable in an international company, where you deal with different cultures.

A: Philosophers say that man is driven by two things: the need to be good and the need to be significant. The CIO in my example undermined the CEO in both respects. He challenged the company's strategic direction and the way the CEO was leading the organisation. If certain behavioral hints just don't work in your culture, then translate them, keeping the underlying drivers in mind.

Q: I never met my boss, who was in another state. Our communication was only by telephone and email for more than five years. A month after we finally met, I was fired on trumped-up charges of inaccurate data. The only thing I can put my finger on is that I'm a member of a racial minority, which the boss did not realise all that time. How do you change that? Later I discovered that image was everything with this person.

A: You don't change the boss. Make sure you learn what you can from the situation and move on. Find a professionally run company and meet your boss face-to-face. Last but not least, don't become jaded and lose your willingness to invest in building strong relationships.

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