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    Entries in productivity (14)

    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.

    Tuesday
    Oct042016

    3 reasons why that meeting didn't make a decision

     

    ‘That’s an hour of my life I’ll never get back’

    ‘Urgh! There was no point in me even being there’.

     

    ‘And the purpose of that was *crickets*…’

    If you’ve felt the annoyance of an outcome-less meeting you’ll know it’s lost time, an hour or more of time you ‘can’t get back’.

    In an era where everyone’s got stuff to do, priorities of their own and deadlines to make, a time-wasting meeting is frustrating. It’s a career limiter too - particularly if you’re leading the meeting. You’re likely to get known as ‘that person that never gets decisions made’.

    The Cost of Lost

    Meetings that don’t make a decision are sources of lost time; they’re a waste of the incredible experience and brain-power in the room and there’s the cost of the actual working time of the people in the room. What a tragic ROI?! And don’t even start about the waste of a good meeting room when meeting space can be hard to come by in many workplaces!

    But did we get anything done?

    Yes, sure, there are times when you don’t need to make a decision in a meeting – it’s a meeting that’s about information sharing, or announcing something or it’s an ideas fest – but most meetings do need to get consensus or agreement or some type of outcome.

    It’s what most meetings are judged on: ‘did we get sh*t done?’

    What I hear a lot from people when I’m working with them to develop their Leader as Facilitator skills is that the meetings they run just don’t get the decision part done.

    And now you’ve got to … Schedule. Another. Freakin’. Meeting.

    Yes, you’ll need another meeting time in a week or two to do what should have been done in that meeting that just finished.

    Hostage Situations, Time Wasters & High-Priced Parties

    I think you need to avoid the ‘hostage situation’ as well as the ‘time waster’ types of meetings. This is where people are there against their will or you’ve got the wrong people in the room or didn’t get to an outcome.

    Meetings need to be high on engagement andhigh on outcomes.

    Avoid the ‘high-priced party’ meeting too, unless it really is a celebration and there’s little or no work to be done. (That’s where we’re having a great time but not doing anything!)

    For meetings in today’s workplaces, it’s about engagement + outcomes. You have to have people contributing and participating AND you need to get stuff done, the good stuff, the right stuff… not just any stuff.

    3 Reasons why there's no decision

    There are three reasons why meetings don’t make decisions when they should have.

    [Remember though that meetings are made up of people; people talking and working together. It’s not an automatic robotic machine meeting. We aren’t machines – we are people. We are people and we do things so we need to do something to make adjustments in meetings to make sure the right things get done. And decisions are a big part of that.]

    The three reasons why that meeting didn’t make a decision is ... something wasn’t clear:

    1.  The reason why you were making the decision wasn’t clear.

    2.  The decision to be made wasn’t clear.

    3.  The way you were going to decide wasn’t clear.

    You see, it’s all too fuzzy. If it were clear, it would have happened. The leader, the meeting, the people would have been able to navigate through. But you didn’t. And I reckon it’s one or more of the three reasons. Here they are in a slightly new way of thinking:

    1.           You (or the group or the leader or facilitator) didn’t decide why you were making the decision.

    2.           You (or the group or the leader or facilitator) didn’t decide what the decision is

    3.           You (or the group or the leader or facilitator) didn’t decide how you were going to decide

     

    That’s a Why, What and How. Sounds a little like ‘Start with Why’ doesn’t it?

    So before any type of meeting where a decision is expected, hoped or needing to be made:

    1.  Know WHY you need to make the decision

    2.  Know WHAT the decision is that needs to be made

    3.  Decide HOW you’re going to decide.

    That third one sound funny? Deciding how to decide? Yes, it’s a thing. (More on how to make the decision in my next post).

    Don't leave it to hope or luck

    Too many workplaces simply bring people together and hope they’ll talk enough to finally get to a point where they decide – or give in through exhaustion and frustration!

    Don’t leave decision-making to random events, luck or hope. You may have to do some deciding before the meeting or at least, before the meeting makes that all-important decision.

    Get clear on your why, what and how of decisions to be made and you’ll get known as ‘the person who helps us get sh*t done’!

    Wednesday
    Aug312016

    To Hack is the Way

     

    The challenges of the modern workplace aren’t new: low levels of engagement and morale, industry disruption putting pressure on the business, silos and disconnected teams, a slow pace of internal change due to resistance or lack of buy in and general busy-ness overload.

    It could sound a bit dull and depressing :-( yet when you look a little closer, you might find pockets of the business where ‘all is good’.

    For many people, teams and units across a business, a breath of fresh air and a jolt of innovation and inspiration is what’s needed to press ‘reset’ and embark on a new financial year or a new project or kick-off a fresh start. 

    So I’m here to tell ya: the hack is the way. 

    Yes, the hack.

    Not breaking-into-computers hacking, but rather coming-up-with-ingenious-ideas-for-tricky-problems hacking.

    Known as the ‘hack day’ or ‘hackathon’, increasingly clued-up businesses are bringing their teams together to identify top talent, reconnect their people, speed up the identification of ideas and shift up the vibe of the business’ culture.

    This article gives you three reasons why…  this one reckons all businesses should be hacking. 

    Too often in team days or dull planning sessions the loudest voices drown out fresh and upcoming idea makers in a workplace. Or worse, it's a meteor shower of PowerPoint bullet points. And even when ideas are presented, there’s a lack ofaccountability or responsibility or follow through to get things done to see if they’ll actually work. 

    So enter, the hack. A half, one or multi-day hacking event is proving to be a culture shaker, an innovation maker and a rut breaker!

    Full on input… and output

    Through these creative, collaborative, ingenious and full-on sessions, teams work together to design and deliver something; they create solutions to respond to real customer challenges. Whether that's a new strategy, or a new product. With an increasing focus on the customer, businesses of all sizes are seeing this is a sharp and clever angle for competitive advantage.

    The hackathon helps develop prototypes that can be put into practice quick smart.

    Best of all, you get a taste of agile - a taste of agility and of productivity. You get to play with some of the super human approaches and ways of working of leading global businesses who use hacks to their advantage. Think Google, NASA, Facebook, Salesforce, Uber, eBay, Qantas, Atlassian… 

    But hey, hackathons don’t have to be about technology; it’s where they were born, yes, but you can apply hacks to creativity and innovation in almost any aspect of your business, team, unit or industry. 

    I recently facilitated a hack session at a multi-industry conference; more than 100 people all working on individual projects and tasks but their outputs could only have been achieved in that timeframe using hacking techniques. It looks like we could be starting to hack the hack!

    Cool companies hack

    Big and small companies, teams and projects the world over are seeing the benefits of the hack.

    They get teams of people together to work intensively and rapidly to:

    • create new products
    • focus on customers
    • align the team and enterprise
    • create solutions to tricky problems
    • lift innovative thinking and
    • create collaborative environments.


    And wait, there's more. I love how hack events help you see how people work under pressure.  This type of environment helps you identify top talent, high potentials and high performers who may have been previously hidden, stifled or just uninspired!

    Plus it's time to find other ways to break out of those dull ruts and patterns that a team may have fallen victim to over recent times. It's so easy to get comfortable and stay there. 

    Most of all I love seeing teams mixing together - particularly when they're working across silos. People are enjoying the work  (because : happiness!) and they're bringing a competitive and cheeky team spirit to the event. The energy is electric and the solutions are often mind blowing!

    'Wha?! How did they come up with THAT?' is a phrase that's often heard. 

    Customer Focus

    With a customer focus, a hackathon or hack day helps create some big reasons to connect and talk more deeply with customers; to research and gather information, to uncover insights and to map out customer experiences. In these insights are genius solutions and ideas that the team can create during the hack. 

    Practical ... and Keep Going

    Many hackers rave about how practical and productive hackathons are. It's not about talking all day. Yawn! Hack days are about getting sh*t done, doing things. It’s about short sprints of activity over the day or days and teams working rapidly, pushing through doubt or procrastination and experiencing a highly productive environment where delivery is everything.

    And then with the experience of the hack, teams take hacking elements back to their workplace and workspace and find they’re able to generate innovative ideas and work productively by applying same, again and again. 

    One team I worked with recently continued using their 'Hack Pack': it's a bunch of practices I run in a hack day. When they want to re-live the experience of the hackathon in their everyday work, they simply choose a technique from the Hack Pack ... and go!

    7 things

    Now, before you go all crazy and book a venue and invite everyone to hack together, think about these 7 things first: 

    1. Focus: why are we going to hack and what might the theme be? 

    2. Hackers: who's in? Who wants to come, needs to be there or would benefit from the lift of the hack?

    3. Schedule: what's going to happen when on the day? What's the schedule of things? 

    4. Process: how are you going to hack? What will you do when? Who will facilitate it for you (yes of course, let's talk about this!)

    5. Celebrate: how will you cheer on the ideas, outputs and progress the hackers make throughout the day?

    6. Implement: how will you bring the prototypes you create to fruition and put them into practice beyond the hack? 

    7. Integrate: how will you weave the learnings from the event into your culture for ongoing benefits, ROI and overall hacking goodness?

    Your hack plan could look like this...



    Leading companies and businesses across so many industries (beyond technology) are learning that today's challenges need new ways of thinking, acting and working. They're looking for better ways to drive creativity and ingenuity - yet all the while still solving problems and challenges. (Oh and let's maintain or strengthen our competitive advantage at the same time!)

    When you need to get all of that done, they know - and you do too - that where there’s a hack ... there’s a way!
    Thursday
    Jan282016

    When your meeting culture sucks: 8 ways to refresh

    The meeting culture in many companies sucks. It’s no surprise given how last century some of our meeting behaviours are. We have meetings that are too many, too long, too little achieved, too much talk, too frustrating… it’s all too much!

    The culture of how we meet can be deeply ingrained in an organisation. There are plenty of unwritten and unspoken rules that get followed simply because that’s how it’s been done for years.

    And because we expect (or hope?) that so much will get done in our meetings, we owe it to our schedules, customers, colleagues (and families) to get as productive as we can.

    Here’s how to inject some fresh thinking and behaviour into your workplace meetings for this week, month, year:

     

    1. Have less: Say ‘no’

    This is a classic piece of advice. Start fresh this year. Don’t meet if you don’t need to and if you do need to...

     

    2. Have shorter: Time box it

    Ok yes, you’re going to meet but keep the duration shorter. Use the technique of time-boxing; set a timer on your phone and go for the surprise of a seven, 16 or 23-minute meeting. I like to use a humorous ringtone for the alarm like zombie noises, spaceships or the theme from a well-known sit-com. It always gets a laugh, breaks the tension and inspires people to refocus for the next topic.

     

    3. Go visual: Show me

    Help people cut through all the blah-blah. When people can see what you mean, they’ll understand quicker and you’ll make faster progress. Everyday I work with leaders and teams and use sensemaking or mapping techniques with them. You don’t need to be able to draw. Pick up a marker and capture the key points, those ‘in-a-nutshell’ comments on a flip chart, whiteboard, tablet or note pad. What shape is their idea? Map that. The meeting will be 25% shorter once people can see what they’re talking about.  

     

    4. Follow a process: This then that

    Too many meetings follow an agenda - if you’re lucky - but no process. A process outlines how you’re going to handle each agenda item.

    The default tends to be ‘let’s all talk about it’. Here the whole group of the meeting talk (or interrupt each other) to put their views forward. But it’s so challenging to move from the talking about your opinion, to the brainstorming solutions part and then try and get to making a decision – all in the one breath. 

    Borrowed from the world of professional facilitators, a process will help you confirm the facts or background, then hear opinions, then generate ideas and finally, agree to actionsHere’s my advice on an Accelerated Meeting Framework that just works and how to do it. 

     

    5. Stay creative: Yes and…

    Aim to include more creative techniques in your meetings, workshops and sessions. I’m not talking about ‘Pass the Orange’ or ‘Bust the Balloon’ party games by the way! I love to borrow from the world of improvisation. The Improv Encyclopedia is a rich trove of creative loot for groups and teams to be more innovative, ingenious and collaborative when they get together.

     

    6. Get inspiration: good better best

    It’s practical to aspire towards ‘better practice’ if you can’t quite get to best practice yet. Do this by learning from other fields and businesses that nail their meeting productivity and culture 

    There is a lot to learn about productive collaboration from the Scrum methodology used by many software and tech companies, and increasingly other industries and businesses. This is thanks Jeff Sutherland – one of the inventors of Scrum and his practical book ‘Scrum’. 

     

    7. Stand up sometimes: No chairs required

    A popular scrum approach is to have a daily standup meeting. Simply start by removing the chairs and tables from your meeting; you’ll have shorter, more focused and productive meetings right away. You don’t even need a meeting room for this! Stand up in your workspace. I saw a Zara retail team having their morning standup huddle between the shorts and the shoes!

     

    8. Change your environment: Love thy neighbour

    Break your habits and patterns of same/same; the same rooms for the same meetings. In workplaces where it’s challenging to find a meeting room, why not go outside? Try walking meetings, go to a cafe or other unusual and inspiring venue like sports courts, community colleges, bowling alleys, community theatres, swimming pools, the beach or lake, local park or other recreation facility. Take a deep breath while you’re there!

    A client recently hunted out some meeting room locations in the businesses that were next door or nearby. Now they have some inspiring collaborative ventures up and running that started just by finding out who was in the neighborhood and whether they might have some meeting space available.

     

    9. Bonus tip: Stay open

    If someone else in the team brings along some creative and cultural shifts to the way you meet, collaborate or communicate this year, take it… stay open. Say ‘yes’. Experiment, test and try.

     

    Try hitting ‘refresh’ on your meetings, workplace, collaboration and communication habits. Test and experiment with things to find what works and keep at it. Avoid falling back into lazy meeting habits or you’ll have the same things, creating the same outcomes and getting the same results. That’s so last century!

    Friday
    Nov202015

    Hellllooooo procrastinators : how to make things happen, stat!

    The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.’ - Walt Disney

    There’s a message here from the Director of Your Life; don’t wait for the script to arrive.

    Get on with it. Everyday life is the biggest improvisation of all. No script. No rehearsal. Get straight out on to the stage of life and start performing!

    Ray Bradbury, the science fiction, horror and fantasy writer, said, ‘First you jump off the cliff and you build your wings on the way down’. And although some believe the quote attributable to Kurt Vonnegut, another equally interesting and creative author, the message is the same: leap and the net will appear, you will adapt, you’ll work it out and you’ll be moving!

    Spur of the moment is often good enough

    For many planners, strategists and forward thinking folks, planning is a part of their everyday life. They plan their morning; they plan their lunch; they plan their afternoon; and they plan family holidays, expeditions and adventures. But to deal with the volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous life which is how the world is now operating, to plan can sometimes be too slow.

    I love the idea of starting before you're ready and making things up as we go along.

    I joke with friends and family that there are some cities and towns in the world that if I had the opportunity to visit them again, you could take me to the airport right now. With nothing more than a credit card in my hand and my passport in my back pocket, I would work it all out as I went.

    That idea can freak some people out. But I'd really would be willing to do that. Wanna travel with me?

    The performance of starting

    Starting before you're ready is a response based on a theory around improvisation. Step into any community or public theatre on any night of the week in almost any city around the world and you will be able to discover the talents and prowess of improvisers. They step onto stages, performing for paying public and they are able to create and deliver an incredible performance almost every time.

    At the end of an improvised show, many theatergoers ask, ‘can we come back tomorrow night and see this performance again?’ Some audiences don’t realise that the show they just saw was fully improvised. Perhaps, a suggestion was given from someone in the audience to start a scene for the performance. Perhaps, one of the performers has added their own ideas. In fact, this is what improvisation is. It’s cutting loose your censor and setting free the inhibitions in your mind to deliver creativity.

    When I first learned the skills of improvisation with Impro Melbourne and was encouraged to step onto stage as a performer, I always felt that I needed to rehearse a bit more or prepare in my mind what I was going to do. Just as improvisers step onto a stage without a script so must we in workplaces today.

     Having a go

    The idea that we can start before we are ready, gives us permission to just have a go, to not have a plan, to not have a script, to not have a structure and to not have any clue where this might go! This of course can be terrifying for those who like to plan, for those who like certainty, for those who like unambiguous situation and for those who like steady and calm environments. 

     Start before you're ready says don't worry about planning fully. If you are 80% ready to go, then go. If you are 40% ready to go, then go with something. If you are 20% ready to go, then go with that.

    Start before you're ready. 

    If you continue to plan out every single step of your idea, of your business opportunity, of your entrepreneurial thoughts or of your team's actions, your capacity to respond to volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity are minimized. To be able to start at anytime - particularly before you're ready - gives you the opportunity to respond, to adapt, to be agile and to be flexible.

    Procrastinators.... helloooooo?

    Over the longer term starting before you're ready helps reduce your inhibitions, your structures, your limitations and your beliefs about what can be possible, what you can create and what you can do. And for the procrastinators among us (yes, me too), starting before you're ready is a very cool way to get some momentum, to get something 'out there' and get over your need for it to be finished, perfect or better before you put it out there.

    Have a crack. That's Aussie slang for 'have a go'. It's an Australian saying I'm often saying to myself, and groups and clients to encourage starting.

    Try it out. Start before you're ready and then document what happens. You could be on to something truly life changing for you and those you impact with your thinking, creativity and work.