Is integrity a negotiable trait, or is it one of the cornerstones of good leadership?

CoachStation: Integrity and Leadership
I recently met with a client who I have known for some time in a different capacity. He is starting up his own business and it is a very exciting time for him. During our discussion, he made a point to me, that although is not new, in that moment meant so much to me. It felt good to be reminded about what credibility and success, as I measure it, is based on. His statement was that:

Without your integrity, you have nothing!

He is right. I take the view that how we get there is more important than the end result. By this I mean that when we focus on internal, innate and substantial inputs, we have control on the outcomes and results. Integrity is an input and an output. All of our behaviours, values, beliefs and other attributes contribute to the choices we make and demonstrate. These are the inputs. They must be consistent with what we say is important.

People will follow what you do much more readily than what you say.

For as long as I can remember, integrity has been a critical part of who I am and how I operate. My coaching and leadership development business, CoachStation, is built upon this attribute. I know that my client was referring to both points when he made the statement. But, on the drive home, my mind was really working through this point.
How different is that for any person who wishes to be seen as credible, real, authentic or effective? It’s an incredibly important and relevant attribute when influencing. To lead you must be influential. It doesn’t mean you can’t make mistakes. We all do. Integrity, however, provides a platform to always acknowledge the errors. It is linked strongly to self-esteem and self-acceptance, which are built upon how comfortable we are with our decisions and who we are.

Of all the facets of character, integrity might be the most critical.

It builds valuable trust between people – and yet (it may also be) the most difficult to define. I’ve heard many sage leaders say, “Integrity is doing the right thing when no one is watching.” That definition relies too much on habit. I can be without integrity, yet trained to behave predictably in a certain manner. There are two critical components of integrity that go beyond just doing the right thing when no one is looking. The first is the adherence to a moral or ethical principle. This isn’t simple compliance to a rule; it implies a philosophical understanding of the reason it exists. The second is the pursuit of an undiminished state or condition. Everyone makes mistakes, so being a person of integrity does not mean you haven’t committed a moral or ethical violation, ever.

It means having the strength of character to learn from those ‘misbehaviors’ and seek continual self-improvement. (1)

It is also related to the point I have made previously, that the best leaders are those who genuinely care about those they influence and lead. To take a position of wanting to give, no matter whether your actions will be reciprocated, provides great esteem and satisfaction. It also leads to a degree of comfort and conviction in how you operate and behave that is difficult to describe, but has much power.
Integrity and honesty are intertwined. Not only, as it is often defined, as being honest with others. It is also about being honest with yourself. When coaching, I find this point to be one of the core deal-breakers for success.

Those who are prepared to see themselves for who they are and challenge themselves to develop, are regularly also people who are looked upon with respect and as having integrity.

The question of what the most important qualities are is something executive and career coaches have been asking for years. While it is assumed a good leader requires a selection of traits and attributes, a new survey has shed light on what single attribute employees value the most. The survey, from Robert Half examined the perceptions of two different groups – workers and CFOs – and while there were some major differences in their responses, interestingly there was one key similarity.

Both groups regarded integrity as the most important leadership attribute with 75 percent of workers believing so. (2)

There are many things you can lack and still steer clear of danger. Integrity isn’t one of them. Establish a set of sound ethics policies, integrate them into all business processes, communicate them broadly to all employees, and make clear that you will not tolerate any deviation from any of them. Then live by them. The key that too many managers miss is “then live by them.” (3)

You cannot set policies that employees need to live by, and not live by them yourself.

That will never work in the long run. 

The thing about integrity is that it is often a key contributor to how people feel about you. These perceptions start with how you feel about yourself…as a leader, employee, person, parent or any other role you have in life. A lack of integrity can be obvious. Maybe it is difficult to describe, however integrity is a worthy point to reflect upon and consider where it sits within your life currently.

Don’t worry so much about your self-esteem. Worry more about your character. Integrity is its own reward.

Laura Schlessinger

References:
(1) Smart Company
(2) Huffington Post
(3) Lead On Purpose

Employee Engagement surveys are barely worth the time and effort taken to produce them.

They certainly have questionable content and value for those organisations who rely on survey results for a genuine view of how employees feel.

Big statements, perhaps! But only if you have not taken the time to meaningfully investigate the reasons why employees might feel the need to provide over-inflated scoring that does not reflect reality.

Engagement continues to be a major factor in business success and focus for management.

We know this topic is big. Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends research (shows) 78% of business leaders rate retention and engagement urgent or important. HR leaders talk consistently about retention issues…and businesses all over the world are trying to build an inclusive, passionate, multi-generational team.

In fact…the issue of ‘engaging people well’ is becoming one of the biggest competitive differentiators in business.

The change we need to make is to redefine engagement beyond an ‘annual HR measure’ to a continuous, holistic part of an entire business strategy. If your people love their work and the environment you have created, they will treat customers better, innovate, and continuously improve your business.

Creating a high performance work environment is a complex problem. We have to communicate a mission and values, train managers and leaders to live these values, and then carefully select the right people who fit. And once people join, we have to continuously improve, redesign, and tweak the work environment to make it modern, humane, and enjoyable. (1)

There are many reasons why employee engagement surveys have limited value.

Not because the concept is flawed. It is more about respondent buy-in, bias and application of the process that creates the greatest anomalies. Three potential flawed assumptions that commonly interfere with understanding what engagement is and what it does for the organisation are:

  1. All employee responses are equally credible.
  2. Perfecting employee circumstances will drive engagement.
  3. Engagement alone drives results. (3)

Extending this thinking, additional elements that challenge the value of engagement surveys include:

  • Establishing KPI’s that are aligned to the engagement scores is a major failure point. Employees and particularly managers, who have a vested interest in obtaining a higher score may skew their answers. Particularly if the engagement results have a direct impact on their bonus, annual reviews or similar. If you doubt this point, it may reflect relationships and trust that exists with your employees and their willingness to be truly honest. Hard to hear. Maybe, but the most effective leaders don’t let ego, fear or self-delusion stop them doing what is right or true. In my role as coach, consultant and leader I have had many conversations with employees who deliberately inflate or affect scores based on self-interest.

Why would a manager be critical of their team or business unit when the onus and responsibility to ‘fix’ any real or perceived issues will fall back on them?

  • During my coaching engagements it has become clear that the links between culture, trust and transparency positively or negatively impact engagement survey results. Organisations that communicate well; recruit and develop leaders who support both the business and employees; are transparent and giving by nature; and genuinely support employees as people, often see this positive action reflected in results. Of course, the opposite is just as true.
  • The time invested in responding, compiling and supplying surveys is rarely worth the effort. Particularly when little is done to maximise the results through action and improvement. Essentially, for many organisations the return on investment is low. Too often the process is a ‘tick-the-box’ exercise. By pursuing employee engagement surveys, an organisation is establishing an expectation that they care and are looking for information to improve the performance and inputs of the business. Cynicism and apathy are the result when nothing is communicated or applied post survey.

In some ways an organisation is better to not create this expectation in the first place, than to ask for feedback and then do nothing with the data collected.

  • The perception of anonymity remains a concern for many. No matter how many times or ways the message of anonymity is stated, many employees doubt that the data truly remains hidden. To this day I speak with managers who spend time sifting through the comments trying to decipher which respondent made a certain statement. Clearly the point of engagement and leadership is being missed by these people. Unfortunately, the reasons a manager behaves in this way within the survey process generally reflects how they lead teams. In my experience poor leadership behaviours such as these are not isolated to engagement surveys. A manager who behaves in this way will generally be displaying poor behaviours elsewhere. This should be reflected in the survey (kind of the point), but is often not highlighted for the reasons listed. Ironic isn’t it! Additionally, anonymous input protects privacy but for this reason also means that specific targets for development cannot be identified.

The ability to translate how an employee feels into a series of prescribed questions is a challenge for some respondents.

  • Along with a lack of genuine clarity of what employee engagement actually is, there is plenty of grey area. A recent article expands on this point. If something can’t be clearly defined, then it can’t be accurately measured. Because of these contradictory definitions (and measures), it is hard to accurately compare the results from external statistical comparison studies. The results of high engagement are ‘stronger emotional feelings’ and ‘increased effort’. Although these two factors may be important, other factors like a bad manager, the wrong skills, and improper training may neutralize any benefit from engagement. Some engagement surveys include multiple factors (i.e. satisfaction, performance, sentiment, trust, morale, happiness, burnout, commitment) but many of these may be overlapping or duplications of the same factor. (2)
  • Engagement is not productivity or an output— using an analogy, engagement may be smoke but it is not fire. The primary concern of business leaders is increasing productivity, output, or innovation. Unfortunately, employee engagement, employee satisfaction, emotional intelligence, etc. may contribute to productivity, but they are not productivity. An employee may be fully engaged and emotionally tied to the firm but without the proper training, leaders, resources, etc. no amount of commitment will improve their outputs. Emotional states are hard to understand and measure, while behaviours and productivity are not. A superior approach is one that looks broadly at all of the factors that increase productivity, that lower labour costs, and that increase the value of labour outputs and innovation. (2)

Remember: People Are The Product

CoachStation: Employee Engagement

Part of this shift is redefining our perspective on an employee. Rather than consider people as “hired hands” we want to “engage,” (the whole term “human resources” has this old fashioned connotation) high-engagement companies understand that employees are the essence of products and services. They develop, deliver, and support what our customers experience every day. (1)

Are employee engagement surveys becoming obsolete? Possibly. However, the principal behind increasing understanding of what contributes to engagement and ultimately improved performance and results remains an important point. It is far from simple, though. In fact, engagement surveys may be drawing too long a bow between engagement, performance and outcomes. As detailed earlier, there are many reasons (including several not listed) that provide reasonable doubt as to the value of employee surveys. What is clear, however, is the need for transparent leadership and genuine effort in understanding team members and the link to business needs.

Organisations that fail to focus on the inputs that contribute to results and instead focus solely on the results; KPI’s and outcomes will always feel challenged.  Maybe I am wrong, but the evidence continues to speak for itself. CoachStation is regularly engaged for development opportunities such as these.

Whether your leaders are prepared for an honest self-assessment and reflection of reality is the real question.

Will a survey identify or prevent these issues? Probably not. But, as a leader, appropriate and relevant actions remain your call and responsibility.

Effective leaders understand that this is not negotiable.

Whether you take the challenge is up to you.

 

Sources:

(1) It’s Time To Rethink this Employee Engagement Issue: Josh Bersin

(2) The Top 20 Potential Problems with Employee Engagement: Arvind Verma

(3) Employee Engagement – Avoid These 3 Fatal Flaws: Justin Scace

 

 

At the risk of over simplifying a very complex topic, the customer service experience we deliver is often only the service we expect ourselves.

But, when providing a service in the moment it is easy to forget our own expectations.

CoachStation: Customer Service

I have recently had several discussions with friends and family regarding the service experiences received from various companies. Unfortunately, the service is often not what has been promised or committed to. Why is it that providing a standard basic experience seems to be a difficult thing to provide?

According to a report created by the Genesys group titled the Cost of Poor Customer Service, 73% of consumers end a relationship due to poor service.

Having worked across many industries and companies I have identified a few key factors that influence culture and ultimately the service provided.

1. Time management and the ability to prioritise the most important tasks and actions has become more difficult. This is the result of expectations set by companies and also individual people’s capabilities.

2. The culture itself significantly impacts on service delivery standards. If the expectations set by senior leadership are inconsistent with what is actually happening within the organisation, then employees are much more likely to follow what they see rather than what they are told. Well thought out policies, procedures and standards form the baseline for employees to bother to provide service that meets customer expectation at a minimum. However, good structure and standards are rarely enough on their own. Creating an environment where employees have a say and autonomy meets both the need to manage random situations and the human needs of fulfilment and contribution.

Consistency, context and clarity are incredibly important for employees to find their own way, within appropriate expectations.

3. Effective leadership that enables and develops capability across the whole team creates functional teamwork, greater care, accountability and ownership. In most cases these cannot simply be given, rather must become part of the team or company culture. Creating an environment where employees can feel a level of autonomy and ownership is key. This allows for dealing with customer needs without a ‘straight-jacket’ and rigid thinking.

4. Empathy matters! Customers and employees can feel when we don’t care or when indifference exists. There are few ‘tricks’ with this. To provide good service, an employee must attempt to understand the needs of the customer. To understand takes good questioning and listening skills. When we understand, we can solve problems. When we communicate well and solve problems, we succeed. Through this cycle, the employee feels the joy of contribution; the customer is satisfied; and the business feels the benefit.

A couple of years ago I spoke at a Customer Experience conference. My presentation was titled ‘Customer Experience Management from the Inside-Out‘. The core theme implied that if we want to genuinely positively impact customer experience and service standards, we must build a culture and understanding with all employees that the customer matters. Organisations should view Customer Experience as a culture, not a tool. I imagine everyone in the room knew this. I also believe that most of the attendees, all specialists in their fields, actively focus on internal culture, employee engagement and the relationship to customer service to some degree. Many of them may even measure this.

However, building a culture that is actively and meaningfully engaging both internal customers (your employees) and external customers should be the focus. This creates real value for all involved.

A favourite speaker of mine is Simon Sinek. He often focuses on the reasons why people, employees and leaders do what they do. In the video below Simon explains why employees should be your first priority.

I think it’s funny when we are given advice to always put the customer first. That means employees come second inherently if you’re going to put customer first. Great customer service companies actually care first about their own people, their employees and they expect their employees to care about their customers.

 

I have written previously that, effective leadership and employee engagement are critical factors in providing a culture where people want to work…and to provide more of what our customers want. Foundation values such as empowerment and employee satisfaction cannot be given to an individual or employee-base. However, creating an environment that has a higher propensity towards meeting these needs is possible.

Customers can tell within minutes—even seconds—whether they are dealing with an engaged and committed employee or a dissatisfied employee. This can greatly affect their willingness to engage in business, and ultimately impact a company’s profitability. Studies have shown that, great leaders are able to keep their highest performing employees and have four times the number of highly committed employees, which affects productivity.

Ken Blanchard notes that, it all starts with the leaders of the organization creating a motivating environment for their people to work in. When that happens, it’s no surprise when the workers go out of their way to serve their customers…and the good word gets around. The organization’s best salespeople are the customers they’re already serving. The end result of all of this good news is that the organization becomes sound financially.

So often we think business is all about making money and that customers are the most important thing.

But, if you don’t treat your employees well and give them a reason to come to work, they aren’t going to be motivated to give excellent service to your customers, and customers who aren’t treated well have lots of other places they can go.

Think of your organization as a stagecoach. Upper management might be the drivers of the stagecoach, but your people are the horses—the ones who create the forward movement. If the leaders get knocked out of the stagecoach, it keeps moving. But if something happens to the horses, everything comes to a screeching halt. So serve and help each other, and then reach out to your customers with the enthusiasm and desire and fabulous service that will make them raving fans…

…Don’t forget that without your people, you’re nothing.

There is often a gap between intent and behaviour when it comes to leadership, development, employee engagement, empowerment and cultures in many organisations.

It is always worth taking another look at the service being provided by your team members. Most importantly, is your culture and leadership team supporting and actively encouraging a good service experience? Lift the lid and take a look. You will be surprised what you find.

Personal and professional development is critical to the ongoing success and growth for any leader. There are many aspects that will make this development even more effective and sustainable, particularly when participating in coaching.

High on this list of attributes is the support the person being coached receives from their immediate leader.

CoachStation: Coaching, Mentoring and Leadership Support

Photo Source: Unsplash, Bethany Legg

Support of people as they participate in development programs really does matter. I recently met with a very senior leader in an organisation – let’s call him Jack. Our discussion covered many areas of relevance, including the fact that I had been coaching various members of Jack’s team for different periods over the last 2 years. During the conversation we were reviewing the traits, potential and attitudes of several of his leaders. At one stage he asked if I knew one of his leadership team in particular? The answer is yes…in fact, quite well, as I had just finished a coaching program of 8 months with him!

I couldn’t help but be disappointed that this was not known to Jack.

To be fair, a recent structural change meant that the coachee/leader I have been working with was previously reporting directly to another manager, who reported to Jack. However, even a 1-over manager should have some awareness, if not involvement throughout this process. The CoachStation Coaching and Mentoring process includes the inclusion of the coachee’s immediate manager. This is important, if not critical to the success of the coaching relationship.

Sadly, not every immediate leader is that interested in providing leadership support during the coaching process!

Why is this? Why would a manager not have a deep and committed interest in the ongoing development of one of their leaders? To be honest, this makes little sense to me, although experience is educating me why this is all too common an occurrence and attitude, even if I don’t like or respect the reasons.

  1. Ego and pride: the immediate leader may be threatened by someone else working with their team member.
  2. Fear: this can be about their own misgivings and self-doubt; the potential fallout or need for support during the coaching program; or previous experiences and history.
  3. Little or no experience of coaching: related to fear, few people are comfortable to place themselves in a seemingly vulnerable position unless they have to. Development is about being comfortable in challenging yourself. This takes self-awareness, honesty and self-acceptance. Coaching is a skill that requires focus, deliberate learning and practice. For many newer managers, it is easier to not ask the question, therefore they don’t have to acknowledge the answer.
  4. Not an organisational cultural or strategic goal: if the coaching goes against the actual cultural norms or expectations of the organisation, it takes a brave and rare leader to persist with it or ‘go against the grain’.
So, what’s the number one sign that someone isn’t a great leader?

Unfortunately, in the same way that CEO support and involvement can help companies nurture leaders, CEO arrogance can have the opposite effect. When your boss acts like he or she is perfect and tells everyone else they need to improve this is a sure sign that the leader isn’t great. Worse yet, this behavior can be copied at every level of management. Every level then points out how the level below it needs to change. The end result: No one gets much better.

The principle of leadership development by personal example doesn’t apply just to CEO’s. It applies to all levels of management. All good leaders want their people to grow and develop on the job. Who knows? If we work hard to improve ourselves, we might even encourage the people around us to do the same thing! (1)

We are responsible for our own development. However, great and effective organisations develop leaders who support their team members. In fact, the best leaders take the view that one of their core roles is to develop more leaders. Is this an aspect of your role that is worth revisiting?

 

Sources:

(1) The #1 Sign that Someone Isn’t a Great Leader; Marshall Goldsmith: https://www.marshallgoldsmith.com/articles/1-sign-someone-isnt-great-leader/

 

 

 

Generations of employees and leaders have been exposed to varying cultures, leadership styles and business practices.

Understanding how generational change impacts leadership and organisational learning has become an interest of mine. As is the transition of students from university into the workforce.

CoachStation: Generational Change and Leadership

Is generational change impacting the need for different types of leadership?

I am very lucky to be working as a coach and mentor with some great companies and leaders. For a few years I have been consulting and coaching within an architectural company in Brisbane. Two of the more impressive leaders employed there are Luke Madden and Kevin Gerrard. Importantly, we have developed a great deal of trust and strong relationships. From my perspective, it has been genuinely interesting being a part of their developmental path in recent years.

Both Luke and Kevin are measured in their thinking and mature in reasoning. For these reasons and others, I appreciate their perspectives on many topics, including generational change and professional observations. Luke is a 26-year old recently registered architect with an immense opportunity for his future. Kevin is an experienced architect and leader with over 30 years in the industry. Their views are relevant no matter what industry you work in.
It has been fascinating discussing their history and journeys to date within the coaching context. Luke has previously shared some thought-provoking views about his generation; transitioning from university to the workplace; and learning from his career to date. I felt it may be of interest to contrast his views with those of Kevin, to understand the changes and differences that have occurred over the last 3 decades in their respective experiences.
Recently, during a lunch meeting, we spent some time discussing leadership, universities and moving from a educational environment to business.

Is it the universities responsibility to prepare people for the ‘real world or is it simply to educate specific subject matter?

How different is the workplace – has generational change affected leadership inputs and attitudes of employees?

Kevin: In my time as an architectural graduate and in the years immediately following architectural registration, it was generally the case that you progressed in a company by gaining experience on projects and by gaining knowledge to a point where you could effectively manage projects and achieve seniority. In current times, it’s more likely that opportunities for progression can happen through young graduates and recently registered architects becoming specialised in a particular aspect of architecture or showing talent in particular non-project related aspects of the business.
How effective and relevant is that from a practical point of view within leadership and culture?
Kevin: One of the things in architectural practice that has not traditionally been handled very well is succession planning.

Too many architectural firms grow and grow and then die because too few employees and newer leaders have been brought along on the journey.

There should be a genuine drive to keep organisations operating beyond the current directorship. It’s really important to foster people coming through, listen to their new ideas and different ways of doing things.
Is that what a graduate would be looking for in an organisation or industry?
Luke: Yes, that’s pretty right. Loyalty, in the past as I understand it, would lead to reward. You would get a job and wait your time and hopefully someone would retire and you would progress. But, there was almost always a time factor. Now, people want to be given opportunity or rewarded with something. If you can keep people happy in that sense then they are more likely to be loyal. There’s less patience with people my age, generally. Many things are expected straight away.
Kevin: Our younger employees are more likely to move around and try different things.

People of my generation require more security.

This has always been a big thing for me. In my career I have had two main jobs and both of those were very secure jobs. It’s a different mindset now.
Luke: Yes, there is less loyalty now in that sense. It’s very much a look after yourself mentality for people when they graduate. I need to find an employer who is going to look after me. It’s not about finding the first place and sticking with them. People are a lot more flexible – it’s so easy to move.
Kevin: I may be generalising, but people of the younger generations are not always content with just learning what you’re learning. They are often looking to learn other things and other ways to go about things. In architecture particularly there is a vast range of things you can be doing. You are spoiled for choice really but there is generally no hesitation in moving around.

The boundaries, whether perceived or real, have moved.

Working in a reasonably conservative industry, how does a business such as yours support and meet that need?
Kevin: You do that by talking to your staff and finding out what they want. Engaging with people who show aptitude for things and building teams around that.
How does someone show aptitude – when you think of aptitude what is someone displaying or demonstrating?
Kevin: I look for enthusiasm and a quest for knowledge. Improving the product and brand – employees should be always thinking about that, not simply doing what they always do.
Luke: I think one of the key things is that, at least to begin with architects are passionate about what they do.

You don’t get through an architecture degree without being passionate about it.

So, just on that, in your cohort through university how many students started and ultimately completed the degree?
Luke: There was probably a 30% completing rate when I went through.
Kevin: We started with 110 people in our year. Six people from that initial cohort graduated in the minimum time. The largest drop-out rate for us was in the first 6 weeks. Back then architecture was fairly easy to get into. People I think just thought they would try it and after 6 weeks of the first year we were down to 60 or 70 students.
That is a really significant drop-out rate. I am a bit surprised!
Luke: I think the key thing is fostering that enthusiasm and passion.

A lot of people after graduating and when they enter the workforce are really excited. It’s really important to do what you can to keep them excited.

What would keep a 24 or 26 year old graduate six months out of university interested and excited?
Luke: Probably showing them direction and a development pathway. Part of it is outlining the development people need to succeed and ultimately get that promotion or extend their role. For good employees it’s important to show them what is being done to improve and what they can do to give back. It’s one way to harness that enthusiasm and continue it, rather than getting a role and not feeling like they’ve got that opportunity or not knowing what they can get out of it.
Kevin: One of the things that I think has changed is that when I went through university, the courses were much more tailored to give a broad range of experiences. Most of us also worked part time, so by the time we had finished the course you were generally quite ‘well-rounded’ in everything that architecture needed to be. I may be generalising, but uni courses nowadays are much more design-orientated. Input from employers and the ability to learn on the job is less now. People coming out of university courses now potentially have quite a bit of knowledge to gain before they can be confident that they are rounded enough to gain architectural registration. It’s not necessarily better or worse, it’s just different.
Luke: It’s often about educating employees about what you do as an architect. In uni we focused more on the the good and interesting parts of architecture, but very few people end up in a role where that’s what they actually do.

Unless you work and get an understanding of what actually happens in the workplace, a lot of people graduate without knowing what goes on day-to-day.

What about broader business acumen requirements such as EHS, leadership, accounting, cultural development etc. How much of that is covered?
Kevin: No, not much in our experience. There are some very basic principles covered but the study of professional practice usually centres around building regulation and building contract management.
Luke: I don’t think most people understand. It is all covered, but people don’t necessarily enjoy it. They want to focus on the design side of things and miss that there is actually a business side of the learning that they need to be aware of.
One of the reasons I rate both of you as highly as I do is that you have an interest in the business beyond the obvious architectural skills. One of the things you bring is a passion for the people side of business and the broader business acumen. This is not always common with younger people in my experience. It’s often the inter-relationships side of business; how to be accountable and responsible for something beyond the base requirements for the roles. How much of this is about personal preference and attitude?
Luke: It’s probably not drilled into people the importance of those sorts of things. For example, the ability to communicate not just through your drawings.

As soon as you graduate you are dealing with people and working with team members on a daily basis. There is very little emphasis on leadership and things like that in formal learning through universities, in my experience.

Kevin: There has to be a heavy reliance for employers to provide much of this type of learning in on-the-job training, but it’s probably not structured. People usually develop in specific aspects of architecture and have to learn on the job and gain business acumen and people skills through practical experience.
This is one of the reasons I wanted to speak with both of you. It’s about understanding a perspective of inter-generational learning, culture and what different people want. How well does that align with what employers provide? Not just your organisation, but business in general. It feels like a missing element across industries and organisations.
Kevin: I don’t think most businesses provide that at all. Unless individual employees proactively search for it for their own needs to provide for some sort of structure.

Architects usually learn on the job from seeing their peers and how they operate. 

Usually if a firm specialises in some particular field of architecture (like Health or Aged Care or Prisons) people will ultimately learn by doing those projects and learning the systems and procedures that apply to those particular fields.
Is that a problem…if universities aren’t really providing it in a meaningful way and organisations often miss the opportunity? Then owners and senior managers get concerned, worried or disappointed that our newer or younger employees don’t have those skills. People don’t just automatically get this aspect of business.
Kevin: I think this is one of the real issues. That can only make practices better at what they do. Most of them probably just fumble along, doing what they’ve always done. They do big jobs getting big fees. I have seen companies that focus on that only. Their structures that are in place for resourcing and developing people are non-existent. Most recently, there has been a bit of a change in some companies.

For example, working with people like yourself, Steve, to improve processes and people can only make that better.

It makes profitability better at the end of the day. But, a lot of architectural practices don’t have a good idea on that. Architects are rarely good managers, traditionally.
Luke: It’s important to take that development approach. People will complain that students graduate and not know enough. All of them are doing the same course, so unless employers do something about it they will find graduates who don’t know exactly what you want them to know.
Kevin: We try to hire people with the right attitude and temperament. The right drive to do things as you would like. It’s not necessarily about their skills. Skills can be taught and learned fairly readily.
Luke: Yes, but it’s also the ability to learn and learn quickly. It’s even more important now that you have that good learning environment. It’s more common to be working in larger teams and not just working by yourself. Having that teaching/learning culture is invaluable.
Luke: The ability to communicate with other people.

The biggest thing thing is that in high school and uni you are always served.

All of a sudden you get into a professional environment and often you are the one serving. You’ve not had to deal with that to that point. You have to be able to work out how to manage those relationships to work best with each other. The ongoing nature of relationships that may last longer than in high school or university requires different skills.
I am really passionate about the transition from university to the workplace. It is a significant gap. One of the observations I have made in recent years is that there is a higher level of expectation from graduates and entry level employees versus the reality of what ‘the real workplace is’ and their input into it.  

Kevin, thinking about your 30 plus years of working and your transition from university to work. What is the one thing you wished you were provided, exposed to or sought out, knowing what you know now?
Kevin: An old architect friend of mine once said to me that you don’t really hit your straps as an architect until you are around 40. Although obviously it’s not true for everybody, what I think he was getting at is that after around 15 years in the workforce you have seen most things. You know how to work things, to keep processes moving etc. You don’t have that sense about how things should pan out until you are around 40. For the most part, he was right. I was running jobs on sites at 22 or 23.
When you have that responsibility the fear of failure is immense because the consequences are huge. I was constantly deferring to my seniors or other people for input.

It’s not until you are older and much more experienced that you instinctively know where things are headed. You gain the confidence to make decisions yourself and be comfortable with those decisions. But, up until that point it’s hard to be accountable because you are so unsure of things.

There’s lots of little failures that you can make along the way. A lot of smaller details and things that can go wrong. You won’t get them all right, which is OK.  The trick is knowing when to look for help because in architecture and construction, small mistakes can have quite dire physical of financial consequences.
I am interested to know your thoughts about a potential contradiction that exists. Generally, younger employees are more mobile and loyalty is seen as a little different in modern workplaces. Employees need to be more aware of providing development pathways and opportunities. At the same time they are often not as aware of the effort that’s required to translate this learning into actions and sustainable change. For many employees, “If it doesn’t work out, there are other options” seems to be more the mindset.
Luke: Yes and some people graduate and think they have learned what they need to learn. They don’t realise that it takes time to understand all situations that can occur.
Kevin: I find the best employees, when they have a problem, firstly recognise that they have a problem. They will seek advice and guidance and work their way through it. There are other people who are less aware.
Luke: You are always better off to ask the question than having a guess.

You don’t learn anything from guessing.

That takes a certain amount of personal and professional maturity and confidence to become that sort of person. One of the keys to leadership is to not believe that you must have all the answers. Good leaders also have the genuine comfort and self-esteem to ask and seek feedback from those who can help. I think that the systems, both academically and professionally, perpetuate that myth…that leadership is about having all the answers. When people find out that the reality is 180 degrees the other way, it is surprising to many people.
Luke: You never get to a point where you have done it all, or know it all. This type of message is not communicated all that well in uni.
Kevin: You have to be in the right environment as well for that sort of thing. My old boss would lecture that it’s sink or swim.

You have to be in an environment where people are comfortable to admit mistakes or go to others with problems. I have a respect for that.

That’s the difference between a supported challenging and unsupported challenging environment. I challenge you and then leave it up to you to then find the solutions. Or, I work with you to find the best options based on your input. The best leaders I have seen help people to learn how to fish, not just give them a fish, meeting the short-term need. They don’t simply give the answer because it is easy and quick. Teaching, influencing and guiding means that the employee is better off in the long-run and they start to feel respected and think for themselves.
As an employer and senior manager of a small to mid-sized organisation, when employing a graduate or younger employee what are the attributes you are looking for the most?
Kevin: The non-architectural, intangible things like enthusiasm and passion. You might be looking for technical abilities, but generally the technical skills are at a fairly basic level. People quickly show an aptitude for certain things.
How many people at that age in your experience, are aware that that is what you are looking for?
Kevin: Probably not that many, if I’m honest. I have been involved in employing people previously and they haven’t worked out as promised.

Changing attitudes or bad attitudes is a problem. These good attributes are not that easy to find at all.

So, from a university point of view, wouldn’t it be great if we could get that message out. Technical knowledge and what you are learning during your studies is important, but you know what, organisations are looking for more or something different. I continue to work across multiple industries and I don’t think people know. This is an issue for many organisations and cultures.
From that point of view, what did you expect from an employer when moving from university to the workforce, Luke?
Luke: I think that most people graduating in architecture think that employers are looking for creativity, which is typically not what companies look for.

But, if I was running a business and looking to hire someone, I would be looking for someone who has a vast range of experience.

They have not focused solely on architecture. A lot of people go to uni and only study design, because they think that is what it’s about. Whereas, people who have maybe done a trade for a while or completed a minor in a different degree like business or construction, probably understand there is more to architecture than design. They have learned about other things. Sometimes the people who are solely focused on design or one aspect of architecture feel they are let down by the reality.

Is generational change a factor in how we run our organisations?

Probably! Yet, uncertainty remains about what this has meant and what is required for the future. I would like to thank Kevin and Luke for their time and input into this blog. The points raised are not specific only to the architectural industry. They may highlight architecture university learning and reference a single workplace, however the same points are reflected in many organisations and industries.
Through understanding a perspective of two different leaders within one organisation, perhaps it triggers thought. The point is to understand what this means for you and your business. What can you do to better support the graduates, younger employees and others in your organisation? What can you do to take ownership and be accountable for your own growth and opportunities?
I am interested in your opinions and thoughts on this topic.

Influence matters! I used to believe friends were more important than family.

Recent events have shifted my thinking.

CoachStation: Influence Story of My Life
The statement above is how our 14-year old daughter, Maddy, has started to understand the importance of influence and relationships. This year has been a big year for her. In response to this learning, a little while back Maddy wrote down her thoughts and perspective. This week Maddy shared these thoughts with me. I asked if it would be possible to publish her writing as the core elements are just as relevant for adults as they are for other 14 year olds and teens. Maddy was keen to share her ideas and hoped that other people and possibly, teenagers sharing similar experiences, may take something away from her comments and writing. We are very proud of Maddy and hope that this blog has the influence on others that it has had on us. 

I have always loved my family dearly and they are a very important part of my life. However, upon reflection I realised that I was prioritising my friends, wanting to spend more time and money on and with them. I feel like I have an insight into relationships after a number of experiences this year. I have found that friends are there for you, people who make you happy and you form life long memories with.

But, one thing I have learnt is that people change and they come and go.

Friendships are still important for all the reasons listed, but family is more important. Family members are the ones who you also create memories with. In my case, they will never ever leave my side and who will love me no matter what. That is not always the case with every relationship.
I have come to realise that people come into your life for a reason. The real challenge is understanding why and what they have taught you? Family is the most important thing you will ever have so treasure them, don’t leave them and don’t lose them. Love your family wholeheartedly, otherwise one day you may look back and regret not making the most of the opportunity. Be a role model for your siblings. Spend that precious time with your parents. Put in the effort to build a strong relationship with both your Mum and Dad.

A teacher of mine once told me that trying to meet the expectations of others was the undoing of the world…of relationships, families, self-esteem and self-belief.

I interpreted her statement as a comment on the fact that a large portion of society are living based on the expectations and standards as set by other people. As I grow up, I am discovering who I am and learning that life should be lived how you want it to be, not how others say it should be.
Recently, this thought has crossed my mind many times. I agree with the comment but feel that these expectations are more often than not formed by the media. Whether it be the news or social media platforms, I strongly believe that the majority of the expectations we have of relationships, lifestyles, work, health and body image are influenced on what the media has shown.
Sure, the people we associate with and conversations help to influence our expectations, but the media are the foundation. They influence our expectations – almost like we are being told how our lives should be lived.

Recently I have begun to really take note of the world, of what’s happening around me, peoples values, passions and the expectations of others.

Yes, before I knew what was happening in the world around me but not to the depth that I am understanding now. This has only happened recently however I have been able to realise that I am unconsciously becoming more aware. I am beginning to understand the position everyone has in society and the impact that people can have on others.
In my experiences in the last year involving friendships, school work and conversation I have come to understand the impact one choice, one word and one action can make. One text, a smile, an email, one question. I have seen and felt firsthand how people impact one another. It is interesting how a class discussion can be influenced by one question or opinion. Some of my relationships have changed through one word or lack thereof. I have been genuinely surprised by the impact words and people can have.

Have you ever considered the impact and influence you have on others?

It could be anyone – a relative, a friend or a teacher. After your next interaction with someone watch how they respond to certain words you say or even your body language. Take note of how they act afterwards. Do they smile more, laugh more, talk more?
In a recent class we discussed change in people. A point was made that the most significant time of change in someone’s life is between the ages of 12 and 16 years old. We discussed the fact that people change and grow but you can’t always see it. So, we identified different ways we can see change in others, other than physically. People may change who they hang out with, their passions and interests, how they display their emotions and their focuses. Some people start to identify their strengths and weaknesses.

This lesson was a turning point for me, when I realised it applied to me.

That I had changed…my friendships had shifted…my values and even the amount of time I now spend on social media. I have become more aware of what my strengths and weaknesses are and am working to improve my weaknesses and use my strengths in the best way possible.
Another time that I started to shift my thinking was after listening to Waleed Aly’s speech about ‘fear’ on The Project. It really struck me and made me think about the world we are living in. It highlighted the need to understand different people’s perspectives and points of view.

The main point I took away was that everyone has different opinions and perspectives.

We need to try to understand people’s motivations to understand what they do and have done. It is not an excuse for the tragedies occurring on a daily basis. However, understanding where other people are coming from will help to bring peace and less outrage about every attack or disaster that has unfortunately become the norm.
The majority of people are reacting in fear and are scared. They want to be safe but there are so many unknowns. It often comes down to understanding one another and the influence we can have. I feel like this is how most relationships fall apart. When the perspective of the other person fails to be seen.
Another experience that I have learnt from is when I was asked who my inspiration is and who I look up to. My immediate response was my parents. It may sound cliche’d but my Mum and Dad really do inspire me. The relationships between my parents and I is quite strong and is continually developing. I have become aware of the amount of hard work and effort my parents put into maintaining a happy and healthy life for our family. Seeing how loyal and committed they are to the family is incredible and I truly admire them for that.

My parents are strong advocates of values.

Not only knowing your own but also being able to recognise others values and understanding how to work with them in the most effective way. Being a 14-year-old, there have been the down times in my relationships with my parents. I know at times I have not treated them with respect, but I know that my parents love me no matter what and they trust I will learn from these moments.
As well as values, my parents are also very much about trust. One of the best lessons I have learnt from my parents is that trust is earned and takes a lot of time and effort to build, however can be broken just like that. My dad told me about a metaphor of an oak tree. It takes hundreds of years to grow but can be cut down in minutes. Despite all the warnings from my parents, that is one thing I did learn the hard way but I am grateful that I now more fully understand the importance of trust.

My main points are that we need to realise and understand our impact on others. People should think about how what they are doing, saying or typing will impact others. The need to consider your influence on relationships, both previous and current and learn from them is important.

You need to evaluate who you trust and how you have built trust?
Who has broken your trust and have you ever broken someone’s trust?
Consider how people change and how you influence?
Have you changed? Have your friends changed?
What about your other relationships?
It is important to contemplate your own values, strengths and weaknesses and how they will help you. To think before reacting, consider the other person’s perspective and motivations for the choice they have made.

Most importantly, we can all learn from everything that happens; every event; every mistake; and every achievement. These things define you, they add another piece to the puzzle that is you.

The ability to influence is integral to effective leadership and strong relationships. As is developing trust. I often write and discuss the importance of building strong and meaningful connections at home and in the workplace. Some people interpret this as needing to become good friends and share time out of the work with others, which is not really the point. Relationships and leadership are more than that. In part, it is the ability to reflect on what is happening, honest assessment and the emotional intelligence to understand perspectives and react accordingly.
Some of these traits are innate. A few can be learned or enhanced. Either way, the first step is acknowledgment. Developing yourself and learning about leadership can be learned at any age. Seeking deeper understanding and the impact you can and do have on others provides an excellent platform for self-acceptance, influence and leading people.
What have you learned about yourself and your relationships recently?

Understanding what your employees want, who they are and what they are naturally good at provides a solid platform for success: personally, professionally and organisationally.

Helping your employees by taking the time to find out these things is good leadership.

A gap exists between what employees want and what leaders deliver. So, what is this difference, between what has proven to work, what should leaders be doing and what actually happens in most organisations? Well, there are books and books covering this topic, but my experiences highlight two points:

  1. The need for focus on strengths
  2. Diversity and differences that naturally exist between people.

Most staff want to have an inclusive culture in the workplace where differences are valued and people can share their opinions. Hay’s Staff Engagement: Ideas for Action report finds 93% pf workers want to be a part of a workplace in which there is diversity in thought. Employers agree, with 87% saying it is important to them to ensure staff feel like they have a voice and can share their opinions at work, although 43% of them admit they can do more to facilitate it. (1)
Which leads to the question, what are the most important skills today’s leaders need to cultivate? They have to recognise that this is a tougher leadership challenge than ever before…you can’t fly by the seat of your pants anymore. You have to be incredibly tough-minded about standards of performance, but you also have to be incredibly tenderhearted with the people you’re working with. They have to feel like you have their back. If they feel like a victim of your leadership, they’ll go elsewhere.
The second principle is that the soft stuff is the hard stuff. Most people that derail as leaders in the corporate world, it’s not because they couldn’t do the math and calculate return on investment properly. The issues are communication and understanding. All of what typically would’ve been called the “soft stuff.” You have to be authentic. You have to be dialled into the soft stuff. Your EQ (Emotional Quotient) has to keep up with your IQ. (2)

The need for focus on strengths:

Focusing on employees’ strengths does more than engage workers and enrich their lives: it also makes good business sense. Gallup recently completed a large study of companies that have implemented strengths-based management practices…e.g. having employees complete the Clifton Strengths assessment, incorporating strengths-based developmental coaching, positioning employees to do more of what they do best every day, and the like.
The study examined the effects those interventions had on workgroup performance. It included 49,495 business units with 1.2 million employees across 22 organizations in seven industries and 45 countries. Gallup focused on six outcomes: sales, profit, customer engagement, turnover, employee engagement, and safety.
On average, workgroups that received a strengths intervention improved on all of these measures by a significant amount compared with control groups that received less-intensive interventions or none at all. Ninety percent of the workgroups that implemented a strengths intervention of any magnitude saw performance increases at or above the ranges shown below. Even at the low end, these are impressive gains.

  • 10%-19% increase in sales
  • 14%-29% increase in profit
  • 3%-7% increase in customer engagement
  • 9%-15% increase in engaged employees
  • 6- to 16-point decrease in turnover (in low-turnover organizations)
  • 26- to 72-point decrease in turnover (in high-turnover organizations)
  • 22%-59% decrease in safety incidents. (3)
Research shows that it is easier to develop your strengths than to develop your weaknesses. 

If you reflect on and consider this statement, it is reasonably obvious and intuitive. Yet, is it what we reinforce culturally and do in practice? Not usually!
Figures show that only 13% of employees worldwide are engaged at work, according to the Gallup organisation. This low number has barely budged since they began reporting engagement worldwide in 2009 – highlighting that the vast majority of workplaces have failed to engage their employees. Why isn’t engagement improving? Gallup estimates that managers account for at least 70% of the variance in employee engagement across business units.
Disengaged workforces are a global problem; and the costs are high. Companies motivate their employees with incentives and unique perks, but none of those approaches address the deeper issue of why employees are so disengaged. The answer is organisational culture and leadership. The formal and informal values, behaviors, beliefs and leadership capability present in an organisation. Very few companies intentionally focus on culture and dedicate enough time to developing effective leaders. (4)

Effective leaders surround themselves with the right people and build upon each person’s strengths. Yet, in most cases, leadership teams are a product of circumstance more than design – Tom Rath & Barrie Conchie, Strengths Based Leadership

The key is to discover what traits and talents are most natural for each of us and then build upon these, to make them strengths. We look at this another way. You cannot ignore weaknesses and areas for development. It is never the case that all of the natural talents and strengths make up all of your role requirements. But, this should not stop you working from your positions of strengths where possible. It is much more likely that you will have passion, interest and commitment working with strengths that you are more comfortable with rather than areas of less talent.

However, when assessing performance most organisations and managers focus on the 10-20% that it isn’t rather than the 80-90% that it is.

Strengths Based Leadership and Engaging EmployeesThis is particularly prevalent during annual appraisals and demonstrated by less experienced leaders in coaching and 1:1 sessions. Organisations are regularly held to ransom by their appraisal systems and the assumed conversations that occur. Unfortunately, the fact that most leaders and employees see the systems as roadblocks and necessary rather than beneficial is a poor start.
The nature of appraisal programs is that the conversations focus more on trying to explain why the employee is not a higher rating than they have been given. A few carefully placed questions and displaying care for the employee and process will shift the onus:

  • Concentrate more on what each employee is able to do well and has contributed to the business.
  • Ask your employees to self-assess and gauge their own performance before providing your thoughts and comment.
  • Blend these points with clearly set expectations and goal setting to provide context and accountability.
  • Thinking about and discussing what the next 6-12 months looks like is key to engaging and providing clarity.

The result is a greater likelihood of appraisals actually adding value.

Diversity and the differences that naturally exist between people:

There are many benefits to working collaboratively and most importantly, understanding other people. In my experience diversity is most commonly a barrier in teams. It affects relationships and is often defined as a ‘personality clash’. It is rarely that simplistic, but is more commonly based around little effort and emphasis on team mates getting to know one another.
Recognising the value each person offers can lead to greater creativity and improved business productivity. Diversity of thought is starting to gain a lot of attention since a workplace that respects and encourages a different way of thinking works more innovatively to bring new ideas to the table. Each individual possesses a range of qualities, traits and backgrounds that influences the way that they think. (1)
A lot of the principles associated with leading a large organisation are unchanged since the advent of the study of leadership. What’s changed is the environment in which people are being challenged to lead. There are two overwhelming forces that are touching everything we deal with now. The first one is the explosion of information. The speed at which business is being conducted is exponentially faster than ever before in the history of enterprise.
The other explosive change is the advent of diversity. You have gender diversity, ethnic diversity, geographic diversity, diversity of lifestyle, and probably the most profound one is the diversity of generations. We have four to five generations working right now. Those two things coming together create enormous stress. Leaders have to deal with that. (2)

Individual leaders and team’s must take the time to increase their own Emotional Intelligence, self-awareness and acknowledgment of the differences between people.
This will reduce or remove the barriers and issues that exist between team members.

The fact is that if you want to build teams or organisations capable of innovating, you need diversity. Diversity enhances creativity. It encourages the search for novel information and perspectives, leading to better decision making and problem solving. Diversity can improve the bottom line of companies and lead to unfettered discoveries and breakthrough innovations. Even simply being exposed to diversity can change the way you think. (5)
The challenge is that acknowledgement and action takes time and effort. Effective leaders engage their team members regularly, not just talk about it or wish it was different. When you more fully understand why others do and say things, the results are:

  • reduced assumption
  • acceptance of differences without necessarily having to agree
  • less negative judgement and more tolerance
  • a solid platform for working more effectively and openly
  • stronger relationships, that have purpose.

To achieve productivity, teams require an environment that reduces feelings of disconnection and maximises collaboration, connection and engagement amongst all involved.
To be an effective and useful leader requires clear focus and action. This focus can be enhanced by learning what is important to each employee, understanding their strengths and acknowledging that the differences between people can be an advantage.

References:
(1) Work Culture, Cara Jenkin: Courier Mail, Saturday 3/9/16
(2) http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-07-25/conant-what-derails-most-ceos-is-the-soft-stuff
(3) https://hbr.org/2016/09/developing-employees-strengths-boosts-sales-profit-and-engagement
(4) http://www.gallup.com
(4) http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-diversity-makes-us-smarter/

 

Know your ‘why’.

Values and gaining an understanding of your key drivers and motivations matter. I know this because people keep telling me. 

Maybe not in specific values-related language, but certainly when they describe how they feel and what is happening at that time.

CoachStation: Leadership, Pupose, Values and Your Why

Knowing your core purpose, why we make certain decisions and the influence of values impacts lives. They affect how we feel about our job, relationships and life in general. What is satisfying at work? What is frustrating? How relationships are going? The joys of a new friendship…or an old. Your ‘why’ influences all of these questions.
It is when values align and we develop understanding of self and our motivations that genuine satisfaction and comfort is felt. Conversely, we are often at our most vulnerable and emotional when core values are being breached. Or, challenged when asked to compromise the things that matter the most.
Purpose:

  1. the reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists.
  2. a person’s sense of resolve or determination.

Values:

  1. the importance, worth, or usefulness of something
  2. principles or standards of behaviour; one’s judgement of what is important in life.

When developing, maintaining and growing my business, I have focused heavily on the ‘why’. Similarly, during coaching and mentoring sessions with clients, I find myself delving into the same theme. Not everyone can answer these questions about themselves easily, however. Understanding your passions, why you do what you do and your core beliefs will help you understand not only who you are, but assist to drive your future goals and direction. (1)

Values and purpose are often downplayed, both in concept and understanding.

Core values are the guiding principles that dictate behaviour and action. Values facilitate self-awareness and help people to know what is right from wrong. They can help organisations to determine their direction and align business goals. They also create a sustained, unwavering and unchanging guide.
It is this degree of self-awareness and self-acceptance that is central to personal and professional development. Taking time to reflect and understand what your purpose is, may be one way that you can learn to describe better influence and connect with others. Ensure that your team members, colleagues and friends can understand your perspective and decisions.
Whether it is your boss, members of your team, spouse or peers, the opportunity to delve, understand and explain has great power. This type of conversation goes some way to breaking down the barriers that exist when we allow others to assume what is most important to us. Be clear about your purpose and ‘why’ and share this detail with those who matter most.
Diversity and points of difference between people can be one of the most important drivers of individual and team success. But, only when the time is taken to improve self-awareness, learn more about other people and the best ways to work together. This rarely occurs without appropriate effort and focus.
I have developed and facilitated workshops focusing on the theme of diversity, specifically the differences that naturally exist between people. Diversity has quickly become one of CoachStation’s most popular themes/programs, when working at group level or with individual clients being coached and mentored. Developing a core purpose, why and set of meaningful values is as important for teams as individuals.

People lose their way when they lose their why – Michael Hyatt

Articulating beliefs and reflective thoughts to people creates a potential common ground of words and language. It certainly provides clarity and opportunity for deeper and more authentic connection. Knowing your values connects with a deeper set of motivations. They help to understand why you make certain decisions, choices and drive your actions.
What we know about people at work is that at the end of the day, they want to matter, to feel significant. They want to be respected, heard, honored, and supported; they want to win, learn, grow, and do their best. What we need are cultures that recognize this principle, and lead accordingly. By creating a leadership culture where people feel they matter, everything else the business needs to do will happen—productivity, quality, customer satisfaction, and profitability. (2)

Help people to help you by providing details about your purpose, values, beliefs and motivations.
 The alternative is to foster ambiguity and allow people to make assumptions about what matters most to you. Which would you prefer?

Watch the CoachStation video clip below to learn more about values and their influence on your life.

 

What makes one leader more effective and capable than another? The behaviours, traits and skills required of a leader are many.

Organisations must focus on developing leaders early and maintain the effort once in the role. Individual leaders must also embrace the challenge to grow and provide more to their team members and employer.

To understand what makes a great leader great, requires reading to understand theory and practice to make development real. Knowledge, however, is only the first step. Knowing is one thing, application and ‘doing’ is something more substantial again. You don’t need to seek perfection, just improvement.
This initial step to increase understanding is accessible, possibly more so than ever. We are genuinely fortunate to have access to so much literature available online that provides this opportunity. Your learning should have a purpose, however. Consider what it is that you want to influence? Is it that you feel you could be more strategic in your thinking? Improve your communication skills? Or, do you want to positively impact employee engagement levels? All of these and plenty more, are admirable goals to improve your leadership capability. The starting point is increasing what you know.

CoachStation: Leader Journey and Employee Engagement

Aon Hewitt: 2016 Trends in Global Employee Engagement

As one source of learning from my recent readings, several articles and statistics caught my attention that are worth highlighting. I have included links at the bottom of my blog if you wish to read further information from each.

There are valid and proven reasons why organisations must focus on developing leaders.

 

    • There are many reasons why organizations spend enormous amounts of time and resources on developing leaders. One of the most important examples would be that “Organizations with the highest quality leaders were 13 times more likely to outperform their competition in key bottom-line metrics such as financial performance, quality of products and services, employee engagement, and customer satisfaction.” (1)

 

    • There’s a leadership problem in the workplace. Companies lack employees with leadership skills and fear they don’t have enough rising leaders to take the reigns. Almost half of the companies surveyed for Workplace Trends’ Global Workforce Leadership survey in February and March 2015 said that leadership is the hardest skill to find in employees. What’s more, among the 1,000 employees surveyed, only 36 percent said leadership is a strength in their organization. (2)

 

It is incredibly important to understand what leadership roles require and to develop the leader before taking on the role.

 

    • The vast majority of (leadership) challenges dealt with people issues. Things like managing former peers (about 20% of responses), managing conflict, improving morale, building trust, earning respect (about 15%), or working with older or more experienced team members (about 13%.) The second biggest bucket contained performance management issues. This included setting goals, providing day-to-day feedback, coaching, redirection, and year-end performance review (about 13%.) The topic of the third big bucket was personal concerns about the new role. It included time management, prioritization, and finding balance along with trying to do it all and live up to expectations (about 15%.) (3)

 

    • Leadership development and coaching is expensive. So it’s typically reserved for those at the senior and executive leadership levels. But that means there’s a whole group of middle and lower-level managers without leadership experience. Their lack of training has a serious impact. Gallup’s 2015 State of the American Manager Report studied 2.5 million manager-led teams in 195 countries. (It) found that the top two reasons employees are promoted to management positions are because they were successful in a non-managerial role and they have experience and tenure with the company. Not because they have leadership potential or experience. It’s no wonder that only 35 percent of managers in the Gallup report were engaged at work. And when managers are disengaged, so are the employees they lead. The study found that employees who are supervised by highly engaged managers are 59 percent more likely to be engaged than those supervised by actively disengaged managers. Throwing employees into leadership positions cold doesn’t work. The new model of leadership development needs to extend to every level of management. Companies need confident and trained leaders throughout the business, not just at the top. (2)

 

Development of the leader is ongoing, consistent and focused when performed well.

 

    • Further, employees are looking for personalized career direction at every stage. In fact, most employees are looking for quarterly or weekly feedback and access to development wherever they are. And they expect content, contacts and courses offered at work in the same style they consume personalized content at home through Amazon and Netflix. Personalized employee career development programs, accessible tools and tracking systems and a focus on redefining and re-engaging leadership – at all levels – will help deliver on the innovation and growth that businesses require. (4)

 

    • The qualities and attributes that make people stand out are based on the choices they make, not only on what they are born with. The choices you make have a lot to do with how successful and effective you become as a leader. Successful leaders are extremely good and efficient with their skills and there is a narrow area where improvement may be needed. These areas may not be easy to recognize intuitively. The basic and most essential component to work on these areas is self-awareness. Being self-aware, with the deep understanding of one’s own thoughts and feelings creates clarity. (5)

 

Once in the role, the leader must concentrate on their team members, results, communication and many other, sometimes conflicting priorities.

 

    • What can be managed and enhanced is the effectiveness of the individual company’s workforce. Executives and managers are going to have to understand and optimize the employee experience like never before. That is one of the reasons behind a movement called “continuous listening.” The idea behind “continuous listening” is to gather feedback and take action across the entire employee lifecycle. Often it starts by understanding the onboarding process during a new employee’s first days. It continues with frequently documented performance conversations. Annual engagement surveys are being replaced or augmented with quarterly or monthly pulse surveys. At the end of employment, exit surveys are conducted to understand why someone is leaving and their willingness to be recruited by the organization again in the future. Leaders will need to listen to what employees are saying about the organization and begin acting on the messages by making improvements and having clarification conversations with employees. As following up becomes easier, adding another solution to gather feedback or consider listening more frequently is recommended. (6)

Seek additional understanding and knowledge from whoever and wherever you can. Reinforcement of your existing understanding; potential to be exposed to new ideas and thinking; whilst broadening your mindset and skills comes from many sources. Seek them out. Be deliberate.
Being a leader can be challenging. It is also often rewarding, both personally and professionally. However, it takes effort, persistence and time, which it seems many people struggle to understand and apply. There are no short-cuts, but there is opportunity.

Contact CoachStation today to see how we can turn your good leadership intention into goals, action and improvement.
You, your business and employees deserve the effort.

References:
(1) 10 Ways to Grow Leaders in Your Business: Entrepreneur.com
(2) Why Leadership Development Needs to Be Updated: Entrepreneur.com
(3) What’s the Biggest Challenge for First Time Managers: Blanchard LeaderChat
(4) The Global Workforce Leadership Survey: Workplace Trends.com
(5) How Coaching Can Help Executives Bring Out Leadership Traits: Entrepreneur.com
(6) 2016 Trends in Global Employee Engagement: Aon Hewett

 

Are you someone who is described as action-oriented?

Do you assess the many possible alternatives and options before ultimately taking action? 

I consider that one of the most beneficial aspects of good leadership is the ability (and willingness!) to assess options quickly and efficiently and guide your team through to completion. Knowing what the most appropriate and beneficial action is can be difficult, however this model may help.
Passively waiting for others to make necessary decisions and take steps to meet a need, adds little value to your organisation and others perception of yourself.

Action matters in business!

Consciously considering the alternatives and understanding the organisational culture, potential barriers and existing situations provides the most likely scenario for success.
CoachStation Possibilities & Action Model
Additionally, the stages or steps that I consider to be the difference between successful decision-making and leadership effectiveness compared to less successful processes are:

  • Understanding the issue to be solved
  • Considering the options
  • Assessing possible outcomes
  • Narrowing the options to the clear few that add greatest benefit
  • Identifying a single response and doing something with it.

After recently being asked by one of my clients what the best way to make decisions is, I developed the concept above. I hope that it assists others to understand the steps necessary to remove the feeling of being overwhelmed, as was the case for my client. He sensed that there was a better way than ‘blind hope’, however was unable to work through the many possibilities to identify the few options that could be actioned.

The ‘CoachStation Possibilities/Action’ model works best when working through and considering all of the complementary and competing priorities. The challenge is to be targeted and specific at all stages of the process. The behaviours that can maximise the impact and benefit incorporate:

    • Full understanding of the problem in the first place.
    • Clarity about the question you are attempting to answer. It is difficult to provide an answer to a question that has not been asked, acknowledged or understood.
    • Consideration and assessment of the many alternatives (that time and common-sense allow). Don’t take the first option that comes to mind, without investigating its potential impact, value or outcomes and measuring it against other options. Assess the many to find the few!
    • A process that can identify the one, most beneficial action that is most likely to provide the best result or success. Success should be measured against your original assessment of the problem or question to be resolved. Using a ‘shotgun approach’, where many actions are taken in the hope that one of them suits the need is time-consuming, costly, disheartening and displays poor decision-making capability.
    • Having a reasonably clear view of what success would look like if the result intended was achieved. This requires a degree of forethought and progressive thinking, however remains one of the biggest gaps in decision making in my experience.

Let me know your questions, thoughts or successes related to decision-making and taking action. I would love to hear your stories.