Archive for the ‘Global team leadership’ Category

Imagine yourself leading

February 20, 2010

The world is in crisis and turmoil looms. People all around the world are either  losing their jobs, are victims of senseless conflicts or terrible natural disasters. Never more so than today would strong leadership seem more necessary. And yet, never more so than today do so many people seem to have lost faith in leadership. Indeed, many of the problems today seem to be the result of bad leadership.

History shows us that humanity has gone through many crises and driven itself to the brink many times. And each time, single individuals have stood up and shown the way forward through strong and positive leadership.

So what about now and the current crisis? Do we have the leadership to take us forward in a positive manner?

Many of us are not perhaps engaged in actions which impact the greater scheme of things or which can change History with a capital H. And yet, many ordinary individuals can and do change things for the better.

Great leaders from the past can indeed show us the way: FDR, JFK, Churchill, Gandhi, etc. But even more importantly, we can all ask ourselves how we can develop our personal leadership to help turn things around at our own level, wherever we are in the world, whatever our station in life or job.

As Mother Theresa says “we can’t do great things, we can only do small things with great love“.

Leadership shapes our lives for the better or the worse. It brings peace or generates war. Leadership give us direction and purpose for better or worse. It bonds us together or drives us apart. We all can ask ourselves how we want to lead and help to change the course of events.

Rather than relying on some major figure at a global level to turn things round, now is the time to think how we can all individually contribute to changing things for the better by developing our own personal leadership. Leadership is not the domain of the great and the powerful. Everyone can exercise leadership. For what is leadership if not standing up for what one thinks is right and challenging the status quo despite the cost.

Rather than waiting for a super hero to save us, we must all assume personal leadership and do what we can at our own individual level to make the world a better place. The real lesson from history is that all of those super heroes who saved humanity in the past or who changed things for the better were perhaps ordinary people who stood up when it mattered. How do you imagine yourself leading?  What does leadership mean for you?

Discover the video from the Harvard Business School leadership Initiative.

Imagine yourself leading


 

What helps you perform effectively when you have to make a speech in public?

February 14, 2010

Speaking in public is more and more part and parcel of every executive’s job and public speaking is a task that has to be performed by more and more executives at all levels of an organization. This can be a very intimidating prospect for many people and stage fright can impact a great deal on the performance of the person who doesn’t enjoy the exercise. Here are some ideas on how to perform this exercise more effectively:

  1. Public speaking is a skill that can be learned: some people enjoy speaking in public and don’t seem to fear speaking in public. If you don’t belong to this category, don’t worry because public speaking is a skill you can learn. The first thing to do is to admit that you don’t enjoy the experience and then ask yourself why. This will help you define a simple action plan to manage the reasons why you are ill at ease when you speak in public. You may never attain greatness but you will gradually become more effective and above all less apprehensive.
  2. Prepare your speech in advance: it helps to prepare your speech in advance, especially if you don’t like the exercise. Write down what you want to say.
  3. Follow your plan and keep it simple: Of course, the more you say, the more you may find it difficult. Keep it simple. As you have planned your speech in advance, follow your plan. Tell your audience what you are going to say, say it and then when you conclude, remind your audience what you told them.
  4. Practice makes perfect: Of course, practice beforehand and if possible, learn your text off by heart.  It helps to rehearse, just like actors do before a play.
  5. Share your ideas in advance with some colleagues. If you know in advance that what will say is aligned with what your colleagues expect, you will be more comfortable with your presentation.
  6. Don’t read your slides, summarize them. If you have a powerpoint presentation to support your speech, don’t read your slides as this will possibly bore your audience. Try to summarize each slide in terms of key ideas. This will help your audience remember the key points of your speech.
  7. Find friends in the audience. When presenting and especially if you are speaking to a large audience, find friends in the audience and speak as if you are presenting to them. This will make your presentation more personal and make the context less forbidding. Don’t hesitate to smile when you address a friend in the audience.
  8. Dress comfortably: it helps if you dress comfortably in clothes you prefer. The more you are at ease with your appearance, the more confident you will feel.
  9. Imagine yourself making the speech successfully: just like sportsmen who imagine themselves performing the action successfully in advance (the golfer imagines himself making the putt, the soccer player taking the penalty, etc.). By making the speech in your mind, you are actually doing the action before you actually do it!
  10. Show conviction: people don’t always remember the words or the facts you may present but they always remember how you make them feel. Remember to engage your audience­­­. Don’t hide behind your slides but speak to your audience directly. Prepare a joke and use it at the appropriate moment. Always finish on a positive note.  If you make a mistake or forget a point, keep going. Nobody will probably notice.

Some quotes from famous speakers to help:

Broadly speaking, the short words are the best, and the old words best of all(Winston Churchill).

It usually takes me more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech(Mark Twain).

In making a speech one must study three points: first, the means of producing persuasion; second, the language; third the proper arrangement of the various parts of the speech(Aristotle).

What helps you to perform effectively when you have to make a speech in public?

Curbing email rage at the office: some golden rules

February 6, 2010

Email is an important communication tool today in all organizations. However, abuse and misuse can contribute to poor performance and poor team spirit. Organizations often neglect to set simple rules and guidelines to help managers and employees communicate more effectively through emails. Managers and team members often fail to understand the negative impact bad practice can have on colleagues and subordinates in this important area. Here are some golden rules I would always promote and include in an email-users charter for all organizations:

  • Always remain calm and cool-headed. Expressing anger and frustration in writing only makes things worse and aggravates the problem (supposing there is one in the first place). Talk to the person directly if there seems to be an issue. Don’t react to an email that seems to offend because it’s only stoking the flames.
  • Always remain polite. Using insulting or derogatory terms serves no purpose. Think twice before reacting and again, putting something in writing only makes things worse and only devalues the author of the comments.
  • Always be positive. Don’t berate or criticize ideas expressed by someone in a previous mail. Again, comments made in writing have much more impact and are more enduring than anything said in haste. Be hard on the problem and not on the person. Be direct and frank by all means but do not criticize the person.
  • Keep it simple and use normal police and characters. Never put whole sentences in capital and/or bold letters to ensure your reader gets the point. THIS IS OFTEN EQUIVALENT TO SHOUTING AT SOMEONE BY EMAIL. People can read and don’t need to have the important points highlighted. Such practice also sends the message that you don’t trust them to understand the point you feel is critical.
  • Keep it short. Don’t confuse emails with internal memos. Emails should be short and to the point.
  • Don’t write if you can speak directly to the person. If the person is in the next room, note the point down and go and see the person. Direct contact is always best.
  • Limit the number of persons you copy. Putting the world and his wife on copy creates information overload. If you have to copy others, be selective and decide on who really needs to know (think RASCI if necessary for important subjects).
  • Set limits as to when to send emails: if the user has a blackberry or other means of sending mails out of office hours, he or she should wait until a civilized moment to send a mail. There is no point in sending an email at 1 am in the morning if the person won’t open it before 9 am the same day. This doesn’t give the right message to team members and invades the private sphere because it supposes that the team member receiving the message is prepared to do the same. If you have to work late, OK. But save the mail and send it at the appropriate moment. If the message is really urgent, use the phone and apologize for the disturbance.
  • Solve the problem, don’t write about it: If there is a problem, don’t hide behind emails. Step in and address the problem or speak to the person responsible. Don’t hide behind an email because the problem will remain unsolved and only get worse.
  • Use Globish : if you work for an international organization and need to communicate with team members in different countries, use simple English and avoid slang, irony and abbreviations as readers from  different cultures won’t necessarily understand the slang or abbreviations or be able to decode the subtext behind irony or understatement.

What golden rules would you promote?

Why geese fly in V formation: some lessons for developing effective team work

January 30, 2010

We all know how powerfully effective team work can be in delivering higher levels of performance and all managers need to focus constantly on developing the capacity of their team members to work cohesively together. Developing team work is a key skill requirement for every manager, especially in highly competitive environments which tend to encourage more individualistic behaviours. Indeed and paradoxically, the standard performance management model used by most organizations today based on Management by Objectives can drive the very behaviours contrary to good performance (individualism, the temptation to go-it alone, silo mentality, every man for himself, dog eat dog, etc.). The sum of the parts does not always necessarily add up to the whole and quite often, the successful completion by individuals of their personal objectives as formalized in the annual appraisal process does not mean that the company is globally  better off at the end of the day.

Effective team work is even more critical today because in most organizations now organized in a matrix format, nobody can achieve anything alone and everyone depends on the inputs of many contributors at different levels to succeed. This is even more the case in international organizations where teams are spread out geographically, speak different languages, work in different time zones and have different cultural mindsets. In such environments, success can’t be imposed by command and control through top down management techniques. Leadership has to be more inclusive and focused on leveraging the strengths and capacities of all team members, wherever they may be and whatever their cultural background or organizational roles.

Developing team work is key and mother nature can teach us humans many lessons in the art of effective team working. Take the example of a flock of geese which you may observe flying across the sky in a V formation? Here are some simple reasons why geese fly collectively in V formation and the lessons we can  learn from their example to develop effective team work.

Fact 1: As each goose flaps its wings it creates an “uplift” for the birds that follow. By flying in a “V” formation, the whole flock adds 71% greater flying range than if each bird flew alone.

Lesson: People who share a common direction and sense of community can get where they are going quicker and easier because they are travelling on the thrust of one another.

Fact 2: When a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of flying alone. It quickly moves back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird immediately in front of it.

Lesson: If we have as much sense as a goose we stay in formation with those headed where we want to go. We are willing to accept their help and give our help to others.

Fact 3: When the lead goose tires, it rotates back into the formation and another goose flies to the point position.

Lesson: It pays to take turns doing the hard tasks and sharing leadership. As with geese, people are interdependent on each other’s skills, capabilities and unique arrangements of gifts, talents or resources.

Fact 4: The geese flying in formation honk to encourage those up front to keep up their speed.

Lesson: We need to make sure honking is encouraging. In groups where there is encouragement the production is much greater. The power of encouragement (to stand by one’s heart or core values and encourage the heart and core of others) is the quality of honking we seek.

Fact 5: When a goose gets sick, wounded, or shot down, two geese drop out of formation and follow it down to help and protect it. They stay with it until it dies or is able to fly again. Then, they launch out with another formation or catch up with the flock.

Lesson: If we have as much sense as geese, we will stand by each other in difficult times as well as when we are strong.

So as a manager seeking to drive performance through effective team work, apply the following five leadership principles (V principles):

  1. build a shared sense of community around a shared vision, set of values, common direction and shared objectives
  2. build, encourage, reward and recognize the sharing of resources and skills, knowledge and best practices throughout your team
  3. share your leadership by empowering team members to take responsibility at their levels
  4. Always encourage, never blame
  5. Always Stand by and defend your team members and promote solidarity and collective responsibility at all times.

Apply these V principles with your team and it will mean V for Victory!

Check out the video by clicking on the link below

Leadership and teamwork lessons geese teach us

Why do so many companies die prematurely? 4 key factors

November 29, 2009

In his book “The Living Company” first published in 1997, a former senior executive of Shell, Arie de Geus, asked one simple question: why do so many companies die prematurely? A key contributor to business strategy at Shell, de Geus was investigating how to diversify the activities of Shell, knowing that its core business, petroleum,  in the long term would disappear. When he investigated what other companies were doing to ensure their long term future, he was startled to discover that there were few companies of the size of Shell who had the same or a longer lifespan.

The figures presented by de Geus on the subject of company longevity are indeed depressing. The average life expectancy of a multinational company  is between 40 & 50 years. One third of companies listed in the 1970 Fortune 500 had vanished by 1983. Human beings at least in the developed world now enjoy a life expectancy of 75 years and more yet companies have a mortality rate which is much higher. Indeed, if large companies can somehow hope to survive at least 40 to 50 years, this figure falls dramtically if you consider all companies big and small. De Geus quotes a study performed in Holland where the life expectancy of all firms investigated was calculated as 12,5 years!

The current crisis with the failures of institutions such as Lehmann Brothers (initially founded in 1853!) and the virtual bankruptcy of General Motors  makes the question of company mortality rates all the more relevant today.

When you consider all the social misery that such high levels of corporate mortality bring, it seems important to try to understand why so many companies fail and why some seem to survive despite all the political, social and economic upheavals around them. So why do so many companies fail? For de Geus, the reason is that their managers focus on the economic aspects of producing goods and services and they forget that their organization’s true nature is that of a community of humans!

Some companies nevertheless indeed last hundreds of years and de Geus gives examples such as DuPont, Kodak, Sumitomo, Mitsui and Daimaru. In France, Saint-Gobain has been around since 1665! So if you want to understand what is the secret to corporate longevity, study those large companies which have the longest lifespan to see what secrets they share.

De Geus identified 40 companies who were as large as Shell and older. After much analysis, he identified 4 key factors shared by all companies with a long lifespan:

  1. Longlived companies were sensitive to their environments and constantly adapted to societal changes around them.
  2. Long-lived companies were cohesive with a strong sense of identity. No matter how diversified they were, their employees felt they were all part of one single entity. It would appear that strong employee links is essential to survival in times of change.
  3. Longlived companies were tolerant and did not try to dominate or impose a centralized control throughout the organization.
  4. Longlived companies were conservative in financing, were frugal and did not risk their capital gratuitously. They managed cashflow wisely to maintain flexibility and independence.

What does this mean for managers running businesses who are fighting to deliver short-term results while guaranteeing the future?

De Geus defines the 4 factors in the following ways:

  1. sensitivity to the environment represents a company’s ability to learn and adapt
  2. cohesion and identity concerns a company’s ability to build a community and a persona for itself
  3. tolerance means the ability of an organization to build constructive relationships with other entities within and outside itself.
  4. conservative financing means the ability to govern its own growth and evolution effectively.

These 4 basic components: leaning to adapt, building a community with a shared purpose, building constructive relationships and being able to govern one own’s growth form a set of organizing principles of managerial behaviour and represent the critical aspects of the work of any manager who wants his or her company to survive and thrive for the long term.

But these 4 components can only flourish if we operate a paradigm shift and change the way we think of a company. For de Geus, a company is a living entity and not just a machine built to deliver products and services or satisfy customer or shareholders.

Anyone who has worked in a business would not be surprised with such a view of an organization. Organizations need to learn, all have an identity, all seek to guarantee their coherence, all build relationships with other entities and all grow and develop until they eventually die.

Considering a company as a living entity has important implications for answering another key question: what are companies for? According to the dominant paradigm in business, a company’s purpose is to deliver products and services, to serve customers and deliver ROI to shareholders.

De Geus anwers this question in a far more provocative way. A company, like all living entities, exists for its own survival and improvement : to fulfill its potential and to become as great as it can be. Just like a human being who doesn’t exist solely for his/her job or his/her career but seeks to survive and thrive, to realize his/her potential.

Profit, return on investment are a means to an end but not the end in itself. The end in itself for a company is simply to grow and thrive.

The implications of defining a company’s purpose in this way for managers and management practice are fundamental and far-reaching. If we accept that the purpose of a company is simply to survive and thrive, then the priorities in managing such a company are very different to those set forth by the champions of the dominant paradigm which sees a company’s purpose only as to deliver short term results.

Those companies with the longest life span would seem to have understood that their real purpose was to survive and thrive in the long term and they consequently managed their businesses around that goal.  In the present crisis, with so many companies going to the wall, it would be well worth rediscovering the views of Arie de Geus and investigating more deeply how we can benefit from the lessons and management best practices of the tercentenarian companies who put the sense of community first.

For more information, read Arie de Geus,  “The living company, Growth, learning and longevity in business“,  1997

arie de geus on organizational change

The Pygmalion effect: expect the worst and we most likely will get it!

November 11, 2009

We have all heard of the “self-fulfilling prophecy“. One way to look at this idea is to say that “we get what we expect” and if we expect something to happen, our expectation will tend to make it so.

Our expectations often drive the events which occur, rather than the other way round. A leading researcher on this issue, Robert Rosenthal, labelled this expectancy effect the “Pygmalion effect” and if we are not all familiar with the Greek myth of Pygmalion, the sculptor, who fell in love with his own statue of a woman, many of us have seen the movie My fair lady, inspired by the George Bernard Shaw play Pygmalion, where Professor Higgins sets out to transform a girl of modest origins, Eliza Doolittle, into a lady.

Rosenthal has researched this issue for many years and has come up with some interesting findings. In particular, he performed a study at an elementary school in a lower middle-class neighbourhood of a large US town. This experiment has been called the Oak School experiment. Simply put, with the agreement of the school administration, all the children in grades 1 to 6 were given a standard IQ TEST at the beginning of the school year. The teachers were told the test was the Harvard Test of Inflected Acquisition and that the test was designed to predict academic blooming. In other words, teachers were told that students scoring high on the test were ready to bloom academically and would progress in the coming year. If the test was a valid one, all the rest was not true and the test had no predictive nature whatsoever.

All the teachers subsequently received a list with the names of their students who had scored in the top 20% on the “Harvard Test”. Of course, the names provided were at random and the children in question had done no better than the other pupils forming part of the control population.

Near  the end of the year, all the children at the school took the test again and the degree of change in IQ was calculated for each child.  To summarize, the results showed that the children for whom the teachers had expected greater intellectual growth averaged significantly greater improvement than did the control children.

Rosenthal explains the differences in terms of teachers expectations. When teachers expect greater intellectual development from certain children, these children did show greater intellectual development.

Rosenthal defines 4 key factors which drive this Pygmalion effect:

1) Climate factor: teachers who expect more of certain students tend to create a warmer climate for those children, both verbally and non verbally (for example, they will smile moe often at them).

2) Input factor: teachers will tend to teach more material to children they think are smarter

3) Response opportunity factor: children who are expected to bloom academicallly get more chance to respond.

4) Feedback factor: if more is expected of a child, he/she gets praised more when he/she is right but gets more differentiated feedback when he/she makes a mistake. Children who are not expected to perform get less feedback when they are wrong because teachers would seem to think that the children in question would not understand the correction and so the teachers spend less time trying to correct them.

If you transpose these findings to the world of work, what conclusions can be drawn for high and low performers?

Obviously, managers have to question their role in generating performance through the expectations they develop in relation to different employees. If they expect more from certain employees (for example, those who have gone to certain universities or grad schools), their expectations will tend to drive the results they expect because they will create the climate, give more input, be available to listen more and above all give more differentiated feedback to help the employee for whom they hold high expectations.

On the other hand, they will tend to spend less time maintaining a favourable climate with workers for whom they have less expectations, give less feedback, make themselves less available to listen and finally, give less differentiated feedback to employees they deem to be struggling or not able to understand the feedback that is required to hep them progress.

In other words, some managers get the performance they expect and either consciously or unconsciously, adopt behaviours which may drive success for some but also drive failure in others.

The manager’s role is to drive better performance in all and so everyone in a management role should be alert to the Pygmalion effect and how preconceived notions and bias can perhaps deliver high performance in some (the so-called stars or A-players) while driving poor performance in others.

Simply put, if you are in a management role,seriously question your preconceived notions about team members. Be alert to how you behave towards all team members in terms of the climate you establish, the input you give to each team member, the response you give to each person in terms of support and coaching and how you give differentiated feedback to all. If you truly believe in team work and how 1+1+3, then you need to focus on how you can get more from all employees through higher and more positive expectations focused on all.

To conclude, the bad news is that our expectations as managers toward employees can drive both good and bad performance.

The good news is that we can drive good performance in all team members if we adopt the correct behaviours and if we have positive expectations for all team workers.

If poor expectations drives poor performance, positive expectations can and will drive good performance. Positive expectations are the key and this means trusting your employees more to deliver to your higher expectations. People will deliver more if you expect them to do so. Higher performance is a case of Greater expectations aimed at all employees be they Harvard graduates or employees of more humble background.

Check out the video which features Robert Rosenthal discussing the Pygmalion effect.

The Pygmalion effect

Transform your managers into leaders if you want to transform your organization effectively

October 17, 2009

The current economic crisis has accelerated the need for companies to transform their organizations radically and urgently  and many organizations have embarked on significant transformation programs in order to become more flexible, leaner, more proactive, more cost effective, etc.

Quite often, organizations might be tempted to consider their workforce as the obstacles to successful transformation and frequently one hears or witnesses managers complaining how the workforce is not willing or able to transform itself to meet the challenges of moving to a new business model.

But what if the obstacle is not the workforce but the style of management which is the true blocker?

This is where understanding the difference between leadership and management is key to understanding what may be the true cause of any blockage to successful transformation.

When you set out the differences between management an leadership, you understand that to transform your organization, you have to move from a model centred on “managing” people to a model centred on “leading” people”. This is especially the case if your organization employs significant numbers of “knowledge workers” who have high expectations in terms of understanding the vision and goals of the organization, how they can contribute to these goals, what responsibility they have to drive these goals, how they can develop their skills and continue to learn to be able to meet the new challenges that a continuously changing environment.

This is not to say that leadership should replace management. Both go hand in hand. The manager’s job is to plan, organize and coordinate. The leader’s job is to inspire and motivate. However, it is important to understand the difference because this is a first necessary step in being able to adopt the most effective approach when leading transformational change. You can’t manage transformation, you must lead transformation.

Here are some other key differences between management and leadership:

  1. The manager administers; the leader innovates.
  2. The manager is a copy; the leader is an original
  3. The manager focuses on systems and structure; the leader focuses on people
  4. The manager relies on control; the leader inspires trust
  5. The manager has a short-term view, the leader has a long-range perspective
  6. The manager asks how and when; the leader asks what and why
  7. The manager has his or her eye on the bottom line; the leader’s eye is on the horizon
  8. The manager imitates; the leader originates
  9. The manager  accepts the status quo; the leader challenges it
  10. The manager is the classic good soldier; the leader is his own person
  11. the manager does things right; the leader does the right thing.

In the classical Taylorian world of work, there were many managers and few leaders and the difference between the two was easy to make. A team leader on the production line didn’t need to give too much time or thought to what he had to do or how he had to manage the people producing the parts on the production line. His job was to follow orders, organize the work, assign the right people to the tasks, coordinate the results and ensure the job done done. In other words, he focused on being efficient.

In our new, crisis-driven, knowledge based economy, where value creation depends on the knowledge people have and how they mobilize that knowledge, contributors are no longer simple cogs in a machine. In such  a world, management and leadership are not so easily separated. Individual contributors look to their managers not just to assign them a task but to give them a purpose. To get the best out of their people, managers must not only maximize efficiency but develop skills, talent and inspire results. Managers must not only seek to do things right but seek to do the right things right and this can only be achieved if knowledge workers are empowered, have a sense of ownership for their job and can contribute to decisions in an appropriate way.

As Peter Drucker explains so clearly in his book “The effective executive“, the advent of the knowledge worker means that you no longer “manage” people. Your job is to “lead” people. Your job is not to squeeze people like lemons until they can produce no more but to make them more productive and effective so that they continue to grow in their jobs, learn new skills and knowledge and continuously adapt to their changing environment.

Transforming an organization is an enormous challenge because it means:

  • innovating and creating new ways of doing things and working together
  • building the road as you go and supporting people to follow you on the journey
  • trusting your people because trust generates commitment and loyalty
  • building a long term perspective, looking to the horizon and ensuring followers key their eye on the horizon
  • Being constantly able to explain what and why because meaning is key to motivation
  • Building from scratch which is always harder than doing things as they have always been done
  • Challenging the status quo and rocking the boat
  • Moving from requiring simple execution to inviting contribution and commitment
  • Delegating effectively because you can’t control everything, you can’t manage everything and you need others to take responsibility
  • Team work horizontally and vertically
  • Negotiating win-win
  • Less rules, more self-regulation
  • Lead by example and walk the talk
  • Taking risk and accepting failure
  • Developing a no-blame culture

You cannot achieve all of these by simply managing people and requiring them simply to execute. To get all of these, your management model has also to transform itself.

As Albert Einstein said, you can’t solve a problem using the logic that caused the problem in the first place and many of the problems blocking effective organizational change today such as poor commitment by employees, lack of skills, lack of responsibility, disengagement, organizational inertia, poor team work, etc. are caused by a failure to realize that the management model continues to be  “management-centric” when it should be “leadership-centric“.

To summarize, it may be  a platitude to say so but if you want to transform your organization, you must first transform your managers and help them move from “managing people” to “managing and leading” people and that if they will continue to manage, they must above all become leaders.

When you do this, you will have your transformation champions capable of leading transformation effectively in your organization.

Some leadership quotes

Less Procrastination, more Performance: 3 simple steps

September 26, 2009

Have you ever found yourself putting off important tasks over and over again or waiting until the very last minute to  deliver on a commitment or requirement of a colleague? Or have you often had to contact time and time again a colleague to get him or her to deliver on a commitment or requirement?

Quite often, it’s not your fault nor the fault of your colleague and the more complicated and fuzzy the organization is, the more difficult it becomes to deliver on time to all stake holders when you are involved in multiple projects.

But setting aside all the organizational issues, sometimes it is down to our own behaviour and attitudes and we all are guilty at some stage of what is commonly called procrastination or putting off until tomorrow what we could do today.

Of course, most of us seek to be effective and don’t put off too many important issues until the very last moment. However, some people are seriously affected by procrastination and to such an extent that it seriously impacts on their performance and on their careers.

Meeting commitments and deadlines is a key indicator of performance and so it’s important to be able to evaluate if and when we are letting ourselves fall into the trap and take the actions to ensure that we don’t develop a chronic tendency to postpone the urgent and important issues which are the issues that count.

Why do we sometimes procrastinate?

There are many reasons why we may procrastinate:

  • we prefer to do a task that is more enjoyable than tackle a task which is complicated or disagreeable
  • We don’t know how to prioritize and tackle the first task that comes our way
  • We may listen to the person who shouts the loudest or simply do what our boss asks and forget about our other customers
  • We may be overwhelmed by the task, not knowing where or how to begin
  • We may doubt if we know how to do the job
  • We may doubt if we have the resources to do the job and so we do the tasks we’re comfortable with and let the big tasks slip
  • We want to wait for the “right time” to do the job rather than do it now
  • We’re afraid of not succeeding and so we avoid confronting the risk
  • We don’t organize our work and just “do it”
  • We’re too perfectionist and spend too much time seeking perfection

These are some of the reasons why we procrastinate but how do we deal with it?

Here are 3 simple steps to getting important tasks done effectively :

step 1: recognize it’s happening

Being honest with oneself is the first step and we all know more or less when we’re guilty of putting off urgent and important tasks. Self knowledge is the first step to dealing with the issue and so learn to track the times when we adopt behaviours or attitudes which don’t contribut to getting thing done on time: going for a coffee, going out to smoke a cigarette, reading our emails, navigating on the internet, etc.

Step 2: Understand why it’s happening

Once we realize we are not dealing with important and urgent tasks on time, it’s important to analyze why. Here are some common causes:

  • We find the task unpleasant
  • We find the task too big
  • We have too much to do
  • We’re afraid of failing
  • We’re afraid of the consequences
  • -…

Understanding why we are not doing what we should be doing will helps define a strategy to help us decide what needs to be done when.

Step 3: Some tips to sort out the important things that need to be done from the unimportant things

  • Prioritize. List your tasks on a daily basis and prioritize them using the “Urgent versus Important” task matrix.

Urgent versus important matrix

  • Tackle your important and urgent issues first and put off or cancel the unimportant and not urgent issues
  • Don’t let your important and urgent issues dictate your agenda. Focus on the important but not urgent issues because these issues are the real added value and help you reduce the urgent/important; urgent/not important and not urgent/not important issues which take up your time.
  • Tackle each priority 1 issue systematically and avoid being interrupted or distracted when you’re working the issue. Avoid stalling or stop-go. Common behaviours to be avoided are beginning a task and then going off to have a coffee or smoke a cigarette, begin reading your emails (disconnect your email alert), etc.
  • Set yourself a deadline to clear the priority 1 issue off your to-do list. Don’t allow priority 1 issues to accumulate on your to-do list.
  • Learn to say “no” to unimportant requests from others, including your boss. Do your important tasks first.
  • Delegate if possible some priority 1 tasks to others and seek to delegate all the unimportant but urgent tasks to others or again if possible, cancel them.
  • Delegate, don’t dump. Be mindful not to dump things on subordinates if and when you delegate. Delegate in relation to the roles and responsibilities in the team and remember to check if your team members themselves don’t have too much on their plates. Delegate responsibility for completing the task and the results. Don’t delegate the method. Delegate the whole task and not just a part and specify the expected results.
  • Reward yourself when you do a priority 1 task which was unpleasant (a good lunch for example)
  • Ask a peer to remind you that you need to get the task completed. Peer pressure is very effective.
  • Work out the consequence of not doing what you are supposed to do. If you don’t pay the telephone bill, your line is cut off!
  • Break the task down into smaller, more manageable tasks and build an action plan to complete each task according to deadlines.
  • Start with some quick wins and do some small tasks which are easy to do. This gives you sense of achievement and builds momentum
  • Always set a deadline for each priority 1 task and hold yourself to the deadline.
  • Plan time in your agenda to deal with the priority 1 tasks and don’t allow yourself to be distracted when you sit down to do these tasks. Don’t answer the phone, don’t read your emails, don’t go for a coffee, etc. until the task is completed or successfully launched.
  • Remember to check off on your list the tasks completed. You reassure yourself that you are getting things done successfully.
  • Make firm commitments to others and stick to them. Quite often, procrastinators don’t like to make firm commitments as this allows them more freedom not to act. If someone asks you to commit to a task that is a priority 1 task for both of you, make a firm commitment in terms of a deadline and hold yourself to it. Get the person to remind you of your commitment.
  • Define the outcomes you expect for each priority 1 task and define deadlines when these outcomes should be in place. Visualize in your mind the situation with the outcome in place. This will help you overcome fear of failure.
  • Set yourself deadlines for decision making on each task. Learn to decide. A poor decision is better than no decision and an outcome implemented on time can always be corrected. Postponing a decision because the solution is not perfect means discovering later possible issues which only serve to delay even further a successful completion. You can’t correct a solution which hasn’t been implemented.

Even if we have to spend significant time in Quandrant 1 ” important and urgent” activities, our main goal should be to spend more and more time in Quandrant 2  “important but not urgent” activities because that is where we will proactively take control of our agendas and prepare the future.

As Stephen J Covey says, we should be spending as little time as possible in quandrant 3 “Urgent but not important” and quadrant 4 “Not Urgent and not important” activities because these activities are time wasters and distract us from the real value added activities. Dealing more and more with the not urgent and important issues will help you move from the P in Procrastinate to the P in Performance.

To conclude, I’ll stop procrastinating for now and finish this article.

I suggest you  stop procrastinating  too and check out a  funny video from Daily Motion on the phenomenon.

 

20 behaviours which increase your risk of derailing as a leader

July 18, 2009

A lot of research has been done on the reasons why talented leaders derail. Organizations such as the Centre for Creative Leadership and leadership experts such as Lombardo and Eichinger have studied in depth the drivers which cause leaders to go off the track. Here are some of the causes below.

Leaders derail if they :

– don’t develop subordinates.
– don’t deal with conflict among or with subordinates
– delegate poorly – like to go it alone
– Get irritated easily, especially with those seen as less able
– Have trouble in new situations- rely too much on their core strengths and don’t step out of their comfort zone
– Are hands-on managers and don’t demonstrate trust in subordinates
– Don’t pay attention to essential detail
– Allow things slip through the cracks too often
– Become involved in too many activities and don’t focus on core objectives
– Are perceived as too ambitious – too interested in their next move
– Are abrasive to subordinates or colleagues
– Make others feel stupid or diminished
– Are volatile under pressure
– Don’t get the most out of people
– Are not dependable and fail to respect their commitments to others
– Stay with the same boss too long
– Don’t sell well
– Have to win and are never prepared to make concessions
– have trouble adapting to different styles within their team

This list is a very useful tool in assessing whether one is at risk of derailing. If you answer yes to 4 or more of the above questions, it’s time to implement an action plan.

To be effective in any organization today, research shows that leaders need to demonstrate the following positive behaviours:

– Be available to others: always keep the door open
– Collaborate and always seek win-win relationships
– Behave ethically: lead by example and demonstrate consistency
– Listen well: seek first to understand before being understood
– Be honest : admit mistakes
– Do not be dogmatic or authoritarian: accept there are other points of view and other ways of doing things
– Share responsibility but don’t avoid responsibility when things go wrong
– Be straightforward: say it as it is
– Support others’ ideas: encourage others to be creative and proactive
– Seek to work effectively in a team: help others to reach their goals
– Be trustworthy and respect commitments: say what you do and do what you say

When one reviews this list, it is easy to see that these positive traits apply not only to leaders but to all employees in organizations who want to succeed and progress. If you want to progress your career as a leader, constantly evaluate how you’re doing on each of these items and make sure your action plan helps you progress on all of these items.

Simple!

5 key steps in taking charge of your own career

July 11, 2009

As Jack Welsh once said, “Take charge of your destiny or someone else will do it for you” and this pragmatic nugget of common sense has never been more relevant than in today’s world of work. Many employees all over the world are facing the same challenge of embarking on new careers in a severe downturn, if this course of action has not already been forced upon them by circumstances.

Never before has the question of career development and mobility been more a key challenge in the work place.

The status quo is no longer viable
A short time ago, organizations and employees alike preferred stability to movement and HR policies and strategy in many organizations aimed at maintaining things as they were. Today, the unprecedented economic crisis has forced everyone to rethink and to understand that maintaining the status quo is no longer a viable option for organizations and employees.

Organizations can no longer offer a job for life and given the unrelenting pace of change and business and technological transformation, employees can no longer bury their heads in the sand and believe that they have a job for life or that the knowledge that got them their job in the first place will allow them to keep it in the long term.

Adopting a new dynamic model
Today, employers and employees alike now realize that given the uncertainty of foreseeing the future, the only promise employers can make to employees is that the future is uncertain and that the best way for organizations and employees to meet this uncertainty is to adopt a more dynamic model which drives movement by empowering employees to take responsibility for their own career development.

A short while ago, organizations and employees alike shared the myth that it was the responsibility of the organization alone to manage the career of its employees, even if this meant that only a small proportion of employees availed of the limited possibilities within the organization.

Today, the crisis has changed all this and more and more organizations and employees are coming to recognize that a different model is required, one which recognizes the individual employee’s responsibility for managing his/her own career.

Is it possible to manage your own career?
Many employees of course would question whether it is possible to manage one’s own career for many different reasons. Despite the context, many different obstacles still remain in place preventing employees from taking charge of their own destiny:
– for managers, short term business objectives mean that they obviously prefer stability to losing a key team player to another department;
– for employees, fear of failure means that they might prefer to stay in the comfort zone rather than take the risk of moving into unknown territory;
– for HR, encouraging employees to move without being able to satisfy expectations leads to loss of credibility, etc.

However, despite these obstacles, the impact of the current crisis is such that the more dynamic model is now an imperative and employees now need to take responsibility for their own careers and organizations need to encourage them to do so.

3 key players applying the 3 S
This new dynamic model can therefore only work if the 3 key players in organizations, the employee, management & HR work together and apply what has been called the “3 S” :

Spark: all employees need to develop and maintain their personal spark, that flame which drives them on to grow and become better;

Support: managers need to support their employees more effectively and help them progress through meaningful and good conversations and by helping them understand what they need to do to learn and progress within the organization and how they can adapt to business an technological changes;

Systems and structure: HR needs to provide the systems and structure which will ensure that the meaningful conversations take place between managers and employees continuously and that the outputs of these discussions can be acted on meaningfully. HR also need to support employees and management more effectively in using the systems and structures so that the human capital within the organization is more effectively utilized and developed proactively.

So managers need to support and HR needs to provide the systems and the structure.

Supposing these two levers are in place, what can each of us do as employees to maintain our individual, personal spark?

5 key steps in managing your career
There are 5 key steps we all need to take to maintain our spark and take charge of managing our own career:

1) Know yourself: know your skills, your values, your preferred working environment, your objectives and life goals. You can’t get anywhere if you don’t know where you want to go nor what means you need to mobilize to get there.

2) Know how others see you: get feedback from others on your weak points. Learn what you need to do to grow and progress.

3) Know your organization: understand what is changing in your organization and how your job might or will be impacted by changes in the business environment.

4) Know your options: have more than one option. Up is not the only possible move. You can move laterally, backwards, work in project teams, join cross site projects or initiatives,etc.

5) Know what you need to learn and what you need to do to get that learning. In other words, develop an action plan to help you acquire the knowledge and know-how progressively.

All of us can adopt these 5 key steps.

However, taking these 5 steps will be easier and more effective if the other 2 key actors in the equation, management and HR, understand that they have their part to play. For example, employees can only understand how their roles are changing if management and HR are transparent and clear and communicate effectively to employees on these changes.

5 key steps for managers and HR
So just as employees have 5 key steps to take charge of managing their own careers, management and HR also have 5 key steps to take:

1) Implement and use the HR processes (annual appraisal and development interview, career development, skills mapping, etc;) to give objective and effective feedback to employees on an ongoing basis, not only on performance but also on how to grow in the job and the organization;

2) Give direct feedback, help your employees understand the areas they need to develop to progress; Set objectives nd goals which help employees close the gap between where they are and where they need to be now and in the future;

3) Coach and support your employees to understand the environment they are in, how it is changing and what they need to do to keep ahead of those changes; take the time to share with them your knowledge of the organization. It’s not time wasted.

4) Give employees options: promote an empowering work environment where employees are encouraged to participate in decision making and take more responsibility. Responsibility as we all know is key to developing skills. Encourage job rotation and job stretching. Use the organization to help your people evolve. Above all, know your people; understand their expectations; challenge them to take on new tasks and responsibilities;

5) Promote a learning organization : Help employees build their personal learning action plans and help them complete these plans. Set stretch objectives which meet business goals while pushing employees out of their comfort zones. Promote a culture which accepts error because making mistakes is part of the process.

Taking charge of your destiny: a shared responsibility
Employees will only adopt responsibility for managing their own career proactively if they perceive that they are supported by their management and the outputs of their actions are fed effectively into the HR process and result in concrete and positive actions that all can see. Otherwise, employees will perceive all attempts by the organization to encourage them to drive their own careers as an abandonment by the organization of its share of responsibility.

Today, taking charge of one’s career is indeed imperative.

However, if each one of us has an individual responsibility for taking charge of our own career, this can only work if organizations recognize that they have a shared responsibility to promote a management model which encourages and rewards employees who embrace this dynamic model.

So a new win-win relationship needs to be built between employees, management and HR. Only if this win-win relationship is implemented will employees take more and more responsibility for managing their own careers.

Thanks to Beverly Kaye for her ideas on this subject. View the video in One World, One Team to hear Beverly’s thoughts on managing your own career.


%d bloggers like this: