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 Jan

Delegating is not really about you…

“The great leaders are like the best conductors – they reach beyond the notes to reach the magic in the players.”  –Blaine Lee

Many managers and supervisors find delegating difficult. This can be for many reasons – they like to be in control, they want all the glory, they don’t trust their staff. Sometimes it is because they feel like they are doing something bad to the person receiving the task.

Particularly for managers in this last group, it might be time to think about this a little differently. Delegating is not about you. Although you may change your workload through the act of delegating, this is not the real reason you should be delegating. You should be delegating to help develop your employees and to build stronger teams. You should be delegating to motivate and inspire confidence. You should be delegating to help with succession planning. Done well, delegating is actually more about the employee than the manager.

So how to you delegate without making it about you?

  • Understand your team and individuals within the team – what are the needs and desires of the group; what motivates individuals, what are their career aspirations, what are their strengths
  • Identify tasks or projects that will play to an individual’s strengths or will enable them to develop skills whilst working on something they enjoy
  • Explain the task / project clearly: objectives, timeframes, their role and why you think they are the right person for the job. Try to make this last aspect as motivational and positive as possible e.g. “I want you involved as you are excellent at developing strong relationships across departments. That is critical to this project as there is a lot of cross-functional work needed. The project will also expose you to senior leaders and raise your profile with them.”
  • Check in with the employee – do they understand the project and their role; do they think it sounds like a good opportunity to be involved in; do the timeframes sound reasonable. Discuss further as required
  • Ask what support they might need from you and outline any progress checks you expect

Of course, there may be some tasks that you struggle to make motivational. In this instance, re-challenge yourself to identify an opportunity for the specific person you have in mind – remember, it’s not about your interests or development! If the task truly is unlikely to be interesting, yet still requires delegation, then be as honest and positive as possible e.g. “I’m asking you to do this because I know that you will do a good job with this and it’s an important part of our team’s role.” Try not to use the reason of “I’m too swamped to do this” as employees are often left feeling ‘dumped on’. Obviously every situation is different so use your judgement on outlining the reasons.

More often than not, if you know your team well, delegating for development will inspire and engage employees. If you think about delegating as a way to develop and motivate, rather than as a way to clear your own desk, you might just be surprised with the subsequent results!

 

engagingPOTENTIAL: training, team development, coaching

Specialising in working with managers to develop extraordinary teams!

© Engaging Potential Pty Ltd