How to avoid ‘car crash’ conversations and make sure your feedback lands well every time

Have you ever received feedback that you reacted badly to?  Or tried to give someone else feedback and found they have flown off the handle? 

Feedback can be something people avoid because it can go in lots of different directions with so many of them not the route you wanted to take!

And yet, timely, constructive feedback is essential for the successful management of teams. It is also be critical for professional development so it is important that we create an environment where we can have open and honest feedback conversations which lead to better performance and development.

After a few car crash feedback discussions, I decided to find out more about the theory of good feedback and how to make sure I can deliver this effectively each time for the benefit of those in my team.


Types of feedback

The first thing to notice is that there are 3 different types of feedback.  All are important and you need to know the appropriate type to use in different situations and ensure that in your leadership practice, you are employing a balance of all types on a regular basis.

  1. Coaching – this type of feedback aims to help the receiver ‘expand knowledge, sharpen skill, improve capability’.  If you want to have a conversation about how an individual can improve, then coaching is a good way to go.  Beware though, a coaching approach is about asking questions (and the right kind of questions) to support the individual to explore the issue for themselves and come up with their own solution.  You can guide, you can support but you cannot ‘tell’ in a truly effective coaching conversation.
  2. Evaluation – this is to ‘rank against a set of standards’.  An example might be the classic performance review conversation where you are discussing how the individual has delivered against what was agreed.  It requires someone to rate an individual so for this to be effective, there needs to be agreement at the beginning about the measures they will be assessed against and support to help the individual meet expectations.  If you don’t provide this clarity and the individual scores badly, they will feel angry and frustrated which will lead to a difficult conversation and probably more to follow.
  3. Appreciation – this is feedback where effort, commitment and achievement is recognised.   You might also call this type of feedback ‘praise’ or ‘gratitude’.  Some leaders find this uncomfortable but it should be used often to motivate.  Appreciation encourages the   
    release of oxytocin which is important for connection and vital for building relationships and strong teams.

When feedback goes wrong…

We have to give feedback at times and even in the very best relationship, it can sometimes go wrong.  If you find that the receiver reacts emotionally, you can be sure that one of these triggers has been activated:

Truth trigger – it may be that the feedback appears untrue to the person on the receiving end. Maybe they think you don’t know what you are talking about and if this is the case, you could perhaps consider whether they are right and what you could do to build your own knowledge (being honest about your own weaknesses can also improve the conversation). 

The other possibility is that you have hit on a ‘blind spot’ which means they genuinely don’t see that the issue you raise is true of them.  It is not in line with their perception of reality and in this instance, a coaching approach could be beneficial to support them to explore the issue for themselves and allow yourself to understand it from their perspective.  If you are the receiver, you could test the feedback on people you trust which may help you to understand your blind spots in a safe space.

Relationship trigger – have you ever been in a relationship that has turned bad and everything you or they say leads to a negative response?  This can happen in work too. Having a good relationship is critical for successful feedback conversations.  If there is an issue with the relationship such as a lack of trust and respect, it is likely that the feedback will not land well.  Relationship triggers can create ‘switchtrack’ conversations where the receiver will retaliate by raising another issue they feel is related.  In this instance, it is important to recognise all issues and discuss them separately.  This will ensure both parties feel heard and respected.  If you notice this trigger, it might be worthwhile taking a step back, acknowledging the problem and taking steps to address the relationship issue.

Identity trigger – in this instance, the feedback is not in line with the individual’s perception of ‘self’ and challenges how they are wired.  For example, the receiver may be told that their actions were unfair when they believe that fairness is their core value.  An identity trigger can cause real distress so needs to be talked about openly to find out all points of view and help the individual understand how their actions have been perceived and if there is anything they could do differently in the future.   


How can you ensure feedback lands well every time?

Firstly, for feedback to land well every time, you need to have a good relationship where both parties feel comfortable to talk openly about their thoughts and feelings.  It is important to create a safe space for discussion where there is no judgement, only acceptance and constructive intent. 

Few people want to create conflict but sometimes the thought of giving feedback can lead to a situation where those involved enter the discussion already on the defensive.  The best attitude for a difficult conversation is a positive and constructive one which allows the problem to be discussed, addressed and resolved in partnership.

Whist a good relationship is important for feedback, so is feedback important for good relationships and strong teams so should be something we engage in at all levels on a regular basis.  If you create an environment where this can be shared constructively at all levels, you should have a space where everyone can thrive.

Do you have examples of good or bad feedback?  How have you ensured an environment where constructive discussions can take place?  Share your experiences in the comments below.


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Photo credit: Gary Scott from Pixabay

Understanding ‘happiness’ as the secret ingredient for successful teams

In the teams I lead, the happiness of individuals is something that matters to me and the reason it matters is because people spend a lot of time at work and I want that time to enhance their lives in some way. 

In a previous blog post, I wrote about helping people to experience ‘flow’ and I acknowledged that we would all probably prefer to be at home, in a sunny garden, with our friends and family, enjoying our time.  Instead, we probably all spend more time than we would like at work with many of us racing the clock to get everything done and the sad fact is that too many people have jobs and managers that make them miserable.

Figures show that ‘over half of the British workforce are unhappy at work which is both a tragedy and a waste of potential’.  The stress that unhappy workplaces create seeps into our personal lives, leaving us in a situation where, even at the weekend, that time with friends and family cannot truly be enjoyed.

So often, I have talked about the importance of happiness in the workplace and I know that many senior leaders misunderstand why this is important and think happiness is a ‘nice’ thing rather than something critical for success.  They see happiness as a concept that is too soft and fluffy for a serious working environment.

It’s understandable that they think this to a certain extent but if they fully understood the concept of happiness, they might well take a different view.

Happiness and Change Coach, Samantha Clarke, describes happiness in the workplace as being something which allows people to ‘bring their whole self to work’.  When I speak about the importance of people being happy at work, this is what I am referring to.  It isn’t happiness for happiness’ sake, it’s about making work satisfying so that they are not stressed and miserable for a start but more importantly because if they are happy at work, then they are likely to be loyal, committed and productive.

In measuring staff engagement, one of the indicators in the Gallup q12 index is whether people ‘have a best friend at work’.  This doesn’t seem like an important question for satisfaction at work but Gallup say their ‘research has repeatedly shown a concrete link between having a best friend at work and the amount of effort they expend in their job’.  Really, it’s about connection.  We spend so much time at work that when individuals feel a greater sense of belonging, it makes them feel more engaged.

What we need to realise to understand this fully is that happiness has two components:

Hedonic well-being is the feeling of pleasure in the moment.  It’s the kind of happiness you might get from going to a party.  It’s a feeling of heightened enjoyment which is sensory and short-lived.  It’s like a dopamine hit – a high that feels immediately satisfying but quickly fades away.

Lasting happiness is what we gain from having meaning and purpose in our lives. In positive psychology, this is known as eudaimonic well-being and is about fulfilling our potential and feeling we are part of something bigger than ourselves.  It’s about having a purpose and links to a range of work on leadership and motivation such as Dan Pink’s ‘Drive’ and Simon Sinek ‘Start with Why’.

The key to understanding happiness is noticing the difference between pleasure and satisfaction.  Most probably, those who have been less convinced about the importance of happiness at work, connect the concept of happiness with that of pleasure.  The concept of satisfaction however, is what you need to consider for this to make sense.  For an engaged workforce, these feelings of happiness need to be encouraged.

If you are asking yourself now how you can create this in your organisations?  This blog is founded in positive psychology so if you look through, you will find lots of ideas for motivating and engaging individuals.  My top 3 articles to read next if you want to increase the levels of happiness in your teams would be the 80/20 balance, results-only working environment, how ‘warm and fuzzy’ motivates teams.

If you have successes to share or questions about how to raise the levels of happiness in your teams, please add them to the comments below.

 

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Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Warning! Working differently can seriously improve the environment (and well-being)

In Cardiff and everywhere, there has been a lot of talk lately about clean air and reducing carbon emissions and indeed, in Wales, the Government has declared a climate emergency which suggests they are finally taking this seriously and we are going to see some critical action.

As ever with this conversation, the ideas and actions for tackling carbon emissions tend to be focused on getting people to switch their mode of travel from the car to cleaner, greener forms of transport such as electric cars, bike or train.

What I notice though is that those responsible for solving this problem rarely seem to ask themselves the very important question: ‘What if people didn’t need to travel?’

We are so entrenched in an industrial model that work is still seen as a place we go rather than something we do and so rarely given the consideration it deserves as one of the tools in the box when it comes to tackling climate change.

As someone with a long history of promoting flexible working, I can see a lot of opportunities not only for the environment but for individuals and employers too. So why are we not talking more about this and how working differently can reduce carbon emissions whilst also increasing community cohesion and overall well-being?

It’s a bold claim but I believe that it’s because so many managers are scared to let people get on with it and unable to tell if they are actually working if they can’t see someone at a desk in front of them. Too many organisations manage people on the basis of time and presence in the office. Just think what we could achieve if that switched to trust and outcomes instead?

Part of the issue is the number of limiting beliefs around different ways of working so here are some common myths and realities that will hopefully help to open up some new ways of thinking about how we can reduce the need to travel for work purposes, reduce carbon emissions and improve air quality.

Myth: When we talk about working differently, we mean people working from home on a permanent basis.

Reality: Working in an office and working from home are just two options in a broad spectrum and also not mutually exclusive. People could maybe work one day a week in their local community which could be at home or in a community hub or café or anywhere they feel inspired. This would reduce the need to travel and increase feelings of connections in the community.

Myth: If people are at home, they will have more distractions.

Reality: When people are working from home, they might put the washing out or get the dinner started and that is actually ok. When they are in work, they might be talking about what happened last night on Coronation Street or making everyone a cup of tea which is also ok. Regardless of whatever household tasks get done when at home, most people would say that working remotely is great for getting on with work projects because there are fewer distractions.

Myth: Working remotely has a negative impact on well-being.

Reality: If you work alone, at home, all day, every day, this can have a negative impact on well-being for some people. However, working from home sometimes can be beneficial because people can concentrate on a piece of work and save time travelling to the office which they can then spend getting jobs done or playing with their children. This can have a positive impact on well-being.

Myth: Supporting remote working requires expensive video conferencing platforms to allow people to remain connected.

Reality: We are better connected than ever before so utilisation of the wide range of free channels available to us means that teams can remain connected regardless of location.

Myth: Managers are automatically equipped to cope with any working arrangement.

Reality: Technology has transformed what is possible in the workplace, allowing people to work whenever and wherever is best to get the job done. Ensuring staff performance when managing remote workers is something that many feel less confident about so training should be built in to organisational development programmes to ensure managers have the necessary skills to cope with all situations.

 

Do you think working differently has the potential to help reduce carbon emissions? Do you have thoughts on how we can build confidence and skills to manage different ways of working? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

 

If you like this article, you might like to read this one too: Want greater staff retention, less sickness absence and increased productivity? Join the results based revolution and unleash the power within.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

5 things that will add some Strictly sparkle to your line management

It’s that time of year where many of us are tuning our tellies every Saturday night to that family favourite ‘Strictly Come Dancing’.  In our house, we love to settle down for the evening and watch the glitzy spectacle of sequins, heels and hairpieces, enjoying the glamour and fun that draws in viewers from across Britain.

Watching the show, it’s heartening to see clueless, inexperienced individuals become confident and capable dancers.  It’s even better to watch the relationship between mentor and mentee develop as the celebrities see their good faith and hard work pay off.  We literally see contestants blossom and grow as the weeks progress.

With a new baby at home, this has become a Saturday night staple and I’ve been watching not only the weekend shows but also the weekday behind the scenes spin-off programme ‘It Takes Two’.  As a result, I’ve noticed a number of qualities and behaviours that we could all adopt as leaders and managers to get staff performing to the best of their ability.

I’m sure there are many lessons we can take from the show but here are 5 things that will add a little extra sparkle to your line management:

1)      Be enthusiastic and encouraging – from the clips of rehearsals, the interviews on It Takes Two and the filming on the night, you can see that the professional dancer is always super enthusiastic and encouraging which helps to build the celebrity’s confidence and make it a positive experience.

2)      Focus on strengths – the pro-dancer focuses on those things the celebrity can do well and celebrates these things in order to give them a boost which increases their confidence and keeps them motivated.

3)      Help them to improve – the professionals identify areas for improvement, helping the celebrity to sharpen their skills and develop gradually rather than overwhelming them and forcing them to try lots of things they are struggling with.

4)      Allow mentee to shine – the pros look to show the celebrity in their best light and allow them to shine brightly and enjoy their success regardless of what level they are at.

5)      Focus on fun! – they remember that it’s about having fun so despite pushing them to their limits, they encourage their celebrities to enjoy the whole experience and make the most of their time in the competition with many of the celebrities saying they intend to continue dancing long after their time on Strictly ends.

 

Are you watching the show and have some other ideas to add to this list? Add your thoughts in the comments below.

 

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Why you should take on a Trustee role and how you can make it happen

This week, 12 – 16th November 2018, is Trustees Week where we celebrate the efforts of hundreds of thousands of volunteers who give up their time to ensure robust leadership and governance for charities across the UK.  This is also an opportunity to encourage and inspire others to get involved at this level.

What is a Trustee?

Trustees are responsible for a charity and work together to ensure financial sustainability, legal compliance and provide strategic direction. These people are often volunteers and make up a ‘Board of Trustees’ or ‘management committee’ which becomes the body for decision making in an organisation. Trustees should bring their own individual knowledge and opinions but support any decisions made as a collective.

Charities are always looking for skilled people to join their Trustee board so there are lots of opportunities to volunteer at this level.  Figures shared as part of trustees week suggest that there are roughly 196,000 charities across the UK with over a million Trustees in total.

Why do people become Trustees?

Probably the main reason for becoming a Trustee is the desire to make a difference and support a cause.  It is personally rewarding to contribute in this way and can have a significant positive impact on the wellbeing of those who volunteer and of course the beneficiaries of the organisation delivering the work. Not only that but as Reach Volunteering highlight, becoming a Trustee can be good for your career as well as your health’, supporting individuals to gain strategic experience, strengthen professional networks, learn new skills and more.

Speaking to a number of experienced trustees, it is clear that the role is challenging but rewarding at the same time…

“I was passionate about the charity sector benefiting from robust leadership, governance and strategic planning. Few voluntary sector organisations have access to trusted and impartial critical friends or expertise in particular professions so their board is a good opportunity to source those expertise. For me, it was also an opportunity to gain insight into how another voluntary organisation operates in a very different area of policy & practice so I learned a huge amount too. I strengthened my professional network and I got to volunteer my time skills and energy in the process. It made me a more rounded strategic operator and it wasn’t without its challenges so I feel it was time well spent” Nina Prosser, Trustee, Touch Trust (2015 – 2017)

“I became a trustee to make a difference for a charity I cared about.  As the honorary treasurer, I was able to use my financial knowledge to help the charity resolve some of its long term financial risks. On a personal level, I learnt a lot outside of my specialism and this helped me develop on a personal and professional basis”Alex Mannings, Honorary Treasurer, Ramblers GB (2015 – 2018)

In Wales, Empower offers a matching service, working with charities to identify what skills they need and then approaching high calibre individuals to fill these positions. Director, Bev Garside, said:

“Trustee recruitment is one of the most enjoyable parts of our role here at Empower because it provides an opportunity for real win-win partnerships.  For potential trustees, it provides an opportunity to utilise existing skills and develop new ones through a strategic non-executive directorship role within the charity sector.  For charities, there is the opportunity to benefit from highly skilled individuals bringing their specialisms and their passion to the board”.

“Trusteeship is an ideal proving ground for those wishing to move into a paid leadership position and companies benefit encouraging senior managers to seek appointments to charity boards”.

If you are interested in becoming a Trustee with an organisation in Wales, contact: bev@empowersvs.co.uk  

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[Photo: Pixabay]

Women Leaders

[Guest post by Hilarie Owen]


Most organisations are aware of gender inequality and many are trying to address the issue with training programmes, coaching and trying to build a pipeline but these actions are not delivering the results quick enough. Filling the pipeline hasn’t produced the results and neither have policies. The barriers that hinder progress for women are far more complex and elusive. 

Following my webinar on women, power and leadership that was held on International Women’s Day 2018 with three great speakers I decided to explore women leaders in more depth. I interviewed women leaders across society from business, the arts, science, technology and government. I was enthralled by their autobiographical narratives. Their stories were engaging and it became clear that their leadership emerged and grew from their experiences. It quickly unfolded that there were key patterns that were central to their ability to lead that I will try and capture in my new book. One of the noticeable things was that in 30 interviews I did not find one ego. In fact these women were like you and me so we can’t say ‘Ah, but they are different’.

Each woman, regardless of their background or education, had common elements they had developed. It wasn’t as simple as qualities, as important as these are, but constructs they had combined to form their leadership – a different form of leadership to the older male version.

I’ve been immersed in what makes great leaders for the last 20 years, helping to inspire high performance in top teams around the world, including my research with the RAF’s Red Arrows. Women are doing amazing things in business, the military, politics, sports and the arts. Yet the number of occupying senior posts is falling.  Globally, while women are receiving higher education gender parity is shifting backwards for the first time since 2006, according to the 2017 Global Gender Gap Report and what stands out is that although women across the world are highly educated the workplace is still not give them parity.

In the UK, more women are joining boards as Non-Executive Directors but this has become more of a tick box exercise as the numbers of full time women directors remain static. According to a report from Grant Thornton in 2017, the number of women coming through into senior management posts is actually declining. How can this possibly be? Surely we already have the policies and procedures we need in place. The solution isn’t to ‘fix women’ but to fix the barriers in organisations. So the book not only focuses on women leaders but how to enable organisations to be far more inclusive. The book will be launched in the Spring but people can pre-order copies now by going to:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/614479735/welead-women-leaders-and-inclusive-organisations?ref=project_build
So far, I have written eight books on leadership that sell around the world opening up opportunities to work in different countries. Everywhere I meet inspiring women who are doing amazing work and campaigning for more opportunities for women.  My aim is quite clear. One day when someone asks women ‘what do you do? The answer will be ‘weLEAD’.

 

© Hilarie Owen  hilarie.owen@iofl.org

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Why I think becoming a mum will enhance my leadership skills

Obviously having a baby is a huge event which changes your life forever but aside from the insane personal benefits, I’m convinced that there are professional advantages as well.  Of course there will be challenges to overcome around balancing work and family life which should not be under estimated but even this, once accepted, can help to develop a number of management and leadership skills.

A few years ago, I was doing some coaching with someone looking to take the first step into management and I encouraged her to consider how she would usually get her children to do things they don’t want to do.  At first, she couldn’t see what I was getting at but when she started talking me through, she could see how the techniques she used with her children could be adapted and used in the workplace.  Things like explaining the problem, what needs to change and how they are going to do that; making the children realise that this needs to happen quickly; checking their understanding of the situation; empowering them to take an active role in the process; and praising them when things go well all fit within Kotter’s 8 step process of successful change.

There are lots of other aspects of leadership that I believe will be strengthened too.  Here are just 5 things I think will be different when I get back:

1)      I’ll be a better role model – I know I’m already a role model within the organisation and in the industry, however, at the minute it’s a responsibility that I take seriously but maybe don’t demonstrate at all times in the way that I should.  From the second my baby is born, I can never be off duty, instead, I will be constantly be aware of how my behaviour impacts on those around me and the responsibility I have to live within my values at all times.

2)      My organisational skills will be second to none – my colleagues perceive me to already be very organised but whilst at the minute, I can add appointments into my calendar and make sure I’ve got the right paperwork, I manage to hide my inner chaos beneath a professional façade.  Once there’s a baby in the mix, I won’t be able to leave anything to chance.  Already, I’m making sure we’ve stocked up on essentials at home and all manner of bags are packed, ready for a multitude of eventualities.  In a blog published by Motherly on what new mothers want everyone in the office to know, they put it like this: ‘I now prioritise like nobody’s business, I will prove to be more efficient than anyone else in the team’.  If you thought I was efficient before, you ain’t seen nothing yet!

3)      I’ll bring increased compassion & understanding – the Motherly article puts it as being able to ‘anticipate the needs of others’ which is certainly an aspect but there’s more.  I’ll understand pregnancy and maternity in a way that you can only if you’ve been through it and whilst I already make sure my staff prioritise the school play, swimming gala or sports day, I’ll understand even more why that matters.  I also think I’ll be even more kind and compassionate, noticing the subtle signs that tell me someone is not ok.

4)      I’ll be so much more resilient – I’ve kept going throughout this pregnancy, walking the dog twice a day, every day; flying to give a presentation at 35 weeks; ad making the most of the pregnancy insomnia to get ahead during a busy period – me and my baby already know resilience but I certainly am going to develop so much more!  In my Mumsnet group for August babies, I asked some of the already new and existing mums for any tips for sleep deprivation.  One mum offered two words ‘survival and endurance’.  It’s going to be tough but if I can get through this, I really can do anything.

5)      My perspective will change – over the years, I have learnt to put the challenges into perspective and try not to stress about the things that don’t matter overall.  If I haven’t mastered it already, this change will surely remind me that life is the main goal and that it is always rich in experiences, good and bad but all to be cherished and enjoyed as much as possible.

 

Do you notice any positive changes when you returned to work after having a baby?  Do you have further thoughts on my suggestions above?  Share your experiences in the comments below.

 

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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

 

 

 

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