Tag Archives: Employment

Leadership, Employee Relationships and Development

Has the role and context of leadership changed over the last few decades and if so, in what ways?

Leadership fundamentals continue to be tweaked and challenged, however ultimately the base requirements for effective leadership remain the same. The environment and cultures within which we lead continue to evolve also. Technology, systems, the global nature of work and various other changes to the modern work world all influence the inputs required and outputs gained from leadership and the capabilities most employers and employees are looking for.

I recently read with interest two articles in the July edition of the Financial Review – Boss magazine titled, ‘The New Employer-Employee Contract’ and ‘Crisis in Business Leadership’.

For most of the 20th century the compact between employers and employees was based on loyalty. That is now gone, replaced…by a transactional laissez-faire approach that serves neither party well. A workable new compact must recognise that jobs are unlikely to be permanent but should encourage lasting alliances nonetheless. The key is that both the employer and employee seek to add value to each other. Employees invest in the company’s adaptability; the company invests in employees’ employability. Three simple policies can make this new compact tangible. They are: hiring employees for explicit ‘tours of duty’; encouraging employees to build networks and expertise outside the organisation and establishing active alumni networks to maintain career-long relationships.

A recent study demonstrates the inherent risks and current state of leadership. The propensity for ‘people in charge’ to be focusing on the traditional management requirements for their roles as opposed to leadership continue to be an issue. The opportunities for smaller businesses to develop a point of difference through leadership flexibility and agility based on reduced bureaucracy and opportunity to act and react more quickly is highlighted. Additionally, there is a clear delineation in a view of the organisations ability and willingness to dedicate time, funding and energy to leadership development, depending on the level of the business an individual works within.

The verdict from the University of Sydney’s and Boss’s second survey of executives is that our workplaces also suffer a failure of leadership; at least from the perspective of senior managers.

We interviewed members of The Financial Review Business Leaders panel and 137 mid-level and senior manager completed an online survey. Those in middle management ranks are more optimistic about the way organisations are run. But a quarter of senior business executives warn that their companies are being over-managed and under-led. Just over 5 per cent think that developing good leaders is something their company takes seriously. Only 11 per cent believe their business excels at identifying future leaders, according to research.

Too much focus on management – not leadership

“We focus, as people come up through their careers, on their management ability – are they able to drive a profit or run [the business] most efficiently – rather than leadership,” Lord says. “Management skills aren’t as important because you can build the right team around you.”

The overwhelming feedback was that companies’ “management systems reward financial performance rather than leadership skills”. The clear message is for more “time and recognition” to be dedicated to developing leadership experience.

Results and data from the survey also found:

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Ownership of Your Employment Status

What is is about perception and reality that influences what we see, what we think and our subsequent choices?

This question can be applied to many aspects of life, including job security, employability and self-awareness. We do not always see things clearly. Assumptions, partial facts, bias and other traits can add value to decision-making however can also skew and negatively impact our choices. The things that motivate an individual do change over time. Circumstance, educational opportunities and advancement of knowledge, personal situation, economic environment and other factors are taken into account when weighing up the options between seeking or taking on a new role and remaining with their current employer.

Many of these aspects are intrinsic, driven by the person from within and others are extrinsic, influenced by external factors. It is the intrinsically driven motivations, beliefs, attitudes and choices that we all have control over. But, they are different for each of us. Keeping a ‘real’ attitude and preparing for the future based on fact, not assumptions helps if the situation arises that a job change is required, no matter the incentive or reason.

There’s a disconnect between managers and employees about why people want jobs

CoachStation: Creating A Vision For The Future

Leaders remain one of the greatest impacts on the level of comfort employees have within an organisation. The leader is often the face of the business, providing opportunities and relationships that either grow or hinder the perspective of employees. Clarity regarding what each employee values the most is one way to build this relationship and related elements such as trust, accountability, role structure and advancement.

Bosses think people are attracted to new jobs primarily for career advancement but over the past two years money in the bank has become the biggest motivator for people to change employers. Five years of financial shock, redundancies, business collapses and frightening headlines have taken their toll and Australian workers now just want to pay down debt and find a haven to ride out the storm. Opportunities for paid time off, bonuses and flexibility have been pushed aside for a preference for large base pay.

According to the Towers Watson Global Workforce study 2012, the top global “attraction drivers” (or what encourages people to work for an organisation) are, in order of importance:

  1. Base pay
  2. Job security
  3. Career advancement
  4. The convenience of location
  5. Career development

What employers think they are is:

  1. Career advancement
  2. Base pay
  3. Challenging work
  4. Job security
  5. An organisation’s reputation as a great place to work. (1)

The above data reproduced from a recent BRW magazine has some merit, however is not the whole story and neither does it apply the same way to everyone. Additionally, the picture presented in the article has not always been the case. It was only a short while ago that many of our Gen Y employees were unaware of what it was like to work during a time where job cuts and redundancies were frequent; roles of choice were difficult to find; and it was predominantly an employer’s job market.

I have several family members and friends who are working through their employment options right now. Each person and situation is different. Each person has their own beliefs and needs and are at various stages of acceptance of their situation, financial requirements and employability. Being clear about what you want from life, including as an employee, helps an individual make appropriate decisions based on want, values and need and not simply situation and opportunity. Even when current roles appear stable, understanding of yourself and focusing energies on the next step or options is a worthwhile exercise. Seeking a coach and working through this detail can be valuable.

Knowing what you want and how it fits into the real labour market is important

This may not be a clearly defined promotion or future role defined by a position or title, but may include features, traits and expectations that a role should include to be of interest.

None of us know what the future holds, but being prepared for what could be, whilst balancing the needs of ‘now’ is a sensible approach. Where does this sit with you?

(1)   Business Review Weekly: Issue August 23-29, 2012

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The Current Challenge Of Leadership

CoachStation: Building Leadership, Talent and EQ

People-oriented issues are the biggest factors impacting business success in 2012.

A recent report by the business group, SixSeconds, titled The 2012 Workplace Issues Report: Insights On The People Side of Performance seeks to identify the key challenges in the workplace today. The report details the results of a global survey which explores top issues as well as employee attitudes and the role of emotional intelligence in solving those key issues. The findings collate 775 responses from leaders and employees worldwide, representing various levels of employment, industries and sectors. There are many interesting results and data-sets stemming from the survey, all providing depth to the importance of people-related leadership activities.

58% of survey respondents list ‘Leadership’ as the biggest ‘people-side’ issue in their organisation.

Additionally, the survey highlights key words that identify fundamental areas of concern for business. The views of the respondents were summarised in the most frequently used words collated from the verbatim comments. In order, they were:

  1. Retention
  2. Talent
  3. Leadership
  4. Communication

Fascinating results, with these trends and themes entrenched even more soundly in a few of my most recent discussions. It seems that the ability for an organisation to join the dots for their employees to the broader vision; hold onto key staff; provide effective leadership; and supply opportunities for growth and a reason to stay are as important as ever.

I regularly attend the Leadership Effectiveness Group (LEG) organised by a peer, Sonia McDonald, which seeks to bring like-minded people together to share concepts and experiences about leadership. Last week I was invited to facilitate the session where the topic was: What are your challenges as a leader?

It was a great evening, where every attendee had the opportunity to participate and provide insights based on their own experiences and industry. The following points were raised during the LEG event and may be of value and assistance to others, as we found that the vast majority of issues and challenges were not industry-specific. Core themes included:

  • The high need for all employees to be self-aware and understand the impact they can and do have on other employees and clients.
  • The requirement to align personal needs with business needs – leaders must understand the link between the ‘work you’ and the ‘external you’, if it exists.
  • The benefits and additional challenges that derive from modern technology and the links to Social media – it is important to understand the risks and rewards of Social Media.
  • Flexibility is important, although there is an acknowledgment that measuring effectiveness and efficiency contribute to the ability to remain flexible.
  • Business is not only about the bottom-line.
  • A clear line must be drawn between friendship, leadership, standards and expectations. This is a challenge where friendship is often confused with connectedness.
  • Being able to differentiate between technical and adaptive challenges. Adaptive challenges are those where there is no known way or method to solve the issue – you are on the edge of competence. Technical challenges are those that can be solved through existing knowledge, skills, background etc.
  • The prominence of capable technical employees being promoted into leadership roles without the proper training, support and development – leadership competence is assumed.
  • Understanding individual personalities and work styles – related to the ability to effectively influence others.

…and the final word from the LEG discussion belongs to Bill, who left us with an excellent point regarding ‘soft-skills’.

He proposed that the name in itself is a bit misleading as the so called ‘soft-skills’ are actually ‘hard-skills’ in reality.

One of the more compelling results in the SixSeconds survey was seen in the accumulated responses to the question: Of the important issues your organization is facing, what percentage are tied to people / relationships and what percentage are tied to financial / technical issues?

66% of these important issues are ‘People / Relational based, with the remaining 34% being ‘Financial / Technical”

Interestingly, by the end of the LEG evening it was evident that a few core themes stood out which were very consistent with those expressed in the survey. Developing soft-skills (or ‘hard skills’) requires effort, focus and self-awareness amongst other elements. Is this why the leadership skills that fall under this category are often the ones that are least practiced and improved. Is it fear? If  a leader asks the question of his or her team, they may not like nor be willing to acknowledge the answer. So is there a view for some leaders, based on fear, that it is best to not ask in the first place?

The responses to these challenging questions are different for every one of us. The importance of understanding your own needs and motivations are key to understanding how you deliver as a leader. The evidence that this remains an issue can be seen in surveys and discussions such as those highlighted. The most important element is not the data itself. That is simply an outcome.

The willingness to acknowledge and take action to develop these skills and attributes, to become a more effective leader will drive improvement in leadership effectiveness and ensure that we are seeing different survey results in years to come.

What are your major leadership challenges for the remainder of 2012 and into 2013?

I would like to thank Sonia and the members of the Leadership Effectiveness Group for their input, insights and depth of discussion last week, which has contributed to much of the content for this blog.

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