Articles tagged with: leadership

Nov12

Creating a safe space for innovation

Understanding how your measures affect employee behaviour

Clayton M. Christensen is the Kim B. Clark Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School. In the business consulting field he is a “rock star.” He is the author of best selling business books and consults on the subject to many global companies.

In his book “The Innovator’s DNA” Christensen prescribes what it takes to be more innovative and to be successful at innovation. Perhaps it is stating the obvious (as far as I am concerned but then again I do understand a little about human behaviour being a psychologist), but one of the keys to success is to create a space for innovation to occur.  What that means is that employees should be able to experiment and trial new ideas without fear of negative consequences if things don’t work out.

“Establishing an Innovation is everyone’s job philosophy requires creating a safe space for others to take on the status quo. Researchers call this psychological safety, in which team members willingly express opinions, take risks, run experiments, and acknowledge mistakes without punishment”.

Another key is to give people time to innovate, obvious once again since how will you be able to experiment with out the time to do so? But when you hear, as I did, employees told to increase their utilization rate to 95% (utilization rate is the percentage of billable time) the only time they have left is the time for toilet and lunch breaks. There is no space for innovation.

Many years ago I consulted to an organization that was serious about innovation. The senior management team created a budget code so that employees could allocate hours to innovation and reduced the utilisation rate down to 80% so that employees could allocate 20% of their work hours towards innovation.  The result was that innovation happened.

The Innovator’s DNA provides a great resource for anyone wanting to create an environment for innovation to flourish, but in order to do so stumbling blocks like the requirement for high utilization rates must be dealt with first.

Posted in Innovation

Sep30

Singing together (breathing together) helps unite people

We have long taught people that one way of creating deep connections with others is to breathe at the same rate as the other person is breathing. Singing is a common way that this can be achieved either at church, a football match or listening to your favourite song. Now research conducted in Sweden shows that when people sing togehter, ie breathe together, their heart rate synchronises.

Sep24

How to engage and create meaning

How to engage and create meaning

Last week I had the great experience of attending a three-day retreat run by some very capable and inspiring leaders. With a group of about 90 others in attendance we visited the site of what could arguably described as one of the key defining moments of Australian history – the rebellion at the Eureka stockade.  There were a number of causes for the rebellion, but the most significant was the tax regime (permits for mining) levied on the miners for the right to prospect for gold – and they had to pay the tax whether they found gold or not.  To cut a long story short the rebellion was led by an Irish man called Peter Lalor who mobilised the miners to resist police troops who were coming to evict them. In the melee that ensued about 20 miners and 9 police officers were killed. Thirteen of the miners including Peter Lalor were arrested and tried for treason, all were acquitted. Peter Lalor later went on to have a career in politics.

As mentioned above the retreat was run by some inspiring leaders who kept things interesting and well organised. They were year 3 and year 4 teachers and the 90 others were 9 and 10 year old children.  I was a parent helper.

One of the characteristics that these teachers have is the ability to create meaning for people. To use stories, in this case about historical events, to make the connection between everyday actions and the reason for those actions.  Children as you know always ask lots of questions, in business environments employees often have lots of questions but don’t ask them. The real art lies in the ability to engage your audience – this is a skill teachers have and it is a skill leaders need.

May21

Increasing your chances of implementation success

or how to get people doing what they say they will

Increasing your chances of implementation success

successCreating detailed plans which force you visualise what you will be doing, when you will be doing it, who you will be doing it with; plus the addition of support processes such as public commitment that you will follow through and the knowledge that significant others are doing likewise will significantly increase the chance that you will follow through on those actions.

Research conducted in voting patterns in the USA show that the use of voting plans increased voter turnout by 9.1% compared to potential voters who had no voting plan but who were contacted via phone calls to encourage them to vote.

(Nickerson, D. W., & Rogers, T. (2010). Do You Have a Voting Plan?: Implementation Intentions, Voter Turnout, and Organic Plan Making. Psychological Science, 21(2), 194-199.)

Our experience in the field of organisational development supports these findings. With the aid of a publicly displayed “leadership matrix plans” we found that employees of a large R&D organisation rated their managers higher on leadership in their annual employee engagement survey than the previous year and compared to divisions where managers did not use “leadership matrix plans”.   These plans clearly articulated the actions (behaviours) that “leaders” would exhibit, when they would do it and where they would do it. The plans were publicly displayed so all employees knew what behaviours they should expect to see, and managers were assisted via training and coaching to support them.

The plans clearly identified what leadership was and thus helped to create a leadership identity that the managers were required to live up to. As well, since all the managers of the division were required to undertake these actions their behaviours were in turn reinforced and supported via the social comparisons they were able to make with their peers.

Apr17

You Can't Shrink Your Way To Greatness

You Can't Shrink Your Way To Greatness

Unfortunately troubled economic times seem to bring a narrow-minded response from many businesses. Common initiatives appear to be driven by short-termism and the need to be seen to be doing something rather than really adapting to the challenges of the new economic environment.

Initially the response is often denial, hoping that a recovery will come along and that things can get back to normal. When the realisation sets in that an early recovery is not forthcoming then it is agreed that something must be done and as it has now been left late, then that something must be radical.   Usually this means cost cutting and cost cutting means that heads must roll.

Posted in Business Management

Apr07

The 4 Things Great Managers Do

The 4 Things Great Managers Do

employee recognition

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is no mystery to good management, though many management consultants and Business schools may like to make it seem so. Management is about working with and getting things done through the actions of others. Here are four things that great managers do to make this happen.

 

1. Management By Walking Around

MBWA is a great way to increase contact between senior management and the people who work for them. The Japanese have a great term for the workplace -GEMBA and it is where the action happens, where the work takes place. Masaki Imai the great Kaizen (method of continuous improvement) guru tells a story of what Mr Toyoda (founder of Toyota Motors) used to do when hiring new engineers. He would greet them on their first day at work, take them to a place on the shop floor, draw a square or circle on the ground and tell the engineer to stand in that square all day. The next day he would take the same engineer to another part of the factory floor, draw another square and tell the engineer to stand there. The lesson of the story was that you could not make work place based decisions if you did not know what was happening on the shop floor and the starting point was to learn by watching the work been performed.

 

MBWA is not about an aimless walk around, it needs to be done with a purpose: to listen to people and find out what is going on in real time; to provide positive reinforcement; to communicate the latest company news; and to discover and promote ideas for improvement. Along with trust built from upward feedback tools and other team working methods, teams embrace their manager’s presence positively as a visible sign of support and appreciation of their everyday demands.

 

2. Set a Vision and Communicate It

All companies have strategic plans; hopefully you will get overviews and progress reports every time there is an annual general meeting. Great managers are able to take the strategic plan and specifically the vision for the business, and translate it so it becomes meaningful for their employees. Too often this is left to the PowerPoint slide master to accomplish. By that I mean all the info is put on a PowerPoint and sent out to everyone in the organisation, in the vain hope that it will be understood (if at least it gets read). That is not communication, and in fact that is downright disrespectful to your employees. Great managers take the time to discuss the vision and the strategic plan with their employees, what it means, how it affects them and what they the employees are required to do to execute the strategy and achieve the vision. Discussing the vision with employees is also a great way of understanding what concerns people may have or how they feel in general about the vision and the direction the company is taking.

 

3. Providing Positive Reinforcement

Most people need to be acknowledged for their efforts and receive recognition for the work that they do. If the only time that takes place is during performance appraisal time then it’s way too late. Findings of both the Hewitt and Gallup employee engagement surveys highlight the strong link between recognitions and praise to employee engagement. When you take this into consideration then you have to acknowledge that providing positive reinforcement in a way that is meaningful to each individual for those actions and results that you desire in an employee, is a no brainer.

 

4. Open time

Busy-ness can often be interpreted as a sign of importance or even value; that is, “I am so busy because I have so many things to do.” My take is different, If you are a busy manager then you are either doing the work of others; you are disorganised; or you have bought into a culture where “busy” is perceived to be important (or worse still some combination of all three!)

What I continually find astounding is that managers can find the time to fight fires or intervene when things go wrong, but cannot find the time to be involved in continuous improvement or value adding activities.

One of the things great managers do is find the time to meet with the people who work for them – not just via management by walking around themselves, but by scheduling time to be “available” for anyone of their employees to meet. I call this open time; a time set aside in your calendar where you are in your office but available to meet with anyone who wants to see you with out making an appointment. It is a time where employees feel they can engage you one on one without worrying about disturbing you in any way.

 

In conclusion, good management is not complex, however it does require the discipline to focus on some simple behaviours in a consistent fashion. Specifically, get out, meet and listen to your people, translate the company’s vision for them, recognise them when they do what you want and finally make time for your people.

Posted in Business Management

Mar22

Death by PowerPoint

or how not to turn your audience off!

Death by PowerPoint

Jerry Seinfeld joked about a survey that found that the fear of public speaking ranks higher in most people's minds than the fear of death. "In other words," he said, “at a funeral, the average person would rather be in the casket than giving the eulogy."

I have another type of fear of public speaking; that of listening to a speaker reading in a monotone from notes which they have projected on the wall behind them.

We’ve all experienced the cruel and unusual punishment of “Death by PowerPoint”. As far as I am concerned the ubiquitous use of this software (it’s even taught in schools now) has not only resulted in a possible cure for insomnia but also in the death of good public speaking.

Posted in Business Management

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