Monday, March 31, 2008

Your vision what a wonderful tool

While travelling this week I had numerous meetings that mostly went well. Though when pausing for a breathe on yet another flight home, two particular meetings stuck in my head and both for a similar reason.

The meetings were with the leaders of two very different teams one conducts most of the team action in a virtual environment to an internal audience, while the other has a very hands-on and customer facing team. What struck me about both these meetings was that the leaders expressed their vision with crystal clarity, sitting with them I could see in my mind the situation and end-state that they wanted each team to achieve. I left their offices in an invigorated state, eager to get to work and do my part of the team's plan to make sure we got to this end point.

Why was I moved in this way? After these meetings I had a clear and unambiguous vision of what I needed to do to help make the team reach its goal. Sure I interrupted what about this and what about that? And sometimes there was a definite answer and sometimes I was told - we need you to come up with a solution for this part of the problem. Often this would get me off-side and negative about the task, but because these leaders took the time to explain their vision and the steps we needed to complete to get there I was OK with it. So later it occurred to me that these leaders had put me into a receptive mood to take on the challenges that I may not have otherwise accepted.

My goal going forward is to take the time to think through the vision of what my team is achieving and then slow down further to plan of the best way I can articulate it to my team. I'm sure if a clear vision had such an affect on me it will to other teams too.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Who should be the leader?

Who should be the leader in your group? why You! We all have potential to be the leader and some will be more successful than others, it depends on your perception, your values and especially the drive in your heart.

Do you want to make a difference , do you want the team to accomplish, do you want to feel part of the group - like you belong? I guess we all do. Where to start, probably the place to start is to assess the situation - of where the group is, what the composition of the group is and what we want to achieve.

Take care to then explain in a positive fashion the vision of what the end-state is, in many cases this is all you need to do particularly if the group is in a good state of mind. Next pause for a few moments to let everybody consider the idea and then ask your team for any questions. It is important that you allow the team to have sufficient time to consider the vision you have planted in their mind - don't rush this aspect. A question asked at this time in front of the whole team allows everyone to benefit from the clarification points.

Once the idea is firmly planted in each member of the team, it becomes time to delegate/arrange the members to tasks - often this is quite obvious as a member may have special skills that preclude others from taking that part of the job. If much of the overall job falls to the special skills people it may be prudent to ask them if and how someone can assist to lighten their load. This can have some great spin-off benefits, firstly the guy with the big load gains a sense of appreciation that he has more work, secondly the person who helps may learn some new skills they can contribute to the team, look for these hidden opportunities to broaden the teams skills and exposure.

So we can all be leaders and with a little empathy and thought we can make a great job of it by including everyone and getting the job done when we get the chance.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Do you have the drive to be the best leader you can

So you want to be a better leader, then lets consider one of the fundamental attributes of a leader - drive!
Leaders tend to share four basic areas of drive:

  1. Bonding,
  2. Defending,
  3. Acquiring, and
  4. Learning.

Bonding: Good leaders want to bond with others, it is a basic need and makes us feel good to be part of a social relationship and successfully work with others. Through bonding we develop partnerships and friendships, these relationships then encourage us to act in a fair and respectful manner with those we deal with.

Defending: As leaders we will be pasionate to protect any areas we feel close too, these may be our possesions, position or friendships. If we feel these are threatened or particularly our self-image or our self-beliefs are, we will become angry and defend our positions. We need to acknowledge this need for defence and pause to consider the most approapriate action and not "fly off the handle".

Acquiring: Leaders have an urge to acquire, this may be material things for some, it may be that management role that comes with certain perks, it may mean knowledge or information for others. What drives a leader to acquire is not important, how he or she acts is the important part, in some areas it may mean to be aggressive and fight for that extra sales, while in other areas it may mean spending time to develop a more detailed understanding. From our own perspective it is important to understand our motivation and what our goal is, but it is equally important to understand our bosses and our subordinates position. Understanding what drives a person's acquisition self will help us to deal with them at their level and see their motivators.

Learning: Leaders have an in-built curiosity - a need to learn, about where they are, where they want to be and how to get there. Learning is linked to an early post where I said leaders desire to innovate and to develop new and better systems to aid their end goal.

So, do we have the drive to be better leaders, to understand our motivations so we can lead our teams to better successes in the future.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Attitude Required

One of the defining characteristics of a leader is the ability to motivate others through our attitude.

I recall a recent team I was involved in where the leader had a poor attitude towards the major tasks. This attitude filtered into the whole team and many of the members then struggled to find a reason to get stuck into planning and organising the various tasks and assign them to the right people.

Luckily I was also working with another team, in this team the leader was positive and upbeat about the challenges in this project. Everyone pitched in and developed the plan components and moved into the implementation phase.

Over the weekend I contemplated about the projects I was working on and looked at my actions in these two projects. I resolved that I needed to ensure I was not affected by the attitude of the leaders and be certain I maintain my edge by delivering the best products and services for my portion of the projects.

The other angle of this is that when it's our turn to be the leader our attitude will shape the outcomes from our team members. Be positive and upbeat and your project team will feed from your attitude and the team will perform at their best.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Leadership the moving target

Being a leader means we need to adopt to the situation and use the right style at the right time.

Imagine you're at work and the boss hands out that special horrid job. How would you react and act in a positve way to lead the team through the job.

Now Imagine you're at the same work place and your workmate walks out behind the forklift, I bet this is much easier to determine the right way to lead.

And lastly Imagine you're still in the same place and the new guy is struggling with a complicated procedure.

So what can we take away from this, Great leaders can and do change their styles to suit the situation. Are you comfortable and prepared to switch from the co-operative leader for the first example acting as one in the team to share the burden and get on with getting the job done. Can you switch in a blink of an eye to adopt an authoritarian leadership mode and yell instructions in the face of a potential accident in the second example. Thirdly will you slow down to take the mentor and coaching leadership role for our final scenario.

The tough part of this is, is that there is no right way or perfect way to be great leader. Good leadership demands us to be capable in a number of roles. If we look into ourselves we can see that we are more comfortable with some styles than we are with others. This is the challenge for us to work and develop our weaker styles so they can be used as part of our arsonal of leadership skills.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Leaders and Team Dynamics

Sitting in a taxi on the way to airport, I watched as a group of labourers were standing around sharing a drink. Lots of the men were wet and dirty but seemed in no rush to get on their way home. As I sat in the traffic jam it became obvious, here was a group where each member felt comfortable and happy as part of the group.

As we finally moved on it occured to me that the leader in this group understood one of the fundamentals of leadership. Make each member feel comfortable and accepted as a part of the team and his morale and effort will benefit all concerned.

Interestingly the academics will tells us ohh - that's part of "Maslows' theory", true enough but either way as the leader it's important to get your team to bond and feel comfortable. If you can make each member feel they are valued and their contributions aide the achievement of the teams goals, that's a great start to your leadership aspirations.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Leadership the other view to management

I recently read a book discussing leadership and one section considered the confusion of most people between manager's actions and perceptions, versus those that are usually more aligned to leaders.

Perceived view Leaders vs Managers:

Leaders develop while managers maintain the situation,
Leaders innovate while managers administaer their process,
Leaders inspire trust while managers rely on control,
Leaders ask what and why while managers ask how and when,
Leaders challenge the status quo while managers accept it as normal,
Leaders focus on people while managers focus on systems and outcomes.

So the question arises how do we shift our perception to move from the management view and adopt the leader within - to not only get the job done, but move into the realm of leading our team in a more supportive, innovative and inclusive action.

Next time the job comes our way we need to ask the questions from the leaders viewpoint and include can we do it better? how will it affect the people? Then come up with a real reason to share with our team, the best way to do it, spread the tasks within the team so everyone has a hand in the good and the bad. Best of all see how many people can actually enjoy!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Manager or Leader

Looking around the workplace we see lots or people going about their tasks. Often we look too our managers and expect them to be our leaders, argh a common mistake. Think of why the person is the manager? because they get things done for their boss! Sure they come and tells us what needs to be done, but in most cases they don't do it, they don't lend a hand, and often don't even know how to do the job.

Then take another look... notice the person who takes the initiative, maps out a plan, allocates themself part of the job and helps everyone to see the why and how the job can be done. Here is leadership on display and in action.

While there are many theories of leadership, it's really all about common sense and a drive to work in a team to get a result. So next time a job gets set your way, grab it with both hands and see how you can effect it with your sphere of influence and get it done!