Monthly Archives: January 2012

Leadership, The Coach and Coaching

I was fortunate to attend an evening hosted by one of my local football clubs on Friday night. The guest speaker was Ange Postecoglou, head coach of our local nationally based football (soccer) side, the Brisbane Roar. Ange has represented Australia playing football and has successfully transitioned into coaching ranks.

Ange was able to offer significant insight into his own style and the great success his club has had in recent seasons. TheBrisbane Roar FCre were several points about leadership and team culture that particularly resonated for me. A selection of the key points raised by Ange are highlighted below, followed by my own thoughts about how they translate to the business environment.

Point 1: The team exists because of the players and their ability to perform and follow the team plan. All other people in the club, including the coach, CEO and other staff are there because of the players and they should be served accordingly.

My Thoughts: This is as true in business as in sport. As conveyed by Ken Blanchard and other thought leaders, the ability and willingness to serve your team as individual’s and a unit is one of the great leadership mindsets. You are there for your team, not the other way around.

Point 2: If you really believe in something, you must be prepared to make decisions and stick by them. Ultimately the buck stops with the head coach, so make sure you are in a position to make decisions and reinforce them through action.

My thoughts: Every leader has their own style. Some are more decisive, democratic, inclusive etc. however the leader should lead. This requires the ability to make decisions, align them to business and team goals and compel others to buy into the concepts because overall accountability still sits with the you as the leader and it is difficult to achieve on your own.

Point 3: Although Ange acknowledged he is ‘not a fan’ of confrontation, he is more than willing to take it on when it comes his way.

My thoughts: Although I have met very few people who enjoy confrontation (there is a difference between ability to manage confrontation and enjoying it), the skill to effectively manage confrontational situations is key to leadership. Emotional intelligence, engagement and empathy are important in my experience – reading the situation clearly by understanding the other person’s perspective and reasons why the situation has escalated help to manage confrontation.

Point 4: Not everyone will fit into your team culture, plan and goals, even if they are very good players and stalwarts of the team. (Note: when Ange took over coaching the Brisbane Roar team in 2009, he chose to release a handful of key players and the captain, which, although unpopular with supporter’s and the media at the time, have proven to be the right moves).

My thoughts: This is an interesting point. Through force of conviction, clear goals and direction, Ange was able to identify those player’s who were willing and flexible enough to transition across to the new team culture. ‘Star’ players and high performance historically does not necessarily translate to continued success within a different culture and/or set of expectations.

Point 5: Performance – it is OK to make mistakes if you are playing the team way. Be prepared to allow player’s to make mistakes, but not if they are playing as individual’s. Be brave and allow the players to express themselves, within the team guidelines.

My thoughts: Within my team and when I am facilitating leadership development sessions, I often discuss the concept of boundaries and expectations. Among other expectations, it is imperative to set clear direction and limits so that all team member’s are aware of guidelines, where they fit in, what they will be measured upon and how they are supported. Without it you are encouraging individualism, creating confusion and an environment of assumptions. I have found it is about finding the balance between expectation-setting and providing enough space to be innovative, creative and proactive.

Point 6: Ange would prefer to see the team play the team way and adhere to the team structure and lose than get a good result by not following the team plan. He was able to offer examples of games where he was happy overall with the effort, organisation and structure of the game but the result did not go the team’s way. Alternatively he has on occasion been unhappy with the team’s response even with a good result. His message was clear, how we get there is just as important, if not more so, than the end result!

My thoughts: I could not agree more with this concept. Too often I see managers rewarding and recognising employees based on the end result, with no regard as to how it was achieved. I interpreted this message as the ‘right’ journey will more often than not provide the ‘right’ result and the team culture, ethic and standard will be reinforced even further as a result. This point focuses on the ‘how’. Ultimately, the long-term culture and level of understanding benefits from this mindset.

This also relates to the belief from some that ‘the end justifies the means’, which I do not support. I have often seen greater growth and learning occur for someone through the sequences contained within the journey more so than benefits achieved from the outcome. The outcome in itself is a short-lived effect – the path to get there has many opportunities to learn and contribute. Developing a strong team brand, aligned to values and integrity will always create a team dynamic and culture that has long-term benefits, even through the challenge of staff turnover and transition periods.

Point 7: Each morning, the players have to shake the hand and acknowledge every other player, staff member and employee of the club that they come across.

My thoughts: Another interesting concept. Although it feels a little contrived, ‘forcing’ this initially may have felt unnatural to some player’s, however I see the point. Being present and engaging those in your team and beyond creates a dynamic and inclusive environment. Hopefully this becomes a natural part of the culture and ultimately more ‘real’ for those involved, however initially creating a team standard more overtly has obvious benefit. Essentially, show an interest in your people because you are actually interested not because you feel you should!

Point 8: You play for what’s on the front of the jersey (team jumper) not what’s on the back!

My thoughts: I love this point! The front of the jumper has the team logo (Brisbane Roar); national competition logo (A-League); and the sponsors logo. Ange is reinforcing that the player should respect and be proud of the club, the association that provides the opportunity to play and the sponsors who enable the team to succeed through sponsorship and funding. The back of the jumper has the player’s name and player number. The message is clear – in the Roar culture, play for yourself and you won’t fit in to his team. In business, focus on your needs only and you are missing the whole point of leadership!!

Point 9: Taking shortcuts has implications. Ownership for the team’s success must be held by the entire team. Leadership traits are the responsibility of all.

My thoughts: I am a keen advocate of developing leadership skills in people, even if they do not have direct reports. Leadership is more than a role or title – it is first and foremost an attitude, with the skills and traits that effective leaders display being able to be learned by almost anyone. It takes significant effort and time to develop though, with no silver bullet to learning and application of leadership. Of course, how well these skills are portrayed is critical, but the point that leadership within the team is the responsibility for all makes perfect sense. There is the leader and there are those who lead!

Overall, there were many interesting points raised on the night. Although the context between sports coaching, business and leadership has been written about many times, the first-hand examples and theories provided by Ange in his role as a successful coach of a national sporting team, have many parallels to business. How many can you identify with?

I am very interested in your own thoughts and comments relating to sports coaching, leadership and aligned successes.

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Expectation Setting – Who Cares?

Feeling The Pressure Of Long Hours...Are Expectations Clear?!!

Does an employee have the right to clear expectations?

Or, is it the employee’s responsibility to ask if they are unclear about any aspect of their role. As leader’s should we just expect that the clarity and details will come in time – it’s not like there is an expectation of high performance on day 1..or day 10..or day…? Or, is there never an expectation of high performance? There should be!

Earlier this week I read a blog on the Leaders Beacon website (thanks Colleen Sharen) providing insight into expectation setting. It got me thinking. How well do we as leaders really set clear expectations? Do we induct our new employees effectively? Is this even on the radar of leaders or central to business planning and strategy? Do we consider business requirements, measurement and regularly review these aspects for our longer-tenured team member’s? Fair questions for leaders…not so great a reality.

Expectation setting is more than providing a broad brush-stroke of requirements as highlighted in a position description document. It is also not simply a high-level group of role requirements that form part of the probation period, if there is one. It goes well beyond that and has a direct correlation to employee engagement. It is defining a reality for that employee – with depth and meaning – based on the information included within but not exclusively from work documents, policies and position descriptions. Yet, it is more than that.

Every individual has different expectations of themselves, their leader and the employer. Each team member brings different skills, values, biases, desires and other personal traits to their role. It is the leaders job to understand the employee well enough to blend business needs with personal needs. This helps to build strong relationships, opportunity to align values and remove uncertainty that often comes from unexplained or misunderstood diversity between employees.

Clarity in expectations is not only important for each employee but clearly of benefit to the employer/business. The risk is that if expectations are not clearly set and understood, performance will suffer, morale of this employee and possibly others around them may decrease and certainly, the ability to ‘master’ their role is diminished. It is a lose-lose situation and yet not all that rare an occurrence.

Reduced discretionary effort and a limited willingness to engage beyond the bare minimum are also potential risks. Additional pressure is often felt by the employee and can be demonstrated through behaviours such as increased hours in the workplace, withdrawing from the team, irritability, sullen attitudes and other negative outcomes.

Setting each team member up for success starts before their first day. We all make judgments and these start during the recruitment and interview process – for both the employer and the potential employee. Hopefully, you have set a good standard of communication and enhanced the image of your business throughout the recruitment process. This high standard certainly must be consistently delivered from day one of employment, assisting to build employee engagement, which is of value to any leader as noted below.

  • In world-class organizations, the ratio of engaged to actively disengaged employees is 9.57:1.
  • In average organizations, the ratio of engaged to actively disengaged employees is 1.83:1.

Actively disengaged employees erode an organization’s bottom line while breaking the spirits of colleagues in the process…estimates this cost to be more than $300 billion in lost productivity alone. Beyond the significant differences engaged workgroups show in productivity, profitability, safety incidents, and absenteeism versus disengaged workgroups, we have proven that engaged organizations have 3.9 times the earnings per share (EPS) growth rate compared to organizations with lower engagement in their same industry. (1)

In any role, the employee has the right to expect a clear understanding of what is required of them. Every task, function, skillset, policy and other related expectations should be provided early in his or her tenure. This set of expectations should then form part of the regular rhythm of coaching, discussions and review.

It is never fair employment strategy nor smart leadership to expect that an employee will ‘pick up’ all they need to perform their role to a standard if that standard is never clearly established.

This includes the need to also check in and ensure clarity (for both parties), along with a willingness and ability to meet the expectations now or in the future with the proper support, development and training.

If we don’t, then we are breeding and encouraging mediocrity in our leadership standards, within our team cultures and potentially setting the bar low before your business has had a chance to excel.

Expectation setting – who cares? You should!

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Steve Riddle:

I have had many discussions over the years with various leaders about emotions and their place in business. For the most part we have agreed to disagree! Having emotions is being human…showing emotions is normal…being overly emotional, adds little value at work.

Originally posted on Blanchard LeaderChat:

“Don’t get emotional—this is strictly business.” How many times has that phrase been uttered by managers and leaders over the years?  That’s the question that Scott and Ken Blanchard ask in their first column just published in the winter issue of Training Industry Quarterly. They explain that, “while managers often ask employees to take a detached view of the work environment, the reality is that feelings play a large role in performance.”  The two Blanchards recommend that, “instead of avoiding feelings, managers should be embracing them.  They are a key driver of performance.”

How is your organization doing?

Blanchard and Blanchard go on to explain that to create a passionate work environment, leaders need to address 12 work environment factors. Drawing on the company’s employee work passion research, the Blanchards point out that employee perceptions of what is happening in each of these areas will lead to…

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