09 Oct

Craving constructive curiosity

“Replace judgement with curiosity” – Lynn Nottage

Outrage, judgement, aggression, arrogance…seen any of that lately?

Blame, denial, deflection…?

It seems that everywhere we look recently – news, sports, politics, social media, reality TV, business – people are expressing strong opinions about, and onto, others. Sometimes this generates hurt, ridicule, division, anger – and so the cycle repeats and repeats.

Not that there’s anything wrong with having an opinion and speaking up. It’s often ‘how’ we do it that is so destructive – if not for ourselves, often for other people. If we are aggressive, defensive, judgemental or abusive in tone, then our impact could be very negative.

Making judgements before seeking understanding – is this the new normal?

In an attempt to lighten the mood, and use a simple example…take the recent ending to The Bachelor Australia. The outrage over ‘The Bach’ choosing neither woman has been loud. Is no one curious as to the reasons he made this decision? Has no one listened to the way he spoke to the women and his rationale for his choice? From a curious outside perspective, it actually could be seen as a respectful act, presented as kindly as possible in unusual circumstances. Does it really matter that normally someone ‘wins’? What reason does anyone have to be outraged about the ending to a TV show (even a highly addictive one!)? Ah, it seems a strange world.

From reality TV to the business world. In our coaching and training we often hear people deflect, deny, or blame others for dips in performance, lost clients and workplace conflicts. Could time spent focusing defensively outwards be better spent focusing on understanding someone else’s perspective, identifying possible solutions, seeking opportunities, and applying a healthy dose of reality testing? And even better, to own what you own – looking inwards to discover your role in situations and how you might turn things around or influence for a better outcome.

So, do we want to go down the pathway of destructive negativity, or can we turn this around for more positive interactions and discussions?

An idea – let’s get constructively curious before we get combative.

When we start telling ourselves – “how dare they?”, “who do they think they are?”, “are they an idiot?”  – perhaps we can stop for 2 seconds and ask instead – “what’s another way of looking at this?” Or “how can I make a positive impact here?” Or “I wonder what has led them to say/do that?”

When our typing fingers get twitchy to scream out in capitals on social media, perhaps we can stop for 2 seconds and ask ourselves – “what are the (real) facts here?”  

Craving constructive curiosity in this combative world might just help us slow down, think about how we react, and consider the impact we are having on others. We don’t need to agree with everyone, yet perhaps we could be a little kinder, get on a little better, and recognise that it takes all sorts of characters to make this a pleasant world.

And wouldn’t it make sense to leave ‘The Bach’ and other relatively innocent people in peace and save our outrage for those who truly do major hurt and harm in the world?

And if that seems a little too fluffy for you, please minimise your outrage in the comments.

Long live constructive curiosity!

engagingPOTENTIAL: training, team development, facilitation

Specialising in working with managers to develop extraordinary teams!

© Engaging Potential Pty Ltd

27 Jul

How are you?

“Beware the barrenness of a busy life.” – Socrates

Chatting with a wonderful client today, we discussed the word ‘busy’. It seems that it’s a word much in use. It’s not a ‘bad’ word, nor is it necessarily a ‘good’ word. It’s just a word. A word which increasingly seems to have hidden meaning.

I’ve noticed a trend over the last few years. As a normally polite person, I tend to start client conversations with “How are you?” I do care what the response is, hoping that my clients are experiencing wellness and contentedness in their lives. If they are having a good day, I want to share their energy and enjoyment. If they have a cold, or their child is sick, I want to empathise and wish them well. If they are feeling a little low, I want to support them.

Probably nine times out of ten I get a response using the word ‘busy’. Busy is sometimes a hard one to respond to. Is busy exciting? Is busy stressful? Is busy fulfilling? Is it draining? Does being busy mean that they are experiencing the fullness of life, or does it mean they are in distress?

The definition of busy as an adjective is ‘having a great deal to do’. That sounds like daily life, and could be positive or negative.

When did ‘busy’ become so popular in response to a question about our well being? It seems to have become almost an expected response. Sometimes I detect a challenging tone that might indicate “Are you as busy as me?”; sometimes frustration “I don’t have time to answer this question!”; most of the time the tone is fairly neutral, almost like an automated response.

Do we EXPECT people to be busy now? Is this what success looks like in our modern world? Does ‘busy’ equal “I’ve made it!”? Do we sometimes say it because we’re too embarrassed to say “Well, I’m great!”? Are we worried what people might think if we are not busy? Or are we using this word as an implied cry for help in a stressful world?

Some days I am ‘busy’ – I have a great deal to do. Most of these days I am content, I feel healthy, and am grateful to have a good job. Sometimes I do feel overloaded – that usually means that I have taken on too much or agreed to unrealistic time frames – to me it’s more than ‘busy’, it’s a little stressed out and tired.

Some days I have less than a great deal to do. Most of these days I am content, I feel healthy and I am proud of the fact that occasionally I am committed to take time out to relax and recharge. This actually makes me more productive.

Many years ago a colleague I hadn’t seen for a while asked me “How are you?” I responded “Good – busy.” She laughed and said “That’s not what I asked you – I asked how you are, not how much you have to do.” This comment had a big impact. It made me realise that busy was a vague, ‘relative to what?’ word that did not convey my true self.

Personally I think I used the word ‘busy’ because somewhere along the way I had attached meaning to it – that busy equals “I have value in this world”. At times I’m sure I used it because I was stressed and didn’t know how to ask for help.

Now when people ask me “How are you?” I try to respond with a true refection of my well being. This, I believe, is what the question is designed to uncover.

An additional benefit of responding with words other than ‘busy’, is that I think it makes me different to what is fast becoming the norm – I don’t want to be the norm. I don’t want to drag people down by loading them with everything I have to do, or create competition with them to see who is the busiest. I want to have a meaningful conversation and I’m not sure ‘busy’ is a good starting point.

And remarkable as it may seem, I also am ok with not being busy at times. In my opinion (for what it’s worth!) life is not a world-wide competition to be the busiest. Sometimes I’d rather have much less than ‘a great deal to do’. Not least because that means that most times I respond to “How are you?” with “I’m feeling great, life is good.”

So how are you?

engagingPOTENTIAL: training, team development, facilitation

Specialising in working with managers to develop extraordinary teams!

© Engaging Potential Pty Ltd

01 Sep

The ‘self’ in leadership Part 2

“The challenge of leadership is to be strong, but not rude; be kind, but not weak; be bold but not bully; be thoughtful but not lazy; be humble but not timid; be proud, but not arrogant; have humour, but without folly” – Jim Rohn

 

In Part 1 of this series, we discussed the importance of both the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ in leadership, what self-leadership is, common pitfalls, and then posed some questions to consider (below).

  1. Are you living those values and behaviours – leading by example?
  2. Are you bringing positive intent to all your interactions with others ?
  3. Are you respecting other people’s values through your actions ?

In this discussion, we introduce a very simple model to help hold oneself to account in self-leadership. We use the SELF model. It is fairly self-explanatory (no pun intended!) and is designed as a quick check list for those who are developing their self-leadership and collaboration style.

SELF Model

There are 4 core actions, and 3 core attitudes to this model.

Actions

Set and meet your goals

Having professional and personal goals is what sets many true leaders apart. Goals can provide you with clear focus, help you prioritise and motivate you toward results. Leaders achieve!

Engage positively with others

As we discussed in Part 1, positive intent and respect in your interactions is key to effective collaboration. And it must be genuine! Test yourself – “What impact have I had on this person today?” If you don’t like the answer, review your approach.

Listen to your brain

The brain is the core of the behaviours we exhibit to others. If we are stressed, tired or otherwise worried, our brain tends to use it’s vital resources keeping us alive and functioning and often doesn’t have much left in reserve to moderate toward positive behaviour. This is why in stressful circumstances we might withdraw from others or emotionally ‘explode’. We are not operating with our best logical brain in action. So listen to your brain – if you feel emotional, stressed, tired – take some time out. Exercise, sleep, relax, or at the very least  – breathe calmly – so that you can bring your best behaviour to your leadership. Don’t ignore your brain health, it’s important.

Focus on your development

News flash – your boss isn’t responsible for your development! Sure they should support you, yet ultimately you are responsible. No matter how experienced, qualified or smart you might be, there are always areas to develop. Listen and seek to understand feedback given – both positive and constructive. Be self-aware – monitor what you do well and identify what you can improve. Look for opportunities to grow professionally and personally.

Attitudes

Empathy

The ability to empathise with others is an important leadership trait. This is most challenging when we are called on to use it with people we don’t necessarily ‘like’ or in situations that we don’t fully understand. You don’t have to agree with the person, take sides or solve problems – empathy is all about taking a moment to reflect what it’s like to walk in another’s shoes. So remove judgement, bring positive intent, listen and genuinely demonstrate empathy.

Humility

Humility is all about keeping your ego in check! It’s great to be confident, wonderful to have an opinion and important to highlight your strengths. Humility is all about knowing the right time and place to do these things, and when to take a step back. This might be to allow someone else to speak, to seek another’s opinion, to recognise you don’t know the answer, to acknowledge a team effort, or to be gracious in success or defeat.

Humour

This does not mean that leaders have to be comedians! Nor should the humour be inappropriate – obviously! A positive leader understands the importance of laughter, lightheartedness and fun in human bonding. It’s not about cracking jokes, it’s about being willing to let down your guard, and show enjoyment of the lighter side of life – it’s being human.

What does your leadership ‘selfie’ look like? 🙂

engagingPOTENTIAL: training, team development, coaching

Specialising in working with managers to develop extraordinary teams!

© Engaging Potential Pty Ltd

21 Apr

The ‘self’ in leadership Part 1

“The challenge of leadership is to be strong, but not rude; be kind, but not weak; be bold but not bully; be thoughtful but not lazy; be humble but not timid; be proud, but not arrogant; have humour, but without folly” – Jim Rohn

A common misunderstanding that is often raised in coaching sessions concerns the term ‘leader’. Many people believe a leader is someone who has direct reports; someone who manages or supervises others. Some interesting conversations and insights arise when we discuss the difference between ‘management’ and ‘leadership’ and the fact that you don’t have to be a manager or supervisor to demonstrate leadership.

This is the ‘self’ of leadership – what you bring to the workplace that sets you apart from others, and what behaviours you consistently demonstrate. It is how you interact with and treat others, how you go about achieving results and how you handle set backs. Notice the use of the word ‘how’ here. The ‘what’ you deliver is very important to leadership; equally as important is the ‘how’ you go about delivering results.

If for instance, you achieve targets, yet along the way you undermine others, are rude to customers, throw tantrums in your boss’ office and break policies, then you are not showing good self-leadership. On the other hand, if you deliver results and along the way support colleagues, respect customers, uphold policies and professionally discuss issues with your boss, then you likely are demonstrating good self-leadership.

So, this sounds like common sense – yes? Well, in many respects it is – most of us have learnt from childhood that we should treat others as we wish to be treated. Yet this is where we encounter the ‘knowing-doing’ gap, the concept of differing values and the positive approach of emotional intelligence.

Knowing-doing gap examples:

  • “I know that I should greet all colleagues politely, yet at times I don’t, because some of them annoy me!”
  • “I know that it’s inappropriate to yell at people in the office, yet I find managing my emotions difficult and so occasionally I do yell at people.”

So you might know what is or isn’t appropriate; you might know the theory of a particular situation (e.g. giving feedback), yet are you actually ‘doing’ it as you ‘know’?

Differing values examples:

  • “I think humour in the workplace is positive; Geoffrey takes it too far because he likes to tell rude jokes that make me feel uncomfortable.”
  • “Respect is so important to me and I would never gossip about a colleague; I hear people talking about Jenny’s divorce when she’s not here and it makes me feel uncomfortable.”
  • “If I have a problem with how we interact, I’ll tell you; it concerns me when I hear that you’ve been telling everyone else but me that you don’t like how I do things.”

We all have values that are important to us; yet what they are differs widely from person to person. And even if we have similar priority values (e.g. respect), what we expect of others in relation to these values can be very different (i.e. ‘respect’ can mean different things to different people).

These differences are ok – it’s part of being human – we are all different! We just need to look at whether we respect others’ values, where we are willing to be flexible with our values, and where/when we need courage to stand up for our values.

Emotional intelligence examples:

  • “In frustrating situations, I am able to avoid emotional outbursts, yet still discuss my feelings in an appropriate and productive way.”
  • “I am able to connect with others by seeking to understand their perspective, even if it differs to my own.”
  • “I know how to demonstrate empathy and support others.”
  • “I can raise challenging issues and provide feedback in a way that maintains relationships.”
  • “I understand that others will differ in their behaviours and values and that I can only control my own actions.”

Do you have the emotional intelligence to handle difficult situations in the workplace and to demonstrate leadership that sets you apart in a positive way?

Emotional intelligence is one of the most effective skills to demonstrate leadership – whether it be self-leadership or leading others in a team. A key ingredient to being able to develop emotional intelligence is self-awareness – being able to identify your strengths and gaps and recognise when you do and when you don’t demonstrate appropriate behaviours.

It’s not about making excuses – “that’s just me” – it’s about truly understanding your strengths and limitations. And then from there, it’s been willing and committed to consistently demonstrate strengths and work toward closing any gaps.

Your self-leadership challenge

Think about how you would like to be perceived in the workplace.

  • What values and behaviours would you like to be known for?

Now ask yourself 3 questions:

  1. Are you living those values and behaviours – leading by example?
  2. Are you bringing positive intent to all your interactions with others (regardless of whether you like them or not)?
  3. Are you respecting other people’s values through your actions (whether you have the same values or not)?

Next post we will look at a simple model to help hold ourselves accountable to self-leadership.

In the meantime – what does your leadership ‘selfie’ look like?

engagingPOTENTIAL: training, team development, coaching

Specialising in working with managers to develop extraordinary teams!

© Engaging Potential Pty Ltd

16 Feb

Feeling the Feb Fade?

 

Small Cute Pet Chihuahua Having A Sleep

“People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.” – Zig Ziglar

Feb (as in February) Fade – not a technical term! It’s what happens when we are just over one month into the year and  one or more of the following thoughts occur:

  • “The holiday season feels like it was ages ago. I’m tired!”
  • “The year is flying by – where did January go?”
  • “Oh my goodness, I’ve fallen back into the drudgery – where did my enthusiasm go?”
  • “When’s the next public holiday?”
  • “Another year, same-same happening…yawn…”
  • “Oh yeah, New Year’s Resolutions…fail!”

‘Feb Fade’ does not happen to everyone, yet on anecdotal evidence, it is relatively common. In coaching and training sessions, we find many people who were refreshed from holidays early January and inspired for the year ahead, are slowing down and missing that motivational buzz come February. They’ve often arrived back at work to a mountain of work they’d forgotten about, tasks put off from last year, or projects being given by their boss who has just realised that the year is slipping away and there are things to achieve!

The priorities of a new year at work, the possibility that those New Year’s Resolutions have been harder to stick to than first thought, and the prospect of many weeks or months until the next holiday, can all take their toll on motivation.

While there is not a magic cure-all for Feb Fade, here are a few tips to help turn Feb Fade into Motivated March…

  • Take a pen and notebook (or mobile device) to your favourite accessible relaxation zone – it might be outside, a comfy lounge chair, or a cafe. Allow yourself 10 minutes to answer this question…“What would make this a great year?” Once you’ve done that, now ask yourself…“What do I need to do to make this happen?” It’s simple self-reflection, yet we generally don’t do it. How can we be motivated if we don’t know where we want to go/what we want to achieve?
  • Prioritise – whether work or home tasks – “What are the 5 things that need doing before the end of February?” and “What makes these tasks priorities for me?” Just taking time to identify these will often spark us out of procrastination.
  • Find room/time for exercise – your body and your brain. To motivate yourself out of Feb Fade, you MUST find the time to engage in physical and mental exercise. Find something that works for your abilities, commitments and enjoyment. Walking, doing Sudoku or a crossword, playing tennis, playing chess, going for a jog…You know what works for you better than anyone. Don’t overdo it, make sure you are checked by health professionals if that is warranted and then get started.
  • Plan something special. Like exercise, time-out is a critical and often neglected facet of our lives. Having something to look forward to often helps motivate us in other life/work areas. Plan a holiday, a short break away, a dinner party, a night out – whatever it is that you’ve been putting off because of work or other commitments!
  • Take a 5 minute break. All the latest research shows that we are least productive if we allow ourselves to be overwhelmed and drowned by all the ‘stuff’ to do. So make sure you get some fresh air, walk around the office or just get out of your chair regularly throughout the day. You’ll be amazed at how this will refresh you for greater productivity.

These ideas are not new and no doubt you would have heard them all before, we are sure! Sometimes it just takes a little reminder and gentle push into action… Only you can do something about Feb Fade… what will you do?

Here’s to Fabulous Feb!

 

engagingPOTENTIAL: training, team development, coaching

Specialising in working with managers to develop extraordinary teams!

© Engaging Potential Pty Ltd

04 Aug

How tuned in are you? Really.

social-networking_110003873-012814-int

 

 

 

“I remind myself every morning: nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So if I’m going to learn, I must do it by listening.” – Larry King

In your everyday work, how tuned in are you to what’s happening around you, what people are saying and how others are behaving? Most people we ask this question of would say – “I’m very aware of what’s happening around me!” Yet when we dig a little deeper, we soon find a slightly different story and most will then admit that maybe they aren’t really as tuned in as they thought (or pretended) they were!

Did you realise that you were just checking your mobile phone in that meeting? Did you see how others responded when you made that ‘joke’? Did you understand what your boss just said to you? Did you see the body language your colleague used when you popped in to their office? Did you realise you just checked your phone again while we were talking?

Modern life is busy. Actually for some it feels a bit chaotic. So we often are too tired, too busy or even (should we say it…?) self-absorbed to truly tune in to what people are saying or doing most of the time.

Yet many don’t realise  significant impact of not tuning in.

  • Others may actually think you’re rude. Do you check your phone during meetings? This is a classic example of where you might be tuning out and at the same time could be leaving people with the impression that you are rude and disrespectful. Even if you think you are still listening – here’s some big news…you’re not.
  • You may just miss out on important information. When you tune out, whether to check your phone, to think about your to-do list, or simply to day-dream, your brain is not accurately receiving all of the information around you. And sometimes that’s completely ok. Sometimes it’s not – you may miss information to help you at work, a family member’s story, or even important signals that could save your life.
  • Building and maintaining relationships just got harder. Despite our busy world, humans are still fundamentally designed to be social and make connections. In the workplace, healthy relationships can lead to better productivity, better engagement and even to better stress management. So if we are consistently not tuning in, and others notice this, we could be destroying trust, credibility, respect and ultimately damaging relationships. People want to connect more with those who show an interest in them, than with those who don’t.

So how do we develop better skills at tuning in? Well, it takes time, practice and genuine positive intent. Here are a few tips to help you get started.

  • Turn off your phone in meetings
  • Make eye contact with the person presenting/speaking with you
  • Truly focus on the words and body language others are using
  • Pause before you cut someone off in conversation
  • Ask questions – be curious! What can you learn from the conversation?
  • If your mind is wandering when it shouldn’t, take a deep breath – it does wonders to refocus you
  • Monitor how often you talk about yourself versus listening to others, or asking others questions
  • Evaluate the quality of your relationships and consider what else you can do to be more positively connected
  • Become a great observer – of people’s actions, words and even their environment (it’s amazing what you can learn about someone from the items on their work desk!)

Of course, these suggestions are based on common-sense and not particularly new concepts. They key though is being true to yourself – are you really tuning in to what’s happening around you, or are you only pretending?

Happy tuning in!

engagingPOTENTIAL: training, team development, coaching

Specialising in working with managers to develop extraordinary teams!

© Engaging Potential Pty Ltd

 

01 Jul

Do you make it safe?

Safety First

“The problem is not the content of your message, but the condition of the conversation.”

Crucial Conversations Paterson, Grenny, McMillan, Switzler

Our brain has been wired across the ages to protect us as individuals – it looks out for threats and aims to keep us safe. That works beautifully if we are in physical danger – if there is a fire for instance. It can work a little less effectively when we are having a discussion with someone and your brain goes on high alert – this can lead to emotional outbursts, sullenness or physical reactions.

We’ve all experienced conversations where we have felt threatened or ‘unsafe’. Sometimes it is an overt verbal attack that sets us on edge and sometimes it is a subtle comment, such as a criticism of our work. Many times the feeling of being in danger comes not from words, rather from someone’s non verbal actions – such as a raised eyebrow, a sarcastic smile, a threatening stance.

As a manager and leader, if you want to get the best out of an interaction with another person, you need to consider the environment that you are creating. Do you make it safe?

Some of you may be thinking “Why do I need to make it safe when I might be correcting someone’s mistakes or poor performance?

Simply put, if you have the intent of supporting their improvement and enhancing their ability to achieve into the future, you will need to create an environment in which they can truly hear and understand your message. People are not so great at hearing things when their body and mind feels threatened – they are simply using their energy to ‘survive’ – by withdrawing, running or fighting back.

How do you then, make it safe for someone? You obviously can’t control the way their mind works or their actions. All you can do is influence through your own behaviours and words.

What would help you feel safe in a discussion, particularly one that might be classed as a ‘difficult conversation’?

Some ways to create the safe environment include:

  • Start with positive intent – what are you truly trying to achieve here and is it well intentioned? Does the outcome  you seek have benefit for all parties?
  • Plan well – do you know what outcome you are looking for? What should you say or do to achieve that outcome?
  • Determine where and when – ensure this is appropriate to the discussion
  • Frame it -provide context for the discussion and what you are trying to achieve
  • Reduce the personal – ensure this is not a discussion of accusation – for example, rather than “you did..” try “I’m concerned…
  • Allow space – seek input from the other person and allow space for them to process and understand what you are saying;
  • Breathe – remain calm, even if the other person is unsettled or emotive; if you mirror negative emotions, the situation will only deteriorate

Human interactions can seem fraught with danger. What will you do to make it safe for others and have productive discussions, even when the content is difficult?

Engage in safety!

engagingPOTENTIAL: training, team development, coaching

Specialising in working with managers to develop extraordinary teams!

© Engaging Potential Pty Ltd

05 Mar

“I know all of this already…”

ID-100139665“The greatest obstacle to discovery is not ignorance – it is the illusion of knowledge.” – Daniel J Boorstin

From time to time when we run a training event, a coaching discussion or a group coaching session, we will hear someone say “I know this already”, “I’ve covered it previously in my career”, “I’ve done a lot of this before” or any number of variations on this theme. As soon as we hear such statements, there are small alarm bells going off in our heads.

These alarm bells come from years of experience in learning environments – 9 times out of 10 when we hear these comments we know that this person might just be the participant who needs the content/learning the most.

Really? Yes, really. The bells are picking up on two elements of concern:

  1. There might be a hidden reason for making such a statement
  2. Their mind-set might be limiting their opportunities

Firstly, let’s look at possible reasons that people say “I know it already”. We have no doubt that people who make these comments have indeed participated in training or workshops on the topic at hand, yet they usually don’t tell us this just so we know – there’s almost always an underlying, sometimes unconscious reason for them telling us. Some possible deeper reasons might include one or more of the following.

They:

  • believe that they do know all of the detail and there is nothing more they need to know
  • truly believe they are applying these skills already
  • want to be acknowledged for their experience
  • think we should ask them to share in the session – for the group’s benefit
  • have heard it before and don’t want to sit through it again
  • have too much work on and would love to get out of the session
  • don’t like learning in a ‘classroom’ environment
  • are actually a bit insecure about their skills and don’t want to be put in a position where they may not be the expert
  • are an experienced manager/employee and  don’t want others to think they need to learn more (see also point above)
  • have had a bad experience at a previous learning event and are now wary of all trainers, facilitators and coaches

Some of the reasons above may have sounded very valid to you. So why do those alarm bells go off for us then? It’s because we are concerned that their perspective may be limiting their full potential.

Our concern comes from the following:

  • Knowing and doing are two very different things: people who say they know it already might know the theory, yet in reality they might not be putting it into practice
  • Openness to learning is a core leadership attribute: great leaders are always curious, always learning; even if they are knowledgeable, they know the benefit of refreshing their skills or hearing other people’s perspectives
  • Great leaders lead by example: attending a learning event has a secondary purpose of demonstrating to those you lead, collaborate with or manage that you see investing in development as important
  • Fear is self-limiting: fears of not getting it ‘right’ and of not being the expert can hold you back from beneficial growth and development. Successful people do not let such fears limit them – they know that facing your fears could be the best pathway to ongoing success
  • Refreshing is maintaining: if you really believe you will not learn anything new, then is there really any harm in refreshing on what you know to maintain your level of ability? Refreshing is maintaining

Happy ongoing learning!

engagingPOTENTIAL: training, team development, coaching

Specialising in working with managers to develop extraordinary teams!

© Engaging Potential Pty Ltd

16 Feb

Leadership Valentine

“Better let my heart be without words than my words without heart.” – John Bunyan

Another purple heart Roz

Another Valentine’s Day has come and gone. We thought we’d have a bit of fun and see if there are any leadership lessons from this day that is sometimes loved and sometimes loathed across the globe.

  1. Don’t wait for someone else to make the first move. Leaders are bold and confident. They know that they may not have all the right answers, yet they have confidence in their team and their own decisions. They take calculated risks and learn from successes, as well as heartache.
  2. Flowers and chocolates don’t make a relationship. Leaders know that building a great working relationship takes time – whether it’s with their team, their colleagues, their boss or customers. Bubbles and gifts are nice, yet they fade in comparison to a strong and trusting relationship with mutually beneficial goals
  3. True success means expressing gratitude every day. Leaders are thankful for the privileges they attract, the teams they work with and the customers they serve. Every day they express this gratitude through their actions and words; it’s authentic and consistent.

I’m sure there are many other comparisons you can think of, yet these are a few of our favourites.

Hope you had a Happy Valentine’s day!

engagingPOTENTIAL: training, team development, coaching

Specialising in working with managers to develop extraordinary teams!

© Engaging Potential Pty Ltd

19 Jan

Start with 5 minutes

“A hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but he is brave five minutes longer.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

This time of year it is popular to run planning days. These day/s sessions are designed to refocus us on the business after the end-of-year break and to prioritise actions for the new year. They are important discussions whether you are a business of one or a business of thousands; whether you are a start-up or an established organisation. The discussions may look different, depending on your size, industry, culture etc, yet all businesses should conduct some form of planning. And just as important is the ongoing review throughout the year of any actions from these discussions.

If these planning sessions are so important, why is it that many of you probably rolled your eyes or groaned when you read the first paragraph?

It’s because for many of us, the word ‘planning’ conjures images of boring monologues by senior executives, having to analyse data we are not interested in, or feeling frustrated to waste our time coming up with creative ideas that will never be implemented. In the same category of eye-rolling words you may also find ‘strategy’, ‘tactics’, ‘objectives’ and ‘critical success factors’. The outputs these words indicate are not bad – in fact, most companies would struggle to be effective without having the detail these words refer to. Yet these words for some reason do not inspire, energise or motivate many of us. And for some, they actually cause brain shut-down, leading to a sudden and extreme interest in doing anything BUT thinking about the detail behind these words!

There is no easy remedy to such feelings towards ‘planning’ and ‘strategy’ words. To progress in business, you will need to learn about and embrace such words and the actions and outcomes behind them. The purpose of this article is not to give you the run-down on the definitions and processes of business planning. The purpose here is to break it down to a simple starting point that removes eye-rolling, brain-shutdown words and kick-starts you to begin to think about the year ahead. And it comes down to allocating 5 minutes in your day. Starting with 5 minutes can get the ball rolling. Surely you can find 5 minutes?

So give yourself 5 minutes, find a place to sit where you will be undisturbed by others, grab a pen and paper to record your thoughts (we find the old-fashioned, organic way helps keep focus and connection to the work, yet if you must, you can use a digital device!) and complete the  following, inserting the word/s most relevant to you:

  • What I want for <myself/the business/my team> this year is…

Write down whatever comes to mind – you can cluster, prioritise and develop actions later. This is just the first 5 minutes to help you focus your mind on what you want from the year. Of course, what you do with the list after this exercise is incredibly important (topics for another day!) yet for many of us this first step is the hardest – the starting.

Just start with 5 minutes. And not an eye-rolling word in sight!

Happy new year!

engagingPOTENTIAL: training, team development, coaching

Specialising in working with managers to develop extraordinary teams!

© Engaging Potential Pty Ltd

 

11 Dec

End-of-year reflection

“May your walls know joy, may every room hold laughter, and every window open to great possibility” – Mary Anne Radmacher

With just over a week to go before the Christmas holidays, things might be looking a little hectic around your place of work. We are amazed at how ‘busy’ people are at this time of year – finishing projects, writing reports, tying up loose ends. Sometimes this can be the most stressful time of the year in the office – either we are racing to finish tasks before the holidays, or we are deciding what we can postpone until the New Year. Sometimes all this ‘busy-ness’ is not overly productive.

So a few ideas on finishing the year in a good frame of mind…

1. Prioritise your remaining time. Let’s face it, there’s not much time before you go on leave. If you think you will get everything done on your ‘to do’ list before then, you are kidding yourself and creating more stress.

  • Determine what 3 things are essential for you to do before you go on leave – What will help me achieve my outstanding objectives?; What will provide the best benefit to the business?; What will help my customers/clients the most?
  • Plan these 3 actions (above) into your calendar – How much time will it take to complete each?; When will I do these things?

2. Stop procrastinating! At this time of year it can be easy to get caught up in office festivities or drawn in by the gang who are very happy to wind down and complete minimal work. So although you need to be realistic about what you can achieve, it’s equally important to make sure you do achieve something!

  • Book a meeting room for 2 hours and complete one of your action items away from distractions
  • Come in to the office 1/2 hour early to get a good start before it gets noisy and distracting
  • Stick to your priority list and hold yourself accountable – you’ll feel so much better if you achieve something in this remaining time

3. Take time to reflect. Whether it’s during your performance review with your boss, over coffee with a colleague or just quiet reflection time, it’s important to think about your achievements this year. So often we don’t congratulate ourselves for a job well done and yet it’s very healthy to celebrate true success.

  • What are you most proud of achieving this year?
  • What did you learn along the way?
  • How did you grow as a person/employee/leader this year?

4. Decide on 1 thing you will do to enjoy your break and return to work refreshed in the New Year. Life balance is important – take time out to recharge and do something you love.

  • What will you do to recharge over the holiday season?

Happy end-of-year and happy holidays!

engagingPOTENTIAL: training, team development, coaching

Specialising in working with managers to develop extraordinary teams!

© Engaging Potential Pty Ltd

03 Oct

Balance and leadership

 “…being successful means having a balance of success stories across the many areas of your life. You can’t be considered truly successful in your business life if your home life is in shambles.” –  Zig Ziglar

When coaching new and experienced managers, we have noticed a trend towards ‘burn-out’ and ‘over-load’ being discussed as serious issues in the workplace. Many people being coached are  feeling ‘overloaded’, with some also expressing concern for their direct reports. It is concerning to hear these managers talk about the long hours they work, the weekends lost to emails and reports and the subsequent strain experienced by their families.

Sadly, there is no easy answer to this problem. Businesses are being pushed to reduce costs and raise productivity, and the resulting restructures, budget cuts and redundancies means that people often find themselves with more work and less resources. To cope, employees are working longer, and often experiencing feelings of resentment, frustration and even anger for doing so. Many find that they strive to do a good job, yet are left thinking that they are never quite doing anything well, rather doing lots of things poorly. For the high achievers, this can be a major issue!

So if there is no easy answer, where do we start?

We must remind businesses and employees of the benefits of balance. In his book ‘The four principles of values-based leadership”,  Harry Kraemer  talks about the importance of balance from several perspectives. One such perspective is ‘life balance’ and “…the importance of diverse activities and experiences that keep you fresh, engaged and motivated.” Remember, if we focus only on work, our brains are not stretched or refreshed. How can we expect to be innovative, productive and positive if our brains are not working properly? How can we expect to solve problems and overcome challenges if we are feeling burnt-out? How can we as managers engage positively to motivate our teams if we are feeling resentful of the work piling up?

As leaders, we must be disciplined to get the balance right. It’s no good for us to tell our people to prioritise or leave work on time if we are not practicing what we preach. We must lead by example. It will take self-awareness, discipline and courage, yet what is the alternative? Some people seem to think that if they complain about the workload long enough or if they talk about the hours they work loud enough, that someone will make it all OK. This will never happen and we so often see managers spiraling on this until they spin  out of control – they might yell at their staff, quit their job, or worse still suffer mental exhaustion and breakdown.

When we talk about balance, it’s not just about leaving work on time or turning off the laptop over the weekend. It’s about replacing these behaviours with balanced behaviours; it’s about exploring  opportunities and experiences outside of the workplace. This might include reconnecting with something you enjoyed when you were younger, experiencing a loved activity with your family, or even stepping outside of your comfort zone with a new course or hobby.

If you do regain some balance, there is no doubt you will start to see benefits – feeling refreshed, focusing better at work, maintaining and growing positive relationships – the list goes on. [An aside: To be honest, when many feel overloaded at work, it is commonly exacerbated by procrastination – such as talking about how busy they are, spending hours writing to do lists (don’t get us wrong, to do lists are critical, yet they can be overdone!) or worrying about what there is to do. This post is not about time management, yet learning about some time management disciplines will help many to get the balance back.)

We all know the saying “Life is short.” well, it is. Imagine yourself at 80 – go on, visualise it! Can you see the wrinkles, the grey hair…? Now imagine yourself looking back at your life. Think not just about work, think about your LIFE. Will you be happy at 80 if you can say “Yep, I worked myself raggard and had no time for anything else…”?

  • What do you want to be most proud of?
  • What do you want to have experienced?
  • What do you want to be able to reflect on at 80?

Now, once you’ve thought those things through with your 80-year old self, consider the following:

  • What are 3 – 5 things you can do to take back control now and get a better life balance?
  • How will you hold yourself accountable when you neglect or forget the above actions?
  • Who can help you achieve these actions?
  • When are you going to start?

When you are determining actions, consider those that you can apply at work and even more importantly at home. At work you might need to reprioritise your work, talk to your boss about deadlines or aim to finish on time 3 days of the week. On the personal side, you might want to commit to learning a new language, play football once a week, take up meditation or join a book club. Whatever the actions are that work for you – the key is to be disciplined, monitor your commitment and reassess in a month or so. Once you are able to gain better balance, consider how you might help your team members do the same. But until you start with yourself and lead by example, you and your team will be left spinning on the ‘work harder and longer’ merry-go-round.

Here’s to a balanced life!

engagingPOTENTIAL: training, team development, coaching

Specialising in working with managers to develop extraordinary teams!

© Engaging Potential Pty Ltd

02 Jul

Managing and leading change at a team level

 “People don’t resist change. They resist being changed!” –  Peter Senge

As a manager/supervisor and leader, you will have a role to play in managing change within your organisation. For some, this is a daunting prospect. Yet there’s no point hiding or avoiding your role – if you do, you could let down yourself, your team and potentially your organisation.

Primary influences of change responses

Understanding how people respond to change and the reasons for their responses is an important step in being a successful leader.

The way that people respond to change is often driven by  three very personal factors:

  1. Past experiences: an individuals’ past life experiences with change will shape their thoughts, feelings and attitudes about it and the way it is managed
  2. Values and beliefs: personal values – and subsequent beliefs – may impact response to change depending how the change (and they way it is managed) aligns or conflicts with these values
  3. Capacity and capability: an individual’s approach to the change can vary depending on their capacity to be involved in the change (do they have the resources?) and their capability (do they have the skills?) to implement or cope with the change

Human reactions: transitioning with change

Individuals will experience emotions throughout the change. Some people will move very quickly from being cautious or fearful of change, through to acceptance and into excitement. Others may spend longer being fearful, may experience anger and possibly even despair – sometimes emerging from this, at other times being resistant to move beyond this.

It’s important to understand that no matter the change, it is human nature to experience an emotional response, or a series of emotions over time. Managers must accept that everyone will experience the change differently and thus they need to be prepared to respond appropriately to the emotion being demonstrated or expressed at any one time.

The way you interact with someone experiencing anger about the change will be different to interacting with someone who is excited. Your message about the change may be the same – your delivery of the message and the support of the individual will vary. Empathise, explore and engage towards solutions with evident anger, frustration or fear. Encourage, energise and engage towards opportunities with evidence of acceptance, optimism and excitement.

A manager and leader’s role at the team level

Each of your team will respond slightly differently to change, depending on how it impacts them and the influencers above.

As a manager and leader you will need to understand the individual’s within your team (personality type and typical responses to change, key motivators, ‘de-railers’). You will also need to reflect on how they have handled change in the past (if observed) and explore how they are feeling about the current changes. Be aware that their current feelings will likely vary over time as they work through the change.

With this information at hand, you will be able to prepare and act for individuals and the team:

  • What communication might be appropriate – level of detail, frequency and repetition required, along with the medium or channel that you will use (face-to-face is usually the best option where possible)?
  • What support may be needed – coaching, reinforced direction, engaging motivational drivers, counselling (through employee assistance programs with professional counsellors)?
  • How you will handle emotions in the team, especially minimising negative impacts on each other e.g. if one person is not happy about the change and is causing unnecessary concern for others?
  • How you will keep people focused on their performance and results whilst still supporting them?
  • How will you manage your personal feelings and thoughts about the change and still lead in a professional, positive and supportive manner? What support do you need to be able to do this?

The critical thing is to stay engaged with your team members, encourage teamwork and positive support of each other, communicate effectively and often and lead by example.

engagingPOTENTIAL: training, team development, coaching

Specialising in working with managers to develop extraordinary teams!

© Engaging Potential Pty Ltd

24 Apr

Communication as a manager and leader – cover the basics!

“Words empty as the wind are best left unsaid” –Homer

As a manager and leader, it is crucial that you develop your communication skills. We all communicate in some way everyday, so many people believe this to be a basic skill, and one that should not really need developing. Sadly, many managers and leaders are not able to communicate effectively, leaving their teams uncertain, sometimes fearful and often dysfunctional.

Good communication ultimately builds trust with those who report to you and work with you. In his Forbes article Effective Managers Build Trust Quickly by Doing 5 Things Well (www.forbes.com, July 2012), Glenn Llopis lists ‘being a strong communicator’ as critical to a manager’s success. The other 4 elements interestingly enough, also rely on effective communication: build rapport, take a diplomatic approach, establish credibility and engage in conflict resolution.

Here are 5 tips to communicating effectively as a manager and leader – a reminder to cover the basics:

  • Be totally present when someone is talking with you – give him or her your full attention and respect – actively and where needed, empathetically listen!
  • Remember we can all have different perspectives on the same situation; try to understand the other person’s view of the world
  • Prepare important conversations and meetings well – ensure you have structure, relevance and clarity
  • Engage others with questions – whether asking for clarity or asking for input, use effective questions often (yet remember, it’s the quality, not the quantity of questions that is important!)
  • Try to think before you speak – make sure that what you say is what you want to say!

Happy and effective communicating!

engagingPOTENTIAL: training, team development, coaching

Specialising in working with managers to develop extraordinary teams!

© Engaging Potential Pty Ltd

01 Feb

Committed collaboration

“Life is not a solo act.” – Tim Gunn

Many organisations, large and small, identify the importance of collaboration. For a lot of companies, it is a core competency against which they may measure their employees. Yet in what is becoming an increasingly competitive world, does collaboration still have the same relevance?

We think yes. We think that from collaboration, great ideas, products, and services are born.

A quick Google search on ‘what is collaboration’, headlines with two possible meanings:

1. The action of working with someone to produce something

2. Traitorous cooperation with an enemy

Well, the first sounds a bit boring and the second could be true with serious office politics at play!

The same Google search reveals many other bloggers talking about the same thing – what is collaboration? Purposefully not reading them, we considered whether another article about collaboration was needed!

What we do want to address is the approach that we have labelled ‘committed collaboration’.

Yes, collaboration is the ‘action of working with someone to produce something’ – it still sounds a bit boring! Committed collaboration should not be boring, not even a little bit. It encompasses mindset, thought-sharing,  and blended action.

Mindset

To undertake committed collaboration with one or more people, you must bring the right attitude or mindset to the exercise. Whether a short or a long-term project or relationship, starting with the right mindset can be critical to a successful collaboration. This is fine if you like the other party and/or have chosen to work with them – you will generally be excited or keen to start working with them. But what if your boss makes you work on a project with someone you despise and on tasks that you loathe? OK, a worse case example, yet many collaborations are not always as we would like them.

So when you start your collaboration, kick-start the right mindset. To help, consider:

  • What can I personally learn from working with this person/s and on this project?
  • What can I bring to the collaboration?
  • What type of person do I want to be seen as in the workplace?
  • What will I need to bring to the collaboration to achieve our goals and the above?
  • What are the challenges I might envisage and how will I approach them if they arise?

If you start with the right mindset and keep revisiting these questions, you have created an internal commitment that should translate into the appropriate behaviours.

Even if you don’t personally like someone you are collaborating with , look for ways to bring a positive attitude to the work. Make a commitment to yourself to have genuine regard for those you are collaborating with – you don’t have to like them, or be friends forever, yet you should have respect for them as a fellow human being.

If you don’t like the project or work you are doing in the collaboration, try to find a positive outcome it might help you achieve, something it might lead to in the future, or a skill that you might be able to develop. Throughout the project or work, balance the tasks that you don’t enjoy with ones you do enjoy.

Make a commitment to work well with others and take pride in whatever it is you are collaborating on.

Thought-sharing

To have effective collaboration, all parties must bring their thoughts, ideas and opinions to the table. And others involved must have an open-mind and respect to listen!

Find a way with those you are collaborating with to share thoughts – be it about the objectives of a project, the steps to achieve goals, or the measures of success. You might need to ask people in advance to bring their thoughts to a meeting, hold a brainstorming session over lunch, or gather input over email – there are hundreds of ways to thought-share!

Each person may have a slightly different opinion or idea, yet it is important for all of these thoughts (relevant ones!) to be shared. Without generating ‘analysis paralysis’ you want to ensure that everyone has had a chance to contribute to discussions. Otherwise, it’s not truly collaborating and could just be ‘follow the leader’ – or ‘whoever screams loudest wins’!

Many people think deep down (actually most of us in the corporate world, if we are honest!) that we know the best way or hold the right perspective in situations familiar to us. Yet if we block thought-sharing, how can we innovate, how can we personally learn from others and how can we call it ‘collaborating’?

So with an open mind and a genuine regard for others, encourage thought-sharing as part of your collaboration.

Blended action

Blended action could be just another way of saying – ‘action plan’ and ‘roles and responsibility’. However the intent of ‘blended action’ is that after discussion, decisions must be made and actions taken that recognise the varied opinions and skills of those involved. It’s not just about assigning tasks to each other and then working in silos.

Blended action is all about:

  • Reaching decisions that truly take into account the thought-sharing that has occurred – “We recognise all of these ideas and opinions and we think the way to move ahead is ____, for these reasons____.”
  • Understanding the skills different people and you yourself bring and agreeing on how tasks are allocated and potentially shared. You’re not competing here – you’re collaborating!
  •  Checking-in with each other regularly – how are we tracking, who needs some extra help here, what else should we be doing to make this a success?

After bringing the right mind-set, thought-sharing and engaging in blended action, you are well on the way to committed collaboration. And isn’t that more enjoyable and interesting than just ‘working with someone to produce something’?

Happy collaborating!

(this post was inspired by a wonderful collaboration partnership Engaging Potential is actively involved in – one that combines the super powers of two companies to create a fabulous client offering)

engagingPOTENTIAL: training, team development, coaching

Specialising in working with managers to develop extraordinary teams!

© Engaging Potential Pty Ltd

13 Nov

Uh-oh, it’s team building time…

“Unity is strength…when there is teamwork and collaboration wonderful things can be achieved.” – Mattie Stepanek

As the end of the year approaches, many managers remember that they have forgotten to hold a team building session during the year. Often this results in a frantic scramble to ‘tick-the-teambuilding-box’. Suddenly a team finds itself tolerating a competitive colleague at ten-pin bowling, or not listening to an inspirational speaker because they are too overloaded to spend time hearing someone else’s story, or perhaps even cringing through a hastily prepared ‘funny awards night’. Whilst each of these activities can be enjoyable and appropriate in certain circumstances, they are not always effective for every team and situation.

Team building should not be an after thought or a ‘must-do’. It should be something that has clear objectives and outcomes, otherwise you are wasting company time, employees’ time and often a  load of money.

[As an aside, should we really be calling this team building? Over the years this term has, rightly or wrongly, come to mean ‘having fun’ or ‘being social’. But guess what? Not every team or individual wants to have fun or socialise with their colleagues! And even if they do, everyone has a slightly different idea of what fun is to them. Call it what you will – we prefer to call it Team Development – no matter what you do, you should be using the time to develop the team and enhance its culture.]

Team development can be anything from a lunch to celebrate a job well done, a 1/2 hour skills refresh, a presentation, through to a 3 day team-vision and strategy session. It may or may not include activities removed from work (e.g. sport, games) and social elements (e.g. lunch, dinner).  It can have a  business focus or  a personal focus. An event may be organised and facilitated by the manager, or it might be facilitated by a third party – a learning and development colleague or external consultant.What you end up doing should be driven by the needs of your team, not by what someone else has done or just because an activity sounds like fun.

So how do you make sure you are doing something worthwhile and not a last minute booking  that no one is interested in? Below are some questions to consider.

Objective

  • What are you trying to achieve with the team – both in the longer term and also at this particular event? This might include the type of culture you wish to foster, skills you wish to develop, collaboration you must generate or mutual understanding you need to encourage.
  • What do you want people to be doing differently as a result of your event?

Motivations

  • What motivates or interests your team members?
  • What types of environments or activities does the team respond well to? (Of course ask the team for input – just be aware that occasionally the responses will be about something fun they want to do, that has little benefit to the team as a whole)
  • How will you cater to different motivations across individuals within the group?

Business

  • How do you see a team development/building event benefiting the business?
  • How will you know this has been a successful investment in your team by the business?
  • Are their any limitations to consider? This might be related to things such as policies, OH&S issues, cultural awareness, geography, or physical restrictions.

Options

  • What are all the possible options for achieving your objectives and meeting team needs/motivations? (This will involve some brainstorming and/or research)
  • Which option or combination of options do you believe would be most successful?
  • Is the preferred option one that you can run yourself or is help needed?
  • Is the preferred option one that can be linked to other events or activities the team have done/will do? Sometimes team development is more sustainable if it is a series of related events spread over time.

Plan and communicate

  • Make sure you plan the event well, no matter what you are doing.
  • Communicate with the team to outline objectives and logistics. Most people will want to understand what the focus of the event is – whether it is do get to know each other better, develop strategy or just take some time out from the business to celebrate success.

If thought through well, team development can be used to build a team’s culture, capabilities and performance.

Happy teaming!

engagingPOTENTIAL: training, team development, coaching

Specialising in working with managers to develop extraordinary teams!

© Engaging Potential Pty Ltd

30 Oct

Stop wasting money when training your team!

“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” – Benjamin Franklin

How many times have you sent your team members on training programs and afterwards wondered why you even bothered? Many managers feel frustrated when they allow their team to take time off work to be trained, then don’t see any results afterwards. It can often seem like a huge waste of time and money and many managers don’t realise a few simple actions might deliver better results.

Training can be mandated by head office, it can be suggested by the employee, it might be recommended by HR or you might identify a program that you believe will help a team member. Yet we are often ahead of ourselves – trying to find a solution before we’ve identified the problem or indeed that there is a problem in the first place! Or we might be ‘ticking an employee development box’, trying to keep an employee happy or even just getting them out of the office for a few days! So before you throw someone into a training program, make sure you have covered off a few basic steps. The tips below are no guarantee, although they should help you start to see better results for your investment.

1. Identify specific strengths and gaps

Take a few moments to write down what you see as the strengths and gaps (areas for development) for the individual. Be specific – don’t just say “good at their job” – identify what specifically it is that they do well or what specifically they could be doing better. For the developmental areas, consider what behaviours you would like to see if they had closed the gap in this area. Finally, prioritise developmental areas – their importance to the individual’s ability to do their job is a good starting point. After you have done this for your employee, it’s a great idea to have a conversation with them to see if you are on the same page – ask them what they think their strengths and development areas might be, then share your thoughts. This opens up constructive dialogue, helps raise their self-awareness, and by asking for their input, you are encouraging them to take responsibility. In these discussions, generally it is best to start with strengths as these are so important to acknowledge!

2. Determine cause of gaps: skill, knowledge, experience or capability

Areas for development have many different causes for each individual. Sometimes it is a skill that they are unfamiliar with, or it may be some background knowledge is missing. Perhaps they have not had the opportunity to demonstrate a skill. Or maybe they do not have the capability to close the gap in development – this might relate to emotional or intellectual intelligence, geographical location or other physical barriers. Of course, often the cause of the gap is an overlap of some of these aspects. Once you know the cause/s of a developmental gap, it will help you determine what might be needed from a learning program. As with point 1. above, and other points below, often this can be a joint discussion with the individual.

3. Understand how they like to learn

Different people learn differently. Take a moment to uncover how  your employee BEST learns. For example, do they learn through reading, discussions, role-plays, applying skills in the workplace, observing  others, and so on. Understanding this will help determine the type of training they might need and also the extra help they might benefit from to support any theoretical learning. And if you don’t know how they like to learn – ASK! Sometimes the way they like to learn will tie in with their strengths – for example, they might bring a very structured and detailed analysis to projects so their learning preference might be to read, take notes and structure the key concepts into memorable points before applying them to a specific task.

4. Identify learning opportunities and plan

Work with the employee to identify a learning plan for closing the gap. Based on their learning preferences, this might involve attending a training program or it may be more comprehensive, like being assigned a specific task, attending training to learn more about the skills required for the task, being coached by an expert in the area and getting feedback at key milestones of the project. Try to incorporate opportunities where they can enjoy and reinforce the learning through use of their strengths – for example, if they are excellent presenters, then have them present the key concepts of any training back to the team afterwards; if they are problem-solvers, ask them to identify areas of the business where the training concepts might improve systems and processes.

5. Reinforce the learning

Prior to beginning their learning plan, including any training sessions, meet with the employee and ask them what they hope to get out of the activities/training. By verbalising their thoughts, they are more likely to take responsibility – they are telling you what they want to learn, so they have to own it. And if they can’t think of anything, perhaps back to point one before you waste money and time! Of course, if you have expectations of their learning that they don’t identify, it’s a good idea to highlight these; they might include how you hope they will apply the skills post training. Then after the training program or learning activity, meet with the employee again to seek their feedback on how they found the learning and what they got out of it; also how they see themselves applying what they learnt back in their daily job. And make sure the learning is reinforced at regular intervals – through follow-up training, discussion, application and coaching, as appropriate. Without effective reinforcement, people will forget, not use effectively or not use at all what they have learnt. Your role as a manager is to help support this reinforcement in an ongoing fashion.

There is no guarantee that you will always get the maximum return on investment for any training that you provide for your employee. What you can do though is to support the learning process effectively to enable the right solution in the right way.

Happy training outcomes!

engagingPOTENTIAL: training, team development, coaching

Specialising in working with managers to develop extraordinary teams!

© Engaging Potential Pty Ltd

08 Aug

The management brick wall

“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”

– Benjamin Franklin

As a manager, have you ever felt like you are hitting your head against a brick wall? Do you feel like your team ignore your suggestions, directions and advice? Do you find you have to explain the same things to them over and over?

If you answered ‘yes’ to one or more of these questions, you might be hitting what we could describe as the management brick wall. Rather than keep hitting your head against it while thinking it’s your employee’s fault, how about considering what you could change in your approach to improve the situation.

Consider the following tips that might go part way to knocking down the wall.

1. We all learn differently

Each person in your team is unique; they are not (and nor should you want them to be!) a replica of you. As such, they each will have slightly different ways that they prefer to learn a new skill, seek knowledge and gain experience. Some people learn best through reading and reflection in a quiet environment, some like to read and then discuss, some like to get stuck in and give something a try, some like to watch a demonstration, some like to hear from an expert, some like to talk to different people…and so on. Often learners are described as Visual, Auditory or Kinesthetic, yet many are a combination of two or more of these categories and there will be subtle differences amongst even learners with the same ‘type’ of learning style. Understanding how each team member likes to learn will help you understand how best to approach teaching, instructing, coaching and guiding them in new areas. And understanding how they like to learn is as simple as asking them!

2. Our motivations vary

As with learning styles, we each have different things that will motivate us to perform and succeed at work. For some it is having new challenges, for others diversity in their work, for some it is working in a team, for others it is to be able to work autonomously. Strange, but true, research in this area has found that money is not the prime motivator for most people – sure it’s often important, yet not the main thing that inspires them to achieve. Looking for opportunities to tap into people’s motivations will help you to build their knowledge, skills and experience more effectively than just giving them a task to do or telling them how something should be done. For example, if you want them to develop their networking skills, you will only get so far by telling them they need to interact more with other staff members. On the other hand, you might find their skills grow if you explain how developing these skills will enhance their chances of future promotion (if that is a motivator) and that you are asking them to sit on a cross-functional team (working in a team may be a motivator as well) because you feel it will give them more opportunity to learn about the company and to network with colleagues.

3. Sometimes there are other ways

It may be hard to believe, however sometimes our way isn’t the only way. In fact, sometimes there might even be a better way! So be open to your employees’ ideas. As long as they are clear on expectations, know what the boundaries are, and assuming there is no significant risk, there will be times when asking them how they would like to approach a task might be an effective strategy. People learn much more effectively when they need to tap into their own ideas and take responsibility for their actions – they learn when it works and they learn when it doesn’t. As a manager, if you set the expectations, then coach and support them, you might be surprised to see positive results!

So if you feel like you are hitting your head against a brick wall, take 5 minutes to think about what you can do differently to get the best out of your team.

Happy managing!

engagingPOTENTIAL: training, team development, coaching

Specialising in working with managers to develop extraordinary teams!

© Engaging Potential Pty Ltd

20 Jun

What do you expect of your team?

“The bottom line is, when people are crystal clear about the most important priorities of the organisation and team…not only are they many times more productive, they discover they have the time they need to have a whole life.” – Stephen Covey

 

How clear are your team about the expectations you have of them in their roles? If you asked them, would they be able to respond quickly and accurately?

As managers, we often make assumptions that our team members should know what is expected of them; we assume they have the same standards, work ethic, values we do. And we sometimes assume they have the skills and commitment to achieve good performance. Unfortunately, we can forget that we should never assume! Even if our team have good intent, a positive attitude and high level skills, they may not be as focussed or even performing as we would want them to be.

To make sure you provide your team with solid grounding to achieve, support them to have knowledge, resources and opportunity to learn and perform. It is also imperative that you also be clear on what is expected.

Team purpose, goals and responsibilities

  • The big picture purpose of the team i.e. why does the team exist? Ideally this is not presented in ‘corporate speak’ (you know, when lots of big, important sounding words are used, yet the message is not clear) rather delivered in succinct, every day language that is easily remembered.
  • The goals of the team breaks down the purpose into achievable actions to be carried out over a set period of time.
  • What each team member is responsible for to achieve the team goals. This should be as specific as possible, and accompanied by a clear outline of timelines and how the responsibilities will be measured.

Attitude and alignment

  • The attitude that is expected for a productive team culture is not something that is always covered, however by being clear on the expectations here, it can make it easier to praise it when you see it and call it when you don’t. Do you expect your team to be positive, solutions-focussed and supportive of each other? If you do, tell them – it helps create the framework for building your team culture.
  • Alignment is as important as attitude. A business will not succeed unless teams are aligned in their work with the organisational vision, goals and values. Ensure your team understand their link to organisational success and that their own goals and behaviour support that.

The ‘little’ things

  • There will be other professional matters that are important for different reasons to different managers/organisations. These ‘little’ things can become big issues of they are not explained to the team. For example, do you find it incredibly rude and inefficient for people to be late to meetings? does your company expect certain policies to be well understood and strictly adhered to? do you expect to have monthly catch ups with each team member? what do you expect to be updated on and when?
  • Obviously you don’t want to overload with these ‘little’ things or it will seem like a list of demands. Think through what is important for effective working relationships and performance then make sure your team know your thoughts.

Oh, and once you have established your expectations for the team, how about asking them if they have any of you? Most people appreciate being asked and generally will be reasonable and professional in response!

Happy teaming!

engagingPOTENTIAL: training, team development, coaching

Specialising in working with managers to develop extraordinary teams!

© Engaging Potential Pty Ltd

02 May

Coaching breakdown for new managers

“One cannot teach a man anything. One can only enable him to learn from within himself.” — Galileo Galilei

Particularly for those new to management, the word ‘coaching’ can be a little daunting. Other managers throw around the word, they say they coach their team regularly, they seem so confident. But as a new manager, does someone sit you down to explain what coaching is or how to do it? Generally not. So you organise weekly meetings with your team members, get them to update you, tell them where they could improve and share your expertise – see, you’re coaching…aren’t you? Probably not.

Here are some key points for new managers to start growing their understanding of coaching. (A recommended book to enhance new and experienced managers’ understanding is “Coaching for Performance” by John Whitmore)

What is coaching?

  • Coaching can be a way of managing and leading (i.e. it doesn’t have to be rolled out on special occasions!)
  • Management by coaching may be informal and used frequently in communicating with staff e.g. problem solving, briefing and debriefing projects, feedback discussions, informal skill development
  • Coaching can also be formal and structured as required e.g. career exploration, formal skill development
  • The foundational element to coaching is asking questions
  • Through questions, a coach helps the employee think about the situation and come up with their own answers
  • Coaching questions help raise awareness in the coachee and ultimately guide them to  take responsibility for choices and actions

What are the benefits of coaching?

  • When someone comes up with their own options and answers, they feel more in control and engaged with the situation and are more likely to follow through with actions
  • Coaching helps develop employees and encourages application and retention of skills
  • Ultimately staff who are coached can enhance performance and improve productivity
  • As your staff develop their skills and confidence, and own their actions,  it will save you time – less chasing and instructing!
  • Asking questions, listening and responding appropriately will have profound impacts on interactions with your staff – they will feel valued and that you care about their opinions, they will grow in confidence, they will feel motivated and they will likely develop their professional skills (of course, some people may take time to respond if they have relied on being told what to do and think!)

Is it only about questions?

  • Management by coaching may also involve situations where you do provide advice or instruction
  • The balance of ‘ask’ vs. ‘tell’ will depend on the level of motivation and skill of the individual
  • Even when you think more ‘tell’ is needed, hold off and ask a question or two first e.g. “How do you think we could approach this?”, “What do you think the first step might be?”; you never know, you might have made an incorrect assumption about the level of ‘tell’ required
  • If you do need to do some ‘tell’, always follow with a question to involve the employee e.g. “What do you think of that?”, “What other options do you see?”
  • The other key aspect to coaching is listening; engage with your employee, don’t give in to other distractions and truly listen!

When should I be coaching?

  • As you practice your coaching skills, you will realise that most discussions with staff will be enhanced through coaching questions – engaging them in the discussion, presentation or decision-making (of course there are times when it may not be appropriate e.g. serious performance issues, crisis situations)
  • Try starting with the regular one-on-one meetings you have with your team members; if they are updating you, ask them questions e.g. “What’s going well on this project?”, “What are the major challenges you’ve faced?”, “What are your next steps?”
  • Try questions when an employee comes to you with a problem; instead of solving it for them, see if they can solve it themselves! e.g. “What’s the background to this issue?”, “What have you tried already?”, What are your options for dealing with this?”, “What do you think should be done from here?”
  • When a team member asks you for feedback on something they have done – ask for their input first e.g. “What do you think you did well?” (the good stuff first is a must!) “What could you have done differently?” It’s ok to then provide your own feedback – having their input first is important

Is there a structure I should use?

  • One of the world’s most widely used coaching frameworks is the GROW model. Developed by John Whitmore and colleagues (Performance Consultants) it provides guidance on areas to explore that will help raise awareness and responsibility in the coachee

Goal: explore the goal of the discussion

Reality: explore the current situation

Options: explore the alternative actions

Will: determine what WILL be done, when, by whom and the WILL to do it

  • If you find a model difficult, just start by asking open questions with the aim of truly understanding a situation and the employee’s perspective (open coaching questions are commonly those beginning with “What”, although other starters like “When”, “How” or “Which” may be used)
  • Once you start using GROW, you will see the benefits of the discussion steps; after a while you will likely find that you are not even conscious of following a ‘model’ – you are simply having a productive conversation

How will I know what to ask?

  • If you truly engage with and actively listen to your employee, you will know where to go – have an open mind and an attitude of honestly wanting to explore the situation with them; if you don’t bring this openness and authenticity, then you might struggle
  • In knowing what to ask, this is where GROW is useful – it gives you some guidance in an easy to remember model. As nicely summarised by John Whitmore, the process is basically variations on the following:

What do you want? GOAL

What is happening? REALITY

What could you do? OPTIONS

What will you do? WILL

  • If you have time to prepare for a discussion, you could write down some questions that might prompt you; try writing GROW down the left-hand side of your notepad, with one or two questions next to it

Coaching is an exciting, fulfilling and efficient way of enhancing your management style. As you understand and practice, it becomes a way of managing and leading with great results.

Happy coaching!

engagingPOTENTIAL: training, team development, coaching

Specialising in working with managers to develop extraordinary teams!

© Engaging Potential Pty Ltd