Tag Archives: Skill

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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Filed under Employee Engagement, Leadership

Efficiency and Effectiveness – Leadership Impact

Are you efficient and effective in all that you do?

I’m not, however a recent experience has taught me more about myself and the importance of these two attributes .

CoachStation: Leadership and People Development - Efficiency and Effectiveness

Self-reflection, taking into account the many factors that influence us all is important for growth. Taking time to reflect provides a platform for improvement and awareness about what is going well and what you would like to change about who you are and what you do. In my most recent role as a senior leader within a global organisation I had many responsibilities and tasks assigned to my position. I was also in the fortunate situation where, for most of my tenure, I had a high degree of flexibility and freedom in my direction and subsequently, that of my team.

Last year there was a leadership change within my team, which had its pros and cons. I had been through leadership change many times before. However, in this instance I did find there was less opportunity to genuinely contribute my ideas and I felt significantly less valued and comfortable in my role as a result. My point is not to judge the leadership decisions or styles, more of how this made me react internally and the choices I made during this period.

I found great value in self-reflection and specifically spent time focusing on how efficient and effective I was being. Were the changes impacting my team? Had my demeanor changed?

Was I still as effective and efficient in my leadership as I had been?

Questions such as this at face value may have been instigated from self-doubt, however I found power in being able to analyse my routines, creativeness and methods of working. As someone who has focused quite a deal of time on this topic, I knew this could be the make or break for my tenure, depending on the outcomes of my decisions.

So, what did I do?  I researched the specific contexts of effectiveness and efficiency. Not so that I could define the two words for the sake of it, more so as I wanted to ensure I was not assuming too much, influencing my choices – I used key words from the definitions to provide direction.

efficiency – the ratio of the output to the input of any system. Skillfulness in avoiding wasted time and effort; “she did the work with great efficiency”. (1)

Was my focus on the right things – the ability to avoid wasting time and effort. Stripping back on the many tasks and focusing on the core few reaps many rewards, no matter the situation. This led me to think about my own journey and that of others I have worked closely enough with to have observed certain behaviours. My observations include:

  • We often become set in our ways, accept the norms and standards that have been established for months or even years.
  • A willingness to firstly see these inefficient processes and desire to drive change are two different behaviours / choices, but are both important (For those who are interested, have a look at the ADKAR model).
  • Knowing something and doing something are not the same thing.
  • Don’t implement a solution unless it has a benefit that can be defined and actions that can be taken.
  • Associated with the above, prioritising tasks and decisions is key to moving forward – as is often stated, urgent tasks are not necessarily important.
  • It is better to fully impact one or two key pieces of work in a sustained and meaningful way than half-complete several tasks – there is nothing transformational about incomplete work and it is quite damaging to your team and personal brand.

In my situation, the decisions I made revolved around all aspects of my life, not just work. Choices that impacted my family, work team, myself, friendship group and future direction were all balanced in my decision-making. I found that taking a step back and analysing my current situation allowed me to improve my future situation as it has turned out, as well as provide greater comfort in the moment. It was organised, less random and controlled thinking that provided the base to make the next choice. I was not wasting time and effort at work or at home on those things that mattered less.

At best I was static – at worst, going backwards. Prior to going through this process my mind was jumbled, confused and I had much less ability to think clearly and take action to progress. Self-reflection and a focus on efficiency allowed me to target thought and action, challenge myself on specific needs and take forward steps.

effective – Having an intended or expected effect. Power to be effective; the quality of being able to bring about an effect. Prepared for use or action, especially in warfare. (1)

This framework of thinking then allowed me to more easily work towards analysing my effectiveness, again measured in all aspects of my life. Was there an intended or expected effect and was I prepared for action. Not in all things, but I can say that the clarity and direction gave me pause for thought and my choices and decisions did change as a result. One of my core values is to make a difference and I had identified that I was being less effective in my roles as a consequence of many factors. Identifying this, acknowledging what it meant, making decisions and taking action has allowed me to do more of what I love, because I was clearer what these things were and what they mean to me.

It is now only as I reflect on this period from earlier in the year that I realise the benefit of ‘breaking down’ my thinking into a structured process, leading to clarity in decisions and direction, which has and will be proven in time.

Have you had a similar experience? How do you rate the importance of being effective and efficient? Is one more important to you than the other?

CoachStation Leadership: Choices Impact Efficiency and Effectiveness

Post-script: after 25 years of working for many large national and global organisations I left work 7 weeks ago to focus full-time on my external consultancy, training and coaching business. I had been developing the brand and strategy for the 20 months prior. However, the focus on what is most effective and efficient for me to be spending my time on, allowed me to leave a legacy with my previous employer and team whilst making the choice to work full-time on CoachStation. I should mention that this would have been so much more difficult to transition if it wasn’t for the full and constant support of my wife, Julie – an engaged and loved partner does make all the difference! CoachStation is going very well and I have rarely been happier and more confident for the future.

As always, I appreciate your comments and thank you for reading this blog and sharing in my story.

(1) thefreedictionary.com

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Filed under Leadership, Motivation, People Development, Values

Development and Training – Same, Same: Maybe Not?

Are learning, training and development the same thing? The short answer is no, however training is one avenue to learning and development. Why does defining the difference matter – aren’t I really just splitting hairs? Now, that is the interesting question!!

CoachStation: Development and training - Same, Same? Learn  and Lead

Having worked with many varied people and business cultures and recognising the similarities and differences, it is clear to me that many managers think training and development are the same thing. I have seen examples where a manager has sent one of their team to training to ‘rectify’ a skill gap and behaviour. Attending the training did not make the difference expected by the manager, so he sent the employee back on the 2-day training course at the next available opportunity.

Of course, there was no change as a result. When this manager attempted to send the same employee a third time, I felt it necessary to intervene and ask the pertinent questions to broaden the manager’s thinking and related actions.

I have written about this before, however it continues to surprise me that people in leadership roles too often do not have the skills, foresight or desire to understand the different components of learning and development in practice, not simply as a field within the HR function.

Professional Development refers to skills and knowledge attained for both personal development and career advancement. There are a variety of approaches to professional development, including consultation, coaching,communities of practice, lesson study, mentoring, reflective supervision and technical assistance.

Personal Development includes activities that improve awareness and identity, develop talents and potential, build human capital and facilitates employability, enhance quality of life and contribute to the realization of dreams and aspirations. The concept is not limited to self-help but includes formal and informal activities for developing others, in roles such as teacher, guide, counsellor, manager, coach, or mentor. Finally, as personal development takes place in the context of institutions, it refers to the methods, programs, tools, techniques, and assessment systems that support human development at the individual level in organizations.

Training is the acquisition of knowledge, skills and competencies as a result of the teaching of vocational or practical skills and knowledge that relate to specific useful competencies…(and) goals of improving one’s capability, capacity and performance. (1)

At face value the definitions are similar, however there is a significant, almost palpable difference, possibly not obvious in the definitions, but evident in practice. Training is the imparting of knowledge. It is the provider of information, the opportunity to be exposed to new concepts, tools, standards or similar. In itself, it is rarely the changer of behaviours.

Having knowledge is one thing, applying this knowledge in a practical and discernible way that makes a difference, is quite another.

In order to make sure the learner takes in the information in a way that makes a difference for them, the learning must be reinforced post-training. This is where the manager or leader has a huge part to play. It is also where the process breaks down most often. Understanding and applying the basic principles of adult learning are sufficient to aid in development, reinforcing the knowledge gained from training. These principles assert that:

  • Adults are internally motivated and self-directed
  • Adults bring life experiences and knowledge to learning experiences
  • Adults are goal oriented
  • Adults are relevancy oriented
  • Adults are practical
  • Adult learners like to be respected

I recently created a model to visually demonstrate the principle that training, coaching and understanding the nuances between people has significant power in the transformational development of an individual. Any one of the components can make a difference, but rarely does a person have the ability, knowledge or drive to take the learning program to its ultimate state of change without assistance. This is one of the key reasons that training, coaching and self-development tools exist in the first place.

CoachStation: Development Model - Training, Coaching, Profiling and Leadership

John Wenger of quantum shifting articulates this exceptionally well:

For many of you in a leadership position, you probably don’t need more top tips or knowledge about your job.  You probably don’t need much more information about ‘stuff’; you would probably enjoy developing something else, something deeper that frees you up to apply the knowledge and information you have already acquired with greater ease and finesse.  It’s one thing to know about emotional intelligence, for example.  It’s quite another thing for you to apply this elegantly in a living, breathing workplace with real life people in real life situations…(when) more organisations wake up to the idea that, rather than sending people on more training courses that treat them like receptacles for yet more tools, tricks and tips, they should be investing in developing the users of these tools.

Many pertinent questions can be asked relevant to this theme, some of which may be applicable to you:

  • Do each of your team members have a development plan?
  • If not, why?
  • If so, when was the last time you meaningfully revisited this with your employee?
  • How actively involved are you in the development of your team?
  • When a member of your team is scheduled to participate in a training session, has the purpose been linked to an actual development need and/or built into their development plan?
  • Do you discuss expected outcomes and learning prior to the training session? Do you follow it up post-training?
  • In what ways do you reinforce the development of each of your employees,every week?

A good leader recognises that there is a difference between training and development.

An effective leader ensures that he or she is not only aware but actively participates in the development of each individual – this is a responsibility of the role. What are your thoughts?

(1) Source: Wikipedia, accessed on 18/7/12

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Filed under Leadership, People Development