Motivating all people the same way is the biggest error of people management.
We are living in the Renaissance of Work. Just like great artists know that an empty canvas can become anything, great leaders know that an entire organization — and the people inside it — can become anything, too.
Master Artists and Mastering the Art of Leadership draw from the same source: creation.
In this series, we’ll meet masters who are creating the future of work and painting a portrait of lasting leadership. As part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Raj Hayer.
Raj Hayer is CEO and founder of TinyBox Academy and co-founder of Mayfly Maven. An award-winning strategy expert (Global Executive MBA, GEMBA, BCom, PMP & MSA), Raj leverages over 30 years of experience in business management and leadership coaching. She is a professional speaker and moderator, hosting a TEDx talk and collaborating with businesses to assist with professional growth, cultivating networks and achieving sustainable business results.
Thank you for joining us. Our readers would enjoy discovering something interesting about you. What are you in the middle of right now that you’re excited about personally or professionally?
I am currently preparing to moderate another 3DEXCITE event for Dassault Systèmes, specifically for the 3D Lab in Munich.
I really enjoy moderating events. I’ll facilitate and guide the panel of industry leaders through the topic Industrial Virtual Worlds: Experience Simulation for Real World Impact.
Professionally speaking to these experts on stage with a great support team behind the event is a joy, as well as coaching individual leaders to embrace their social leadership to impact the world.
Personally, I just completed a 200-hour meditation course to increase the balance in my own life but to introduce retreat participants to the benefits of meditation.
This is a really important part of my life that helps to keep me balanced.
We all get by with a little help from our friends. Who is the leader that has influenced you the most, and how?
At a Canadian bank I was a project manager working on the Customer Experience team.
My leaders, Josie and Daniele, were the dream team.
Josie was warm, strong and super intelligent, a woman who embodied trust and integrity, but still somehow managed to make you feel included, like your ideas were valued.
Daniele was incredible at judging what a person needed to encourage autonomy and growth but also support as needed at the right time.
He always said, “If you succeed, then I succeeded as a leader and if I can do that and you still want to work for me again, then I win!”
These two people and the way they conducted themselves, influenced the way I lead today.
Sometimes our biggest mistakes lead to our biggest discoveries. What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made as a leader, and what did you discover as a result?
The biggest mistake I made was in 2011, when I was leading a project at a major bank that involved stakeholders across the board, regulations, legal, procurement, IT, corporate risk — it was a huge undertaking.
The day before we were due to launch, one of the key stakeholders said, “You can’t do it, I won’t approve it.”
And that was gob smacking.
I reflected on the statement and situation, and had a private conversation with him. We could do it, and it was achievable, he just felt he hadn’t been heard.
The lesson is that everyone just wants to be heard and valued, and if we can do that, we can achieve almost anything without conflict and to great success.
How has your definition of leadership changed or evolved over time? What does it mean to be a leader now?
Leadership in the 90’s when I started working, and even well into the 00’s, used to mean meeting goals and budgets and ensuring you “did your job” and ”got other people to do their jobs”.
I mean it sounds rudimentary, but that is as basic as it gets.
Now, we take for granted that the idea of empathetic leadership and leaders who inspire or motivate others is normal. It’s not.
That is what’s needed, but incentives still don’t keep up with the changing corporate cultural expectations.
Yes, be empathetic and be inspirational… but still meet your budgets and goals as the priority and this goes against the primary ethos.
I believe that if we change incentives to prioritise the characteristics we need for leadership then the revenue, budget, and goals take care of themselves.
Now, being a CEO and leader means understanding that and being your team’s advocate, their guide, their mentor, and still achieving the goals.
It is not an easy job, but that is why it takes a special person to be a truly effective leader.
Success is as often as much about what we stop as what we start. What is one legacy leadership behavior you stopped because you discovered it was no longer valuable or relevant?
When I set up my own companies I stopped having mandatory meetings that accomplish nothing but are a “top-down information sharing exercise”.
Everyone’s time is precious.
And there are more effective and productive ways to share information, and meetings should be focused on outcome and relationship building.
I stopped cc-ing people when I realised this was a “cover my butt” exercise and was unnecessary if people trusted each other.
I stopped leading 1–2–1 discussions on growth and self-improvement and let the employee themselves create their own growth plan so they were more personally invested in their own goals.
What is one lasting leadership behavior you started or are cultivating because you believe it is valuable or relevant?
Caring about the success of the individual in all aspects of their life.
This is priceless and in my opinion, it should never go out of fashion.
Personal affects professional life, and professional affects personal life and if we don’t treat the person as a whole person then we cannot possibly get the best out of them.
Different people are motivated differently and need a different leadership support or behaviour to encourage them.
Learn to know them and do not treat everyone on the team the same way. They are not all the same person!
What advice would you offer to other leaders who are stuck in past playbooks and patterns and may be having a hard time letting go of what made them successful in the past?
My advice to other leaders is to continue to learn new methods, new tools, new concepts and new ideas and know when to pull in the right method, with the right person, at the right time.
That is key, applying the right tool and perspective as needed.
We can only be effective at helping others proceed and succeed, if we are continuously learning and improving ourselves.
The minute we stop learning, the minute we become obsolete.
I will add that there are still a few effective methods from the past. For example, having a clear vision and communicating that vision with your team.
Effective communication can be underrated.
Many of our readers can relate to the challenge of leading people for the first time. What advice would you offer to new and emerging leaders?
Accept that just because you were good at the job (hence the promotion) does not mean you are good at leading others to do it.
Read books, talk to mentors and give everyone an equal chance.
You won’t have a choice of who works for you, but you have a choice as to whether you can help them succeed.
The main thing is that you don’t do the job yourself, i.e. accept that a task will not be done exactly as you wanted it done, but you have to accept the mistakes as a part of learning.
Do not strive to be perfect and do not expect your team to be. If you make them succeed and look good, you will look good.
Look in the mirror if something goes wrong. Look out the window and thank your team if something goes right.
And remember what it felt like when you had a great leader and a poor one.
Emulate the one you felt your best under.
Based on your experience or research, what are the top five traits effective leaders exemplify now? Please share a story or an example for each.
Top five leadership traits are:
- Inspirational vision, walking the talk.
Vision is just words until it is lived by those that wrote it.
Bank CEOs are not known for visionary leadership, but one in particular stood the test of time. Ed Clark at TD Canada Trust. The fact I still know his name speaks volumes.
This man walked the talk. He believed in customer experience and no, not just saying we value our customer at the front end.
But committing to the streamlining of processes in the backend with a simple statement barring regulatory or safety requirements: “Would the customer pay for this?”
He was the man who learned the name of his customers — his employees — so he could greet them by name when he visited the front line, the bank branches.
We all knew his name and we all knew what he believed in, and we believed in it too because we trusted him and knew he meant it.
2. Transparency/Empathy, to build trust treat human beings as such.
Transparency builds trust faster and more reliably than any other tool.
During the financial crisis there was a lot of turmoil and it would have been easy to stay behind locked doors and discuss the crisis and how to handle it in private. I mean after all what could bank employees do to help?
Our leaders held stand up meetings every single day, even if there was nothing new to share, they were there, transparent “we don’t know” and answered the questions they could when they could.
They understood we all had family and friends calling and asking us questions so they didn’t leave us in the lurch. They gave us any information they could, so we felt we were part of the company and the team.
3. Integrative thinking, through continuous learning and diversity.
Diversity is the secret sauce of innovation.
One manager was continually upskilling, training and taking courses.
He knew technology was rapidly advancing and wanted to ensure he, and thereby our team, had access to new tools, new methods, new ideas that could help us achieve success.
Not arbitrary changes or processes, applied haphazardly but rather teaching us to apply the right tool to the right job.
He introduced and shared Six Sigma with me, reducing processes that were not needed, aligning them to the bottlenecks and then finding solutions based on data.
4. Managing ego, let others talk and lead.
All hands meetings that were really just one person “dictating” are a complete waste of time.
Every all hands meeting is really an opportunity for the one hand (the leader) to hold court for over two hours with the employees towing the line.
My VP held a stand up meeting every Tuesday morning, 10 people crammed into his office, sitting, standing, it didn’t matter.
“Okay what are you working on and what do you need help with?” Little did I know this was a version of a Mastermind concept, collective thinking.
Instead of leading the conversation he handed over the floor.
We described what we were doing and maybe a barrier we had encountered or a question we had and this process allowed us the ability to cross pollinate ideas.
Through this simple process, two of us realised if we built the platform together we would save 1.5 million dollars and have one key resource for the branch managers to use, thereby likely increasing usage.
It’s possible that he wanted us to come to the conclusion he had already arrived at, but he enabled us to self-discover and solve the problem as a team. It worked.
And perhaps more importantly, this method increased my confidence and self-belief.
5. Delegation, and leaving the door open to ask questions.
Motivating all people the same way is the biggest error of people management.
An introvert does not like being interrupted during work, an extrovert gets energy from and thrives on human interaction.
Open office is my worst nightmare, as I am someone who likes to think and work in isolation when trying to deliver, or accomplish a goal.
I need autonomy to work effectively and be creative.
Give me the goal and let me figure out how to get there. If I am stuck then let me come to you with my questions..
Only one of my past managers ever truly understood that I needed to be constantly learning, to work autonomously and needed access to guidance.
I needed to be accountable for my own work and be trusted to complete it.
This was how I pioneered the first national Mystery Shop program that impacted our product development, our branch processes, and more.
For my work, I was presented with the TD Bank “League of Excellence” award where I was flown to San Francisco for an awards weekend.
American Basketball Coach John Wooden said, “Make each day your masterpiece.” How do you embody that quote? We welcome a story or example.
I embody the ‘circle of influence’ and remind myself that the only thing we can influence is ourselves and our reactions.
If we are our best selves no matter what life throws at us then we are making each day our masterpiece, staying true to ourselves.
The circle of influence along with meditation taught me to make each day a masterpiece of balance and contentment.
Sure, crappy things happen and not every day is perfect — we can get interrupted or someone can be rude or gossip uncontrollably — but with some perspective and peace you can shake it off and still give it your best.
What is the legacy you aspire to leave as a leader?
The legacy I aspire to leave is that I helped others achieve success and that will define my feeling of accomplishment.
If you succeed, I succeed.
If I influenced or inspired your decision to take the first steps towards making a happy and fulfilling life for yourself, then that is a legacy I can stand behind.
Someone once told me that it was my advice that made them seek out their true passion and quit their job and they have felt so purpose-driven from that point forward. How amazing is that?
I mean, really! I’ll take that.
How can our readers connect with you to continue the conversation?
Best way is to connect on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/rajhayer/
Thank you for giving us the opportunity to experience a leadership master at work. We wish you continued success and good health!