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:

 

www.3minuteleadership.org 

 

Photo: Pixabay.com

 

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.

 

3minuteleadership.org    

 

Giveaway: Drive – the surprising truth about what motivates us

This month, we are giving away a copy of Daniel Pink’s New York Times top 10 bestseller ‘Drive: The surprising truth about what motivate us’ and here’s the reason why…



A couple of years ago, as part of a management course, I attended a workshop that explored how we can keep people motivated.  Keen to get the best out of my teams, I was listening intently, excited at the prospect of learning new ways to engage people and enhance performance.  As the tutor explained Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, he outlined the different levels of need which need to be fulfilled for an individual to achieve the central goal of ‘self-actualisation’ or ‘full realisation of potential’.

This was great but I already knew about Maslow and was hoping to be able to build on this knowledge and take something new from the session.  Having an awareness of modern theories in this area, I was puzzled to hear the tutor say that there haven’t been any motivational thinkers since Maslow in the 1960’s and 70’s.

After the tutor had finished presenting, he moved around the room to speak to the different groups.  When he reached our group, I raised my thoughts with him:

‘You mentioned that there haven’t been any motivation theories since Maslow but I actually do know of one’.

‘Ah yes’ he said ‘are you talking about Daniel Pink?’

I confirmed that I was indeed speaking of Daniel Pink and his theory set out in the book ‘Drive’.  To my surprise, the tutor responded:

‘Yes, we’re not allowed to teach that’.

Thankfully for me, I’d read Pink’s theory already and put the ideas into practice to great effect so I was dismayed to realise that others were being prevented from exploring Pink’s theory.

At a later event I went to where we were discussing well-being, the conversation turned to staff and motivation.  It was clear that there remains a view that people ‘just’ go to work for money and that’s all they are looking for.  I don’t believe this is the case and whilst money is important – of course, we all want to have nice things and a comfortable lifestyle where we can spend our days experiencing joy and not worry – money alone does not provide job satisfaction and fulfilment.  Drive explores this idea in more detail, considering why people go to work and how Managers can capitalise on that to encourage optimum performance.

It wouldn’t be fair for me to spoil the book for you so if you, like me, did not cover Daniel Pink in your management course but want to know how to help people in your team to reach their potential, I suggest you retweet or share on social media and subscribe to this blog before 27th October to be in with a chance to win your own copy and see what difference it could make.

 

3minuteleadership.org

 

 

Help people find their ‘flow’ and make every day feel like Friday

Have you seen the new Lucozade ad?  The energy drink brand has decided to shake its image as a hangover cure and look for a new audience amongst busy professionals.  The campaign, titled ‘find your flow’, features normal people in everyday situations performing beyond their best thanks to Lucozade.

“Flow. The unmistakeable feeling of unstoppable. Of no problem that can’t be solved. Of no-one else can do it better. That whatever the day throws at you, you simply take it in your stride because you’ve found your rhythm. You’re on top form.” (Lucozade 2015, Find your flow)

The ad company responsible, Grey London, have taken inspiration from psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi who created the concept of ‘flow’ after extensive research on the topic.  It’s the feeling of being completely ‘into’ what you are doing.  Of being wholly absorbed in a task or activity and of losing yourself in a moment.

Csikszentmihalyi describes ‘flow’ asbeing completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.” 

That’s what I want to feel when I’m at work and what I want my team to feel also.  I’d like them to love what they do so much that they can immerse themselves in their tasks and spend most of their time ‘in the zone’.

Why should we aim to help individuals find their ‘flow’ in the workplace?

I’m really conscious that people spend a lot of time at work.  Over a lifetime, it’s around 90,000 hours if we work full-time from leaving school to retirement.  This is time that many people would rather spend doing something else such as sitting in the garden, playing with the children or walking the dog.

It’s an ambitious aim but I want the people in my teams to enjoy what they do almost as much so they are focused on delivering great things for the organisation rather than wishing they were somewhere else.  My view is that if I can help them find their ‘flow’ at work, I can help them to maximise their contribution to the organisation and enhance their overall life satisfaction.

How do we create an environment that supports individuals to find their flow’?

Based on 10 factors which are known to accompany the feeling of ‘flow’ here are 8 things that leaders should seek to provide in the workplace to allow employees to immerse themselves in their activities:

1)      Set clear goals that are challenging but achievable

2)      Allow people to concentrate on their goals and focus their attention

3)      Ensure their work is rewarding and ensure recognition of their efforts

4)      Create an environment where they feel secure and not self-conscious

5)      Give feedback

6)      Ensure tasks are achievable and suitable for the individual’s level of skill whilst providing a healthy challenge

7)      Allow ownership of a task or responsibility

8)      Minimise any distractions that will prevent the individual from focusing on the activity

 

Do you agree that helping people to find their ‘flow’ is an important goal?  Have you tried to create this kind of environment in your workplace?  Let us know your experiences by posting in the comments below.

 

3minuteleadership.org

 

Photo credit: Pixabay

 

Is a decent salary and good pension really enough to motivate people?

After watching a video on motivation shared by Harvard Business Review, there were some points I wanted to share.

Firstly, The Explainer: One more time, how do you motivate employees? says that force is the first thing not to use if you want to motivate employees.  It seems widely accepted today that ordering people to do something is not the way to inspire people and get them on board.

One of my early blogs focused on Daniel Pink’s thoughts on motivation, set out in his book Drive.  He says that the basic need is salary so employers should ‘pay enough to take money off the table’.  This video says something similar, setting out Hertzberg’s ‘hygiene factors’ of salary, working conditions and job security.  These factors echo Maslow’s theory of motivation which suggests that motivation requires people’s basic needs to be met as a starting point.  I’ve worked in organisations where the belief seemed to be that paying a decent salary and good pension is enough to motivate people.  Instead, I would suggest that these basic factors encourage people to stay with your organisation and so come to work every day but they are not enough to make people perform.

What we need to be thinking about as leaders is how to get people to take responsibility and move forward on their own.  This next layer includes factors such as challenging work, autonomy, recognition and advancement.  These things get people interested and fired up to push things forward so that they achieve high performance.

As a manager, I believe that achieving this is about taking a more hands-off approach and giving individuals space to try things and learn from them.  To avoid things taking a long time or moving in the wrong direction, I provide clarity around the overall aims and objectives, advice and guidance on how to complete the task and parameters for the work.  This includes my thoughts on the best way to go about things, how I envisage it will look or feel and time allowed for the task.

For me, this all takes the form of a discussion where individuals can challenge my views and share their own ideas.  Once we have agreed the requirements of the work, I leave them to carry on with it, checking progress on a regular basis and offering support so they know where I am if they have questions or need advice.

This approach requires trust and humility; it requires me to let them be expert in what they do and accept that they might know more or have better ideas.  The more I can let them act on their own beliefs and draw on their expertise, the more happy, satisfied and motivated they feel in their work. It has always seemed to me that it increases loyalty, respect and commitment as well.

Furthermore, I would suggest that motivating people requires an appreciation of the individual and respect for a diversity of views and opinions, spending time as a team and allowing space for relationships to develop, celebrating success, encouraging them to push forward and supporting them to achieve their personal goals.

Do you use any of the techniques above? How do you achieve motivation and performance within your team? Share your thoughts below.

3miuteleadership.org

 

 

It’s just like a magic penny, hold it tight and you won’t have any

At the end of last year, I finally got the one thing I’ve wanted for absolutely ever – a four legged furry friend otherwise know as a dog! As we had our first few walks together, I observed the importance of trust in our relationship and considered how we were managing to build this.

I noticed the process we were going through as I first let her off the lead in an enclosed space where I knew I could reach her if she didn’t come back to me. As we played together with our ball, I was able to see that she wasn’t looking to get away and so I could move the boundary to give her more space. Now, I don’t worry at all, I feel confident to let her off the lead in the park because I know she will watch for me and come back if I call.

In my view, it’s similar in all relationships including those at work. The best way to build trust is through trust itself. Leaders and managers must offer some space for people to show they are trustworthy. Set the boundaries and be clear about expectations.  After that, you only need to keep a watchful eye in case they need your support but otherwise, you can let the team get on with it. This way, you allow people to show you that your faith is well placed.

When I interviewed someone a few years ago about agile working she said something which has stayed with me ever since: ‘why would you hire someone you don’t think you can trust?’.  She also made the point that people have families to take care of and mortgages to pay so why on earth wouldn’t they be able to take responsibility for their work? If there are performance issues, it’s far more likely to be a problem with management than anything else.

In the workplace, trust has been a key theme for organisations over the last few years. In 2014, HR magazine said ‘trust – or lack of it – is going to be a big issue this year’. Why? Because a command and control style of management and a theory X point of view creates an environment of distrust. As a new generation joins the workforce, the leadership debate has developed and new management styles are emerging.  Millenials expect some thing different and trust is a central part of the deal.

According to the CIPD, 37% of employees do not trust their senior managers and 33% think trust between employees and senior management in their workplace is weak. If this is your organisation, you probably notice low morale and a lack of employee engagement. It’s also likely that performance and productivity are suffering as a result.

So what exactly do we mean when we talk about trust in organisation and how can we get more?

An article on the traits of trustworthy people suggests that they are authentic, consistent, compassionate, have high levels of integrity, are kind, resourceful, humble, available and connected.  Research from MIT also identifies integrity and consistency as ‘the key differentiator between companies that violate trust and those that sustain it’.  In the popular book, The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team, Lencioni cites trust as the number one reason why teams (and, in turn, organisations) do not succeed.

The solution for organisations, I believe, is to demonstrate trust so that it can be seen in return.  Put the right framework in place to monitor what’s important and ensure you appoint leaders who are able to live up to the values that allow trust to develop.  It is also useful to make your leaders open to feedback from employees and other stakeholders by practicing listening on a regular basis.

Overall, the concept of trust and how it is built reminds me of a song I learnt in primary school:

It’s just like a magic penny, hold it tight and you won’t have any. [Trust] is something if you give it away, you end up having more.

 

For more on listening, try ‘Listen hard, even to what they are not saying’.

3minuteleadership.org


Why settle for mediocre? Aim to make your people outstanding

It’s that time of year for me when I’m talking to people about performance over the last six months. 

Committed to helping people be the best they can be and also to delivering maximum value with public funds, this is a process I’ve spent much time considering in order to ensure it delivers for the individuals I support.
My quest for perfection in performance management, has led to a number of steps that can provide a framework within which individuals can develop and deliver for your organisation.

Setting clear objectives is the first task if you want to create an environment where people can succeed. This step should provide clear direction in line with the organisation’s aims and ensure that person can meet their goals in a timely manner and know when the objective has been achieved. In particular, agreeing objectives which are SMART brings clarity to plans and ensures they can be completed within an agreed timeframe.

After this stage, it is important to work with the individual to agree what ‘good’ looks like. I’m not sure it’s possible for individuals to really excel in delivering their priorities if you haven’t discussed exactly what is required. Setting out expectations clearly from the beginning allows people to go the extra mile to ensure a high standard.

In observing performance management in a number of organisations, I’ve noticed that reviews too often become a process that people have to go through with little awareness of what they are about (see what’s wrong with performance management and annual reviews). In many cases, managers set objectives and sign off progress without much thought or discussion.

For me, it’s about creating a structure for people to succeed with a focus on encouraging and supporting them to exceed expectations. It seems to me that managers should consider it a priority to ensure their people are encouraged able to become ‘outstanding’ and concentrate their efforts on achieving this goal. I’m sure all organisations desire to have high performing teams so let’s stop thinking that mediocre is good enough and give people something to aim for.

Finally, I don’t believe that performance conversations looking back over a six month period go far enough to provide focus and motivation. Whilst my objectives might be set annually, I set out my plan to achieve them by looking forward over a three month period and reviewing progress on a monthly basis. This ensures the thinking time and prioritising which is necessary to make an impact. I’m then able to look back and see if I have achieved my goals, ensure my time is spent on the right things and to know if my objectives are the right ones.

As the year comes to a close, I wonder how your teams have performed over the last twelve months and offer a challenge to all of you to make a commitment for the new year to adopt a system that allows your people to shine in 2017.

3minuteleadership.org

Adopting a coaching approach

Coaching is an important and valuable skill for leadership today and is a useful tool for developing people in your team.

I’ve found that by asking questions and helping individuals to think things through, they have a much deeper understanding of the issue. Compare that with a situation where you tell them the answer, you can’t be sure they have grasped the point you are trying to make.

This approach has been extremely useful in ensuring my team knows how their work fits with the bigger picture and what we are trying to achieve. Not what the job is that must be done but what the task is designed to achieve and how we can make this happen.

One of my main influences has been Myles Downey who sets out the GROW model in his book, Effective Coaching. To illustrate this model, I am going to explore an example from a time that I worked with a member of my team to develop a research project.  The individual, who I will call Lauren, needed to understand the importance of the project she was working on and the potential to influence change if approached in the right way.

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GROW model
1. Identify the topic – you must first understand exactly what topic needs to be discussed. For Lauren, it was a research project she was working on.

2. Goal – this part explores what the individual needs to achieve. In my example, I wanted her to understand the purpose of the project so that she could ensure she developed the work to achieve the overall aim and bring about the change in society that we were looking to achieve. Having an understanding would ensure a better quality of work.

3. Reality – there were boundaries and constraints that would limit the project so understanding the reality would ensure the work concentrated on what was achievable within these.

4. Options – here we explored what actions she could take that would ensure the potential of this piece of work was maximised. It is important to say here that Lauren had previously been an academic researcher who would have explored a topic to add to a wider body of work. This work, however, was for a charity so I was keen that the budget was used to fund a project that pushed forward the agenda and influenced behaviours.

5. Wrap-up – after exploring a range of questions about the project, it was time to come to some conclusions so we recapped what Lauren understood about the project as a result of our discussion.  We then established a commitment to focus her actions on things that would ensure we maximised the value of the project and we agreed that I would support her going forward by meeting on a regular basis to discuss progress.

Exploring the project in this way had a significant impact on Lauren’s understanding. On a training course years ago, the tutor expressed a learning mantra which I have held close ever since. He said that in teaching others, you must remember the following –

I listen, I forget.      I see, I remember.      I do, I understand.

Rather than telling someone the answer or showing them how to do it (doing it for them), adopting a coaching approach ensures the individual does the work to think things through which means they are able to develop a real understanding of the issue at hand and develop a true commitment to taking things forward in an effective manner.

3minuteleadership.org

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