Tag Archives: Human resources

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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Filed under Employee Engagement, Leadership

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


Filed under Employee Engagement, Leadership, People Development

Success and Influence

You can build a throne with bayonets, but you can’t sit on it for long ~Boris Yeltsin

This quote can be interpreted in many ways. For me, it refers to progress and how we measure our own success.

How we get ‘there’ is as important, if not more so, than the end result.

How do you measure success and progress? Achieving ‘Success’ and career progression through aggression, politicised behaviour, putting self-first and stepping on others to reach great heights, has a limited life expectancy. I have found the most satisfying and rewarding outcomes mostly derive from interactions with others, along with an ability and willingness to give more than take.

The opportunities to succeed often come from your efforts to support as many people as you can through:

  • Engaging thought and conversation
  • Seeking counsel and being willing to act as counsel
  • Listening genuinely with no bias
  • Understanding your own values and how they align with others

Affirming success as a direct outcome of your influence with and through others is not only more gratifying, but is of greater benefit to all. How you are judged by others depends on many things, including how you treat people and how you make them feel. Especially those who matter most to you.

Consider the key relationships in your life and how they have supported you and whether you have been supportive of them achieving their own dreams and desires. Have you reinforced and backed in an encouraging way?

Are you genuinely comfortable in that position or are you wondering how long will it be before you have to move on – or, to put it another way, what is your throne made from?


Filed under Motivation, Values