The Prophet Muhammad was reported to have said: “Each of you is a shepherd and each of you is responsible for his flock …” [Abu Dawud]
As described in the hadith above, all of us are answerable to our subjects. As managers, we are shepherds too and are answerable in two ways:
- As a servant who is a guardian over the property of his master (the employer).
- As a caliph who is a shepherd over the people and shall be questioned about his subjects (the subordinates).
This two-way balance is a tight rope to walk on, which often results in one of the two sides being offended. A manager who is productive leads his team to realize the vision of the organization that they all are a part of. He has to direct his sheep in the right direction, guarding them and not allowing them to go astray. On top of that, there may be ‘black sheep’ that he needs to identify and prevent from leading others astray.
Productive Team, Productive Manager
For a manager to be productive, he should have a productive team. However, that is not always possible since, in most cases, teams are composed of individuals with varied levels of qualifications and experience. It becomes imperative for a manager to groom his team members so they can fulfill their fullest potential. You are a manager because you are considered to be most qualified and experienced among your team members. Below are some of the qualities a manager should possess to make himself and his team more productive.
Lead by Example
Your team works under your guidance. At times when they are stuck, you need to roll up your sleeves and get involved to solve critical issues. While doing so, you should not be boasting your contribution or belittling theirs.
The companions of the Holy Prophet were die-hard soldiers and never wanted any pain for him. Yet many a time, the Prophet joined them in digging trenches, toiling in the battle grounds and even in building Al-Masjid an-Nabawi brick by brick, “… The Prophet himself started carrying unburnt bricks for its building …” [Bukhari]
You need to build your team, task by task, project by project. If there is something on which your team is at odds with you, but you know your decision to be correct, you need to persuade others.One of the ways to do this is to start doing the action yourself. They will automatically follow suit, In sha Allah.
A similar thing happened when most of the companions did not agree with the concessions given to the opponents in the treaty of Hudaibiyya. They were reluctant to come out of the state of Ihram without performing the Umrah. The Holy Prophet continued with what he thought was right. He then “… slaughtered the sacrifice and called his barber who shaved his head. Seeing that, the companions of the Prophet got up, slaughtered their sacrifices, and started shaving the heads of one another …” [Bukhari]
Integrity is Better Than Intelligence
This is a management saying and generally applied by recruitment specialists who are faced with a trade-off between the intelligence and honesty of a candidate. Many of them prefer a honest candidate over an intelligent one.
Managers can apply this concept to themselves too. Being intelligent is a part of your job because your position demands so, but you need to be honest while executing your affairs dealing with your subjects.
As a manager, one of the biggest trials you may face is being just, especially in a multicultural, multilingual and multi-ethnic environment. Personal likes and dislikes based on these factors tend to creep in while making decisions affecting the team, preventing them to be well-knitted. If two or more members are at odds with one another and you are required to be a judge, you must be just. Favoring a member over the other based on your personal preference causes resentments within the team and you will also lose respect.
The Holy Qur’an asks us to be just: “O you who have believed, be persistently standing firm for Allah, witnesses in justice, and do not let the hatred of a people prevent you from being just. Be just; that is nearer to righteousness. And fear Allah; indeed, Allah is acquainted with what you do.” [Qur’an: Chapter 5, Verse 8]
There are numerous narrations of the Holy Prophet delivering just verdicts, no matter the person’s background or religion. In one such incident, the Prophet relied on the oath of a defendant Jew even though the claimant was a Muslim because the latter lacked evidence to prove his claim. The dispute between Ash’ath bin Qais and a Jewish man is detailed in Sunan Ibn Majah.
If your absence makes people cheerful and your entrance brings silence in the office, you are an authoritarian manager and not a lenient one.
The Holy Prophet told Aisha : “… be lenient, for leniency makes a thing decorated and when it is removed from a thing it makes it defective.” [Abu Dawud]
Also Mu’adh was advised by the Holy Prophet while being sent to Yemen on a mission: “Show leniency (to the people); don’t be hard upon them; give them glad tidings; and do not create aversion. Work in collaboration and don’t be divided.” [Muslim]
Being friendly and cheerful with your subordinates makes them feel comfortable. Creating a friendly atmosphere is a way to invite their ideas, whereas a restricted environment prevents them from sharing their ideas. The Holy Prophet said: “Do not belittle any good deed, even meeting your brother (Muslim) with a cheerful face.” [Muslim]
Avoid using harsh words since “Allah is Gentle and loves gentleness, and He grants reward for it that He does not grant for harshness.” [Ibn Majah]
Be a Mentor
Your success as a manager depends on the strength of your team. To make your team strong, you have to be a mentor. Organize training and workshops for them depending on their job function, then meet them regularly to provide some insights on what you have gained through your overall experience. Let them have a feeling of ‘growing together’.
If your organization allows, you may also try flexible working hours for your workers. Flexibility in working hours sometime enables them to fulfill their household duties too, like dropping or picking kids to or from school, or attending to an ailing loved one. If required to work at odd hours, taking advantage of information technology, you may also consider allowing a member to work from home. This is definitely a possible option since we live in an age where a person can connect to his office network from his home computer.
Focus on Issues at Hand
Keeping yourself focused on the task at hand leads to better management and quicker delivery. Make your meetings conclusive by discussing and deliberating only the purpose of the meeting. Do not let your attention divert from the topic and remind others to stick to the agenda. If any other topic comes up, politely ask them to keep it aside for a separate discussion. This will not only keep you focused on one task at a time, but your colleagues’ time will be better utilized too. Once you have finished the meeting, write the minutes and circulate among the stakeholders what you have discussed and decided. Even if the meeting was inconclusive, it is better to write and circulate the minutes so the attendees can recall what you already discussed and what needs to be discussed during the next meeting.
Consultation and Participation
When the Makkan army marched towards Madinah, the Prophet wanted to defend Madinah from within. But it was the suggestion of some companions, most of them in their youth, to go out and fight. He agreed to their advice and thus the historic battle at Uhud took place.
As a manager, you must consult your team and invite the participation of the younger members as well. This serves as a big motivation and generates a sense of involvement of even the less experienced ones. Decisions based on consultations often yield productive results. The Quran also emphasizes on consultation: “… and consult them in the matter…” [Qur’an: Chapter 3, Verse 159]
Convince, not Confuse
You do not have to adopt the “If not convinced, confuse” theory. If you do, you are bound to lose trust among your team and co-workers. If someone comes to you with his problem, he comes with a hope of getting a solution from you. You need to address his concerns rather than using jugglery of words and making the situation confusing and worse for him.
Moreover, confusing someone deliberately is akin to misguiding him. Keep things simple and explanation clear. If they are not convinced, try different means of communication to explain, such as explaining through writing, or a graphical display, or any other form of presentation.
Trust Your Team
Adopt a non-interference doctrine once you have assigned a task to your team. Frequent follow-up bugs them. The individuals in the team will then try to finish off the tasks ‘quickly anyhow’, rather than completing correctly and efficiently. Give them some breathing space and let them be on their own to perform, unless you see something going wrong or your interference is extremely necessary. Instead, design a follow-up meeting schedule to review their progress on the tasks.
Adopt a policy of ‘cyclic rotation’ of tasks if there are more members in the team and adopt the ‘hand-shake’ method when exchanging tasks between two members. Performing the same task daily makes it monotonous for them. Newer assignments provides them with an opportunity to learn something new, making them more interested in their jobs. Different ideas from different individual adds value to the way certain tasks are being done. One of the benefits of exchanging and rotating tasks is that you are not left limping with an unexpected resignation or temporary unavailability of a member who was handling critical tasks of which nobody else is aware.
Maintaining your team as a unit ensures greater productivity. Building a team is a managerial skill, but it can be considered an act of virtue too in light of how the Holy Prophet joined the emigrants and the ansar together as brothers for a mission. When an employee leaves, the manager also needs to self-reflect. As many management experts say, “The employee does not leave an organization, he leaves the manager.”
I hope these tips will inspire you in your professional and personal lives. If you have any other tips or comments, feel free to share them in the Comments section below.
About the Author:
Ajaz Ahmed a Middle East-based IT systems analyst originally from Aurangabad, India. He writes on various issues pertaining to the Muslim world. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.