Different industries require subtle differences in style and how leaders impact their teams and results. As part of our occasional series chatting with industry leaders, we recently spoke with engineer and senior leader, Wes Davis. His story is an interesting one, with Wes focusing much of his time and development on the topic of leadership within engineering, rather than simply learning and applying the technical aspects.
Engagement at work matters. Employee discretionary effort and focus are being challenged for many reasons, including the labour market and working from home.
People are finding it easy to find jobs and unemployment is at a record low. It won’t always be like this, however.
Developing the skills to engage team members is important. Maybe, no more so than right now. In years to come, when equilibrium between employers and employees normalises, the investment in these skills now will be returned in spades.
The Reserve Bank of Australia believes that the unemployment rate is heading to 3.25% by the end of this year. They then speculate unemployment will rise to 4% by 2024 in the wake of the economic slowdown influenced by rate hikes. The risk of not getting leadership and culture ‘right’ are significant.
Where we work has rarely provided more options. What we do at work and how we do it is changing. We spend 81,396 hours of our lives working, on average.
The question begs to be asked and answered then: If we spend so much of life at work, how is life at work going?
According to the world’s workers, not well. Gallup finds 60% of people are emotionally detached at work and 19% are miserable. (1) The levels of engagement continue to be alarming for Executive Leaders…or at least, they should be. Yet, these results have barely shifted in many years. Why are people not engaged and can something be done about it?
As a leader you are obligated to develop your skills to influence and support each and every team member. Your goal must be to ensure your team members are regularly performing work that they are good at and care about.
Every employee has to own their development and situation too. Choice and effort influence engagement. This blog addresses 4 key skills and areas to focus on that contribute to employee engagement. One of the most exciting aspects of developing these skills further, is that you the leader, will also see a significant uplift in your own engagement as a result of being more effective in your role.
It’s about understanding how important leadership and engagement are.
None of these points are theories. Yet, too often managers see them as negotiable. It is firstly important to recognise that we all have choices. We can choose to work somewhere or not. The feeling of being ‘stuck’ is one of the most crippling feelings. You have options. We all do.
Gallup estimates that managers account for at least 70% of the variance in employee engagement across business units. When Gallup asked managers why they thought their company hired them for their current role, managers commonly said the organisation promoted them because of their success in a previous non-managerial role, or cited their tenure in their company or field. Unfortunately, these criteria miss a crucial element: the right talent to succeed as a manager and leader.
Gallup research shows that only about one in 10 people naturally possess high talent to manage, and organisations name the wrong person as manager about 80% of the time.
We’ve also learned that one in two employees have left a job to get away from a manager and improve their overall life at some point in their career. At CoachStation, we believe this figure to be much higher, in fact, more like 2 in 3 employees. Given the troubling state of employee engagement in companies worldwide, it follows that most managers aren’t creating environments in which employees feel engaged — or involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace.
We have seen little evidence that the situation is any different or better in Australia, until very recently. In fact, the focus on themes such as strengths, personal values and coaching have been occurring in the U.S for a longer period. This has provided a solid platform for personal and professional development that is still relatively new in Australia. Thankfully, this attitude and openness to leadership and personal growth is improving. The fact that you are taking the time to read this blog is a positive example.
What’s more, companies that fail to engage their employees are missing out on the powerful results that come from engagement. Gallup’s latest employee engagement meta-analysis shows that business units in the top quartile are 17% more productive, experience 70% fewer safety incidents, experience 41% less absenteeism, have 10% better customer ratings and are 21% more profitable compared with business units in the bottom quartile. (5)
Business units with engaged workers have 23% higher profit compared with business units with miserable workers.
Additionally, teams with thriving workers also see higher customer loyalty. The point is: Wellbeing at work isn’t at odds with anyone’s agenda. Executives everywhere should want the world’s workers to thrive. And helping the world’s workers thrive starts with listening to them.
Before we go any further it’s worth making sure we all understand the definitions of employee engagement. The Gallup organisation provides an excellent summary: Employee engagement reflects the involvement and enthusiasm of employees in their work and workplace. Gallup categorises an organisation’s employees as engaged, not engaged or actively disengaged.
Employees become engaged when their basic needs are met and when they have a chance to contribute, a sense of belonging, and opportunities to learn and grow.
Engaged employees are highly involved in and enthusiastic about their work and workplace. They are psychological “owners,” drive performance and innovation, and move the organisation forward.
Not engaged employees are psychologically unattached to their work and company. Because their engagement needs are not being fully met, they’re putting time — but not energy or passion — into their work.
Actively disengaged employees aren’t just unhappy at work — they are resentful that their needs aren’t being met and are acting out their unhappiness.
Every day, these workers potentially undermine what their engaged co-workers accomplish.
In one of the largest studies of burnout, Gallup found the biggest source was “unfair treatment at work.” That was followed by an unmanageable workload, unclear communication from managers, lack of manager support and unreasonable time pressure. Those five causes have one thing in common: your boss. Get a bad one and you are almost guaranteed to hate your job. A bad boss will ignore you, disrespect you and never support you. Environments like that can make anyone miserable.
A manager’s effect on a workplace is so significant that Gallup can predict 70% of the variance in team engagement just by getting to know the boss. (1)
The McKinsey group recently published an excellent resource regarding attrition and the reasons why people leave organisations. This data is current and it is real, being consistent with what many of my clients are telling me. To navigate this new playing field successfully, hiring managers can look beyond the current imbalance in labor supply and demand and consider what different segments of workers want and how best to engage them. To do this, employers should understand the common themes that reveal what people most value, or most dislike, about a job.
For instance, it cannot be overstated just how influential a bad boss can be in causing people to leave.
And while in the past an attractive salary could keep people in a job despite a bad boss, that is much less true now than it was before the pandemic. Our survey shows that uncaring and uninspiring leaders are a big part of why people left their jobs, along with a lack of career development. Flexibility, on the other hand, is a top motivator and reason for staying. (2)
Exiting workers told us that relationships in their workplace were sources of tension and that they didn’t feel that their organisations and managers cared about them.
In this latest round, respondents again cited uncaring leaders (35 percent listed it as one of their top three reasons for leaving), but they added a new range of top motivators, including inadequate compensation, a lack of career advancement, and the absence of meaningful work.
In other words, plenty of employees say that they see no room for professional or personal growth, believe that there is better money to be made elsewhere, and think that leaders don’t care enough about them. Tried-and-true reasons for disgruntlement, to be sure, but ones that are now being acted upon broadly. (2) The data provided in the graphic below is compelling.
There is no room for complacency. In the recently published State of the Global Workplace report, 45% of employees said now is a good time to find a job.
This is up slightly from last year, but less than the record 55% in 2019. The regional outlier for this item is the United States and Canada, which leads the world at 71%, up 44 percentage points from the previous year. The next closest regions are Australia and New Zealand at 59% and South Asia at 50%. (1) Reading the language and results in the McKinsey graphic highlights a few key themes.
Namely, that the top reasons for quitting closely align to fulffilling work; engagement; and relationships.
Engagement and wellbeing interact with each other in powerful ways. We often think of engagement as something that happens at work and wellbeing as something that happens outside of work, but Gallup’s analysis suggests that’s a false dichotomy.
- How people experience work influences their lives outside of work. Employees who consistently experience high levels of burnout at work say their job makes it difficult to fulfill their family responsibilities. They are also 23% more likely to visit the emergency room.
- Overall wellbeing influences life at work. Employees who are engaged at work but not thriving have a 61% higher likelihood of ongoing burnout than those who are engaged and thriving.
When leaders take responsibility for the wellbeing of their workers, the result is not only productive organisations, but thriving individuals, families and communities. (1)
The majority of the coaching and mentoring themes that I employ relate to communication to some degree.
It is a common gap in skills and capability for many and has a direct influence on engagement levels. Organisations often assume that these skills exist in their managers, yet rarely meaningfully focus on developing newer leaders to build on this capability.
Let’s be honest, it’s not like all senior managers regularly role model these behaviours and provide effective communication either.
I recognise this is a generalised statement. Yet, I am confident that many people reading this blog, no matter what level they work at, would genuinely question how effectively their immediate manager communicates with them and their team mates.
It appears that communication at all levels could be improved. The great news; these are skills that can be developed by most people – if they put in the effort! A study of managers by Interact Studio and Harris Poll revealed that communicating is not only an employee issue.
This study showed that 69% of managers are just as afraid of communication as their team members.
If both sides are afraid to have tough conversations, these conversations will be avoided. Managers must have the courage and confidence to communicate with their team, no matter what the message is. Comfort and skills can be improved if there is a focus on communication.
In recent years I have developed a tool regarding communication effectiveness. It highlights the need for depth in conversation. To verbally communicate well provides meaning and purpose. It allows for understanding and often, clarity and context. Purpose influences action and improvement.
Unfortunately, many managers do not develop this skill to the level required.
Essentially, we can communicate at various levels of depth. However, most business communication (and that at home too!) often occurs at a moderate and superficial level, at best. I would describe this as a level 1 or 2 type of communication.
The goal is to develop your communication skills to at least Level 3. The diagram above extends this concept. The 5 levels of effective communication highlighted are described in further detail in the following blog: Communicate Effectively to Influence and Lead
Outside of company all-hands meetings and occasional corporate-wide memos, a manager is an employee’s strongest connection to company leadership day in and day out. Their communication (or lack thereof) is what keeps an employee feeling connected to the purpose of their work, and in the loop on what they need to know.
When communication breaks down somewhere in the leadership hierarchy, everyone suffers. This is when people feel out of the loop. It’s also when they get frustrated by putting their efforts into work that doesn’t matter.
It’s the job of every manager to help with the flow of information up and down the organisation. When people express frustration with leadership, it’s usually due to a failure in that flow.
Developing trusted relationships; establishing clear expectations; and, making accountability a cultural norm in the team all influence engagement levels.
One of the biggest challenges for managers who are learning to lead is developing the ability to set expectations and standards. Accountability is the outcome of holding your employees to these standards and expectations. It is also about the employees accountability to themselves.
Understanding the benefits and why to apply a model such as our REOWM model can make a real difference. However, application, consistency and follow-through can be a challenge for many. The 5 stages of the model create a structured process for leading and coaching your team members, focused mostly on clarity, context and accountability. I have found that resources such as these can help leaders to understand not only what needs to be developed, but importantly, also how to do so.
Often leaders are wary of providing their own view as it is seen as subjective. Don’t be frightened to seek and provide this detail as (particularly when respect and trust exist) a simple acknowledgement or recognition of progress can be the difference between an engaged and disengaged employee.
The opportunity to provide greater context and clarity for people is one that I regularly see could be improved in most organisations. Depth and substance in coaching and 1:1 sessions is critical and a tool such as this can make a real and sustained difference when applied. Each step is important and has its own need. Practice the art and science of effective leadership by using tools such as this.
The REOWM model is described in further detail in the following page of the CoachStation website: Accountability and Expectations – REOWM Model
Leaders are under pressure. Behaviours and integrity can be challenged in these environments. I am aware of various situations at the moment where managers are avoiding managing a toxic employee through fear of them leaving the organisation. In a few cases I am hearing the message, “I can’t afford to manage them and risk attrition. We are a team of 9 and I am already 2 staff down. We have been looking to replace them for 10 months, with no success and I can’t afford to lose anyone else”.
I would argue, it depends on how you measure success! I understand the concern, the final statement about losing team members and managing workloads.
But, here’s the thing. The damage this toxic employee is bringing to the table is almost certainly greater than the impact of them leaving.
And, it is almost certainly negatively impacting engagement levels within the whole team. A recent Lighthouse blog highlighted a report from Harvard Business School, where Michael Housman and Dylan Minor broke down the real cost of toxic employees.
“In comparing the two costs, even if a firm could replace an average worker with one who performs in the top 1%; it would still be better off by replacing a toxic worker with an average worker by more than two-to-one.”
Toxic employees don’t just underperform compared to a great employee in the long run, they bring the entire team down with them. A good employee sees this and feels it first-hand. After a while, they can’t take it anymore. Seeing that you apparently don’t mind having an asshole around, they may decide to leave. Get rid of those toxic team members – don’t try to make these ones work.
Even if the employee is high-performing, they have to go, because of the negative impact they have on the rest of the team.
Unfortunately, even if their numbers seem great, they’re still a net negative in terms of the impact they have on the rest of your team. They have to either reform their ways, or leave. When they leave, the performance of everyone on the team will improve by their absence, so there’s really only one thing to do: let them go and reap the benefits. Don’t let a toxic team member be why good employees quit your team. (3)
As highlighted extensively in this blog, one of the key contributors to engagement is the employee’s immediate manager. This can either be a negative or positive influence. Both the manager and employee have a responsibility to own engagement. The skills and capability can be learned.
The real challenge is whether the time and effort to focus on developing these skills is a priority. If not, the results are inevitable. What environment and culture would you prefer to spend over a quarter of your life in?
References and Resources:
(1) State of the Global Workplace – 2022 Report: Gallup
(4) Why People Leave Managers not Companies (and 5 things you can do about it): Get Lighthouse
(5) Strengths-Based Employee Development: The Business Results, Bruno Zadeh, LinkedIn.
As an effective leader, one of the key skills to develop is the ability to ask questions. More specifically, to ask the right question at the right time. The key benefits of mastering this skillset are the additional perspective gained and the reduction in assumptions. This has power within leadership as it ensures you take into account other people’s perspective as well as your own.
To lead is to influence. To influence, understand…to understand, ask.
There is a connection between gaining perspective and displaying empathy, one of the cornerstone leadership traits. When you understand what someone else values; why they have said or done what they have; and/or their background, there is a likelihood of greater influence. This stems from less negative judgment and a willingness to see a situation beyond your own lens or perspective. In other words, stepping into someone else’s shoes and looking back at you…empathy. The risk of a lack of perspective and making assumptions are many.
Primarily when you attempt to influence solely from your own beliefs and views, in its extreme, is coercion.
This is damaging and unsustainable, both relationally and practically. Few people will willingly follow you when you are more concerned about your own perspective and values, without taking into account theirs.
Related: Life Choices – The Decision Tree
Removing assumptions through improved understanding provides a more solid basis for strength in your relationships. Many people will respect the fact that you are bothering to consider their views. Taking it a step further and doing something with this information, adds to the potential for aligning values and building depth in your relationships. This is connecting at a different level.
For me, there’s great value in recognizing different perspectives in conversations because these enable us to hear and react to things very differently.
One of my close friends often says: “Change how a situation occurs to you, change how you will respond to the situation.” What is the distinction between perspective and reality? There are a lot of fun expressions around this topic. The easiest one is “my perspective is my reality,” but is this really true? Or is there a difference between the two?
Perspective is the way individuals see the world. It comes from their personal point of view and is shaped by life experiences, values, their current state of mind, the assumptions they bring into a situation, and a whole lot of other things. Reality can be different things. We can easily say that my perspective is my reality. There is truth to that statement. When we look at the shared reality of an event, though, the more perspectives you get, the closer to reality you get. As a leader, do you consider your own perspective as reality? (1)
The other aspect of perspective, is how we respond to situations. We have developed a process that has assisted many of our coachees and clients to gain perspective and a better balance regarding their own reactions.
The Perspective Scaling Process is a very useful tool and mindset to assist in finding an appropriate balance between immediate emotional responses and logical reactions.
To use this resource effectively, you need to establish a scale based on your own judgments first. Once established and with practice, all situations and moments can be quickly assessed against your initial scaling. Rarely is the situation actually as significant as your first emotional response would assume. That is how the process works. It finds a balance between your initial emotional response and places a sense of practical, logical thought to the moment. Let me explain the process.
The Perspective Scaling Process works on a 1 – 100 set of values, where 1 represents a very small incident or situation with next to no lasting impact. An example could be a paper-cut. A 100 would be the most damaging and worst outcome or scenario you could think of. Most people consider losing all of their family members in an accident as an extreme, yet relevant example.
Once you have set scale situations at either end relevant to you, work backwards by roughly 10 point increments and consider what situations would apply for each number.
A 90 may be losing an individual family member; an 80 a reasonably major car accident with lasting injuries; a 70 could be a divorce; a 60 based on being made redundant at work etc. Once you reach 20 your scale should be reflective of those things that occur more commonly and with a lesser impact. Single-figure circumstances should be things that have no lasting impact at all, possibly more frustrating than serious.
Now that you have established a ‘baseline’ it is important to keep referring back to the scale throughout the day, as situations occur. This is where the process comes into it own.
We quite regularly immediately respond to a moment or event in an overly emotional manner.
The challenge with primarily emotional responses, particularly when considering relationships is that it generally inflames a situation. It is out of proportion and is weighted too heavily to emotions, lesser to logic and pragmatism. An emotional response is quite normal and is part of being human. What may feel immediately is a ’50 or 60′, is quickly re-identified by applying the perspective scale as a lower number, commonly at a ’20’ or below. This ‘self-check’ then allows us to respond more appropriately and effectively.
Recognise that every emotion has a place. Having emotions is normal and expected. However, being overly-emotional on a consistent basis can be detrimental to your credibility, perception and effectiveness.
Learning to take control of immediate emotional responses is an important aspect of being emotionally intelligent. Through use of the perspective tool, you will strike a balance between the initial emotion-laden reaction and the purposeful logic that enables a balanced conversation and approach. With practice, you will be able to apply the Perspective Scaling Process within seconds. In fact, it is a great opportunity to pause and take a breath prior to responding.
Perspective is gained through understanding. That is, understanding of self and others. The most effective and simple way to improve understanding is to ask key questions. Positioning these questions in a way that makes it more about understanding and less about challenging perceptions take some of the heat out of the moment. It also demonstrates that you are listening to what has been said.
Depth in this skill come from paraphrasing and delving into the answers provided. This is what I call ‘layer 2 and 3 questioning’. Accepting the first response from someone generally provides little opportunity to truly understand. Without understanding, our assumptions commonly lead us to make incorrect decisions; see things only or primarily from our perspective or value-set; and similar, less effective responses.
When we see things primarily from our own perspective, it is difficult to genuinely influence others. Seeking understanding and caring about those closest to you, at work or home, builds trust, relationships and ability to influence.
How you demonstrate this care is up to you. However, taking the time to consider all views; seek understanding of what matters to you and others; providing appropriate context; and developing appropriate questioning skills are all ways to more meaningfully influence.
We show we care through our actions. What could you practice and do differently to more effectively influence those around you?
Don’t hesitate to contact CoachStation if you wish to discuss the Personal Values learning process or any other aspect of your development as a leader and person. We are always happy to meet new people and assist to improve capability and satisfaction.
Trust is the key to meaningful leadership, relationships and influence.
Most of us know this, but how do we develop trust in the workplace and at home?
It is fascinating to see people grow and develop. Like many in my industry, I do what I do because of a deep need to contribute and make a difference when coaching and mentoring. This continues to hold me in good stead as a coach, mentor and consultant. However, developing trusted relationships was also a core belief when I was leading people directly. Now, my goal is to help others learn why and how to apply these skills and attributes to influence and lead their team members.
One of my favourite and most effective tools relates to helping my clients understand their personal values. The process of prioritising an extensive set of value statements and words down to 20 primary and ultimately, 7 core values is always interesting.
A continuing trend is that trust forms a part of the vast majority of people’s primary values.
Based on many other personal and professional conversations, I am confident this is a consistent need for most people. Elements of trust that are identified throughout these discussions show that most people can feel whether trust exists. Fewer can explain specifically how it is built or established. At the end of my Personal Values workshops or coaching process, I ask participants to reflect and act upon several questions. One of the most important is:
How well do you establish and maintain a culture where most people get to fulfil this need most of the time? This is important if trust is so inherently important to so many people, including members of your own team.
I also ask that they reflect on all core values in a similar way. How regularly and effectively are your core values being met at work and at home? The answers to these questions can provide great insight into why things ‘feel’ as they do…both good and bad, positive and negative. Critically, it is what you do with this new learning that matters. However, trust is strengthened or weakened readily depending on your behaviours and demonstrated actions. What you do, what you say and how you say it has a bearing on how well you connect with people.
Connections with purpose and meaning build trust.
- Do What You Say You Will Do: This is the ultimate way to gain people’s trust. It means following through with what you say you will do.
- Trust & Nurture To Develop: To gain trust we need to trust others. It is a two-way street. We need to be patient and give them the time to grow and develop instead of forcing the issue.
- Do The Right Thing: Regardless of whether or not anyone is watching you, integrity cannot be compromised. It takes many years to establish your credibility, but it only takes a few minutes to ruin it.
- Care For Your People: Before we ask our people to do something for us, we must appeal to them and touch their heart.
- Serve Your People: When we serve our people, we ensure that their interest is taken into consideration. By doing so, we don’t focus on who gets the credit. Our focus shifts to getting the job done. (1)
When employees are not having their core needs and values met, they may look elsewhere.
A powerful way to establish trust is to employ one of the mind’s most basic mechanisms for determining loyalty: the perception of similarity. If you can make someone feel a link with you, his empathy for and willingness to cooperate with you will increase. (3) It is much easier to do this when you have a natural affiliation with someone. It may be a shared history; aligned values; similar belief systems, or other form of alignment. This link is key, but don’t think it can be easily faked.
People can see and feel any superficiality a mile off. Even if they can’t explain it.
Sometimes this is described as ‘just not feeling right’. When their is alignment is it often stated that it ‘simply feels like a strong connection’. This cannot always be easily explained or articulated. Yet, the feelings we have about others is powerful and drives many of our decisions, particularly surrounding our relationships.
First, leaders that place people ahead of profit (which leads to more profit, imagine that!) will work hard to promote trust. That means that they create an environment where risks are taken, where employees feel safe and motivated to exercise their creativity, communicate ideas openly, and provide input to major decisions without reprimand. Because there is trust there. But trust is a two-way street. So leaders trust and believe in the people that they lead as well. And when you value people by trusting them, you treat others with dignity and respect.
But trust in this social economy remains a baffling stigma. In 2014, the American Psychological Association published the findings on their Work and Well-Being Survey.
Nearly 1 in 4 workers say they don’t trust their employer and only about half believe their employer is open and upfront with them.
While almost two-thirds (64 percent) of employed adults feel their organization treats them fairly, 1 in 3 reported that their employer is not always honest and truthful with them. But the great news is that workers who feel valued by their employer are more likely to be engaged in their work. In the survey results, employees were significantly more likely to report having high levels of energy, being strongly involved in their work, and just plain happy about what they do. Ninety-one percent were likely to say they are motivated to do their best (versus 37 percent who do not feel valued) and 85 percent were likely to recommend their employer to others (versus 15 percent of those who do not feel valued). (4)
It’s clear that a culture that feels valued, that promotes openness, honesty, transparency and trust are key to high-performance.
When considered as a sum of its parts, the Trust Equation (highlighted below) has much merit. I like the idea that the model highlights the four elements of who we are: words; actions; emotions; and, caring. Once understood there is greater potential to apply these elements and establish greater levels of trust in practice. Check yourself against the four criteria and see where you might be able to strengthen your trust-building skills.
Research conducted by The Ken Blanchard Companies using its Employee Work Passion Assessment has found significant correlation between positive work intentions and a leader’s ability to build trust, use coaching behaviors, and create an engaging work environment. This environment includes high levels of Meaningful Work, Autonomy, Growth, Fairness, Collaboration, and Feedback, along with six other factors. (2)
I see trust being taken for granted in many workplaces. As with any relational aspect, it takes effort to develop trust.
I regularly state to my clients, “whether you like someone you lead is not the point”. As a leader you have little choice in making it all about who you like or dislike. In your leadership role you are obligated to influence, develop and assist your team members. In fact, one of the most rewarding aspects of leadership is seeing improvement and growth in those who initially you may not have affiliated naturally with. Trust is built on many things. Moving beyond likeability to deeper traits such as respect and honesty influence trust more than simply being liked.
The Inc article highlighted in this blog makes several great points about engagement and trust. It is worth reading in full. I particularly appreciate the final paragraph which summarises the essence of valuing employees and building trust, described as the ‘most counter-intuitive part’.
More studies are coming out saying that if you trust and believe in your people first, and in return they reciprocate by believing in you as a leader, they will give their best work.
In other words, although conventional thinking says that people have to earn trust first, in healthy organizations, leaders who put high emphasis on meeting employees’ needs are willing to give trust to them first, and they give it as a gift even before it’s earned. Now that’s valuing people. (4)
As highlighted earlier, the question really is a simple one. Does the environment and culture you are building as a leader foster and develop trust in others and to be trusted yourself?
Take on the challenge of reviewing where trust sits for you. Reflecting on this is one great way to understand yourself and your team members better. It will also be a meaningful way to develop a deeper sense of trust and relationships in practice.
Influence matters! I used to believe friends were more important than family.
Recent events have shifted my thinking.
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?
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.
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.
- the reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists.
- a person’s sense of resolve or determination.
- the importance, worth, or usefulness of something
- 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.
Values continue to be an important part of our lives.
But do you know what your core personal values are and understand how they impact you and those closest to you?
Personal values continue to be important for many reasons, both at work and at home. It is more relevant than ever to continue to elaborate on this core aspect of your motivations, decision-making process and behaviours.
I have written about values before. Understanding your own set of personal values can be a powerful tool. Increased self-awareness and knowledge of what is most important to you can help to identify how you act. They also help you to discover what motivations drive you and why you react to particular events or situations more than others.
Situations, leaders and cultures sometimes challenge your values. Often in the workplace and in relationships we are asked to compromise on those things that matter most to us.
Too much compromise however, can make you feel as though something fundamental is amiss.
Your personal values are a central part of who you are – and who you want to be. By becoming more aware of these important factors in your life, you can use them as a guide to make the best choice in any situation. Some of life’s decisions are really about determining what you value most.
They (should) determine your priorities, and, deep down, they’re probably the measures you use to tell if your life is turning out the way you want it to.
When the things that you do and the way you behave match your values, life is usually good – you’re satisfied and content. But when these don’t align with your personal values, that’s when things feel… wrong. This can be a real source of unhappiness. This is why making a conscious effort to identify your values is so important. (1)
Watch our latest CoachStation Leadership video below to learn more about personal values…
Why do you do what you do?
Understanding your purpose, what motivates you and most importantly using this knowledge to advantage is key to your success, both professionally and personally.
My eldest daughter, Maddy, is currently in year 9. One of her elective subjects this year is Business and as part of the curriculum Maddy was asked to interview a business owner to better understand why, how and what was required to set up the business. I am proud that she chose our business for many reasons.
Firstly, it is an opportunity for Maddy to fully understand what I do and why I do it. This is important for any parent and child but possibly even more so as I work from home and I do sometimes wonder if our daughters find what I do a bit of a mystery! This has provided an opportunity for us to spend time together with purpose, but with a different context than much of the rest of our relationship, which has been fun. Finally, it has forced me to think about and clearly articulate answers to the excellent questions that Maddy had developed.
The process had other benefits. It encouraged additional reflection on my purpose, both personally and through my business, CoachStation, while both answering the questions and in the few weeks since. It provided the opportunity to delve more deeply into my initial answers on the importance of knowing why I do what I do and how that influences my direction and future focus – a process I encourage you to do too!
If you have not had the opportunity to view or read any of Simon Sinek’s material regarding marketing and to ‘Start with Why‘, I highly recommend you spend a few minutes doing so. Interestingly though, I have found that his key concept has as much bearing on how we see ourselves as it does with tangible things such as businesses. Knowing your purpose and why we do what we do matters…both in business and in our personal lives.
What does that even mean? To explain this concept, Sinek has developed what he calls the “Golden Circle,”. The golden circle has three layers:
- Why – This is the core belief of the business. It’s why the business exists.
- How – This is how the business fulfills that core belief.
- What – This is what the company does to fulfill that core belief.
Sounds simple, but what Sinek found is that most companies do their marketing backwards. They start with their “what” and then move to “how” they do it. Most of these companies neglect to even mention why they do what they do. More alarmingly, many of them don’t even know why they do what they do! (1)
When developing, maintaining and growing my business, I have focused heavily on the ‘why’. Similarly, during my coaching and mentoring sessions with clients, I find myself asking the same questions. Not everyone can answer these 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 help to drive your future goals and direction.
It is my story that I would like to share via an abbreviated version of Maddy’s case study questions and my answers. When working with my clients it is this type of understanding that comes from increasing self-awareness and honesty with self that is the baseline for development and growth. Possibly through answering the same questions, there may be a similar opportunity for greater knowledge of yourself and your purpose.
Knowing why CoachStation exists has been paramount to my success to date. I am sure it will be in the future also. As is always the case when writing my blogs, I hope that this information inspires you to think more about not only what you do but why you do it. Let me know how you go.
Could you summarise what CoachStation offers and does in a few sentences?
CoachStation helps people and businesses to become more effective and efficient in what they do. We do this by developing awareness, skills and capability at an individual, business and organisation level. CoachStation provides consulting and business advisory, coaching / mentoring and human resource related offerings. Ultimately, CoachStation focuses on the people side of business.
When did CoachStation start?
I started building CoachStation (website, social media etc.) in 2010 and started full time work in the business in 2012. However, the real creation of the concept was being developed throughout the previous 14-15 years as I became more aware of my capability, passions and the need to develop more effective leaders. I often feel like it has been a 25 year apprenticeship to this point.
What roles have you previously been in that have added to your expertise that allowed you to set up CoachStation?
I have been a leader throughout my whole career which started in late teens when I was fortunate enough to be provided with an opportunity to participate in a two-year supervisor traineeship with a large retailer in Adelaide. This meant from a young age I knew that leading, not just managing and working with people was something I would always pursue. My career from that point has almost always been in leadership roles within the retail, hospitality, finance and contact centre industries in Australia and overseas. My last two senior roles were as National Customer Experience Leader with GE Money and Head of Customer Service for Toyota Finance Australia.
Do you think that your previous work history had a significant role in your thought processes leading up to the setting up of CoachStation?
Yes. As I mentioned previously, the work and experience gained from over 25 years of employment led me to this point. Certainly as with all of my roles, each opportunity honed my skills, provided exposure and built acumen. Although it may have taken a different form, I believe that coaching and consulting was always the ‘end game’ and I would have still have ended up here. Being exposed to the business environment helped to drive me and you only have to speak to most employees to know that there is genuine opportunity to develop more effective leaders in most industries. Whether managers are prepared to acknowledge this is another point altogether!
Why does CoachStation exist?
Purpose = Building Success, Making a difference.
Vision = To make the world better, one leader at a time.
Mission = Through developing trust and strong relationships, we use our skills and resources to help people and organisations be the best they can be.
What are the most important CoachStation values?
We have 7 core values and they are all important. Any member of my team and frankly, my friends, share these values.
- Fun and Enjoyment
- Optimism and Hope
- Learning and Growth
- Health and Wellbeing
- Leadership in Practice
Can you give a brief summary of CoachStation’s work in the past 12 months?
Primarily our work is based in Queensland and New South Wales, however that has been rapidly changing. Industries we have worked within include finance, architecture, recruitment, health, government and local council. CoachStation is currently in a significant growth phase with a team of business partners joining us recently to extend our reach and influence. I am so very excited at this opportunity as I have been able to align the people who mean the most to me, their individual values and the CoachStation purpose and values. This means that we will be able to continue to grow, assist others and make a difference without compromising on what matters most to us and our clients.
Why are the current members of the CoachStation team involved? How did they become involved?
As mentioned, they are long term relationships and friendships based on a shared belief in values, doing the right thing, giving natures and of course highly capable and skilled people. I am passionate about helping those who have assisted me in my career and life and are authentic in all they do, not just when it is convenient.
Why did you decide to start your own business as opposed to being employed?
There are many reasons. Primarily, I wanted to have the opportunity to be responsible and accountable for my own success; increase the level of flexibility and autonomy in my own and my family’s life; and use my skills and capability to best effect (I have choice, control and options to work with who I want to, when and how). Interestingly, it is because I started to truly understand my purpose that made this transition so much easier and obvious, to me at least. People have sometimes commented about how ‘brave’ I was in doing what I did. To me it was a greater risk to keep moving down the path I was on than to make the leap into running my own business. I recognise it is not for everyone, however.
How do you stay motivated to continue to do your best?
By seeing the difference that we are making with and for others in reality; developing myself and my team; whilst also continually developing new relationships and product offerings.
What separates you or makes you different to your competitors?
Genuine desire and ability to make a real difference in people’s lives – making it more than a tick box exercise and following through on our purpose and values is feedback we receive consistently as a key differentiator.
What benefit do you believe having experienced business partners has opposed to people who are new to this field of work?
It’s critical in the work CoachStation does. The ability to make a genuine difference and help people can only occur when you have deep capability to relate to different types of people, use various experiences and history and provide solutions to their problems. Credibility is core to making this happen, as ongoing work and recommendations are all critical to our ongoing success.
What products and programs do you use within your workshops and meetings?
We have created most of our own original workshop material; coaching models; assessment tools etc. I am also an accredited DiSC behavioural assessment facilitator and uses other tools such as Gallup StrengthsFinder and the Real Deal Values assessment. Having said that however, these tools are simply that…tools. It is how you use the information that the resources, assessments etc. generate, along with the increased self-awareness that makes the real difference. I often say, “you need a hammer to build a house, but it is not the only tool”, meaning that it is a part of the story but you cannot rely on the tool itself to generate change.
How do you use social media to your advantage?
It’s massive! The modern business marketing and technological opportunity that social media provides is one of the greatest marketing tools for any business, particularly small start-ups. It is cheap, accessible and dominant all over the world. Whilst I understand the negative aspects of social media, I am still a little surprised by the polarising nature and reactions of many senior leaders when it is mentioned in business circles. Like anything, there are good and poor ways to apply a system or tool.
How do you show ethical values i.e. honesty and fairness, non-discrimination?
Personally and professionally I am influenced heavily by my ethics and standards. I believe that anyone who knows me understands this. Too often I see managers, and people generally, who display integrity and are ethical mostly, but pick and choose those times on occasion. In my world it is one of the few genuinely black and white areas. Ethical standards are also shown by always following through, earning trust and being trusting. Our actions show genuine commitment to clients and caring about improvement through the results. It’s about delivering and always giving more than expected, which relates back to my earlier point about the need to provide more than a tick box exercise.
Are you efficient and effective in all that you do?
I’m not, however a recent experience has taught me more about myself and the importance of these two attributes .
Self-reflection, taking into account the many factors that influence us all is important for growth. Taking time to reflect provides a platform for improvement and awareness about what is going well and what you would like to change about who you are and what you do. In my most recent role as a senior leader within a global organisation I had many responsibilities and tasks assigned to my position. I was also in the fortunate situation where, for most of my tenure, I had a high degree of flexibility and freedom in my direction and subsequently, that of my team.
Last year there was a leadership change within my team, which had its pros and cons. I had been through leadership change many times before. However, in this instance I did find there was less opportunity to genuinely contribute my ideas and I felt significantly less valued and comfortable in my role as a result. My point is not to judge the leadership decisions or styles, more of how this made me react internally and the choices I made during this period.
I found great value in self-reflection and specifically spent time focusing on how efficient and effective I was being. Were the changes impacting my team? Had my demeanour changed?
Was I still as effective and efficient in my leadership as I had been?
Questions such as this at face value may have been instigated from self-doubt, however I found power in being able to analyse my routines, creativeness and methods of working. As someone who has focused quite a deal of time on this topic, I knew this could be the make or break for my tenure, depending on the outcomes of my decisions.
So, what did I do? I researched the specific contexts of effectiveness and efficiency. Not so that I could define the two words for the sake of it, more so as I wanted to ensure I was not assuming too much, influencing my choices – I used key words from the definitions to provide direction.
efficiency – the ratio of the output to the input of any system. Skilfulness in avoiding wasted time and effort; “she did the work with great efficiency”. (1)
Was my focus on the right things – the ability to avoid wasting time and effort. Stripping back on the many tasks and focusing on the core few reaps many rewards, no matter the situation. This led me to think about my own journey and that of others I have worked closely enough with to have observed certain behaviours. My observations include:
- We often become set in our ways, accept the norms and standards that have been established for months or even years.
- A willingness to firstly see these inefficient processes and desire to drive change are two different behaviours / choices, but are both important (For those who are interested, have a look at the ADKAR model).
- Knowing something and doing something are not the same thing.
- Don’t implement a solution unless it has a benefit that can be defined and actions that can be taken.
- Associated with the above, prioritising tasks and decisions is key to moving forward – as is often stated, urgent tasks are not necessarily important.
- It is better to fully impact one or two key pieces of work in a sustained and meaningful way than half-complete several tasks – there is nothing transformational about incomplete work and it is quite damaging to your team and personal brand.
In my situation, the decisions I made revolved around all aspects of my life, not just work. Choices that impacted my family, work team, myself, friendship group and future direction were all balanced in my decision-making. I found that taking a step back and analysing my current situation allowed me to improve my future situation as it has turned out, as well as provide greater comfort in the moment. It was organised, less random and controlled thinking that provided the base to make the next choice. I was not wasting time and effort at work or at home on those things that mattered less.
At best I was static – at worst, going backwards. Prior to going through this process my mind was jumbled, confused and I had much less ability to think clearly and take action to progress. Self-reflection and a focus on efficiency allowed me to target thought and action, challenge myself on specific needs and take forward steps.
effective – Having an intended or expected effect. Power to be effective; the quality of being able to bring about an effect. Prepared for use or action, especially in warfare. (1)
This framework of thinking then allowed me to more easily work towards analysing my effectiveness, again measured in all aspects of my life. Was there an intended or expected effect and was I prepared for action. Not in all things, but I can say that the clarity and direction gave me pause for thought and my choices and decisions did change as a result. One of my core values is to make a difference and I had identified that I was being less effective in my roles as a consequence of many factors. Identifying this, acknowledging what it meant, making decisions and taking action has allowed me to do more of what I love, because I was clearer what these things were and what they mean to me.
It is now only as I reflect on this period from earlier in the year that I realise the benefit of ‘breaking down’ my thinking into a structured process, leading to clarity in decisions and direction, which has and will be proven in time.
Have you had a similar experience? How do you rate the importance of being effective and efficient? Is one more important to you than the other?
Post-script: after 25 years of working for many large national and global organisations I left work 7 weeks ago to focus full-time on my external consultancy, training and coaching business. I had been developing the brand and strategy for the 20 months prior. However, the focus on what is most effective and efficient for me to be spending my time on, allowed me to leave a legacy with my previous employer and team whilst making the choice to work full-time on CoachStation. I should mention that this would have been so much more difficult to transition if it wasn’t for the full and constant support of my wife, Julie – an engaged and loved partner does make all the difference! CoachStation is going very well and I have rarely been happier and more confident for the future.
As always, I appreciate your comments and thank you for reading this blog and sharing in my story.
- Choices (attilaovari.com)
- Humble Leadership is the Key to Customer-Centric Success: Inside Scoop with Neil Woodcock (customerthink.com)
Richard Branson recently stated that coaching senior managers can be difficult for various reasons, not the least of which is the difficulty in finding an uninterrupted period of time to conduct and review. Branson and his senior leaders spend time together each year at his home on Necker Island to discuss the opportunities and challenges the Virgin business group and leaders currently face.
I am certain this is a great opportunity to solve the business issues, share and learn from each other, however equally sure this is only part of the development story for individuals and future of the Virgin group and other companies in general.
Sharing and learning from others is one aspect of coaching and leadership development, however knowing something or having additional information about a situation or about oneself does not equate to a change in behaviour or enhanced skill in application.
The purpose of this blog is to draw upon and respond to a set of guidelines Richard Branson highlighted in a recent article in the Business Review Weekly magazine titled, 7 Rules For Managers, focusing on effective leadership, coaching and empowering leaders.
Keep Your Team Informed
It is crucial to set objectives for each period according to your business’s strategy – and then make sure all employees know about them.
Sally told us that when she was working for the British government, every summer, ministers appointed to cabinet received a note from Blair that outlined his strategic approach for the year and set clear objectives for each department. Cabinet met for a week to discuss these before members of parliament returned from holidays and had the chance to analyse and challenge the approach. Thereafter, the team received a note from Blair every Sunday, which was discussed at a meeting next morning to agree on key actions.
Communicating your objectives regularly will help ensure your team has a framework for making decisions. It is important all feel welcome to discuss the group’s objectives – that open debate is encouraged – because everyone will have a responsibility to follow through.
The ability to strike the balance between providing objectives, context, setting standards, parameters and keeping your team members informed as progression occurs is a fine line. I believe that the best outcomes derive through providing more detail rather than less, always balanced between keeping confidential information confidential, but sharing what is appropriate providing context and clarity.
- People respond more openly to feedback, accept change and are generally more willing to contribute when they have the necessary detail and information to feel connected to the business, engaged and empowered.
- Alignment to/with direction and goals is critical, although too often a company vision, mission statements and goals are seen as just words written on a page. Appropriate detail and context can help to make the vision a reality.
Define The Rules Of The Road
It is important to define core values for your business, which you and your employees can refer to when making decisions. In assessing investments and new directions at Virgin, we have always considered whether the proposed business meets our core values, which helps us manage our diverse portfolio and maintain consistency. We look at whether it will do something different to most or all companies in the industry or sector; whether it will provide real value, great customer service and retain the sense of fun and pride that distinguishes a good from a great business. Recently we added a new core value: we test whether a new business will have the legs to go overseas and can be scaled up within about three years.
Values are critical for both individuals and businesses. Values provide a base for alignment between yourself and the business that employs you. They allow an individual to feel connected and maintain a clear view of the reasons for doing what they do. Understanding what is important to you personally and at work also assists to motivate or re-clarify, providing direction. For an organisation it is important to be nimble, efficient and flexible in structure and design however it should also be clear in its identification and delivery of its core values. This clarity provides a clear view of what employees, customers and other stakeholders can expect when working with the organisation.
- Core values are most often ‘non-negotiables’, meaning that you are most likely to walk away from a relationship, workplace or situation when there is a disjoint in alignment.
- Shared values encourage a high level of trust within a team and organisation, strengthening commitment and the likelihood for higher levels of equity, honesty, fairness, sharing, respect and other positive aspects.
- Values are core to a brand – that of individual’s and businesses. Most importantly, to be effective and meaningful, values must be more than words!
Focus, Focus, Focus
It is tempting to try to do too much; for ambitious managers and their teams, there are always too many projects and too little time. But successful organizations know what their priorities are: They tackle the really important projects and the rest falls into place.
One of the most important skills for a manager or leader, particularly when starting out is to know where to spend your time. Often time management skills are emphasised or provided as a necessary development area during feedback sessions, however few people actually find the optimum balance. The ability to prioritise is even more crucial. In most roles an individual could work 24/7 and still not achieve all that is possible (or sometimes expected!), so identifying what are the most important tasks and strategies that will provide the ‘biggest bang for your buck’ has to be one of the first steps.
- One tip is to consider the Pareto Principle or what is more commonly known as the 80 / 20 rule to assist in determining the ‘right’ things to focus on.
- The ideal situation occurs when you think ahead and have a strategic mindset, tackling issues before they become urgent. The ultimate control occurs when your time is being spent on tasks and actions that are high impact but low urgency.
- Many people will make demands on your time – it is important that you control where you spend this time, not have it dictated to you by others.
Next week I will conclude this blog with the final four guidelines highlighted by Sir Richard.
Let me know what you think of the points made in part 1 of this blog and whether you believe they have relevance in modern business and leadership development.
- Ask Sir Richard Branson Your Questions [LIVE VIDEO] (mashable.com)
- Leadership, The Coach and Coaching (coachstationsteve.com)
- The Human Factor in Sustainable Organisations (betrindade.wordpress.com)
- Leadership Development – a Process Not an Event (lenbrzozowski.wordpress.com)