Sunday, May 25, 2008

Leadership - Opportunities lost in the flat organisation

Lots of workplaces are going through the joy of middle management being removed or drastically reduced, often referred to as flattening the organisation. The planned result in theory is if there are less layers of management then the organisation will be running more efficiently and produce more cash for the shareholders.

Observing changes in many organisations recently I have seen this flattening of the organisation have another effect which is killing the organisation off. Leadership opportunities are being stifled.

Talk to any manager and he will let you know his aim is to raise his team's utilisation better than 80% and he will be a happy man. So what happens as each team member approaches their ceiling of utilisation, they tend to get bogged down in the process required to run at 100%.

Interestingly when we examine the bulk of the leadership traints we see tasks such as influencing others, envisioning our team, developing new ideas to streamline our business activities. What do all of these require - time, however each member of our team now has very little time left - we just robbed them. So if we are a management guru we would say this is great we have raised our utilisation to a high level.

Long term we have taken the strategic leadership away from the our team and we have replaced it with the short term tactical advantage of improved efficiency, but how do we get the balance right? With no strategic improvement we will be overtaken by our competitors after our current processes become left behind in our focus on maximum efficiency and no improvements from within.

So while we are driven from above to make our team more efficient, we need to ensure our team members have time to develop their ideas and let their leadership come out and show.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Leadership - An opportunity knocks

Recently I visited with a team who were working a really tough schedule put in place by their boss. While all the members knew what the outcome was to be, no-one had allocated the tasks to get to the goal. Interestingly they were all eager to get to the job site and get stuck into getting the job done. Once there, they appraised the obvious tasks to be completed and then found in many cases they didn't have the necessary tools or access.

Each day the group came in and complained that no-one had organised this or that and hence why they were struggling to make their schedule.

What interesting group dynamics, the group could identify that they needed some leadership to direct and influence the team in the completion of this task yet no-one wanted to put their hand up and take a shot at it. I watched in disbelief wonder what in their workplace was making them hold back. As I spent some more time with the larger group it became clearer to me. What had happened at this workplace, happens in many and often leaves us unsure of when and how to act.

This workplace had recently gone through a big transformation with a new management structure put in place. Lots of the members of these teams were struggling to identify and cope with the new managers in place, would they be supported if they took on the leadership mantle? What would happen if they made a mistake? Why weren't these new managers organising things?

This left me thinking when will the management clear the air and empower these people to bring out their best.

And if we were the people in this group would we take the risk and assume the leadership role, what an opportunity to show your capability. If you find yourself in a situation like this take a look around and see if this is your chance to move into a leadership role.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Leadership Growth - Understand the four phases

Why is it that sometimes we're very comfortable leading a task and yet at other times we feel we are floundering along. The theorists will tell us there are four phases of Leadership growth and we must be able to recognise each and the steps we need to take to move to the next state.

These states are commonly known as:

  1. I don't know What I don't know,
  2. I know what I don't know,
  3. I grow and know and it starts to show, and
  4. I go because of what I know.

I don't know What I don't know.

This stage of leadership usually occurs when we take on a new series of tasks, the tasks are unfamiliar and we're not sure what is the right direction to move. When we're at this stage we feel uncomfortable and it is important we get busy to understand what the task is and how it gets done and then appraise the situation for the best effect.

I know what I don't know.

Having recognised the first stage and spent some time to learn the task and current process, now is the time to set up a path to learn all the missing information on product process and people. We need to leverage those in the current job to map a course to bridge this missing knowledge gap.

I Grow I know and it starts to show.

Now we have spent the time to fill our knowledge gap, now we can start to do an analysis to see what is the best way to move forward. As this analysis gains momentum we can start to make changes with the processes and people to lead the team in our way. Often at this stage the team start to feel that everything is coming together, people know what to do and the process is running smoothly with few problems.

I Go because I know.

Now I'm quite comfortable with the task and the people and processes I've adjusted along the way. I have a good understanding of all of the factors, so now when problems arise I can call on my knowledge and easily and quickly adjust the team to complete my tasks.

Understanding these four stages helps us to focus on the steps to move from the first stage through to the competent stage, the better we identify where we are placed tells us what is required to move forward so our leadership at its optimum.

Take the time to do an assessment, can you recognise where you are in this cycle. Once you have reached this understanding, now allocate the time to move to the next stage. If you do the time your leadership will improve.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Leaders drive momentum

One of the standout capabilities of a good leader is their ability to use the power of momentum to get things done and gather the followers in their path to sweep through to success.

However momentum just like learning leadership skills, usually starts with small steps, gaining a toe-hold and gradually building up. The toughest aspect is gaining the initial inertia to get moving forward at all and then to mould it into the action machine you need to achieve your goals.

Many organisations are currently adjusting to have a much flatter management tree, which means that it is difficult to recruit people to the team. In this situation you'll need to find a motivator to entice these guys to come join your team, so look for a number of win-win situations such that your team members can see some positive outcome for them. Then you need to get some action in place (some might say grab some low hanging fruit - get some wins in early) so you can capitalize on this momentum and recruit further and so build your momentum, actions and goals will follow. People are drawn to success, so be sure that the people around you can see these early successes and they'll follow wanting to share in the glory.

When you can maintain momentum within your team, you'll find you can accomplish so much more than without the team behind you. So next you get the chance, look for opportunities to try and gain some momentum and use this success to recruit more talent to your team.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Your leadership limits - limited by you

Ever hear the term " Dream for the Sky" meaning to dream big, as big as you dare. Leadership aspirations fall into this category too. I recall some 12 years ago, I finally got this position I had been working on for the previous twenty years. Yahoo I'd made it! So the first year or so in this position was fantastic as I enjoyed all the new opportunities and spheres of influence to see some great things happen. Then I fell flat as I lost my direction.

What had happened? I was still the same person, still ready to get in and work hard. Now when I look back I see that I had lost my goal to strive for, so unbeknown to me my major motivation factor had been removed, and by myself. Surprise, surprise a year or two later I left the job and took another position. Had I realised then as I do now, maybe I may have done somethings a little different, take some leave and re-assess my goals of where I wanted to take my career, and then assess what steps I needed to take to achieve them.

So, do you have a plan in action? a leadership position in mind that you want to take on, and importantly do you stop and re-assess how your progressing, is it necessary for an update as circumstances change.

If you don't dream big there is every chance, that you'll limit your potential and settle for what should be an interim step in your life's journey of leadership.