The Perfect Boss: Dr. Axel Zein at TEDxStuttgart (Transcript)

By contrast leadership, ladies and gentlemen, is about serving others. So you see, we’re not educated to become managers. If you want to become an engineer, you go to school, you learn math and physics, you go to university, you get an engineering degree and you’re perfectly prepared to start your job, as an engineer.

If you want to become a manager, you can do the same things, but the day you’ll start your job you’ll realize you’re totally unprepared. There was no class on leadership. Nobody taught you how to create a high performance culture. And by the way what on Earth is that?

Nobody taught you how to pick the best person for the job. Remember, you have to set the team together. How to pick the right candidate? And nobody told you how to get rid, how to let go of the wrong people in your team. How to fire with decency. How do you give straight feedback without demolishing the other person, by actually helping the other person.

You realize the day you become a manager, you’re bound to fail.

So no wonder. 60% of American workers are not satisfied with their bosses. Now what happens when you start a job, and you’re not really prepared for the job? Say, we’re naming you director of a heard of camels, and the director of the camels will address the job to travel with the camels through the desert.

Now two possible reactions in a human being: One is, “Wow, what a cool thing!” And the other one is fear.

Now fear in a manager is a recipe for disaster. Because instead of seeing opportunities, you see threats. And you want to protect all that you have. Your ego tells you, protect everything you have achieved. So you start kissing up, kicking down, you don’t encourage others to grow, you remove every person out of your way that could be a potential threat.

Now isn’t that wonderful? It’s a nightmare. It’s a nightmare for your business, because in the long-term you’ll ruin it, and it’s an emotional nightmare for the people involved.

But fear in a manager, ladies and gentlemen, comes mostly from the fact that that person is not prepared for the job. That’s why he or she is afraid.

Now what do I advise you to do? I advise you learn as much as possible, learn as fast as possible before you become a manager.

Look at sports, look at team sports. This is a football team. Now for the American friends, when I see football what I mean is soccer. Extremely popular in Europe. These are the players on the field, right. They are the ones working. There’s a team manager, there’s a clear goal to win the game, and there’s a clear strategy on how to win the game. It’s the same in business.

Now every professional sports team has a high performance culture. What on Earth is a culture in business? It’s not taking your team to the opera. Culture in business is the way people behave in your organization. If your culture is based on innovation, most likely people in your organization will welcome fresh ideas.

Whatever why do they do that. So, here are the parallels to business. Everybody in a sports team knows, it’s about winning the game. The president knows it and the cleaner knows it.

Now I encourage you in your business go to the accountants’ team, and ask an accountant if they know it’s about winning against the competitors, if they know who the competitors are, and if that accountant knows that his work counts. That he is actually competing against the accountant in the competitor’s organization.

Or maybe your accountant thinks, “We aren’t competing, sales is competing, there are the ones out there.”

But that’s wrong. Because everybody in a company matters, and everybody is competing, whether you know it or not.

Now speaking of individual performance, what I love about sports is individual performance is highly visible. Anybody can see who the top players are out there, and anybody can see who doesn’t deliver.

What happens in business, we tend to put this veil over the performance issue. We act as if everybody delivers the same performance. It’s funny because people in a team know exactly who the top performers are and who the low performers are.

So when we’re paying everybody the same, what we’re actually doing, is we’re encouraging low performance. It’s not a high performance culture, it’s a low performance culture.

Now imagine, this kind of red T-shirt, Cristiano Ronaldo, the best football player in the world, imagine him having the same salary like somebody else from his team who mostly sits on the bench. In sports it’s not possible. Because anybody can see how good this guy is.

What I love about sports, is their obsession with training. You see, when they’re not competing, they’re training. Three, four, sometimes six times a week.

Now when was the last time you improved your business skills? And how often do you do it? Is it once a day, once a week, once a month, once a year, once every five years?

Ladies and gentlemen, in a business environment that is driven by change and uncertainty, training has to be an ongoing activity, and it has to be enforced by the managers.

Look, every sports team has a captain, the captain is the leader on the field. And the way they pick their captains, is they choose the best leader. Seldomly, the captain is the best player.

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By Pangambam S

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