Monday, 23 July 2012

Leaders: born, made or trained on special courses?

In the 21st century workplace where there is a stronger emphasis on collaborative working and teambuilding, where does this leave the notion of leadership? I think that leadership in business has changed over the past few decades, and we need to rethink the way that we lead other people. Historically, being a leader has been about setting goals and direction for the team, but I see the Generation Y-ers- (i.e. born after 1980) – demand different things from their leaders. While previous leadership ideas were based on directing and controlling, I believe people nowadays want to be seen more as individuals, to be given the space to get on with their job and to be trusted to get the results in their own way. Historically about two-thirds of people will adopt a different ‘personality’ depending on whether they are at home or at work but I believe it is the people who are the same at work and play that provoke the stronger emotional engagement from their staff. People are far more likely to want to work for them than for managers who don’t have that authenticity. If leaders fit into a particular mould and act in a certain way, their people see through it and ultimately trust them less. I also think it is more participative and facilitative whereas before it was a lot more directive. The benefit is empowerment. People put in more effort when they feel empowered and ultimately that impacts on bottom line performance. Leadership style will also depend on the team. For example, ultimately if you have a junior team, you are going to need a leader who can set the vision for the team. With an experienced mature team the manager might take a more participatory role. Ultimately enlightened organisations give their leaders more freedom and space to find out who they are and to learn what works for them. These things cannot be taught on a traditional training course.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Managing Talent is Vital for Your Organisation’s Future Prosperity

Managing Talent is Vital for Your Organisation’s Future Prosperity I believe that one of the biggest challenges facing many businesses today is having the right talent to enable them to successfully compete in the future. I have worked with many businesses who are having to face up to a tough reality that a number of their key executives are likely to retire in the next 5-10 years – many of them without many natural successors. I didn’t see this issue so starkly 20 years ago, and probably two things have happened over the intervening period. For some pressure has been such that they had to reorganise and resize themselves to a point where the talent pool that would have been ready to step up into key roles are either not ready or not there. For others, growth has been dramatic, with business expanding globally. This has meant that the talent, skills and experience required to lead teams across many countries has not had the opportunity to develop fully. Also, I don’t think this issue just affects large organisations either. A couple of years ago the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) undertook a study which showed that on average 30 per cent of small-business closures take place because of the lack of an effective succession plan, as many owners do not make sufficient arrangements to hand the business over after they retire. Whether your business is a large or small one, I believe it is vital to address this issue for the future success of the business. Companies need to integrate their talent and succession planning strategies with their strategic business plans and view talent management as a long-term, continuous process, not a one off action. This requires us all to think and do things differently. For example, in my opinion managers need to do a number of things: • Think strategically. Talent management requires a strategic perspective. What are the things that might impact your organisation in the future? Will it grow and acquire other businesses, or is the market shrinking and therefore a different leadership approach may be needed? What ‘type’ of managers and business leaders will be needed in the future? • Understand the organisation’s key roles. Which functions and roles in the organisation drive the majority of the business’s value? This requires us to think broadly, and not just about traditional leadership roles. For example, what specialist technical roles such as product development, which may be as equally important are needed? Once this is complete it is a straightforward task to examine the age profiles of those currently in the key roles. How many of these could retire in the next 5-10 years? How many of these roles have ‘ready now’ successors? • Identify the requirements of the key roles. Effective talent management requires clarity on technical and behavioural requirements for the roles as well as specific experience, such as international or specific market experience. All key roles should have the necessary components and characteristics for superior performance clearly defined. These requirements can then be used as a basis to assess people, either internally via the promotion process, or externally via recruitment. • Understand who your talent is. Clearly you need to know who has the potential to fulfil the key roles. Information can be picked up through your internal performance and development management processes or in conjunction with a formal independent assessment process. Discussions can then be had with the individuals concerned. Do they have the desire and motivation to progress? Progression may mean extensive travel and/or working in a different country to their native one, which does not suit everyone. • Finalise your succession strategy. Once you know who is likely to retire, and who the potential talent is, objective decisions can be made about how the key roles will be filled in the future. The business may have all the talent it needs or may need to go to the market to recruit specific talent. The business may wish to recruit and bring in new blood or can all the key roles be filled from within? Should the strategy be a balance of recruiting externally as well as promoting internally? • Define career paths for internal promotions. Once your succession strategy is clear, establishing career paths and the ability to describe the requirements for pursuing the path becomes easier. Creating effective career paths requires two components, knowing the requirements for the next level and creating a clear plan of how to gain the necessary skills, behaviours and experience. • Link talent management with performance management. Talent management and succession planning should become a part of the organisation’s performance management and career development processes. Regular performance discussions are important to collect evidence of how potential successors have performed. In addition, the discussions also provide the opportunity for managers to coach talent to ensure ongoing development and readiness. • Provide ongoing development. Managers need to support the ongoing development of their talent to ensure they make the necessary progress. This might be through work opportunities and projects, coaching or specific training courses. • Monitor readiness and prepare a succession plan. Senior managers need to meet at least annually to agree who the potential successors are for the key roles and to subsequently monitor their progress. Who is ready now to move to their next role? Is there evidence to suggest that any of the successors will not ‘make the grade’? If not what action needs to be taken? • Ensure ownership. Talent management and succession planning needs to be owned by line managers and needs to be actively led and sponsored by the Chief Executive or owner of the business for it to be successful. What I have described above may at first to appear to be overly complex, but each step in itself can be made quite simple and need not take an inordinate amount of time. However, if your business does not focus on talent management and succession planning then the availability of talent for your key roles will be left to the fickle finger of fate. Surely the future success of your business is too important for that?

Friday, 13 July 2012

Improving the Motivation and Satisfaction of Your Staff

I read an interesting article by Kenneth Sheldon and Sonya Lyubominsky about their research into what makes people happy and reflected on how their research can be applied to motivate our staff more effectively. They recruited people who had experienced two types of change: • Circumstantial Change – which involved relatively important alterations to their own circumstances (such as a pay rise, house move or purchase of a new car) • Intentional Change – which involves changes that required effort to pursue, (such as learning a new skill? Changing career or joining a new club) Sheldon and Lyubominsky asked the participants to record their levels of happiness over a number of weeks. The results consistently showed that although people in both groups experienced an immediate rise in happiness, those that experienced circumstantial change found their happiness levels quickly reverted to back to their initial levels, while those who had made an intentional change remained happier for a longer period. Why would this happen and what are the implications for or anyone else who manages people? According to Sheldon and Lyubominsky it is due to a phenomenon known as ‘hedonistic habituation’. Humans get a great deal of enjoyment from any news from a positive experience. However, give someone the same experience time and time again they quickly become familiar with it and so stop getting anywhere near as much pleasure from it. I believe the implications of the research for myself and anyone who manages others is very significant. Encouraging your staff to learn new skills, take on new responsibilities or being involved in challenging projects will provide a much longer sense of satisfaction for staff than giving them a pay rise. I am certainly not advocating that we don’t pay a fair wage for employees but in today’s tough economic climate, when it can be difficult to justify pay increases, we must not forget the motivational benefits and satisfaction we all gain from developing ourselves and learning new skills.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Having a crucial conversation with your boss

At some point in your career you will come across a boss who you find difficult, tough to get on with or just plain irritating! This can be difficult to resolve because you may see things in binary terms, either keep quiet and put up or destroy the relationship with your boss and possibly lose your job! I once had a situation many years ago when I ‘inherited’ a new boss. He was a decent guy and wanted the best for the business. The problem for me was his style. His office was about 150 miles from me and so I only saw him face to face every 2/3 weeks. He wanted to know in great detail what I was doing when I would get things done and would frequently ask me to update him. I felt at times I was spending more time keeping him informed than I was doing my job! I had a reasonably senior role being responsible for a factory of several hundred people and enjoyed the level of responsibility and independence I had with my previous boss and could not cope with what I saw was ‘over control’ . I needed to do something but recognised that simply confronting him and telling him to ‘back off’ would get me nowhere. I decided to wait until our next meeting to discuss it. At the meeting I explained to him what I thought my overall objectives and targets needed to be and how progress could be measured. I also provided specific instances where he had asked for frequent updates from me or instructed me to do things in a certain way. I explained to him that I felt this to be very ‘controlling’ and had become frustrated with the consistent updates and reports. I asked him if there were ways that we could work more efficiently together – I recognised that he needed to know that the factory was performing well and suggested giving him a weekly update on a number of KPI’s. I also suggested that we have formal monthly 1:1 reviews where we could discuss performance and progress. Whilst it was a risky strategy I also said that if all I did was do what he told me to do then one of us wasn’t really needed. The discussion paid off. He recognised that his style was not helpful to getting the best out of me and I recognised his need for ‘comfort’ that the factory was performing well and there were no major issues. Sometime it’s important to face up to these types of issues. While approaching your boss about a difficult subject, my own experience is that it is far preferable to do this than leave things unsaid. If approached in the correct way, most issues can be discussed and resolved. It is important to explain to your boss the issues (with specific factual examples) and how these things are impacting on you. Ask for their side of the ‘story’, how do they see things? Are your views similar or opposing? By discussing the issues in an adult manner you will ultimately resolve them.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Demonstrating Greater Impact

Early in my career as a trainer, I had some pretty tough feedback from a client who claimed that I didn’t have enough ‘impact’. This was a bitter pill to swallow as I had never been given feedback like that before, and to make matters worse the client didn’t give me any specifics about what led him to think this. My first response was to dismiss the feedback, as it wasn’t supported by specific examples to help me understand what I was or wasn’t doing and so I felt the feedback was about as useful as a chocolate teapot. A number of years later I read an interesting book about body language by the husband and wife team Alan and Barbara Pease. It was only then that I reflected on the feedback I had been given and realised that it was probably certain aspects of my body language that gave the impression that I lacked conviction or impact. The more I read about it the more I realised that by making subtle changes to what I did would enable me to be seen in a more positive light. I noticed that when I was training and made a particular point I had a tendency to step backwards slightly rather than staying still or moving forwards. I also noticed that I occasionally shifted my weight from one foot to the other, which gave the impression that I was unsure or nervous (although I didn’t feel nervous at the time). In addition I recognised that I held onto the flipchart probably too often. This probably gave the impression that I was using it as a crutch and it certainly didn’t help me to emphasise any points I wanted to make with my hands. Making myself aware of my own body language made me feel pretty uncomfortable and self-conscious at first. However, I realised that I needed to make a few subtle changes to what I did if I was to create a more favourable impression. However, I worked on these 3 things and so far so good, I haven’t received any more feedback about the lack of impact I have when training, well so far anyway!