Why putting people first pays dividends for employers

A few articles have come to my attention recently around flexible working and in particular the challenges for working parents in what can sometimes be a fight to get employers to recognise the value in supporting employees to achieve a good balance.

Beginning my career working for myself, I was able to see the benefits of flexible working, being able to fulfil my professional responsibilities at times that worked for me and also manage personal commitments. Since then, I have championed flexibility in the workplace and heard both employers and staff challenge this over the years.

One article that really spoke to me recently shared the story of a woman who had returned from maternity leave and requested flexible working arrangements. As part of a restructure, her line Manager decided that all roles needed to be full-time and her application was turned down. A legal case decided that the employer had made this decision without evidence and the tribunal resulted in a finding of Unfair Dismissal and Indirect Sex Discrimination.

Another article that I came across yesterday, shared the story of an employer who came into the office and found a woman crying at her desk. When he asked why, he discovered that she had been up all night with a sick child and had come into work because she had no leave that she could use and needed to be paid.

Now, I’m guessing that many employers feel wary of giving an inch in case people take a mile and before you know it, you are paying for staff who are never there. I do think though that parents especially can be in a difficult situation, trying to pay high costs of childcare, deliver for their employer and meet the needs of their offspring.

It reminds me of a quote I saw the other week: “We expect women to work like they don’t have children and raise children as if they don’t work.” This isn’t exclusively women anymore but the pressure is still the same and I do hear strong opinion from other mums against women who choose to work full-time.

What I find in managing my team is that they want to be in work and do their jobs well. It’s a fact though that sometimes home and family commitments need more immediate attention in the same way that some days they need to work late or over the weekend. They don’t mind giving their own time for work commitments so why would I make it difficult for them when they have issues at home they need to deal with? If their car had broken down, I would let them take the time they need to fix it so why wouldn’t I let them have the flexibility they need when their child is sick?

Companies that have a flexi-time system can be useful in these situations but I still see so many of these systems based on initial theory from the model’s inception which fails to offer genuine flexibility. And I hear of even more employers that say ‘flexible working is great but it wouldn’t work here’. These are most likely the same employers that want their staff in the office late every night or working on demand.

What I’m saying here is that many people with caring responsibilities want to work and it’s often even more important for this group because they want balance but for very practical reasons, it needs to be both ways.

Also, I think that it pays dividends when employers put people first because it returns a level of loyalty and commitment that money can’t buy.

Do you manage people flexibly with positive results?  Do you have experience to share on flexible working requests? If so, please share in the comments below.

 

3minuteleadership.org

 

(Image by William Iven from Pixabay)

Why becoming a great leader is a journey not a destination

One of my favourite leadership thinkers is Simon Sinek, author of Start with Why and Leaders Eat 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.

 

3minuteleadership.org

 

 

 

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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