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    Entries in leadership (72)

    Wednesday
    Sep062017

    Have you got these Future Ready skills?

    How to get ready for the stuff that hasn't even happened yet

     

    So many articles and predictions can worry us wild about how jobs are changing, workplaces need to adapt and plenty of roles that are there now... won’t be soon.
     
    You don't need to be a futurist to work out that things keep changing and if you stay where and what you are…. yes, the future could indeed get more tricky for you. 
     
    Beyond the tech-crazy predictions and timelines of when it’s all going to hit the fan, there’s a more sensible and practical response that organisations and their leaders need -- that is, to get ready for the stuff that hasn’t happened yet.
     
    There’s a need to be future ready and there's a quartet of skills, a foursome of domains that will serve you so very well.  While these may not be as specific as in ‘go to this course’ or ‘get this certification’ (don't by the way) -- there are some domains of expertise that will help us handle what’s ahead, no matter our role, project, team, enterprise or industry. 
     
    The Institute for the Future and the World Economic Forum have both tipped in their thoughts over recent years on what’s needed and while that’s all good in a predictive sense, here’s what I’m seeing and hearing day in day out with teams and projects on being future ready. That is, ready for what your clients, the industry and the world might need of you, and gah! sooner than you might think.
     
     

    The Foursome of 'Future Ready'

    Think 
    We’re the only creatures who can think about how we think, so it’s worth thinking about how we can think better! This domain is about getting insights now… not waiting so long for hindsights to appear. Even though hindsight is a great thing, we need to get to them quicker so we can respond quicker. We need to be aware, awake, insight-full, reading, learning, thinking, reflective, improving, evolving, staying open…
     
    In the middle of last century - that sounds so o-l-d, the 1950s - two colleagues, Joe and Harry created the classic tool for identifying your relationship to yourself and others – the Johari Window.

    I remember laughing (or cringing) with colleagues about leaders whose ‘window wasn’t even there, let alone open!’ when it came to their lack of thinking and self awareness.
     
    Johari got you to assess yourself – and think – on some adjectives about your personality and whether they were ‘open’, ‘hidden’, ‘blind’ or ‘unknown’ to you.
     
    (Looks like Joe and Harry were clearly onto the Startup trend of combining their names or two words to create killer, entertaining business tools. Joe + Harry = Johari. See this giggle on fake startup websites for today’s tech versions of Joe and Harry.)
     
    There’s room in the Think domain for us to be more open, to work to reveal things that are hidden to us or we are blinded to, and to uncover the stuff that is still unknown to us.
     
     

    Connect
    If we’re intrinsically wired to connect with others, then this domain is about how we connect ideas and people and environments. We need to be synthesisers, sensemakers, distillers and integrators. To be able to take lots of stuff and find the pieces that belong, that work or could work together.  It’s integration, not isolation. Also it's anti-silo.
     
    I like to ask teams, “Do you see where the white spaces are here?" where you could move something to, where there is opportunity or possibility that's untapped.
     
    Sure, artificial intelligence will be able to do some of this for us, but there’s something magical about human connections with others, with information, with places and spaces that we will need forever.

     

    Adapt
    How do you adapt to changing conditions, situations, information and environments? This domain is about agility not rigidity. How willing are you to test, learn, experiment and dwell on the whole ‘failure IS an option’ thing? Is your project in such control-freak mode that trust is low and we can’t try something to see what happens?

    Try transforming something rather than tinkering with everything as I wrote recently.

    This is our need to be agile-ish; being able to pivot, change direction and give up on a thing you’ve been fighting for; being willing to embrace a new direction or belief. Yes, this can be tougher than we think. Aaah back to that thinking domain again!

     

    Share 
    How you spread, share and radiate your thinking, ideas, messages and solutions to others in your nearest loops …and wider loops is what this domain is all about. It’s how you pull people in to be part of something not just sending it out and crossing your fingers with hope. How do you bring people in? It’s inclusion not exclusion.

    How can you share things that help build, not break. This is being an influencer, shaper, communicator, engager… on topics that people might not be initially interested in or they have longstanding biases about.
     
     
    There’s an opportunity for us to think bigger; to make bigger shifts in our teams and enterprise regarding what we're going to build capability in.
     
    Think.
    Connect.
    Adapt.
    Share.  

     
    Together these will help get you ready for the future… aaaaaaand oh look, it’s here already.
     

    Saturday
    Jan212017

    The 12 Sins of Strategy

    If you read any of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books when you were growing up (or they're in the family library) you might have read of the adventures of five young people who faced challenges, learned lessons and built strong friendships.

    The recent release of a series of spoof books on the Famous Five sees some new titles tailored just for grown-ups. The books might well be poking fun at some of the realities of life with titles like:

    ·     5 Go Parenting

    ·     5 Give up the Booze

    ·     5 Go Gluten Free

    ·     5 on Brexit Island…

    but it’s the one titled ‘5 go on a strategy away day’ that’s calling out many of the clichés and sins of bad strategic planning.

    After all, it’s the offsite and team session that is aimed at creating a refreshed organisational strategy: and it’s often the place where a new direction is set or the team presses ‘reset’ to chart a course for a new world.

    As the Harvard Business Review Blog Network presented recently:

    "Strategy formulation.. is an ongoing requirement of good management… This is a process you must permanently embed in your organization."

    When it comes time to bring the team together to revisit the positioning, profitability and progress of the business, what will you do?

    If you look at rebooking the same venue, using the same agenda as last year and find that the most challenging part of the strategic process is finding a common date when all the players can get in a room at once, your approach to strategy may be ticking off some of The 12 Sins of Strategy.

    Beware these sins and take steps pronto to move away from the sins and move towards the good and better of strategy.

     

     

    Before the session

    1. Same Same

    Here’s the sin: It’s all the same as last year – same dates, people, venue, agenda, menu and program. This isn’t to mention what gets discussed and decided -- if that’s the same, that’s a sure sin.

    If your ‘save as’ button is getting a workout, you’re a sinner! The world is VUCA – volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. And our approach to strategy will need to change to adapt and respond to this environment.

     “Longevity is decreasing .. corporate mortality rates are rising .. the good news is the newer firms are more nimble. The bad news for (older firms) is that their days are numbered, unless they continually innovate.”

    From ‘Strategy: The scary truth about corporate survival’ -- Harvard Business Review, December 2016

     

    2. Too Safe

    This second sin could possibly read ‘dangerously safe’. The cousin to doing the same as last time – or the last decade – is playing too small or too safe.

    We are in an ongoing era of disruption and if we’re too safe (or too same) we’ll be trampled on by those who are more adequately responding to change.

    Every business is impacted by the effects of market shifts and changes. And if you haven’t ‘felt’ any of them yet, perhaps this will be the year. That maxim of ‘change or die’ is never truer.

    Have you gathered insights, information, background and the data needed to inform your strategic discussions and decisions? If you don’t know what’s going on, you may respond in a way that doesn’t set you up for the industry changes and shifts underway.

    Working with a pharmaceutical-style business recently, they discussed at their strategy day their need to adapt and change and to do so in ways they haven’t previously. The way customers were buying products and services had changed, and the type of products and services had changed too. Plus there were some new players in the market. Their long-lived era of being ‘the only’ or ‘the best’ was under threat. So their strategy session and strategic response was not just about taking out more advertising or to better train the staff who are customer facing.

    Both of these responses – training and advertising - are small tweaks and are more operational than strategic. It’s too small and too safe of a change.

     

    3. Vague Process

    If you can tick off that ‘yes’ you’re willing to look at things differently and be prepared to take some bigger steps, it’s now about HOW are you going to create that strategic response.

    This sin is what I’d call ‘vaguing the process’. That is, the process you’re planning to use on the day to create and craft your strategic response is vague. It’s ambiguous and not yet defined. You might know what you want to get at the end of the session, but you’re not crystal clear on HOW you’ll get that work done.

    By the way, the process isn’t the agenda.

    The process is the way you’re going to go about doing the strategic work, the strategic thinking in the lead up to, during and after your strategy session.

    If you were heading off on the holiday of a lifetime you wouldn’t just show up at the airport with your passport and credit card -- as fun as that may be. For the big projects and strategy work, you need some type of itinerary and how you’re going to move from one place or space… to another.

    Don't wing it or make it up as you go along.

     

    4. D.I.Y Facilitation 

    A flow on from #3 Vaguing the Process is if you are trying to facilitate the strategy session yourself: doing it yourself or D.I.Y.

    Thinking you can plan, observe, facilitate and participate all at once -- or even with a team of colleagues, trying to share the load -- is a hefty responsibility. How can you do it all?

    Save your facilitation skills for the day-to-day implementation and leadership work with your team - not the big ticket item of the strategy day.

    There can be a desire to ‘involve the team’ or ‘share the load’ or even ‘give people greater responsibility’ by having them lead sessions or facilitate at strategy days, but I believe there are other more cohesive ways to do this during the session, rather than them facilitating.

    The DIY approach reminds me of an eccentric friend who decided he’d represent himself in court over a family legal matter. He didn’t want to pay the legal fees. He thought there wasn’t much to it and he could do it himself. 

    The end result saw him dabbling in an area of deep expertise that was beyond his scope of understanding – and appreciation – and the cost in the long run was way beyond financial.

    Some DIY projects end up as a dangerous mess.

     

    During the session

     

    5. All talk

    This sin already occurs daily in many workplace meetings and workshops where teams of people sit around a table and … talk.

    It’s somewhat of a workplace default: people sitting there talking. And talking. And talking some more.

    Bringing a team or group together is an invitation of diversity. Sitting around talking for two days doesn’t serve this opportunity for diversity. We have differing preferences for how we take in information, process that information, make decisions, communicate, engage and think.

    Howard Gardiner’s theory of Multiple Intelligences documents how we have a number of different ‘modalities’ rather than a single general ability. He suggests that we have multiple ways of learning. So even if your preference is to sit and talk… it’s not diverse enough, nor is it identifying and responding to what else might work for others across the business.

     

    6. PowerPoint Snooze

    For many leaders, the days before a strategic session see them spending countless hours preparing a PowerPoint pack or presentation of information.

    Rather than the big investment of tweaking and tinkering with the layout on a document, have a conversation. Have dialogue with the team.

    We are losing our social intelligence and reinforcing that at a strategy or team day by delivering more one-way presentations is a drag and a sin.

    Attention spans are already short; no wonder some sessions feel like they are dragging on when people stand up to present dense packs of 132 slides (Yes, this happened at a team session).

     

    7. Little Input

    It’s a sin indeed to keep things narrow or involving the ‘usual suspects’ at a strategy session. It might feel more comfortable but you won’t get the best out of the event, the team or get the best possible strategic response.

    The field of Design and User Experience is focused on creating and launching things that meet users needs. Customer and user insights, feedback and suggestions are pivotal, vital, in creating a successful product.

    It’s also why focus groups and testing sessions, prototyping and scenarios are used -- to get a range of people to comment on and experience things connected to your company and brand.

     

    The other half of inputs … is outputs.

    Also, beware the ‘tapper’. The tapper is the designated person sitting in the corner of the room at a strategy session, tapping on a laptop and documenting the outcomes or key points of the session.

    Err, it’s a little dated and ineffective, your honour. It looks more like a crime scene or the trial with a court reporter capturing testimony! There are more collaborative and transparent ways to represent the progress being made.

    Big sin. Guilty!

     

    8. Idea Slumps

    A low point in a workshop is often feared, or expected perhaps – think of the after lunch or afternoon energy slump when we’re all a bit drowsy from eating too many sandwiches at lunch!

    This is a period of quiet, lower energy and sometimes we can fear that it’s not a good thing. But throughout the program of crafting a strategy there can be other slumps, speed humps or slow points.

    A slump or silence can sometimes occur just when we want to start brainstorming or ideating or coming up with brilliant innovative ideas.

    We need to avoid the, ‘Yay, come on team, let’s come up with new ideas for products!’ or ‘Hey there everyone, who’s got a brilliant idea?’

    We can’t expect genius to automatically flow just because we bring a group of people together in a room and tell them to be innovative. I believe you need to set up the environment for ideas to be born -- throughout the session.

     

    After the session

     

    9. Hangover

    This sin is less about an alcohol hangover and more about a mood hangover! Once the energy of the offsite or strategy session is over, what happens next?

    Yes, there can be a real coming-down or a flat spell after a significant strategic and transformative event. You’d have felt it after a holiday on your return to work – some of us feel it after the weekend!

    While it’s great to get the team together, to get away from the office and clear the path of the usual workplace interruptions, there needs to be some time and space allocated to help you with ‘re-entry’ back into the workplace.

    How are you going to land this thing?

    And a word on real hangovers: decide if it’s a party event or a strategy event and if it’s a bit of both, make it clear what the organisation’s policies are regarding hitting the booze and showing up the next day hammered. Not a good look.

     

    10. Cascade Down

    By ‘cascading’ information, the idea is that you take what was discussed or decided at the strategy day and then package it up to send over the cliff, down down down to the murky depths below to the minions who will put the strategy into action.

    The fact there is a word for this – to cascade – to deliver information down to your team says structure, hierarchy and downward flowing things. Often it’s about telling your next level, then they tell the next and they tell the next and before long, you have the whispers game you played as a child except now it’s being played out by grown-ups. Information is misinterpreted, not delivered at all or edited to take out the difficult-to-explain bits.

    People what to know what happened at the strategy session. Make that communication swift, clear, authentic and in more directions than just down.

     

    11. Few Actions

    Too many events, conferences, workshops and talk, none or few actions are agreed on ...and so nothing much changes. are focused on the event itself, and not the outcomes and strategic implementation that will follow. As a result of lots of offsites

    An organisation’s leaders who go on a strategy day and then don’t do anything with what they worked on is simply poor form.

    “If they can’t follow through on this, what else won’t they follow through on?”

    These were the words from a senior team member after a strategy day’s actions hit a roadblock and … just stopped.

    The excuse and blame game is just a step away as people shirk responsibility and dodge accountability.

    Most meetings, discussions, workshops are judged on what their outcomes are, on what they achieve and on what they produce. So too with the strategy day.

     

    12. Too Vanilla

    At some point you’ll want to, and need to share the strategy across the wider organisation.

    Further to the sin on ‘cascade down’, now it’s about the actual communication. Whether it’s a ‘strategy on a page’ distillation, a typical PowerPoint deck or something more creative, make sure it looks like it belongs to your organisation.

    Too many comms efforts are bland, lacking life and icon-ed to death. It’s as if the creativity has been stripped out and the end result could apply to any company at all - or any pre-school at all. There’s nothing that differentiates the company or shows its human side or brings the strategy to life.

    Where’s the story, the visual, the creative elements that will cut through and connect with people emotionally?

     

    So there you go, 12 sins of strategy. Get the full ebook on these 12 sins, by completing your details here and let’s stop the strategy sinning!

    Tuesday
    Jan172017

    The single reason for 'bad'​ meetings

    Bad meetings* get a bad rap - not to mention the rolling of eyes, the sighs and exclamations about the time that has been lost and will never be regained.

    *Bad meetings meaning: none or few outcomes, dull, too much blah blah, off on tangents that aren’t about relevant, brainstorm sessions that fizzle, dead time and space where nothing is happening, going around in circles, only a few loud mouth contributors … you know the stuff... 

    There will always be articles and listicles on what to do to make a meeting better. Like how to have an agenda and set a time frame and warn people in advance ... and on it goes, a list of advice or actions that seem like they could have been unearthed from meetings in the 1960s!

    But I wonder whether a few ‘do this’ points will fundamentally change the way meetings run at our place of work? Underpinning it all is the meeting culture. And that culture is quite deeply ingrained.

    Michael Henderson in his work on Cultures at Work says: 

    Culture creates the environments, daily rituals and beliefs that connect your people, with your company.

    Our culture has been created over time. We follow these rituals, behaviours and patterns often unknowingly and they may not have a documented history that we can pull the threads from. 

    We learn bad meeting behaviours by being in bad meetings. 

    Rituals, routines and ruts get followed because that's what we've seen and experienced. Making and suggesting changes from the seat of the attendee or participant can be tricky. 

    It probably won't all change on Monday morning with a tick box list or a tip of advice from how Steve Jobs ran his meetings (although some of his practices sound super clever or super scary - depending on how you like your meetings to go!) 

    With everything all agile and scrum and collaborative and co-design-y these days, there are newer and more effective (and creative) approaches to ensure you have as productive and successful a meeting as possible. After all, you spend a lot of time in them - both face to face or remotely online. 

    It’s in our interests to lead better meetings - for productivity, for engagement, for decision making, for inspiration, for collaboration.

    Plus if you run a bad meeting, it could be a career limiter. Who wants to go to dull meetings that don’t achieve or decide anything? We don’t want to but every week there is likely to be some meeting or gathering that you sit (or stand through) that doesn't ring your bell, light your fire or flick your switch. Don’t get known as the dude or dudette or dudeley who runs a dud meeting that no one comes to.

     

    So what makes meetings 'bad?

    During a meeting, there is one thing alone that determines the success of that meeting. One thing.

    It's the leader or facilitator of that meeting.

    Yep. It’s them. Or if you're running the meeting…. errr, it's you. (This is said with love, not shame or guilt or criticism. It’s said with love and care.) 

    When a meeting is about to start and then when it gets underway, it's the leader of that meeting - the facilitator of that meeting - who is helping make that meeting good or not so good. Either the meeting will suck or it won’t. And I reckon it is on the facilitator of the meeting, the leader.

    The #1 reason why bad meetings are bad? It’s because of bad meeting leadership. Let me be polite then: "poor meeting leadership". A meeting leader who could enhance their capability.

    It’s about what the person - who is designated or appointed or volunteered as the facilitator of that meeting - does or doesn’t do that makes that meeting rock… or not.

    Yes yes yes, it’s also about the people around the table who are contributing and it’s about the agenda and the location and the sandwiches and the Post-it notes... but it comes back to whether that leader has created the environment for a good meeting to take place. 

    Bad meetings are bad because the leader of the meeting didn’t use effective meeting facilitation skills. They did not use facilitation or ‘ease of progress’ skills … well enough. 

    Three bears

    From the meetings I’ve been in, attended, spied on, coached leaders through and attended incognito doing research, the cause of the majority of problems that create bad meetings is because the leader: 

    • didn’t do something that was needed 
    • did too little or …
    • did too much.

    Did nothing when it was needed. Didn’t do quite enough, or did too much.

     

    Oh wow, can you see how delicate this balance can be?

    Don't do enough and it can go haywire. Yet do too much and it can feel like an interrogation or detention.

    Too hands off or too hands on. Care less or control freak.

    There’s somewhere in the middle where the leader is continually helping to create a brilliant environment for good work to be done.

    Watch closely

    • What happened in a good meeting?
    • Why was it good? 
    • What didn’t happen that you think might have made it a little 'bad'? 

    The good stuff is the stuff to aspire to when it’s your turn to step into the role of facilitating and leading a meeting. Keep building your capability as a Leader as Facilitator. 

    Thursday
    Jan122017

    Why bother doing better...

    When you’ve cursed or waved your fist at a fellow road user -- pedestrian, cyclist, driver, truckie -- for doing something crazy on the road, just remember that we can’t allbe above average drivers. Some of us are highly proficient and skilled, confident and capable. Others of us are less so … and we’ve all done something at some time that wasn’t the best decision while on the road.

    The same applies to drivers at work: leaders running meetings and workshops. We might, possibly, perhaps, maybe think we’re pretty great when it comes to leading meetings, getting outcomes with a team and keeping people engaged throughout the process! 

    Many a leader I’ve observed, coached or developed in facilitation skills -- the skills leaders use to bring their team together, remove obstacles and get good work done -- believe they’re pretty hot, highly capable and in short, "nailin’ it".

    But we can’t all be above average facilitators. 

    It could be that we haven't recently gained perspective on how we’re going or perhaps we may not have adjusted our style to incorporate some of the newer approaches to working with people that help bring them together and get work done. 

    Or we might be comparing ourselves to those we work with and okay, so fair enough, in comparison with that sample, we may well be hot! But outside of your organisation’s culture of meetings and workshops, you may be resorting to habitual patterns of behaviour that could be impacting how you’re performing... and the results you're getting in meetings and workshops.

     

    A New View

    Time and again in my workshops on facilitation skills I see how delighted people are to learn new skills, capabilities and techniques in how to handle what happens in meetings, team sessions and workshops. They are thrilled in fact! Their confidence lifts. They have new ways of working with people that are contemporary, yet caring; new ways that are creative yet productive.

    We don’t know what we don’t know when it comes to many aspects of leadership, collaboration, motivation, performance… you can put facilitation on that list too.

    The role of the workplace leader continues to evolve.

    Increasingly leaders are needing workplace group leadership skills across three main areas: 

    1. to create the right environment or culture for collaboration
    2. to elicit information from the team and
    3. to build cohesion - to help bring a team together and to help them stick. (And... taking them out for drinks doesn’t count!)

    So it makes sense for leaders to continue to look at how to build these types of capabilities, to build their social intelligence and to get better leverage for the time they spend working with their direct reports. 

     

    Why bother doing better? 

    If you’re on your own journey of going from good to great as a leader -- no matter your role, field, industry or organisation -- think about why you would step-up in your capabilities and performance.

    In each of my workshops on facilitation skills or 'Leader as Facilitator' program, I ask participants why they want to do better or why they want to improve their facilitation capability with their team in their organisation.

    Gathering up all of those replies to ‘why’ over recent years, the responses seem to focus on four main areas (and you'll see some direct quotes from the sessions): 

     

    The ME

    (me, myself, I - this is about them, the leader)

    Their responses include improving their facilitation capability to: 

    • Build confidence 
    • Learn! Always be learning
    • Confirm if I am on the right track with what I’m doing now
    • Be more persuasive. One participant recently said: "Perhaps I’m a little bit direct; how can I be more persuasive, impactful, engaging – all at once?". Aaaah yes, a magical trio there, but it can be done. 
    •  Understand what to do when I don’t know what to do
    •  Break old habits and routines
    •  Improve my communication skills
    •  Become a better leader (Yes! Nice one that.)

     

     

    The WE

    (them, they, us - this is about the participants, their direct reports, team members, stakeholders, the people they work with)

    They said they wanted to improve their capabilities to facilitate as a leader to: 

    • Influence stakeholders and learn more ways to influence people
    • Handle tricky situations and strong personalities in the room (urgh, don’t you just break out in a sweat at the thought of the next one of those you have to lead!)
    • Manage up; to be able to lead leaders
    • Get people on board a change program or a new or changed project
    •  Engage people to increase their commitment to follow through on actions 
    •  Keep people motivated
    •  Manage differing outcomes and expectations

     

    The WORK

    (it, that, the work - this is about the work to be done)

    Participants said they wanted to improve their abilities to facilitate in meetings and workshops to: 

    • Get to a decision - as one leader said, "It's fine to all talk and contribute but where is it eventually going? Do we need to get somewhere and get agreement? If so, then I have to make that happen without being a steamroller".
    • Give a name to things we may do instinctively as leaders; "I'd like to be more conscious of deliberately doing something because then I’ll know what to do to get what outcomes."
    • Conduct more effective meetings (oh so common this one - such a h-u-g-e time waster when it doesn't go well)
    • Achieve outcomes in a group or team environment. "The more people there are, the messier it can get, but we still need to do stuff", said a leader recently. 
    • Keep a group of people on track and get the work done. (It's an ongoing and fine balancing act, hey?) 

     

    The WAY

    (how we do the work - this is about how we work together, the culture of the meeting or workshop, how we perform as a group)

    Participants said how they work would be boosted with better facilitation skills to: 

    • Add to the toolkit of strategies and tactics we know about when working in a group situation
    • Move away from click and point PowerPoint presentations; "It’s not a presentation - it’s a workshop, dude", was feedback from a leader’s direct report at a design thinking workshop recently. Ouch! But it was feedback that jolted that leader and helped them shift their thinking and then go ahead and build their facilitation capability
    • Techniques to get beyond group ‘niceties’. "You know, we’re all being nice and getting along and perhaps being compliant in our decision making so we don’t rock the boat, rather than feeling like you can have robust discussion and diverse participation."
    • Get different views from around the room
    • Harvest ideas and get deeper information from all of the team or unit or from smaller groups or areas of the business who might not normally participate in these sessions
    • Run better meetings; "we spend so much time in them and we simply don’t do them well enough”. 

     

    There are so many ways an enhanced capability to facilitate in your team will benefit you and the team, the work that gets done and the way you all do the work. 

    And while it's just one capability - facilitation - it has so many facets, perspectives, skills, techniques, ways of thinking and depth to it. It's a practice.

    What’s most needed where you are at the moment? 

    Watch what happens over the next few days and weeks -- where do you think a better, stronger capability to facilitate (to make things easier for the team) would be beneficial?

    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.