Overprotecting children in the family may ruin their leadership skills and willingness

Jonathan Low is a globally recognised leader in sales, service and leadership optimisation. With over 30 years of experience spanning five continents and numerous countries, he has empowered individuals and businesses to achieve remarkable results.

Low is a Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) and a Fellow of the Global Speakers Federation. He is also a Master Certified Coach (MCC) accredited by the International Coach Federation. His expertise extends beyond speaking and coaching, as evidenced by his book ‘Winning Clients’ Loyalty’, which equips readers with practical strategies for building strong customer relationships.

Low’s core focus lies in leadership development, sales performance, service quality, and team development. He believes that increased self-awareness is fundamental to both professional success and strong relationships. This philosophy permeates his work as he helps leaders enhance their effectiveness, equips teams with winning sales strategies, and guides organisations in creating exceptional customer experiences.

Recently, Low joined the Global Leader Group as a strategic partner to expand their presence in Asia. This leading consultancy firm empowers organisations and leaders to navigate the complexities of today’s dynamic business environment.

Low’s impressive credentials extend further. He served as the first Asian president of the Global Speakers Federation and is a member of the prestigious Marshall Goldsmith 100 Coaches community. Consistently ranked among the Global Guru Top 3 in Hospitality for the past eight years, Low is also actively involved with the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Malaysia Chapter.

The HRM Nepal caught up with Low for an interview. Excerpts:

Q. Could you share your experience of attending the HR Meet 2024?
A. I recently had the pleasure of meeting with HR leaders in Nepal. We had some insightful discussions and exchanged perspectives on the current state of the HR landscape in the country. While there are certainly challenges, it was clear there are also significant opportunities.

Q. Managing human resources is critical for any company/organisation to deliver value to customers, investors and the society in which it is functioning. What fundamentals would you like to suggest for human resources management?
A. My discussions with HR professionals in Nepal highlighted some key areas for success. Firstly, strategic alignment is crucial. The HR strategy shouldn’t operate in isolation; it needs to be tightly integrated with overall business objectives. Ideally, there should be a co-creation process ensuring the HR strategy directly supports organisational goals.

Secondly, fostering employee engagement is vital. This can be achieved through clear communication, a strong recognition programme, and providing growth opportunities. Employees who feel motivated and invested in the company’s success are more likely to perform well.

A fair and transparent performance management system is also essential, not only to encourage strong performance but to reward it effectively. In the Nepali context, effectively managing unions is another important factor for success.

Finally, investing in learning and development programmes is crucial. My experience with Global Success Learning, which works with multinational companies, demonstrates the positive impact of proactive learning initiatives. These programmes should encompass development for key contributors, people managers, c-suite executives, and leaders at all levels. By focusing on these key areas, organisations in Nepal can create a strong foundation for success.

Q. While talking about performance management, what do you think is the most attractive factor to retain human resources and ensure better performance?
A. Intrinsic motivation is the key to retaining talent across generations. Leaders need to cultivate a sense of purpose within their teams. While variety is important, employees who lack a clear career path are more likely to leave. Providing a roadmap for growth, offering diverse experiences, and including them in decision-making can be incredibly powerful.

Interestingly, a strong brand may not be enough. Research suggests employees often base their decisions on their direct managers. Therefore, fostering strong leadership skills at all levels is crucial for talent retention.

Q. This is why it is said that people leave managers not companies.
A. Yes, it is true. Employee turnover is mostly a manager’s issue.

Q. How should managers deal with their workforce?
A. My experience working with leaders across Asia-Pacific, America and beyond highlights the critical role of emotional intelligence. A c-suite leader from a major regional banking group shared a telling anecdote. When a talented employee asked how to succeed like him, the leader emphasised excelling in one’s current role and developing strong emotional intelligence. As careers progress, managing yourself, diverse stakeholders, and others’ emotions becomes paramount. While initial success hinges on technical expertise, navigating complex situations requires emotional intelligence. This is often where challenges arise, making it crucial for organisations to foster this skill at all levels.

Q. According to the Trait Theory, ‘leaders are born, not made’. Do you agree with this? How do people become leaders in companies/organisations?
A. Leadership can be developed, not just born. While inherent traits might provide an advantage, everyone has the potential to lead. This journey starts even before work, within the family. A nurturing environment that empowers children fosters leadership qualities. Unfortunately, many parents overprotect their children, hindering their chance to lead. This can translate to difficulty taking initiative at work. However, leadership development is possible for those willing to identify their gaps and move forward. There’s also a factor of personal desire; some may have the ability but lack the aspiration to lead.

Q. If they have a willingness to be a leader, do they require some sort of consistency and expertise in their work?
A. Leadership development can be compared to building muscle. Just like analysing your physique for weaknesses before hitting the gym, leaders need self-awareness. Identifying competency gaps is crucial. Targeted programmes can then equip them with the necessary skills to strengthen those areas. This self-awareness is the first step towards becoming a stronger leader.

Q. What are the motivating factors in retaining human resources within companies/organisations and helping them deliver to the fullest of their potential?
A. Supporting leadership development requires a shift in mindset. Some managers fear empowering their teams, worried about competition or losing control. However, fostering a supportive environment is crucial. A great example comes from my experience at Marriott. Promotions weren’t granted until a successor was trained, ensuring a smooth transition and developing future leaders. This approach focuses on collective growth, not individual advancement, and incentivises investment in team development.

Q. How can the HR professionals contribute to the overall development of the country by effectively managing human resources? I mean how can the goals of the company/organisation be aligned in the national context as there is mass migration of youth from Nepal?
A. Retaining talent requires collaboration across sectors. Public and private sectors must work together to create a supportive environment. This includes an educational system that equips graduates with relevant skills and private sector involvement in offering opportunities. Stakeholder engagement is crucial for crafting effective policies to support upskilling and development initiatives. Without a clear path forward, talent will seek opportunities elsewhere, contributing to migration. Disjointed efforts between public and private sectors, alongside a disconnected education system, exacerbate the challenge. Integrated initiatives are essential to address talent retention. Effective policymaking, informed by stakeholder input, is key to providing graduates with a clear path to success within Nepal.

Q. Developing responsible and accountable leaders is critical for organisations. However, the question remains: how can company goals be strategically aligned with the broader context of national development?
A. To ensure growth opportunities, national skill development programmes need to be forward-looking. Identifying in-demand skills for the next five to ten years is crucial. Supportive policies should encourage upskilling in areas like technology and artificial intelligence. The recent earthquake in Nepal, for example, highlights the need for specialised skills in reconstruction efforts. Alignment between public and private sector skill development initiatives is essential. Additionally, increased programme visibility is key. Educating the public about priorities and available programmes allows them to actively participate and support these initiatives.

Q. Primarily, intervention is required in education, right?
A. Education policy, from primary school to university, needs a future-focused revamp. It should actively cultivate skills that align with the nation’s projected workforce needs and core competencies. This ensures graduates are equipped to contribute effectively to the country’s development trajectory.

Q. What are the key elements of success that you would like to suggest to the fresh graduates coming into the job market based on your own experience?
A. There are four key elements that underpin effective leadership: growth mindset, persistence, resilience, and influence.

A growth mindset allows leaders to embrace challenges as learning opportunities. Obstacles are inevitable in any career, but persistence and a willingness to learn from others – including feedback and examples of both success and failure – are crucial for growth. Resilience, closely linked to a growth mindset, allows leaders to bounce back from setbacks.

The concept of influence has evolved in the context of new-age leadership. Effective leaders are now expected to be adaptable, empathetic listeners and compassionate. The ability to communicate clearly and inspire others is a hallmark of the new generation, as I’ve observed.

Finally, trust is the bedrock of any successful leadership dynamic. Leaders can build trust by demonstrating competence, commitment, consistency, and genuine care for their teams.

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