Available at: www.kzr.co

Available at: www.kzr.co

Available at: www.kzr.co

Available at: www.kzr.co

Tie your camel PDF Print

Kamran Rizvi, Navitus
September, 2013

Begin with trust. Trust becomes a weakness when you are blinded by it. Tie your camel and then trust in God. You need to have supervision, but this has to be done with the intent to support and guide and not to control and manipulate.

Change begins with self. The sooner we learn this, the wiser we’ll be. We have enough examples before us to know how our attempts to change others backfire on us! 

It is important to avoid the mistake most leaders make, that of trying to change others. History shows us that we are not good at learning from history. However, I am sure you will have the good sense to steer away from this pitfall. I can hear some of you asking, “How can I not change others? It is my job as a leader to bring change in my organization and for this I have to change the way people behave!!” In my view, it is this kind of fallacious thinking that causes resistance and consequently, poor performance. Change initiatives fail because of such paradigms that ‘push’ the change agenda.

Trust is the soul of any successful enterprise. Confidence we have in each other produces efficiencies in our systems and processes. Trust creates an environment in which information flows freely and where everyone feels connected. It is your personal responsibility to create such a climate to get the best out of people.

You know how the poison of cynicism, doubts and fears slow down decision-making, grinding your organization to near halt. De-toxify your environment by establishing open relationships. This will not happen by you telling your constituents to have faith in you!! It simply doesn’t work that way. There is more to confidence building than meets the eye. A sure way to alienate yourself from your stakeholders is to attempt to change them. No one likes to be ‘fixed’.

People learn, change and grow, but only when they feel safe to do so and see the benefits clearly. Your proposition must make sense to your audience. Like you, others also change out of their own free will. All you and I can do to bring about positive change in behaviors is to create the very conditions in which people feel inclined in their hearts and minds to think and act differently. Trying to convince others with the force of your logic alone is futile. As a trainer and consultant I have become acutely aware of this.

The good news is that everyone is governed by self-interest, whether material or spiritual or both. Our instinct for self-preservation kicks in when we feel threatened in anyway. This nature is so strong in us that we will resort to any means to protect ourselves when faced with a threat. A heightened sense of desperation can lead most of us to lie, cheat or deceive. Just look at the amount of bottom – up misreporting that goes on. Only when you are willing to listen to the bad news calmly and constructively, will you find unvarnished facts flowing to you. Turtles stick their necks out when they feel safe.

Unfortunately, most business leaders ignore this fact at their own peril. A senior banker, who had joined a large bank a decade ago, shared with me his major frustration, “Facts and figures are slickly presented to me by my managers, but it is hard for me to decipher ‘assets’ from ‘losses’!” He was presiding over a quick-sand of numbers. What an awful situation to be in, particularly if you have created it yourself. It’s easy to blame others for the situation you find yourself in. Leading by fear and lack of transparency is a sure recipe for rumor-mongering and distortions. How can anyone perform at his/her best when care and trust are missing?

Begin with trust. Trust becomes a weakness when you are blinded by it. Tie your camel and then trust in God. You need to have supervision, but this has to be done with the intent to support and guide and not to control and manipulate. Intent is everything when it comes to trust building. Creating more layers of supervision to monitor behaviors and performance only makes things worse.

I recall an owner of a large local company employing over three thousand people telling me with pride about how he kept his fingers on the pulse. He had planted ‘snoops’ in all the key departments at the head office and at the factory. They would come to him every month in secret and share details of the grapevine; which person was saying and doing what. In return they would receive an envelope containing sizeable amounts of cash!

Another thing corporate leaders like you cannot afford to do is to entertain sycophants. Learn to recognize ‘yes’ people surrounding you. They can be very charming and apparently helpful. If they speak ill of others behind their backs, be warned – it’s a red flag! By relying on doctored and filtered information through such channels, you will gradually loose sense of reality and will also erode your credibility. Your employees will lose confidence in you. In fact they will fear your decisions, since they will perceive them to be based mostly on half-truths or bias.  

Many owners of large local companies and top managers in multinationals often fall into the lull of old loyalties, without realizing the harm it could be doing to their business. Meritocracy suffers and they lose professional talent.

There is no substitute to having direct knowledge of what people are doing and thinking. Get involved. Managing by wandering around (MBWA) is one of the ways by which to become more visible and well-informed. It allows you to stay connected, while not bypassing your managers.

Sycophants have a tendency to play on your fears. By changing yourself, you will free yourself from their hold on you and you will see your situation and challenges more clearly.

There is an old saying that ‘trust has to be earned’. This may be so. However, I recently gained a refreshing insight from a CEO of a leading multinational operating in Pakistan. He said, “You can only lose trust. Therefore, begin all relationships in the spirit of trust and let time reveal if your trust was well-placed or not.”

The biggest challenge facing corporate leaders today is how to let go, while remaining in touch with what goes on in the business on a day-to-day basis. You cannot abdicate from your responsibilities and yet, you are expected to delegate and empower your people. Set clearly defined boundaries and expectations in which your people can operate decisively in their respective spheres of influence.

By being transparent, fair and consistent in all your dealings, you will lead more effectively.

You have to become the change you want to see in people around you. Begin by learning to trust others, but with open eyes.


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No matter how big your organization gets, continue to empower your people at every level to deliver. Only this way will size lead to advantage.

It is always useful to explore the history of any company to understand how they got to being what they are today. Corporate success usually follows some combination of visionary entrepreneurship and luck. When companies acquire early successes and achieve a dominant position in some market or markets they become profitable and usually follow a steep growth trajectory in their early years.


With the passage of time, however, pressures on managers come mostly from inside the firm. Building and staffing a bureaucracy that can cope with growth is the biggest challenge. External constituencies are neglected. The firm needs, hires, and promotes managers, not leaders, to cope with the growing bureaucracy. Top managers allow these people, not leaders, to become executives. Sometimes top management actively prevents leaders from becoming senior executives. Managers begin to believe that they are the best and that idiosyncratic traditions are superior. They tend to become increasingly arrogant and aloof. The problem is compounded when top management does nothing to stop this trend and often ends up exacerbating it.


A strong, insular and conceited culture develops. Managers fail to acknowledge the value of customers and other key stakeholders. They behave in an inward-looking, sometimes political fashion and fail to acknowledge the value of leadership and the talent available at all levels that can provide it. They tend to stifle initiative and innovation. They behave in centralized and authoritative ways.


Consequently, as organizations grow, whether in terms of sales, number of employees, range of products and services, market share, or whatever, they start to lose the advantage they once had. According to John Naisbitt in the book Rethinking the Future “it is the small companies who are creating the global economy, not the Fortune 500. And these days a small company can be as small as one person.” In his book, Megatrends 2000 he gave the example of his neighbors Linde and Lito who have a publishing company called Western Eye Press. He continues, “It’s just two people and they publish wonderful photographic and guide books. They create them on Macintosh computers in their basement in Telluride. They printout the camera-ready pages on their own high resolution laser printer. Then they FedEx’ed these pages to Seoul, South Korea, and the printer there manufactures their books and ships them to distributors all over the world. Western Eye Press is a key player in the global economy and its just two people on this little mountain perch in Colorado.”
Large corporations and global conglomerates, if not careful, end up becoming highly bureaucratic, over-managed, rule-driven and inflexible by virtue of their size. In this day and age of cyberspace and nanotechnology, fetish with size of a business can become an impediment. This is particularly true for organizations that have grown significantly in scale in terms of revenues and market share. Organizations like Citibank have lost touch with their core constituents. It  may be a major player with a strong brand image, but customers interacting with its frontline employees are often disappointed by their state of helplessness in resolving routine problems. This could be on account of slavish adherence to archaic procedures. Often, individual contributors in big companies don’t take the initiative needed to listen and understand customer requirements with the intent to ultimately delighting them. There is a lot to be said for systems and processes, but if they are not customer oriented and responsive, the game is as good as lost.  
Quality can now be replicated anywhere in the world. China is leading the way in this respect. With the falling of trade barriers and dropping of quotas, the Chinese have taken their global market share in textiles from 16% to over 50% in less than a decade. In recent years, the Pakistan market has been flooded with Chinese products (mostly electronic, light engineering) that are low priced and in much demand.
We no longer live in a world of big mainframes. We live in a world where the real power is large networks – a lot of individuals connected together – Facebook & Twitter are pointing the way. A network does not have any headquarters. Chinese excel in this field and have spread their global business through this means. Naisbitt cites Asea Brown Boveri (ABB) as a great example of a huge company that thrives and grows through networking. He quotes Percy Barnevik (Former CEO at ABB) as having said, “We grow all the time, but we also shrink all the time.” As the network gets larger, the nodes get smaller. 
So, no matter how big your company gets, continue to excel by empowering your people at every level to deliver. Building agility and responsiveness is the key.