Monday, April 23, 2012

Making a difference - Four extraordinary women and the power of purpose

What's the acronym for 'make a difference'?

M.A.D.

That's exactly what scores of people said to Michelle, Nicky, Maureen and Jan when they told people they were going to do the 100km Oxfam Trailwalker event in Melbourne, Australia to raise much needed funds for the important work that Oxfam does around the globe.

At the time of posting this article Team Make a Difference (M.A.D.)  had raised over $11,000 - a remarkable effort in a time when raising money has become very difficult due to challenging economic circumstances for many people.

It is important to recognise differencemakers because they set the example for how 'ordinary' can become 'extraordinary'. In this case I think it is fair to say that our four differencemakers above were already extraordinary before the event, but having finished the walk they are even more extraordinary than ever.

When I talk about extraordinary let's look at some highlights from each of our differencemakers.

Michelle, my wife is the mother of five children ranging from 12 years old to 20 months old. Need I say more!

Nicky is equally as extraordinary being a mother of three young boys ranging from seven through to 23 months old.

Jan is a mother of a five year old and someone who has saved countless wildlife from death in her role as a wildlife volunteer, personally caring for injured and sick wildlife until they recover and are able to be returned to their habitats.

Maureen is the veteran of the group being 60 years old and this year completed her third Oxfam Trailwalker - completing one is an extraordinary effort let alone having now completed three!

What is also wonderful about this story is that Michelle, Jan, Maureen and Nicky are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to extra-ordinary people. The sea of support led by Harry Lowe was something to behold.  Each person volunteered one of the greatest gifts that anyone can give another person, cause or both: their time!

In this context I believe that it is important to recognise each person because, quite simply, Team Make a Difference could not have raised their funds nor finished the walk without the support of their team.

I understand that you see lists of names all the time. However I urge you to look at each name and recognise that there is a human being behind that name - a human being that subscribed to a purpose bigger than themselves and in the small and large ways contributed to making a positive difference.

From left: Jan, Nicky, Maureen and Michelle

Team Make a Difference support crew
Harry Lowe, Christine Sellar, Loreto Ryan, Heather Cecil, Mark Cecil, Merrell Harris, Julie Davenport, Liam Ryan, Sienna Ryan, Callum Ryan, Aiden Ryan, Darcy Ryan, Jonathan McKeown, Anthony McKeown, Hugh Mckeown, James McKeown, Karen Lowe, Lehela Manoel, Mark Mattrow, Gemma Mattrow, Evelyn Devitt, Rosey Cullinan, Geri Burns and Mark Burns.

Support crew celebrate finishing the event with the girls!


In addition to these special people recognition must also go to everyone who donated to Oxfam, attended the fundraising event and/or simply spread the word about what was happening.

I have been involved in the Oxfam Trailwalker event before, but this time was extra special. Without a doubt the bigger picture that Team Make a Difference was striving to support was truly engaged by all team members and their support crew. While simple in words the purpose of making a positive difference for the less fortunate in the world through participating in the Oxfam Trailwalker event proved itself to be extaordinarily powerful.

And shared purpose is extremely powerful.

Originally the team had aimed to raise $5,000 but this total was surpassed by a single fundraising event that itself raised $6,300.

Jan, Maureen, Nicky and Michelle thank you for being extraordinary and in being so enabled so many more of us to be extraordinary too.

Donations are still open so please feel free to donate to Oxfam here.

Gary Ryan helps Senior and Developing Leaders achieve high performance through enabling their people to shine.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Leadership - It's more complex than ever!

Google the word, "leadership". How many hits did you get?

507,000,000 was my number. That's a lot of hits. It is also a lot of thinking and theories on the topic.

Maybe too many.

When I facilitate leadership programs (including corporate and co-curricular programs at universities for both undergraduate and postgraduate students) very few people are clear about their approach to leadership. While folk are able to list books and thoughts on the topic, most people haven't worked out what guides their approach to leadership.

For example, what is your approach to leadership? What theories do you do your best to apply? What models underpin your approach because you find them useful? What quotes do you find helpful?

How are you consciously putting these theories and models into practice?

The challenge with so much thinking on the topic of leadership is that it has become confusing. For this reason I strongly recommend that you take charge and develop your own approach to leadership.
If quotes, theories and models work for you, then use them. Keep using them until you discover something more useful, and then replace them. This approach, of course suggests that you should never stop assessing and re-assessing your approach to leadership. Or even more simply, never stop learning.

What is your approach to leadership? How would you describe it to someone else?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Discover the secret to motivating your team members

Over many years of facilitating leadership development programs I have been continually asked, "What is the secret to motivating my team members?".

I have been taking the participants of our programs through a simple three step process to find the answer to this question. You might like to treat this process as an activity, so why not pull out some paper and a pen and see what answers emerge for you.

Step One
Rather than focusing upon the factors that will enable you, as a leader, to motivate your team members, let's consider your thoughts about the factors that enable you to be the best that you can be at work. Take out your pen and paper and jot down some points that, for you, enable you to be highly motivated at work.

Once you have completed your answer, look at the typical responses that I have received over many years of collecting participant responses to this question.

The following are the Top 10 typical responses that are listed in no particular order of importance.
• Recognition for the work that has been done
• Opportunities to be creative
• A sense of contributing to the company
• A sense that what I do has value
• A fair wage for my contribution, all things considered
• Being treated fairly and trusted to do my job
• Being given appropriate feedback on my performance
• Having work that is interesting and that uses my skills
• Having opportunities to develop and grow in the business
• Having opportunities for promotion

Step Two
Now place yourself into your leadership role. What factors do you think will enable your team members to perform to the best of their ability? Once again take out your pen and paper and write down your answer to this question.

Once you have completed your answer, look at the typical responses that I have received over many years of collecting participant responses to this question.

The following are the Top 10 typical responses that I have received over many years of asking this question.
• Being given compliments and recognition for doing good work
• Having appropriate work delegated to them
• Having opportunities to progress their career
• Having training and development opportunities
• Having work that uses their skills
• Being paid appropriately for their work, all things considered
• Having leadership opportunities
• Being shown that management actually cares about them as a person
• Being trusted to do their job
• Being consulted about changes before they happen

Step Three
Look at both lists of responses. What do you notice? What stands out to you?
Many people have responded that they are surprised at the similarities between the two lists. When I have asked why they are surprised about the similarities between the two lists, people have responded that they somehow thought that the motivators for leaders and everyone else would be different. In reality it seems that most people’s motivations are fairly similar.

In summary, people want:
• To be paid fairly for what they do
• To be provided work that uses their skills
• To be provided training and development opportunities
• To be recognised for the work that they do
• To be trusted to do their job properly
• To be provided with opportunities for advancement or promotion
• To be included in making decisions about changes that will affect them
• To be treated fairly including being given feedback on their performance
• To be shown that people in the organisation actually care about them as a person
• To have work that has some value

How to use this information
As a leader the easiest way to use this information is to look at the three lists and ask yourself, “How am I and my organisation performing with each of these motivating factors?”. Neither leaders nor organisations are perfect, so you are unlikely to have a positive tick against each item. However, if your team members are lacking motivation then I guarantee that the underlying reason will lie in what you and your organisation are not doing to help them to maintain their motivation.

The beauty about this simple exercise is that it can quickly highlight what you can do to increase motivation. If you discover that you aren’t properly recognising your team members for the work that they are doing, then start doing this behaviour. If you recognise that you aren’t providing appropriate development opportunities for your team members, then consult with your People & Culture department and discover how they might be able to help you. If you discover that some of your team members aren’t being paid properly, all things considered, why not commence whatever processes that you can to increase their pay to a more appropriate level? These actions and others can be taken to quickly enhance the motivation of your team members.

Motivating team members is not as difficult as many leaders think. Follow the three steps above and take action based on your results. You will be pleasantly surprised by the increase in motivation that your team members display.

How do you motivate your team members?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

How to master the four quadrants of time management

It always causes me to have a small laugh to myself when I conduct time management programs and people turn up late! It really doesn't bother me if people are on time or not - they are the ones who will miss out if they are not there. For a lot of people it does highlight an important issue - their lack of capability to manage their time. Many people leave little room for error with regard to their time management - everything is 'cut so fine' that if one thing goes wrong, then they are unlikely to be 'on time'.

Many people have often suggested that they need to 'make time'. I know what they mean, but can anyone really 'make time'? The challenge is to use your time wisely so that you don't 'waste time'. Stephen Covey's Urgent and Important Matrix is a useful tool for determining the wise use of time. The matrix works as follows:

URGENT and IMPORTANT Tasks (Quadrant 1)
These are the tasks that require immediate attention. A presentation, a meeting, a speech, a performance (as in a musical, theatrical or sport performance) the majority of the work that you do in your job, answering exam questions, a critical issue or crises. Time matters in the performance of these tasks. In short, if you don't take effective action 'right now' you fail.

NOT URGENT and IMPORTANT Tasks (Quadrant 2)
These are things like planning, preparing, reading, clarifying your values and other personal development activities, capturing and preparing your stories for interviews, retreats, health and fitness activities, developing relationships etc. All these things could be completed at another time. In this sense, time is 'not urgent'. As such, many of the tasks in this quadrant are simply left alone and they aren't attempted. What people don't understand is that there is a direct relationship between the quality of the tasks performed in Quadrant 1, and the quality time that you have spent in Quadrant 2. In short, time spent in Quadrant 2 improves your performance in Quadrant 1. It is therefore worth prioritising your time so that some of it, at least, is spent in Quadrant 2. Think about your performance when you have prepared for a presentation as compared to when you have 'winged it'. I have heard some people boast about how well they can 'wing it' and make presentations without preparing. While it may have the appearance of working these people are in for a big let down - one day. The reality is they don't 'know their stuff' and because of a 'gift' may be able to bamboozle people with their presentations skills. That can be a lot of extra pressure to carry around with you after a while. The majority of us, however, know that if we don't prepare our performance suffers, so we prioritise our time beforehand to ensure that we are prepared.

Another example of Quadrant 2 activities is attending personal development workshops, particularly when you are a volunteer. Ideally the lessons that you learn, when applied, will help your performance in Quadrant 1.

So where does the time come from to enable you to spend more time in Quadrant 2 activities? The following quadrants provide that answer.

URGENT and NOT IMPORTANT Tasks (Quadrant 3)
These are things like many emails, some meetings (when you really don't need to be there), text messages, the behaviour of some people when they demand your time 'right now' (you know the person, they ask if they can have five minutes of your time and they always seems to be talking 30 minutes later). Tasks in this quadrant have the appearance of being urgent, which is why they draw your attention. The problem is that you really could deal with them later (or not at all). By focussing on them 'right now' all you are doing is taking your attention away from Quadrant 1 or Quadrant 2 tasks. It is Quadrant 3 tasks where effective prioritising can 'free up' a lot of time; time that can be better used in Quadrant 1 or Quadrant 2.

NOT URGENT and NOT IMPORTANT
These are wasteful activities that often relate to addictive type behaviours or are behaviours that are undertaken to deliberately avoid the Quadrant 1 or 2 tasks. Time spent in Quadrant 4 has a DIRECT impact on your performance in Quadrant 1. You have a presentation tomorrow that you have not prepared, yet you spend the whole of the previous night watching the Premier League football on the television. You eventually arrive for your presentation underprepared and very tired. It is no surprise that you performance is poor. Ideally Quadrant 4 activities need to be completely eliminated from your life - all they do is detract from where you performance really matters, and that is your performance in Quadrant 1.

This is just one example of many approaches to time management. What are yours? What systems work for you? What questions do you have about time management? What templates do you use that could be useful for other members of our network?