March 30, 2011
Time. There is never enough of it to get to the bottom of our To Do Lists. No matter how many items that we take off the list, the more we seem to add. Peter Bregman writes about how to better manage those inevitable lists. Bregman talks about turning intention into an action what he calls “the power of when and where”.
By deciding the where and when we will do an item, we significantly increase the likelihood of accomplishing it. “The reason we’re always left with unfinished items on our to-do lists is because those lists are the wrong tool to drive our accomplishments. A list is useful as a collection tool”.
However, a calendar is the ideal tool as it already is the place where we decide where and when. Bregman believes that as it already guides our accomplishments. And given that we have limited time each day, this will force us to prioritise. If you haven’t scheduled something, you can begin to question why you have it on your To List to begin with.
June 15, 2010
A very interesting article in Fast Company by Dan Heath (author of Made to Stick) looks at the impact that the Fundamental Attribution Error can have on how we assess behaviours. Fundamental Attribution Error occurs when we attribute the behaviour of an individual in a specific context to being part of their core character.
A typical example is how we all can sometimes behave when in rush hour traffic. Most of us have committed acts when driving that, while not life threatening, are not always nice! Do these acts reflect our real personality? Do we react in a similar fashion in other contexts when under stress – probably not.
Sometimes we need to take a step back when assessing an unusual behaviour, especially one that is out of character, and ask the question: is this behaviour a result of the situation or is it the person?
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.
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?
December 14, 2009
Harvard Business Review have been celebrating the centenary of the birth of Peter Drucker, one of the fathers of modern management. HBR publish some of his classic contributions, as well as perspectives on Drucker’s influence from key contributors including Rosabeth Moss Kanter and Ellen Peebles.
Classic Drucker articles for the HBR include Managing Oneself and What Makes an Executive Successful (Registration with HBR required to read the full articles). In What Makes an Executive Successful (Note 1), Drucker outlines the 8 steps all successful executives follow – whether they are dull or charismatic, easygoing or controlling, generous or parsimonious. They all asked the followed these practices:
- What needs to be done?
- What is right for the enterprise?
- They developed action plans
- They took responsibility for decisions.
- They took responsibility for communicating.
- They were focused on opportunities rather than problems.
- They run productive meetings.
- They think and say “We,” not “I.”
In Managing Oneself (Note 2), Drucker discusses how we must take responsibility for managing ourselves over the course of our working lives. “To do this, you’ll need to cultivate a deep understanding of yourself. What are your most valuable strengths and most dangerous weaknesses? Equally important, how do you learn and work with others? What are your most deeply held values? And in what type of work environment can you make the greatest contribution?” Drucker outlines simple questions (if hard in practice) that we must ask ourselves to begin the journey of self-awareness.
- What are my strengths?
- What are my values?
- Where do I belong?
- What do I contribute?
Note 1: What makes an Executive Effective, Peter Drucker, Harvard Business Review, June 2004
Note 2: Managing Oneself, Peter Drucker, Harvard Business Review, January 2005