About the blog

Welcome to 3minuteleadership.org and thanks for visiting.
Over the last few years, we have been observing different forms of leadership and management and thinking about what works in today’s workplace.

Striving to be a good leader myself and create an environment where individuals can thrive, I have spent much time pondering how to help people to achieve and deliver to the best of their ability.  

Through this site, I plan to share leadership lessons in bitesize chunks of 3 minutes or less.  I hope that the blog can provide a space for likeminded people to share thoughts and ideas on leadership for the 21st Century.

By doing this, I hope that we can change the way we lead and transform the workplace, developing people that are inspired and empowered to make a difference in the world.

 

About the elephants…

I’ve chosen the elephant image because the matriarch influences the herd more than any other.  She has a quiet and confident leadership style, setting the direction and allowing others to follow.

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Featured post

Why becoming a great leader is a journey not a destination

One of my favourite leadership thinkers at the minute is Simon Sinek, author of Start with Why and Leaders East Last both of which you should read if you haven’t done so already.

The other week, I saw a link on Twitter to one of his videos which I watched and was reminded that ‘the best leaders don’t consider themselves to be experts; leadership is a skill which can be learned’.

This resonated with me because it is exactly the reason I am taking part in an initiative called ‘Leadership Pods’, a development programme developed by Dafydd Thomas at Circularis for people who want to be great leaders.

Being part of this encourages me to consider how I can further develop my leadership practice and allows me space to reflect on where I am now and where I would like to be in the future.  The programme also allows participants to share and learn from others who may have similar challenges or experiences.

As Sinek sets out, it is important as a leader to keep learning and commit to continuous improvement throughout your leadership journey.  It’s about supporting people and making a difference so why wouldn’t you want to work towards perfecting your craft which of course we all know does not have a final destination.

It’s like the best athlete working on their discipline; they can break new ground and set world records for their sport but there are always others who are watching them, learning from them and will ultimately take their place and set their own records.

Sinek goes so far as to say in his video: ‘any leader that considers themselves an expert… don’t trust them…. run in the other direction’.  You should definitely be suspicious of a leader who is convinced that they are always right and can’t see a reason to listen to the views or ideas of others.

In his book, Leaders Eat Last, Sinek promotes the importance within good leadership of prioritising the needs of others sometimes even putting these needs ahead of their own.  My approach certainly is to focus on supporting those in my teams, ensuring I take steps to understand their needs and considering how I can adapt my style to get the best out of them.

For example, I consider who they are and how they like to be managed.  Some people, particularly millennials, want to have autonomy; they want to be clear about what is expected of them and be given the freedom to do their best work which might involve trying out new ideas or generating new opportunities.  They expect to be able to get fully involved and don’t want to be told what to do.

Generation X and the baby boomers might prefer more specific management and direction  with greater clarity around what is expected of them and could even look for detailed instruction.  Of course people don’t always fit nicely into a box and so the only way you can understand what they need is to ask them.  I try to ask my direct reports on a regular basis if they are happy with the way they are being managed, recognising that my preferred style doesn’t work for everyone.  In circumstances where my approach is causing problems for them, I do my best to change it because ultimately, I want them to perform as well as they can and I don’t want to be the person that holds them back.

Understanding their long terms goals is also valuable because I recognise that they might not spend their whole career with one organisation and instead may wish to develop and move on to other opportunities.  In taking time to discuss this, I can ensure they are developing the necessary skills and experience to get them where they need to go.  Even if they do want to stay with us, I want that to be because they feel like they are able to develop and are invested in, whether that’s through funding for formal training or time to develop their specific interests or skills.

It’s important to recognise that they are a good measure of my own performance as a leader and I might ask them how they enjoy working with me and listen carefully to their feedback.  Also important is to recognise that they can be giving feedback through their silence or avoidance so I try to make a special effort to notice what they are not saying through body language or passing comments.

Sinek says: “We call them leader not because they are in charge but because they are willing to run head first into the unknown or dangerous.”

It’s not about status or rank, leadership is a skills that needs to be developed and perfected over time.  If you aspire to be a great leader then you might want to sign up for a Leadership Pod yourself and find out how you can unleash the power not only within yourself but in those you work with across your organisation.

Like a parent, you are not an expert parent but you keep practicing and practicing and hopefully, you’ll get it right someday.” (Simon Sinek)

 

Do you consider yourself to be a great leader? Have any thoughts or tips to share? Let us know what you think by posting in the comments below.

 

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How to create an environment where your staff to lie to you (or how to make sure you don’t)

I’m going to let you into a secret… most employees want to work hard and do well.  I don’t think there are many in the workplace who would lie to you for malicious reasons.  However, the best employees might lie to you if they think this is the best course of action.

How can that be? I hear you ask.

Imagine this…

You have done an excellent job of hiring talented and highly-skilled people.  Across your organisation, there are people who bring a wide range of expertise and are committed to using this for the good of the business.  And yet you find out that they are keeping things from you or feeling the need to ‘spin’ the truth.  Your first reaction might be to think that they are stupid and incompetent.  Or you might think that they are being insolent; deliberately lying to because they think they know better than you do.  But how dare they, right?  I mean, you’re the boss for a reason and they should do what you say, yes?

The thing is, you might want to consider if there is something you have done to create an environment where, for good reasons, they think it’s better to lie to you than generate problems by telling you the truth.  The alternative to this could well be silence which is another clear indication that all is not well in the ranks.

Here are some instances where your actions might be encouraging your staff to hide the truth:

1)      When you make the job more difficult than it needs to be – they are getting on with something they know is valuable for the business and they have planned their time proportionately.  Then, you find out about it and decide it’s not the way you want it done even though your way will take a lot more time and resource that they and others should be spending on other things.  In an attempt to avoid that, they try to get the work done ‘under the radar’ because it’s easier than raising their head to get it blown off.
2)      When you take work off them because you think they have ideas above their station or think someone else could do it better – You find out a member of staff is working on something you think should be done by someone else so you tell them off an take it off them without asking any questions.  This is upsetting for them because they have worked hard on something they were interested in or felt they were good at.  If they felt that you would be encouraging and supportive, they probably would have been glad to involve you in the first place.
3)      When you dismiss something they are confident is a good idea – let’s say you have someone who has experience of delivering  certain type of activity and is confident that it’s a good idea and they can do it well.  It’s in line with organisational priorities but you want it doing a certain way, they think you are missing a trick but you won’t listen to them.  It’s understandable that they might try telling you just enough to get on with it the way they think is best.
4)      When you pull their work apart – they have identified a clear opportunity within the organisation’s objectives without any risk.  They would love to speak to you about it to ensure it’s how you want it to be and get your advice but they’ve shown you something before and you’ve ripped into it, giving criticism that is disproportionate and far from constructive.  Ultimately, you’ve knocked their confidence and destroyed their trust. They are not keen to come back for more so they keep it to themselves because they think it will allow them to get the job done more easily.
So hopefully, you’ve realised that if good people are keeping things from you, it’s worth reflecting on whether you have created an environment where they think that’s the best course of action.  In terms of what you can do about it, I’d advise that you start listening carefully and understanding how you can help rather than hinder.

My approach is always to think about how I can support my staff to do their best work.  I try to ensure clear direction from the beginning and offer pointers where I think they might help.  Questions are also a useful tool for helping them to think things through and hopefully bring them around to your way of doing things.  Ultimately, if you are critical, judgemental or heavy-handed, they won’t tell you what’s going on and I’d say understandably so.

 

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How not to treat your pregnant employees if you want them to keep working for you

Given that at the moment I am expecting my first child, I currently have lots of pregnant friends and I am shocked by the number of things they say about issues faced in the workplace and how they are treated by their employer and colleagues because they are pregnant.  Despite equality laws protecting against this kind of thing, pregnancy discrimination is rife in our workplaces.

Stories I have heard include someone finding out from another colleague details of who has been chosen to cover their role while they are on leave; women being treated like they have left already; and assumptions being made about when and on what basis they will be returning.

People in the workplace seem to forget (or not realise) that it’s the 21st Century and women make a wide range of choices these days.  For a start, Shared Parental Leave means that Dads can stay at home too and increasingly, men are taking a break from the workplace to do just that.  I have of course been asked if I will be giving up work which is laughable in a society of dual income households not to mention the fact that lots of women want a career and don’t believe that having a baby means they have to give this up.

Then you get people assuming you will be returning part-time after the baby is born. Which also isn’t for me (and many others) because I’m likely to do the same work anyway and I want my full pension thank you very much!  Naturally, my husband has not been subjected to any of these questions about his own decisions although I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s been asked about mine.

It isn’t necessary these days and things really have to change, so what should you be doing if you want to be a good employer for those in the family way?

1) Don’t make assumptions and encourage others not to as well – these days, it is more than possible to raise a family and continue working so no matter how well-meaning you are, do not assume women will take 12 months off, return part-time or seek a less demanding role.  Better to assume that they will want to return to the same role at the same capacity and if they want to talk to you about reduced hours or other flexible working arrangements, they will let you know.

2) Ensure those who are preparing to go on any kind of child-related leave are involved in decisions about their role – they might be going on maternity leave but may well return and preferably to the job they left so they will appreciate it if you ask them their views on how to cover the role in their absence.  Discuss their plans for maternity leave and see what level of contact they would like to have while they are away.  Keep in touch days exist for a reason and some women will want to make sure they are used to the best effect.  When decisions have been made, make sure you talk to them and explain what is going to happen and why you have decided to do things that way.

3) Keep in touch – whether they use their keep in touch days or not, make sure they are kept up to speed with any important changes.  Is there something big kicking off that might make them worry for their role?  Update them on developments so that they can feel confident that they are a valued member of the team.

4) Carry out the risk assessment – it’s mandatory for a reason and women will want to make sure that their employer recognises the risks associated to the role and cares about making sure there are no unfair expectations placed on them that might cause harm to their baby.

5) Treat them with respect – while they’re there, while they’re off and when they come back.  Commit to good communication, timely responses or decisions and ensure all discussions are handled with sensitivity.  It will be appreciated and they will be more likely to come back.

I’m sure you made the hire in the first place thinking that person was amazing for the role.  Hopefully, they have proven you right and performed well during their time with you.  If that’s the case, you would want them back, right? Under whatever circumstances they want to return.

So treat them right and you have a good chance that they will want to re-join your fold after they have settled in to their new world order and continue doing the same amazing job they were doing before, probably with even more commitment because they know they are lucky to have a good employer and want to work hard for you.

Does this resonate with you?  Have you experiences of being pregnant in the workplace? Or are you an employer that agrees or is frustrated with these ideas?  Let us know in the comments below.

 

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Why diversity is more than demographics

When I first became a Manager, I had one member of staff in my team.  She was my antithesis.  Completely the opposite of me.  I didn’t understand her way of working or why it was so difficult and I found it very frustrating.  She would focus on the minute details, take her time over things and make sure everything was exactly right.  In contrast, I support the Facebook mantra of ‘done is better than perfect’.  That doesn’t mean a lack of standards but I’m not looking for the best piece of work ever but sometimes if you spend too long making it perfect, you end up missing the moment.

Not long after we had begun working together, I went on a training course about emotional intelligence and it was there that I had a light bulb moment.  We did an activity about working styles and in doing this, I realised that my colleague was a ‘be perfect’ whereas I’m a ‘hurry up’.  As soon as I realised that, my approach changed and we had a much more successful working relationship from there on in.  By the time she left the organisation, I had learnt that the opposite skills that she brought to the team were exactly what I needed and once I was back to working with someone similar to myself, I felt a loss of skills that had been extremely valuable.

Today, I deliberately look for difference when hiring people.  It might be tempting to recruit in my own image and it can be easier to work with others who think the same way that you do and take the same approach but I now understand the true value of diversity and aim to construct a team where each individual brings something different and can shine in their own right.  My current team is a fantastic example of this – individually unique and perfect together.  They each bring something to the party which makes for endless good times!

Often when we talk about diversity we think about demographics – sex, race, age, ability – and this is extremely important but I do think it’s more than that.  In my view, we need to think about difference more broadly and recognise the value of bringing people, views and skills together.  The reason diversity is said to be good for business is that it brings a variety of viewpoints and a wider range of experience which improves decision making and problem solving .  An article published in The Guardian claims that ‘unconscious bias and a tendency to hire in their own image can lead managers to bring in the wrong candidate for their team ’ and suggests that ‘a lack of diversity is one of the biggest issues threatening the advertising industry today, challenging the credibility of the industry and preventing businesses from being run as effectively as they could be’.   The advice in this article is to ‘consider each hire based on the value they can add to the team, rather than simply in a specific role. It is not always about hiring the best person for the role, rather the best person for the team as a whole’.

Keep an eye on the skills in the team and consider what’s missing.  Then when you recruit in the future you can look for someone who will add value to the team rather than bringing what you already have.

Have you got your own stories about the benefits of having a diverse team?  Can you relate to the experiences above or do you have your own which challenge this view?  Let us know in the comments below.

 

If you want to understand the roles in your team or find out if you have unconscious bias, try these tools:

 

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Photo: Pixabay.com

 

3 things employers can do now to address the gender pay gap in their workplace

Gender pay is back in the headlines this week as the deadline passes for reporting pay for male and female employees in companies with more than 250 staff.  From today, employers will need to be transparent about average pay for men and women in their organisations which includes any difference in bonuses or at different levels of the pay scale.

This move has been taken by the UK Government because despite over 40 years of Equal Pay legislation, the gender pay gap remains a stubborn problem that the Government is committed to address.  From now on, companies will need to know the situation across their business which will shine a light on gender inequality in the workplace and hopefully lead to plans to address the imbalance.

What creates this problem?  A wide range of factors contribute to the continued pay inequality for women not only in the UK but around the world.  Firstly, more women than men enter careers with low pay such as hairdressing and childcare whereas more men are found in higher paying sectors such as construction and engineering.

Women are more likely to take on the caring role within the family meaning that work and career take a back seat.  Choosing to reduce hours limits women’s career options with part-time roles at a senior level being extremely difficult to find.  Instead, those women who prioritise family-friendly working hours tend to find their options limited to jobs which are low skilled and low paid.

From a male perspective, whilst rights are increasing for fathers who want to share the responsibility of caring for the family, exercising these rights is often more of a challenge.  At all levels of society, assumptions are made about what changes a woman will make once a baby arrives with far less consideration given to how the father might plan to change his working patterns or adjust his career goals.

What needs to be done to tackle the gender pay gap?  It’s going to be a long journey with lots of work required to change society’s views on gender roles including working with children to create a foundation for success.  However, if you are an employer that wants to start addressing this today, here are three things that employers can do now to make a significant difference for gender pay inequality:

1)      Identify any structural issues in the organisation

Many times, I have heard employers say they would love to appoint women to their advertised roles if only they would apply.  My response to this is to ask them to consider why women might not put themselves forward for these roles.  One possibility might be that women think they can’t have flexibility in the role.  For example, across a number of organisations, I have heard women say that they value their flexibility and senior roles in their organisation state that post-holders are required to work the hours necessary to do the job.  This can be worrying for women with family responsibilities and they can be discouraged from applying if they think they will not have the flexibility they need to manage work and home.

2)      Part-time roles at a senior level

Another thing I have heard many times over the years is that management and senior roles can’t be done part time.  In my opinion this is untrue and so a positive step would be for employers to start advertising higher level roles with a clear statement that part-time hours or flexible working is available.  For roles that do need someone full-time, employers should start seriously exploring job share arrangements as an option.

3)      Supporting fathers to take an active role

As long as women are seen as the ones responsible for caring for the family and home, there will be discrimination in the workplace.  New policy and legislation means that the growing number of men who want to be involved in raising up the family, are able to do so. However, enhanced packages offered to women need to be available to men as well to make shared parental leave a viable option. And we need to encourage more men to exercise their right to request flexible working until it is no longer seen as something for women.

Finally, I’ve heard lots of employers saying they know that the gender pay gap is an issue but ‘not in my workplace’.  Any organisation that thinks this way needs to seriously reflect.  If it’s true then share what you’re doing with others so they can enjoy the same success.  If it isn’t true, try some of these actions and start making a change.


Do you agree with the suggestions in this article? Are these things having an impact already in your workplace? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

 

Maintaining resilience in a crazy world

Recently, I met up with a friend who had just started a new job.  It was the end of her first week she was so excited about the role and enthusiastic about the work, she had thrown herself into it and was feeling the effects.  She had worked so hard that when Friday night came, she needed her slippers and the sofa not the cocktails and dancing that were planned.  Battling on, she came out and tried to enjoy the evening but after a single glass of wine, she was literally falling asleep at the table.

She felt under the weather for the whole weekend and was annoyed with herself for taking such poor care of her well-being that she couldn’t enjoy her friends and her personal life in a way that would provide balance to her hard work.  She spent a fairly miserable weekend trying to recuperate and promised herself that this wouldn’t be how she continued in this role.  From that day, she made a commitment to herself to look after her well-being and maintain resilience so that she would be able to give equal amounts of energy to work, life and self.

How are we in a situation where people feel burnout just from a normal week at work?  And what can we do about it?

It seems like the world is such a busy place today.  Technology means that we are constantly connected and seem always in demand, in fact, social media makes us want to be needed in this way because we’re constantly craving that dopamine hit that comes with a notification or message or email (Simon Sinek explains this here).   There’s more happening today than there was 20 years ago.  There are more choices about how we spend our time and we have more disposable income it seems so we can enjoy these opportunities.  The compression of time and space makes work more demanding and causes it to creep further and further into our personal lives.  The digital revolution brings communications to the palm of our hands which blurs the line between work and life and, if we’re not careful, it can tip the balance towards more work and less life.

We have to bear in mind though that for many of us, working life will be over a longer period than we envisaged and we also need to look after ourselves in order to sustain our energy and continue our efforts.  How often have you reached Tuesday and felt so tired it’s like you’ve worked a week already?  You might get home on Friday and find you are grumpy and miserable because you have been flat out all week and now too tired to go out or enjoy the weekend the way you would like to.

Building and maintaining resilience means that you can cope, bounce back or recover from the challenges life throws at us.  It’s about having the energy to deal with whatever comes a long and maintain a positive attitude come what may.  It’s being able to adapt quickly and adjust to new or changing circumstances.  Some consider it to be having a ‘toughness’ that allows us to manage in difficult times and come out even stronger.

How  can we build resilience? Here are some ways you can develop and maintain resilience in everyday life:

1)      Take a step back and consider how you are spending your time – do you need to be doing everything you’ve signed yourself up to? Can some things wait or could you delegate tasks and responsibilities to someone else?  It might be hard to let go but you don’t have to do everything yourself and if you try, it will have a negative impact on your well-being so make sure you are being realistic and being as efficient as you can.

2)      Look after yourself – are you making enough time for yourself? If you don’t already, maybe you could meditate, swim, start a yoga class or treat yourself to a regular massage.  If finding time for a class is difficult, or money is tight, there are lots of options on YouTube for yoga (my favourite is Yoga with Adrienne) and meditation (The Honest Guys) or if you fancy a massage but don’t like the price, check out your local college and see if they offer any deals with their students.

3)      Eat well – when we’re busy and tired, it’s very easy to grab a quick bite or fill up on junk and yet we know that eating the right things can make a big difference.  Think about cooking from scratch.  It doesn’t have to take a long time, I find that if I get home late and need something quickly, stir-fry is my saviour.  Another option is batch cook and freeze for those days you want good food fast (find some good batch cooking recipes here).

4)      Practise mindfulness – if like me you have a million things going round in your head, practising mindfulness can be a useful technique (See Bemindful.co.uk ). No matter what worries I have rattling around in my mind, I try and focus on whatever it is I’m doing at that time and save the worry about where I have to be next for later.  Whatever is going on, it helps to focus on the moment you are in.

5)      Have fun – enjoy the lighter things in life. Make sure you have fun times with your friends or have a regular activity that you enjoy, even better perhaps if it’s something you love but are not good at!  The ‘tuneless choir’ is exactly about letting go and enjoying yourself.  Even in work, as Mary Poppins famously said ‘find the fun and snap, the job’s a game!’.

 

Has your world become more busy? How do you maintain resilience in a crazy world? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

 

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

How to cope with stress in 5 easy steps

Today, my colleague Max experienced a bit of a travel disaster which led to high levels of stress which impacted the rest of her day.  It was already going to be a difficult one with tight timescales to meet but missing a train when you are meant to be interviewing people creates the kind of problems we would all like to be without.

This is how Max’s day started…

She had the plan all worked out.  Get up at 6.30am, get self ready, get the children up and ready, grab Weetabix for children’s breakfast, leave the house at 7.35am, drop children at granny’s house with aforementioned cereal supplies, leave granny’s at 7.50am and head to the station with plenty of time to make the 8.55am train to north Wales.

Things were going well. All was on track. Until…

8.15am – traffic begins to slowdown.  Not to worry.  Plenty of time.

8.23am – traffic comes to a standstill.  It’s ok.  Don’t panic, I can still make it.

8.30am – the realisation sets in that it is going to be a real struggle to get to the station in time.

By this point, every light is red, the counter is moving ever closer to the 8.55am departure time and the usually helpful notifications were coming through frequently telling her how little time was left until the train’s departure.

By the time Max was able to park, there were just 12 minutes to go and still an 8 minute walk to get to the station and a ticket to collect. Still thinking that by some miracle, she might be able to get that train, she ran as fast as she could to the station, dragging a suitcase and rucksack behind her.

Of course, nothing went smoothly at the station either and she finally reached the platform to see the train pull away.

So what did she do to manage her stress throughout this situation that might help when living through your own nightmare morning?

1)      Breathe – the first thing to do when you feel stressed is to breathe.  Your heart rate increases in these situations and you feel hot under the collar so if you can get your breathing under control, you can get the situation under control also.

2)      Plan for the worst but hope for the best – throughout the whole time, Max was hopeful that she would make it and did everything she could to get there in time.  However, in the back of her mind, she was thinking ‘what is the next best thing if the current plan doesn’t work out?’.

3)      Take stock and get some perspective – yes, she really wanted to be on the train and support colleagues with the interviews but if she didn’t make it, others could manage or she might be able to rearrange the times and get the next train instead.

4)      Get support – technology means that your support network is never far away so Max sent a what’s app message to her family who referred her to point 1 – breathe (it really is number 1 for a reason!).  She then texted her colleagues who also told her not to worry.

5)      Be thankful – the morning didn’t go well but there are still things to be grateful for such as the health app which sent another notification saying she had done 12 minutes of cardio.

Does this resonate with you? What are your tips for dealing with stressful situations? Share them in the comments below.

 

3minuteleadership.org

5 Hallowe’en behaviours that leaders should ditch for the rest of the year

It’s that time of year again when many people enjoy dressing up in a scary costume and commemorating the dead.

All hallows eve (hallowe’en) is a festival that remembers those who have passed on and celebrates the souls of the departed.

Around about this time, lots of us delight in making ourselves look freakish.  Children roam the streets, knocking on the doors of strangers hoping to find treats and we all wonder who will be crowned the apple bobbing champion for this year.

When it comes to work, we recognise that the Hallowe’en theme is not something to aim for all year round so we thought we would share seasonal blog which sets out 5 typical hallowe’en behaviours that leaders should ditch for the rest of the year.

1)      Be a horror – do your staff think you’re a nightmare?  Maybe you change your mind all the time about what you want from them, criticise their hard work and knock their confidence.  If you are a horror all year and not just hallowe’en, they may well decide they’ve had enough of the bad dreams and move on to something better.

2)      Scare people – if you regularly make people worry by convincing them that bad things will happen rather than reassuring them about the future, it is likely that they will eventually have one scare too many and leave you to chase away the ghouls by yourself.

3)      Wear a mask – whilst one of the most fun things about hallowe’en is making yourself unrecognisable, if your team are constantly trying to figure out who you are, you will be missing out on the benefits of authentic leadership and the loyalty and warmth that can come with it.

4)      Trick people – if you like to lull people into a false sense of security and then change your mind or if you delight in catching people out, you are likely to be making people feel insecure which won’t encourage them to hang around for long.

5)      Forget the treats – on hallowe’en, it’s important to remember the treats for that inevitable knock on the door.  In the workplace, you should remember to treat people every day by offering rewards for their efforts. Just a simple ‘thank you’ can go a long way towards making people feel valued.  This will ultimately keep them working hard for you and could stop them running away in fright.

Have you had any scary experiences in your office that need to be banished for good?  Tell us your experiences in the comments below.

 

3minuteleadership.org

 

Photo credit: http://www.pixabay.com

If you want to nurture a team of people that work hard, do well & stay with you, ask yourself these questions

This morning, we shared an item published on Guardian Careers in a feature called ‘What I wish I could tell my boss’.  The piece was entitled ‘before you became my manager, I loved my job’ and it tells the story of someone who went from having a ‘nurturing, efficient and kind’ boss to one that was much more controlling and disempowering.  It raises some important points, the key one being – are you making your people miserable?

A few years ago, a speaker at the Wales public service summer school, asked a room packed full of leaders and managers from the public and voluntary sector to consider how they treat their teams and how people perceive you as a result.

The speaker took us through an exercise where she invited us to close our eyes and imagine… it’s your last day of work ever.  You have reached retirement and the office has thrown a farewell party for you.  In the room are people from your teams throughout your career and they have brought their families along with them.

Look at the faces around you.  How do they look?  Are they warm and happy because you’ve been supportive and helped them to achieve throughout their working lives so they went home every night feeling satisfied and fulfilled?  Or do they look tired and miserable? Even angry? Because you have made their lives difficult and caused them to go home stressed, fed-up and tired of an endless struggle to get things done to your satisfaction.

If you want to reach that day and have a room full of people ready to celebrate with you and wanting to shake your hand, ask yourself these questions below and see if there are any improvements you can make.
1)      Are you encouraging people to speak up and taking on board their views?  I am shocked sometimes by the team meetings I attend where people won’t speak up.  Often this is because Managers don’t want to be questioned on their decisions they just want people to do as they are told.  In the worst case scenario, Managers will actually put people down in front of the group which is a sure fire way to shut people up permanently.  However, it won’t get you a team of engaged employees who are willing to tell you if they see an issue on the horizon and you will miss out on all those great ideas they really want to take forward.

2)      Are you wasting their time or failing to not treating them with basic courtesy? It seems that sometimes, managers forget that these people are adults and professionals in their own right with busy lives and schedules.  If you are making them wait for a meeting that you could never make anyway or forcing them to wait outside your office like school children, perhaps you need to rethink your approach.

3)      Are you micro-managing?  We all hate it when we are asked to do something and not allowed to get on with it.  If you find that you are struggling to let go of a task once delegated and wanting to control every last detail, think about whether the things you want are really worth demoralising someone else for.  And if they are that important, how can you make sure you set those things out at the beginning so you can step back, confident that the final product will be to your liking.

4)      Do you tear apart their good work?  If someone has worked hard to deliver a piece of work that they think is worthwhile, is there a benefit to pulling it apart?  Giving constructive feedback is useful and I’m sure they want to know how they can improve but keep it in perspective and keep criticism to yourself.  Be specific about any improvements you would like to see rather than making sweeping statements about what you don’t like.  Also consider whether it’s wrong because you gave poor direction when setting the task.  If this is the case, consider giving them a break and giving better instruction next time.

5)      Do you give them the opportunity to give feedback on your management style and adapt your approach or do you expect them to adapt to you?  In the regular 1-1s I have with my staff, I often ask them if they are happy with the way they are being managed.  I’ve realised that it isn’t one style fits all and if I want to get the best out of them, I need to adapt my style to suit their needs.  High performance means supporting them to achieve and I can only do that if I understand who they are and what they need from me.

6)      Are you asking them to do something you know they struggle with and being critical when they don’t meet your high standards?  For a team to succeed, individuals should play to their strengths and be recognised for what they are good at.  There isn’t much point in pushing them to be good at something if it isn’t their bag and maybe you already have someone in the team who can do it better.  By all means encourage them out of their comfort zone and help them to improve but don’t set them up to fail by asking them to do something that is outside of their skillset and then criticising them when they don’t meet your high standards.

7)      Are you asking them to do something one week, then forgetting and either asking them to do it differently the next week or worse, asking someone else to do the exact same thing?  We all say something and then say something different or change our mind but if you are doing this without realising on a regular basis you might need to think about your organisational skills.  It is confusing and frustrating for people if you continually ask for something and then change your mind, not follow up or ask someone else to do it as well.  Make sure you know what each of your team is doing so you avoid duplication and keep them engaged.  If you can’t remember, they will think that they and the task are not important.

8)      Are you failing to recognise their skills or value their expertise?  The chances are you have recruited capable and talented people to your team but just take care that you are recognising their contribution and valuing them for it.  If you don’t they will be miserable and ultimately ditch you at the earliest opportunity, taking their talents somewhere they will be appreciated.
In the Guardian piece, the author concludes: ‘you taught me that life is far too short to work with people who do not value your knowledge, skills and passion.’  Managers who don’t respect the talent in their teams will lose them, either because they find something better and leave or because they switch off in their head and in their heart.  If you want to nurture a team of people that work hard, do well and stay with you, ask yourself these questions on a regular basis and make sure you are doing your job in the right way.

 

What do you think?  Have you experienced any of these things from either side?  Or do you have other questions you think we should add to this list?  Add your thoughts in the comments below and let’s continue the discussion.

 

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