Category Archives: Better Leaders

Coaching to success

As a result of flattening and restructuring in the late 1980s, managers and leaders had less time for the important activities of mentoring and coaching. Consequently, both the employers and the employees may be missing out today.

When asked what they see to be the benefits (if any) for themselves or their staff of having a mentor or coach*:

  • 48% of employees, 55% of managers and 58% of leaders chose ‘empowers me to improve my performance and productivity’.
  • 39% of employees, 20% of managers and 28% of leaders chose ‘enables me to develop better understanding of how to manage people, skills and resources’.
  • 31% of employees, 11% of managers and 14% of leaders chose ‘assists me in setting business objectives/goals’.

Interestingly, around three-quarters of the employees indicate that having a mentor or coach is important to their decision to stay with their current organisation.

It would seem that mentoring and coaching is a cost and time effective way to both develop the employee and retain their commitment to the organisation into the future. A win-win situation for both employer and employee.

*Employee responses refer to their own benefits, leader and manager responses refer to staff benefits.

From LMA’s L.E.AD. survey book “Today’s workplace – Present realities…Future realities”, 2013
Available for purchase, click here to order a copy of the book.

Under pressure

Balancing work and personal life ranked within the top five for pressures felt by leaders and managers but was only ranked 8th by employees as a pressure on their leaders and managers.

Employees clearly believe that leaders and managers do not experience the same pressure balancing work with other aspects of their lives as employees do. Perhaps in their eyes, leaders and managers have greater access to measures to seek and obtain balance.

Leaders and managers can work to achieve better work-life balance by identifying training and development and career development opportunities for staff, establishing mentoring and coaching activities and, in time, creating delegation and succession potential across the organisation.

To see the full ranking of 21 sources of pressure, click here to order a copy of the latest L.E.A.D. Survey book.

From LMA’s L.E.AD. survey book “Today’s workplace – Present realities…Future realities”, 2013

How to develop leadership at all levels

For organisations to succeed in today’s ever changing competitive business environment, they must tap into the leadership potential of their people at all levels. Leadership throughout the organisation is essential for its overall competitiveness, profitability and sustainability.

This concept of ‘leadership at all levels’ should not be taken lightly. A culture of leaders developing leaders empowers the entire workforce, engages people’s discretionary effort and capitalises on the full potential of all employees. Therefore those in formal leadership roles have a tremendous responsibility to lead by example. As a result they must develop and exhibit the right leadership abilities and characteristics.

Everyone has the potential to be a leader. There is an old saying “Leaders are not born, they are made”. Progressive organisations encourage and commit to developing leadership abilities in all employees. There is nothing that restricts the development of people’s personal leadership potential more than the artificial limitations that people place on themselves. Everyone can develop their leadership potential and contribute greatly to the productivity, performance, success and sustainability of the organisation. When people let their determination, self-motivation, strengths and abilities drive them to improve their leadership skills, they improve their own work and contribute to those around them. They don’t need additional tools. They just need to develop their leadership abilities and characteristics.

Practice the following suggestions to improve your leadership effectiveness and success.

  • Work with your team members to create a vision of excellence and meaningful values for your team.
  • Share the specific goals and objectives for your team and show them how they contribute towards their accomplishment.
  • Become genuinely interested in seeing them achieve their personal and career goals.
  • Lead by example. Let your actions be those that you’d like your team to emulate and follow.
  • Be a good teacher, student and communicator. Share your insights and experiences with others in your team.
  • Respect others’ experience and ask for their ideas and suggestions – then , listen to these ideas and suggestions , really listen!. Some of the best ideas for improvement in the team’s operations will come from other members of the team. Show them that you value and care about their input and ideas.
  • Trust the people you work with. Without trust and mutual respect between the team leader and team members, low performance and poor morale prevail.
  • Provide opportunities for others to learn how to solve problems. Show that you trust them by empowering them to take on additional responsibilities in the areas of decision making and problem solving.
  • Continue to extend and broaden your knowledge about technical advances or other issues that affect your field of operation.
  • Talk to people at all levels within the organisation and seek and value their feedback.
  • Coach and mentor your team members, share new information and up-skill them at every opportunity.
  • In the area of making the most of your time, lead by example. Discipline yourself to use a daily planner, avoid interruptions and prioritise your activities during the day.
  • Conduct meetings in a timely and efficient manner. Have an agenda prepared and distributed to everybody ahead of time.
  • Work to keep the meetings focused on the Agenda and outcomes.
  • Recognise team members for their efforts. Thank them for jobs well done and provide recognition and, if appropriate, rewards.
  • Be available to your team.
  • Be reliable. Do what you say you will do. Reliability shows integrity and provides stability, strength and confidence in your team members. You are also demonstrating another characteristic in which you are leading by example.

Please consider and use some, or all of the above suggestions to develop your leadership, and encourage others to develop their own leadership potential in the same way.

How to Plan and Conduct an Effective Performance Improvement Conversation

Leaders and managers often lament the “difficult conversations they have to have” with staff about performance – whether it be to address a specific behavioural problem or highlight an attitude that is less than ideal in the individual.

In almost all instances, this conversation seeks to bring about a change in the individual that has to come from them and to which they must commit.

 

Here’s a practical process for planning and conducting these conversations to achieve better outcomes:

Process for Conducting Performance Improvement Conversations (Behaviour or Attitude Related)
  Step Examples
1 Explain the nature of the problem, issue or concern I’ve noticed / I’ve become aware of / Someone has informed me that issue / attitude/behaviour is happening / that performance is not where it is required to be…
2 Provide some specific and objective evidence to support your comments (not hearsay or opinion) Here’s some information / stats about the problem
3 Explore the reason it is a problem, issue or concern and outline of consequences as appropriate This is a problem for me/the organisation because… If this continues it creates the further problem of…
4 Question for understanding I’d like to understand more about why this is happening so that we can work together to prevent it in the future. Why do you think this is happening? What do you believe is causing it to happen? What else?
5 Communicate collaboratively to search for possible solutions What could we do to overcome / solve / fix / improve the situation? What options are available to us to address this? What else? (If key options not mentioned – I think we could also consider options including…)
6 Selecting the best option From all of those options, which one(s) would make the biggest difference / get the best outcome / could you implement to address the situation? Which others? (If key options not mentioned – I think we could also consider doing …)
7 Agree on option(s) So let’s just confirm that we are both in agreement that you’ll do….and I’ll do…
to support you…
8 Agree on measure(s) Let’s talk about how we are going to measure this. What will be different once this option has been implemented? What will you do differently? What will I be doing differently?
9 First actions to implement the agreed option So what’s the first step in making these things happen? Where would it make sense to start? What would you do then? And then?
10 Agreed follow up I’d like us to meet again in X days/weeks to check that everything is working to plan and to make any adjustments we may need and check the measures we’ve put in place

Extracted from LMA’s High Performance Management, (Diploma of Management). To find details about the next High Performance Management course or our entire course range, please click here.

Key to Success – Setting S.M.A.R.T. Goals

One of the greatest keys to success, in both your personal and professional life, is effective goal setting; and the way in which you express a goal can have a significant influence on your likelihood of achieving it. 

One of LMA’s key principles of effective goal setting is that your goals must be S.M.A.R.T. goals.

S.M.A.R.T. is an acronym for the five qualities of an effective goal.  A S.M.A.R.T. goal is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Tangible. If you ensure that you set S.M.A.R.T. goals it will better enable you to devise specific Action Steps for the achievement of those goals.

S stands for SPECIFIC. One of the most important qualities of an effective goal is that it’s specific.  A specific goal clearly defines exactly what you want to accomplish, and therefore has a much greater chance of being accomplished than a vague goal.

To set a specific goal, ask yourself:

  • WHO? List who is involved
  • WHAT? Determine what you want to accomplish
  • WHERE? Identify a location
  • WHEN? Establish a time frame
  • WHICH? Identify requirements and constraints
  • WHY? Specify the reasons or purpose and the benefits of accomplishing the goal

One simple action you can take to make your goals more specific is to write them down. By writing them down in “black and white”, you will see more clearly where your goal is specific and where it isn’t.

M stands for MEASURABLE. A goal is measurable when it can be quantified. Establish concrete criteria and a process for measuring your progress toward the attainment of each goal you set.

To determine if your goal is measurable, ask questions such as:

  • “How much?”
  • “How many?”
  • “How will I know when it is accomplished?”
  • “What methods of measurement will I use?”

When you measure your progress, you stay on track, reach your target dates and experience the exhilaration of achievement that spurs you on to continued improvement and ongoing success.

A stands for ATTAINABLE. A goal is attainable when it is humanly possible to accomplish. When you identify the goals that are most important to you, you begin to find ways to make them come true. You begin seeing previously overlooked opportunities to bring yourself closer to the achievement of your goals and you develop the abilities, skills and financial capability to reach them.

You can attain most of the goals you set when you plan your steps wisely and establish a time frame that allows you to carry out those steps. Goals that may have seemed out of reach eventually move closer and become attainable, not because your goals shrink, but because you grow and expand to match them. When you list your goals, you build your self-image, you see yourself as worthy of these goals and you develop the traits and personality that allow you to possess them.

R stands for REALISTIC. A goal is realistic when it represents an objective toward which you are both willing and able to work towards. Realistic is relative to each person based on their own situation at a given point in time.  If you rarely exercise it would be an unrealistic goal to complete a marathon this weekend.

A goal is realistic when you truly believe that it can be accomplished with the time and resources available to you. One way to know if your goal is realistic is to determine if you have accomplished anything similar in the past. Another way to help you determine if a goal is realistic is to ask yourself what conditions would have to exist to accomplish this goal.

A goal can be both high and realistic. You are the only one who can decide just how high your goal should be, but be sure that every goal represents substantial progress. A high goal is frequently easier to reach than a low one because a low goal exerts a low motivational force. Some of the hardest jobs you ever accomplished actually seemed easy, simply because they were a labour of love and motivated you.  So, if you love to run, perhaps a more realistic goal is to complete a half-marathon in three months time… and so on.

T stands for TANGIBLE. A goal is tangible when you can experience it with one of the senses: taste, touch, smell, sight or hearing.  In other words, you must be able to feel and sense what it will be like when your goal is accomplished.

When you make your goal specific, you’re usually able to “see it.”  But to truly make your goal tangible, you must add one or more of the other senses.  Then you’ll actually be able to experience it “in advance”, giving yourself sufficient “pull” to help overcome present road blocks or behaviour patterns.

When your goal is tangible, or when you tie an intangible goal to a tangible, you have a better chance of making it specific and measurable and thus attainable.

Intangible goals are your goals for the internal changes required to reach more tangible goals. They are the personality characteristics and the behaviour patterns you must develop to pave the way to success and the achievement of your other goals. Since intangible goals are vital for improving your effectiveness, give close attention to tangible ways of measuring them. Ask yourself “What evidence of accomplishment will there be when I reach this goal?”

If you are interested in knowing more about this and other keys to success that will dramatically improve your leadership, productivity, and performance, contact LMA today.

Do Not Disturb – Dealing With Disruptions More Effectively

High performing employees at all levels know the value of their own time. Everyday interruptions that remove a person’s focus from their most important, High Payoff Activities (HPA’s), are costly to both personal and team productivity.

One of the biggest issues with interruptions is that they break your focus, which means you spend time realigning your thought process to where it was before you were interrupted. Research shows that this can take up to 11 minutes. Furthermore, since the number of hours each of us has in our workday is limited, unplanned interruptions have the potential to add additional pressure to meet key deadlines and targets.

The following basic strategies, that we call “The Five Ds of Disruptions” will assist you to reduce the time and productivity cost of unplanned interruptions.

The Five Ds of Disruptions:

Decide: If a tasks requires 100% of your attention, schedule it when you are least likely to be disturbed.

Defer: Learn to say ‘No’ in an assertive way. If an interruption is not critical, agree to meet and discuss the issue at a time that suits you. Saying something like, “I am happy to meet and discuss this at 3.00pm today. Are you available then?” will not offend anyone, and you defer the interruption to a time that better suits you.

Discourage: Focus on controlling others’ accessibility to you. Close your door if this is possible. If not, communicate realistic boundaries and expectations to those around you by letting them know that you have an HPA to work on, and what time of day you will be available.

Deal with it: There are times when you will have no choice but to respond to the interruption. In these instances, focus conversations of action and results, then return your attention to your HPAs.

Delegate: If you are losing a lot of your productive time through interruptions that relate to tasks that someone else could do, start the process of delegating these.

LMA has  a wide variety of course to help you deal with disruptions and their management.  Click here to find more information on our courses and how they can help.

7 Essential Guidelines to Giving Effective Feedback

Top performing companies are top performing companies because they consistently search for ways to make their best even better.

For these companies continuous improvement is not just a showy catchphrase. It’s a true focus based on feedback from across the entire organisation – customers, clients, employees, suppliers, vendors, and stakeholders.

As a manager, providing effective feedback is a powerful tool to have in your repertoire. For feedback to be productive and beneficial it must be of assistance to the person receiving it. It must be communicated in a way that ensures the recipient:

  • Understands the information you have communicated,
  • Accepts the information you have communicated, and
  • Is able to do something constructive with the information you have communicated.

Plan your feedback to ensure that it meets these three key points.  If the feedback you give is only meeting your needs and not the needs of the recipient, then there is little positive benefit to be gained from it.

Utilise the following 7 guidelines to giving effective feedback:

  1. Feedback must be impersonal, relating to job performance, behaviours and outcomes, and not to the individual person. You can achieve this easily by avoiding ‘you’ messages, such as ‘You did not complete the report properly’. Changing this to ‘I may not have shown you the correct report template to use for this’ takes away any perception of blame or accusation.
  2. Feedback must be specific, descriptive and factual rather than general, and should follow as closely as possible to your observation of particular behaviours or performance. Scheduling regular feedback sessions will assist here, but don’t forget that informal feedback is as useful and powerful as formal feedback.
  3. Feedback must be understood by the recipient. Use effective questioning and listening skills to ensure that your feedback can be categorised as meaningful communication.
  4. Feedback should be planned to ensure that it does not generate emotional responses and raised defences. All your communication efforts must be focused on achieving positive outcomes for all, and on developing a High Performance Environment where respect for each other is the norm.
  5. Feedback must only focus on those areas, actions and behaviours that the recipient has personal control over. If a task has not been completed to standard because of an issue with another individual, department or provider, your feedback should focus on how to overcome that issue, rather than focussing on the recipient’s inability to get it completed.
  6. Feedback must be timely. It must begin when it is actually needed, or when the recipient is actively seeking it.
  7. Feedback must be manageable from your recipient’s perspective. Ensure that you do not overwhelm them with information instructions and suggestions. Consider carefully what needs to be discussed, how it should be discussed and to what depth you will take the discussion.

Together with these guidelines and making a conscious commitment to give regular consistent formal and informal feedback, you will ensure that your feedback is effective and successfully achieves change and growth.

Extracted from LMA’s High Performance Management, (Diploma of Management). To find details about the next High Performance Management course or our entire course range, please click here.

Embracing the Youth of Today

 

The challenges of generational differences have never been more critical then now when we’re facing a workplace where in theory, many employers could have employees ranging from 18 to 80 working together.

When faced with derision from the Baby Boomers to Generation X or even towards the Millennial’s, consider this quote:

 
Quote:
The children now love luxury
They have bad manners, contempt for authority
They show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise
Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households
They no longer rise when elders enter the room
They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs and tyrannize their teachers.”

This quote is regularly credited to Plato by Socrates and was reportedly written circa 400 BC (it has, however, also been linked to more recent authors in the 1950s).

Regardless of the author, the familiarity in the quote reinforces a good point – kids have always been kids and they will continue to be kids through generations to come – they are intensely focused around their own needs and interests and appear to care very little for those of their parents. Some would say that the youth in our organisations share the same needs, interests and contempt for their bosses.

However, rather than bemoaning their modus operandi, we should be celebrating their unique ability to get under the skin, challenge the seemingly unchallengeable and drive towards solutions that perhaps only they can see, but which ultimately enable progress to be made.

Baby Boomers have their own ‘youth’ to contend with in the form of Gen-Y & Millenials. Today’s Gen-Y will have their own youth to deal with in future. But one thing is for certain – the benefits to be gained by engaging and empowering the youth of today in meaningful work and a workplace that attracts rather than repels them, far outweigh any downsides that their so called ‘differences’ might bring.

In reflecting on the earlier quote, one is reminded that youth can overcome stagnation and drive creativity and innovation to create a better world for us all.

The moral of the story – make the most of the youth that surrounds you – they just might hold the keys to your success!

When Did You Last Take Time Out to Balance Your ‘Work Life’ Scales?

What happens when work and family commitments collide? What gives? What prevails?

Over recent years, an increasing number of high profile public figures (including CEOs, MPs, sporting figures, celebrities and others) have elected to disengage from their daily activities to seek better balance or fulfil other commitments that have taken on greater significance in their lives – commitments often involving family, partners, children and friends.

The importance of balance in one’s life cannot be overstated. The adage, ‘all work and no play makes John a dull boy (or Jenny a dull girl)’ remains as relevant today as ever. But the notion of work-life balance is deeper than this simple saying suggests.

Balance provides the opportunity for individuals to analyse and review the extent to which they are a total person, a rounded individual, productive AND content.

An understanding organisation, an empathetic boss, a supportive co-worker – all are increasingly demonstrating that our workplace has changed forever in response to a very different view of work and what it means in our lives.

Stephen Covey, author of First Things First, offers these suggestions for balancing your life and work:

  • Spend less time on unimportant activities, no matter how urgent they may seem
  • Don’t be a deadline addict – someone who procrastinates until the last moment, but seems to thrive on the adrenaline rush they get when racing to the finish line. In this process they neglect important life roles.
  • Work effectively and plan to meet deadlines by doing the work at the proper time.
  • Consider what people will say about you on your 86th birthday. Then, decide what you want them to say.
  • Find ways to make the favourable description of your life come true.

LMA courses explore the importance of work in the context of other aspects of our lives through the ‘Total Person Concept’ – a visual expression of the multi-dimensional but highly integrated elements of our lives. Through a guided activity, participants are able to prioritise what’s important to them, identify where they are spending insufficient time or focus in one or more of the important aspects of their lives and set new goals to correct the imbalance.

Ultimately though, individuals must take charge of their own lives. It’s their choice whether or not to make work-life balance a priority for themselves.

Look out for the signs of a lack of balance in yourself, and your people, and be prepared to flex and provide support to meet the needs of those who are seeking greater balance in their lives.

Lead by example – walk the talk AND walk the walk

All too often leaders say one thing and do another – and then in the same breath they ask their people to do as they say, not as they do. Here’s a quick checklist to make sure you’re walking the talk…

1) Clearly identify and document the attitudes and behaviours you desire and are prepared to model to the organisation – establish what walking the talk properly looks like.

2) Establish the situations and opportunities that exist for these attitudes and behaviours to be showcased and reinforced – maximise opportunities to walk the talk.

3) Take the time to plan communications, interactions and to make the most of opportunities that present themselves – be prepared and ready to walk the talk.

4) Document decisions and actions taken to enable ready reference at a later time to enhance consistency – keep good records of walking the talk to ensure consistency.

5) Don’t take the easiest way out or the way that ruffles the fewest feathers – be willing to walk the hard walk and talk the hard talk to get the desired outcome.

6) Fulfill your own expectations and promises and be true to your word through your actions – follow-up when you’ve walked the talk to make sure everything is as you’d like it.

Leading by example means reflecting on actions and behaviours and asking – “Are these the attitudes and behaviours I want my people to exhibit in order to achieve optimum results?”

LMA’s complimentary and confidential DIY Leadership Management Competency Analysis is a great tool to brush up on your current situation as a leader.  It can be found here.