Perfecting an 80/20 ‘balance’ that nurtures talent and celebrates success

Recently, I was speaking at an internal session on managing performance and explained why I believe the role of a leader is to help people be the best they can be.

The discussion began when we were asked to identify measures of staff satisfaction and organisational success.  One of the first things that came up was staff retention with many believing this this is a sign of problems.

Now, I accept that if staff start leaving in numbers then it can indicate that there is a problem which needs to be addressed but I asked them to consider a different possibility: perhaps it shows that people are being managed well, developing skills and progressing to the next level.

When asked, I explained to the group that I strongly believe part of my responsibility as a leader is to develop people.  This means that they should grow professionally during their time in a role, gaining new skills and enjoying a boost in confidence.  Ideally, they would then rise through the ranks and feel the satisfaction and fulfilment of working for an organisation that nurtures talent, utilises this appropriately and rewards people for their success.

However, in a small organisation, it can be hard to do this and so it needs to be OK to develop people so that they can move on.  If people move on to better things as a result of what they learnt with me, then I consider that a good outcome for the organisation.  I also find that it means we have champions in the wider world and many of my staff are still working with us in their new roles.

Doing things in this way creates ambassadors who can raise awareness of our work with their new colleagues and partners.

 

The 80/20 rule

In terms of how I ensure people are able to develop, I believe in an 80/20 rule.  Put simply, this means that individuals should spend 80% of their time doing things they feel they are good at and 20% stretching themselves.

To help me identify their strengths and development areas, I ask staff to complete a personal development plan which allows them to list their skills, achievements and goals.  We then sit down and have a discussion about what they have included and I might make further suggestions about anything I think is missing.  People don’t always see something as a strength or a talent so I might explore certain things with them to highlight any skills I think they have but don’t recognise.

This provides a framework for which they can develop an action plan to push themselves forwards.

 
The theory part

One of the key theories that underpins my leadership style is Dan Pink’s work on motivation which argues that the three things people need to be successful at work is autonomy, mastery and purpose.

The 80/20 rule means that they spend 80% of their time utilising their strengths and working towards mastery.  If their time is spent mostly on things they enjoy and feel they are good at, then they will feel good most of the time and will be doing things that fire them up, satisfy them and allow them to feel confident.

From that place, they can focus on the other 20% which should be about things they either don’t want to do (we all have those things) and things that they want/need to learn to be the best they can be.

The key to success with the 20% is to have a clear action plan which identifies skills and competencies that need to be developed in order to achieve career goals.  This should include steps that will be taken to ensure that individual can push forwards and make tangible progress towards their goals.

In terms of monitoring, I hold individuals to account for completing their actions by making sure progress is discussed on a quarterly basis and then on an annual basis, I ask staff to reflect again and complete a new plan for the year ahead.

 

Achieving ‘flow’

If you look through the stages, you can see that the method is based on the high performance cycle – Plan, Do, Review and Improve.  In following this process and ensuring the 80/20 ‘balance’, I believe people can be supported to achieve ‘flow’ which, in positive psychology, is:

‘The mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity’.

This has to be the state of optimum performance and exactly where we surely would want our teams to be so I challenge you to try a different way and see the difference it makes.

 

If you can see the value of this approach or have similar methods yourself, share your thoughts in the comments below.

Why mistakes and failure are critical for success

This week, I’ve been thinking a lot about how we learn and what we need to have in place to support this process.  Something that has become obvious to me in exploring this idea is that a critical part of learning is allowing space for error. 

It’s something that troubles us all too often.  When we get that major project, we might feel excitement and elation to start off with but that can quickly turn to anxiety and stress as we worry that we might fail or make mistakes.

It can be crippling sometimes and really hold people back if they do not feel comfortable or supported to take a chance on something that at best could bring huge dividends but at worst, we might feel it could affect our credibility or damage our reputation.  The thing is though, mistakes and failure are critical for success.  Sometimes, we need to get it wrong so that we can know how to get it right.

If we consider learning and how this takes place, we can see it takes a number of forms.  Firstly, we are all used to learning by being taught.  Most of us have grown up in a classroom being told by a teacher how things are and what we should do.  Secondly, we can go and find information previously through reading books and mostly now by accessing the internet – Google knows everything, right?!!

And Google has often provided me with the answers and ideas I need to make things happen and keep on track.  In today’s world, people love to share and so we can find out the major pitfalls in advance and try to make sure these don’t happen within our project.

Looking in the dictionary for a clear definition of learning it does indeed include these two things but it also includes another major vehicle for learning and that is experience.  The first learning we do as a baby or a toddler is through trial and error.  For example, how do we learn to walk?  By trying it and falling down A LOT of times!!  Eventually, most babies manage to find balance and walk for themselves without falling over although this can take some time and we can still forget sometimes or get it wrong and lose our step.

In terms of the workplace, one of the key things that stuck with me from my study of political philosophy back in the day is taken from John Stuart Mill’s arguments around free speech.  He says that everyone needs to be able to have their say because if they are allowed to express their opinion, then it can be discussed alongside any counter arguments and ultimately, if they are then persuaded they are wrong then the learning is greater.

 “If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.”  (On Liberty, John Stuart Mill)

It’s the same for making mistakes.  As children, how many of us were confronted with a naked flame and told not to touch it because it’s hot?  And how many of us touched it anyway because we needed to learn for ourselves?  The learning is greater from touching the flame than being told not to.

There’s a reason we have sayings like ‘we learn from our mistakes’ or ‘you live and learn’.  It’s because we are programmed to learn by doing and we need to do so to fully experience the world and all it has to offer.  Learning in this way means it won’t all go smoothly and we may fall down from time to time but getting comfortable with getting it wrong is absolutely key to success.

 

Do you have an example of learning through mistakes at work? Are you a Manager or CEO in an organisation that encourages people to try new things even if it might go wrong? Tell us your tory in the comments below.

 

3minuteleadership.org

 

Preparing for a positive personal review

Earlier this week, I chaired a discussion on ‘preparing for a positive personal review’ at an event run by the Women’s Network in in my organisation. Recently, our review process has been high on the agenda with a new system launched that aims to ensure a high quality conversation during this important annual one to one.

It was particularly timely to be holding the event this week as Recruiting Times published an article on Monday which suggested that “ditching the annual review” is one of four key HR trends for 2017. It seems that a number of major private sector companies such as Deloitte, GE and Adobe are taking this step and so part of our event explained why we are bucking this trend and choosing to continue with a traditional  approach.

Our panel consisted of two senior members of staff who have been leading on the development of a new personal review process, which is currently finding its feet within the organisation. The policy now asks managers to facilitate a conversation which is centred on the individual, asking people to think about what they want to achieve in the coming year, what support they need what training and development they think would benefit them going forward.

During the event, our panel shared their own experiences of personal reviews, complete with success stories, and they demonstrated how this process has helped them to achieve the positions they are in today. They were both very clear that the annual review has been extremely valuable in their own career development and encouraged participants to take time before the meeting to consider aspirations and development needs to make sure they are in a position to have a worthwhile discussion.

They set out number of questions to consider when preparing for you annual review:

  • What’s gone well over the last 12 months?
  • How well have I met my current objectives?
  • What am I enjoying about my role?
  • What do I find challenging?
  • Is there anything I am struggling with?
  • What do I want to achieve this year?
  • What hasn’t happened and why?
  • What are my career goals and aspirations? And what skills or experience to I need to help me achieve them?

Our panellists were also stressed that the review is something that is relevant throughout the year, rather than once every 12 months. The meeting is an opportunity to set your goals for the period but needs to be reviewed on a regular basis to ensure you are making progress. The advice was to make sure you keep a copy of your goals somewhere you can find it easily and keep reminding yourself of your aims to ensure you remain on track.

Finally, when asked to provide one ‘takeaway’ or key piece of advice for participants at the event, this is what they had to say:

  • Own it – this is your personal review so it’s up to you to make sure it goes well and achieves for both yourself and the organisation.
  • Be honest – your line Manager can only help you if you are honest about what you want to get from the role and what you can contribute. Don’t just tell them what you think they want to hear but be honest so that you can have a truly constructive conversation.

 

How does this compare with your own experiences of annual reviews? Are you in favour of this approach or do you prefer something different? Do you have any further tips to share to make sure these discussions are worthwhile? Please share your thoughts below.

 

3minuteleadership.org

 

But women have babies don’t they?

Last week, the Labour party announced a mentoring scheme for women in the name of Jo Cox MP which aims to support over 600 women leaders who will be able to make a strong contribution to public life.

The announcement made me think about the wide range of programmes in place and to wonder why we have seen a raft of women’s development schemes and still have a significant under-representation of women in leadership roles, even in sectors where women dominate.

Now, I am in favour of this and similar programmes as I know from personal experience that they are extremely valuable in developing self-confidence which women often seem to lack and is vital for putting yourself forward for opportunities and making your voice heard.

For women to be able to discuss the challenges is absolutely necessary in tackling this issue as they realise they are not alone and are able to learn from the experiences of others. Prominent women have begun sharing their own lessons and this can be invaluable. For example, ever since I read Sheryl Sandberg’s ‘Lean In’, I make sure I sit at the table, not at the periphery, and believe that my view is as valid as any other.

When you notice something that makes a difference, it’s important to pass on the message and encourage other women to do the same. For too long, women who have made it to the top have pulled the ladder up behind them and those of us climbing the ladder today have a duty to look back and help others to follow.

My belief is that whilst investment into development initiatives is to be welcomed, there are further commitments organisations can make if the really want to make an impact.

An article on women in British politics declares that ‘women aren’t the problem, the parties are’ and I have to agree that there is an entrenched gender bias which holds women back. It’s true in other organisations too.

Over the last seven years, I have been supporting organisations with gender equality initiatives, talking to a wide range of different groups about the barriers for women. You would be amazed by some of the comments I have heard along the way. A common assumption has been ‘but women have babies don’t they?’ and the most recent justification for women not getting involved in committees was ‘they don’t like driving at night’ (I was pretty stunned too).

It’s positive that I am starting to hear of individuals who commit to ensuring gender balance on recruitment panels or refusing to speak at events if there are no women on the programme. Women and indeed male supporters of our plight need to start refusing to participate unless there is gender balance in order to highlight the issue and show that it is important.

We also need to create an environment that women want to be part of. It was a few years ago that I was watching a debate in the House of Commons which was actually about the under-representation of women in parliament. The debate was playing in the office and a colleague said to me ‘what are you watching? The football?’ because she could hear jeering and cheering in the usual Westminster/football stadium style.

It isn’t enough to state an aspiration to support women and provide another leadership programme. We need to develop cultures which allow women to participate and succeed on their own terms.

We need to see a true commitment to breaking down the barriers for women and ensure change happens at a rate that will make a difference.


3minuteleadership.org

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