Posts Tagged ‘leadership’

Management Vade Mecum: 10 simple principles

March 8, 2009

10 SIMPLE MANAGEMENT PRINCIPLES

1. Lead by example : don’t ask others to adopt behaviors you don’t adopt yourself.
2. Set SMART objectives :
• Simple
• Measurable
• Attainable and ambitious
• Realistic
• Time-based
3. Delegate in an appropriate way but check nevertheless
• You delegate responsibility not a task. If you delegate, you remain responsible to the organization.
4. Keep it simple: communicate clearly and simply
5. Know your people : adapt your leadership style to the profiles of your team members. Adopt a suitable style according to the profile
• Adopt a directing style for inexperienced employees
• Adopt a persuading style for employees with some experience
• Adopt a participating for experienced employees
• Adopt a delegating style for experienced employees you want to develop in terms of responsibilities
6. Respect all your team members
7. Reward and recognize equitably based on results
8. Coach, support and develop your team members to reach their objectives
9. Seek to improve yourself and your team continuously
10. Anticipate: manage events or they will manage you

10 PRINCIPES SIMPLES DE MANAGEMENT

1. Donner l’exemple. Ne demandez pas aux autres de ce que vous n’êtes pas prêt à faire vous même
2. Définissez des objectifs SMART
• Simples
• Mesurables
• Atteignables
• Réalistes
• Temporalisés
3. Déléguer d’une manière appropriée mais vérifiez
• On délègue une responsabilité et non une tâche. Si vous déléguez une responsabilité, vous restez néanmoins responsable face à l’organisation.
4. Restez simple
5. Connaissez vos collaborateurs. Adoptez votre style selon le profil de votre collaborateur. Adoptez un style de management approprié :
• Style directif pour les collaborateurs peu expérimentés
• Style persuasif pour les collaborateurs qui ont une certaine expérience
• Style participatif pour les collaborateurs avec une bonne expérience
• Style délégatif pour les collaborateurs ayant une solide expérience et que vous voulez développer sur le plan des responsabilités.
6. Respectez vos collaborateurs
7. Récompensez et reconnaissez vos collaborateurs d’une manière équitable
8. Coachez, supportez et développez vos collaborateurs pour les aider à atteindre leurs objectifs
9. Cherchez constamment à vous améliorer et à améliorer votre équipe
10. Anticipez les événements , sinon vous allez subir.

Some Leadership maxims

March 4, 2009

Muhammad Ali

A man who is the same at fifty as he was at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life

Brian O’Driscoll

Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisom is knowing not to put it in a fruit salad

Seneca

A gem cannot be polished without friction, a man without trials

As long as you live, keep learning how to live

Difficulties strengthen the mind, as labour does the body

One must steer, not talk.

Albert Einstein

A man who never made a mistake never tried anything new

Confusion of goals and perfection of means seems, in my opinion, to characterize our age.

Everything should be as simple as it is, but not simpler.

We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.

Winston Churchill

A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.

If you are going through hell, keep going.

To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.

Mark Twain

Don’t let schooling interfere with your education.

CS Lewis

What saves a man is to take a step. Then another step (cs lewis).

Horace

Rule your mind or it will rule you

Henri Bergson

Think like a man of action, act like a man of thought.

GB Shaw

People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want and if they can’t find them, make them.
(George Bernard Shaw)

The martial art of getting things done

February 9, 2009

We’re all confronted with the daily challenge of getting things done, not only in our professional lives but also in our private lives. Getting things done is not always so easy but throw in a constantly changing environment and this becomes very challenging indeed. Quite often, our environment seems to conspire against us and countless “unforeseen events”, interruptions, sudden requirements spring upon us to dislocate our plans and throw our system into a spin.

Our managers change, our teams change, company strategy changes, objectives change, business partners change, the environment changes, customers change, technology changes, everything around us seems to be in a constant state of change. We’re constantly being interrupted by some sudden cause or problem which requires our attention and disrupts our schedule and/or plans. The only thing that seems permanent is change itself and we may often feel we spend our day firefighting and dealing with only current and immediate tasks, short-term tasks.

It’s easy to understand why so many people may experience anxiety when they look around and see how fast their world is constantly evolving and/or how often they are interrupted. This constant and increasingly rapid change and rate of interruption conspires against action because it’s difficult to act if the world around you changes quicker than your ability to implement and embed your actions to deal with that change. Why fight to follow up on objectives if the changes to the business environment make those objectives redundant? But failing to act increases anxiety because it creates a sense of lack of control, organization and preparation to act.

Even more ironically, the very tools we use to organize and track our work and commitments seem to conspire to add to the disorder through information overload and we risk getting bogged down with what seem to be sometimes very non-added value tasks: cleaning our email inbox, sorting our voice mails, sifting through the huge pile of brochures and booklets of all sorts that wash up on our desks on a daily basis, dealing with correspondence and admin tasks, etc.

So how can we deal with this constant change and overcome this feeling of anxiety which is an obstacle to effective action and getting things done?

How can we get above the clouds and plan long term? How can we improve our personal productivity and that of our teams so that we all feel we are not only getting things done but getting the right things done? Peter Drucker teaches us that efficiency means doing thing the right way and effectiveness means doing the right things. How can we spend more and more time doing the right things which add value and which give us more control over our changing environment?

This is the challenge that David Allen explores in his study on “Getting things done” and the very interesting thing about this book is that while it presents many tricks and tips that we all may use spontaneously and/or instinctively to organize our work more productively , its great merit in our view is that it is systematic in its approach and defines a comprehensive system for managing all the multiple inputs into our professional and private lives and structuring them into an operation system which allows us to sort out the essential from the secondary, prioritize all our actions and decide on the key next actions which will move us forward.

Indeed, one key message that can be taken from David Allen’s work is that the faster the change, the more we need to build a structured and comprehensive system to manage all the various inputs because if we don’t manage change, change will manage us!

Here are some key points summarizing David Allen’s approach to getting things done:

Collect all the “stuff” on your mind and write it down. Anxiety is caused by a feeling of lack of control due to a failure to meet commitments or a feeling that you need to do something but you don’t know what. The first step to alleviate this anxiety involves collecting everything on your mind and putting it into a clear system. You can only manage what you have identified so you need to write all your “stuff” down and classify all the different items in different actions lists. This of course requires discipline and method.

Process what all this stuff means and decide what to do with each item and how to organize all your decisions into one system. David Allen defines a basic system with the following components:

If you decide NO:
you have 3 possibilities:
* Trash: delete an item that has no value
* Incubate: put the item on hold in a “Someday/Maybe” box or “Tickler” bow
* Store for review at a later date in a Reference box

If you decide Yes:

Decide which actions can be taken and closed immediately and which need more planning:

You have 5 possibilities:
*list of long term projects: is the item a project you wish to undertake?
*list of project plans and materials. Is the item a plan or a change to a plan?
*calendar. I sit an event you need to put in your calendar?
*list of reminders for next actions. Is it a next action that needs to be implemented in the very short term?
*list of reminders of things you are waiting for from others. Is it something you need to receive from someone else?

– Do :Once you’ve decided on your immediate actions and sorted all other actions in the appropriate boxes, implement the actions.

– Discipline yourself to review all your “stuff” on a weekly basis and update your system and different lists.

We all perform these 8 phases of workflow management more or less: collecting, processing, organizing, reviewing and doing but not perhaps so systematically as David Allen advocates.

Above all, we may not always apply systematically the question “what’s the next action?” to each open item in the yes category above.

It’s only when all open items have been identified, processed, organized, reviewed and a concrete next action has been defined for each item that the workflow management process is really operational.

Even if David Allen encourages the reader to classify actions in the short, medium and long term, his approach is nevertheless very pragmatic and urges the reader to adopt a bottom up approach which begins with immediate next actions.

His advice is clear: to get things done, seek to employ next action decision-making because next-action decision making rooted in the short term contributes to increased productivity, clarity, accountability and empowerment. Because if you ask the question “what’s the next action?”, you immediately decide what needs to be done, by whom, when, how, where and why. The longest march begins with one small step and one small next action decision.

To conclude, David Allen in turn quotes a certain Sidney J. Harris:

An idealist believes that the short run doesn’t count. A cynic believes the long run doesn’t matter. A realist believes that what is done or left undone in the short term determines the long run“. Don’t allow things not done now undermine your long term.

Check out David Allen and “Getting things done“and read more about the “martial art” of getting things done and the power of the next-action decision.

View the video of David Allen giving a presentation on getting things done to Google team members.

Trust: your leadership compass in the perfect storm!

February 5, 2009

Business is more global. Teams are more diverse. Organizations are more and more flexible. Technologies change more and more rapidly. Roles and responsibilities change almost daily at all levels. Objectives change. Strategies change. People change. The manager who sets the strategy moves on and someone else has to live with the consequences. Or a new manager arrives and doesn’t have the history which led to where you are today.

The only thing that seems permanent is the relentless change that we all face on a daily basis.

In such a storm, leaders and team members may be tempted to hold their hand up and say “how can we function effectively in such a storm? How on earth can we get things done? How can we decide on a course of action when everything is changing around us?”.

Paradoxically, in this storm of change, the biggest danger facing leaders and team members is….no change! Or rather, not deciding what to do for fear of making an error.

Work is basically a decision-making process. Leaders and team members are constantly confronted with having to make decisions. Decision making is difficult at the best of times but becomes more and more difficult in fast-changing environments. Decisions are of course based on data and as data is often incomplete, the temptation is to wait for perfect data before deciding. However, as change is always ahead of the organization, the information collected by the organization is always out of date and the temptation is always to wait for “better”, “fresher” data before deciding. And so the vicious circle goes on.

The biggest danger is therefore paralysis of decision-making & we suspect that there is a direct causal link between the amount of change in an organization and the speed at which an organization decides.

The speed at which an organization decides is inversely proportional to the speed of change and the ability of the organization to digest that change. and in fast-changing, matrix organizations, it is indeed not uncommon to hear leaders and team members complain on the one hand of the speed of change and on the other hand, complain that decisions are taking longer and longer and that more and more people need to be consulted, thereby slowing down the decision-making process.

So the faster the change, the slower the decision-making process and the slower the decision-making process, the faster the change imposed by external factors (global business, partners, suppliers, markets, technologies, etc…).

And yet, we all have to get things done and deliver results.

So how can leaders work with team members to set a direction and hold to it? What compass can be used to plot a course to safety? How can we all deliver the expected results when even it is not always clear what we are expected to deliver?

In our opinion, the key is TRUST. With trust, you still have a lot to do; without trust, you are sure to fail.

When everything else is uncertain and unclear, the key to setting direction and bonding the team around that direction is TRUST. Leaders have to build TRUST with team members so that all believe that they can rely on one another when times get tough or when the storm breaks. When all the basic inputs to the decision-making process are fuzzy: strategy, partners, budgets, objectives, resources, the environment, etc., and you still have to set a direction, then only TRUST will allow you to set out with your team and your team will only get on board and stay on board if you trust them and they trust you.

What is trust based on? Trust depends on consistency of behavior.

To gain trust, you have to say what you do & do what you say and be seen to do it. In other words, you have to walk the talk. If you don’t walk the talk but say one thing and do the opposite, your team will lose confidence in you as a leader and will be less inclined to stick with you, especially in such a stormy environment. Either they won’t get on board at the outset or they’ll jump ship at the first opportunity.

TRUST is therefore the compass that helps the leader set direction but also the glue that will keep the team together, whatever the conditions.

The world-renowned leadership expert, Ken Blanchard, makes a very interesting distinction between TRUST & RESPECT.

– If you respect someone, you face them to listen to what they have to say.
– If you trust them, you can turn your back on them because you know they will not harm you.

However,

– if you don’t respect someone, you show this by turning your back on them because you don’t want to listen to them.
– if you don’t trust someone, you must always face them because you’re afraid they will harm you otherwise.

Leaders must be able to establish TRUST with team members so that he/she doesn’t always have to be facing them as the ship moves along and must show respect by always facing them when things get difficult and they need support.

We said above that the speed of decision-making is inversely proportional to the speed of change. We can also consider that the speed of decision-making is inversely proportional to the level of trust within an organisation. The less trust, the longer it takes to decide, the more trust, the quicker it is to decide.

So build the TRUST by saying what you do and doing what you say and prove it day-in, day-out.

Build up the TRUST and you will speed up decision-making. Speed up decision-making and you will increase your ability to manage change.

View Ken Blanchard’s discussion of TRUST as a key to leadership performance.

Ken Blanchard on Trust

The 6Cs of managing a virtual team

February 2, 2009

In the old-style Taylorized work environment, managers were able to cut up the work and distributed the tasks efficiently to team members who were close at hand and whose performance could be measured scientifically to ensure targets were reached.

These teams very, very real as they were most of the time organized in shifts, which meant that they arrived in the same place at the same time, worked the same period throughout the day and finished together. This unity of time, place and action allowed team members to build a team identity and culture which contributed to producing results, by generating a common bond, work identity and sense of one for all, all for one.

In today’s virtual workplace, where teams are no longer “real” but “virtual”, spread across different regional, national and/or international geographies and where work is more and more “intellectual”, this shared team culture is more and more difficult to build and results are obviously harder to guarantee.

Leaders leading such virtual teams have therefore to meet a greater challenge than their colleagues managing “real” or “on-site” teams because they can’t rely on the day-to-day routine of office or workshop life to build up the team identity and shared values which enhances effectiveness.

So what can leaders of virtual teams do to build this virtual team culture? How can they replace what mother nature has omitted?

In his book, “Where in the world is my team“, Terry Brake identifies 3 key risks that leaders of virtual teams must confront and help team members to confront:

1) Isolation: team members are not very often together and so therefore are more isolated than team members working in the same location/office;
2) Fragmentation: teams that are spread geographically are more at risk of becoming even more fragmented in their efforts because the distance will tend to increase over time and managers are there to put team members back on track imediately;
3) Confusion: teams spread geographically will be more at risk of confusion and chaos because the magnet that draws real teams together, the team identity born from shared experience, does not have the same force of attraction in virtual teams.

Isolation, fragmentation and confusion are the three key centrifugal forces which risk dislocating virtual teams.

Brake defines 6 forces of attraction which a virtual team leader must develop for and with his team. He calls these forces the 6Cs.

1) Cooperation: virtual teams must develop even stronger levels of trust in one another and in their leader than “real” teams;
2) Convergence: leaders of virtual teams must be even more coherent and rigorous in setting individual and team objectives to ensure greater convergence;
3) Coordination: leaders must invest more time and energy in coordinating efforts to ensure that distance doesn’t impede workflow;
4) Capability: virtual team leaders need to know their team members in more depth so that they know what skills they have in their team and how they can use them most effectively;
5) Communication: effectiveness depends on shared understanding of goals and expected outcomes and this means communicating more and more to ensure the message crosses all frontiers;
6) Cultural intelligence: virtual leaders have to develop a skill of getting outside their own culture, helping team members get out of their cultures to build a common team culture. A journey has to be made from I to you to we as a team.

Each of these attractors can be developed in specific pragmatic ways according to the environment and the team member profiles.

However, applying the 6 Cs to counter the effects of the 3 centrifugal forces of Isolation, Fragmentation and Confusion which risk dislocating your virtual team seems to be a powerful remedy.

Having said all this, when you think about it, whether you are the leader of a team sitting in the next room to you or the leader of a team spread across the globe, it’s only a question of degree. The forces pulling your team apart are the same. So “real” team leaders should remember to focus also on the 6Cs to ensure that they also help their teams to be more effective.

Check out Terry Brake’s presentation of his book

Terry Brake discusses \”Where in the world is my team?\”

Building Synchronicity: Some tips to help managers and team members build a One-Team mindset!

January 29, 2009

“No wind is favourable to he who knows not where he is going!”. We owe this maxim to Seneca, Roman politician, statesman and stoic philosopher and this maxim still applies today to all interested in the question of effectiveness, especially if you consider effectiveness through the lens of the annual appraisal process.

All companies have an annual appraisal process of one form or another and all HR managers in charge of managing this process constantly seek to improve the process and make it more effective.

To my mind, the key way of making the annual performance appraisal process effective is by applying Seneca’s maxim so that the appraisal process is considered not as a way of evaluating past performance but as a way of setting the direction towards future performance. Managers and team members should have a few simple rules in mind before they sit down to perform what some consider to be a chore.

However, even more important is the nature of the relationship between manager and team member. To produce effectiveness, managers and team members need to go beyond the process and synchronize their relationship so that both adopt effective winning behaviours and mindsets to form a winning team. Here are some rules and tips to help managers and team members synchronize in a one-team way.

Rule 1: Know where you’re going
Simply put, the first rule in performing the annual review effectively is knowing where you both want to go. This seems common sense but quite often, managers and team members don’t take the time to set a clear course of action together at year start and spend all the time reviewing what went wrong the previous year. This is because some managers see the process as an evaluation of past results and indeed, the name given to the process “annual appraisal process” or “annual performance review” reveals the spirit in which some companies and/or managers promote the process.

One of the consequences of promoting the process as an evaluation of past results and rear view mirror approach is that managers and team members wait and wait and wait until the end of year to review results. Given that they perceive the process as a type of exam, anyone who has ever sat an exam will always remember that you only correct the exam at the end of the examination period and not while the person is actually answering the questions. However, if the goal is to build a winning mindset between manager and team member, the purpose should be to ensure that all the questions are answered correctly and not to see who gets 100% of the questions right. That makes a big difference.

Rule 2: Focus on future results, not on past performance
Managing performance and especially performance effectiveness is not about looking in the rear-view mirror and telling someone where they went wrong in the hope that in the coming year, they will correct their behaviour. Such a view is like shutting the stable door when the horse has already bolted! Because at the end of the day, the team member will have underperformed and everyone loses: team member, manager, company. The goal is to set a course of action for the team member to follow and to ensure he/she has all that is required to chart a course to success. That’s another big difference.

Rule 3: Think Win-Win
If we consider that the goal is effectiveness and higher performance, results should always be positive and therefore, the annual review should be focused on future results and what course of action the team member should take to achieve those results, how the manager can support him to deliver to expectations, what means and resources he needs to deliver. This means that the manager should be constantly working throughout the year to build a win-win partnership to support and coach the team member so that he/she can implement the course of action effectively and reach the desired goal. This means that at the end of the year, the discussion on the previous year’s performance should be very short and there should be no surprises, given that manager and team member have worked throughout the year in a win-win partnership to deliver the results. That again is another big difference.

Rule 4: Think long-term performance!
To help team members deliver effective performance, managers need to focus not only on the short term but also on the long term. This means setting some objectives which will not deliver immediate results but which will take on board the team members own personal career development objectives. Focusing only on the short term may be good for the manager but not good for the business long term if the team member doesn’t have a perspective which extends beyond the immediate horizon. It won’t be good for the employee either who needs a long term view on where his career is going. Thinking long-term reinforces the link between manager and team member.

Rule 5: Seek to empower
Peter Drucker defined efficiency as doing things right and effectiveness as doing the right things. In an ever-evolving business environment, team members must be more and more proactive and adapt objectives according to changes so that they are not only doing things the right way but doing right things. It’s no good doing things right if those things no longer meet business needs. Effectiveness therefore involves making choices and prioritizing actions between different competing and/or conflicting goals. Managers must constantly empower team members to make these choices and be responsible for these choices because if not, the ship will lose its “manoeuvrability” and flexibility if everyone has to wait for the captain to decide. Again, if team members understand that they can decide for themselves nd their managers trust their decisions, this will reinforce synchronicity and shared sense of purpose.

So in the light of Seneca’s advice, here are some tips for participating in the annual performance review for managers and team members in a synchronized way:

Tips for managers seeking to synchronize with team members:

1) At year start, set a clear direction for your team member through some SMART objectives where:
S = specific
M = Measurable
A = attainable and ambitious
R = realistic
T = Time-focused

2) Think Win-Win. The purpose of the discussion is to plan ahead so that the team member understands:
– Where he/she is going
– Why he/she needs to go there (link to team objectives and business objectives)
– How he/she will go there (what resources he needs, what training & developmen will help)
– Who will help him/her get here (what objectives he shares with other team members, roles & responsibiliies)
– What obstacles he/she needs to avoid (the do’s and don’ts, the dangers and risks, etc.)
– What support you as manager will provide along the way
– Don’t forget that what counts is the quality of the relationship and the partnership with your team member and not blindly following the process.

3) Clarify roles & responsibilities: the whole is greater than the sum of the parts
– To be effective, team members need to see the bigger picture. They need to know their own objectives and also those of team members

4) Give constant feedback throughout the year
– Constantly give clear feedback to the team member as the year progresses to align the behaviour to expectations
– Constantly update the team member on changes to company/team objectives so that the team member can adapt course of action accordingly
– If company strategy changes, don’t hesitate to change the objectives, even if this means starting again.

5) Be decisive
– Don’t wait until it’s too late to realign objectives. A quick “bad” decision is always better than no decision. A quick “bad” decision can be corrected as you go. A good decision taken too late cannot.

6) Explain the rules of the game: you build the road as you go
– Managers often take for granted that team members understand the rules of the game. In a future-focused approach, team members need to understand that they need to work continuously with managers as the year progresses and that the road is built as they go.

7) Empower team members to act within the scope of their responsibilities
– Encourage team members to act within their area of responsibility
– Promote a no blame culture
– Reward risk taking. It’s better to act and correct as you go than not act for fear of failure
– Remove obstacles to action
– Condemn openly all individual strategies which encourage risk avoidance or “sitting on the fence”.

Tips for team members seeking to synchronize with their manager

1) Be proactive:
– Seek to understand the company and team strategy
– Don’t wait for your manager to set your objectives. Propose your objectives and be ready to defend them.
– Be flexible. If your manager sets other objectives, accept them gladly while seeking to see the bigger picture.

2) Be SMART
– Seek to get SMART objectives from your manager with clear deliverables and deadlines. Know where you’re going.
– Don’t forget your day-to-day activities which need to be done and are the bedrock on which smart objectives are set.

3) See the bigger picture
– Clarify your role and responsibilities with your manager
– Seek to understand the team objectives and how you contribute to team objectives

4) Think short-term & long-term
– Balance short-term objectives with objectives which are more long-term. Producing short-term results are no good if it means sawing the branch on which you are sitting.

5) Seek to develop you skills aligned to business needs
– Seek to develop your skills through training, coaching, support from your manager, new projects, by doing
– Set personal training and deveopment goals which support short-term and long term business objectives

6) Think Win-Win
– Everybody wants to win and nobody sets out to fail. It’s in your manager’s interest for you to win. Seek to set up and maintain a win-win partnership throughout the year.
– Constantly update your manager on your progress, formally or informally.
– Be transparent and open. Don’t keep your manager in the dark.
– When in trouble, get support early. Don’t let a small problem become a big one.
– Remember that what counts is the quality of the partnership between you and your manager. Don’t execute the process blindly. Seek to maintain a positive relationship with your manager.

7) Seek to be empowered
– Seek and accept responsibility for results.
– Don’t be afraid to decide. A “poor” decision is always better than no decision.
– Don’t sit on the fence. Participate actively.
– Seek to help your team members achieve their objectives.
– Propose solutions, not problems.
– Update your manager continuously and seek out his support. There should never be any surprises.

So a piece of advice first offered more than 2000 years ago is still relevant today. Empires come and go, civilizations change, cultures change, technology changes but the need for adopting effective behaviours remains the same throughout the ages. Above all, effectiveness through the annual performance review process requires managers and team members to synchronize their behaviours and mindsets so that they adopt together a win-win relationship. The annual appraisal process is important in driving results. What is even more important is the quality of the manager-team member relationship and how both synchronize together to build a One-Team partnership.

When the going gets tough, the tough get going!

January 24, 2009

When I was in university, “when the going gets tough, the tough get going” was a favourite saying of one of my professors and this saying seems to me very pertinent in the current global crisis. I’ve read many articles and comments about what type of new leadership skills are required to face the challenges in a downturn and this search for a new leadership skill set surprises me.

To my mind, the question is not what new leadership skills are required (as if the leadership skills in the “pre-crisis world” are no longer adapted to dealing with the current situation). In my opinion, leaders simply must demonstrate the skills they are supposed to have had all along and front up to the challenges of defining and implementing the long term solutions.

Indeed, what good is leadership in sunny, blue sky weather? When times are good, you don’t really need leadership and you rely on good management to keep your ship on course. However, when the storm hits, you need leaders who can draw certainly upon all their experience but above all draw upon their character and courage to plot a course to safety.

Just as you can only test character under trying conditions, so you can only really test leadership in difficult circumstances and now is the moment for leaders to demonstrate their leadership skills by stepping up to the plate and showing their true mettle.

Indeed, throughout history, times of crisis have always been windows of opportunity for those who have had the vision and the character to see the difficult times as an opportunity to take responsibility, roll up their sleeves and get to work. For those looking to develop their leadership, perhaps the opportunity has never been greater to demonstrate that they have what it takes.

What’s more, if we accept that leaders are made, not born and if we accept that in the current crisis, what is required is leadership and not management, then we can accept that the current crisis will help us develop our leadership skills if we have the character and courage to rise to the occasion and build our leadership skills as we go. So paradoxically, rather than trying to identify who has the right leadership skill set to fit with the current crisis, we should be trying to identify who has the right character and determination to rise to the challenge and is tough enough to get going when the going is tough!

As Warren Buffet said “It’s only when the tide goes out that you realize who’s been swimming naked” and this axiom applies also to leadership. The current crisis doesn’t reveal a need for new leadership skills but simply reveals perhaps that some leaders didn’t really have the leadership skills we thought they had and now is the time for those with the real leadership skills to seize the day.

However, what the current crisis does reveal is that we need to rethink how we identify our leaders because as the saying goes, you can’t solve a problem with the logic that caused you the problem in the first place. What is most surprising with regard to the current crisis is how so many commentators fail to challenge the role poor leadership has played in generating the current chaos. Many commentators blame the system, the processes, the organisations, even point out specific individuals such as Jérôme Kerviel or Bernie Madoff but not many seem to focus on the poor leadership globally which allowed so many errors to accumulate in the system over time until the system finally collapsed.

This is indeed surprising.

Human Factors theory teaches us that accidents only happen when a certain number of factors in the process are aligned together, allowing the error chain to be connected. To prevent these factors from aligning, multiple safeguards have to be built in for each factor and the process must be monitored through effective leadership so that these safeguards are constantly tested and judged to be operational.

It would seem that these safeguards were gradually eroded over time for each factor due to poor leadership and this poor leadership led to systemic breakdown.

So I think it’s time to rethink our leadership model. Leadership is based on character which reveals itself in a willingness to confront difficulty and build the road as you go. Leadership is not an attribute or an inherent trait but an action. A leader is only as good as the next challenge he or she confronts.

As the current crisis shows, the bad news is that so many people in leadership positions viewed leadership as a title or position and as a career asset and not as an intention which can only express itself through action.

The good news is that leaders can be made or rather, leaders can make themselves if we fully understand that leadership is an intention that needs to be constantly expressed through action.

Click on the link below to hear Richard Branson’s view on Leadership in a crisis.

Richard Branson discusses leadership in a crisis

Reigniting the Leadership rocket: more leadership, less stress!

January 22, 2009

The subject of stress and how to deal with its impact on workers has become a very pressing topic in the workplace today. HR managers are becoming more and more aware of the impact of stress on employee and team effectiveness and are launching different initiatives to support their employees deal with the drivers contributing to increased stress. A lot of these initiatives focus on trying to help the individual “adapt” to his/her environment. But what if we focused on the environment generating that stress?

To my mind, some key organisational drivers contribute to increasing stress:

1) Poor communication of company vision
2) Poor definition and follow-up of objectives
3) Distant or non-existing relationships between managers and team members
4) Lack of shared objectives and team work
5) Poor definition of roles and responsibilities
6) Poor development of skills
7) Lack of career prospects and opportunities to progress
8) Jobs overly specialized and taylorized
9) Lack of employee empowerment and responsibility
10) Conflicts in the workplace due to conflicts in priorities

All of the above drivers can be acted on with strong leaders who understand their role and above all play their role effectively. So if we want to act on stress, we need to think of how we can support managers to be able to play their leadership role effectively. The less leadership, the greater the stress for managers & employees alike. A key action to reduce stress would therefore start with reigniting the leadership rocket!

One World, One Team – Leading teams effectively in a global environment

January 11, 2009

Managing diversity: the real challenge
Hello all. This blog is dedicated to understanding how to lead teams more effectively in a global environment. Business is more and more global and many executives face the challenge of leading teams over different geographies and time zones with team members from different cultures, speaking different languages, with different mindsets, values and expectations. All of these differences can cause divergence if we let them do so. However, where there is a will, there is a way and with the right effort and energy, these differences can be transformed into drivers of convergence and this diversity can be valued for what it is: a source of wealth and increased skills, knowledge and know-how.

This diversity makes life very challenging and very interesting indeed. Project leaders need many different skills to be able to build the convergence necessary to achieve the desired results.

Our purpose is to explore the challenges of leading globally and define a framework to help all get the best out of their global teams. In our opinion, these challenges involve the following themes:

Change management which becomes more challenging when the change must be implemented in culturally diverse organisations
Talent Management: again, developing talent across geographically spread organisations brings particular challenges
Engagement: how can global leaders develop the engagement of culturally diverse teams with different mindsets?
Human Factors: what strategies need to be adopted to develop flexible leadership behaviiours which are inclusive of he human factors which impact on building a On Team culture
Leadership: what are the leadership skills which are required to manage in complex and ambiguous environments?
Creativity: how can leaders and employees develop their creativity to manage the complexity of working in fuzzy organisations?
Cultural diversity: how can leaders and team members transcend the challenges diversity brings to build inclusive teams positive to diversity?

Visitors can explore the right hand menu to discover more on ideas and best practices on these subjects.

Building relationships
In our view, global teams will only be effective if project leaders and team members create a common vision and purpose, agree on shared objectives and build together the trust in one another to get things done according to the agreed deadlines. This means building strong relationships amongst all project team members on the basis of the belief that all share one fundamental characteristic: the will to succeed together. This means all team members sharing the idea that all can contribute to success and that success will only be achieved through trust and respect.

So many things conspire against global teams: language, time, geography, culture,.. However, all the more reason to think of all the different ways of transcending these differences so that the reasons for succeeding far outweigh the reasons for failing.

We’re open to tips, suggestions, articles, lessons learned, best practices from all those who have worked in a global environment and who wish to share their knowledge and experience with fellow global journeymen.

Joseph Noone


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