THURSDAY THOUGHTS! – World Book Day – what are you reading?

darwinThis was a question asked by the Chartered Management Institute last month, of future leaders.  The CMI launched an essay competition for those under 30, focussing specifically on this question.  For any future young leaders amongst our readers, the competition can be found HERE.  The deadline for submissions is 15th March 2014.

Management and leadership competence and development has been a long-time interest of mine.  Keeping up to date with current thinking is hugely important to Aresko generally is I am to be able to add value to any client situation.

So, given its World Book Day today, I thought it would be timely to share what we are currently reading to enhance our thinking AND declare what our favourite management text is, and why.

I am currently reading: “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg, the Chief Operating Officer at Facebook (previously Google and the US Treasury Department).  It’s about her story of women, work and the will to lead.  It starts with her experiences as a senior executive at Google in her first pregnancy and outlines (now) obvious workplace modifications to enable organisations to keep the skills and experience of pregnant female employees – of whatever level.  It continues in this vein, outlining why some and not others “lean in” and tackle issues in the workplace which make things better for bigger numbers of people, i.e. leadership examples.  It’s a marvellous account of  the value of women vis a vie the context of the workplace being male oriented.  I like the book a lot and it never ceases to amaze me why many women shy away from leadership roles in the way that men never would.  I’ve always been a bit of a “I-feel-so-strongly-about-that,-I’m-going-to-do-anything-I-can-to-make-it-better” kind of woman.  Many moons ago, my dear Dad called me “goal orientated” and it was the first time that phrase had ever touched my young years.  Little did I know it would form the majority of my professional life experiences in the future!

Again, many moons ago (2001 to be precise as I rediscovered the book today and when opening it found I had written my name and the date on the inside cover.  This is a habit I have with books, it plants them firmly in a specific time of my life), I read a tiny little book called:  “Who Moved My Cheese” by Dr Spencer Johnson.  I read it just because I was told to read it.  It was on my reading list for my MBA which I was undertaking at the time.  I opened it with trepidation and discovered a fabulous little story of how to cope and deal with change.  Cheese being a metaphore for whatever the big thing is in your life that you desperately want and need to happen at the time.

It is 73 pages of big writing which had a profound inspiration on my future career pathway.  You can read it easily in an hour or two and I will promise you, you will read it many times thereafter.  Personally, I’ve probably read this about a dozen times now.  I’ve moved house 3 times since I first read it and its always been in the “must not lose” box when packing.

It’s the story of some mice in a maze trying to find the cheese.  It explains why some are more successful than others at the task and the wider application of the messages it contains is never-ending!  I would love you to read it too and let me know what you think.

What are you currently reading and influenced by?  What would be your pivotal framework for that essay we talked about at the beginning of this post, if you were (or indeed you are) entering that competition?

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THURSDAY THOUGHTS! – World’s most trusted leader, or ostrich or bull?

LeadershipThis is a graphic explanation of leadership.  The theory on the left looks nice and neat, whereas the practice on the right looks like chaos.  It looks like chaos because many a person who now considers themselves to be “a leader” feels like that when they are expected to step up to the mark and demonstrate leadership traits.

The theory on the left is what managers learn about leadership from books or business schools: that leadership is the pinnacle of a pyramid of management and promotional circumstances.

The practice on the right is their experience of that pinnacle, on a daily basis!

Leadership is easy until you factor in people.  Unfortunately, leadership is very much all about people, leading them, their competences, their time along paths they might not wish to travel.  At this point, the “leader”, i.e. you, particularly if it’s left unchecked in your early leadership career, either becomes an ostrich or a bull, because this is all about successfully dealing with tensions and resistances.

The key issue at this point is to determine commitment.  Your own as well as your team’s.  Because those who are not committed, merely find fault and blame.  Those who are committed, find a way!

I have witnessed many an encounter where someone has spent a significant amount of time telling me why something can’t happen, or why they can’t do something, or even why its all going to go so terribly wrong.  You know the conversations.  No alternatives are provided, or means of overcoming sought.  It’s just gloom and doom all the way.  To illustrate a point of a previous Thursday Thoughts!, they are the folk who provide little or no discretionary effort, if left to their own devices.  These are the folk who should bring out the best of your management and leadership traits, as they are the ones who provide most challenge to you.

So, whats your reaction to this?  Do you assume ostrich tendencies, and bury your head, perhaps turning to others to support you and dismissing them as “obstructive”?  This suggests neither of you are truly committed, to the task or to the relationship.

Do you become a bull, and force your ideas and thoughts through despite all their reservations?  You give the appearance of listening to them, but at the end of the day,  you are going to do this “thing” whether they like it or not! This suggests you are committed to the “thing” but not committed to them!  They will see through this bull-behaviour, they always do, and beware what they are saying outside the team.  Your reputation is growing by the minute.  As a bull that is!

Or do you listen, process what they are saying, walk a moment in their shoes, rationalise their concerns and either drop the issue if, on reflection they are (shock horror) right, or find ways to make something, not necessarily the original idea, happen and produce a win-win scenario related to the issue at hand?  This demonstrates a committed leader.  Committed to the task, AND committed to the people they rely on to deliver for them.  This tendency will certainly motivate teams to listen back in the future and new ideas will always be given due consideration, not dismissed out of hand.

I don’t think any successful leader has always got it right – they are only human after all.  But the most successful ones take their coaching seriously in order to find these pathways more of the time.

Leave the ostrich and the bull tendencies behind, take the first step in building that reputation for being one of the “most trusted” leaders, today!

THURSDAY THOUGHTS! – Do you definitely, probably or possibly need it?

special_offerIf you are reading this, please do SHARE with your network widely. You might just inspire someone to take that important first step.

This is what Wikipedia says about “coaching”

“Coaching is a training or development process via which an individual is supported whilst achieving a specific personal or professional competence result or goal.”

The structures, models and methodologies available to help in a coaching relationship are numerous, and may be designed to facilitate thinking, or learning a new behaviour  for personal growth or professional advancement. There are also many forms of coaching that help improve a physical or managerial skill, like managing your in box, or managing your staff.

But the basic process is one of questioning the individual deeply, so that they discover things they didn’t know about themselves, knew but had been conveniently ignoring, or things that others clearly see but which are invisible to the person being coached (for a multitude of reasons).  It’s about seeking and discovering but more importantly, it’s about acknowledging and owning an appropriate plan of remedy or improvement.

Aresko undertakes business coaching which provides positive support, feedback and advice to any individual or group wishing to improve their personal effectiveness in the organisational setting. Business coaching includes executive coaching, corporate coaching and leadership coaching.

If you don’t think you need it – you most definitely do!

If you think you need it – you probably do!

If you are currently having it – are you doing things noticeably differently on a weekly basis?  If not, then you possibly need a different coach!

 This is a very special relationship indeed – it’s driven by you, so if you are merely turning up now and again, expecting your coach to wave that magic wand and expecting everyone around you to go, “Wow, you’ve changed, and for the better too!”  then you are sadly disillusioned. FACT.

Here are a clutch of coaching questions which I want you to answer honestly.  You don’t have to tell anyone, its not a test.  If you lie, then you only fool yourself.  But if you struggle to answer ANY of these – having to sit back and really think about your answers, then you definitely need a coach!!!  The costs involved are easily recovered as a result of resolving the issue you are grappling with.  The knock on effects are unbounded if and when you find the coach you have a spark with.  So here you go, can you answer these without thinking too hard?

  • How would things change if you knew you had always done your best , completely and absolutely, with no redeeming consequences?
  • What are you willing to let go of to make room for what you really want?
  • What are the 3 things you would change immediately if you could?
  • What are you waiting for?
  • What will you do next?

How easy or difficult was that?  From as little as £75 per session (one-to-one) you can take the first steps to making tangible and real changes, or obtain total clarity over what you want to achieve in the next 12 months.  Book 8 sessions via the offer below, and get a one-off double session free (limited period only).

This is a perfect opportunity to turn desire into action via one quick click. Just do it!

 

THURSDAY THOUGHTS! – What is “discretionary effort?”

keep-calm-and-go-the-extra-mile-6The final aspect of enhancing staff engagement brings us to the point of extracting maximum discretionary effort out of our staff.  We might personally be of the mindset that we truly believe all employees will always give their all due to a commitment to the organisation or similar (usually we will believe this given our own motivation and values in the workplace), but the reality is often very different! So what is “discretionary effort” and how do we go about motivating it?

Discretionary effort is the level of effort people could give if they wanted to, over and above what is absolutely required.  It’s what performance appraisals are all about – identifying where more of this can be found and utilised from each and every individual.  It’s probably why performance appraisals are universally loathed by all – when it’s performed badly with those who already feel like they are giving the organisation everything they have to offer, and they are asked for more, or left feeling unappreciated or unvalued for their contributions to date.  There is definitely a knack to extracting discretionary effort!

Some organisations achieve this (thought to be approximately c30%) through headhunting and luring the best employees away with offers of a stake in the organisation.  This is typical if such employees are motivated by that very commitment mentioned earlier.  John Lewis for example gives all permanent, full time employees shares in the company so they have instant ownership over maximising sales figures and other bottom line activities.

During performance appraisals, our managers are likely to see any one (or more!) of five faces from us.  We’ve all seen these faces on others, but how many of us are aware enough to recognise when we are displaying them ourselves?  Which one are you currently wearing?

  1. The Diva: thinks they are a world class performer and has a great deal of opinion about how others should do their jobs!  They are usually high performers in at least one aspect of their role, which has given them plenty of indication that everything they do is a right judgement.  The problem is, they have plenty of development needs in other areas of their roles but they have vastly under-developed self awareness skills and this produces real blind spots.  They are often specialists. In any self assessment exercise, they will rate themselves highly.  They can often be disruptive to any team scenario.  This face produces difficult conversations and requires strong management.  Motivation and incentivisation of this face, to produce high commitment and engagement levels is difficult but essential. Consider the questions people ask and answer during any engagement survey because if left unchecked, this face will produce disproportionate influence on the rest of the team.
  2. The Deflector: lots of excuses and explanations about why they CAN’T do something or why something CAN’T happen, in their experience. These reasons are always outside their span of control and their entire behaviour is governed by this concept of fate and luck.  They will believe you as their manager are part of the overall problem.  This is the most problematic face to motivate and incentivise to engage.  They can be decent performers but the more bureaucratic your organisation becomes, the more evidence of Deflectors you will find.  Left unchecked, discretionary effort will be extinct!
  3. The 9 to 5er: Classic face.  They have very set schedules and cut off easily at certain times.  Often a steady performer but does only that which is required and absolutely no more.  Discretionary effort can often be “bought” with this face through offering added flexibility, particularly if it is involuntary, as a result of caring needs etc.  Incentivisation and motivation is often through time segmentation so its important to understand what makes your people tick.
  4. The Upwardly Mobile: This is the fun face!  These folk seek to excel but often can’t see what their next career step might be.  This face is great to have around and incentivisation and motivation is often through giving recognition and regular feedback.  But they crave your interest in them and beware if you leave them alone for too long without stroking.  Don’t let the deflector anywhere near them!  They need intensive coaching but discretionary effort can be achieved if stroked regularly. They like to describe, in detail, how they will or are going about things and will be seeking reinforcement regularly.  However, because they are so unsure of their own abilities, they are unlikely to be seen as influencers for, or by, others. They can be engaged through involvement in activity, but are rarely leaders of others due to their insecurity in their own competence.
  5. The Star: The best face of the bunch.  They are in control of their area of responsibility and you need to keep them!  High confidence and a magnet for others to seek guidance from.  They are influential throughout the organisation, and  usually profoundly self-aware.  They are often autonomous and will act without you even having to steer. Incentivising and motivating your Stars is usually achieved from giving them room to act independently on occasions, re-engaging them with exciting initiatives etc.  Once they are excited about something, you automatically have a highly engaged individual who will engage others infectiously.

So this series has looked at producing highly engaged individuals, with the potential for high discretionary effort. If only a third of the workforce are engaged, then only a third are currently providing that vital discretionary effort all organisations are seeking for improvement and success.   And if discretionary effort can be up to 30%, then this third of the workforce are clearly carrying the rest.

Now isn’t that a profound thought for all managers wishing to improve their managerial skills!

THURSDAY THOUGHTS! – Blankets of positivity

how easyWhen an entire organisation is encouraged to recognise one another’s achievements, this kind of organisational atmosphere produces tremendous positivity throughout the workplace. Colleagues actively looking out for one another, and more than that, actually seeking out ways to help and give recognition to one another.

Research has shown (Grant) that where and when this does exist, there is also faster problem-solving, more efficient co-ordination and less variability in work simply because people are willing to step up and cover for one another when the need arises.   Continuity is established and purpose is preserved.  Commitment is demonstrated. 

So, according to a 2013 workforce mood tracker survey, of those who have openly and positively recognised a colleague in the last month, 62% described themselves as “highly engaged” and of those who admitted to never having done so towards any  colleague, only 27% said they would describe themselves as highly engaged.

But to find this degree of mutual support and open recognition as the norm is often thought of as the holy grail, it’s so rare!  In my whole career, I’ve only experienced it twice. So why is this?  Why don’t we go about our days anymore, seeking ways to help each other?  Why have we become so insular and self-preserving?  Only we can answer this for ourselves, and its well worth reflecting upon due to it’s propensity to spread.

So it seems sensible, that if the leadership of any team or organisation can invest in creating an environment, climate and culture that promotes positive feedback AND reinforces the organisation’s core values, then it can only be a positive and powerful force for engagement.

All this starts with us, as individuals, each and every one of us.  No, not waiting to see it first from someone else, but taking responsibility to find ways to support and recognise colleagues in the first instance.

Have you ever experienced this before?  If so, how did it feel and what was your role in making it happen?

THURSDAY THOUGHTS! – Engagement: more than just words on a page

1240487_639765176056391_1435228163_nEmployee engagement used to be considered the soft skills of management.  Now it’s considered imperative and all “good” organisations will have a Staff Engagement Strategy of some sorts, in place.  The leadership makes a lot of resources available to produce strategies and they know how important staff engagement is. But how useful are these strategies to the day job, and is implementation of them under-resourced?  Basically, how well does that strategy work in your workplace?  It’s a telling sign of how well any organisation “lives the values it says it has adopted” to ask any member of staff what is the organisation value they are mostly driven by.

A recent Gallup pole suggested that, in 47% of organisations surveyed, staff engagement was the most important HR challenge.  That is an amazing statistic!  Particularly when you look at the results, which are pretty dismal: only 30% of staff were engaged; 18% were actively disengaged; with the remaining 52% not engaged. This means MERELY A THIRD OF THE GIVEN WORKFORCE ARE CONVINCED OF THE VISION, MISSION, VALUES AND OBJECTIVES OF THIER ORGANISATION.  This is a truly disgraceful situation.  Organisations should be ashamed of their organisation development initiatives as a result of this survey!

So for the next 5 weeks, we are going to address 5 simple steps to getting out of this dismal rut.  It’s not rocket science but it takes courage and a dedicated management team to turn such a situation around. Most of all, it takes consistent effort and commitment on a daily basis.

Whilst every organisation is different and will require it’s own engagement approach, there are key areas every one of them should focus on to get out, and stay out, of this engagement abyss:

Step 1: Create clear and credible values that are KNOWN and UNDERSTOOD;

Step 2: Build a healthy culture INTENTIONALLY;

Step 3: Insist on good MANAGER HYGIENE;

Step 4: Create platforms for POSITIVITY; and

Step 5: Understand what MOTIVATES your workforce and RECOGNISE and REWARD it.

So this week, we have a few hints and tips centred around clear and credible values.

“Those who say they “know and understand” the values of their organisation are 30x more likely to be fully engaged”

The absence of any recognition of the values which bind the organisation as one collective force, guarantees that staff will be disengaged.  Below are some practical tips on ensuring values are truly embedded in your organisation:

  • Have senior managers talk about them regularly. The values should be part of the daily vernacular;
  • Make them part of your corporate communications strategy. Internal and external communications should not only contain references to the core values, but translate them into the “way we do things around here”;
  • Link daily, weekly, monthly accomplishments to the values.  NEVER miss an opportunity to reference the role of values in any individual, team or directorate accomplishment.  They need to be seen and felt to be DRIVERS of effort.

Can you recognise any systematic way your organisation connects staff behaviour and work effort to the core values?  What happens in your workplace that enables the values to come to life on a daily basis?

If you are struggling to answer those two questions, then you are certainly not alone.  I recently facilitated a workshop of 30+ staff and not one person there could recount an organisation value to me.  How could engagement become infectious in that organisation if nobody knew what glue was supposedly holding them together?

A healthy organisation culture is the easiest way to avoid the engagement abyss – but engagement and culture are the chicken and egg equivalent in organisational life.  More about culture at another time, the foreseeable future focusses on engagement hints and tips.

If you have any tips to share about how to make organisation values known, please do so.  Easy to say, difficult to embed, so how have you gone about it in the past?

THURSDAY THOUGHTS! – Do you know your management style?

If you’ve been in work for even a nanosecond, you will have noticed that there are various styles that different managers display, sometimes depending upon the situation.  Sometimes, individuals have a strong preference for one particular style, and it is when the context or the circumstance dictates that an alternative style is called for, that you being to see whether you have a strong or a weak manager in your midsts!

There are 6 commonly recognised management styles. They are: 

DIRECTIVEdirector  

This is a rather coercive style which seeks instant compliance and appears quite bossy.  You will notice it from a style and tone of voice which dictates “do as I say or beware” and you hear it from those who are high on the control spectrum.  They seem to think folk are motivated by orders or even threats and their whole turn of conversation, features these sorts of overtones.

This is REALLY EFFECTIVE in time of crisis or when its very risky not to follow orders, so it definitely has its place. Unfortunately, its REALLY INEFFECTIVE when the workforce is skilled or used to acting on their own initiative, as they soon become resentful and very frustrated with what they see, as micromanagement.

firmbutfair

AUTHORITATIVE

This is a visionary style and usually provides more of a long-term direction for the workforce. It’s characterised by being firm but fair and provides motivation through clear standards, credibility and integrity.  These managers earn respect and apply fairness at every point.  They are highly knowledgeable and often have specialist authority in any workplace.

This is REALLY INEFFECTIVE when staff need development, or the vision is vague as people won’t follow it if they don’t believe in it, no matter how much the manager knows about it.

affiliativeAFFILIATIVE

This manager primarily creates harmony in the workplace, horizontally and vertically.  They are very people oriented and always put people before task.  They have a tendency to avoid conflict but are excellent motivational managers and they can often pick a project up off its knees when its stalled.  This style is HIGHLY EFFECTIVE when combined with other styles and is the one most often matched with others.  They are born counsellors or mediators. LESS EFFECTIVE in times of crisis or when performance needs tackling.

PARTICIPATIVE participative

The Democrat builds commitment and consensus with the workforce.  They are the manager that most seeks out and uses diversity in the team and always values everyone’s voice and input. They are very good indeed at motivating by rewarding individual and team efforts.  They are great team builders and VERY EFFECTIVE in steady work environments. If close supervision is required, or a crisis appears, these make for pretty poor leaders in these circumstances.

Screenshot 2013-11-14 17.14.57PACE SETTERS

Got to love these ones! They are profoundly driven, wanting to be first, fastest, highest, best achievers.  Exhausting usually! They very often resort to doing things themselves, in the vein hope that others will follow.  Highly motivated themselves, expects very high standards of everyone around them. Great when they are managing experts or highly competent teams who desire and require very little direction indeed.  HOPELESS when the goal or workload is dependent on the efforts of others who require direction, coercion, or explanation.

COACHINGcoaching

This manager loves long-term development of others. They  make it their mission in life! A very developmental manager, they help and encourage others to develop their strengths and weaknesses in order to reach personal potential.  Always seeking and providing developmental opportunities and recognises when others are motivated by improvement and recognition of all kinds.  They are less effective if the manager themselves are inexperienced and this type of manager grows from experience and self development.  They love translating their experience into the benefit of others.

Of course, you can now see how circumstances and/or context will best require different styles in any one manager.  The best managers can see what is required of any situation and adapt accordingly.  Sounds simple, but it takes years of practice to flip between styles and deliver it effectively.

Have you seen style-flipping or have you seen when others have struggled to suit the style to the situation?  How has these styles made you feel when you’ve been in particular team situations?  Please do let me know.

THURSDAY THOUGHTS! – We’ve all been there … haven’t we?

middles

Barry Oshry has spent many years theorising, analysing, describing and helping those who find themselves “managing from the middle”.  He says that the same scenarios exist in every organisation in all contexts; that those at the top of the office are at odds with those who do the work; and those in the middle are torn in two because of this and suffer stress as they perpetually spiral downwards trying to please everyone, taking ownership of   everyone else’s problems.

This is a scenario I have observed in every organisation I’ve ever worked for, and in some, I’ve been that “Middling” person sinking under the weight of being Mrs Fix-It for all and sundry.  It’s not a great place to be, physically, mentally or emotionally.

So what is this middling thing?  At it’s worst, it can be crippling to the individual concerned. I know because I’ve been there – thinking I was completely losing my mind and drowning under the never-ending receipt of actions which always came my way.  Some of the warning signals are as follows:

  • I’m a mess, weak, and nothing I do is ever good enough!
  • I’m letting everyone down
  • I can’t cope anymore
  • I’ll see what I can do (in response on the phone more than 3 times a day)
  • I’m running from one to the other all the time
  • I seem to have to make more and more excuses for everyone around me
  • I fee burnt out
  • I can’t work any harder, but it’s not enough
  • I never have the time to switch off
  • I’ve lost my voice, my independence – I used to have a mind of my own

Would you recognise what Oshry calls “the middle slide” if you saw it?  Do you even know you are doing it yourself?  Did you know that “middles” are absolutely critical in assuring that the goals of the organisation are realised.  So they are worth looking after and allowing them to rediscover their own independent judgement and voice again.

Watch Barry Oshry himself explain his theory and analysis here:

The way of addressing this involves all levels of management, not just the Middling.  It’s everyone’s responsibility to create a more  healthy leadership environment.  It’s an interesting theory and one that should be aired and tackled more overtly than I currently see it being.

If you believe you are a Middling – you are not alone – and ITS NOT YOUR FAULT!

THURSDAY THOUGHTS! – How do you demonstrate your personal qualities?

We’ve often talked about leadership qualities through this blog and this week we do so again, with  no apologies.  This blog is about improving your personal contribution in the workplace and leadership is just one domain of that menu.

Effective leadership requires individuals to draw upon their values, strengths and abilities to deliver high standards of service. To do so, they must demonstrate effectiveness in:

  • Developing self awareness by being aware of their own values, principles, and assumptions, and by being able to learn from experiences
  • Managing yourself by organising and managing themselves while taking account of the needs and priorities of others
  • Continuing personal development by learning through participating in continuing professional development and from experience and feedback
  • Acting with integrity by behaving in an open, honest and ethical manner.

Look at statements below:

On the scale next to each statement, choose a rating that reflects how frequently it applies to you then total your scores after each domain and reflect on how you have scored yourself.

Screen Shot 2013-05-08 at 09.45.58

Screen Shot 2013-05-08 at 09.45.02

This interesting exercise will stand you in good stead for the first part of any future leadership assessment programme.

THURSDAY THOUGHTS! – Are you an equal with your male peers?

WomenomicsAfter a lovely Easter week off, it’s time to get back in the swing of things with our weekly look at a poignant self-development topic.  This week has proven easy to pick a topic, with the news full of the fact that the only woman Prime Minister the UK has ever had, has died.  Love her or hate her – and passions are high on both those axis – the fact remains that she made it to the top in what was, and still is, considered very much a man’s world. A product of her time, or have times changed in terms of female leadership?  Womenomics: say the Hot Chilli company, is very much alive and well.

Margaret Thatcher was one of the toughest leaders of her time – but a leader she definitely was. So today, are women held back by factors like unequal pay and workplace sexism? Or are we opting out because we don’t apply, think we aren’t qualified, fear rejection, or concern for our family?

That’s the debate we are having this week. The current picture shows that the few who manage to penetrate the higher corporate levels must still be as hard as nails, sometimes even outdoing our male peers when it comes to aggressiveness. Do we really have to be more masculine than a man to make it to the top of our respective trees?

When the message conveyed to women is that to succeed in our careers we must adopt characteristics perceived as male and marked by men as “good”, while shedding characteristics identified as female and perceived as “not good” – do we internalise the idea that our psychological structure is less suitable for leadership and management?  Feelings of inferiority can be very heavy weights to bear when climbing upward.

As long as this is the situation, the distance to true equality between men and women will still remain great.

Where do you see yourself in this debate?  Do you consciously suppress female strengths to succeed or do you make a feature of them in the workplace?  What results are you achieving by doing so?

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