Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Team Bonding through Social Activities

Does your team have a social club? Have you considered what having a social club might do for your team?

Lots of work places have a social club that is endorsed by their team leaders, what have they found? Groups that have a social club tend to be strong in that the team members have another avenue for members to bond and share experiences.

Perhaps it is in your interest to financially support a social club maybe on a $1 for $2 ratio or what ever is affordable. By doing this your team members will get to see that you care for them in more ways than simply working at your daily chores.

Social clubs often organise various functions away from the workplace that allow all members to meet in a different setting and experience. The outcome of this is that the workforce becomes better attuned to each other as they see their work friends in a foreign environment.

If your team doesn't have a social club consider what the cost to you would be and think through what the benefits will bring to your team. At the end of the day it is important to us that our teams bond and continue to work well together, maybe a social club is just what we need.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Celebrations with your team are so important

It's that time of year depending where you are in the world, Thanksgiving, Deepavali, Hari Raya just past and Christmas around the corner. Have you taken time out to celebrate with your team.

Celebrating with your team is an important activity, as it helps everyone feel connected and appreciated, sure we may come from different backgrounds and the like but we can all celebrate these occasions together. The reward for putting a celebration together will be well received and maintains the spirit of the team.

Most people don't mind what the reason is behind the celebration, they really get a buzz from the group celebrating together. The benefits far outweigh an hour off work and the cost of a lunch or picnic. Most teams respond very positively to these events. it gives everyone a chance to meet as equals in a different environment, the bond can be quite incredible.

Maybe your team just completed a big project, if so take the opportunity to celebrate, you will be soon notice the team morale lift, this will keep the team going as you settle back into the normal run-rate.

As leaders it is important for us to take these annual opportunities and create a celebration for our teams.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

How's your end of year looking?

Almost year end, some of us will be really happy about that and some will go into a small panic. Which are you? How are your goals shaping up? How is the bottom-line looking? As the leaders of our teams we need to get things in order and get set for the new year.

With a month left to close out the year, perhaps its time to move through a quick check-list to ensure your in good shape for the new year.

Close out any final deals.
Ensure all collectibles are sent to customers early.
Invoices are all cleared.
Tax on incomings and outgoings are noted and actioned.
Personnel matters are in line, leave liabilities, final year performance interviews.

Be sure to check your forecast for Q1, do you have sufficient:

skilled and unskilled labour
forward orders.

With some planning now, leaders can be sure to finish off the year in fine style and you'll know your team is ready to hit the ground running as the new year kicks off.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Make Your Team Feel Secure

We have talked about keeping your team in loop and keeping them up-to-date with what's going on and giving them feedback on their performance. Have you stopped and considered their security?

Security means different things to different people, do you have an answer for the security of your team? Do you know what makes them feel insecure? Perhaps it's time for some subtle questioning here and there to determine the answer to these two questions.

Next time you talk with your team as a whole it is appropriate for you to touch on the subject of security. Is their job secure? Do we have enough on-going work to ensure they are not about to be let go. Do we have enough cash flow to ensure everyone's pay is guaranteed to be in the bank next week. As individuals are they each doing their job to a good standard so there is no pressure to replace them.

For our high performers do they know we have the confidence in their abilities, skills and knowledge that we will allow them to take on special roles which may or may not fail and they can be secure knowing their position is secure.

As leaders of our teams it is vitally important that we make each and every member of our team as secure as we can, because without this worry they can focus on being the best they can.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Leaders enforce quality for success

I have been travelling again working with a company and visited two of their customer reference sites. At one site the customer was very positive and co-operative, working as a team with the main contractor. At the other site the customer was suspicious and constantly calling the company in to explain one choice or another.

At both locations I was lucky enough to witness the companies work and several of the deliverables. What I found was scary, the same company to me looked and acted like two different teams with very different attitudes and styles.

Interestingly at the "happy" site all the workers had a great sense of motivation and spent a lot of time with their customers working through the project plan, consulting when decisions had to made. At this site it was not surprising to find all the guys working late to fine tune the system. On inspection of the work-site the quality of the finished product and its documentation was absolutely flawless.

While at the site where the customer was less than happy, the workers were not acting as a team, they made decisions for their customer without consultation. This lack of consultation then prompted the customer to demand a "white" paper explaining every decision and why the final outcome was adopted. At this site many of the workings had a very flexible approach to work - almost to the point of the team not knowing when members would turn up each day. On inspection of the worksite the finished product was poorly presented and there was no documentation.

So on pondering this I went back and analysed why this situation had developed, both worksites had similarly qualified teams, both sites worked from the same process and equipment policies and manuals. This prompted me to examine the project team leaders, this produced a stark difference. One was a team player who was resolute about providing the highest quality in everything and constantly spending time with the customer to ensure the customer was satisfied with what they were to gain from the project. The other leader was stand-offish and driven by delegation usually by email, he also spent plenty of time with the customer, he appeared to be driven by completion and financial goals.

What did I take away from this week on the road, by focusing on a quality outcome, one leader had developed a co-operative and happy customer. we can learn from this and make it our quest to build and deliver high quality outcomes from our teams.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Time for some Team Maintenance

When is the last time you spent some serious time on your team members. As the leaders of our teams it's important we take some time out of our schedule to look at team maintenance.

So what is team maintenance? Team maintenance, just like other forms of maintenance - it is looking over our team with a fine-tooth comb and applying any maintenance fixes now before we have any breakdowns.

Lets analyse each member of our team and give them a rating on:

performances, such as output and creativity,

behaviours, such as team cohesiveness, happy disposition, involvement, and motivation.

What we need to look for are any marked signals of improvement or falling standards.

By looking to see how our team members are performing and behaving we can spot any changes, once changes are identified we need to drill in and consider what is/was the cause and effect.

As good leaders with this early analyse we can spot these changes up and we can take decisive action to address any issue to bring our team back on track.

With some regions in the world starting to see signs of recovery, now is an important time to ensure our teams are happy and motivated. If we fail to take action we risk our team members walking out the door as opportunities arise.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Leaders, Let them get on with it!

One of the major challenges for many leaders is, how much do you need to supervise your team? Lots of us have had that overpowering and micro-managing boss, and I bet most of us hated it. So how do we avoid this situation.

As the leader of our team it is important we set the goals and give our team members all the information they need. Then comes the hard part for us, how do we carefully step back and let them get on with doing the job?

One effective way to do this is to brief your team of the goal and expectations, then we need to set the team to work. Next look at the time allocated to the task and split it into three. These three time periods are for you, to check back with your team and the progress towards the goal.

After the first period has expired, casually check back with the team and its overall progress, check to see if anyone is completely lost or doing the task in an inappropriate way. If the task is coming along then maybe a few words of encouragement but other than that leave them alone to complete the task.

After the second period is up again quick check in to see that time and quality are on your side, again address any under-performers. At this check it is critical to assess that the team will make the goal.

At the final time period, check the task is done to your satisfaction and give praise to those who have done a great job.

By being careful about our supervision, we as leaders can ensure that our teams meet their goals and we aren't in our teams face and allow them the space to get on and do their jobs. Our teams will appreciate we take the time to check and correct any early problems without micro-managing our teams.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Keeping your goals on track

So September has just rolled in, time to go back and study this years' goals.
What I like about doing this as the third quarter closes, is we can get a really good idea how our run-rate is going and yet we still have three months to redress any areas that slipped away.

So lets get to work, firstly take a trip down memory lane and revise your mission statement - what is it that I'm to do!

Now take each goal and analyse your progress are you on-target ahead or sadly in arrears. Put those that are on target or ahead aside and lets look at those that are amiss.

Pull this goal apart one bit at a time, try to find out why it is in such a state, were some of our assumptions wrong? was expected support sadly missing? Did we push it aside as it was a bit to tough?

Once you have a list of deficiencies, now address each one with an action plan, how can you drum up the support you need, how can you get some more sales/prospects in front of you. These actions plans are what's going to get you back on track to accomplish your years plan. Make them detailed, put dates on them for a finish!

Reviewing your yearly plan is a job every good leader must do, not only does it help you keep track of your goals it gives momentum to get in and correct things before the end of the year.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Leaders plan and prepare for success

Today I want to talk about planning and preparation. I was travelling again and visited an old work friend who over dinner expressed a high level of frustration as he was preparing for a big project and most of his requirements to start his task hadn't been met. He spoke with his team leader, who didn't seem to understand that my friend couldn't start his portion of the work, until the other teams completed their efforts.

Do you take the time to truly understand what your team members need? Do you understand what is involved in their preparation?

What had happen to my friend was he was to give a technical presentation on a piece of complicated software. The software engineers were having issues and finished their portion of the project at midnight the night before my friend was to present. Surprisingly he had to go in blind and some aspects didn't work. The end result the customer was not happy, they hadn't got the outcome they were looking for. My friend was upset as it looked like he didn't know his subject as he had trouble with all the customised aspects of the presentation. I wonder what the outcome would have been if the project had finished on time and my friend had the couple of days preparation he had requested. My friend confronted his team leader to express why there were so many issues, his reply, well they finished before your presentation so what was the trouble, my friend exploded when was he to be briefed on these changes, when was he to practice the demonstrations. His boss simply shrugged and said I can't tell the engineers what to do.

When you set up your plan do you allow for slippage, do you have a stop/go plan in place depending on the progress of the work leading up to each event. Often its better to cancel early and get the whole thing right rather than fly be the seat of your pants and then look less than average because you team has to cuff their part of the operation. If you talk to the professional project managers they will all tell you it is important to build in some periods of no new work to allow all the prerequisite work to be completed and documented.

As leaders it's important the we are meticulous plan and prepare for our team's work. nothing will damage our credibility faster than asking your team to do their work when they don't have all the things they need.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Keeping your team in the loop

Good leaders keep their teams in the loop

Do you brief your team? Do you talk with them on a regular basis so they know what's going on. Do they know how you are feeling about the team performance? Part of being a great leader is taking the time to talk with your team and explain the things that need some action, the things that are producing great results and especially to share any victories the team has achieved. By taking this time the team will feel more cohesive and in-tune with what you have to say about your vision and your strategic plans.

Easy said than done, do you have a method for moving from start through all the aspects you want to cover and concluding on a high note. Her is a simple strategy you can adopt to suit the situation.

Start with today's current situation, where are we in the big picture, what's recently happened since the last brief. Next consider any big win's be sure to share these with the whole team and if you wish to single people out for outstanding work be sure you mention all the players. From here consider the team progress on the run-rate activities, are we behind, on or ahead of plan.

Next move onto what is the objective for the next period, be sure to touch all departments and their various groups, single out any special deals we are working on, so the team can feel they are including in maintaining the current position and they are assisting the next phase or deal.

Form here we need to move onto execution, how are we going to deliver our promise to the team, how are we looking to make improvements that could see our group move to a point of excellence.

Lastly are their any routine admin or logistics that need to be highlighted to the team.

An old coach of mine always said to me a good briefing starts on a high note, address one or two points that need correcting and ends on a high note, if you structure your brief this way your team members will feel motivated to continue working well and producing great results for the team.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Chart your leadership career path

As a Leader we are always thinking about how to improve our team, through maintaining the morale, offering challenging work, looking for opportunities to grow your team members. But have you stopped to take a look at your own path. You need to take control and through careful planning achieve your career goals too. As you grow you become more valuable and your career opportunities will blossom.

This may sound a little corny but you need to come up with a plan so you always know what the next step is and what you should be doing to get there. Here's a simple three step plan to get you started.

Step One. What's my current situation? Sometimes this is hard to gauge. Sit down and pretend you met a guy at the bar and you hit it off. At the end of the night he says " Hey I'm really glad we met I'd like you to come and work for my company"! with that he gives you his business card and says send me you CV by the end of the week I'm sure we have an opening for you". Get over the shock and sit down and write you CV. Be sure to be honest and draft away.

Step two. What's the future for me? Again this is tough but lots of people just wander through life and have no real goal they are aspiring towards. Well how do we start this one? This time pretend you're at a different bar and you meet someone who is a prospective partner. Tell me about yourself and where you'll be in five and ten years time? By stepping back from today and focusing on an interim and a long term goal it will help to clarify the "End Point" for our exercise.

Step three. Stand up your CV against your interim and long term goal, take note of the Delta areas. Maybe some of the following questions might fall out at you.

Should I look for work experience in another function, industry to round out my skills?

Should I attend some retraining or upskilling of my professional qualifications?

Should I transfer - even at a lower rate - to get into the area I want to be in?

Should I find a mentor to provide some advice from a different perspective?

There maybe lots of other questions and areas you need to focus on to get onto or turbo charge your path to your goals.

Some tips to help you along the way.
Every job you ever have is an opportunity for you to increase the value of your work for yourself and your boss, as you add more value your worth will skyrocket alongside.
Take calculated risks - this will ensure your you expand your knowledge and skills and demonstrates your ability to move outside your defined role.
Beware of becoming stale, regularly monitor your progress, if you stay too long you risk losing momentum and falling behind.
Take responsibility for your career path - no one cares as much as you so you should be vigilant to ensure you are always moving in the right direction.

While we are always looking to do the best for our team we also have to include time to do the best for ourselves. As the leaders its important that we are moving forward so we can also move our teams along on our journey.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Feedback the key to improving your leadership

So we all want to become better leaders. If only it was as simple as giving it a few moments thought. What are your strategies to improving your leadership? What do you have in your arsenal, that makes you the leader your team wants to follow?

Feedback is by far the best method you can employ to identify your strong points and your points that need some work. Feedback is often given when mid and end of year reviews are done, however these periods are often filled with other discussions, such bonuses, extra duties and so on.

Recently a friend of mine was invited to a group chat with his boss. At first my friend was a little taken back, why would his boss want to talk with him, as he rarely paid him the time of day. On investigation some colleagues said this happened a few times a year and that the boss was seeking feedback on the state of the company and would throw around some ideas on what might improve any perceived issues.

Have you set aside some time to have your team members speak candidly to you about how your team is performing, what's the morale like, are people feeling empowered, what can be done to make work a better and more productive place, what can you do better to help the team.

Seeking feedback can be a very enlightening time and it can also make you feel pretty lousy. The trick is to stand back and not take offense to anything said. Be sure to take notes. Particularly if your told some things you don't want to hear. It may take some time for you to adopt the right frame of mind and consider how to address the issue.

If you can work out how to obtain honest and candid feedback, you will be presented with a fantastic opportunity to take steps to improve your leadership. After all the stronger you are as a leader the more likely it is that your team will perform strongly.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Maintaining your team through Inclusiveness

Have you considered how you maintain your team. We have discussed before about the various leadership traits and particularly how to maintain your team morale.
I was travelling again recently and in this workplace the people seems totally polarised, they were either very enthusiastic or were in a state of doom and gloom.

This got me thinking, what has happened or how is it that workers from the same organisation seems to have such vastly different opinions about the workplace and what was going on.

On further investigation I think I stumbled onto what had happened. One section of the workplace were sent off for a series of team building activities - that for all intents and purpose sounded very successful. These members came back to the workplace suitably revved up and ready to get stuck into another tough year.

The other group of people simply got to hear all about what a wonderful activity the first team enjoyed. The second team, then developed an 'us and them' attitude almost to the point of resentment.

Interestingly the management team didn't offer the second team any way of joining the first team or providing an alternative activity.

Consider the writings of every leadership pro in history and they will all tell you that one of "Man's" basic requirements after Food Shelter, warmth etc is to feel included in the group.

I look forward to visiting this team next year and see if there is any long term effect.

As leaders it is important that we find a mechanism to embrace inclusiveness into our dealings with our teams. By not taking a view to ensure all members are included we run the risk of our team running at less than optimal. The pay off for us, is when we are inclusive, our members will feel a better sense of belonging, and more willing to go the extra mile to make the team a winner.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Practical Project Management for Leaders

As the leaders of our teams it is important for us to carefully plan out our projects to ensure the start on time and are successfully completed.

Many of us are used to managing a to-do list, prioritising the events and working our way through the list. Project management is quite similar, with a few small changes. Lets go through the basic steps.

Project management requires us to look at the overall project and break it down into all its major steps. Once you have these steps look to see if there is an obvious sequence to complete these. If there is a path then arrange these in this order.

Take these tasks and examine them one at a time. Look at each step within each of these major tasks, and insert any interrim tasks to make each of these major tasks complete. This will leave you with list of all the small steps you need to manage to get your project completed.

Next task is to now look at each one of these tasks and assign a time for the task. If you don't know then find someone who knows how to do the task and ask them for an estimate of the time required.

Now lets look at this list, we should have a list of every task and an estimate of the time it will take. Between each major task insert some time as a buffer, this will give you some breathing space for those inevitable little dramas.

Next take your list and add two further columns, one for personal resources required. Can this task be done by one personal or are several required. Does this task need someone with special skills. This column is going to help us identify who will be doing the task. The next column is a space for you to list out all the materials you need to get this task done.

Common errors people tend to under-estimate are:

Preparation time
Materials shortages
Skilled personnel.

Re-examine you list, have you got all the steps, have you identified all the skills, materials and resource for the job. Are there any obvious bottle-necks? What can you do to clear the way?

With some time spent in the planning stage your project management will lead to a successful project and this will ensure your team comes out on top.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Keeping the Communication lines open

As leaders it's important to maintain communication with our team members. Have you considered what its like for your team members if they don't feel that your communicating with them. How do you feel when your boss keeps you in the loop, doe it make you feel empowered, of course it's no different for your own team.

Recently I caught up with an old work colleague, he was pretty down in the mouth about his current work situation. Apparently he has a new boss of almost one year. His new boss never shares his thoughts on the business or how well my friend is doing. Because of this lack of communication my friend is feeling very insecure.

How do we avoid creating a situation like this?

Keep your year goals in the front of your mind, how are we as a team coming along with these, what can we do to make a bigger impact, how is each team member contributing. With these few ideas updated regularly we have a ready stream of big picture views to share with our team.

Moving down a step, make sure we understand the various roles that our team members perform, this allows us to personalise by asking our team members to share their views on their most loved or hated part or their role. What is important in this step is to take the person view of how each member is enjoying their work.

If we can take the time to keep communicating with our team members they will feel more connected to us, their leaders and feel more valued as a team member.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Lifting Team Performance at Mid Year

As it's mid-way through the year and many of us have had to commit to goals raising our team's performance. Do you have a plan how you're going to achieve this? Try this simple approach and see how it works for your team and its ability to meeting the new and higher goals.

Step one stand back from the team and identify who your best performers are. Now also categorise those members you consider average and those who are weakest. We will work with these three groups to derive our improvement goals.

Step two identify the four top jobs that need the most performance improvement. Look at each of these jobs and develop four questions you can ask to develop a good understanding of how each person does this series of tasks.

At this stage you should have developed a matrix with four job tasks, and corresponding four questions for each task to gauge the performance, skill, knowledge and actions that each member takes to complete these tasks.

Armed with these questions spend some time with your top performers and ask them your questions.

Take these responses and your own ideas and draft a plan how any mid-year corrections need to be applied.

Schedule time with each of your team members, spend some time to understand how they see their performance to date. Does their view match yours? maybe some options need to be placed on the table. Be sure each of your team members know they are on-track, ahead or behind. Also be sure to plant the tasks you want to see completed by the end of the year.

With candid feedback your team will continue to understand where they are heading and will know what is required of them to get the team to the finish line.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Delivering Criticism

In my last post we discussed dispute resolution. Moving on from this, is a short discussion on delivering criticism. Through criticism we give our team members an opportunity to further develop and improve. However the art of delivering criticism is an area where many of us struggle to deliver in the most appropriate manner.

Leaders who resolve incidents require a method to criticise in an ingrained and diplomatic way addressing the problem. This must be delivered so the recipient does not feel that it is antagonistic, insulting, attacking or punitive, because if this is the case we will have failed as leaders to these team members.

How can you know if your criticism is is being effective? Well in the medium to long term you will see this in observing the positive results. Your team members make fewer mistakes and any negative behaviours vanish from their attitude.

Criticising our team members can be difficult and uncomfortable, but it is an inevitable result of leading a team to producing great results.

Look to balance the importance of the message, with the importance of delivering the criticism in a way that does not undermine the feedback, but encourages its acceptance and generates motivation to achieve the correction.

Resist rash and impulsive demeaning attacks. Be sure to approach the criticism in a thoughtful and not a reactive manner. This way those observing can see you have considered the options and are not shooting from the hip.

Start with a positive statement, then layer in how things may have been improved, and finish with an affirming statement that blends the good idea moving to a great idea with the adjustments.

Some ideas to consider:
Get the facts straight.
Timing - when should it be delivered.
Don't criticise in public.
Use open-ended questions to establish all the information.
Control the situation.
Don't criticise the person - rather focus on the action.
Don't use You or I to much.
Tackle the main points - don't sweat the small stuff.

A tough subject to get right, but one that done properly will ensure your team continues to develop to the point of excellence and beyond.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

How to Arbitrate a Dispute

As leaders we have to deal with our teams, and invariably every so often there is areas of conflict and disputes that need to be resolved. No one enjoys resolving disputes but when you adopt a common process and treat members fairly, they will come to appreciate you for maintaining the teams harmony.

When we need to arbitrate a dispute, it is usually through a two-phased approach that we can achieve a good level of result for all involved.

Phase one requires a clarification focused phase, followed by a resolution phase, by ensuring you complete phase one before tackling phase two you will gather all the appropriate information and not "jump the Gun".

In phase one you need to discuss separately with each party to:

Develop a clear understanding of the differences each party holds,

Gain mutual acceptance that all parties have legitimate positions, though not necessarily agreeable.

In phase two you need to help move the parties toward an agreeable common understanding:

Encourage movement toward integrating the differing positions to find common ground,

Ensuring each party is contributing and no-one is giving more than the other.

By breaking down disputes so each party can develop an understanding of the other parties view we can bring the groups together and the dispute will die into a common understanding from the given original standing.
It is important as leaders to keep on top of dispute and resolve in a timely manner so that it does not get out of control and damage the groups output and cohesion.

Monday, May 25, 2009

6 Action Steps for Performance Oriented Leaders

How do you align yourself as a performance oriented leader? How do you ensure your actions assist your goal of improving the performance of your team? The following six steps are a general blueprint for what you need to do on a consistent basis to move your leadership along.

1. Give your team members regular, specific, observable behaviour feedback.

Feedback is one of the fundamental activities you can do to interact with your team and gently guide them down a development line to gradually improve. Care needs to be taken to ensure you observe the behaviours you wish to reinforce and those that you wish to correct, you cannot use generalisations as then the recipient will not identify with the behaviour. As such it is important to observe and note exactly the behaviours you want to comment about. While this will take a big effort on your behalf because the comments are specific to the recipient they will be able to relate to the action, it then is up to us put together a development action plan to improve the situation.

2. Make Timely decisions.

Leaders need to make decisions to keep the team moving along in the right direction, it's important as a performance oriented leader to continually adjust the plan and the actions to keep the team focused on the big picture - the output of the team. Without timely decisions the team will get stale and loose its edge, as things go up and down it is up to the leader to make the decisions needed at that time, not after a period of procrastination or in the spur of the moment without considering all the factors.

3. Encourage creative ideas.

With the implementation of new and creative ideas, our team's can lift their performance to new levels, Why restrict the teams thinking to just yourself, embrace creative ideas from the team members, you may find some real gems. Setup a process where new and creative ideas can be aired and tested to see what results can be gain by implementing these ideas.

4. Reinforce the lines of command and authority.

Does your workplace have a hierarchy, do you have formal lines of command and authority? Nothing will upset the whole organisation more than people who ignore these established protocols. Take care to demonstrate your fitting and willingness to work in this system and demand your team also work through these established chains.

5. Be accessible to your work circle of acquaintances.

Are you accessible for your team to approach when they need to discuss issues with you. It is often quite intimidating for members to approach their leader/manager/boss, you need to identify this and drop what your doing and make yourself available to handle the issue there and then. If you can do this your team members will respect you as a proactive and caring leader.

6. Provide personal support.

We all have problems from time to time, it's important that you support your team members, a kind ear when things are tough will be remembered by your team members. This is because your team will see this as a personal association, as such you need to keep the tone at an appropriate level. However team members often complain my boss doesn't take the time to help me and understand my problems, by ensuring you provide this personal support to your team they will feel they have a leader who genuinely cares for them. If you can gain this feeling within your team they will be willing to go the extra mile for you when the team needs a special effort.

Take some time to examine your work practices and see how you can include these six steps into your regime and watch the performance of your team improve.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Leadership's vital Attributes

All great leaders have several typical attributes that they have developed along their leadership journey. I like to refer to them as the four A's of great leadership. These common factors are: Appearance, Attitude, Aggressiveness and Action.

Appearance is vital many people sum up their business partners, clients and friends on the first impression. Take a look at most great leaders and in their own way you will see they have the appearance of looking good and importantly looking as they are in control.

Attitude, have you got the right attitude, focusing in on the outcome and working steadily until you get there. Do you spread your attitude to your team to stay positive and keep working through all the issues to get the product and service just right.

Aggressiveness, are you ready to move forward as soon as you can see some advantage, with this type of aggressiveness you can seize the moment and maximize your output.

Action, of all the leadership traits taking action is the one that gets you the best value, people around you can see your action and will want to follow you to be part of the action.

Although it seems simple if you can maintain and improve your four A's of leadership, you will find that your team members will be keen to improve their efforts and be part of the winning combination.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Leaders develop Followers

As a leader is it critical you have followers. A leader with no followers is unable to harness the power of teamwork to amplify their ideas and elevate the cause.

Maybe its time for you to take stock, for some cultures this is hard to do as we have been brought up to be modest about our own ideas and achievements yet lavish in the praise we dish out to those around us.

But lets see through this for a moment, have you sat down and taken a personal inventory of your strengths as a leader? Have you critically looked at the members of your team and worked out why they continue to follow you. Sure, some are forced too because the work hierarchy have placed them under you, but when you look carefully you will see the other members around who follow your lead.

Take each of these people and consider what it is that you bring to the table to keep them in your team. Perhaps its your abilities in planning, delegation, decision making, technical competence, communication just as a small sample list. One of the most sort after skills is a leaders ability to deal with people, you hear of it time and time again, we wish we had a leader who could deal with the people in the team to keep their focus and lead them through tough times while continually developing them to meet tomorrow's challenges.

By taking stock of your great leadership abilities it allows you some observations, firstly you have a list of skills that others see in you, and also it gives you some ideas on areas for improvement.

With luck this simple exercise will show you some of your strengths as a leader that you can be proud of!

So how can we work further on this? your strengths are areas you should identify to develop in the people around you. If you are strong in these areas then chances are you have a great skill that you can share to develop in your followers. By giving freely of your skills, you will further strengthen and develop these relationships as your team members will quickly see there is something extra in it for them - learning a valuable skill from their leader.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

How to improve your priority setting

Priority setting is a skill needed by all leaders, choosing a course of action and then ensuring each task gets done in the order and way you want is critical for your
success, you can only do this by setting the right priority for each of these tasks.

So much to do; so little time in which to do it. Finite resources; infinite needs. People to see, places to go, things to do. No time to say hello, good-bye, I'm late for a very important meeting. Sound familiar? That's life. Everyone has more to do than they can. Organizations have more opportunities than they have the resources to address. The higher up you go in the organization, the more you have to do and the less time you have to do it. Nobody can do it all. It's critical you have to set priorities to survive and prosper.

Be clear about your goals and objectives. What exactly is it you need to accomplish? Use your annual plan and the team strategic plan to understand the mission-critical things that must happen.

Using your goals, separate what you need to do into mission-critical, important to get done, nice to do if time permits, and not central to our goals we are striving to achieve. When faced with choices or multiple things to do, apply the scale and always choose the highest level.

Write down the pros and cons for each option. Check what effect each would have both on the short and long term. Are there cost differences? Is one resource more efficient than the other? Is one apt to be more successful than the other? Think about the interaction of both short- and long-term goals.

Sometimes what you decide to do today will hurt you or the organization later. When making either a short-term or long-term choice, stop and ask what effect this might have on the other.

Be time sensitive. Taking time to plan and set priorities actually frees up more time later. If you just go diving into things hoping that you can get it done on time and find you can't you may wind up in a bad situation. Often you here the cry failing to plan is like planning to fail.

Avoiding making choices often leads to more choices later on, to correct issues that should have been considered up front. Avoiding making choices actually makes life more difficult, as your always in uncharted waters, once a direction is set and you have a priority you know where you're headed.

Be effective rather than busy. Watch out for the activity trap. Effective managers spend about half their time working on one or two key priorities — priorities they described in their own terms, not in terms of what the business/organizational plan said. Further, they made no attempt to work as much on small but related issues that tend to add up to lots of activity. So rather than consuming themselves and others on 97 seemingly urgent and related smaller activities, they always returned to the few issues that would gain the most mileage long term.

Get help from others. When faced with multiple good things to do, pass them by your mentor or a few trusted others around you for their opinion. You don't have to do what they say but having other perspectives is always better than having only your opinion. What tasks can you easily outsource, to you team members or even outside. Perhaps outsourcing some tasks can free up crucial skills.

Setting and operating on priorities isn't a reflective task. Most of life's choices have to be made on the spot, without all of the data. Nobody is ever right all the time under that kind of pressure. Perfectionists have a problem with this. Wait as long as you can and then shoot your best shot.

Take care not to be guided by just what you like and what you don't like. That method of selecting priorities will not be successful over time. Use data, intuition and even feelings, but not feelings alone.

Be sensitive to the time of others. Generally, the higher up you go or the higher up the person you are interacting with is, the less time you and he/she have. Be time efficient with others. Use as little of their time as possible. Get to it and get done with it. Give them an opportunity to open new avenues for discussion or to continue, but if they don't, say your good-byes and leave.

Hopefully this has given you some ideas on how to improve setting priorities for your team. By improving this area our leadership will also improve as we can more effectively get the right tasks done in the best time.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Moving forward with your Strategic Leadership

Strategic leadership is often described as a leader who always communicates their vision and the path forward. This leader is focused and uncomplicated, they gain their reputation for big picture clarity.

So what are the attributes you need to keep in mind to improve your ability to develop this strategic leadership.

Step one is to develop your own short and crystal clear vision of what your team is all about. You need to practice this so that you can articulate the vision - you may have heard of this as developing your elevator speech.

Step two, take your vision and apply it to the most common issues you know that effect your team. This should lead you to developing a number of scenarios of why and how your vision fits to each of these situations.

Step three, when the opportunity exists fit your scenario to the situation just experienced to show how you vision supports this situation. This will prepare you for being prepared to demonstrate and articulate how your strategic vision applies to your team.

The ability to be a strategic Leader is important in that we need to be able to convey our vision, its times like this when we need to be able to be adopt the strategic leadership to keep our team focused on the big picture and continue to work towards the common goal.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Leaders and their Self-Transformation

Take a look through history and name any great leader you like, one of the traits your find as you explore their life will be their ability to transform themselves as they learnt new aspects and put them to action within their leadership roles.

By taking a look at our life, our skills, our knowledge, we need to assess where we want to improve and build our own transformation. You may decide that there are many things you want to improve in your life, and that's fine then take a look and choose the topic that will give you the best bang for your buck. Work on this area and then move on to the next.

The seeds of failure show us some areas that we can examine, to look at the reasons for the poor result and take stock of what could have helped us put in a better result next time. We must continually improve your knowledge base and behavioral assets, so that the same error is not made again.

The attitude of continual learning is a characteristic we often see associated with the great leaders throughout history, and it should be one we aspire too.

You must develop a way to identify the content for your self-transformation, your training and coaching is paramount to your long-term success. Maintaining a positive action plan will see your self-transformation slowly develop along with leadership skills.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Improving your judgement

Have you ever stopped to consider your ability at making judgements? Perhaps today is the day to take some time and consider your ability to make great judgement calls.

Learning to make smart judgement calls takes most of us years of personal development to get to an acceptable state. Our judgement calls are grounded by our honesty and our integrity.

So how do we speed up the process and get better earlier at make these judgement calls? A few times I've talked about developing some close relationships with some mentors. You mentors are the best people who can objectively look at your judgement calls and give you honest advice, why some were great calls and some less than perfect.

Firstly we need to be in the right frame of mind to accept the advice of our mentors - remember why you chose them? their skills in a variety of different areas, their honesty with you, their desire to help you achieve and so on. Then we need to think through why did I make the judgement I did? Did I consider the issues my mentor highlighted to me? We need to connect the dots. Why were some calls better than others? Was it my mood, the stress I was under at the time, were there any preferences I held.

Take some personal time to reflect on how your judgement calls are made.

Next take some quality time to think through a series of these calls, weigh up the advice from your mentors and see if you can develop your own personal strategy how to make more great judgement calls and see if you can isolate the factors that affect you and cause you to make poor calls.

Only through dedicated time directed at improving your judgement calls will you develop your ideas and methods at making better judgement calls and leading your team to more success. Take a break today and make a start at improving this important skill.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Take your Leadership to the next level

As Leaders we encourage our teams to continually improve their skills and knowledge in the workplace. We do this because we know that as they improve, they will draw the team after them and slowly their improvement will lift the team as a whole. When was the last time you took a step back and considered what actions you should be taking to improve your own leadership skills? The following is a quick list of simple steps you can take every day to steadily improve your leadership.

Develop an insatiable curiosity about everything you touch. Do you know everything about the materials in your workplace? Are there new and improved materials? Are there new and better ways to handle these materials? What about your team members, do you know what makes each one of them tick, why are they working in your team? What their hopes and aspirations? By developing your curiosity you will spark new insights from your team and the surrounds.

Learn and practice creative thinking, have you considered learning about DeBono and his many ideas to creativity? If you don't want to go down the formal path, have you allocated time to daydream and consider what possibilities exist for your team and its tasks? Creative thinking may open some new doors to help you stay ahead of the competition.

Gather some like forces and partners, you can't know everything about everything so find people who have complementary skills they can catapult your team further ahead.

Adopt a culture of allowing your team members to take responsibility and accept any failures as learning experiences, maybe your learning for not setting the goals clearly or maybe learning by your team members in a better way for handling a situation. This will only work if you are open and honest with the team and accept mistakes as part of the learning and growing process.

While on the topic of being honest and open with your team members don't confuse respect with fear or distance, you need the lines of communication open and receptive to candid discussion, If your team members talk to you through fear - odds on you will only get to hear what they think you want to hear or disasters that have gone so far they are not able to be corrected.

Be sure to look for positive behaviours every day, when you openly encourage your team for doing the great things they will respond by trying to do this more often.

Find an opportunity to give a member of your team some enthusiastic feedback, as this will promote their feeling of being uplifted and help them maintain their confidence.

If we can maintain our edge, slowly improving our leadership, our team will grow and be more productive and promote a happier environment. Do you think you can take these steps to move yourself forward?

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Good leaders develop and motivate their Specialist staff

As good leaders in our respective businesses, its important for us to retain great staff. We all know that money only talks so much especially for the specialists. for the specialists they will tell us time and time again that they are held to a job because of other reasons. It maybe the environment, how much they feel valued, technical opportunities within their area and so on.

Because of these varied reasons behind keeping the best staff, we need to come up with a balanced plan identifying and offering some opportunities for our people to grow and feel better about working in our team.

If the guys are specialists in some field, help them to stay at the cutting edge of their discipline. Find some seminars or an extension course. Talk it over with them and get their feel on what it would offer to them. Show you are prepared to commit either with time away from normal work to attend and even pay for the tuition. You may be very surprised how much these type of worker appreciate being the "Keeper" of the technology.

When discussing how this special worker can assist the overall team help focus on the teams critical needs rather than than those topics of their special interest. If you can show them a problem or need in the business that they can solve and explain how much this will aid the whole team, many people will respond very positively to being seen as the person who can solve problems for the common good.

Often specialists are very tunnel visioned to their particular are, gradually expose them to other functions within the team environment, guide them to see how their part of the work is part of the "Big Picture". Many people respond to being a part of the whole thing and feel more connected to the company goal rather than their island of special talents.

We seek out the specialist for our businesses to get those difficult tasks done, and we choose them for their aptitude to get these tasks done. Consider how they will stagnate if they continue in their area and never get any updates on new techniques styles and such. Help them to develop internal and external networks within their fields of expertise, this way they will bring new and improved ideas back to your business and better develop that area. Also many workers feel an added sense of being connected to the group of specialists and they are representing your business. So take an active role and spend some time to see how the networks are developing and what ideas they are generating.

Often our specialists often talk in jargon and rarely consider our customers view help them to acquire interpersonal and influencing skills, give them opportunities to talk to customers, then give them some feedback. Many specialists are afraid of public speaking so you may need to find them a course to go on to establish some basic rules and skills. Then give them some more opportunities to talk with your customers. Customer with problems love to speak to technical people who can explain the issues and solutions to customer problems.

Ask them to coach others, lots of technical specialists love to pass on their knowledge to others so develop some opportunities for them to coach another member of staff or perhaps give a talk on how their particular area contributes to the business.

Assign them some leadership roles to gain experience in working with small teams. This needs to be done very gently as many people find this very daunting. Perhaps start with them sitting in some teams gradually move their role from member delivering specialist perspective, through to a secretary type role to eventually you are at the point where they are in a position and confident enough to lead the team.

If we develop a pathway of drawing our specialists more into our general business, we'll see our people grow and our team will benefit by having a more rounded view and some new creative ideas flowing. If we develop an open and candid dialogue as we expose our specialists to these new avenues I'm sure you will find more of your team members will feel more connected to the group as a whole.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Eight steps to improving your team's performance

As it's early in the year and many of us have had to commit to goals raising our team's performance. Do you have a plan how you're going to achieve this? Try this simple approach and see how it works for your team and its ability to meeting the new and higher goals.

Step one stand back from the team and identify who your best performers are. Now also categorise those members you consider average and those who are weakest. We will work with these three groups to derive our improvement goals.

Step two identify the four top jobs that need the most performance improvement. Look at each of these jobs and develop four questions you can ask to develop a good understanding of how each person does this series of tasks.

At this stage you should have developed a matrix with four job tasks, and corersponding four questions for each task to gauge the performance, skill, knowledge, attitude and actions that each member takes to complete these tasks.

Step three Armed with these questions spend some time with your top performers and ask them your questions. After you have visited each of your top preformers, look through their answers and group them around common themes. I expect you will get quite a few similarities in their responses. You now have a good reference for what your best workers do to achieve their goals.

Step four talk with your average and poorer performers and gain their insight on how they do these same tasks. Again I'm sure you will get plenty of answers and odds-on some will be quite similar.

Step five analyse the two sets of responses and identify the gaps. It is critical to not jump to a solution at this stage and just look at the data your team has given you.

Step six identify the four biggest gaps between the groups of performers.

Step seven now you have the gaps, group these if possible. Work out a plan to bridge the gaps, some will need formal training, some will need mentoring, some may just need to be shown the big picture. Arrange pee rworkshops where your best performers can share their winning ways with the rest of the team. Next tackle and gaps you can personally address and lastly look to the formal training. Given the current market conditions, this could be a tough ask, so see what you can address within the team.

Step eight work out a mechanism to guage the improvement in your teams performance. Be sure to test this in a short-term and also for the longer term, this will show you the effectiveness of your performance improvement actions.

Give it a try and see how your team responds.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Networking your way to success

As the leader of your team it's important you have other people from outside who you can turn to and bounce ideas off. How do you find such springboards? Networking is the answer and while many of us dread to do it, it can payoff handsomely and improve our leadership immensely.

Some people seem very natural at networking while most of us find it quite intimidating. take some time to consider the benefits and you will see that this is a skill you must develop.

Establishing a professional set set of acquaintances involves a complex set of variables. You want to meet the amount of positive attention without seeming to be over the top. Consider these ides and see if it can help you along in networking to find your group.

Make your first minute count. It is less important in how you dress as to how you express yourself. In this case the non-verbal signs will be adding more than what you say, ensure your facial expressions, posture and willingness to launch into a conversation all convey a positive attitude and delight in meeting the other person.

Start with a pleasant greeting and an outstretched hand and confidently introducing yourself. This maybe a bit scary the first few times you do this - however the more you try it out and maintain the positive action the more likely you are of success, and if turns out this person ignores you - so what?, at the worst you have wasted 30 seconds.

To get your self into the right frame of mind, consider your ideas as you begin the conversation:
What can I learn from this person?
Am I making this person comfortable so they'll chat with me? and
Am I demonstrating enthusiasm for the chance to know them?
Once you have the conversation happening maintain a positive stance by standing on both feet pointing to the person talking. Look at them directly while talking to them and continue to communicate in warm and genuine manner.

Give it a try and see how you go. If you're new to this then set yourself a modest goal of finding two or three new contacts each week and see how it works out.

The strength you gain from having a strong network of professional contacts will stand you in good stead for many years and as you develop your relationships with them they will be happy to help you improve in your leadership.

How do you find networking? Is it a labour or love? Why not share your results and tell me what works best for you.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Step up to the job like the Sports Stars

Do you step up to your job as leader like a sports star? It's a big week in sports as I sit here watching Nadal and Federer slugging it out, and waiting for the superbowl to start just 12 hours later. I paused to think, do we take our role as a leader like our sports stars? Do we come out with a strategic plan but are quick to change to a tactical one if things are going against us?

Like the sports stars we should have done our homework and understand our strengths and weaknesses and those of our opponents. We have mappped out our strategy on how we want to achieve our goals this year. We know what is in reserve that we can use, should the need arise.

Mentally we hopefully are prepared to take some shots to the body and come back out on the offensive.

Are we ready to make the calls that need to be made? Are we taking the risk? Are we watching for the opposition to intercept our play? Are we directing our team and resources to get the maximum angle.

By looking outside our normal sphere, sometimes we can take lessons from those around us to improve our leadership and our ultimate goals.

How are you going stepping up to the line and leading from the front? Let me know how your results panned out?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Improving Conversations with your Team

Communicating with your team is a fundamental skill that can make or break the effectiveness of your team. Have you thought about how you deliver the messages to your team? Have you considered how the content of these messages is put together? Follow these simple rules to improve your messages and your team will get the picture in a clear and succinct way.

To ensure your team understands and retains what you say, tie your messages to what they've told you about this subject. by doing this the messages will have a ring of familiarity to it, this will make it more accepting.

When putting forward an idea think of three supporting points, this will show your team that you have considered the matter and given it some detailed analysis. These points must substantiate your position. Don't ramble on just present the three supporting points and allow the team to consider their merits.

During your conversation pause frequently to avoid stringing to many words together. Project your voice clearly, consider the volume you need for the furthermost person to hear your message.

Avoid multiple qualifiers that weaken your message, as this needlessly shows you have lingering doubts about the validity of your message.

When you need to persuade your employees, limit your speaking to a quarter of the time and allow the person receiving the message to speak the rest of the time. This allows the person to air their views, it also forces you to choose your words carefully.

If you end with opposing views, take care to not blatantly contradict your employee, perhaps rephrase your position and take another tack - "Consider looking at it from this angle"

By taking the time to carefully plan our messages to our team and adopting a clear manner, our teams will be know what we need of them. How do you prepare for discussions with your team? Do you use any of these pointers to plan out your discussions?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Improving your Political Intelligence

As leaders we need to be very aware of the political road we travel. Many naive leaders assume if they work hard and are honest then people will understand and respect the leader and his team.

Leaders need to know who may oppose them and who will support them, it is very important to know as we set off on a new mission or project. Effective leaders will keep their ear to the ground and consider who will line up in which camp.

As we announce a new project we must have considered if anyones' territory may feel threatened, and who will see the project as an aid to their domain. When we declare the project we are bound to attract some supporters and some detractors.

The success of our project and how the rest or the surrounding team's view the project and its' results will be heavily influenced by people on both sides of the camp.

Take care to identify any detractors and counter their negativity with a raising of awareness of the positive outcomes for the project, be sure to have a ready supply of reasons to support your project. when thinking through this opposition take a few moments to consider the angle the detractor will take and reason through a counter , for how this project is not stealing their thunder or their position but is beneficial for everyone in the organisation.

By identifying and taking action to counter any negative aspects as seen by our peers we will strengthen our position and improve our overall leadership.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Motivate Smarter - not Harder!

One of the continuous tasks of all good leaders is to motivate the team, keep them moving in the right direction. The leader needs to take care to maintain a constant effort in effective motivation, so look to motivate smarter not harder!

As the leader it's not always possible to motivate every team member once our team gets bigger than a dozen or so. In this situation the smart way to make your motivation work is to look at the popular folks and keep them well motivated as they will in turn motivate those who look to them.

Try this, size up your team and choose the 10-20% who have the most influence across your team, maybe the guy who organises the social functions, another maybe the receptionist who chats to everyone as the come in and out, look to the union rep and so on. If this 10% of the team pass the message to another 6-7 people then the message is gaining access across the team to reach a critical mass position, in that most people have heard the story/reason/resolution of why things are happening as they are.

Once you have identified these people you need to target your motivation towards these guys, as they will pass on the important points to their friends and colleagues keeping the whole team motivated and moving towards the team goals.

Develop a routine to closely interact with your selected personnel passing on your motivation pitch. A little more effort on these 10% will reap rewards from the greater team.

By following this simple strategy you will have more precious time and your team will be helping to maintain their own position. Give it a try I'm sure you'll find you get better results for your team with this small step to improve your leadership skills.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Plan to succeed with the new year

With the new year just ushered in, it's time to take stock and plan out how we want the new year to pan out.

While we may see some doom and gloom around the globe, we should also look for the positives to help drive us forward. By focussing on the positives we can get in the right frame of mind to tackle our own plan for this year.

We all hear about people who make their New-Year vow - get fit, spend more time with the family and so on. lots of these plans are quickly forgotten and we bumble our way through another year. However this is precisely the time for us to sit back and make a rational plan about how to tackle the new year, what we want to achieve and when we want to get to each milestone along the way. we have spoken at length several times about taking the team's goals and breaking them down into manageable pieces. The next step was to pace some time limits onto to each task so we cannot continue to ignore a call to action and finally getting on and making each small step count towards the achievement of the years' goal.

It is important this week to take some time and set out the years goals, so we can start persuading our team-members to align and work towards these common goals. get the goals written down, develop your rational for each. you don't want to waste the whole January waiting for some guidance on where to be by the end of the year else you may have almost lost a tenth of your time to get on your way to achieving them.