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.

 

3minuteleadership.org

Why becoming a great leader is a journey not a destination

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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.

 

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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

 

How Managers can use positive psychology to help individuals smash their goals and reach their potential

Positive psychology is an area of behavioural science which focuses on individual strengths and explores how these can be used to help people build fulfilling lives. For a long time, the study of psychology has examined techniques for fixing what’s wrong with people in an attempt to make it better. Positive psychology concentrates on what’s right and seeks to build on that in a way that enhances life satisfaction and fulfilment. 

How can we use positive psychology to ensure wellbeing and satisfaction in the workplace?

How often do Managers give feedback on people’s work by focusing on what’s wrong and needs to be improved or what they think could be better? The problem with this approach is that it’s very subjective for a start – what one Manager thinks is amazing, another could see as not good enough – and it also zooms in on failure & shortcomings.  Individuals easily become unmotivated and disengaged if all they ever hear is what they are not doing right.

Positive psychology requires that we turn this on its head to focus on the good things and how they can be improved even further. For me, it requires that we identify what that individual does really well and what skills or expertise they bring to the team and how that can be maximised to enhance organisational performance.

A popular formula within this school of thought is know as ‘the golden ratio’, developed by Barbara Fredrickson who believed that in order to thrive, we must have three positive emotions for every negative. That means the balance of feedback when speaking to staff should be three positives for every negative. When energy is concentrated on the good, the not so good is less noticeable and easier to handle with out impacting levels of satisfaction and motivation.

Managing people in this way makes them feel great. When they feel this way, they will work harder, be more loyal, have greater respect for Management and perform at their best for the benefit of the organisation. Doesn’t this sound worthwhile?

So why do so many Managers still insist on highlighting weakness and telling people what they should do better?

Personally, I think there is a link here with hierarchy and the inherent need to reinforce power. To hold power in a hierarchical system, you need to create a dynamic where you know more than others and the way to achieve this is to tell them how they should be better. 

As a Manager, I see my role as one of supporting others in the team. My aim is to help those individuals to be the best they can be and make sure they can use their strengths to contribute to the organisation’s overall objectives. That for me is the starting point; I am equal to the others and my role is to support, facilitate and coordinate so that the team as a whole delivers for the business.

Imagine this conversation in your monthly 1-1’s: ‘Wow Sam! You have done fantastic work this month, you must be really proud of your achievements! What are you goals for the coming period and how can I support you to smash them?’.
Do you have conversations like that with your team? If not, could you try and see what difference it makes? Let us know your thoughts and findings by posting 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

 

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

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