Performance

, , ,

Managing and Influencing Download

BarMagnet1 400x265How to successfully manage and influence others – without reading the book! 

Over the years we’ve heard all sorts of concerns and fears come up that new managers and indeed those who have managed people for decades hold onto.

Things like:

  • I can’t tell people off
  • I can’t tell my boss what to do
  • How do I tell someone they’re not performing well?

We’ve addressed some of these concerns and others in this downloadable guide.

manage-influence

Years of advising, coaching and facilitating the development of change agents in businesses has shown us that success in this area boils down to some simple concepts – if you’d like to find out more follow me

Read More
,

The Six Capabilities of Effective Leaders

Leadership 400x265Shouldn’t that be seven, habits and people?  Er, different book.

As globalisation has taken a hold of business, it’s become increasingly important for leaders to understand their role and capabilities within this new global view.  It’s now essential that leaders are adaptive to the changing marketplace and recognise the commercial value inherent in that change.

You can no longer ignore the potential gain to be derived from a single tweet any less than the potential loss from an incoherent strategic vision.

This is forcing leaders to step forward into the limelight, and those that are commercially thriving under this scrutiny have done so by introducing a transparency to their interactions with the world.

This transparency is essential because they depend upon people they will never meet, suppliers or partners in different businesses and they will have an increasing reliance on their peer network, both within their existing business and their competitors.

In a recent book, The Elastic Enterprise by  Nick Vitalari & Haydn Shaughnessy

elastic

they highlighted six capabilities that these successful leaders exhibit:

  • Invention
  • Re-framing
  • Attraction & Orchestration
  • Influence
  • Drawing the Line
  • De-Risking

What we’ve found fascinating is how tightly their research has overlapped with our understanding of entrepreneurship, and what makes entrepreneurs so commercially astute.  Increasingly we are being asked to identify people with entrepreneurial flair, to lead large businesses to success – hence the growing popularity of the term intrepreneur.

A brilliant demonstration of why the intreprenurial spirit is key to success in modern business has recently been shared by Miranda Birch, a previous guest blogger with us and someone we highly recommend you check out here.

We’ve defined a number of commercial capabilities that are present in the top performing managers, leaders and entrepreneurs, irrespective of geography and business type.  These commercial capabilities, rolled into one and known to us as Commercial Brilliance are a granular understanding of the behaviours and characteristics of an individual who is nothing short of a commercial genius.

Vitalari and Shaughnessy’s research is a great starting point to understanding these brilliance behaviours and characteristics – so we’ve summarised their findings for you below.

Totem Gummi Bears

Invention – All of the leaders they studied were quite capable of generating fresh and innovative ideas.  Leaders need to be comfortable tinkering with systems and knowing something new can come of it. They have to be driven by novelty.

Re-framing – Or changing your perspective is a critical capability in our emerging leaders.  They have the ability re-interpret the vision, mission and values of an organisation – and most importantly, engage all of those around them with that new interpretation.

Attraction & Orchestration – As a leader in an evolving organisation, they have to attract and coordinate a remarkable number of business elements.  But the leader needs to do this very much as a conductor coordinates his orchestra, with passion, flair and complete mastery.

Influence  – Leaders need to master the organisations internal and external information architecture, using it to promote the their wider vision whilst including everyone from the little guy, to the hugely influential collectives that sweep through social media platforms.  That means cultivating a habit of appearing both wise and flexible, being vocal but attentive.

Drawing the Lines – The commercial capabilities of these leaders require them to push the boundaries, product innovation, market placement and team performance to name but three.  But in pushing those boundaries they will need to draw the line between consultation and instruction.

Key stakeholders will always want to have their opinions heard, but also need to be lead.

De-Risking – The new global economy requires a new approach to risk, it’s become a hyper-competitive environment, with threats and opportunities in the most unlikely of places.  Leaders are demonstrating this with radical sideways moves into markets where they have no core competency.

Leaders must now possess the skill of developing and maintaining a portfolio of strategic options. The strategic options portfolio is a constant search for new options, new alternatives, and new markets.

Watching the world and seeing new opportunities is now a critical capability for our leaders.

Read More
, ,

Why Perfectionism Isn’t Perfect

Peas 400x265Why Being Mr. (or Mrs.) Perfect may not be so perfect after all.

Perfectionism is one of those wonderful character traits that we all aspire too, but can often lead to drastically negative behaviour.  It continually points to our failures, no matter how small and undermines our achievements.

Culturally, we prize perfectionism; Steve Jobs is frequently held as an ideal for insisting on perfection.

As we’ve discussed elsewhere, adaptability is a key ingredient in resilient people.  And resilient people are the ones who will come back time and again to face a challenge.  The irony of perfectionism is that eventually, the perfectionist will give up.  And whatever challenge they faced will be left un-conquered.  Was Steve Jobs a perfectionist?  Or was he able to adapt his ideas to the modern marketplace?  That debate still rages on in our office today.

But research now shows us that perfectionism is an acquired trait, we’re certainly not born with it.  How perfect were your idle doodles as a 4 year old?  Could they have been better?

One interesting shift in modern society is the pressure we place on our children to succeed.  Without the requisite social skills in place, children often perceive this pressure as criticism.  And it’s this perceived criticism that works its way into the psyche and develops as a trait.

One side effect to perfectionism is a focus on control; it encourages rigid thinking and behaviour.  That’s precisely the opposite of what is required from individuals across organisations in the modern context, where we want to see innovation and flexibility.

According to Psychology Today:

“Perfectionism reduces playfulness and the assimilation of knowledge; if you’re always focused on your own performance and on defending yourself, you can’t focus on learning a task. Here’s the cosmic thigh-slapper: Because it lowers the ability to take risks, perfectionism reduces creativity and innovation—exactly what’s not adaptive in the global marketplace.”

“Yet, it does more. It is a steady source of negative emotions; rather than reaching toward something positive, those in its grip are focused on the very thing they most want to avoid—negative evaluation. Perfectionism, then, is an endless report card; it keeps people completely self-absorbed, engaged in perpetual self-evaluation—reaping relentless frustration and doomed to anxiety and depression.”

Totem Gummi Bears

Below we list some of the personality traits exhibited by perfectionists.

Concern over mistakes: Perfectionists tend to interpret mistakes as equivalent to failure and to believe they will lose the respect of others following failure.

High personal standards: Perfectionists don’t just set very high standards but place excessive importance on those standards for self-evaluation.

Parental expectations: Perfectionists tend to believe their parents set very high goals for them.

Parental criticism: Perfectionists perceive that their parents are (or were) overly critical.

Doubting actions: Perfectionists doubt their ability to accomplish tasks.

Organisation: Perfectionists tend to emphasise order.

In a team environment we’ve experienced first-hand that the rigidity of perfectionism is difficult to work with.  The drive for the perfect answer doesn’t make space for the weird and wonderful world of collaboration.

What can you do to overcome the drawbacks to perfectionism?  As a starting point, we can take a leaf from Taibi Kahler’s book on drivers.  He identified ‘Be Perfect’ as an inherent driver type and offered these suggestions:

  • Encourage playfulness in your thinking process
  • Cultivate mindfulness when dealing with others
  • Practise accepting imperfection from others as well as yourself
  • Acknowledge the effort that’s put into meeting challenges
  • Invite feedback and embrace it

Perfectionism can be problematic because it can lead to obsessiveness, which in turn leads to a whole host of issues around attendance, performance, and morale.  For example; you’ll often see a perfectionist procrastinate because they’re afraid of failing before they start.

Or even worse, they may position themselves as a martyr. Certainly in a business context, the employees we regard as heroes, the ones who come in early, stay late, and solve every problem can actually mask inherent business issues.  The simple fact that heroic measures are required means at least some things are not working right.  So whether we call a person hero or martyr – we need to ask the question, what is really going on and what can we learn from that?

Read More
,

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

A fictional but compelling story built on trust.

Much like Patrick Lencioni’s other great books, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team uses a fictional leadership tale, this time exploring the fascinating, complex world of teams.

As CEO of a technology company, Kathryn faces a leadership crisis: uniting a team in such disarray that it threatens to bring down the entire company.

As you read through this story of two halves, you can see how easily any one of the five dysfunctions can have a dramatic effect on team work.

Lencioni’s suggested 5 dysfunctions of a team are:

Absence of Trust
Fear of Conflict
Lack of Commitment
Avoidance of Accountability
Inattention to Results

Knowing the five dysfunctions is only half the battle, and half the book. In the second half of the book, Lencioni expands on each dysfunction and offers a course of action to address each one.

Some of these actions will seem difficult to enact in the work place, but when has leading a successful team been easy – and should it be? The most important first step is to build trust and the key is to help others trust you by being the first to be vulnerable.

Why not take the first step today and be honest with your team about something you find difficult, something you need their help with or a mistake you have made. This will help your team feel more trusting of you, which means they are more likely to open up too.

If you are looking for a better understanding of teamwork, check out The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable.

Read More
, , ,

Dropping the Performance Ratings

ratingsWhy the world is falling out of love with the Annual Performance Review and its ratings.

Ahh.  The Annual Performance Review.  We’ve all had one and all left one feeling vaguely worse about ourselves and probably demotivated as a result.  It’s also quite likely you’ve been on the other side of the table too – having had similar feelings.  In many ways, Annual Performance Reviews make sense.

In business we crave the ability to quantify everything, from our sales targets to the number of toner cartridges we use.  Why shouldn’t our people be the same?  The ability to rank our employees in a given context and to assign performance-related perks (or not) has been the bread and butter of the average HR department for decades.  Where would General Electric and Jack Welch be without them?

So why are a growing number of high profile, global organisations including Amazon, Microsoft, Accenture and even General Electric themselves, moving away from the fixed rating, yearly performance review?

To begin with, the world doesn’t work to yearly cycles anymore, it may well do for senior managers, investors and your finance department – but for those of us on the frontline we have daily, weekly and monthly goals to achieve – things we quite often receive instant feedback on.  We inherently know (or at least we should do!) what our performance has been over any short time period, so why wrap it up once a year and look backwards?

Totem Lollipops

When Deloitte analysed their performance processes, they found employees and managers spent around two million hours a year on performance reviews (take the average hourly wage at Deloitte and times it by 2 Million – that’s a big number).  Do we know we’re getting good value out of this time?

Initially designed to help managers coach people to better performance, most appraisal meetings fall into a rut of ‘what you did well over the past 12 months and what you didn’t do well’.  In today’s corporate environment, assessing, addressing and rewarding performance once a year is simply too slow – both for the business and for the employee.

Which leads us to the second part of the answer: millennials.  David Rock and Beth Jones, writing for the Harvard Business Review about their research on this move to abolish ratings, comment that:

“Millennials in particular crave learning and career growth.  Of the 30 companies we studied, one preliminary finding that jumped out was that after a company removed ratings, managers talked to their teams significantly more often about performance – three or four times a year instead of only once.”

A growing number of your workforce will have grown up with the ability to give and receive feedback instantly, frequently and whilst mobile.

Jelly Bean Diversity

The nature of that feedback has changed too – the problem with many appraisal meetings is that much of the time is spent talking about the ratings themselves, not the underlying performance.  Millennials are far more comfortable asking the question why.  They don’t simply want a star or a thumbs up on their rating form, they want to see constructive feedback.

If a manager is unable to give them this guidance and coaching – in real time remember – then the manager is no better than a troll on YouTube.

It’s also the case that the familiar incentives don’t always encourage the best employees anymore, so we’re required to offer more tailored feedback and customized work arrangements for our top performers.  Companies that are removing ratings are seeing the conversations with their employees move from justification of past performance to conversations about growth, development and by extension – engagement.

All of us as managers need to stop getting stuck in processes and reviewing what is in this day and age, the ancient history of work performance 12 months ago.  We need to instead focus on instant, specific feedback so that everyone knows when they’re on the right path – and how to make positive change when they’re not.

Totem Gummi Bears

But does it work?  The CEB and the NLI have been researching companies who have made the move already and there are mixed results. CEB claims that most experiences are negative after the removal of ratings, whereas the NLI describes very positive outcomes. 

In the conversations we are having with clients taking the option to say goodbye to the rating system, there is a constant theme of concern over the organisation’s readiness.  Are managers aware of what they will be doing instead of discussing ratings?  Are they ready for that?  If this means more frequent and specific feedback, do managers have the skills and confidence to do that well?

The NLI have found that the most successful transitions have been where the business has lead strong change management communication on why this is happening, what it means for everyone involved and how people will be supported through it.  These businesses have also focused on increasing the frequency of performance conversations and moving the discussion from looking at the past to looking at the future.

It’s not a big stretch to see how the neuroscience literature supports this – as any change brings uncertainty unless there is an increase in strong communication focused on the why question.

In our next article we explore how you can do this well too…

Read More
, , ,

Productivity Ninja

Zen-like calm meets stealth and camouflage

It’s fair to say that in our digital, on-demand age the weakest link in the chain is likely to be the human being in the middle of it all.  And there’s a subtle clue here in the wording: we’re human beings, not human doings.

The Productivity Ninja offers us a way to recapture that essence of being in an increasingly crowded workplace of overflowing inboxes, to-do lists and endless, pointless meetings.

Using a fascinating combination of mindfulness, zen-like calm and stealth & camouflage the Productivity Ninja aims to get your inbox down to zero, make the most of your attention (rather than your time) and teach you to work smarter, not harder.

The author Graham Allcott’s loftiest aim being to teach you how to love your work again by making the bold statement that “time management is dead.”  Attention management is the key to understanding productivity, and that means acknowledging that you have periods of low attention when you don’t have the mental focus to tackle the day job.

Allcott explains that there are 9 characterises of a Productivity Ninja and we’ll touch on a few of our favourites here:

Zen-like calm

If you want to remain focused and not be stressed by all the things you’re not doing, you’ll need to create a ‘Second Brain.”  Basically, it’s a system built around lists, checklists or productivity apps where you can store your ideas.

It’s there to share the load of a busy mind, helping you to think more clearly because you’re not getting distracted by all the other things you need to do.

Ruthlessness

Saying no.  Not something many of us are entirely comfortable with but if we first acknowledge that saying yes to everything is the beginning of our never-ending to-do list, we’ll soon feel a lot more comfortable with the word no.

Thinking like a ninja means being ruthless with your attention and focus.  And as other commentators have pointed out over the years, it’s helpful to consider what is most important to say yes to so that you feel more comfortable about choosing to say no to other things.

Weapon-savvy

This is about using the right tools for the job.  Which tools save you time and don’t provide distractions?

The challenge we face with productivity software (in particular) is that it encourages networking and social sharing.  How often does that turn into a few hours fiddling with dashboards or instant messaging colleagues?  So we need to manage our use of such tools so that they help our focus rather than hinder it.

Stealth and camouflage

The introvert’s personal favourite and something the extrovert would be encouraged to consider now and again.  Get out of the chaos occasionally.

“One of the worst things you can do is always make yourself available,” writes Graham Allcott.

Research suggests that a 2-minute interruption to your thought process can take at least 30 minutes to undo.  Are there times when working alone and away from others, technology and the phone could be useful?  How could you build these into your day?

Making mistakes

It’s ok to make mistakes!  Perfectionism is a long way from perfect as we explored here.

Perfection is one of those wonderful ideas that we might aspire to, but it can often lead to drastically negative behaviour.  Perfectionism continually points to our failures, no matter how small, and it undermines our achievements.

Are you at your most productive when you are undermining yourself?

If you can combine that last point in particular with the other characteristics of a Productivity Ninja, we wholly support Graham Allcott’s view:

“You’ll feel more present in your work, more engaged, calmer and more at ease with the world around you.”

Read More
, ,

HR & Return on Investment

Can we really measure the impact that HR has on the bottom line?

This is a question we’re asked over and over again.  How can we demonstrate to you and your stakeholders that what we do has an impact on your bottom line?

Join us as we take the plunge into the exciting world of infographics, beginning with this on customer service.  There is an intrinsic connection between the work we do and improving customer service – and that could be both internal or external customer.

Happy People = Happy Customers = Happy Profits
One mantra in our industry is that “Happy People = Happy Customers = Happy Profits!”  Don’t take our word for it either, we’ve got some heavy hitters in our industry backing this up with research.  Follow the logos for more information:

And if you have selected, developed and engaged the right staff (our bit), you’ll take better care of your customers and generate more sales as a result (your bit).

Over the next few weeks we’ll be exploring in detail each point of research that demonstrates the Return on Investment metrics that make what we all do so worth while.  We’d encourage you to share this far and wide, we find that that the “ROI” conversation is the sticking point for so many HR projects, not just for our work as consultants to you, but your work as business partners to your organisation.

For your free copy of the 9 metrics, just click the image below.

 

Read More
, ,

Energy Injection

How to inject energy into your events…

Recently we were asked what tools we could use when facilitating a behavioural and cultural change event, in order to inject energy and help creativity.

It’s funny how when you get asked these questions the mind often goes blank: the tools that are second-nature to us have become so ingrained in our work that we don’t really think about them anymore.

Yet when we started sharing these tools with the client and discussing as colleagues the different tools we used, we all benefited and all picked up new ideas too!

So here is that insight shared with you too: ideas for injecting energy into a group, breaking people out of ‘stuck’ thinking and getting more creative….

Visualisation – this is about painting the picture of what it would feel and look like to have something change. We ask the question, “if some miracle happened overnight and you came to work tomorrow and this had already changed, what would be the first sign to you that things were different? What would you see / hear / feel? What else?”

What will it not be? With our naturally critical brains, we often find it easier to say what we do not want than to talk about what we do want.

Even in a personal example of preparing for a difficult conversation or presentation, we might think to ourselves, “I don’t want to come across like a nasty person,” or “I don’t want them to think I’m not an expert.” Getting people to say out loud what they do not want can be a great starting point for then switching things around and asking, “if that’s what you want to avoid, what would you want instead?” or “what would help you avoid that outcome you do not want?”

Improvisation – to break people out of logical and analytical problem-solving mode and move them into a more creative space, improvisation is a great tool. Using the “yes, and” game means taking something simple like, “what could we do for our next team social?” and asking people to apply “yes, and…” to every idea.

Someone might start with, “we could have it at the pub,” and the next person could say, “yes, and we could invite Beyonce to sing there,” on to, “yes, and we could have a space for people who don’t like loud music to sit and relax,” followed by, “yes, and we could put the pub on a space rocket and fly to the moon…”

Once we’ve played with that, we can then apply the same concept to ideas raised for the specific issue at hand, encouraging more building on ideas than critiquing.

List 50 ideas – when we are asked to come up with 5 ideas, we often get stuck at 3.

When we are asked to come up with 50 ideas, we might get stuck at 20 or 30, so this is a simple tool to get people thinking fast and throwing out as many ideas as possible. In an attempt to get more ideas out, people come up with more and more crazy ideas, which may not be practical at all, but they might spark inspiration for something that is practical.

Getting a high volume of ideas out without judgement can lead to us spotting the potential in a whacky idea and seeing how that might work.

Switch seats – just getting people up and moving often provides a different perspective, so give yourself permission to make people that little bit uncomfortable and move them around. You could also add in a specific perspective for this by say having an empty chair in the room that is the “customer’s chair” – or key stakeholder, shareholder etc.

Ask someone to sit in that chair and share their perspective, as this can drastically change the direction of the conversation.

Get outside – if it’s feasible in your venue and given the weather, ask people to discuss the idea / issue in pairs on a walk outside. The fresh air, exercise and different perspective will often raise very different ideas that can be brought back into the room and shared for consideration.

Read More
, , ,

Understanding Conflict

totem-donutIf you stole some of my doughnut, we’d have a problem…

From time to time we all experience a little disharmony and discord with others.

Managing at these times can be taxing, but with some techniques and practical tools for handling conflict, it is possible to be equipped to confidently deal with these difficult situations and find a positive outcome.

Now we’re not suggesting that we can cover everything about conflict in a single article, but we can certainly cover the basics in terms of where conflict comes from.

Research suggests that managers spend around 25% of their time managing and handling conflict in their teams. Conflict isn’t always necessarily a negative thing – it can often mean that people are passionate about their work and it can encourage creative thinking. Conflict, can however mean that teams become ‘stuck’ when an impasse is reached so finding ways to resolve conflict is important.

Totem Gummi Bears

When conflict occurs in the workplace, it can reduce morale, lower productivity, increase absenteeism and cause confrontations. Reynolds and Kalish (2002) found that managers spent at least 25% of their time resolving conflicts.  This obviously has an effect on the productivity of both managers and employees.

But conflict in work is not always so destructive. It can lead to new ideas and an increased interest in dealing with problems as it facilitates bringing to the fore issues, providing opportunities for people to develop their communication and interpersonal skills.

Stulberg (1997) identified a pattern common to all controversies. He termed them the Five Ps of Conflict Management:

Perceptions: Our negative perceptions of conflict impact our approach in resolving conflict as we strive to eliminate the source of these negative feelings.

Problems: Anyone can be involved in a conflict, and the amount of time, money, and equipment needed for resolution will vary according to its complexity.

Processes: There are different ways to go about resolving disputes: Suppress the conflict, give in, fight, litigate, mediate, etc.

Principles: We determine the priorities of all resolution processes on the basis of an analysis of our fundamental values regarding efficiency, participation, fairness, compliance, etc.

Practices: Power, self-interest, and unique situations are all factors relating to why people resolve disputes the way they do.

A good understanding of these causes is a great first step towards recognising conflict and actually turing it to your advantage.  Conflict is healthy and advantageous when it’s aim is to improve the outcomes for the team.  It’s certainly healthy when it’s respectful and not personal – which is easier said than done!

Healthy conflict requires openness and an ability to entertain others’ ideas. Team members need to set aside ego and avoid becoming defensive in order for conflict to be healthy.

Jelly Bean Diversity

The benefits of creating a team atmosphere that embraces healthy conflict are numerous and profound. These five benefits are just the tip of the ice berg:

  • Healthy conflict leads to better decisions.
  • Healthy conflict is a sign of trust and security.
  • Healthy conflict invites diverse points of view.
  • Healthy conflict surfaces potential issues.
  • Healthy conflict builds commitment.

One book we highly recommend to learn more about conflict is Conflict Communication (ConCom): A New Paradigm in Conscious Communication by Rory Miller.

He explains that our reactions to conflict are subconscious, scripted, and for the good of the group.  And that we have three brains:

  • Lizard brain (survival)
  • Monkey brain (emotion / social status)
  • Human brain (reason)

With each “brain” having a different priority and having evolved to deal with different kinds of conflict. They work using different scripts and have a very clear seniority system.

Although the course that generated this book was originally developed for police and corrections officers, it has now also been taught in hospitals and factories and in a total of eight countries.

What’s great is that these conflict-resolution principles should be applicable to most situations and relationships, including with spouses and coworkers as well as strangers. As Miller concludes in the afterword,

“almost everything in this book is stuff you live with every day. … But now you see it.”

Read More