Realistic Perspectives

A concentration of material and thoughts focused around leadership, values, ethics, efficiency and effectiveness

Learning to let go

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Any leader would have felt the uncontrollable urge to micromanage at some point in their careers, for some this urge would border on the edge of being an addiction. Reasons given my many for micromanaging range from the subordinate not being ready to be delegated work, having an “I can get it done faster and better” mentality and even not trusting your direct reports.

However, we must all face the bitter truth about micromanaging at some point in time. Micromanaging drives good people away, demotivates people, makes them feel unappreciated, causes them to lose faith in themselves, makes it impossible to hold people responsible for their goals/objectives/job roles, causes you as a leader to be distracted and thereby unable to focus on your job and as a result is overall bad news for a company.

Let me paint a scenario for you, a Customer Service Representative named Sandy working at a service counter is faced with a customer complaint. Sandy is new but has been trained well on how to manage such a situation, however this is Sandy’s first time managing such a situation in real life. Sandy’s supervisor Tim who has a insatiable urge to micromanage feels that Sandy cannot handle this situation and even before there is an escalation from the customer, Tim asks Sandy to step aside and takes over the situation. You may think that Tim did the right thing and avoided a customer complaint from becoming a major issue. However, Sandy lost the opportunity to manage a real life customer complaint whilst Tim the supervisor was present and as a result lost confidence in herself. The next customer complaint Sandy receives is when Tim is on leave and predictably she was not able to effectively handle the complaint which caused an escalation up to the department head level since Tim was not around to diffuse the situation.

Of course there are situations where people may not be suitable to handle situations such as the aforementioned, the solution for this is not to step in and do their job for them but rather to ensure they are ready for the said situation through grooming them. One of the basic tools that can be used for this is the The Situational Leadership Model which was discussed in details in the blog post Review and summary : The One Minute Manager.

Grooming, enabling and trusting direct reports to do their job not only helps them feel a sense of satisfaction and pride in the work they do, but it also helps the manager to do what they are supposed to be doing (i.e. managing or leading) in a more effective manner without stressing themselves unnecessarily over a task they are accountable but not responsible for (there is a big difference between being accountable and responsible and this is explained quite well in the blog post Accountability vs. Responsibility?).


Written by Talal Cassim

April 12, 2017 at 11:34 pm

Running a business with idiots

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The Oracle of Omaha (otherwise known as Warren Buffett) famously said ‘Buy into a business that’s doing so well an idiot could run it, because sooner or later, one will”. Buffet is famous for his unique method of assessing businesses for their “investment worthiness” and one key factor he looks for is “durable competitive advantage”. Like it or not, policy, process and procedures greatly help to improve an organizations competitive advantage and I would go so far as to argue that they form the very foundation required to ensure the organizations survival in today’s intensely competitive business environment.

The reason policy, process and procedures are a must for any serious business boils down to the simple fact that human beings are not perfect and no matter how detailed oriented you may think you are, its only a matter of time before you make a mistake. This is especially true when the said task is repetitive in nature or is performed only once a year/quarter/year. Due to these very simple reasons, we can safely say that it is only a matter of time before any employee in any organization makes a mistake or does misses doing something they were supposed to do.

Now, this mistake may be so small and so insignificant that no one may even notice it. But what if the said mistake was one that caused your organization to lose a significant sum of money or a key customer? Or what if the company is at loss due to someones mistake, but you cannot find who made the mistake itself since there was no document specifying who is responsible for what? How about a scenario where the person who has all the knowledge on how to run your department or organization, just up and left tomorrow?

The fact of the matter is, if your organization does not believe in or has no commitment towards policy, process and procedure implementation and adherence, the aforementioned scenarios may already be happening in your organisation.

Based on my experience, people within organisations tend to show a general reluctance towards ensuring process implementation and excellence. This is primarily because policy, process and procedures helps reduce an organizations dependence on people thus making them feel uneasy about the security of their job.

However, there are many situations where someones who was perceived as the person  accountable for an error was exonerated because the process clearly indicated that it was not the said persons responsibility. This is because policy, process and procedures helps to take out ambiguity within departments and organisations whilst making people clearly accountable for their respective deliverables.

Show your colleagues the positive impact that policy, process and procedures can have on an organization and start small. First define the policy as it is the base for your process and procedure documents. Process documents generally define the high level tasks within your department and organization whilst specifying Service Level Agreements and these should be prepared based on the policy document. Finally, the procedure document should be developed so that it contains micro level details about the process and should serve as a reference point. Ideally process and procedures should be reviewed at least twice a year to ensure that they actually reflect the way things are done.

Written by Talal Cassim

November 23, 2016 at 8:09 pm

Applying for awards – the most optimal way to build your brand? 

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I’m sure there are many who would like to apply for that glittering award which has eluded their grasp for a while. In their minds, this award offers the promise of showcasing the capabilities of the department or organization that applied for it.

However, the time investment required to apply for an award is quite substantial and that is time that could be spent doing more important things. For example, when was the last instance that:

strategies and plans to achieve the said strategy was reviewed for effectiveness

KPI’s were reviewed for relevance and adjusted accordingly

a comprehensive review of policies and processes was done
departmental capacity and service level agreements were reviewed to improve the efficiency of the department

a plan was developed and implemented for the automation of non value adding tasks, development of standard work, optimization of job design and roles?

time was spent coaching and/or mentoring employees
There are those who may have all the information required to complete an application for an award in a jiffy. However, that still leaves the physical completion of the application by each sub department, the review of the application by each sub division head, applying the changes requested by the sub department head, the final review of the application by the department head etc etc etc before the application is, at long last, submitted.

Is all this effort really worth more than the time spent on making a department or organization more competitive?

Now one may argue that these awards do indeed make the organization competitive. One may say “but these awards improve our visibility and brand value in the market”.

Then we move on to topic of what we say of ourselves as a department or an organization when we do eventually get these awards. Being nominated for an award by an independent third-party or through an end customer review/survey is one thing but filling in an application to nominate yourself or your department, isn’t that just a tad pretentious?

In my humble view, if a department or an organization is doing a good job, it is only a matter of time before it will get recognized without them having to fill out the nomination form themselves and justifying why they deserve the said award. The end customer is the best judge of the good work done and they will tell you if you are doing a good job.

After all, results do speak louder than awards.

And even if no one recognizes the said department or organization and gives them an award for their effort, isn’t the satisfaction that you have done a stellar job good enough?

Written by Talal Cassim

November 3, 2016 at 6:00 pm


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Many agree that storytelling is one of the most effective leadership tools and indeed it is. It is one of the most authentic and personal ways in which to lead people since you are able to elicit buy in from the other person through using this method. In my experience, this methodology works best when the team you are leading is facing a problem or a crisis although there is nothing wrong with using this method in more general situations or in coaching or mentoring sessions.

However, the manner in which one uses storytelling in order to inspire followers is very important. The story used should be authentic and should relate to an experience from which you learnt a very valuable lesson. Trust me, people know when you are making stuff up so don’t even think of using a hypothetical story!

Secondly, the manner in which you relate the story is as important as the story itself. You should give plenty of finer details and connect your experience with the situation at hand. Also the setting for a good story is in a one to one setting rather than in a group environment. The manner in which you relate a story would differ from person to person (different strokes for different folks as the famous saying goes). This is because each persons educational, family and work backgrounds are different the story should be related in relation to these specific factors. Knowing a bit about the person who you are trying to inspire is an obvious must if this is to happen.

Finally, eliciting buy in from the person you are telling the story to is as important as the story itself. If the person does not buy into your story, they are not going to learn from it and you probably got one of the previously mentioned steps wrong. Happy storytelling!

Written by Talal Cassim

October 30, 2016 at 9:15 pm

Posted in Leadership

Leadership Movie Review : Here Comes the Boom – Inspire and be inspired

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Leaders often forget one of the most important aspect of leadership, and that is the ability to inspire others and be inspired themselves. The ability to inspire others is a trait that sets great leaders apart from average ones. Looking at some of the greatest leaders of our time Lincoln, Malcom X, Gandhi) we realize that one of the reasons they are so revered across the globe is because they were able to inspire human kind through their acts of valor and passion, but above all their ability to inspire themselves towards a cause or something that they firmly believed in to the extent that they would give themselves towards it.

“Here comes the boom” is a superb movie that conveys an important fact of life, that greatness and the ability to inspire can come from anything, anyone or anywhere. In the movie, a former college wrestler Scott Voss (Kevin James) is a 42-year-old apathetic biology teacher in a failing high school. 

Awarded teacher of the year a while back due to his passionate teaching style and dedication to his students, Scott is dis-heartened by the inefficient school system and various other factors. When cutbacks threaten to cancel the music program and lay off its teacher, Scott begins to raise money by moonlighting as a mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter.

Scott’s climb up the MMA ladder is tough due to his poor physical condition but he is inspired by the fact that Henry will be jobless in a matter of months, unless he can raise $42,000 and therefore fights in the MMA ring for the cause of saving his colleagues job. He also regains his passion for teaching as he is inspired by his students in Biology, an entrance song he selects for MMA fights and also his renewed passion for sport itself.

The ending? Best found out yourself… Enjoy 🙂


Written by Talal Cassim

January 20, 2013 at 9:03 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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JAL CEO – Exemplary Leadership, Redefined.

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Finally, a CEO who eats lunch in the cafeteria, along with his fellow co workers and works in a office space with no doors and partitions.

This world would be so much better if leaders did more of the “walking” and less of the “talking” (And spending).

Written by Talal Cassim

January 20, 2013 at 6:59 pm

Leadership movie review : We Were Soldiers

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Quite an old movie, but then again as someone once said “Old is gold”.

Based on the book ‘We Were Soldiers Once . . . And Young’ by Lt Col Harold G. Moore and Joseph L. Galloway about the first major battle in the Ia Drang Valley in 1965, the film is a gruesome depiction of the bloody engagement in which 400 American troops, under the leadership of Moore, took on 2000 North Vietnamese.

Before leaving for Vietnam, Moore delivers a touching speech to his unit: “Look around you, in the 7th Cavalry, we got a Captain from the Ukraine, another from Puerto Rico, we got Japanese, Chinese, Blacks, Hispanics, Cherokee Indian, Jews and Gentiles, all American. Now here in the States some men in this unit may experience discrimination because of race or creed, but for you and me now, all that is gone. We’re moving into the valley of the shadow of death, where you will watch the back of the man next to you, as he will watch yours, and you won’t care what color he is or by what name he calls God. Let us understand the situation; we’re going into battle against a tough and determined enemy. I can’t promise you that I will bring you all home alive, but this I swear: when we go into battle, I will be the first one to set foot on the field, and I will be the last to step off. And I will leave no one behind. Dead or alive, we will all come home together. So help me God.”

Watching this movie, one gets a incredible demonstration of the key factors that define a true leader. Leadership through example, praise and congratulations,motivation, equality, accountability and learning from the mistakes of ones predecessor are just a  few of the qualities that are displayed by Lieutenant Colonel Hal Moore while leading his troops in Vietnam.

An amazing movie full of emotion and soul, along with some tight leadership lessons.

Written by Talal Cassim

June 20, 2010 at 11:08 pm