Tag Archive for: People Development

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.

 

CoachStation: Why managers are uncomfortable giving feedback

 

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.

 

CoachStation_Levels of Effective Communication and Leadership

 

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.

CoachStation: REOWM Coaching, Leadership and Accountability Model

 

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

(2) Five personas: A new way to target the employee value proposition: McKinsey

(3) 14 Reasons Why Great Employees Quit Your Team (and How to Keep a Good Employee from Quitting): GetLighthouse

(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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Listening effectively is a key cog in effective leadership and building trusted relationships. We have all been exposed to those people and managers who do not listen well. In each case this distracted, disrespectful moment of poor communication is frustrating and does little to develop trust, respect and a willingness to open up and share your real thoughts.

However, many of us believe we are better at communicating well than we are. It is worth checking yourself and reviewing how others may see you and your communication capability in reality.

 


The ability to ask questions to discover and engage, when combined with effective listening skills are two of the most integral facets of effective communication. In a blog I wrote previously along similar themes, titled Communicate Effectively to Influence and Lead, I introduced the concept of different levels of communication. Both blogs highlight the opportunities and risks of good communication, explaining key stages and actions you can take to become an improved communicator. Interestingly, a Harvard Business Review (1) article I read recently highlights the various levels in a different context, relating to listening in particular.

Chances are you think you’re a good listener.  People’s appraisal of their listening ability is much like their assessment of their driving skills, in that the great bulk of adults think they’re above average. In our experience, most people think good listening comes down to doing three things:

  • Not talking when others are speaking
  • Letting others know you’re listening through facial expressions and verbal sounds (“Mmm-hmm”)
  • Being able to repeat what others have said, practically word-for-word

In fact, much management advice on listening suggests doing these very things – encouraging listeners to remain quiet, nod and “mm-hmm” encouragingly, and then repeat back to the talker something like, “So, let me make sure I understand. What you’re saying is…” However, recent research that we conducted suggests that these behaviors fall far short of describing good listening skills.

We analyzed data describing the behavior of 3,492 participants in a development program designed to help managers become better coaches. As part of this program, their coaching skills were assessed by others in 360-degree assessments. We identified those who were perceived as being the most effective listeners (the top 5%). We then compared the best listeners to the average of all other people in the data set and identified the 20 items showing the largest significant difference.  With those results in hand we identified the differences between great and average listeners and analyzed the data to determine what characteristics their colleagues identified as the behaviors that made them outstanding listeners.

We found some surprising conclusions, along with some qualities we expected to hear. We grouped them into four main findings:

  • Good listening is much more than being silent while the other person talks. To the contrary, people perceive the best listeners to be those who periodically ask questions that promote discovery and insight. These questions gently challenge old assumptions, but do so in a constructive way. Sitting there silently nodding does not provide sure evidence that a person is listening, but asking a good question tells the speaker the listener has not only heard what was said, but that they comprehended it well enough to  want additional information. Good listening was consistently seen as a two-way dialog, rather than a one-way “speaker versus hearer” interaction. The best conversations were active.
  • Good listening included interactions that build a person’s self-esteem. The best listeners made the conversation a positive experience for the other party, which doesn’t happen when the listener is passive (or, for that matter, critical!). Good listeners made the other person feel supported and conveyed confidence in them. Good listening was characterized by the creation of a safe environment in which issues and differences could be discussed openly.
  • Good listening was seen as a cooperative conversation. In these interactions, feedback flowed smoothly in both directions with neither party becoming defensive about comments the other made. By contrast, poor listeners were seen as competitive — as listening only to identify errors in reasoning or logic, using their silence as a chance to prepare their next response. That might make you an excellent debater, but it doesn’t make you a good listener. Good listeners may challenge assumptions and disagree, but the person being listened to feels the listener is trying to help, not wanting to win an argument.
  • Good listeners tended to make suggestions. Good listening invariably included some feedback provided in a way others would accept and that opened up alternative paths to consider. This finding somewhat surprised us, since it’s not uncommon to hear complaints that “So-and-so didn’t listen, he just jumped in and tried to solve the problem.” Perhaps what the data is telling us is that making suggestions is not itself the problem; it may be the skill with which those suggestions are made. Another possibility is that we’re more likely to accept suggestions from people we already think are good listeners. (Someone who is silent for the whole conversation and then jumps in with a suggestion may not be seen as credible. Someone who seems combative or critical and then tries to give advice may not be seen as trustworthy.)

While many of us have thought of being a good listener being like a sponge that accurately absorbs what the other person is saying, instead, what these findings show is that good listeners are like trampolines. They are someone you can bounce ideas off of — and rather than absorbing your ideas and energy, they amplify, energize, and clarify your thinking. They make you feel better not merely passively absorbing, but by actively supporting. This lets you gain energy and height, just like someone jumping on a trampoline.

Of course, there are different levels of listening. Not every conversation requires the highest levels of listening, but many conversations would benefit from greater focus and listening skill. Consider which level of listening you’d like to aim for:

Level 1: The listener creates a safe environment in which difficult, complex, or emotional issues can be discussed.

Level 2: The listener clears away distractions like phones and laptops, focusing attention on the other person and making appropriate eye-contact.  (This  behavior not only affects how you are perceived as the listener; it immediately influences the listener’s own attitudes and inner feelings.  Acting the part changes how you feel inside. This in turn makes you a better listener.)

Level 3: The listener seeks to understand the substance of what the other person is saying.  They capture ideas, ask questions, and restate issues to confirm that their understanding is correct.

Level 4: The listener observes nonbverbal cues, such as facial expressions, perspiration, respiration rates, gestures, posture, and numerous other subtle body language signals.  It is estimated that 80% of what we communicate comes from these signals. It sounds strange to some, but you listen with your eyes as well as your ears.

Level 5: The listener increasingly understands the other person’s emotions and feelings about the topic at hand, and identifies and acknowledges them. The listener empathizes with and validates those feelings in a supportive, nonjudgmental way.

Level 6: The listener asks questions that clarify assumptions the other person holds and helps the other person to see the issue in a new light.  This could include the listener injecting some thoughts and ideas about the topic that could be useful to the other person.  However, good listeners never highjack the conversation so that they or their issues become the subject of the discussion.

Each of the levels builds on the others; thus, if you’ve been criticized (for example) for offering solutions rather than listening, it may mean you need to attend to some of the other levels (such as clearing away distractions or empathizing) before your proffered suggestions can be appreciated.

We suspect that in being a good listener, most of us are more likely to stop short rather than go too far. Our hope is that this research will help by providing a new perspective on listening.  We hope those who labor under an illusion of superiority about their listening skills will see where they really stand. We also hope the common perception that good listening is mainly about acting like an absorbent sponge will wane.  Finally, we hope all will see that the highest and best form of listening comes in playing the same role for the other person that a trampoline plays for a child. It gives energy, acceleration, height and amplification. These are the hallmarks of great listening.


Resources/References:

(1) What Great Listeners Actually Do: HBR, Zenger and Folkman

 

Self-esteem can be a challenge for many. These difficulties have been heightened over the last year or so as we deal with the impacts and effects of Covid-19 and related restrictions. It has challenged how many of us see ourselves. However, it is possible to manage and build your self-esteem and subsequently, genuine confidence.

The term self-esteem is used to describe a person’s overall sense of self-worth or personal value. In other words, how much you appreciate and like yourself. It involves a variety of beliefs about yourself, such as the appraisal of your own appearance, beliefs, emotions, and behaviors. It can play a significant role in your motivation and success throughout your life.

Low self-esteem may hold you back from succeeding at school or work because you don’t believe yourself to be capable of success.
CoachStation: Self-Esteem

By contrast, having a healthy self-esteem can help you achieve because you navigate life with a positive, assertive attitude and believe you can accomplish your goals. (1) It is normal to have doubts on occasion. How often and to what degree these doubts surface is the issue and can have a negative affect on how you view yourself.

Self-esteem begins to form in early childhood – factors of influence include:

  • Your thoughts and perceptions
  • How other people react to you
  • Experiences at home, school, work and in the community
  • Illness, disability or injury
  • Age
  • Role and status in society
  • Media messages (4)
In summary, low self-esteem is having a generally negative overall opinion of oneself, judging or evaluating oneself negatively, and placing a general negative value on oneself as a person.

People with low self-esteem usually have deep-seated, basic, negative beliefs about themselves and the kind of person they are. These beliefs are often taken as facts or truths about their identity, rather than being recognised as opinions they hold about themselves.

  • Self-esteem is your opinion of yourself.
  • Everyone lacks confidence occasionally but people with low self-esteem are unhappy or unsatisfied with themselves most of the time.
  • It takes attention and daily practice to improve how you see you and feel about yourself. (3)
It is important to know that low self-esteem is a common problem for many people in our society – so you are not alone.

Low self-esteem can occur as part of a current problem (such as depression), or as a result of other problems (such as chronic illness, relationship problems) or it can be a problem in itself. Either way, the good news is that you can take steps towards developing more healthy self-esteem. (2)

How we handle situations, good or bad, and what we learn from them are important factors. More and more of my clients are confusing mistakes for failure. The following real-life example may provide additional context.

Some years ago one of my coaching clients contacted me with a problem in his life. We had stopped formally working together the previous year, however he turned to me for help in response to a situation he was trying to manage.

Long story, short, my client had found himself several thousand dollars in debt based on multiple payments made on an online game, somewhat knowingly but also, naively. He was embarrassed and overwhelmed.

CoachStation: Self-Esteem and Leadership

This outcome had really shaken his confidence and self-worth. He didn’t know how to overcome the negative feelings about himself. Although initially disappointed, thankfully his wife was very supportive.

The relevant point in this story is that my client was feeling ashamed. In fact, he used the word shame, which was a trigger for our discussion. Although there was much more to our conversation, I helped him see that his actions were a mistake or error, not a point of failure.

Mistakes and failure are not the same thing. Mistakes are part of being human. They are common and genuine opportunities to reflect and learn how to avoid making the same mistakes over and over. In reality, failure is the act of repeating the same mistake, not the single error itself.

I pointed out to my client that doing something ‘wrong’ can be defined as a mistake. It does not make you a bad person and is nothing to be ashamed about. Shame is the feeling that you are inherently bad, rather than a sense of having made an error. Maintaining the right perspective is key.

In this instance, my client was able to take action and rectify his debts and situation once he gained a more valid perspective of the issue and options. As a result, ultimately his self-esteem improved through taking ownership of the situation and resolving the issue. Each of us is confronted with challenges and opportunities every day which could or do provide the platform for developing self-esteem.

 

If he had not identified and applied actions, the situation would have likely spiraled out of control and continued to damage his self-esteem. How we view these moments in life and our self-talk has a significant bearing on how we feel about ourselves overall.

When we take action and own situations, we feel good about our contributions and the outcomes. When we acknowledge this, it feels good and has a positive impact on how we view ourselves.

Interestingly, our self-esteem is either gradually built or diminished through our perspective and actions.

Alternatively, when there is a lack of ownership, accountability and reflection about how to improve ourselves and the situations, there is a tendency to be self-critical. When this avoidance is consistent, our self-esteem declines.

These increases and declines in self-esteem and self-worth occur gradually. I often describe it as .01% impact in each situation, either negative or positive. Clearly then, it takes many, many opportunities and actions to affect our overall self-esteem one way or the other.

Relationships with those close to you — parents, siblings, peers, teachers and other important contacts — are important to your self-esteem. Many beliefs you hold about yourself today reflect messages you’ve received from these people over time.

Yet, without consistent and conscious reflection, acknowledgment and action our tendency is to see the perceived risk and failure rather than the real risk and benefits. Innately, many people are more half-glass empty than full. But, this attitude and thought-process can be changed.

If you receive mostly negative feedback and are often criticized, teased or devalued by others, you’re more likely to struggle with poor self-esteem. But past experiences and relationships don’t have to be your destiny. Your own thoughts have perhaps the biggest impact — and these thoughts are within your control.

If you tend to focus on your weaknesses or flaws, working on changing that can help you develop a more balanced, accurate view of yourself. (4)

If your relationships are strong and you receive generally positive feedback, you’re more likely to see yourself as worthwhile and have healthier self-esteem. Oddly perhaps, this includes your relationship with yourself!

There are some simple ways to tell if you have healthy self-esteem:

  • Avoid dwelling on past, negative experiences
  • Express your needs
  • Feel confident
  • Have a positive outlook on life
  • Say “no” when you want to
  • See overall strengths and weaknesses and accept them.

You may need to work on how you perceive yourself if you tend to experience these common problems:

  • A belief that others are better than you
  • You find it difficult expressing your needs
  • Too much focus on your weaknesses
  • Frequently experience feelings such as shame, depression, or anxiety
  • A negative outlook on life
  • An intense fear of failure
  • Trouble accepting positive feedback
  • Trouble saying “no”
  • Regularly put other people’s needs before your own
  • You struggle with confidence. (1)

The Centre for Clinical Interventions offers an excellent model that may assist in assessing your current state and potential areas of focus and action. (2)

Click on the image below to open a worksheet containing additional, related information.

CCI: Model of Healthy Self Esteem

Self-esteem affects virtually every facet of your life. Maintaining a healthy, realistic view of yourself isn’t about blowing your own horn. It’s about learning to like and respect yourself — faults and all. (4)

Seeking help from relevant professionals is recommended, if required. However, for most of us it is possible to take action to change how you perceive yourself and to gradually build a positive self-esteem. Acknowledgment and honesty are the first steps, followed closely by regular reflection and action. These are steps we can all take…what have you got to lose and consider what you might gain?

 

Resources and References:

(1) Signs of Healthy and Low Self-Esteem – Very Well Mind

(2) Self-Esteem – Centre for Clinical Interventions

(3) Self-Esteem – Victorian Government

(4) Self-Esteem Check: Too Low or Just Right – Mayo Clinic

 

 

It is fair to say that we know more about the risks and benefits of working from home than we did 6 months ago.

The future looks positive for remote working, with some caveats.

 


CoachStation: Remote Management and Working at Home

Remote working and the associated challenges and benefits of leading a team who may not be located in the same site, is becoming more prominent in business. This has been triggered by the recent Covid-19 environment, improvements in technology, recognised cost-savings and manager/employee attitudes. There are many potential benefits.

Remote management adds significantly to the requirement for effective leadership. This influences how managers operate and continue to develop new skills within the modern work environment.

It is not only in the remote working space that changes have been occurring to traditional workplace structures and expectations. Concepts such as work from home, co-working, activity-based working and similar alternative working options have become more prominent in many organisations and within the community. However, Covid-19 impacts have raised the bar for meeting health needs and employee expectations. We have also learned that for many, we can easily adapt to this new environment without any productivity loss.

In many ways we are fortunate that this situation occurred now and not 15 years ago. Not downplaying the negative impact at all, but remote working and remote management have gone quite well in recent months. This has surprised many. Most companies have seen a rapid uptake of remote working. It will be interesting to see what the response is as we start to recover from the current restrictions and expectations start to shift.

We may see employees pushing for greater flexibility and completion of work at a time and in a place that best suits them.

Interestingly, remote working and work from home opportunities are not new. I wrote about this in 2012, as have many others in the last decade or more. Back then, remote working or teleworking, was very new. Technology did not support this environment all that well. Many managers resisted the opportunity, taking the view that, “if I can’t see you, I don’t trust you!”. Sadly, we still see this attitude too often, although attitudes are changing. Realistically, these old-school managers have had no choice but to accept remote working through necessity and legislation in recent months.

Leading remotely can add to the challenge of building a team. Technology, globalisation, organisational expectations and culture, management and leadership styles, along with many other factors must be taken into account.

The leader in today’s environment should be able to strategise and connect, developing and connecting with their team in a meaningful, engaged and results-oriented manner.

The skills and abilities of leaders need to not only keep up with business and employee needs but remain ahead of requirements, as remote management has such specific and unique attributes. I spent several years in national leadership roles managing teams based interstate and overseas, which provided many challenges. When I review my own development timeline however, I recognise that those years spent in virtual leadership were some of the most important for me, as they have shaped the leader I am today. Clarity in expectation setting; strong, deliberate communication; shift in accountability; and providing tools/technology for regular updates both ways, are a few of the most important factors for success.


 

The fact that the employee saves time and cost with less travel time can be offset by the challenge of working in the home. Technology, Occupational Health issues and physical attributes all need to be considered, but ultimately remote working is about productivity, flexibility and meeting both business and personal needs.

One of the key challenges for remote workers is the lack of social interaction that would normally occur when employees are located together. This is a very real factor however some employees have stated that this can be a benefit also. The time that is spent with their broader team-mates tends towards more focused and specific interactions, with fewer opportunities for time wastage. Clearly a remote team member has to be trusted and the critical nature of communication is enhanced in this environment.

Not all roles or employees are suited to the remote environment. It has always been and will always be critical to review these opportunities on a case-by case basis.
Recent increases in remote working examples have highlighted this point.

We have learned that the culture and environment that exists in a business setting is enhanced in remote environments. Put another way; good leaders, employees and cultures seem to thrive within remote environments. Poor cultures, managers and employees, where there is little trust or competence, usually fail when working remotely. The need for effective leadership and communication are exaggerated. It takes effort to develop relationships that have depth and meaning generally and especially so when distance is a factor.

The key elements of relationship-building remain the same when leading or working in a remote environment. It just takes a different type of focus.

Activity-based working, remote working and other modern work environments offer different challenges. You would think that remote working and “desk-less offices” would have an immediate impact on our sense of belonging. Do we feel like guest workers when we pull our laptops from the lockers? Will we be scanning the floor to make sure we are not sitting among strangers? When much of our working week is spent outside the workplace, are we still part of the tribe? Or are we loners who come in from the cold every now and then?

Research on inclusion at work has some surprising findings. Instead of feeling more remote, those who can work whenever and wherever feel a greater sense of belonging than those required to be in the office every day. A study of 1550 employees at three large Australian businesses shows that in one business unit, the inclusion rating for staff who did not work in a flexible role was 38 per cent, compared with 83 per cent for those who did. So, belonging at work is not necessarily about a “place”. (1)

Little has changed regarding this data and related findings, other than the level of understanding and experience we now have, based on recent events.

How we establish connections and foster inclusive environments goes a long way to influencing how successful the team, individual and business becomes. The increase in alternative work environments provide opportunity for leaders to test themselves and challenge traditional thinking. Ongoing development and an open mind provide a platform for driving the necessary change and greater acceptance that traditional workplaces are quickly becoming obsolete, or at least less common than a decade ago.

An organisation that decides to increase its remote working presence should also ensure that its leadership model and ongoing employee / leadership development accounts for the special requirements of leading a remote team.
If it doesn’t, then you may find the challenge greater than the reward!

 


When I am not working with my clients onsite, I work from home. This has been the case since creating CoachStation over 8 years ago. As many of us have discovered, there are pros and cons of remote working. In the early days, when our three daughter’s were quite a bit younger, striking a balance was difficult. Back then I found it a relatively constant challenge transitioning to working from home as I was at here more often. I think they believed I was on a permanent holiday, not driving off to work each day! Where we work should matter less than how we achieve good results.

We should be measured by our performance, not the number of hours we spend at work. Productivity and effectiveness are the key measurements that outline the business case. However, there are a series of personal factors at play also. Remote working may be a suitable alternative for you or your team but it is an individual decision. It does take additional effort, specific skills, new systems and strong communication, but remote work can add value. It is not for everyone or every role. Yet it can be a positive avenue for increased engagement, flexibility and productivity.

I have enjoyed the flexibility and opportunities presented, but recognise that it remains an ongoing effort to blend work and home life.

In fact, this is one of the greatest ‘wins’ in my mind. I have the opportunity to work during times that suit my family and I the best. That may be in the evening or very early mornings, but the flexibility and freedom is something I genuinely cherish. The 9-5 workday is a thing of the past. However, I am quite strict in setting a number of hours to work each day. This is a point I am hearing more and more from my friends and clients. It will be very interesting to see how organisational cultures are impacted in years to come.

When some people think of the workplace of the future, they envision futuristic-style holograms having a meeting or robots cooking lunch for everyone in the office. Increasingly, though, the workplace of the future is looking more simple — people having the flexibility to work remotely from home with teammates all around the world. With that in mind, the question is no longer “is remote work here to stay?”

It seems like remote work might even be the new normal.

There’s one statistic that remains unequivocal each year: remote workers almost unanimously want to continue to work remotely (at least for some of the time) for the rest of their careers. This year, 98 percent of respondents agreed with this statement. Also, it seems that once someone gets a taste of working remotely, they tend to recommend it: 97 percent told us they would recommend remote work to others.

There are always challenges that come with remote work, though they vary from person to person. Over the past three years of putting out this report, we’ve seen two unique struggles remain in the top three: the difficulties with collaboration/communication, and with loneliness. The primary benefit of remote work has remained the same for the past three years straight in our report: flexibility! (2)

Leaders must recognise the change that is happening around them and adapt, otherwise they are at risk of becoming obsolete.

With all that being said, we are still in the early stages of remote working being fully accepted. There remain many genuine obstacles and perception issues with people working outside of the office. The ‘taster’ that most of us have had so far this year has provided an opportunity to test these waters. The increased scale and profile of remote working has changed organisations forever. In what way and how sustainably…that is yet to be seen. Without doubt the role of the leader is critical in the success of remote working environments.

Doing what we have always done will no longer cut it. I can’t wait to see how it all plays out.

 


 

CoachStation develops leaders and managers, including those whose teams work remotely. In fact, in 2012 we foresaw the growth of remote working and associated leadership impacts. As a result, we created a development program for managers specifically designed to enhance remote leadership skills. This is something we are both passionate and experienced in.

The program contains a mix of mentoring, training and coaching to reinforce the key areas that are important to develop in order to effectively manage a team remotely, including:

  • Understand and apply management and leadership theories, practical skills and competencies to effectively lead a remote team.
  • Recognise where the needs and situations differ between local and remote employees.
  • Understand how to relate and connect with team members who you do not physically see every day.
  • Use technology and tools to the best advantage.
  • Apply learned techniques, skill and abilities in areas such as communication, building trust, accountability, structure, measuring effectiveness and employee development.
Contact us today if you have leaders who will benefit from improving their skills, capability, confidence and competence. The benefits are proven and the investment is worth it.

 

References:

(1) Remote working: Still part of the tribe or left out in the cold? – Fiona Smith, Australian Financial Review

(2) The 2020 State of Remote Work – Buffer

To communicate well, is to be understood and to understand. Communication is key to effective leadership. In fact, it is integral in much of our lives. Anecdotally, experience has consistently demonstrated that most issues in business are, at least in part, caused by poor communication.

Are there different levels of communication effectiveness?

In recent years whilst coaching, I have developed a concept regarding the effectiveness of communication. 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.

Ultimately, our relationships are better for the higher levels of trust and the investment this provides for future communication opportunities.

 

 



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. Our goal is to develop the skill and capability to flex to level 3 and 4, where relevant. To communicate at level 5 takes quite a bit of practice, but is worth the effort and investment.

To communicate effectively we need to move beyond the superficial, to greater depths.

This is particularly important when leading people. The goal is to be heard and understood. Critically, this is as important for your team member or colleague in return. This is achieved when both parties invest in gaining a mutual understanding.

As I have highlighted in previous blogs, the skills of asking the right question at the right time and effective listening are two of the most important leadership attributes to develop.

There are certain situations in our life that call for us to dig deep and talk about what is really important to us. When the stakes are high it is important that we communicate effectively, if we are misunderstood in these important moments it can cause much pain and confusion. When we wish to build trust in a relationship, or when we want to be sure we are really heard, things go much better if we can communicate what we want to say fully and authentically. In reality this is no small thing to achieve and it requires both courage and vulnerability.

We often communicate only half of what is really going on for us. 

If we are to truly communicate then we need to share all of who we are, not just selected parts of ourselves. The parts that tend to get left out in communication are the things that may make us vulnerable to the other, or cause us some shame or discomfort. Yet these are the very parts of ourselves that we need to share…it is necessary to express these things if we want true communication to flow. (1)


The diagram below extends this concept. The 5 levels of effective communication mentioned already are described in further detail. The goal is to develop your communication skills to at least Level 3.

5 levels of effective communication mentioned

CoachStation: Effective Communication Levels Model


Why does it matter to communicate effectively?

The benefits of developing your communicating skills are many. Through practice, when we communicate well, there is feeling of power and influence.

 

It’s easy to get stuck in poor communication habits, speaking or reacting impulsively rather than supportively. But any uncomfortable feelings raised in a difficult conversation can be a short-term inconvenience for a long-term gain if you talk in an honest, open manner.

Supportive communication improves your relationships by focusing on empathy and mindfulness, and it can also help increase positive emotions such as joy, hope, peace, gratitude and love. The body responds to these emotions by reducing stress hormones and increasing endorphins, also known as “feel good” chemicals. Over time, these effects can cause positive changes in mindset and creativity, as well as increase immune function and longevity. (2)

A significant amount of my time when coaching people focuses on their ability to communicate effectively. Effective communication is a skill, attribute and outcome.

The opportunity to invest in your communication skills is one that you must grab with both hands if you want to be a more effective influencer, manager, leader and human. It is difficult to think of a more relevant time in recent history where effective communication has been more important.

 

Consider the information and model detailed in this blog and assess your own skills and importantly, your actions. All of us have the opportunity to improve our communication. The benefits are clear. Making the choice to do so…well, that is up to you.

Let me know how you go.



References and Resources

(1) How can we communicate with authenticity and depth?

(2) Improve your relationships with better communication – Mayo Clinic

Related Blogs By Steve @CoachStation


 

 

Leadership coaching and mentoring can be the difference for managers.

Managers who are often challenged by expectations of meeting and exceeding goals; achieving KPI’s; leading teams and many other aspects of creating and sustaining successful business. Consistently, evidence and research suggests that the biggest challenge for managers is leading and influencing people. Influencing others is core to the leadership component of the role and the single greatest influence on achieving team/business goals and outcomes.

Yet, genuinely leading team members and employees remains something that is often feared and somewhat avoided.

Very few managers instinctively or innately understand all of the elements of leadership and most struggle in this space to some degree. If you have read this far, it is probably because you are relating these points to your current manager or maybe when leading others yourself. The good news; this is incredibly common.

Related: Coaching Leaders – Learning to Lead

CoachStation was created to assist in these exact scenarios. Being competent and confident to lead and manage is not ‘automatic’ just because you have been given the role and title. However, these skills, attributes and leadership capability can be learned. It starts with you.

Fearing the outcomes because you are not focusing on the inputs and things that can be controlled is both ineffective and inefficient…not to mention, stressful!

 

I have been fortunate to have assisted in the development of well over 300 clients in the last 8 years, through leadership and workplace coaching and mentoring. Very few clients cannot and do not become more effective as leaders, through focused and tailored coaching. That is the power of targeted development.

CoachStation: Leadership Is About Giving

Most recently I completed a leadership coaching and mentoring program with two managers working in the public service sector. Tanya and Steve were great coachees. They owned their actions and were keen to practice the art and science of leadership on a daily basis.

Steve and Tanya were very kind in giving me a gift to show appreciation, which was a lovely surprise. This can be seen in the photo of the framed quote above. A highly relevant statement for the nature of coaching, yet just as relevant in leadership.

Their comments and feedback provide a relevant and interesting insight into the benefits that can be gained through participating in a leadership coaching and mentoring program. They are worth reading, as coaching may be an option for you and context and insight of others can be very powerful.

The opportunity to embark on a coaching and mentoring relationship with Steve Riddle through CoachStation came at an extremely fortuitous time for me. I had been feeling overwhelmed with my work, was becoming increasingly disengaged and was struggling with aspects of my leadership role.

Working with Steve gave me an accountability for ownership of my behaviour, standards and expectations.

Steve is an extremely knowledgeable and effective coach; he listens and understands providing support, resources and guidance. It is no magic trick though, there is hard work to be done. Some of the sessions were quite challenging; as a self-proclaimed perfectionist it can be a little uncomfortable to self-assess and reflect honestly.

However the growth and development I experienced through the program is invaluable and ongoing. The process was just what I needed to re-focus and re-energise.

Under Steve’s genuine and engaging coaching style, I have worked to improve my communication as a leader, streamlined my work processes so that I am working more efficiently and I have a much deeper understanding of my personal values and their influence on my behaviour. These changes have permeated into my personal life. I also feel more assertive, organised and in control in aspects outside of work. Thank you Steve for helping me get there in such a positive and meaningful way.

If you (like me) always read the internet reviews in order to make decisions…and are wondering whether CoachStation is right for you and/or your business, I strongly encourage you to take the step.

Tanya T, Leader

The points made by Tanya about her coaching experience are just as applicable in leadership as coaching. Skills and attributes such as accountability, behaviour, setting expectations, understanding personal values and listening skills all form the core of effective leadership, just as they do when coaching. Along with the other points made, they also provide a ‘self-check’ for a leader (you?) to assess your performance.


I have worked with Steve for the last 6 months. During this time Steve has challenged me in the areas that I needed to be challenged in whilst allowing me to add growth to the areas that I felt I was already quite proficient. Steve is down to earth, has the experience to relate to the scenarios that I have raised and has provided the guidance and coaching that has allowed me to achieve the results that I set out to achieve in those situations.

After 6 sessions with Steve, I can absolutely say that I am more effective in not only my professional life but also in my home life.

Steve B, Leader

Steve mentioned being challenged during his coaching process. To be able to find the balance in challenging someone, without that becoming the focus of the moment is a useful skill.

I often refer to a ‘supported challenge’ as opposed to an ‘unsupported challenge’. When someone feels that you are focusing on them rather than the point, it can feel personal. Then there is a risk of avoidance or blame. Either way this is not an effective methodology.

Steve also mentioned that the benefits have been felt just as much in his personal life as in the workplace. This makes sense to those who have participated in coaching. It is difficult and unnecessary to separate these two aspects of our lives. The coachee is the common denominator and all parts of their lives are positively impacted through development.


Leaders can be developed. The examples and evidence are many, as with Tanya and Steve. Organisational cultures can be improved too. Targeted 1:1 leadership and management coaching is the most effective and meaningful method of development for most leaders and organisations.

If you have been thinking about developing your leadership and management skills, now may be a good time to do something about it. We are very experienced in coaching and mentoring within the workplace.

Contact CoachStation to discuss your leadership coaching and development options.

CoachStation: Leadership Development, Coaching, Consulting and Mentoring
Read other client comments and stories to see if you may be able to gain similar benefits from leadership coaching and mentoring.

 
Read related: 7 Tips for First-Time Managers: How to Succeed as a New Manager

 

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.

 


CoachStation Leadership and Coaching - Perspective
Credit: Unsplash, Nadine Shabaana
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.


Related: Relationships – Understand Your Team to Lead Effectively


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.


Resources:

(1) Why Understanding Other Perspectives Is A Key Leadership Skill – Forbes

Delegating work and tasks to your team members is one of the most necessary and important skills of leadership. It also remains one of the most challenging for many new and experienced managers.

However, there are several things you can do to develop this skill.

In order to free up space to be more strategic, have a greater impact, be more efficient, and achieve work/life balance, delegating appropriate tasks to others is necessary and even required for managers today. This can feel risky – especially if the leader is high controlling, is a perfectionist, or has a heavy workload.

The art and science of delegating to others begins with your own sense of comfort in releasing responsibility of what you control. Many managers struggle with this. Delegation and control are common topics with my coaching clients. They recognise the importance of delegation and how it can serve them, but some still struggle with letting go.

Effective leaders who climb the corporate ladder are skilled at delegating and developing people. (1)

The first step is to define what tasks are to be delegated. This begins with your ability to prioritise. Using the decision matrix below, you can separate your actions based on four possibilities.

  1. Urgent and important (tasks you will do immediately).
  2. Important, but not urgent (tasks you will schedule to do later).
  3. Urgent, but not important (tasks you will delegate to someone else).
  4. Neither urgent nor important (tasks that you will eliminate).

The great thing about this matrix is that it can be used for broad productivity plans (“How should I spend my time each week?”) and for smaller, daily plans (“What should I do today?”). (2)

This process is easier if you learn to apply conscious and deliberate decision-making.

I often say to clients, “if you don’t control things, they will control you”. This tool may provide an opportunity to improve. Prioritising tasks by urgency and importance results in 4 quadrants with different work strategies.(3)

 

The most effective leaders and people schedule time for important, less-urgent tasks and activities. As the video explains, the less-important, but urgent tasks can often be delegated. It is not about being obsessive, but rather ensuring the things that matter the most actually occur. Once priorities have been established, one of the most effective methods of aligning actions with team member is via 1:1’s.

Related: Management – Communication and Accountability In One-On-Ones

Formalising expectations and ensuring that real understanding exists regarding the work and tasks required is a key component of an effective 1:1. Good leaders see this time as an investment not a cost, therefore rarely compromise on making the most of the opportunity.

Quite simply, with the pace and expectations of modern organisations, if it’s not scheduled it rarely happens.

I have noticed in recent years when coaching and mentoring that there is a relatively consistent behavioural trend in those who delegate least often. The unwillingness or lack of awareness to delegate to others often stems from a lack of the managers self-confidence. This is also regularly displayed by those managers who also struggle with the idea of team members working remotely.

It is difficult to learn to lead well and trust others if you don’t trust yourself.

One of the most difficult transitions for leaders to make is the shift from doing to leading. There’s a psychological shift to focus your attention on areas that are vital to the company and become less involved in the daily tasks. That shift can bring about fear. “What will happen if I let go and delegate that responsibility? Will I be able to make the transition to my new role and focus? Will I be seen as less vital if I delegate certain tasks? No one can do it as good as me.” It’s a leader’s responsibility to focus on the success of their employees.

You retain your top talent by keeping your employees engaged, empowered and letting them develop their skills to become leaders. A leader’s second responsibility is to determine priorities. Third is to address projects. (4)

Often leaders delegate tasks when they should be delegating authority. If you delegate tasks, you get followers. If you delegate authority, you get leaders.

Craig Groeschel

A recent Forbes article asks a great question, “How do you know if you need to delegate more?”

  • Red flag No. 1: You say things like, “I’m overwhelmed. I get sucked into too many meetings,” or “I’m drained by all of the decisions that I have to make.”
  • Red flag No. 2: Your ability to unplug can only be measured in hours, not days or weeks.
  • Red flag No. 3: You don’t delegate a task because a portion of the process is complex or has exceptions.
  • Red flag No. 4: You once tried to delegate a responsibility and it didn’t go well, so you took the task back.
  • Reg flag No. 5: You find yourself stuck in a decision bottleneck, leading to inaction on many fronts.
  • Red flag No. 6: You aren’t happy or fulfilled at work.
  • Red flag No. 7: You claim you don’t have time to delegate or train someone. (4)

As a new manager you can get away with holding on to work.

Peers and bosses may even admire your willingness to keep “rolling up your sleeves” to execute tactical assignments. But as your responsibilities become more complex, the difference between an effective leader and a super-sized individual contributor with a leader’s title is painfully evident.

In the short term you may have the stamina to get up earlier, stay later, and out-work the demands you face. But the inverse equation of shrinking resources and increasing demands will eventually catch up to you, and at that point how you involve others sets the ceiling of your leadership impact. The upper limit of what’s possible will increase only with each collaborator you empower to contribute their best work to your shared priorities. Likewise, your power decreases with every initiative you unnecessarily hold on to. (5)

The irony of poor delegating is that it serves no-one well.

The manager is most often overwhelmed and performing poorly; team members can easily become bored and work becomes repetitious; trust and relationships are diminished; skills, capability and competence don’t grow; confidence in self and in others is not built and can in fact, be reduced; and, results are being limited, amongst other impacts.

The opposite is just as true. Through effective delegation, real opportunity to engage your team members and positively influence results can be gained. The challenge: if you improve your delegating capability, would you become an even better leader? It’s always a choice.

Keep growing and enjoying!

Resources:

(1) 7 Tips for Letting Go as a Manager: Blanchard LeaderChat

(2) How to be More Productive and Eliminate Time Wasting Activities by Using the “Eisenhower Box”

(3) Introducing the Eisenhower Matrix

(4) Great Leaders Perfect The Art Of Delegation: Forbes

(5) To Be a Great Leader, You Have to Learn How to Delegate Well: HBR

 

 

Few managers and leaders are conducting useful one-on-ones and when they do, often miss the mark in making them effective and productive. There is value in learning how to facilitate a one-on-one that provides value for all involved.

Two of the most important, yet under-rated skills for managers and leaders are listening and questioning. To be present and focused and know what key question to ask at the right time add value to any relationship and discussion. They are particularly important during one-on-ones with your employees and offer a couple of great examples of development opportunities. Yet, there are many more growth areas that can be learned and practiced as a leader through focused, individual time spent with each team member.

CoachStation: Management, Leadership Coaching and One-on-Ones

One-on-ones are a tool and a process. When conducted well they are an incredibly useful and effective part of leadership and developing effective relationships. The opposite is just as true. When avoided, gaps and misunderstandings often exist as a direct result. Your willingness to learn how to conduct one-on-ones effectively will have a direct impact on your team and your results. Outcomes and benefits include; each team member will be more engaged; trust is increased; the leader an employee earn the right to be heard; influence improves; and you both earn the right to discuss relevant, meaningful topics.

The most effective one-on-ones are action-oriented and holistic in their approach. This means that all aspects of the employee’s performance and mindset are discussed.

If you aren’t having one on ones with your team, you’re missing out on an incredible motivating, problem solving, pressure relieving opportunity to help and grow your team. But even if you’re totally bought into starting them, it can be intimidating to actually get started. Like the first time for many things, when you start, it’s easy to feel unsure what to do. When you start, there can be many questions like:

  • What do I talk about?
  • What do I say to my team?
  • How often should I have them?
  • What if my team doesn’t want to talk to me?
  • When should I schedule them?
  • …and many more. (3)

All good questions that are addressed in this blog. But, first things first.

It is of great interest to me how few managers bother with meeting formally in any capacity on a regular basis with their team members. Taking this one step further, it is a shame how many managers avoid this key part of their role. It is too easy to get caught up in the operational and tactical aspects of management. Being a leader compels contact and connection with your direct reports. Although many fail to make the time for this, it is in fact an obligation of being a leader. To feel the many benefits and rewards requires a conscious plan to engage and persist whilst practicing the skill-sets that make it work.

To see time dedicated to each team member as somehow negotiable misses the point regarding being a leader.

Worldwide, the percentage of adults who work full-time for an employer and are engaged at work — they are highly involved in and enthusiastic about their work and workplace — is just 15%. That low percentage of engaged employees is a barrier to creating high-performing cultures. It implies a stunning amount of wasted potential, given that business units in the top quartile of our global employee engagement database are 17% more productive and 21% more profitable than those in the bottom quartile.

Businesses that orient performance management systems around basic human needs for psychological engagement — such as positive workplace relationships, frequent recognition, ongoing performance conversations and opportunities for personal development — get the most out of their employees. (1) If spending time with your team members is not your key priority you are missing one of the most valuable aspects of your role as a leader.

Communication, clarity, context, expectation setting, checking for understanding and similar key requirements form part of this discussion.

Consolidation and reinforcement occurs in between formal sessions, during ad-hoc catch-ups. They are extremely valuable and important. However, there needs to be a formal, established rhythm where real and honest discussion can take place. This should be done in a private setting where both the leader and employee can feel comfortable to raise any relevant points. These discussions form the basis for most performance reviews and development opportunities. The chance to reduce or remove assumptions is also of great benefit.

An effective one-on-one is a discussion with purpose. It has two-way communication and feedback; invites self-assessment; invests in the relationship; and has actions and outcomes.

10 Ways Leaders Aren’t Making Time for their Team Members (Infographic): Blanchard LeaderChat

There is something to be said, however, about occasionally changing the setting. Some of the best one on one discussions I have had occurred during a walk around the block or at a cafe’.

As with all relationships, it is important to know your team members well enough to know what their preferences are.

Clearly,  going for a walk with an employee with health issues might be challenging and potentially do more harm than good, for example.

I often hear statements from managers like, “my door is always open”. The assumption that this style creates opportunity for meaningful discussion is flawed.

Not all of your team members will approach you proactively to raise all of their issues and successes. Quite often the key few will ‘pop into your office’ to vent or raise concerns.

Regularly the same employees will chat about the same challenges and points, visit after visit. Reactive conversations based on specific issues become the norm.

Of course, not all of your team will approach you just because you ‘offered’, One-on-ones provide the alternative options. Personal and professional points are discussed.

You need to give these meetings a fair amount of time to make sure you really dig into issues that are bothering them, fully explore ideas with them, and have a good opportunity to coach them when needed.

You’ll also build their confidence and trust in you that when they come to you with a problem you will not only listen, but help them do something about it. (3)

One-on-ones are proactive in nature, identifying and addressing things before they escalate.

The ‘door is open approach’ is reactive and covers the select few issues that your team members choose to raise – it assumes too much and is quite a lazy approach. It is often an approach based on the manager – their fears, self-doubts and lack of confidence to manage the conversations. The one-on-one should be mostly about the employee. Conversely, relationship-based one-on-ones are proactive as they delve and discover opportunities that may not have been identified without facilitating and questioning.

The discussion is meaningful in that it maintains flow and momentum in actions, progress and meeting goals.

The ironic part of this mindset is that a focus away from your team rarely ends well. The most relevant and impactful way to be able to influence outcomes and results is via the effectiveness, capability, competence and confidence of each team member. This takes focus and development. To assume that this growth will occur without your guidance and assistance as their immediate manager/leader reflects inexperience or avoidance. Related to this, emphasis on results and outcomes without understanding the inputs and contributors drives managers towards the wrong focus. This could appear as an unsupported challenge or even worse, a threat or coercion.

I have already touched on a few key benefits of one-on-ones. However, the most important element references the risks if you don’t formalise these discussions.

What causes some people to fully commit to the team and give their max effort while others don’t? It’s trust. In research conducted by The Ken Blanchard Companies and Training Magazine, over 60% of respondents say the most important factor influencing the effort they give to a team is how much they trust their fellow teammates.

Having high trust in your teammates frees you up to focus on your own contributions without worrying about others following through on their commitments. Trusting your team gives you freedom to take risks, knowing your teammates have your back and will support you. Team trust allows you to have open and honest dialogue and healthy debate that leads to better decision-making, and conflict gets resolved productively instead of people sandbagging issues or sabotaging the efforts of others. But developing trust in your teammates doesn’t happen by accident; it takes an intentional effort to proactively build trust. (2) It is a very similar factor when considering the relationship between a leader and direct report…but, more impactful in most cases.

Trust cannot be built from afar or in spite of the effort to develop effective relationships. Regular one-on-ones provide that opportunity.

When you have scheduled the sessions, commit to them. Cancelling or constantly moving the one-on-ones sends a very clear message about your priorities. Remember, most leaders have around 160+ hours / month to accomplish their work. Focusing on the single greatest impact on the success of that work (hint: your team members) for 10-20 hours / month seems like a pretty solid investment! Let your team know you want to have one on ones to help them. If they’ve never had them before, they may not know what to expect, so it helps to give them a little background before the first one. (3) Over time, you can shift the accountability of scheduling and agenda-setting to your employee.

Regular conversations that contain actions and outcomes create a baseline for development. The CoachStation REOWM Leadership Accountability model provides a solid framework to assist in your one-on-ones. Access a copy of the REOWM model and explanations for each of the 5 steps here.

It is important to spend a few minutes preparing for each one-on-one.

Leadership expert, Kevin Eikenberry correctly states that: the best meetings have agendas, and while your one-on-one meetings likely won’t have a formal agenda (although they could), for them to be most effective and productive, both parties need to be clear on the expectations, goals, and outcomes for these meetings. Since you are likely having these meetings already without this clarity, make this a topic of conversation the next time you meet.

As a leader, don’t just assume others know what you want from these meetings – talk to them and share your needs and goals for your one-on-ones.

As a team member ask for what you need.  If you are hoping for/need something from these meetings (like more direction, for example), ask for it. (4)

I have found that a consistent agenda containing 3 key elements works well in establishing a standard, expectations and agreed outcomes:

Agenda:

What’s on your mind?

What would you like to discuss?

Progress:

How have you gone since we last met?

Did your actions work?

What did you learn as a result?

How do you know they worked?

Actions:

What do you need to do to reinforce and consolidate recent learning and actions?

What have you taken away from today’s one-on-one?

Are there any new potential actions?

There is value if your team member takes control of the meeting. It may take a couple of one-on-ones for them to get comfortable and understand your expectations and how best to apply them, but it is their time, so your employee should own it. Support them into this though, being fair and clear about how this looks and what they should do.

Too often the one-on-one meeting becomes tactical and just about day to day issues and tasks.

 

Access additional great examples of coaching questions you can use in any discussion – 50 Power Questions


Self-assessment and reflection is generally more useful than solely providing feedback. You will find that through asking the right questions and listening well, there is much to learn about each person. You can then provide your own thoughts and feedback throughout the discussion, in response to your employee. It may seem subtle but is actually a significant shift in accountability and ownership. It also makes the session easier for the leader as they quickly learn that they don’t have to have all the answers. These details are important, but if you want to have more effective and valuable one-on-one meetings, think bigger picture.

As a leader, be observant, and make coaching and feedback a part of the list of things you routinely talk about in these meetings. Consider asking for feedback on your performance too.

As a team member, if you want more feedback in general, or specific guidance on a situation, ask for it. The one-on-one meeting is a time you will have your leader’s attention, so use it to get the feedback you need. (4) Regular follow-up and development of accountability provides momentum and progression.

Monthly meetings are ok, however fortnightly is best in my experience. It is generally better to conduct fortnightly one-on-ones of 45 minutes in length compared to monthly sessions of an hour or longer.

This does depend on the number of direct reports, employee tenure and competence, amongst other judgements you must make. Finally, a good rule-of -thumb to follow is to make sure that each one-on-one covers 3 key categories. Assuming a 60 minute session is scheduled, break the session into thirds or 20-minute segments:

    • 20 minutes: Tasks = Focus on results, tasks and operational work i.e. the things that your employee does.
    • 20 minutes: Self = Self-reflection and discussion regarding the employee themselves – how do they feel? What is going well? What isn’t?
    • 20 minutes: Others = Feedback and self-assessment regarding their relationships – with you as their leader; with their peers; with their direct reports; other relationships e.g stakeholders.

The timing of 20 minutes for each segment is indicative and obviously can be altered, depending on the conversation and flow. The critical aspect is that all 3 elements are covered during each session.

Without a doubt the biggest challenge for most managers is to conduct a one-on-one at all.

Feedback I receive is that most managers don’t conduct one-on-ones and if they do, they are not that useful because they focus solely on segment 1 – results, KPI’s and tasks. Greater improvement and objectivity is gained when the leader focuses on how the results are achieved. You cannot influence a number or historical result. This information is important to identify insights and trends, leading to potential actions. But, in itself, it offers little direction or future action. Identifying why the results are what they are has purpose and potential for goal establishment.

One-on-ones are a critical aspect of leadership. This time together provides opportunities that do not present themselves to the same depth through casual, ad-hoc discussions. If you are a leader and have read this far, I encourage you to reflect on the progress and effectiveness of your one-on-ones and your team.

It’s a problem to be unaware of this aspect of your role. However, it is negligent to gain awareness and continue to miss the opportunity. As always, it is your call, but your team members will ultimately thank you for meeting your responsibilities and assisting them via facilitating useful, engaging and purposeful one-on-ones.

 

Resources:

(1) State of the Global Workplace 2017: Gallup Global Report

(2) The 1 Factor That Determines How Hard Your Team Works: Blanchard LeadershipChat

(3) Manager’s Guide: How To Start One On One’s With Your Team: Lighthouse

(4) 5 Ways To improve Your One-On_one Meetings: Kevin Eikenberry, Leadership Digital

 

 

 

Organisations regularly fail to set their leaders up for success.

When it comes to development, up and coming managers and leaders themselves are just as responsible and culpable. Coaching provides the opportunity and impetus for growth and change.

CoachStation: Leadership and Management Coaching

Source: Unsplash – Ethan Sykes

The statements above may seem confronting, yet the evidence continues to present itself in organisations throughout the world. Few people I know personally and professionally feel that they are supported and developed consistently well by their leaders. Those who do should feel very lucky. Leaders who have sought development and coaching are significantly more likely to engage their team members. Coaching leaders are also more likely to develop and maintain solid relationships and connections with those they work with. This is important as employee engagement rates continue to fall or at best, remain stagnant.
According to the recent Gallup State of the Global Workplace report, 85% of employees are not engaged or actively disengaged at work. The economic consequences of this global “norm” are approximately $7 trillion in lost productivity.

Eighteen percent (of employees globally) are actively disengaged in their work and workplace, while 67% are “not engaged.”

This latter group makes up the majority of the workforce — they are not your worst performers, but they are indifferent to your organization. They give you their time, but not their best effort nor their best ideas. They likely come to work wanting to make a difference — but nobody has ever asked them to use their strengths to make the organization better. (1)
Becoming an effective leader does not happen by accident. Leadership and management coaching support provides the opportunity to grow professionally and personally. Skill and capability development, along with gaining an understanding of how to work with different people are important attributes. That makes sense, however, possessing the right skills is only part of the story.
Other critical factors are just as important. Knowing the right question to ask at the right time. Genuinely listening and delving to get to the nub of the matter. Learning how to influence. Caring about others as much as yourself, are all vital leadership traits. Beyond standard development, how else can you obtain the right skills and behaviours?

By building on the skills listed above you will earn the right to lead others. Deciding that this is your path is a great first step. Too many of us fail to challenge our comfort zones and follow through on what we believe and who we are. This sort of compromise leads to a lack of contribution and fulfilment.

What’s the secret? It’s this: we rose to our leadership positions because we were good at a certain skill not because we were skilled at leading others. We were promoted because we personally created great results. And, now that our job has shifted into a leadership role, we realise that we’re responsible to do the one thing we were never actually trained to do—lead, inspire, and motivate other people to become their best.
I never had training on how to be a leader, and frankly leadership is earned not given so I’m not sure it’s something that can be learned in a classroom,” said Matt Rizzetta, CEO and Founder of N6A, a public relations and social media agency based in New York and Toronto. “I came from an agency background and couldn’t understand why so many failed to see that the lifeblood of a services business is its people.

If people are what makes your business tick, then that needs to be the first place you look to invest and innovate. You need to see the correlation between the service product and the internal culture. The two should be interchangeable.

If you create a unique and rewarding internal culture for employees you’ll likely create a unique service experience for customers, and there will be performance benefits for both. That’s why I started my own company—not because I thought I was a leader, but because I knew that, by creating a better environment for employees we would create a better product for clients, and ultimately everybody would win. (2) Developing effective coaching skills and capability is one way to positively influence the culture and environment.

If you see this type of time and effort as a cost, not an investment, you will never commit fully. And you will truly struggle to influence and lead others.
  1. It is imperative to spend the time upfront to identify and recruit the most appropriate and effective leaders. The time spent getting this right is an investment, not a cost. Get it wrong however, and it will feel like a price you have to pay for far too long.
  2. Dedicating suitable levels of effort in developing leaders internally, prior to the opportunity. This rarely happens in reality, yet is one of the most simple and effective ways to confirm suitability and set up the new leader for success. Success for the leader, team and organisation.

Seek additional understanding and knowledge from whoever and wherever you can. Reinforcement of your existing understanding; exposure 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. (3)

The opportunity to improve individual and team leadership is available to most. The chance to make leadership development a priority and expectation within your organisational culture can make a real difference to whether people bother. Leadership is not a negotiable asset. We are all looking for more from our workplaces and our leaders and bosses are the linchpin to make this happen. What does this look like?
Google released two projects over the past few years that provide evidence of where our focus should be. Project Aristotle found that the firm’s best team’s exhibited a range of soft skills. Top ideas often come from so-called B-teams comprising people who were not always the smartest in the room, but excelled in team based environments.

Along with mentoring, leadership and workplace coaching is a great asset to receive and give.

Project Oxygen research in 2013 found that STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) expertise was the last of eight traits in the company’s top employees. The seven most important were soft skills:

  1. coaching
  2. communicating
  3. listening
  4. possessing insights into others
  5. being empathetic and supportive
  6. critical thinking and problem-solving
  7. ability to make connections (3)
There is no doubt that the most effective and respected leaders in any role or organisation are those who recognise that they are not in their role because they have all the answers.

They are honest in their own self-assessment and seek the same of others. They are successful because they understand their own strengths and limitations, possessing the self-awareness and desire to surround themselves with a team who have supporting strengths and skill-sets that contribute to the effectiveness of the team.
Effective leaders are accountable to themselves and take on the responsibilities for their role, inputs and outcomes willingly and with purpose. This is not a one way street. Organisations must support their current and future leaders and continue to provide relevant and genuine development and growth opportunities. (5)

As we’ve travelled the globe and spoken to leaders from all different industries we’ve come to find the best leaders are open and honest about one simple thing—that they’re in their position not because they were necessarily skilled or credentialed at leading people, but instead because they sincerely cared about other people. They cared about helping others become the best they could be.

This is the one thing leaders need to understand—that a title doesn’t mean you know more, that years on the job don’t always mean you should be making all decisions, and that cheering for your employee’s success is the number one thing you can do as a leader to inspire greatness.
“The question every leader should ask their people is, ‘How can I help you become your best?’ instead of ‘How can you help me?’” (2)
Coaching your employees encourages self-reflection and accountability: two topics that are commonly raised in my coaching and mentoring discussions. A recent article by Amy Bach consolidates these key points. For anyone in a position that involves leading others, the ultimate decision remains.

Will you choose to focus on being a competent manager, or take up the more complex but also more rewarding challenge of committing to being a truly influential leader?

Leaders achieve through others. They develop, empower and motivate people, shape team culture, display courage and resilience in the face of adversity: and underpin all of this with something that cannot be taught, but can certainly be chosen. Lead with passion, authenticity and a commitment to making a positive impact in the workplace. (3)
A genuine leader and manager will read this and feel a connection with the words. Not simply as a concept, but recognised through action. It is too easy to continue on the path of acceptance or avoidance. You have a choice. It ultimately comes down to your answer to the question: what kind of leader do I want to be?

Resources and References:
(1) Dismal Employee Engagement Is a Sign of Global Mismanagement: Gallup.com
(2) The One Truth You Should Know That Most Leaders Keep Quiet: Forbes.com
(3) The Leader Journey is Long and Worthwhile: CoachStation
(4) Forge Magazine: Vol 4, No 1 – 2018; pages 6
(5) Are We Setting Our Leaders Up For Success?: CoachStation