April 9, 2010
All of us suffer from anxiety; it happens when we face into a new, difficult or challenging situation. Anxiety in itself should never be an issue but it can be a problem if it is not recognised and managed. Organisations that are undergoing upheavals are likely have increased levels of anxiety. Leaders need to learn to recognise and manage the anxiety in their top teams to ensure that it does not affect performance at a time when the they need to rely on the tope team more than ever.
People Management list some of the steps that can be taken to manage anxiety. Aimed at L&D specialists, the article is equally valid for Leaders. Some of the steps for managing anxiety include:
Get your top team to talk about how they experience the pressures they face. As we often feel weak if we acknowledge being less than confident, this normalising of emotions can be helpful. A leader can start the process by admitting that they have anxieties.
Empathy is important but honesty is vital. Leaders need to understand the negative impact on their team – and the wider organisation – of the failure to manage anxiety. Direct criticism may evoke defensiveness; simply describe how the organisation experience the practical consequences of this behaviour.
Having helped your team understand the impact of their behaviour, work to identify key situations, people or events that trigger anxiety. The more we are aware of our default position(s), the better we can resist them.
In the pressure cooker of modern organisations, it can be seen as weak to acknowledge the existence of anxiety. It is the Leader’s responsibility to address this issue – failure to do so can increase the likelihood of a failure of performance.
March 15, 2010
Melissa Raffoni has a post on the HBR website that all Leaders should read. President of Raffoni CEO Consulting, she works with CEOs of major organisations. In this short but important post, she outlines in clear terms what employees want from their Leadership. None of this should surprise any good Leader; what is surprising is how often we don’t put it into practice.
1. Tell me my role, tell me what to do, and give me the rules. Be clear, be direct and let me get on with my job.
2. Discipline my coworker who is out of line. Fairness and equity for everyone – for good and bad performance.
3. Get me excited. Give me a reason to get engaged in what I do. I don’t do boring!
4. Don’t forget to praise me. When I do something that deserves praise, not 12 months later at a review.
5. Don’t scare me. Tell me what I need to know but don’t dump all of your problems on me.
6. Impress me. Lead by example.
7. Give me some autonomy. Trust me – that’s why you hired me.
8. Set me up to win. Help me to win and you look good too.
All Leaders should print these out and ask themselves every day – am I following these rules? If not, why not?
March 11, 2010
I am spending an increasing amount of time coaching executives – reflective of the exciting business world. One challenge that I face is that the coachee wants a solution and, quite often, wants it now. This can be based on a misunderstanding of the nature of coaching and mixing it up with mentoring – an experienced person sharing wisdom – or a consultant – an experienced person brought into to provide a solution. Coaching is about allowing the coachee to find their own solution. Getting these distinctions across at the beginning of a coaching assignment is crucial.
I came across a great summary in Excellence in Coaching edited by Jonathon Passmore:
- A therapist will explore what is stopping you driving the car
- A counsellor will listen to your anxieties about the car
- A mentor will share tips from their own experience of driving cars
- A consultant will advise you on how to drive the car
- A coach will encourage and support you in driving the car
February 12, 2010
Brett Simmons hosts a guest blog by Jim Taggart on how Leaders can earn respect in the workplace. Jim has been a student of Leadership for over 15 years and writes a blog at Changing Winds.
Some of the steps that Leaders can take to gain respect include:
1. It’s okay to change your mind. A failing of many Leaders is the fear that changing their mind will make them look weak. As Jim points out, what is important is explaining the reason for the change.
2. Communicate clearly and regularly. While this sounds obvious, in practice it is the lack of regular communication that can isolate a Leader from the rest of the organisation.
3. Give regular feedback on performance. Honest feedback when staff are doing well – and not so well – is a key step in gaining respect.
4. Share the Leadership. Delegate and empower – but only when your team are ready. As Jim says, park your ego.
5. Admit when you screw up. This is a powerful way to demonstrate Leadership – especially when it is done publicly.
Go to Brent’s blog for the full list.
February 1, 2010
I blogged recently about the need for managers to provide employees with a direct line of sight to the organisation’s goals. Without an understanding of what the organisation wants them to do and how this links to where the organisation is going, managers can hardly expect employees to be interested in changing.
The Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development (CIPD) recently released their Winter 2010 Employee Outlook survey. It provides interesting reading on how employees are coping given the current economic climate. In the section on Employee Attitudes to Management, 13 out of 14 items are rated lower than previous quarters. Just under half of employees (49%) feel fully/fairly well informed about what is happening in their organisation. That is, over half of the workforce surveyed do not have full line of sight to the organisation’s goals, strategy or change plan; without full information, these employees are less likely to be engaged in where the organisation wishes to go. This is backed up by a 28% decline in the belief that senior managers consult them about important issues.
What lessons can we learn from this? At the same time as a low level of information, there is a drop in the level of job satisfaction (down approximately 25% over the year). With 37% of employees stating that the would ideally like to change jobs within the next year, managers need to realise that – even in a recession – they can lose their best and brightest. The top performers will always get another job and are more likely to leave an organisation they do not trust than one that they do.
January 22, 2010
I was struck by a recent conversation with a client. She was reacting to an employee who, in her words, just did not get it. When I asked what the employee did not get, the conversation expanded into how, despite all that was going on in the economy, some staff were still reluctant to change. We talked about why such reluctance existed. The manager felt that some employees had their heads in the sand and needed a reality check.
I have a different take on the situation. On questioning the manager, it became clear that while the organisation was very direct on telling employees what needed to change, there was very little communication about why the change was necessary or even what difference it would make. If your employees cannot see a direct link between what the organisation wants them to do and how it will drive the organisation, managers can hardly expect them to be driven to change. Most employees will change; what they need is a valid reason. If organisations do not give their employee a clear line of sight between what is expected of them and what the organisation is doing, then while change may take place, it will be slower and less successful than it could have been.
January 6, 2010
I was in a retail store recently – an outlet of a major international brand based in a large shopping centre. While browsing, I engaged in a favourite past-time – people watching. The store manager was instructing a staff member to rearrange several displays. While I cannot comment on any previous interactions between the two, this one was enlightening in the use and impact of the manager’s body language as was the employee’s reaction.
The words used by the manager were both polite and clear. His tone and body language (especially facial expressions),however, told a different story. This was a manager who was impatient and determined to show the employee who was in charge. The impact upon the employee was worth observing. She was doing her best to maintain as much distance from her manager as possible given the circumstances. Her facial expressions were obviously neutral and her responses were mono-tonal. This was someone who was very much aware of the power dynamic at play and was not exactly happy with it.
The manager – as is often the case – was totally unaware of the impact he was having on one of his team. Relying on the power of his position, he expected the employee to carry out his instructions. However, the carrying out of those instructions would be all that he would receive. I would imagine that any additional or discretionary performance would not be forthcoming. Any situation that falls outside his instructions would likely require further interventions from the manager – taking up his time and effort. A simple realisation of how body language can change the manager/staff dynamic would have transformed this routine engagement.
Every interaction that we have with those that we work with has an impact. The question managers need to ask themselves is: what impact am I having and is that impact positive or negative to our the working relationship?