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    Thursday
    Jan122017

    Leader as Coach: T-o-o  s-l-o-w

    The Leader as Coach approach has been a leadership staple in many industries and organisations for years.

    This is where a leader schedules one-on-one conversations and meetings with their team members. These conversations may be about helping that team member progress and develop, help them uncover ideas and actions to tackle challenges or barriers getting in that person's way or to perhaps have a tricky or difficult conversation about behaviour or performance.

    'Train the Coach', 'Coach the Coach' or 'Leader as Coach' programs have been a popular part of the learning and development offer for years.

    I recall delivering a coaching training program for leaders for a large banking and financial institution about ten+ years ago. They wanted to ensure their leaders adopted a coaching culture and in turn, help them be more effective at those crucial one-on-one conversations. 

    So, yes, coaching is a highly valued and valid leadership tool.

    But there's a but: it can be so. freakin'. s-l-o-w.

    Many leaders find the drain, drag and pace of one-to-ones across their team less efficient than they'd like ... and less efficient for the time they have available. 

    As one leader in the bank's coaching program I ran said (in objection to doing coaching):

    "It takes so long to get that person to realise what needs to be done, to go through the GROW model or whatever tool we're working on. I just don't think I have the time or the patience for this all the time".

    While that type of comment may run counter to what leadership or leaders should be like (read: more patient or more effective at coaching or more 'something'), the realities of pressured schedules, busy teams and project deadlines mean many leaders avoid the one-on-one or push it out and delay it or try and reschedule it time and again.

    As a result, communication, leadership, colalboration, performance and engagement all suffer.

    Rather than telling leaders to coach more or insisting they must coach more, I believe we need to acknowledge that leaders have time to leverage and the better they can do that, the greater impact they'll have - certainly more than what a raft of one-to-ones can achieve.

    To all the coaches or pro-coaches out there... relax, this is not to say one-on-one coaching conversations aren't needed; they are. For things like performance and development and tricky situations, sure; book a room, one-on-one and go coach. They will always be needed.

    But for some organisations who adopt and prioritise coaching, it can seem as if every conversation a leader has to have with their team members has the danger of turning into a book-a-meeting-room-for-a-one-on-one kind of meeting.

    When a business decrees that coaching or one-on-one conversations are the priority to lift performance or address issues, it can begin to chew up a lot of time in the diary.

    As a leader in a tech organisation said to me recently,

    "I've got a team of 12. When you add in the time of having heaps of one-on-ones with them, along with the team and group meetings, and the other responsibilities I have influencing and managing stuff, it all gets too much. I find myself thinking how else could I be leveraging this time".

    Not more meetings

    Please don't assume we're talking about running more meetings here. Meetings are already under pressure for wasting time, running off topic and being dominated by the loudest voices.

    But what I do think can be done is having more group conversations and sessions - small or larger groups.

    These small or larger group sessions can be focused on the same sort of development, barriers, progress... whatever other topics need to be managed for that team - but done in a group setting rather than always believing it needs to be done via a bunch of one-on-ones.

    This is where the leader as coach, shifts into a leader as facilitator.

    For some leaders there is a fear there; 'I don't want to be running a group session' or'Then the whole thing will get out of control; I'll never reign them in!' or 'How do I shut them up?' or 'I don't want things going off-track or getting to negative or turning into a whinge-fest'.

    Still other leaders are nervous in front of a group or worry about the questions they'll be asked or if they'd ever be bombarded or ambushed by a team of clique of people.

    But these are simply some of the fears of facilitation, the fears of working with and leading a group... and these fears can be allayed when you know what to do with a group or team in a group setting.

    Leverage for impact

    Indeed it's time for leaders to better leverage their time as well as the time of their team members. Rather than going s-l-o-w with lots of one-on-ones, leaders need to bring those individuals together to have more effective and impactful group sessions: both small group: twos, threes or fours... and larger groups seven, 10, 12, 25, 40 people.

    Time gets leveraged for all. Rather that 12 x 1 hour meetings, get everyone (or groups of everyone!) in the room and have a 15, 30 or 45 minute engaging session and conversation - well-facilitated by the leader.

    Lift the game

    Lazy leaders limp into meetings, slump into chairs and bark commands or tap their pens on the table. It's old school, last century and not facilitative. At all. Lazy leaders interrupt, bluff and bluster their way through BS jargon and wonder whey they have a disengaged and disempowered team.

    The leader as facilitator is a different way of behaving and leading. It requires a lift in your thinking and capability.

    The shift from 'Leader as Coach' to 'Leader as Facilitator' is underway and I see it as one of the most exciting shifts in leadership today.

    When a leader facilitates, group harmony and cohesion is strengthened and the sheer energy or vibe of the team, tribe or group coming together lift people to higher levels of performance. 

    Facilitators make progress easy... or easier. They run a process, respond to what happens and draw on very cool tools to make progress. 

    As a participant in my Leader as Facilitator program said:

    "Now I'm able to get stuff done; we talk as a team, I can help remove barriers across the team, we can make decisions as a team and I'm better able to handle the general sh*t that goes down daily in our team."

    (Note, this leader wasn't naming his people as sh*t; it was more about the finicky, challenging issues and hiccups that happen throughout a typical day when leading a diverse team).

    There are authentic, empathic and realistic ways to get stuff done in teams and keep the team connected to the work to be done, all via the power of facilitation. This is about being more of a Leader as Facilitator.

    Thursday
    Jan122017

    The #1 capability that will make you a better leader

    If you were asked to rank the #1 thing you could do as a leader that would make a difference to your team, your customers, your organisation, yourself, the products or services you provide or the stakeholders you work with, what capability would you say?

    Listening?

    Being present?

    Mindfulness?

    Being more influential or persuasive?

    Managing your time better?

    Being able to make quicker decisions?

    Whatever your thoughts right now, I reckon it’s about being able to create an environment. Creating an environment where you are a context setter. I think it’s making your workplace a place where:

    • people feel safe to contribute, speak up and participate
    • you have you own sh*t together so you can be a great leader
    • you are able to handle meetings, conversations and situations when you are interacting with others of all cultures, experiences and roles; and 
    • where you are able to help people get things done.

    While I think some of these are demonstrated by the physical and practical behaviours of facilitation, I think there is a distinct ‘social intelligence’ that is required of leaders today -- more than ever.

    This is a social intelligence of being able to connect with others, and in turn, help others connect. 

    Think about it as how you help people connect with other members on your team, how you connect with customers, how you facilitate the interactions between the members of your team and other parts of the organisation and how you create a great space and environment for that to happen - that’s the best leadership capacity and capability I think there is.

     

    Work keeps changing; leadership keeps changing

    Leadership styles continue to shift from a leader as a director, beyond the leader as coach mode to more of a leader as a facilitator. 

    From control, to consult and beyond... through to co-creator. From commander and parent to a partner. And from directing and evolving to being a curator of the team’s work and thinking. 

    In engagement approach, leaders need to shift from tell, to beyond asking, to elicit -- to be able to draw out information. From telling instructions or asking questions to being able to set a bigger picture or context. From their one voice, to on-on-one conversations that are inefficient and low in leverage, to a one-to-many where the whole group (or smaller sub-groups) are led and inspired. Engagement shifts from lone workers, through simply being together to the cohesion that is about helping people get more done than they would alone. Engagement shifts from threats and compliance, beyond the will to be engaged to them truly buying into the work and the why of the work. 

    As a result, team performance lifts. Rather than the team being pushed, or even pulling themselves into the work, they truly engage with it. From being a group, to a team, they look and act more like a tribe. Em Campbell-Pretty's recent book on 'Tribal Unity' is a great read on this aspect of leadership.

    And from the team being required to do things, or their barriers or obstacles being uncovered, it’s not about the leader harnessing the collective power and capabilities of the team, no matter what they are. Above all, instead of performance or leadership being one way or following a set formula of "do this on Mondays, do that for 15 mins and have these meetings 3 times a quarter", the whole team and their leader are integrated, working well, and are better together and lifting the level of what’s possible. 

    From 'Leader as Facilitator: How to engage, inspire and get work done'

    The Social Intelligence Factor

    And of this 'social intelligence'...

    As Daniel Goleman says in his book ‘Social Intelligence':

    “Our sense of well-being depends to some extent on others regarding us as a You; our yearning for connection is a primal human need, minimally for a cushion for survival. Today the neural echo of that need heightens our sensitivity to the difference between It and You—and makes us feel social rejection as deeply as physical pain.” 

    And that's what happens. Pain. Ouch! When people aren’t listened to or their ideas are brushed aside, when they’re interrupted or not recognised as the contributor of a solution -- these are some of the workplace things that hurt us.

    We wonder why engagement scores are low. However, it may well be the leader who is doing something unknowingly that is pushing people away. Their social intelligence may be a bit 'off'. Perhaps they aren't regarding people as a 'You', or not inspiring them, perhaps dismissing their contributions with a look or a sniff or a scoff or 'hmpf' sound effect. Maybe that team member's presence, their contributions and capabilities and their important purpose in that team and organisation has been overlooked, missed or just passed over in the busy-ness of present-day leadership KPIs, presentations, off-sites and information packs.

    Focus on how you can build up your social intelligence and your capability to create an environment where people can connect with each other.

    And then when you use that social intelligence - that is, in every meeting, every interaction with every person, every day - this is where you can show the #1 leadership capability you have that makes the biggest difference on those around you.

    Leaders increasingly need to be the glue or the bond that helps groups work better together, that helps them tick (and stick!) and helps them be more cohesive. It's less about pushing people together and saying, ‘Hey you lot, collaborate will you’, but rather being the person who helps make that collaboration easier, helps make it happen, helps make it the norm of how you do work in your team, in your organisation and a part of your culture.

    You help. Not rescue or remedy or rehabilitate, but facilitate that performance, facilitate the engagement and most of all, make the environment ripe for great work to be done by already awesome people. 

    Monday
    Dec192016

    Review and Reflect ... alone or with the team

     

    The end of the calendar year brings many people to the point of wrapping things up, reviewing the year that's been and thinking about the year ahead. 

    (That is... if you can break from the cray-cray of deadlines hitting before holiday time or having less people in your team or on the task than you'd like!)
     
    Whatever your state of mind - and work - this week and the next few,  I've collected a few resources for you to review, reflect, read and ponder... when you're ready.

    If not now, bookmark and save for when you're travelling, waiting, distracting yourself or wanting some insight.


    thinking
    I love me a visual map; and many a group or team I've worked with have benefited from being able to capture their story, the facts, their issues or the current situation too.

    Once it's down on paper (or digital) they're able to see it. Once they can all see it, it's remarkable how quickly resolutions and fixes present themselves in the conversation. It's also way quicker to get people together and focused on something. 

    Here's one I prepared earlier! For you. 



    I use this type of map and the headings of 'Less Same More' in workshops and keynotes to help people get actions down from their thinking and ideas. (This handles overwhelm and chaos well too!)

    What do you want more, less or the same of...?

    • LESS: stop or drop this stuff. Wind back, remove and reduce it.
    • SAME: keep on truckin', keep going, keep moving with this stuff.
    • MORE: ramp it up, do more of this, get or have more of this. 


    This is about you  - what do you want less, same or more of in your life, in your work. It can relate to anything at all. 

    Fill in the spaces. I use dot points or key words to prompt me and capture my ideas. It becomes my personal visual plan and idea collection place just like a 'plan on a page'. It then goes up on the wall in my office or in digital/photo form on my phone. 
     
    Oh and there's a cheeky light bulb on the bottom right. I call that:

    • AND, dot dot dot :... it's a little like 'How about this?' as if you were pitching to some big-time investor or director. What are some random, hopeful or dreamy things that would be interesting to look at or pursue further? Capture them right there.


    Use this page with the team. Or use it alone. Perhaps with a partner or friend or the family. Chilled out one Sunday afternoon, fill it out. Kicking off a project with a new team, get them to tell you what they want more, less and same of.

    It's a great way to review, it's a sweet start to planning; it's an even better conversation starter.

    For all the times you think you can't get engagement with people, ask them to jot a few points down under each heading and you can have a conversation from there.  

    Review, reflect and then do something with this and the other resources here, below. In your own time....

     

    Monday
    Dec192016

    What's your attitude to facilitation? 

    For many leaders who facilitate, they simply get on and do it. They may not be aware of what they’re doing or what impact it’s having; it just is. They just go ahead and do the best they can with what they know.

    For other leaders, they lose sleep before facilitating a big meeting or planning session or workshop and run scenarios of failure and horror over and over in their mind or they workshop options and possibilities and agenda timings in their head.

    Yet others see their facilitation skill as something to be improved on. I certainly do. The capability is just that; a capability. And it can be improved.

    There is certainly a confidence about facilitation. Often we know we’re not quite ‘there’ with our confidence but we’re willing to keep putting ourselves out there and continuing to learn, develop and grow as a facilitator, as a leader. 

    Stepping up the Ladder of Capability

    Here’s what I think this path to improving your capability in facilitation at work looks like. It’s like moving up a ladder. 

    There are two halves:

    1.   where you avoid facilitation and are questioning yourself and your capability; and

    2.  where you engage, where you are questioning others (in a good way), as a facilitation technique or style.

    Looking at the avoid half, way down in the depths is the ‘no, don’t make me do it’response. It may be your first experience facilitating, or even an experience earlier this week! In any case, you felt out of your depth, out of control and wishing it wasn’t you at the front of the room in charge of making things happen. You wished it could be anyone but you. It’s the ‘no not me’ scenario. You feel like running away. A dose of fight or flight and you’d prefer to flight, right out the door and into a safer, more comfortable space. If you have the situation of the rotating chair in your workplace, where a different person facilitates the meeting each time, you may have felt this.

    A little higher on the ladder is where you are unsure. You take on the role to facilitate but are wondering ‘why me’. Then possibly while you’re facilitating you’re hesitant, waiting, wondering ‘what is best to do when’ for the outcomes you and the group are seeking.

    Then comes a tipping point… where you shift up and over a hurdle of sorts; where you move from questioning yourself or doubting yourself, to really stepping into the role of questioning others and embracing the role of being of service to what the team needs...so you’re truly facilitating others.

    When you take on the role of a facilitator, a Leader as Facilitator, you do it, but you’re inconsistent. You’re wanting to learn more, to be more aware; you’re wondering ‘what next?’ Imagine you’re deep in the middle of a meeting or workshop and the team is working through a problem. You wonder, ‘Is this it? What else could I be doing to help the group? What’s the best use of my services as a facilitator?’ You decide to ask the group rather than wondering to yourself. You might say, ‘So what next? What do you think is the most important thing for us to address next?’

    With further awareness, learning and experience, you shift up to being capable, to thinking ‘Yes, I’ve got this’.

    I worry though for people who believe they are already here; they already think they've got this. They think they’re pretty good facilitators; they think they know it all and have little left to learn.

    Still others say ‘I’m all ears’ or ‘I’m on a learning curve’ yet they do anything but learn! They’re closed to ideas or have heard it all before… or done it all before.

    Beware! Even the best and most experienced facilitators have more to learn. Always. There is always more to learn, more to be exposed to, more approaches, ways of working, things you can do to support a team or group as a facilitator.

    So it continues. And you move on up to some nirvana of facilitation where you realise all of your good and bad and in-between life experiences contribute to make you a wise and capable facilitator. You say ‘bring it’ and you realise, believe and behave as if you can handle whatever may come. If you don’t know what to do, you know you are at the service of the group or team and together you will know what to do.

    • Where are you on the ladder?
    • What have you experienced?
    • Which levels do you recognize?
    • What’s the next step for you? 

    I'd love to hear your thoughts about facilitation and your attitude to where you are, where you've been or where you'd like to get to.

    Thursday
    Nov102016

    For the adventurers, cartographers and tool smiths 

    If failure is sexy and pivoting is in, that means we have a world of people who are keen to keep looking around, wondering, improving and trying stuff out.


    I reckon that might be you.
    I’m giving a big shout out and encouraging thanks to the:

    • adventurers : the people who cringe at bureaucratic BS and wasteful systems; 
    • modern day mapmakers and cartographers : who help people see what’s going on and where we’re going; and 
    • toolsmiths : those who use any type of tech, digital or analogue tool or  implement to get sh*t done.

    You're important mavens, facilitators and connectors in the workplaces of today … and the future.
    I think we’re always on the dangerous edge of losing touch with each other or wasting time on activities that don’t really make a difference.
    So as we head off on our next change journey or a transformation project or as we create a new product or try out something, I particularly want to zoom in on the mapmaker, the cartographer who helps guide or map what the heck is going on. 

     


    Unlock and formulate meaning 
    Static maps of two dimensional things – locations, objects, the universe, stars and planets – have a history as old as time. More recently, 3D and interactive maps have given us more knowledge, awareness, access and opportunity.
    We’re able to depict so much information and detail on a map, thanks to (now) well-recognised symbols and icons. And with the rise of digital mapping on our phones and devices, I think we’re breeding a new generation of map lovin’ people; who either like checking out (or in) where they are, or would LOVE to see more about where things are heading on your project.
    But there’s more to maps than just using them on our phones or devices to find out where we are or to use a GPS in a car to plot out the best or most scenic route. 
    Maps have a stunning place and role to play in the workplace. Here’s why:  
     
    “A map does not just chart, it unlocks and formulates meaning; it forms bridges between here and there, between disparate ideas that we did not know were previously connected.”
    From The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet by Reif Larsen

     
    To help people know what’s going on, to help them buy-in to the change or project or to see what’s next, we all need a little bit of map maker in us. Here’s how.
     

    Start by mapping the dialogue
    Dialogue mapping is the activity of facilitating a conversation and capturing the threads. When people say stuff, you write some of it down. It’s that easy.


    Once you’ve got some threads, you write 'em down. These threads I'm talking about, it’s what we mean when we say ‘connecting the dots’.  Often you’ll hear people ask, 'Does that make sense?' They’re hoping you’re connecting the dots!


    It's known as sense making: we’re trying to work out what’s going on and what we need to do about it. 
    The beauty of a dialogue map is that you don’t let key content vapourise upward in the room back out through the air vents! No, you capture it and map it. It means others can see what is being said, in dialogue. It brings seemingly unrelated items together, creating a systems approach to thinking and conversations.

    Yeah but what maps?
    Try some maps like this: 

    • For competing sides use an argument map or a pros and cons chart
    • Isolate the questions people have or are asking
    • Collate the answers or ideas you’re all coming up with
    • Scope out the rationale
    • Pinpoint the data, sources of information or research
    • Show the connections and relationships, links and lines.

    Yes, these are maps. 


    The land was unknown before you mapped it and now there’s a map, there’s a way forward. 
    You’ll look like an adventurer, even if you don't feel like it because that map helps keep holding the threads together. 
    I’ve found dialogue mapping to be one of the most powerful tools working with groups and different cultures, countries, fields, industries, levels of literacy and in groups of large and small numbers.
     
    ‘Hooray!’ is what people often say (out loud or in their head; you can tell by their a-ha facial expressions!) when they see the product or thing you’re discussing taking shape. They’re finally able to see what’s been sitting quietly in other people’s heads!
     
    Then once it’s up there, further collaboration happens. You can start building on it. 
    Beyond that conversation or meeting, it becomes an artifact of the conversation; it marks a time in history when sense was made based on what was known. Anyway, maps keep getting revised all the time! This may be version 1.
     
    We are not listening all the time
    Mapping the dialogue helps people hear each other. Because we’re not really listening, are we? Hello? Are we? Well not ALL the time! I don’t think it’s about ‘making’ people listen to us, rather we need to use some other ways of making information

    • easier to relate to (what's in it for me)
    • quicker to digest (who’s got time for big hefty packs of info)
    • clearer to understand (we're all important here).

    This isn’t dumbing anything down anywhere. We are always going to have complex information and content to deal with.
    But we must try a little harder to be better sense makers - for others in the room and most importantly, for those who aren’t in the room! 
    Dialogue mapping helps people hear what’s being said that they just missed (while they were checking their phone).
    It helps capture complex content and represents the views of all, not just the loudest.
    It helps create shared understanding. 
    Meetings are shorter, more gets done, it’s a richer experience and it’s highly engaging. Your brain can not look away (for too long) when there is a changing map up there on the wall, whiteboard, window or chart. 
     
    If you're stressing thinking this is art...
    Please relax. It doesn’t really matter what your map looks like; it can have roads and cities and stops marked on it like a real road map or subway map for example; or it could be a bunch of circles connected with lines or perhaps one wavy line with some points marked on it or a few cloud-blob shapes with some words in them. 

    In the words of Sensemaking guru Karl Weick...
    ‘any old map will do’. 
    It doesn’t matter what it looks like, ok?
    Just have something for people to look at so they know where they are and what’s going on. 


    But not too box-ey ok? 
    I would put one rider on maps; I think there is a danger in having a boxy organisation chart-style map that we’ve lovingly created on our desktop in PowerPoint over the past three days. Urgh. If it looks like a hierarchy or control-like or template-ish, no, not a map. 
    We can get a little hung up on trying to make a ‘plan on a page’ and then reducing all that text down to 6 point font size so it fits in all the boxes we’ve jammed on the page. In trying to make sense we've gone all box-ey. That’s an over-engineered piece of vanilla that neither engages nor inspires. It might tick somebody’s box but it’s not going to light anyone up with ‘hey, that looks amazing; let’s work on this thing’. 

    Then. Now. Next
    The main thing to do is create something that helps people see:

    • where they are
    • where you’re all going. 

    Then you’ve got something to go with; you can can start working out how you’ll get there. 

    Road trip anyone?
     
    “To put a city in a book, to put the world on one sheet of paper -- maps are the most condensed humanized spaces of all... They make the landscape fit indoors, make us masters of sights we can't see and spaces we can't cover.” 
    From Eccentric Spaces by Robert Harbison