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    

 

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

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

A hit of dopamine and sprinkling of oxytocin

Something that stood out for me when reading Simon Sinek’s ‘Leaders East Last’ was the section on chemicals in the body. In my previous organisation, my team was fortunate to be offered lots of fantastic opportunities which I encouraged them to take. This often pushed them out of their comfort zones, creating powerful feelings of challenge and achievement.

We had also introduced new organisational values at that time which encouraged ambition and, I felt, self-service. Whilst family and togetherness was the essence of one of the values, the others were in danger of encouraging competition amongst the team and whilst I want my teams to be driven, in this situation it felt like the balance was in danger of tipping in the wrong direction.

As I read the book, I realised that my team were high on dopamine and endorphins most of the time which feels great when you’re up but have a tendency to throw you down after the initial surge and make you want to chase the buzz these chemicals provide.

The opportunities in my area of work were amazing and we were all pleased to be able to enjoy this aspect but I did often feel exhausted by the highs and lows I experienced. The book also describes these chemicals as ‘selfish chemicals’ which push us to make progress but sometimes at the expense of others.

Sinek describes another two chemicals – serotonin and oxytocin – which are ‘selfless chemicals’. These chemicals encourage the strengthening of social bonds, foster connection and allow us to work together. I realised we needed more of these and I started to think of ways to introduce them.

My solution took the form of awards which provided recognition to those who went the extra mile. Not just in their work but in what they did for others. Achieving in this space provided the warm, fuzzy feeling we had been lacking, encouraging appreciation of each other and making people want to give back so others could share the love.

This idea operated on two levels – one for my team on a monthly basis and one for the organisation as part of our annual conference. The awards allowed colleagues to say thank you to each other for doing something nice which took the focus away from business results just for a moment. They rewarded the personal achievements like resilience, team work and being supportive.

It made the difference we needed. I didn’t put an end to the highs and who would want to? A dopamine rush is pretty amazing! But it did mean there was a little bit more of the cuddle drug flying around to create a sense of harmony.

Click here for a summary of Simon Sinek’s ‘Leaders Eat Last’.

Click here to watch Sinek explain the concept in person.

Or buy the book here: Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t

3minuteleadership.org

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