Do You Make this Critical Leadership Mistake?

 

What mistake has your team losing trust for you by the second?

I spent a good part of this past weekend helping my 8-year-old memorise his two-to-three minute public speaking assignment for school and speak it with expression.  In order to do that, I created a system.

First, I would read a sentence from his speech to him with expression.  Second, he would read it to himself, silently, with expression.  Third, he would read it out loud, with expression.  And finally he would speak (not read) it out loud, with expression.

The system worked like magic.  My son was remembering his speech.  He spoke with vocal variety, gave me plenty of eye contact and was using appropriate facial expression and gestures.

But once in a while I would skip a step and try to move things along.  My 8-year-old, normally a rule-breaker at home, would pull me up and bring us back to the system.

Because it was no longer my system.

It was our system.

He was invested in it.  He believed in it.  He put his trust into the system.  And by extension, he put his trust in me.

The danger of ignoring the system

How often, with our teams, do we promote a way of doing things and then we don’t live up to that approach ourselves?  All organisations have systems and policies.  Performance reviews, reports, quality assurance processes.  The list is long. (Often too long.)

Promote the system and not follow it, and you may as well not have the system in the first place.  Without consistency, you will not only not get the results that the system was put in place to achieve, but you will have no leg to stand on when your team isn’t following the system either.

But even worse, you lose credibility with your team.

Because you are the champion of the system.  As their leader, you are a representive the organisation.  You are “management.”  If you, leader, support a system in word or by virtue of your leadership position, but you don’t live it, work it or apply it, then your words and your actions don’t match.

The message to your team:  you don’t need to believe what the boss says. You don’t need to follow the policies and procedures of the organisation.    What management says and what we, the team, do, are two different things.

In other words, disregard systems.

Selective system use

Imagine being a new employee at a large organisation and it comes time for your annual performance review. When you were recruited, you were told how this performance review is a cornerstone of the company’s success because the company values its people and their growth.  You get sent on a half day training course on how to fill out the performance review questionnaire and how to have a valuable conversation with your boss.  You spent the previous months diligently capturing your achievements and successes, which you carefully craft and capture succinctly in your review.

On the day of your meeting, as you sit with butterflies in your belly in a meeting room, your boss arrives.  Your boss, who is meant to have read your review and come ready to discuss the review, your performance, and your career at the organisation.  He/shewalks in, sits down, and says, “I haven’t had a chance to look at this yet.  Anything I should pay attention to?”

Demotivating your team

In a complex, varied world, systems give people a sense of structure.  A sense of control.  A feeling that at least they know what’s coming next and they’ve got some influence over it.

Take that away from your team and you pull the rug out from under them, destabilise them, and create an environment where they cannot trust.  They no longer know what to focus on and what not to, because what is said and what is done do not match.  They begin to watch for clues as to how they’re REALLY meant to behave, because the policies and procedures, the systems, are just words on a page.

Follow the system

Your organisation needs systems.  There are mandatory systems which you have no control over, but have to follow.  You might not like it, but to be perfectly blunt, it’s not about you.

It’s about what works.  For the organisation, for management, and for the team.

If you have a problem with a system, take it up with your own “management,” but follow it with your team anyway.

And when you create your own systems for your team, follow them religiously.

Because not everyone is going to be like my 8-year-old son.  In fact very few people will have the courage to raise it with you when you’re not doing the right thing.  They’ll observe in silence and come to a conclusion about which systems need to be upheld and which are voluntary.

And when they do so, you had better hope they get it right.

Because cliché as it is, the buck stops with you.

 

 

Warning: Don’t Get the Right People on the Bus

 

What is it that makes a team?

Author Jim Collins, who wrote the business classic “Good to Great,” told us to make sure we had the right people on the bus.

The analogy has become a bit of a cliché in the business world, and leaders and consultants everywhere are talking about getting the right people on the bus and getting the wrong people off the bus.

But here’s the thing.  If you want a great team, what you DON’T want are passengers.  People who get on the bus and are happy to go along while someone else drives.

Who’s putting in?

What you want are participators.  People who each play a role in getting the team or the business where it needs to go.  People whose efforts are integral to the success of the venture, of the project, of the day-to-day.  If they’re not integral, why are they there?

So you don’t want people on your bus.

You want people on your boat.

Everyone pulls together

Imagine a boat with four oars on one side, and four oars on the other.  Eight oars for eight people.  The rowboat is on a river, pushing into the current.  There are rocks behind it.

What will happen if no one pulls on their oars?  The boat will drift downstream, into the rocks.  But when each of the eight member oar-pulling team works together, they keep each other – and the boat – safe, and in the process they move towards their destination.

Do you have enough people manning the oars?  Have they been taught how to row well, and how to row together?

Are they doing it?

Rowing in time

If you’ve ever been in a rowboat, you’ll know that if you only row on one side of the boat, it cannot go straight.

The same happens with a team.  Sometimes a few people aren’t pulling strongly, or at all, and the boat moves off course.  The people who are still rowing will never be able to get the boat in a bee-line towards the destination without everyone rowing in time, and with a similar, balanced amount of effort.

Exhausted rowers

And if you have some people who aren’t rowing, and others rowing way too hard to compensate, and this goes on long enough, then what you end up with is exhaustion.

The hard workers burn out.  The ones who’ve kept the boat moving – your star rowers – just can’t take it anymore.  They either stop rowing and ship their oars out of frustration or because they simply cannot take one more stroke, or else they jump ship, swim to shore, and start looking for another boat.

 Who is at the helm?

At the helm of the boat, guiding it towards the destination is the captain, the leader of the team.  The captain’s role isn’t to row.  The captain’s role is to know what the destination is, share that with the team, and keep his or her eyes on where the team is in relation to that destination.  The leader need to notice who’s rowing and who’s not.  Whose technique needs some help.  Who needs a bit of encouragement, a bit of a nudge, or a rest.

Everyone is important

Leaders, get your team off the bus, and into the boat.  Put an oar in their hands.

And let them row.

 

 

How Knowing My Style Made Me a Better People Leader [Video]

 

Have you ever noticed that it’s easy to figure out what other people need to do differently, but it’s really hard to work out what you need to do differently for yourself?

Last week I presented to a business group on the four main behavioural styles.

The presentation was videoed, and my 11 year old son Ben watched the playback with me.

As soon as we’d finished watching the presentation Ben picked out with absolute accuracy what style his little brother was, and what style his dad was.

But then he said to me, “Mum, how come I can pick out Dad’s style and Daniel’s style, but I’ve got no idea what mine is?”

I know who you are, but who am I?

The reason he couldn’t figure out his own style isn’t because he’s 11 years old.

Over and over again, in workplaces everywhere, I see people who can learn the basics of a behavioural style model and apply it to their colleagues, even to their clients.

But they can’t, for the life of them, apply it to themselves.

It’s so prevalent, in fact, that I gave it a name – Own-Style Blindness, or OSB for short.

The benefit of knowing your style

It’s a real gift to know your own style.  It’s a real gift to be clear on who you are and why you do what you do.

When I realised that my style fit well with focusing on people development rather than becoming a technical expert, it freed me up from needing to know all the detailed, technical aspects of my work and allowed me to focus on what I did best.

It also, though, helped me identify where people who had different styles then mine were exactly who I needed around me so that all aspects of the work that needed to get done would get done.  Not just the bits that I liked or was good at.

Even my team felt the impact

The unexpected benefit was it made my whole team stronger.

Because once I could recognise my style, it made it so much easier to recognise other people’s styles and I was able to adjust their roles to leverage their strengths, which made them happier employees.

Their productivity skyrocketed and they were putting in huge amounts of discretionary effort without me ever asking them to.

So how do you discover your style and overcome Own-Style Blindness?

The quickest, most valuable and reliable way to identify your style is to get profiled through an assessment like Extended DISC®, which is what I do with my clients.

When you work with someone who’s trained to give you the assessment and then take you through the assessment results specifically for your benefit, you get incredibly deep insights into your style, and how it’s impacting your work right now, and how it’s impacting the people around you.

But if you want a quick taster right away, you’ll see a link at the bottom of this article for a one page overview of the four behavioural styles that you can download.

What next?

So here’s what you need to do.

  1. Download the behavioural style overview sheet.
  2. Have a best guess at what style you think you are – remember, though, you probably have OSB – Own Style Blindness – so it might not be obvious to you.
  3. Give the cheat sheet to 5 people who know you well – people who see you at work, and outside of work – and find out what style they think you are.

Now that you know your own style, you’ll start to notice how much easier it is to see where other people’s styles differ to yours.

You’ll also be able to recognise people whose styles complement yours specifically because their style is one you’re not strong at.

And when you can leverage that, you’ve found one of the key ingredients of an outstanding team.

 

 

 

The Three Unconscious Questions Everyone's Asking About You [Video]

 

There are three unconscious questions that the people you’re leading are asking themselves about you all the time.

You’re being evaluated

It’s important for you as a leader to realise that – whether you’re leading a team, or a project, or a client – you’re being evaluated constantly by others.

What’s important for you to work out is how you’re rating on these three questions with the people you’re leading.

So what are the three unconscious questions that people are asking themselves about you, whether you like it or not?

Continue reading The Three Unconscious Questions Everyone's Asking About You [Video]

What Stage of Responsibility Do You Lead From?


Picture three people, briefcases in hand, standing on a commuter train platform.  Their train is 10 minutes late, they don’t know why, and no one’s made any announcement about it.

The first person texts her friend about how typical it is that the train’s late, and how this always happens when she has an early morning meeting.

The second person knows that there’s a transport website that updates commuters on late trains.  He checks this website on his smartphone, discovers the train will be another 10 minutes, and settles into a game of Angry Birds to wait it out.

The third person also checks the transport website with her smartphone.  When she discovers the train will be another 10 minutes, she goes up to each of the other two people on the platform and lets them know what the situation is.

I wonder which one of these three people you would want as your leader?

Here are the three stages of responsibility on the path to inspiring leadership.

Continue reading What Stage of Responsibility Do You Lead From?

Why Laziness Is A Key Leadership Tool

 

What is it that calm, cool, and collected managers do that their harried, run-off-their-feet colleagues haven’t figured out yet?

Peter Drucker, management guru, said, “Action without planning is the reason for every failure.”  But even when you plan your actions in advance (starting your day getting clear on what you want to achieve, checking your schedule, making lists of things to do) you can still end up running around like a chicken with its head cut off if you don’t ask yourself critical questions about how to take action.

Planning + Action + The Secret Ingredient

One of the most powerful questions you can ask yourself before taking action is, “How could I get this done with a high quality outcome, but with the least amount of effort?”  Some would call that laziness.  Others (those more laid back, got-it-all-under-control types) would call it plain old smart thinking.

Here are 5 more questions to help you get really clear on how harnessing “laziness” on your part might just result in the best possible outcome for everyone.

Continue reading Why Laziness Is A Key Leadership Tool

The Top Four Motivational Needs of Your Team

Have you been involved in the employee engagement conversation?

Most large companies perform employee engagement surveys, or spend time and money identifying the level of employee satisfaction. And it’s because they know that disengaged employees can have a significant impact on a business’s bottom line.

But what happens when it comes time to put new strategies into place in order to increase your team’s engagement? What actually does motivate and engage your staff?

What is it that your team is actually looking for?

The four needs of all employees

Not surprisingly, the needs of employees are based on how people tick. They’re based on our human needs.

According to the theory of universal human needs, there are four needs of the personality that drive every single one of us, and tapping into those needs is a powerful way to keep your team motivated.

Getting those needs met underlies that sense of satisfaction, and meeting them in a quality way drives motivation at high levels.

The four needs are: certainty, variety, significance and connection.

Continue reading The Top Four Motivational Needs of Your Team

Is Your Past Ruining Your Leadership Skills?

 

Sometimes the past just seems to bubble up without you realising it.

I went to a hockey game last winter (ice, not field) and something strange started to happen: my Canadian accent made a firm re-appearance. I do sound largely Canadian normally, but with a certain Aussie twang after over 15 years in the land Down Under.

For some reason, sitting in the crowd of a hockey game completely erased any trace of Aussie from my pronunciation. Hands deep in my pockets against the cold and sitting on the edge of my seat in an Australian ice rink, I was suddenly Canadian again, in my heart, in my mind, and in my voice.

And I didn’t even realise it until my kids asked me why I was talking funny.

It got me to thinking: what other settings or situations have an effect on us that wrangles up old habits without us even realising it? If just being in a hockey rink watching a game can actually change the way a person speaks, even the way a person thinks, what else can bring up the past – and is it a past you want to bring up?

Continue reading Is Your Past Ruining Your Leadership Skills?

What Phase is Your Team In?

 

There’s nothing quite as predictable as the night sky.

Weather, shooting stars and airplanes notwithstanding, you can accurately predict, night after night, what you’ll see when you look up into space.   So much so that you can purchase sophisticated telescopes that will virtually lock on to a star and automatically track it by following the natural curve of movement of that star.

The Journey of a Team

Every team also goes on a journey, only that journey is far less predictable than the nightly movement of the stars, and tracking the progress of a team can be incredibly challenging.

That’s why psychologist Bruce Tuckman came up with the four stages that a team goes through on its way to high performance. He called those stages Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing.

Whether you have a long term team, or people are brought together for short term projects and initiatives, here’s  what you, as a leader, can do to support your team in a way that fits the stage the team is at.

Continue reading What Phase is Your Team In?

How To Know When a Problem Needs You

 

What do you call a leader who jumps in to help at the hint of a problem in the team?  A hero?  A blessing?  A godsend?

I’m going to let you in on a little secret.  Your team probably call that leader a micro-manager.

And yet problems do need to be overcome.  Just not always by you.

Here are three key questions you need to ask yourself before you wade into a sticky situation and send the wrong message to your team.

Has the team handled problems like this before?

If the team have handled something similar before – with or without your assistance – chances are they’ve got a shot at handling this one.  Stepping in now demonstrates that you don’t trust them to do something they have experience in.

If the problem is significant enough for your attention, ask for an update rather than going into command and control mode.

Continue reading How To Know When a Problem Needs You