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 mistakes and failure are critical for success

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

3minuteleadership.org

 

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