Be the GPS for your team

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Today we live in the world of technology, our lives are moving into the era of technology everywhere and the “internet of everything”.

Sam Hlabati

In the ancient days, when travellers wanted to get to know their directions, they would ask the next person they saw.

These days one can get into a place for the first time and still manage to get to their destination without asking for help from a single soul, thanks to the navigation systems that are found on every smartphone worth its name.

These devices use the Global Positioning System (GPS), which is a space-based satellite navigation system that provides location and time information in all weather conditions, anywhere on or near the earth where there is an unobstructed line of sight to four or more GPS satellites.

The GPS project was developed in 1973 and put into orbit by the US Department of Defence to overcome the limitations of previous navigation systems. It was originally intended for military applications, but in the 1980s, the system was made available for civilian use.

GPS works in all-weather conditions, anywhere in the world, 24 hours a day.

There are no subscription fees or setup charges to use GPS, and the system provides critical capabilities to military, civil and commercial users around the world. The system is maintained by the United States government and is freely accessible to anyone with a GPS receiver.

In this instalment we will discuss how a leader could be more effective by taking a few lessons from the GPS system.

Navigation instruments have become key in aiding one to get to their destination successfully.

All that one needs to do is to enter the destination address and the GPS system will find the best route to get to the required point. It will calculate the distance that is to be travelled and will determine an Estimated Time of Arrival (ETA).

It does not matter where one is going — just key in the address, start driving, and you can rest easy knowing that you will reach your destination.

Leaders can learn a few lessons from the GPS related to leadership in their duty to guide employees navigate through an organisational goals successfully.

Success in your organisation will begin to come to fruition when the leadership explains the desired future goal in the journey to sustainability of the business; this is just like keying in the correct desired address on the GPS system. The team will know what they are supposed to aim for once the leader articulates the vision to all.

Good leaders will always map the route to success and examine each employee’s goals, strengths, and skills sets to help them achieve success in a way that is beneficial to both the employee and the organisation.

The GPS unit will calculate the most appropriate route to take; it will never take you to Kenya on your way from Zimbabwe to Namibia. Whether as the GPS user you are looking for the quickest route or the most cost effective route, the navigation technology will come in.

It is true that mistakes happen in the execution of the business strategy.

It is the leader’s role to ensure everyone is brought back on track. I remember missing an off-ramp when driving in Gauteng; the calm and collected voice over my GPS gadget just said, “You have missed your exit, recalculating, in five kilometres take the N 1 exit”.

The role of the leader is to recalibrate the whole project and find the best and shortest way to return to the required path to success.

One of the reasons the direction towards the desired business goal is at time lost is because the leadership took their eyes off the ball. Like in the instance when I got to miss my exit to an off-ramp, I had been absorbed with the scenery along the route, yet the navigation gadget remained focused.

I remember that I had to take some detours on the free-way because of road works; yet the system managed to “recalculate” the route and brought me back on track.

The same could happen to your team, they could enjoy the “scenery” on the business journey to success; thus being engrossed in attractive quick wins, then lose focus of the bigger goal. The role of the leader would be that of staying focused on the journey. Regardless of blocked roads, obstacles, traffic and diversions a leader should continue to focus on finding a way of reaching the strategic goal – the required success.

Focus on the vision and the strategic goal is critical despite short-term tactical difficulties.

The focus that the GPS has comes with requisite flexibility on how to get to the actual destination.

The gadget is not uncompromisingly committed to a single way of reaching the destination; it is quite contented to find a different way when necessary.

Imagine my missing the off-ramp, the GPS did not instruct me to apply the brakes, flick on the hazard lights, reverse the vehicle and then take the required off-ramp exit.

The programmers of the software realise that such immediate correction could be disastrous in the form of an accident, so they built in the “recalculate” capacity.
A leader should realise that hamstringing the business process to correct an anomaly could result in further disasters down the line.

Rather be like the gadget that realises mistakes happen and should be corrected sooner; in the most appropriate way possible.

As helpful as GPS units are, they will never micromanage the road trip. The driver can stop for a coffee and refuelling along the way or take detours into places along the way.

GPS units are not all-knowing and the driver still has to make decisions along the way; such as driving according to the road conditions. It will be the driver’s decision to stop at traffic lights, intersections and slow down at speed humps.

As a good leader, one has to trust the team to get the job done by allowing them the flexibility to decide on the appropriate steps along the way.
Leaders are known to throw tantrums when things fall apart, yet the GPS system will stay calm without raising the pitch of its voice feedback when the driver goes off the required route.
A good leader should always have the emotional intelligence to remain calm and reassuring with the team even when they get things wrong or faze problems.

One of the key pieces of advice that every leadership guru worth their salt would always say is that communication is key. It is always about communication, communication, communication, there can never be enough communication.

As you drive, the GPS will keep reminding you of the progress you have made and the milestones ahead such as the next off-ramp exit. A great leader continually communicates with the team to emphasise the importance of reaching the goal, what the next steps are and how each can play their role in getting there.

To keep in line with the best of what is happening, the GPS software is continually updated; as a good leader you must continuously update and learn new skills so you can lead your team successfully.

Nothing hampers progress more than a leader who refuses to learn.
There are many skills that a leader should have, however staying focused on the goal, being calm, being flexible and communicating well are unequivocally essential. Are you going to be the GPS in your business that will take your team to the success destination?

Sam Hlabati is a Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR®), a Certified Compensation Professional (CCP®) and a Global Remuneration Professional (GRP®). E-mail samhlabati@gmail.com; twitter handle; @samhlabati

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