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.
Tag Archive for: Leadership Reflection
Do you fear that you will eventually be discovered as a fraud and you might get found out at any minute? Then you are experiencing something often referred to as imposter syndrome which stems from a sense of inadequacy, despite objectively being competent. You may never fully overcome these feelings, however, there are opportunities to better balance your thinking and self-perception.
In the last few years we’ve recognised that we probably haven’t had the opportunity to feel the benefit of many of the things that we take joy from. Covid has really challenged our opportunity to find joy in our life.
We’re really talking about those things that are present in our life already…and the opportunities exist. But, if we’re not actively looking for them, and we’re not seeking them, sometimes they can pass us by.
I was recently asked to speak at an Aged Care Forum on the topic of ‘Joy and its Link to Self-Care’. This is a great theme. One that we don’t speak enough about, so it was a lovely opportunity to discuss a topic that is important, yet not commonly sought out in business circles.
Listen to my thoughts below about how joy can be found anywhere and our need to actively seek it. It is not passive. Joy does not occur through blind hope. It can be discovered and created, if you take the time to be mindful of the many joyful moments that occur every day…even the small things.
Read my related blog: Your Roles, Your Time, Your Choices
Themes such as understanding the difference between an internal and external locus of control. Delving into how important socialisation, being with others and relationships are for all of us. I also discuss how perspective relates to joy. These themes and others are covered with the intention that there may be opportunity for the discovery of more joy.
The invitation to expand on and share my thoughts with such a large group of attendees was appreciated. The possibility that one or more participants might apply some of their learning in practice is exciting. You may also find value in the key points highlighted. This may lead to more joy for you and others…and that’s never a bad thing.
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.
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.
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:
- The need for focus on strengths
- 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.
This 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.
(1) Work Culture, Cara Jenkin: Courier Mail, Saturday 3/9/16
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.
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.
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.
(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
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…
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.
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.