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.