Understanding Emotions – Case Study
When Carlos Ghosn took over the COO of Nissan, the Japanese car manufacturer, it was at a time when the company was facing significant challenges due to the losses incurred during the past years. The company maintained an older portfolio of models as opposed to their competitors, which made the brand weaker in the mind of the consumers. When Carlos Ghosn, a non-Japanese was hired, the company hoped that he would turn around the company from its current negative pattern. Ghosn’s record on increasing profit margins through cost efficiencies preceded his entry into the company’s top position, despite critics doubting how a man who was not aware of the country’s culture would succeed. When Ghosn arrived in Japan, he met a culture where employees failed to take responsibility for their mistakes or failure. The consensus was to blame other departments as the source of the problems that the company was experiencing. Ghosn also learned that employees did not see the company’s challenges as a looming bankruptcy crisis, because of the country’s business culture where large employers got bail from the government. Along with that, the top management of the Nissan company had a fair share of its troubles, which made things more complicated. Nevertheless, despite all his critics and challenges, Ghosn embraced the cultural differences and believed in succeeding in his mission to improve the operations of the company, with his focus targeting the human resource. According to Millikin (2005), one of the key strategies that made Ghosn successful was his knowledge that leaders should never impose their cultures on other people who are not willing and ready to adopt it with an open mind and heart. In essence, Ghosn’s plan was to appeal to the emotions of the employees as a way of winning them over to accept and practice his cultures.
From the beginning, Ghosn knew that he had to adjust his attitude towards cultural respect and opportunism to help him in his mission and ensure his success. What he never anticipated was the rate at which Nissan employees accepted and took part in the management process. However, as Millikin notes, Ghosn was an expert in appealing to the employees’ emotions to change their mindsets. Firstly, he started by meeting every employee in person, shaking hands and introducing himself. Along with that, Ghosn was known for initiating long conversations with several managers to listen and gather their ideas on how Nissan’s status could be improved. By doing this, Ghosn ensured that even the highest leader was in touch with the problems troubling the company and they needed to do something to salvage the situation.
Ghosn’s use of Cross-Functional Teams in the Company
After Ghosn had succeeded in appealing to the emotions of the employees, he did not stop there. Ghosn developed a program for transformation, which relied on the employees of Nissan as the driving as its driving force. He organized Cross-Functional Teams to assist in making decisions for significant changes. Essentially, Cross-Functional Teams are groups of individuals sourced from different functional departments within a company to form some working groups designed to make decisions for radical change within the organization (Lago, Lopes & Tate, 2014). Although CFTs became popular recently, Ghosn understood the power that lay within the formation of these teams in the Nissan company. Part of his plan was to address the motivation that was lacking within the organization and improve the horizontal communication issues that were not present at the time he joined the company. He reasoned that by allowing employees to accomplish the revival of the company through their ideas, and then they would increase their confidence in the abilities of the company and keep them motivated. In a way, Millikin explains, Ghosn was putting his career in the Nissan in the hands of the employees and showing his trust on the employee’s ability to increase the company’s profitability.
Along with that, even after Ghosn completed his round with the employees of the company and gathering all the information he needed, he failed to use his knowledge to impose a plan on the employees. Instead, he mobilized Nissan’s managers who he hoped would see beyond their current responsibilities and embrace the success of the company as their own. By doing this, he eliminated a long-standing culture, where employees in functional departments would not question anything. The CFTs helped managers to engage with their employees and come up with new ways to challenge existing organization culture. Moreover, tasked with the new responsibility, the middle-level managers of Nissan began to understand how their departmental success was meaningless to the company unless it was structured in a way that supported the success of other departments. Along with that, the managers learned a lot from this system, which resulted in them feeling fully engaged in the change process and instilling in them a sense of responsibility towards the success of Nissan.
Importance of Understanding Emotion in Leadership Communication
Effective leadership communication largely depends on understanding the audience, what motivates them to listen and act. The understanding, not only requires personal awareness but increased awareness of other people. According to Gleeson (2014), the ability of a leader to be in tune with their emotions and having a sound awareness about the situation of their team is a powerful tool in leadership. In this, Gleeson agrees that it important for leaders to known, understand and respond to their emotions, as well as an awareness of the words and actions they take as this affects others. Apart from understanding the personal feelings, leaders should also understand employees’ emotions to learn more about what motivates them. Emotions have a way of revealing information that most people will find hard sharing with others, especially their leaders. To further elaborate on this issue, here is an example of a time I worked as a leader in a volunteer group within my home area. Part of the reason I was appointed the team was due to my level of education, which set me apart from the other teams. Thus, the organizers felt I was better placed leading the group. Unfortunately, I failed to consider how the other team members preferred to do things. Instead, I went ahead and imposed my plans without first consulting them. The result was as expected. The employees displayed every sign of redundancy, they showed less concern regarding the success of the program, criticized my plans openly, and some of the members even threatened to quit. That was until one of the organizers pointed to me the importance of taking critical feedback and taking up the role of leadership not as a leader, but as a servant leader. From him, I learned the importance of listening to other people’s opinions and allowing open discussions to make the right decision.
Gleeson, Brent. (2014). The Use of Emotional Intelligence For Effective Leadership. Forbes Magazine. Retrieved from: https://www.forbes.com/sites/brentgleeson/2014/12/29/the-use-of-emotional-intelligence-for-effective-leadership/#1de165526d1e
Lago, S. A., Lopes, P. M., & Tate, W. L. (2014). Developing and Managing Cross-Functional Teams: A Multi-Case Study of Brazilian Manufacturing Companies. Journal of Technology Management & Innovation, 9(2), pp. 1-16.
Millikin, J. P., & Fu, D. (2005). The Global Leadership of Carlos Ghosn at Nissan. Thunderbird International Business Review, 47(1), pp. 121-138.
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