Saturday, February 27, 2010

Is your organisation worthy of your commitment

Is your organisation worthy of your commitment? If you are a leader within an organisation, what are you doing to create an organisation that is worthy of the commitment of the people who work there?

I first heard these two questions in 2001. They were posed by a wonderful woman named Michelle Hunt, who has spent the better part of the last fifteen years helping organisations to answer these two questions.

What organisations, from your experience, have been worthy of your commitment? This is a free chance for you to advertise and possibly attract talent to those organisations.

From my perspective, creating an organisation that is worthy of the commitment of the people who work there is a strategic decision. Think about the advantages of having commited versus uncommited staff. It is hardly a contest, is it!

It is also possible that you may have worked in a department of an organisation that had somehow managed to be worthy of your commitment, even though the rest of the organisation may have been toxic or at least not worthy of your commitment.

Please note that these questions do not suggest that you shouldn't be doing your best for your organisation, even if it is not worthy of your commitment. The questions are really about the deliberate and conscious culture that your organisation is trying to create that genuinely values the contributions of the people who work in the organisation. With regard to culture, all of us contribute to an organisation's culture, at least to some degree. In that context, all of us are to a smaller or greater extent, contributors to the worthiness or otherwise of the organisations within which we work. For example, if unacceptable behaviour such as bullying is tolerated (which means it has become acceptable), but we have never done anything about it (I acknowledge how difficult taking action in such circumstances can be) then we have in fact contributed to the continuation of that culture.

Please share your thoughts and experiences on this topic.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

How a collaborative style and positional authority work hand in hand for effective leadership

Below is a dialogue between two colleagues. One of them Paul, is upset with his manager because he believes that while she preaches ‘collaboration’, she is in fact (to him) a hypocrite. His colleague Aiden provides a different perspective and eventually enables Paul to see that maybe his manager isn’t the hypocrite he thinks she is.

Paul: “Amanda is a hypocrite!”

Aiden: “What do you mean?”

Paul: “Well, she says that she wants us to collaborate, so I gave her my opinion about the Seymour incident and she’s pulled rank on me. I’ve been told that it’s her decision and that if I do what I said I was going
to do, then I’ll be in trouble.”

Aiden: “Hmmm. You’re saying that Amanda has asked you for your opinion, you’ve given it and she’s made a decision that is not what you want. Is that correct?”

Paul: “Yes. That is exactly what has happened. She’s a hypocrite!”

Aiden: “Paul, let’s slow down for a second. What behaviour does Amanda display when you believe that she has listened to you?”

Paul: “Well, that’s easy. She does what I want. That proves that she has listened. After all, that’s what collaboration is, isn’t it?”

Aiden: “Well, not exactly. If we slow down and listen to what you’re saying it sounds like Amanda has to do what you want otherwise she isn’t seen to be listening to you. Is that what you mean?”

Paul: “No, not really. But she asked me to give my opinion and then she didn’t take it. What’s the point of asking me what I think?”

Aiden: “The point is that Amanda is seeking more information by getting your opinion. Think back over the past few times that Amanda has asked your opinion, have there been any times when she has appeared to listen to you?”

Paul: “Yes, a couple. There was the Monroe issue and the Pothole issue where Amanda’s final decision was very close to what I thought we should do.”

Aiden: “So, from your perspective Amanda does listen sometimes?”

Paul: “Yes, sometimes.”

Aiden: “What’s your definition of when Amanda isn’t listening to you?

Paul: “That’s obvious. When her decisions are different to what I want.”

Aiden: “Paul, Can you hear what you are saying? It seems to me that you’re saying that unless Amanda’s decisions equal what you want, then she’s being a hypocrite because she hasn’t listened to you. Yet you agree that there have been times when her decisions have been very similar to what your input recommended.”

Paul: “I’m listening” nodded Paul.

Aiden: “Look at it this way. When you’ve been a boss in the past, don’t you expect your positional authority to count for something from time to time?”

Paul: “Yes”

Aiden: “In that case, isn’t it possible that Amanda really has listened? In taking your opinion on board she has decided to do something different. She has then used her positional authority, which she is entitled to use, to make the decision. What’s wrong with that?”

Paul: “Okay. I suppose that you have a point. In fact she did say that she was using her positional authority to ‘make the call’. I took offence to that for some reason, but I’m not sure why”.

Aiden: “Great. I’m glad you’ve been open to having this chat.”

Paul; “Yeah, so I am I. I was going to go and do something that probably wouldn’t have been the right thing to do. In fact,, I probably would have undermined Amanda if I had continued with the action that I was planning to do. I suppose there are just times when I’m not going to fully understand Amanda’s decisions. I suppose I’ll just need to trust her and keep asking questions. That can’t hurt, can it?

Aiden: “Of course not. And my experience with Amanda is that she does listen and does try to explain why her decisions are what they are. I think that sometimes we don’t listen to her because we’re so focussed on what we want. Maybe it wouldn’t hurt for us all to have a chat about these issues at our next meeting.

Paul: “You really think that she’d be up for it?”

Aiden: “Yeah, I do.”

This dialogue highlights how powerful mental models (see How what you think affects what you see) can be and how they can influence what we see and don’t see. In this situation a manager who collaborates with her team is seen as being a hypocrite simply because she at times, makes decisions that aren’t exactly what her team members want her to do.

Collaboration exists when people work as a team. Teamwork requires members to perform their role from both a technical role and team role (see What Makes People Tick Personality Profile & Job Fit Assessments) perspective. In this context it is fair and reasonable for a leader to exert their positional authority from time to time when making decisions. Providing the leader is constantly seeking and absorbing input from team members, there may be times when the leader has to make a decision and that decision may not be popular with the rest of the team. The nature of a leadership role means that leaders are exposed to information that other staff are not able to access. (at least not in the same timeframe). This means that sometimes leaders have access to information as an input to their decision-making that other team members may not yet know. This can create a paradox for the leader who wishes to be known for their collaborative style because there are times (such as employee disciplinary processes) when a leader is not able to share all the information with their team members.

A way to manage this situation is for the leader to declare when they are expressing a view from the perspective of their formal position and authority, compared to when they are simply expressing a view. For such a system to work the leader will need to conduct a series of conversations with their team about how such a system should work. The intention of the system is to enable team members to be able to speak candidly with their ‘boss’ (see the video Transparency – How leaders create a culture of candor).

If conversations such as the ones just described had been conducted throughout Paul and Aiden’s team’s history, it is unlikely that Paul would have been so convinced that his manager, Amanda, was a hypocrite.

What have been your experiences with regard to the challenge of having a collaborative leadership style, with making decisions when required?

Please feel free to ask questions and comment on this article.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

How to use illustrations to catalyse Conversations That Matter®

Creating Conversations That Matter® is a key skill for organisational leaders. Amidst forecasting, attending to meetings and writing reports, the development of this skill is often neglected. Think about it, how do you stimulate Conversations That Matter® with your peers, direct reports and your leaders? How do you stimulate them with your key stakeholders and clients?

Conversations That Matter® are conversations where people are able to speak from the heart, speak their truth (whatever it may be) in a safe environment where there will not be negative consequences for speaking their mind. This does not mean that people lose responsibility for what they say. Rather, their responsibility increases as respect is a core requirement for a conversation that matters to be conducted.

So how might a leader create a conversation that matters, especially when there may be a level of distrust present amongst team members?

One way is to use illustrations to catalyse your conversations. For these conversations to be successful, the leader must be prepared to do the following five practices:

1. Be prepared to 'listen to understand' to what is being said, rather than listening to defend/justify
2. Guarantee that no negative consequences will result to people as a result of the conversation
3. Listen more than speak - a good rule of thumb to follow is to speak 30% and to listen 70% of the time
4. Be prepared to ask open questions (see The Art of Skilful Questions)
5. Judge the quality of the conversation by the level of truth that is present in the conversation (see the video Transparency - How leaders create a culture of candor)

If you are able to follow the five practices above, then determine the focus of your conversation, then select an image that you could use and give it a go. As an example a great friend of ours Jock MacNeish has been creating such illustrations for the best part of his life. Over time Jock has created many illustrations for us and the 0 to 10 Relationship Management body of knowledge. As Licensed Elite Trainer Facilitators in 0 to10 Relationship Management, Andrew and I are able to use Jock’s illustrations.

The 0 to 10 Relationship Management Culture Survey illustrations are very powerful catalysts for enabling people to have a conversation that matters. If you were interested to know what your team members thought about the level of autonomy that they had in their jobs, you could place the illustration below on the table and ask them to mark on the scale where they believe the level currently sits.

When people place their finger on the scale that they believe represents their view, simply say, "Thank you for your honesty. What examples do you have that would help me to understand what this score means to you?"

Their answers will be powerful and enable you to identify what you should keep doing, start doing and stop doing. If, of course, you have tried this technique and no-one in your team spoke up, then you may have your answer anyway!

On the other hand if you've never tried this technique before please give it a go. Either print the illustration from this article or select a different onee for your team and create a conversation that matters. Please let us know how you go!

Finally, if you like this concept but aren’t sure what illustration to use, please provide a brief description of your issue in the comments box and I’ll help you find an appropriate illustration.

As a leader a significant part of your success is driven by your capacity to create and stimulate conversations that matter. Is this a skill that you possess? What are you currently doing to develop it?

Please feel free to ask questions and/or to make comments about this article.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Seeking Book Cover Design Feedback


Thank you very much to everyone who has provided feedback so far. Your feedback has really helped to take us to the next stage. Now we move on to Stage 2 of your feedback.

The overall concept is that there will be a familiar look about the four books. They will be differentiated by the colour 'bands' that are used on the books, as well as the images on the front cover.

I think we are pretty close with the first book, What Really Matters for Young Profesionals!, but still have a little way to go for the images for the other three books.

So, I'm interested in your feedback on the idea of having a consisent yet unique look about the books, your general view of the new designs and any other comments that you may have. If you can, try to think about how the four books would look like on a shelf next to each other.

Please feel free to add comments and/or to take the surveys. I have multiple options for the "Undergraduate students" and the "Aspiring Leaders" so please vote for your favourite in each of them. In the the survey the comment box is available for the "Young Professionals" and "Post-graduate Students" questions.

So here goes...

What Really Matters for Young Professionals!

What Really Matters for Undergraduate Students!
Number 1

Number 2

Number 3

Number 4

Number 5

What Really Matters for Post Graduate Students!

What Really Matters for Aspiring Leaders!
Number 1

Number 2

Number 3

Please feel free to be everything from nice and kind with your feedback, to being brutally honest!

Please click here to take the survey

Thanks again for your help,