Tag Archives: Employee engagement

Are You An Accountable Person…and Leader?

Over the past 12 months I have noticed a trend within my circles of influence about the importance of accountability. Particularly in reference to leadership.

As a result when asked earlier this year to contribute to the e.Mile People Development Magazine by owner, Christina Lattimer, I jumped at the chance to write an article about this topic. I recently wrote a separate, yet related blog on accountability however wanted to bring to attention the importance of accountability and where it is ‘falling down’ in some quarters. By the responses received to the blogs, it is definitely striking a chord with many.

In my 25 plus years of working as an employee, consultant and leadership coach there have been several themes that continue to recur when working with senior leaders, many linked to being an accountable leader.

Earlier in my career it was initially surprising to me how many senior leaders were genuinely stressed and deeply concerned about their capability to lead others, regularly questioning whether they have earned the right to lead. In some cases they were losing sleep and living unhealthy lifestyles due to the real or perceived pressure of their roles.

I now recognise that much of this angst and lack of self-belief has been developed over time based on habitual, intrinsic and external influences, both perceived and real. Excitingly, for the same reasons, these skills and attributes can be grown to turn the negative aspects into positives.

Read More here…Be Accountable To Be A Leader

 

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Character and Personality Contribute to Leadership

Is a strong personality an asset or a hindrance in leadership and how does it compare to character?

In my current role we have been recruiting quite a few new team members to our business in recent months and it has me thinking about the impact of character on business and team success. Personality and character are regularly referred to in similar terms and sometimes interchangeably, but I think the difference is most stark when looking to find diversity and the right mix for your team. That has certainly been my experience.

What is the difference and does it matter? Read the most recent blog on my CoachStation website to see my view…Character and Personality Contribute to Leadership

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Leadership and Communication: The Details Matter

One of the challenges of leadership and, in fact, communication in general, is understanding the level of detail required relative to each situation.

Lead In, Lead On and CoachStation: Communication

Depending on the need, it can be necessary to discuss in-depth the content for a piece of work; what role someone else is to play in the task; seek input into potential solutions and other relevant details. Knowing when this detail is going to add value and not detract from the message or subsequent actions can be the difference between a successful outcome or not. One of the risks is that you as the leader, either do not seek enough input from others and/or confuse the situation as a result of too much information.

I was recently involved in a project that had many layers to it. There were various roles, as you would expect, however the Project Manager (PM) and Project Sponsor were unable to come to grips with their roles to achieve a successful outcome. The PM worked at an ‘arms-length’ with both critical project team members and contributors and the Sponsor was also quite removed as a result. The decision-making process was slow at best and often times non-existent. This flowed into other areas of the project including the testing team and vendor support. Ultimately the project missed several important deadlines over many months and was delayed.

On occasion, it is important to note when it comes to communication and an appropriate level of detail and engagement, less is more!

Without oversimplifying what was a complex project, much of this could have been resolved through clearer communication channels, better-defined roles and improved structure. All of this would have been improved through greater clarity regarding the detail at the beginning of and at various stages of the project. Being able to answer key questions and revisiting them throughout the project can assist in reducing the risk and meet the milestones along the way.

  • What role does each person play?
  • How are the stakeholders to be involved and kept up to date?
  • Has each expert been engaged at the right level and time?
  • Have the end-users and SME’s been involved?
  • How much jurisdiction does the PM have?
  • Who are the key vendor contacts?
  • Who is ultimately responsible for keeping the project on track?
  • What is the role of the Steering Committee and Working Group?

At face value the answer to these questions may seem relatively simple. In reality, the issues that occurred in this project are quite common throughout most organisations in my experience. Leading through a major project, with the right format and level of detail understood by all involved, is difficult. In fact, it can be quite daunting!

Much of this confusion, fear and doubt can be overcome by seeking clarity and involving the project team at the right level. Overlapping and ill-defined roles; political maneuvering; ineffective leadership; poor communication; poor role selection; limited capability of key personnel in key roles; and a loose project plan are all contributors to a reduced outcome. Clarity in tasks, a communication plan/strategy and ultimately a reduction of these issues overall provides a much stronger baseline to work from and minimises the risk of project over-runs and missed deadlines. Understanding the necessary details and seeking clarity early in the project is key. Maintaining an appropriate level of clarity and direction throughout the project timeline also matters.

In leadership generally, the same inputs and questions listed above can be applied to many situations and team cultures. Too much or too little detail and/or a resultant lack of clarity and understanding for each role, position and person within your team is unlikely to add value to meeting goals and objectives. The risk of employee dissatisfaction, turnover and a lack of engagement is also often the result. Enabling your team to provide input into their roles and that of their broader team is critical. As the leader, ensure that clarity exists to the most appropriate degree possible. This does not remove all risk, however is a key piece of the leadership puzzle and as in the example detailed, the alternative can be a very messy and expensive option otherwise.

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Leadership and Team Development

Lead In, Lead On: CoachStation

Last week I wrote and published a blog on my CoachStation business site titled Leadership…This Year and Next. The premise for the content is that we should regularly review our progress and note how we feel about  development in various aspects of our lives. In part I wrote:

This time of year is often associated with resolutions or the idea that changes to what has been the past are required…when it comes to leadership, this ideal is as relevant as ever. As individuals and employees we should feel comfortable with this concept, although I recognise the reality is often somewhat different. Now is a good time to have a look at leadership in general and specifically review how you as a leader are performing against current benchmarks and needs, not those rooted in the past.

 What has altered in leadership for 2014?

The point that culture and society is evolving means that we as leaders need to keep abreast of cultural, societal, organisational behaviour and workplace adjustments. We are judged on many things including our ability to relate to people and influence others. This is a significant change in leadership principles from the past.

In addition to the points made in my original blog, there are several elements that many of us continue to expand upon and capitalise in both our personal and professional lives. This is most relevant when leading teams where each employee is looking to you for guidance and contribution. The premise of a ‘coaching leader’ has never been more relevant, nor important, to ensure that the skills and capabilities required in your leadership role are aligned with the essential tasks and accountabilities.

When performed well through action and coaching, a philosophy of continued development will maximise the opportunities for yourself, organisation and your team.

Whereas many of these elements are not new, it is of value to review and recommit to goals and progress. Too often elements such as time, procrastination, fear, pride and various other contributors stop us from really buying into ownership of our roles and fearlessly taking action. Challenging ourselves to step outside of our comfort zones, however briefly, remains a key doubt for some.

There are many reasons to develop yourself and your team, not the least of which is the satisfaction obtained when meaningful progress occurs. Knowing what each team member is looking for and connecting at an appropriate level is a great start. The desires and depth of experiences employees are looking for remains consistent. Being able to find these in reality remains a challenge. In general, people want to feel like they:

  • Can contribute to something larger.
  • Are respected and also are given the opportunity and environment to respect those they work with.
  • Can align their personal  values with peers, colleagues and organisations that employ them – this is critical!
  • Are able to ‘put their ideas out there’ without ridicule or dismissal.
  • Will be assessed on measurable performance and capability, not subjective, inconsistent, personality-driven assessments and reviews.
  • Have the opportunity to develop various aspects of their skills, capability and attributes based on their own needs, not on subjective, mass-produced training options.
  • Are empowered to make decisions and have relevant authority for their role.

Each one of us has the responsibility and obligation to commit to our roles and be accountable for our development. In an ideal world and in those cases where I see continued personal and professional growth, an assessment of progress and development is made regularly – at least each year. After all, as leaders, one of our key responsibilities is to develop other leaders. If there is no discernible improvement, growth or development in our team members at this point in time compared to the same time time last year, then both of us have failed.

Do you see areas where improvement or a refocus could be applied by yourself? When is comes to continued growth and development, where do you think you and your team are currently? Let me know your thoughts.

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Leadership and Managing Redundancies: CoachStation

These are challenging times! It seems that, at least in Australia, we are yet to fully recover the confidence levels that existed before the financial crisis of a few years ago. This has led to less certainty in sentiment and in some cases, reductions in the workforce.

Leadership is imperative at any time, however our recent global and local economic plight brings the importance of leading well to the fore even more starkly. This is no more apparent than when the unfortunate situation arises where members of your team have to be let go, not based on performance but from a financial situation for the company involved. Redundancies are rarely pleasant however, when managed well, the impact for all parties involved can be minimised.

Unfortunately, the worst thing to happen to these organisations isn’t the fact that these redundancies take place, it’s the poor leadership which follows the redundancies. Consequences such as reduced productivity and engagement can linger for many months, or even years, especially when the process has not been handled gracefully. (1)

Read More on my CoachStation website…

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Leadership and Performance Appraisals

Leading people requires you to assess performance on a regular basis. How effectively these processes are applied is where this topic becomes interesting.

Leadership and Performance Appraisal

Many small and medium sized businesses do not have a regular process for assessing performance and reviewing results against goals. It seems this is generally a process used by larger organisations, as they seek to have access to some sort of tool and appraisal system that differentiates their employees from one another for the purposes of salary reviews and bonus structures. The question of whether this is the best reason to manage such a process springs to mind. Additionally, scale and a larger employee base requires that HR is involved in the process generally to offer a sense of calibration and overseeing the consistency and judgments made by managers. In theory this may provide a tool or process that enables growth, drives performance and supplies avenues for employee development and coaching. In practice it regularly fails to meet the hype.

Unfortunately, the reality of effective leadership in performance appraisal systems is often quite different from the intent.

A performance review is an important tool and opportunity for discussion, when conducted correctly. There are many benefits, including:

  • The opportunity to meet with each team member individually and provide feedback and coaching to support ongoing improvement
  • An opportunity to build and sustain the relationship between yourself and your team members.
  • The chance to review goals established earlier in the year. Check in with progress and make changes where necessary to support achievement of these goals by the end of the time period originally specified.
  • The opportunity to use related tools to establish benchmarks between leaders of other teams and compare thoughts and findings about what has been achieved, where gaps exist and what actions could be taken to remedy and assist the current situation. This provides a sense of calibration, which is one of the most common areas of concern for appraisal systems.
  • Challenging employee comfort levels, in those cases where a team member has plateaued and is looking for or needing additional assistance.
  • Ensure that all content from ad-hoc and formal discussions that have occurred during the period are summarised and the time is taken to ensure that clarity, consensus and action are applied.

There are other benefits apart from those listed, however many businesses do not have existing processes to achieve these benefits. When a formal system does exist, quite often it is applied so poorly that any benefits are overshadowed by the real or perceived failings of the process. In recent years there has been a passive backlash against formal appraisal systems, with recognition that the intent has not matched the reality gathering momentum. This is most prevalent in larger organisations where the process has been applied over many years and cycles and the obvious gaps exposed. Those businesses who are serious about employee engagement are now challenging the standards in how employees are assessed.

Brisbane author and leadership consultant, Dr. Tim Baker works with HR managers and employees on better ways to connect with staff…Corporations now are benefiting from this framework, replacing performance development reviews with short, themed conversations, scattered throughout the year. He says most workplaces must use the same principle, targeting issues as they happen, rather than bottling them up to deal with at review time… Baker says that the annual or bi-annual review of company employees is a form of bullying, focused more on compliance than development, which is counter-productive in a modern, dynamic workplace. (1)

There are no easy solutions with this topic. The opportunity to assess and review the employee base is too often used as a tool to tick a box rather than provide the framework for ongoing, sustainable and meaningful discussions based on growth, goals and achievements. The opportunity is wasted if it is no more than a chore and performed begrudgingly. Take the opportunity to truly review the performance of each team member. Be original in your thoughts and comments as each of your team are unique in what they do and how they achieve what they do.

Seek the view of each individual. Listen, connect and challenge where appropriate. Make sure that whatever the process, you as a leader are working with each employee to commit to a plan that makes sure you, your team members and business are better off now than they were 12 months ago as a result of your leadership. Commit to setting up the right expectations and support to ensure that you are also both better off for the work you do over the next 12 months. If not, then you have both failed in your roles and I am sure that you expect more from yourself and your team!

What is your experience with performance reviews and appraisals? Do you have experience with a better system that those usually provided?

(1) New Harmony At Work: Career One, May 18-19th, 2013

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Roles, Structure and Instinct…Be Like a Bee

In my front garden is a small bush. As we enter the early stages of Spring, it has come into full bloom. The plant is covered in bunches of small, white, delicate flowers. I can see the bush from my office and often enjoy the view of our garden. Under my office window is a bench seat that I made last year using the original wood from a patio that we pulled down in our backyard. It is one of my favourite places to sit.

One beautiful Spring day last week I was sitting on the bench watching the bees, literally hundreds of them, flitting from flower to flower. I watched them for 20 minutes or so working very studiously collecting nectar and doing what bees do….and it got me thinking. How different are our businesses and organisations, the expectations of tasks and designated roles to that required of bees?

I imagine if I followed the bees back to their hives and was able to peer into the inner workings that I would not see:

  • Ineffective meetings being held with members unsure why they were in the meeting in the first-place.
  • Bee committees discussing outcomes like seasonal adjustments related to the weather, honey production rates and similar bee-like measurements.
  • Projects being constructed taking into account the Six-Sigma effectiveness of nectar collection and discussion about how this could be improved…and, so on.

Then how do the bees work so efficiently? How do they instinctively know their roles, understand the structure and are so effective at what they do?

Although I respect and appreciate nature, often reflecting on the miracles that occur around us every day, I am not an expert in this field. I also wonder what external influences have the most impact on the bee colonies? At another level it is also fascinating that there are so many different types of bees collecting nectar from the same bush. In fact there are over 1500 native varieties in Australia, along with the common introduced varieties. They have all learned to co-exist and in fact play a vital role in the balance of nature, especially the pollination of agricultural crops, horticultural crops and the household garden.

CoachStation: Knowing Your Role, Business Structure and Purpose

The different bees do not appear to get in each others way, are able to amicably work together, efficiently moving from flower to flower, pollinating and collecting as they go. There are significant size differences between varieties – but this does not seem to make any difference. There is no apparent political maneuvering, bullying, struggle for alignment or loss of effectiveness through too many bees congregating around a single flower. Bees know their roles and do it well  – how did they learn all of this?

Is there an instinctive drive to play their role or is there a learned behaviour such as replication or demonstration via senior roles or leadership within the colony?

My point is not to make light of the efficiency of nature nor that of businesses and organisations, but to delve into why we do what we do in the workplace. Understanding our roles, the structure and influences on choices we make is often taken for granted. Is this consistent with your workplace? There is value in stopping to think about your own role, that of your team and the structure we work within. This is important at any stage but no more so than with our present economic situation.

The general feel in the population is one where we are ‘holding our breath’. In Australia there are boom regions and sectors and industries and cities that are doing it tough. A high level of conservatism is prevalent – it is like businesses are on pause, waiting for a change and stimulus to occur – without knowing when or where this might come from. Retail spending and other financial measures are also reflecting this conservatism. As a result employees remain hesitant also. Possibly not feeling comfortable to look for alternatives if dissatisfied or worse, disengaged in their current role.

People are stretched in their roles, covering more work that previously may have been completed by others who have been made redundant and/or have never been replaced.

Employees are being asked to do more with less and ‘collect more nectar’, at ever-increasing rates with targets and expectations growing year-on-year. Structure, knowing your role and what is expected of you are crucial in times such as these, however these tasks and associated roles have probably changed significantly over recent years. The role of leadership, engagement and direction remains critical to team and individual success

Good leaders ensure that they:

  1. Focus on the tasks that matter most – they may not be the tasks you are currently doing.
  2. Communicate clearly to all members of their team what is required of them, what support will be provided and how and when the objectives will be measured.
  3. Provide opportunity for their employees to have input into their roles, tasks assigned and offer solutions to existing problems.
  4. Meaningfully engage their team, as a team and as individuals, providing context and opportunity to be involved in the direction of the team and business.
  5. Revisit development plans – their own and that of their team on a regular basis – quarterly is generally a good time-frame.
  6. Challenge themselves to learn something new and substantial during the remainder of 2012.
  7. Review team structure, capability and diversity to meet current and importantly, future objectives. What can be done now to fill any gaps or remedy a potential future issue?

It is not enough to rely on history, your gut or instinct and assume that what is currently being completed is the ‘right’ piece of work. This must be clear to all involved. For  bees, their role is vital, yet simple in practice – pollinate and collect nectar. Your team member’s may not see it so clearly. They each have different expectations, beliefs, values and willingness to apply discretionary effort. Now is the time to stop, recheck what is most important to you, your family and employer. It is a great time to assume nothing!

Set yourself up to maximise the opportunities when the economic situation improves. Start to think about your goals for next year. What does success look like by December 2013?

If working on the same things day-to-day meets your needs, that is fine. But if it does not, or is inconsistent with business expectation, issues may arise. Knowing your role and how it fits into the bigger picture is important. Without making appropriate choices, taking action and setting goals, little will change. You will simply be just another bee doing the same thing and you may not reap the future rewards (honey!) if you do not choose how growth / change will occur and take appropriate steps…today.

The road to happiness lies in two simple principles: Find what it is that interests you and that you can do well, and when you find it, put your whole soul into it – every bit of energy, ambition and natural ability that you have.

(John D Rockefeller III)

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