paople management

The Future Of Leadership

I recently attended the Future of Leadership Series in Melbourne and wanted to share some of the key insights from a great day of knowledgeable speakers including Dr Jason Fox, Shivani Gupta, Darren Hill and Patrick Hollingworth. The day was all about the key themes emerging from workplaces regarding their challenges and how these could be managed moving forward.

So…. following are some of my key leanings from the day.

1.   More and more we are being told that “more is better”. Work more hours, get more clients, more direction, more outcomes…… we are constantly told to keep doing and aiming for more. But this can be contradicted. Think of a great chef. A chef knows just the right amount of spice to add to a dish. You don’t add too much, or it will drown the dish and throw it out of balance. And every dish has just the right amount of spice. So for every individual, for every team and every organisation… what is the “right amount of spice”?

2.   VUCA was mentioned a lot during the course of the day. What is VUCA you ask. It is the acronym for the fast paced environment we now find organisations are attempting to manage (some better than others). VUCA stands for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity. A very apt acronym for the environment leaders are managing. One of the skills identified to manage through VUCA was “Sense Making”. How do we assist people to make sense of all the information and not provide either a “mega saga” or “make their ears bleed”? How do you present the information so that it makes sense to people. How often do we use bullet points and lists and graphs only to be confronted with yawns from a team. The insight to provide a “map”, a “model” and the “mojo”. Show people where you are going, give graphic representation and a message they can see and understand and that is exciting.

3.   Something that I feel will resonate with many people was the insight about recognising your Passions. It was identified that there are predominantly 7 Passions – Family, Friends, Spiritual, Work, Health, Mind, and Money. However what was interesting is that we can only have 3 passions at once that we can Master. We may be ok at the other areas/passions, but we should only try to focus on our top 3 and not worry too much about being average at the others. The key message was to know your passions, embrace them and start recognising when you need to say “no” to something that is not one of your passions.

4.   It was identified that “experience” can often be a burden to meaningful progress. Let me explain. Often when we come across a situation of adversity, we often go to our default position and do “what we’ve always done”. We tend to only do something that has been tried and worked before. But in this VUCA world, many things we have tried before don’t work any longer when we are dealing with such complexity. So the challenge…. how do teams move past their default thinking and really challenge themselves to spend the time to embrace genuine discussion about new pathways? They need to take a risk. Unfortunately the “cult of productivity” often means that we don’t spend the time we require to have these insights and take a risk and consider new ways of thinking. But “Only that which can change, can continue”. (James Carse) and this “Once a mind has been stretched to a new idea, it can never return to its original shape” O. W Holmes.

5.   We only have the ability to choose one state – courage or comfort. When leading teams we can either “do it the way we have always done it” or we can be courageous and “push” the team to always consider news insights. This is often painful for a team to experience. There is a point when we push past the pain that makes us feel so uncomfortable with the unfamiliar, a critical point where we recognise that we are still safe. As leaders, we need to encourage a team to take this “hero’s journey”.  

6.   Leadership has been a “linear beast” for over 150 years. However it was recognised that technology is exponentially impacting on people and places and that teams are dealing with significant uncertainty in this VUCA environment. It was considered that old style organisations with heavy emphasis on hierarchy and heavy infrastructure may be slow to respond, can be risk adverse and only outcome driven. But…consider UBER. This is an organisation with absolutely minimal infrastructure and was now worth as much if not more in global income than BHP. It was considered that agility and innovation was an organisation’s opportunity for growth and survival moving forward. In other words an organisation needs to move “light and fast”. Consider self-reliance, fast response, risk embracing, relinquishing external control, being quality driven, intrinsically motivated and prefer (not avoid) VUCA.

7.   And finally what will be the top 10 skills in 2020:

1.           Complex Problem Solving

2.           Critical Thinking

3.           Creativity

4.           People Management

5.           Coordinating with others

6.           Emotional Intelligence

7.           Judgement and Decision Making

8.           Service Orientation

9.           Negotiation

10.        Cognitive Flexibility.

So….. if you are in leadership, interesting times lay ahead. The responsibility falls to you as to how you will assist your team to move through volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous times. How will you rise to the challenge?


Ensuring The Performance Of Your Team

Ensuring The Performance of Your Team

The role of a leader is to continuously assist their team to improve performance in the areas of quality and productivity. But do teams always have the right “culture” and environment to assist them to maximise this potential, as all too often a team will fail to capitalise these efforts, energies and investments made in improvement.

So how does a leader develop this culture? A good leader needs to recognise, understand and manage the issues confronting the people they lead. They need to understand what issues impact their individual and collective performance. A high performing team is the ultimate goal of any leader, but this will not be achieved if they do not embrace the thoughts and needs of their team members and seek to take them with them on a shared vision. A leader needs to recognise however that the needs and demands of a team constantly evolve and shift. If a leader is to attract, and harness the potential of team members, they must be willing to do what is required.

So is it possible to develop a team culture and environment that people want to be a part of, a culture of mutual benefit, clear accountability and results? Sounds like the Holy Grail doesn’t it? But there are some clear steps to assist any leader respond to the potential changes that are needed to positively challenge a team to achieve greater performance and productivity.

Consider these opportunities:

1.   Understand that the team must be continually developed. A team is constantly shifting and never stands still; it is either shifting forward or moving back. As a leader, your role is to know where your team is today and where it is heading and adapt your style given the needs of the ever changing environment. A leader cannot lead in the same way at all times. They must assess their team’s needs as well as the needs of the individuals within the team and adapt their style accordingly. 

2.   As a leader, have you set the vision for your team? Do you have a group of individuals working toward their own individual goals, or do you have a team working toward a singular mutual goal and outcome? When a team works together, they enrich each other’s jobs, build skills, make work more meaningful, build motivation and improve efficiency and productivity. A strong leader demonstrates and communicates a clear direction to the team. 

3.   A leader manages dissatisfaction proactively. Dissatisfaction can occur for a number of reasons, including conflict between staff, no focus on continuous improvement, overwhelming work load or a team feeling out of their depth. This is where the greatest opportunity lives for a leader to assist. By LISTENING to the team’s needs and proactively managing issues, differences that are revealed through discussion can provide significant insight and provide opportunities for improvement. 

4.   As a team starts to move toward productivity and mutual trust, leadership also needs to evolve toward coaching rather than training and mentoring. A leader needs to demonstrate trust to their team and develop their self-confidence. Often the introduction of a coaching culture is valuable to assist team members to take on a problem solving approach and greater independence, rather than always seeking out guidance.

Team synergy means a team working together with mutual trust in each other and their leader. Individuals strive to embrace challenge and are self-confident. How are you capitalising on your greatest asset?