Creating Powerful Teams

TeamworkTrue teamwork promotes individual and collective performance. Powerful teams value listening and communicating, sharing work responsibilities, provide support and can even make work more social and enjoyable. Team members are supportive of one another and recognise the interests and achievements of each other. I would go one step further and say that powerful teams actively contribute to the success of each other. When they are working the way they should, they are incredibly effective in achieving high performance results.

From Individuals to a Powerful Team

The essence of a team is joint commitment to a shared vision with shared values. Without these elements, teams are just collections of individuals working together but separately. An average team’s performance is a function of what its members do as individuals. Such teams are prevalent in large organisations where individual accountability is most important. They may come together to share information, perspectives and to make decisions, but the focus is always on the individual’s performance.

Teams evolve over time and have a pattern of development. During the forming stage, teams attempt to define their tasks and decide how to accomplish them. They sort out how the members will relate to each other. During the storming stage, members establish a pecking order within the group. Then in the norming stage, members accept the ground rules and norms by which the members will cooperate. In the performing stage, the group has settled relationships and validated expectations and can turn to work for which they are mutually responsible. At this stage the team is capable of more work together that the sum of the individual efforts would have produced.

Powerful teams differ from average teams because they require both individual and mutual accountability. While they also rely on sharing information, perspectives, and joint decisions, teams produce results through the joint contributions of its members. They are committed to shared objectives, as well as individual objectives, and they share the same vision. Teams develop direction and momentum as they work together to achieve shared objectives. Thus they commit together to work together towards the same ends, even though each member may participate in different ways.

Working together towards shared objectives can create social ties and enjoyment. This is also an important factor that contributes to high achievement.

Management should not leave teams alone. Teams left on their own can be confused. Most successful teams shape their purpose in response to a demand or opportunity put in their path by senior management. This helps teams get started by broadly framing the organisation’s performance expectations in alignment with the organization’s mission and vision. Management is responsible for clarifying the team’s challenges. It should let the team develop a shared commitment to vision, set specific objectives, and determine its timing and work approach.

Principles of a Powerful Team

1. A meaningful shared vision that the team has shaped themselves

The best teams spend a significant amount of time and effort exploring, shaping and agreeing on a mutually defined and shared vision. This activity continues throughout the life of the team. Research on failed teams shows that they rarely develop a common purpose.

2. Performance objectives and measurements that flow from the vision

The best teams also take their shared vision and translate it into specific performance objectives and measurements for the full team. These objectives relate to the vision and build on each another, moving the team forward towards achievement and creating powerfully motivating steps to success. The achievement of objectives along the way builds momentum, fosters trust among members and helps build continued commitment.

Specific Key Performance Indicators may be such things as bringing a product to market in record time, a 50% decrease in customer complaints, or achieving a zero-defect rate while cutting costs by 40%. Transforming broad directives into specific objectives provide first steps for forming the identity and purpose of the team. As the team progresses with small wins, they reaffirm their shared commitment.

The combination of vision and specific objectives is essential to increased performance. Each depends on the other. Clarity of objectives helps keep a team on track, focused and accountable. The broader, overlying aspirations of a team’s purpose can provide meaning and emotional energy.

When people are working together towards shared objectives, trust and commitment follow. Members hold themselves responsible both as individuals and as a team for the team’s performance. This sense of mutual accountability produces alignment towards achieving a common objective. All members share in the rewards. People who participate in high performing teams find the experience energising and motivating in ways that their usual jobs could never match.

On the other hand, groups that are established as a “team” but that do not have a clear common vision rarely become effective teams. Only when appropriate performance objectives are set does the process of discussing the objectives and the approaches to them give team members a clear choice: they can disagree with a goal and opt out, or they can pitch in and become accountable with and to their teammates.

3. A blend of complementary abilities

All members of your team should have the skills necessary to perform their jobs. When there are skills gaps, the whole team suffers. When people have the right mix of skills, the team thrives.

In addition to finding the right size, teams must develop the right mix of skills, that is, each of the complementary skills necessary to do the team’s job. As obvious as it sounds, it is a common falling in potential teams. Skill requirements fall into three fairly self-evident categories:

Technical or functional expertise – Product-development teams that include only marketing people or engineers are less likely to succeed than those with the complementary skills of both. Similarly, medical practices are seldom run by clinicians alone. A mix of technical skills is often desirable if not essential.

Problem-solving and decision-making skills – Teams must be able to identify the problems and opportunities they face, evaluate the options they have for moving forward, and then make necessary trade-offs and decisions about how to proceed. Most teams need some members with these skills to begin with, although many will develop them best on the job.

Interpersonal skills – Shared vision and objectives cannot arise without effective communication and constructive conflict, which in turn depend on interpersonal skills. These include risk taking, helpful criticism, objectivity, active listening, giving the benefit of the doubt, and recognizing the interests and achievements of others.

Obviously, a team cannot get started without some minimum complement of skills, especially technical and functional ones. Still, think about how often you’ve been part of a team whose members were chosen primarily on the basis of personal compatibility or formal position in the organization, and in which the skill mix of its members wasn’t given much thought.

4. A strong commitment to how the work is done

“Unless commitment is made, there are only promises and hopes; but no plans” – Peter F. Drucker

Studies have shown that commitment to a team may translate into a willingness to help team members and improved team performance. Low levels of commitment to both the organisation and the team have been linked to absenteeism, turnover and intention to quit.

Every member of every team has a certain degree of commitment to the team effort. Whether you work in government, health care, or in another business, you have probably seen wide variations in the level of commitment that people show at work. Some people come to work every day and put forth a very conscientious effort. They are enthusiastic. They have a positive attitude about what they are doing. They constantly try to improve what they are doing. They help others. They do not wait to be told to do something that needs to be done.

Committed teammates can be relied upon to do what they say they will do. You can count on them.  If you tell a teammate that you will finish something by a certain date, you have made a commitment.

Commitment might manifest itself as team members’ willingness to do whatever needs to be done to ensure that the team succeeds in its work. Contributing to the larger team’s accomplishments becomes every person’s primary focus; as a result, team members often stop saying “it’s not my job,” or “it was my turn last week,” when difficult work must be done.

Commitment can also be characterised by a belief among team members that they are a part of something special and that they are sharing something that is very important with other people. As such, commitment can evoke strong emotions among those involved, as well as an unusual sense of connectedness among individuals from different agencies and disciplines.

5. Mutual accountability

Though it may not seem like anything special, mutual accountability can lead to dramatic results. It enables a team to achieve performance levels that are far greater than the individual bests of the team’s members. To achieve these benefits, team members must do more than just listen, respond constructively, and provide support to one another. In addition to sharing these team-building values, they must share an essential discipline.

The challenge for senior management is how to build high performing teams without falling into the trap of appearing to promote teams for their own sake. There should be relentless focus on performance and results. Paying constant attention to specific teams and their progress on specific performance objectives is the key.

I’ll leave you with a quote from Andrew Carnegie:

“Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision.  The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organisational objectives.  It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.”

I’d love to hear your thoughts on creating powerful teams. Drop me an email at m@rkconway.co.uk or leave a comment below.

THE Key Performance Indicator – Keep People Inspired

Keep People InspiredBusiness is all about measurement. Peter Drucker was an influential writer, management consultant, and self-described “social ecologist” and his quote – “What gets measured gets managed” is never more true than in today’s tough economic climate. The use of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are at the heart of most high performing businesses. However, there is often one important KPI missing,  and that is Keeping People Inspired.

That might sound trite, but without measuring the motivation of your teams in your business on a regular basis, understanding and addressing the root cause of any areas of low morale, you could be setting yourself and your teams up to fail.

An easy and cheap way to measure the motivation of your employees is through observation of how enthusiastic they are about arriving at work, interacting with colleagues and engaging in tasks they are given. In addition, the level of motivation among the work force can also be measured by the improvements in performance appraisals, and the quality of work performed. For those people new to the work force, the motivated employees will likely be the ones who demonstrate initiative by asking for additional work or more challenging assignments. For seasoned employees, their motivation is obvious in the ways they offer assistance to new employees, and seek ways to improve company processes and procedures for better efficiency and effectiveness.

A more formal and effective way to measure how your team is feeling is to survey them in some way on a regular basis. This could take the form of an online or paper survey. There are numerous examples online to help you shape your survey and ask your managers and team members to input into questions. Alternatively you can use survey agencies to help you create, compile, collate and analyse the results. Surveys should be anonymous and the questions unambiguous to get the best results. It’s important that you understand the results fully and take note of even the smallest shift backwards in team motivation. Play back the results to your team and ask them for feedback on how areas can be improved. The most important element here is to ACT on agreed changes and ACT quickly. Not acting to improve areas for improvement will decrease morale and motivation further in your team.

Assuming you’ve got measurements in place and are acting upon the results, how do you personally Keep People Inspired (assuming they were inspired at all in the first place!)?

  1. Lead by example – Practice what you preach or don’t preach at all. Be the change you want to see in your business or organisation.  If you really want to inspire others to do something, then this should be a big part of your life.  You don’t necessarily need to be an expert, but you do need to be passionately involved.
  2. Be authentic – Find the courage to keep being yourself. It won’t always be easy.
  3. Be passionate – Passion is something you must be willing to express if you want to inspire others.  You can gain a lot of influence just by publicly expressing that you are excited and passionate about a topic.  Expressive passion is contagious because of the curiosity it stirs in others.  You’ll get people wondering why you love what you love so much.  Naturally, some of them will take the time necessary to understand what it is about the topic that moves you.
  4. Be great at what you do – People watch what you do more than they listen to what you say.  Be someone worth emulating.  Most people are inspired by GREAT musicians, writers, painters, speakers, entrepreneurs, engineers, mothers, fathers, athletes, etc.  There’s only one thing they all have in common: They excel at what they do.
  5. Genuinely care about people – Most people can see through a colleague, manager or leader that doesn’t genuinely care about them as individuals. Spend time talking to your team and be genuinely interested in who they are as people.
  6. Challenge people to be the best they can be – If people know we expect great things from them, they will often go to great lengths to live up to our expectations. You are letting your people down if you do not try to develop them and help them to meet their potential.
  7. Speak up for your people – We are very connected to each other in various ways, the most important of which is our thoughts.  Out of fear, or shyness, lots of people hesitate to articulate their thoughts.  If you take the risk and say the things others are holding back, you become the glue that brings people together.
  8. Make people feel good about themselves – People will rarely remember what you did, but they will always remember how you made them feel.  Start noticing what you like about others and tell them.  Go out of your way to personally acknowledge and complement the people who have gone out of their way to excel.
  9. Share your Lessons Learned – When you can, be a resource to those around you. Mine the experiences of your life and share the lessons you have learned in your career.  Be vulnerable.  Be willing to share your failures as well as your successes.
  10. Keep your promises – If you say you’re going to do something, DO IT!
  11. Listen intently to what others say (and also to what they don’t say) – Make people feel important, and inspire them by showing them that they are.
  12. Communicate, communicate, and communicate clearly – Keeping things to yourself does not inspire.  Share your vision and ideas often with those around you.

I’d love to hear your stories of how you’ve been inspired and what motivates you?

Focus on Focus

FocusBill Gates achieved monumental success with Microsoft, and attributes “focus” as the key to his success. He stated “maintaining focus is a key to success. You should understand your circle of competence and spend your time and energy there…I’ve learned that only through focus can you do world-class things, no matter how capable you are.”

There are many reasons why a person loses focus while pursuing their goals. The constant distractions in today’s world mean that maintaining focus can be very difficult. Distraction of work, home, friends, socialising, events and everything else constantly compete for our attention and dedicated time. It takes time to stay focused on achieving our goals and it’s so easy to fail in our attempt to maintain enough momentum, desire, energy and persistence needed to achieve our goals. As a result we often give up and think our goal is unachievable.

Another reason why we might lose focus in pursuing our goals is that we may talk ourselves out of pursuing our dreams. When we first begin pursuing our goals, we may be motivated by the fact that we are improving our lives and achieving our wishes and dreams. Shortly after starting the process of taking action towards achieving our goals, we can often begin to question the plausibility of achieving what we want. As soon as we start questioning our ability, we start to lose focus.

Create SMART Objectives

Specific – Objectives should specify what they want to achieve clearly.

You may want to achieve an increase in revenue of 5%  in the next 12 months.

Measurable – You should be able to measure whether you are meeting the objectives or not.

A 5% increase over 12 months means that each month revenue targets can be measured against a specific goal.

Achievable – Are the objectives you set, achievable and attainable?

Is the 5% objective for the 12 months achievable? Does the you have the resources, man power and finances to achieve it?

Realistic – Can you realistically achieve the objectives with the resources you have?

Is the 5% objective over a 12 month period realistic or does the company need longer? Does the company have the skills and resources to achieve this over the time period set.

Time – When do you want to achieve the set objectives?

In our example the company have set themselves a period of 12 months to achieve the 5% revenue target.

Build your Plan. Your plan becomes your road map and helps you determine the best course to follow. Build your plan with enough detail to ensure that your activities are aligned clearly to your SMART objectives and can be tracked.

Minimise Distractions. Get rid of as much temptation as possible that deviates from your focus on your goal. Use every method you can think of to remove distractions from your situation and it will certainly help your focus. Ensure that you don’t take on further work unless you are clear that it won’t impact your objectives.

Measure Your Progress. You can’t control your progress unless you can measure it. Create a system and timetable to measure your progress against your plan. Record your progress, daily if necessary. This can tell us if we are on track or if we need to make adjustments to either our plan or activities. Be honest with yourself. Moving dates and activities out and recalibrating to ‘Green’ is not the way to hit targets.

Prioritise your Goal. Focus on a few goals at one time. Try not to overburden yourself as it will limit your chance of achieving your goal and demotivate you. Concentrate on the important ones first, achieve them and then you can look at addressing the other goals.

Work your Goals into your Daily Plan. Do something towards achieving your goals every day. The best way to achieve your goals and maintain your focus is to do something that will make it happen each and every day. Even if it’s only 15 minutes each day, it is better than not doing any goal related activity at all. Give your goal daily attention and you’ll remain more focused and at a better chance of achieving your ambitions.

Celebrate your Milestones. Mark your successes and acknowledge your progress towards your desired goal. Set milestones and as you achieve them reward yourself and / or your team. This will motivate you and make you see your milestone in a very positive way.

Sustain your Energy and Motivation

The importance of maintaining your energy and motivation today cannot be overstated. We have seen the impact that the lack of consumer confidence is having on our economy. When people feel uncertain about the future they stop spending money and the result further weakens the economy. The same is true of our goals. When we are not feeling confidant and positive about our prospects we stop spending energy on our goals, which results in set-backs, which further reduce our confidence. The result is a downward spiral similar to what we are seeing in the economy. There is an important difference though, while we cannot control the economy, we can control how we spend our energy.

Look out for a future post on how to manage your personal energy!

Implementing Change Effectively

Change Management

There are many theories about how to manage and implement change effectively. Many originate with leadership and change management guru, John Kotter. A professor at Harvard Business School and world-renowned change expert, Kotter introduced his eight-step change process in his 1995 book, “Leading Change” with a follow-up work “Our Iceberg is Melting” in 2006.

Step One: Create Urgency

Building a sense of urgency is a necessary step to implementing change successfully. If you don’t find a way to make the change exciting, compelling and necessary, you may find the implementation phase a little more challenging than it should be. For change to happen, it’s crucial that the majority of the company really want it. Develop a sense of urgency around the need for change – people need to really understand and engage in the ‘Why’.  This may help you spark the initial motivation to get things moving.

This isn’t simply a matter of showing people poor sales statistics or talking about increased competition. Open an honest and convincing dialogue about what’s happening in the marketplace and with your competition. If many people start talking about the change you propose, the urgency can build and feed on itself.

What you can do:

  • Identify potential threats, and develop scenarios showing what could happen in the future.
  • Examine opportunities that should be, or could be, exploited.
  • Start honest discussions, and give dynamic and convincing reasons to get people talking and thinking.
  • Request support from customers, outside stakeholders and industry people to strengthen your argument.
  • Make it real for everyone in your teams….How will the change affect them, or more importantly what might happen for them if the organisation doesn’t change.

Step Two: Form a Powerful Coalition

Convince people that change is necessary. This often takes strong leadership and visible support from key people within your organization. Managing change isn’t enough – you have to lead it.

You can find effective change leaders throughout your organization – they don’t necessarily follow the traditional company hierarchy. To lead change, you need to bring together a coalition, or team, of influential people whose power comes from a variety of sources, including job title, status, expertise, and political importance.

In putting together a Guiding Coalition, the team as a whole should reflect:

Position Power: Enough key players on board so that those left out cannot block progress. This is really important – No senior buy-in at best or Senior Management sabotage at worst means that success isn’t likely!

Expertise: All relevant points of view should be represented so that informed intelligent decisions can be made.

Credibility: The group should be seen and respected by those in the organisation so that the group’s outputs will be taken seriously by other employees.

Leadership: The group should have enough proven leaders to be able to drive the change process.

Once formed, your “change coalition” needs to work as a team, continuing to build urgency and momentum around the need for change.

What you can do:

  • Identify the true leaders in your organisation – not necessarily managers – People that are rising stars, are highly networked internally and always deliver.
  • Ask for an emotional commitment from these key people – Are they behind YOU and CHANGE 100%?
  • Work on team building within your change coalition.
  • Check your team for weak areas, and ensure that you have a good mix of people from different departments and different levels within your company.

Step Three: Create a Vision for Change

When you first start thinking about change, there will probably be many great ideas and solutions floating around. Link these concepts to an overall vision that people can grasp easily and remember.

A clear vision can help everyone understand why you’re asking them to do something. When people see for themselves what you’re trying to achieve, then the directives they’re given tend to make more sense.

Effective change visions have six key characteristics:

Imaginable:  They convey a clear picture of what the future will look like.

Desirable:  They appeal to the long-term interest of employees, customers, shareholders and others who have a stake in the organisation.

Possible:  They contain realistic and attainable goals.

Clear:  They are clear enough to provide guidance in decision making.

Flexible:  They allow individual initiative and alternative responses in light of changing conditions.

Understandable:  They are easy to communicate and can be explained quickly.

What you can do:

  • Determine the values that are central to the change.
  • Develop a short summary (one or two sentences) that captures what you “see” as the future of your organization – Ideally short, emotive and memorable.
  • Create a strategy and plan to execute that vision.
  • Ensure that your change coalition can describe the vision in five minutes or less.
  • Practice your “vision speech” often.

Step Four: Communicate the Vision

What you do with your vision after you create it will determine your success. Your message will probably have strong competition from other day-to-day communications within the organisation, so you need to communicate it frequently and powerfully, and embed it within everything that you do.

Don’t just call special meetings to communicate your vision. Instead, talk about it every chance you get. Use the vision daily to make decisions and solve problems. When you keep it fresh on everyone’s minds, they’ll remember it and respond to it.

It’s also important to “walk the talk.” What you do is far more important – and believable – than what you say. Demonstrate the kind of behavior that you want from others.

What you can do:

  • Talk often about your change vision.
  • Openly and honestly address people’s’ concerns and anxieties.
  • Apply your vision to all aspects of operations – from training to performance reviews. Tie everything back to the vision.
  • Lead by example.

Step Five: Remove Obstacles

If you follow these steps and reach this point in the change process, you’ve been talking about your vision and building buy-in from all levels of the organization. Hopefully, your staff wants to get busy and achieve the benefits that you’ve been promoting.

But is anyone resisting the change? And are there processes or structures that are getting in its way?

Put in place the structure for change, and continually check for barriers to it. Removing obstacles can empower the people you need to execute your vision, and it can help the change move forward.

What you can do:

  • Identify, or hire, change leaders whose main roles are to deliver the change.
  • Look at your organisational structure, job descriptions, and performance and compensation systems to ensure they’re in line with your vision.
  • Recognise and reward people for making change happen.
  • Identify people who are resisting the change, and help them see what’s needed.
  • Take action to quickly remove barriers (human or otherwise).
Milestones

Inchpebbles NOT Milestones

Step Six: Create Short-term Wins

Nothing motivates more than success. Give your organisation a taste of victory early in the change process. Within a short time frame (this could be a month or a year, depending on the type of change), you’ll want to have results that your people can see. Without this, critics and negative thinkers might hurt your progress.

Create short-term targets – not just one long-term goal. You want each smaller target to be achievable, with little room for failure. Your change team may have to work very hard to come up with these targets, but each “win” that you produce can further motivate the entire staff.

What you can do:

  • Look for sure-fire projects that you can implement without help from any strong critics of the change.
  • Don’t choose early targets that are expensive. You want to be able to justify the investment in each project.
  • Thoroughly analyse the potential pros and cons of your targets. If you don’t succeed with an early goal, it can hurt your entire change initiative.
  • Reward the people who help you meet the targets.

Step Seven: Build on the Change

Kotter argues that many change projects fail because victory is declared too early. Real change runs deep. Quick wins are only the beginning of what needs to be done to achieve long-term change.

Launching one new product using a new system is great. But if you can launch 10 products, that means the new system is working. To reach that 10th success, you need to keep looking for improvements.

Each success provides an opportunity to build on what went right and identify what you can improve.

What you can do:

  • After every win, analyse what went right and what needs improving.
  • Set goals to continue building on the momentum you’ve achieved.
  • Drive for continuous improvement.
  • Keep ideas fresh by bringing in new change agents and leaders for your change coalition.

Step Eight: Anchor the Changes in Corporate Culture

Finally, to make any change stick, it should become part of the core of your organisation. Your corporate culture often determines what gets done, so the values behind your vision must show in day-to-day work.

Make continuous efforts to ensure that the change is seen in every aspect of your organization. This will help give that change a solid place in your organization’s culture.

It’s also important that your company’s leaders continue to support the change. This includes existing staff and new leaders who are brought in. If you lose the support of these people, you might end up back where you started.

What you can do:

  • Talk about progress every chance you get. Tell success stories about the change process, and repeat other stories that you hear.
  • Include the change ideals and values when hiring and training new staff.
  • Publicly recognise key members of your original change coalition, and make sure the rest of the staff – new and old – remembers their contributions.
  • Create plans to replace key leaders of change as they move on. This will help ensure that their legacy is not lost or forgotten.

I would love to hear about your challenges and successes from implementing change in your organisation.

Dead as a Dodo…..Why Teams Don’t / Won’t Change

With today’s rapidly evolving technology and business markets in their most challenging time for decades, companies rise and fall faster than ever before. Leaders must constantly anticipate the market and their customer needs and that sometimes means you need to make changes – be that processes, products, organisational structure, or even the markets you operate in. Many leaders don’t fully understand that, by nature, most organisations resist change. Employees create patterns of behaviour to reduce stress and eliminate the unknown. Change creates uncertainty, stresses the culture, and alarms the entrenched —those individuals who resist change at all costs. It is the leader’s responsibility to reduce undue stress on the culture caused by change initiatives.

Nothing is as upsetting to your people as change. Nothing has greater potential to cause failures, loss of production, or falling quality. Yet nothing is as important to the survival of your organisation as change. History is full of examples of organisations that failed to change and that are now extinct. The secret to successfully managing change, from the perspective of the employees, is a clearly defined ‘What’ and a deep understanding of ‘Why’.

An individual’s degree of resistance to change is determined by whether they perceive the change as good or bad, and how severe they expect the impact of the change to be on them. Their ultimate acceptance of the change is a function of how much resistance the person has and the quality of their coping skills and their support system.

DodoYour job as a leader is to address their resistance from both ends to help the individual reduce it to a minimal, manageable level. Your job is not to bulldoze their resistance so you can move ahead.

So why do people resist change?

1. Unclear on the need for change – If people do not understand the need for change, you can expect resistance at best or sabotage at worst. If people strongly believe the current way of doing things works well…and has done for twenty years, you’ve got a vital job in enrolling them in the importance of the changes you’re introducing and why.

2. Fear of the unknown — People will only take active steps toward the unknown if they genuinely believe – and perhaps more importantly, feel – that the risks of standing still are greater than those of moving forward in a new direction – ‘A burning platform’

3. Lack of ability — This is a fear people will seldom admit. But sometimes, change in organisations necessitates changes in skills, and some people will feel that they won’t be able to make the transition very well, and therefore fight the change.

4. ‘We’ve always done it this way!’ — If you ask people in an organisation to do things in a new way, as rational as that new way may seem to you, you will be setting yourself up against all that hard wiring, all those emotional connections to those who taught your audience the old way – and that’s not trivial.

5. Lack of belief — When people don’t believe that they, or the company, can competently manage the change there is likely to be resistance

6. Management whim — When people believe that the change initiative is temporary…’We’ve seen this all before’

7. Not invented here — If people are allowed to be part of the change there is less resistance. People like to know what’s going on, especially if their jobs may be affected. Informed employees tend to have higher levels of job satisfaction than uninformed employees. Ultimately, employees who feel part of the ‘bigger picture’ and are pulling in the same direction will not only have a positive impact on the bottom line, but also give your company a competitive advantage.

8. Poor communication— When it comes to change management there’s no such thing as too much communication. Communication gravitates around the audience: without a solid understanding of your audience, you are not communicating – you are merely dropping information into a vacant area and hoping for the best.  There are numerous internal challenges to communicating about the business to employees, not least appreciating their level of understanding, and planning appropriately according to the needs and capabilities of different employee segments.

9. Grudging Compliance — Don’t mistake compliance for acceptance. People who are overwhelmed by change resign themselves to it and go along with the flow. You have them in body, but you do not have their hearts.

10. ‘I’ll be worse off’ — Resistance can stem from perceptions of how the change will affect them personally. For example, people who feel they’ll be worse off at the end of the change are unlikely to give it their full support. Similarly, if people believe the change favours another group/department/person there may be (unspoken) anger and resentment.

In the next blog, with the help of John Kotter from Harvard Business School, I’ll be explaining how to implement change successfully in your organisation.

The Collaborator – Leadership Styles ~ Part 4

The CollaboratorIn the world of social media and ‘crowd-sourcing’, surely The Collaborator is the best leadership style for our times?

The Collaborator is a very open and collective leader in running a team. Ideas move freely amongst the group and are discussed openly. Everyone is given a seat at the table, and discussion is relatively free-flowing.

The Collaborator creates and facilitates dialogue, encourages people to share their ideas, and then synthesises all the available information into the best possible decision. They communicate that decision back to the group to bring unity once the plan is chosen.

When is it Used?

The Collaborator is needed in dynamic and rapidly changing environments where very little can be taken as a constant. In these fast-moving organisations, every option for improvement has to be considered to keep the group from falling out of date.

When situations change frequently, the Collaborator offers a great deal of flexibility to adapt to better ways of working. Unfortunately, they are also somewhat slow to make a decision, so while they may embrace newer and better methods; they may not do so very quickly.

This kind of leadership style can bring the best out of an experienced and professional team. It capitalises on their skills and talents by letting them share their views, rather than simply expecting them to conform.

If a decision is very complex and broad, it is important to have the different areas of expertise represented and contributing input – this is where the Collaborator shines.

Good environments for the Collaborator:

Creative teams or organisations: Ideas need to flow in creative environments to find create new concepts and designs.

Consulting: When paid to explore problems and find solutions, their role will be to explore the possibilities in depth, and that means there has to be a great deal of exploration and open discussion.

Service industries: New ideas allow for more flexibility to changing customer demands.

Education: Few places need to be more open to different ideas than education, both by educators and their students.

The effective Collaborator:

  • Keeps communication open – Everyone needs to feel comfortable enough to put their ideas on the table.
  • Keeps focus in discussions – It’s hard to keep unstructured discussion productive. It’s the Collaborator’s job to balance being open to ideas and keeping everything on track.
  • Must be ready to commit – Through collective discussion there may be so many possibilities and suggestions that it can be overwhelming and difficult to commit. But as the Collaborator, when the time comes, they must choose and do so with conviction. The team depends on the clear and unambiguous mandates to be committed.
  • Respects all the ideas – The Collaborator might not agree with every idea the team has, and that’s ok. It is important, however, that there is a healthy environment where all ideas are listened to and considered, not dismissed out of hand, or the flow of ideas will falter or stop altogether.
  • Explains, but doesn’t apologise – It is important that the initiators of ideas not selected, understand that their thoughts were considered and had merit, but that ultimately you had strong reasons to go a different direction.

Benefits of The Collaborator Leadership Style

Because group members are encouraged to share their thoughts, The Collaborator style can lead to better ideas and more creative solutions to problems. Teams feel more involved and committed to projects, making them more likely to care about the end results and in turn this often leads to higher productivity.

Downsides of The Collaborator Leadership Style

Whilst the Collaborator can be the most effective leadership style, it does have some potential downsides. In situations where roles are unclear or timing is critical, this style can lead to communication failures and uncompleted projects or at best, late delivery. In some cases, team members may not have the necessary knowledge or expertise to make quality contributions to the decision-making process, which may lead to dead-ends and re-work.

The Collaborator works best in situations where the team is skilled and energised. It is also important to have plenty of time to allow people to contribute, develop a plan and then vote on the best course of action.

If you’ve missed the other parts of the Leadership Styles series, please visit – The Terminator, The Coach and The Oracle.

The Oracle – Leadership Styles – Part 3

Welcome to Part 3 of Leadership Styles – The Oracle

The late, great and inspirational Steve Jobs (Founder of Apple)  made a statement that neatly introduces The Oracle leadership style:

‘Leaders are fascinated by the future, you are a leader if, and only if, you are restless for change, impatient for progress, and deeply dissatisfied with the status quo. As a leader you are never satisfied with the present, because in your head you can see a better future, and the friction between what is and what could be burns you, stirs you, propels you forward.’

The OracleBusiness leaders do not generally have a crystal ball to predict the future of their business and guide them in their leadership decisions. The Oracle creates his / her own future vision for their business, organisation or people. Whereas some people look at the future and ask ‘why?’, the Oracle sees things that do not exist and asks ‘why not?’. They have the ability to see social and market trends and create a future. They literally can see things others cannot.

The Oracle is also capable of enlisting large numbers of followers through their passion and use of language. They are generally gifted speakers and have high levels of charisma.

If you haven’t heard or read Martin Luther King’s – ‘I have a dream….’, or JFK’s – ‘We choose to go the moon…‘, or Winston Churchill’s – ‘We shall fight on the beaches‘, you really should! Three hugely visionary speeches that instil passion, emotion and desire to be part of something big. The power of The Oracle.

The Oracle leadership style is often most effective when an organisation needs to make a step change in direction.

They often portray the following characteristics:
  • Creates an inspiring vision of how the future will look.
  • Inspires people to understand the larger purpose of their work.
  • Creates an environment where people feel pride in belonging to the organisation.
  • Operates from an inspiring set of shared core values and beliefs
  • Engages people in working towards a shared vision
  • Encourages people to innovate, experiment and take calculated risks in pursuit of the vision.
  • Aligns performance and strategy with the vision.

The Oracle is most effective when:

  • A new vision or clear direction is needed, e.g. when in a period of change – at an individual or organisational level.
  • The leader believes in the vision; and sees it as being in tune with his / her own values and those of the organisation.
  • The leader is self-confident, self-aware and empathic to others.

The Oracle is least effective when:

  •  The leader is not regarded as credible, i.e. others feel they know more about the organisation than the leader.
  • When overplayed, i.e. if trying to steal power from a team-based approach.

Summary

When effective, the Oracle motivates individuals by focussing their attention on the long-term goals of the organisation; and how each individual contributes to its delivery. When not used effectively this style fails to take into account the natural talents and experience of the knowledgeable team members.

The Oracle is the most charismatic of Leaders and comes in many forms and contexts. According to the many books and blogs on the topic of leadership, The Oracle is the person who, to a large extent, single-handedly formulates a winning vision of where and how the organisation is to be in the future and who takes prime responsibility for ensuring that the organisation’s people ‘live’ the vision.

Would love to hear your feedback!

Be sure to read part 4 of Leadership Styles – The Collaborator

Other posts in the Leadership Style Series – The Terminator and The Coach

The Coach ~ Leadership Styles – Part 2

Coaching TeamWelcome to Part 2 of Leadership Styles – The Coach

Author, educator, and motivational speaker, Dr. William Arthur Ward wrote a phrase that I try to remember. It gives me personal strength to do the right thing, rather than the easy thing – ‘The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.’ The effective Coach uses a combination of these, but at the right moment with the right individual.

There are key differences between the Terminator (see Part 1) way of managing people and that of the Coach. Whereas the Terminator tends to get things done by lecturing, directing and telling, the Coach asks thought-provoking questions, makes effective requests, listens well – especially for the unsaid, and offers constructive effective feedback to help someone learn and develop.

The Coach is excellent at helping others to advance their skills, building strength and providing career guidance. The best coaches are patient, perceptive, self aware, reflective, open, supportive and keen observers.  They are adept at giving valuable feedback that doesn’t generate defensiveness and are great communicators. They help their employees by uncovering their blind spots and challenging self-limiting beliefs. Most effective coaching takes place through observation, assessment, dialogue, inquiry and conversations.

A coaching leader balances meeting short-term targets with long-term goals towards achieving the vision of an organisation. The Coach pro-actively links development to organisational goals, holding conversations that reach beyond work, helping people find strengths and weaknesses and linking these to career progression and personal development plans. They are good at delegating challenging projects, demonstrating trust and which often leads to high levels of loyalty and personal development.

The Coach does not ‘wrap you in cotton wool’. They give insight from their own experience, they set high standards, they delegate, and they give tough projects to their team and they’ll give you feedback….a great deal. The Coach is an individual that is genuinely interested in helping others succeed.

The coaching leadership style is most effective when the employees working under the coach are receptive to this help. People that do not want development, that are happy to be in the office at 1 minute to 9 in the morning  and leave at 1 minute past 5 in the afternoon, whilst not always, but quite often, are threatened by this kind of management style.

The Coach often portrays the following characteristics:

  • Has high standards and continually raises the bar for their own learning and performance
  • Shares personal experience and learning, freely with others
  • Questions people around their thoughts and feelings  to inspire personal growth
  • Uses 360 degree feedback to help them continually grow
  • Is approachable and intuitive
  • Has a large network to pool information from and seek advice
  • Sees unrealised potential in others and helps them to see it for themselves
  • Can challenge others without making them feel criticised
  • Is passionate about the success of others
  • Is able to coach for both today (results) and tomorrow (progression)
Who wouldn’t want a Coach as their boss or even to be a coach themselves? Well, there are some downsides to this leadership style:

Coaching takes time

Not all businesses / teams have time for the Coach to do a great job. And it DOES take time to develop people. Every business / organisation has targets to meet of one sort or another. Even the best Coach has to weigh up the effort and time involved to develop someone into a role, versus the cost-benefit of  recruiting the right person into the right role, at the right time, at the right cost. Not everyone can be coached quickly enough to the level required, if at all, and sometimes tough commercial decisions will have to be made as to whether the person needs to find a better role that better suits their skills. A good Leader needs to make the choice at the right time, so as not to let the rest of the team down by carrying people who can’t develop their potential quickly enough.

Coaching takes energy

The Coach uses personal energy developing their people – physical, mental, emotional and sometime spiritual energy. The Coach needs to keep in touch with their energy levels, to ensure they stay fit and keep themselves well whilst doing the best for their people.

To summarise, the Coach leadership style can be a very powerful force in any organisation as long as they have a team of passionate people who are keen to progress their careers, the time to coach and the energy to make it happen!
Would love to hear your feedback!

Be sure to read part 3 of Leadership Styles – The Oracle

The Terminator ~ Leadership Styles – Part 1

Leadership style is something I’ve been pondering for a while now. I’ve been lucky to have met and worked with many great leaders over my career and I’ve also met and worked for some that, shall we say, could have done with some development and coaching. I don’t like putting people into boxes, as everyone is different, but for the purpose of this series of blogs I’m going to paint a picture of the main leadership styles that I’ve come across and their merits and weaknesses.

Effective leaders match their style of leadership with the right situation. Ineffective leaders are inflexible and do not understand the relationship between leadership style and teamwork.

So, onto the first Leadership style:-

Leader Terminator

The Terminator

If you’ve seen the original Terminator film (1984), you may remember the quote by one of the main characters – Kyle Reese:-

‘It can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever…’

Meet the Terminator!

Whilst I’m a huge fan of the movie, I’m not a huge fan of this type of leadership style. There are times when it may be useful, but I would only consider using this style of leadership as a last resort or in an emergency situation.

This type of Leader retains as much power and decision-making authority as possible. They do not consult their team, nor is anyone allowed to give any input and the Terminator’s team is expected to obey orders without receiving any explanation.

However, there are some benefits to this kind of leadership:

A more productive team ‘while the leader is watching’. The power that the Terminator exerts over a team improves their working speed and makes them less likely to slack. This is ideal for poorly motivated employees who have little concern or interest in the quality or speed of work performed.

Improved logistics of operations. Having one leader with heavy involvement in many areas makes it more likely that problems are spotted in advance and deadlines met. This makes ‘The Terminator’ ideal for one-off projects with tight deadlines, or complicated work environments where efficient cooperation is key to success.

Faster decision-making. When only one person makes decisions with minimal consultation, decisions are made quicker, which will allow the management team to respond to changes in the business environment more quickly.

The downsides: –

Short-term approach to management. Whilst the Terminator will enable faster decisions to be made in the short-term, by not giving their people the opportunity to gain experience and start on their own leadership development,  and learn from their mistakes, the Terminator is actually de-skilling their workforce which will lead to poorer decisions and productivity in the long run.

Manager perceived as having poor leadership skills. While the Terminator style has merits when used in certain environments, this autocratic leadership style is easy, yet unpopular with employees.

Increased workload for the manager. By taking on as much responsibility and involvement as possible, the Terminator naturally works at their full capacity, which can lead to long-term stress and health problems and could damage working relationships with colleagues. This hyper-focus on results comes at the expense of good leadership development.

People dislike being ordered around. They also dislike being shown very little trust and faith. As a result, the Terminator style can result in demotivated teams. This results in the paradox that Terminator leadership styles are a good solution for demotivated workers, but in many cases, it is the leadership style alone that demotivates them in the first place. Younger people especially don’t respond well to the Terminator.

Teams become dependent upon their leader. After becoming conditioned to receive orders and act upon them perfectly, workers lose initiative and the confidence to make decisions on their own. This results in teams who become useless at running operations if they lose contact with their leader.

Would love to hear from you if you’ve met the Terminator!

Be sure to read part 2 of Leadership Styles – The Coach

An Elephant in the Room Part 2 – Leadership Breakthroughs

Word Cloud - Elephant in the Room

I see two distinct types of ‘Elephant’ in my line of work…and two ways of tackling them. The Management Elephant and the Leadership Elephant. This blog focusses on the latter.

If you missed Part 1 – An Elephant in the Room: Management breakthroughs, and are wondering what on earth I’m talking about, please click here

The Leadership Elephant

The Leadership Elephant is an entirely different animal to the Management Elephant. These Elephants often appear in Senior Management or Leadership Teams and are more difficult to fix.
I’m a firm believer that if you have a strong team that is truly focussed on the same goals and vision, plus believing in and displaying the same values you can be successful in any market, anywhere.
Easier said than done! And the larger the business or team you lead, the harder it can become.
By virtue of their position (but not always), Senior Managers are competent in their own field – Marketing, Finance, IT, Engineering, Sales, Manufacturing, Product Development, Human Resources etc. However, many of these managers have had limited or no development  / experience in Leadership and certainly not in creating or being part of successful Leadership Teams. They also tend to operate day-to-day in isolation to the other senior managers as they have their own teams, challenges, and budgets to worry about and so many Leadership Teams are not teams at all, they are a collective of Senior Leaders with the same boss.
The ‘unsaid’ or Elephant in the Room, within a Leadership Team can have a profound impact on the rest of the organisation, if left uncecked.Leadership Elephants centre around a few key areas:
  1. Clarity of Vision
  2. Positive conflict
  3. Accountability
  4. Honesty
  5. Commitment to each other’s success
  6. Delivery of results

1. Clarity of Vision

As a team, what are you leading for? Not as Marketing Director or Sales Director or Head of Product Development….As a TEAM, what are you COLLECTIVELY leading for?
When Leaders are pulling in different directions, the results are a tug of war and wasted energy. When everybody is pulling in the same direction, that creates forward momentum.
Lack of an agreed, cohesive vision can result in poor orientation, competing agendas and misunderstandings. Teams function much more effectively when working with one vision and one set of goals within a strategic plan.
If you haven’t got a clear vision and goals as a team – this has to be your first job. Full Steam Ahead by Ken Blanchard and Jess Stoner is a great book to help you get started!

2. Positive Conflict

Conflict can be useful. When used correctly and depending on the attitudes and perspectives of those involved, conflict can:

  • Diffuse a more serious conflict.
  • Spark action to search for more facts or solutions.
  • Increase team performance and cohesion.
  • Find out where you and the rest of the team stand on a particular topic.

So how do you get to a point where conflict can influence and help facilitate positive outcomes?

  • Accept conflict as helpful
  • Stay focused on defeating the problem, not each other
  • Be prepared with facts to solve dilemmas
  • Consider the main issue, circumstances and relationships involved
  • Remain open about the other people’s position (remembering anger is often natural reaction of conflict)
  • Be respectful, professional and focus on outcomes

Don’t over simplify things and falsely resolve a situation by avoiding the source of conflict. Avoidance is often seen by withdrawing from a situation to save the fight for another day, or smoothing the situation saying “let’s not argue,” or “It’s not really that important.”

You’re more likely to succeed if you identify the real issue, the circumstances and relationships that factor in to the situation, and consequences of the resolution.

3. Accountability

When we fail to hold others accountable, we reap the consequences. While everyone is busy pointing fingers at each other, deadlines don’t get met, work remains below standard, or customers continue to be dissatisfied. Worse yet, things won’t get better until people stop trying to affix blame and start addressing the issue that caused the problem in the first place. This cycle will continue until people take accountability for their contribution to the problem and focus on seeking solutions.

In my view, the greatest impact of not holding others accountable is that it creates a negative perception of the leadership team. When other members of your teams see you letting someone get away with not producing the agreed output or keeping commitments, they begin to wonder why they are working so hard. They wonder why you don’t take action to address a poor performer who is creating problems for the rest of the team.

Failing to hold others accountable reflects on you as a leader. It raises questions about your willingness to hold everyone to the same standards and creates the perception that you don’t treat people fairly and equitably. Pretty soon others on the team get the message about “what it takes to succeed around here” and the extent to which they can count on you as a leader.

Lack of accountability creates and reinforces a culture of blame-which, in turn, generates other problems. You may notice increased evasion and avoidance as well as a pervasive “don’t get caught” attitude. Innovation plunges as people become less willing to be creative and think out of the box. Employees take fewer risks (or stop altogether) because no one wants to be blamed if something goes wrong. Finger-pointing sessions proliferate, creating a cycle of blame that ultimately shuts down communications.

4. Honesty

If you want to receive honest feedback, start by giving it. As the people on your team observe your honesty, this will make them feel more comfortable being honest themselves. On the other hand, if you don’t practice what you preach, it’s much tougher to influence others to practice that same thing.

Where I find that most leaders have the biggest problem related to honesty, is in saying those things no one wants to hear: the bad news, the opposing opinion, the refusal, the negative feedback. This is why I think the trick to becoming more honest is becoming more courageous and talking about these kinds of things. When you can honestly talk about the sensitive stuff, being honest about anything else is easy.

People often get defensive when they hear something they don’t like. They start to deny, blame, explain and criticise others. This may lead to other team members restraining themselves from saying all they intended to say simply because they don’t like the reaction they’re getting. If you want your leadership team to speak freely and honestly, it’s essential that every time one of them starts saying something difficult, instead of getting defensive, you do something much more constructive: you get curious and ask questions. This way, you prove that you are not afraid of the truth and that your main interest is to understand facts and opinions, not save your own skin.

5. Commitment to each other’s success

Sounds easy doesn’t it? Why wouldn’t you want to commit to your other Leadership Team members’ success? Well you would be surprised…or maybe you wouldn’t.

Great business people are naturally competitive. They want to win in business. Some are quite happy to win at the expense of others in their team and even the success of the business.

To build a truly great business, I’m a firm believer that if each of you is truly committed to one another’s success you can achieve so much more, especially through the tough times.

I’m sometimes amazed at the tricks, lies, back-stabbing and U-turns that people perform to try to get themselves ahead in business. Maybe I’m naive, but I think this can only lead to longer term issues – lack of respect from your peers, your teams and no doubt your customers will suffer too.

If you want to take your business into significant growth, you need to support your team and they need to support you. You don’t need to be best friends with everyone, but you do need to watch everyone’s back, be there for each other when they need support and focus on your collective goals and vision.

6. Delivery of results

A team that is not focussed on COLLECTIVE results fails to grow, loses it’s best people, is easily distracted and focuses people on their own careers or internal quarrelling.

Every Leader has an obligation to deliver – for their stakeholders, their people and their customers and not just in financial terms.

To avoid distractions, leadership teams need to prioritise the results of the leadership team over their individual or department results.

All sounds straight forward and easy doesn’t it? Well there are a few things that tend to get in the way – Self-promotion, Career Progression and Money to name three. The ironic thing is that all three of things are likely to happen anyway if you are in a high performing leadership team, all working towards one vision, one set of values and collective results.

Most senior managers naturally focus on the results of the teams they manage, not the teams they’re members of. They spend more time with their own people, they probably get bonused on the performance of the teams they manage and they probably don’t invest as much time in building relationships with their peers. Imagine the possibilities of having really powerful relationships with your peers, where the team is accountable for the whole and not the part and when you collectively focus on your customers and positive outcomes in your marketplace….

None of the above can be fixed overnight, and needs a huge amount of collective energy to get results. But when the results come, your competitors better watch out!

Thanks for reading!

Mark Conway

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