Saturday, July 26, 2008

Is your leadership talk supported by your actions?

Had lunch with my friend Wilson this week and he recounted what was happening at his workplace that could happen to us and the terrible side effects.
The workplace was doing their annual list of compulsory courses, such as equality, harassment and such. Wilson and his friends sat through the same class as last year and completed the same assessment as last year and were dutifully sent on their way.

The following week coincided with annual salary reviews. The company has been struggling of late and cash-flow was somewhat of a problem. It was no surprise when most employees received a very modest salary increment. I guess we have all been in this situation and are prepared to take it on the chin.

So this week Wilson and his friends were subjected to the final course in their yearly compulsory quota, Ethics - again they went through the usual course and usual assessment and off they went.
Much of this sounds pretty typical and most people went on their way. What the leadership hadn't counted on was the mood of the workplace. Pretty soon the conversation within the workplace got to talking about the leadership's action versus their talk. Soon the questions and statements were flying back and forth, typical of these were:
Why did we put our prices up in line with inflation, yet our salary didn't go up in the same ratio.
Why have we moved so many staff to contract positions but the staff don't have a written contract.
Why do I get asked to constantly do more yet I get no more reward.
Why do we talk about ethics but don't seem to act ethically with our own people.

While many of these questions were a little selfish and short-sighted, the mood of many of the workers was drifting away from the leadership. Funny the leadership team were patting themselves on the back for having completed the new price book and completing the workplace regulatory training.

So my question to you - do you follow your words with supporting actions? Does your team know that you do what you said you would do? Sometimes we need to ask an observer for the feedback to be sure we get the real answer and not the one we want to hear.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Leading Change a Balancing Act

One common task for us as leaders is to lead change in our workplace. While it may seem that this is a straight forward activity, when done well it will lead to positive changes for our team. However if this is poorly done it can create havoc in our workplace.

The obvious first step is to identify what and why a change needs to be implemented. This is best done through a consultative approach. Take care when raising the situation to also note the parts of the process that are working well and need to be continued in the current way they are done.

In your leadership role it is up to you to drive the changes and engage your team. While this may seem obvious the risk you run if you do not identify the good aspects in the current situation is that the team will feel that their previous efforts have been wasted or not appreciated. So now having identified the good points that need to be continued and where the changes need to be completed. The next steps can be started.

The positioning of yourself towards the team must be one where you are part of the change and not one of the boss pushing the change down to the team. Should you push the change down in an authoritative way, there is some risk of two negative outcomes. Firstly the team may feel very off-side even if they outwardly say yes to the change. Secondly the team may feel dis-engaged in that they have this task thrust on them with no support.

Ideally you will engage with the team and be a large part of the change, when your team see you involved and they see you changing in-line with the change, they will better engage and assist with the change. Take your time to keep the team appraised of the continuation phase along with the changes and their progress.

By working with your team your leadership stands a much better chance of success than pushing a change onto a team and walking away.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Leadership and your self awareness

One of the aspects we need to address every so often is ourselves and what leadership skills we have at this stage of our leadership journey. This is quite confronting for many of us, however the better we do this the better we can understand ourselves and make good decisions based on this awareness.

Often in business we talk about conducting a SWOT, Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. It is essentially the same for us when we look at our leadership skills. We need to stop and assess where we stand and how well we are doing in each of the areas of leading our team.

So how should we do this? Not easily, take a list of the main areas we have been concentrating on in the improvement of our leadership. Then we need to work through each skill area on our list..... and the hard part, take a good honest look and evaluate our standing. Let's take a sample.

Engaging: How well are we engaging with our bosses, our critical stakeholders. How well are we engaging with our team? Do we know their strengths and weaknesses, have we worked with them on how to improve one of their areas of opportunity? How do we score our efforts here, should this be considered one of your Strengths, or a Weakness? Are there some opportunities for us to improve in this area? Are we very poor in this area so much so that there is a threat to our leadership position.

Our Leadership is dependent on us doing this every year or so, helping us to focus on what we're doing well and what needs to be better. Sure this will take some time just consider this another step in your leadership journey.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Leadership and the art of Engagement

We have spent time before about talking with your team. Know your team, their strengths and weaknesses and you can help everyone in the team to meld and become the energised team, ready to work towards the team goals. Our leadership success will depend on it.

So as the leader one of the arts we need to master is the how to engage with the various members of the team. Take the time to ask to initial question and follow it up some small idea of your own then build more questions to probe further. But engaging is more than just asking questions, at times we need to be the counsellor demonstrating apathy and understanding towards our teammates and at other times we need to also show our team members a part of ourselves.

While I've said we need to show part of ourselves when engaging with our team we also still need to maintain a certain distance, this is a very tough line to balance. The main game here is to establish boundaries and not be flexible about crossing these lines. I'm sure you know someone who is a bit too familiar with their boss and all of a sudden its difficult to see who is the leader and who is being manipulated. Leadership requires us to set this line and be firm if people are in danger of crossing the line.

Be sure to maintain the dialogue, set challenges, probe for better solutions and be sure to praise all positive work and actions.

Be firm and fair then you'll hear people comment to the affect you know where you stand . Most people prefer this position with their leader. Can you get yourself into this position?

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Leadership requires Authority

Leaders need authority, When you look internally at your team or externally from a customers perspective, everyone expects the leader to be the authority in their area.
Some people naturally have a great amount of self-confidence and can pull off the act of being the authority figure. The rest of us have to do it the old-fashioned way.

Most of us have to build our authority and our self-confidence through knowledge and skill. Take the time to find out everything about your products, processes and the people who take part in each step. Be sure to ask questions and explore every angle. Put yourself into each persons shoes, from the customer through to the workplace cleaner. Next take some time to understand every cost incurred along the away to production. How much do the raw materials cost, what is the cost of shipping to you and also the shipping to the customer. What the duties and taxes that get added along the way.

Now you know everything about the product and all the influencing factors you need to review these factors so you can recall everything off the top of your head.

The next step in this process is for you to prepare and practice the delivery of short descriptors of the top ten aspects related to your business. Just think about the last time you saw someone who stammered or couldn't answer the seemingly obvious question - I bet you didn't consider them an authority in their area.

Your ability to be, and act as the authority on your subject is a must-have skill to define your leadership.