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November 2018

Hello and welcome to the second last edition for 2018 of our Monthly Leadership Tips: your 'once a month'  'bite-sized' chunks of practical leadership wisdom! Like many of you, we cannot believe how quickly the year has gone!

This month we share :
We often post the blogs in this publication on Linked In.

Found something useful? Why not pay it forward and share a copy with your colleagues! Forward a copy of this email or send this link to join the DiA Monthly Leadership Tips list!

We also use the content we share each month, in the work we do in our consulting practice. Feel free to get in touch to find out more about anything in this newsletter or other blogs on our website.  Enjoy!

Melanie and Paul Eyres

Real Leaders Walk Towards the Flame

I was recently working with a coaching client who, as a relatively new leader, was finding himself in meetings that had a familiar pattern to them. These meetings would typically be characterised by someone expressing an opinion or view on a certain topic, then another party would disagree and present a counter-view. This would go on for a few cycles with no real progress or decisions being made. Worst still the conversation would result in some bruised relationships. My coaching client was struggling to think about how he might play a role in such situations to get a more effective outcome.

Unfortunately, this is not an unusual or unique situation. This is a scene that plays out in meeting rooms across offices everywhere. Some might even describe this as merely ‘healthy debate’ – the intellectual challenging of ideas. However, this is rarely so when people have no intention of being open to other perspectives - rather it is a ‘dig your heels in, fight to the end’ debate with a winner and a loser.

In such situations, particularly when you are not the ‘authorised leader’ in the room, many ‘bystanders’ will simply just want to avoid the discomfort either through not participating in the discourse - I don’t want to rock the boat, It’s not my problem, they’ll work it out - or by attempting to close the conversation downcan we move on and take this off-line, let’s defer this for another meeting.

Real leaders, however, will walk to the flame and embrace the discomfort. This is what my coaching client wanted to do – he wanted to ‘step up to the plate’ but wasn’t quite sure how to do it. My client was at least asking himself a key question (and a very powerful question): How can I help this conversation along? This was not about him, it was about how he could help a group of people to have a better conversation. An admirable intention for a real leader. He was, however, just unsure about what this might look like in the moment (with the attendant ‘heat’ in the room).

So, what does walking to the flame look like? Well, firstly there is the mindset you’ll need to hold. The key elements are:

  1. Think ‘facilitator’ – your role in this situation is not to offer more content or provide direction, your job is to help others to have a more effective conversation;
  2. Be curious – by genuinely wanting to understand the perspectives of others you will aid a sharing and understanding of perspectives for all participants; and
  3. Have unconditional positive regard for others – hold the assumption that everyone has something of value to offer and not judging them. You can help them to express their insight and value.With this mindset you can actively work with the concept of helping people to understand the attributions they are making – the interpretations people are applying to facts or data that form the basis of an opinion or a view on a certain topic. This is best understood by reference to the tool known as the ladder of inference, a simple version of which is presented below:

So, with the above mindset and the ladder of inference framework in mind, walking to the flame in practical terms means (once people have expressed an opinion or view) asking questions such as:

  • Can you tell me a bit more about that?
  • How have you reached this view?
  • On what basis have you come to this conclusion?
  • Let’s get the facts on the table – what do we know?
  • What are all the possible interpretations of this data?
  • How might stakeholder X interpret this data – how might it seem to them?
  • How can we check out what is most likely to be true?

These types of questions are merely intended to keep the possibilities open long enough to generate deeper shared understanding before accepting someone’s view of the world as fact and enable a more productive conversation.

Walking to the flame is the act of a real leader.

So, how did it end up for my coaching client? He experimented with this approach and witnessed a fundamental shift in the conversation resulting from his intervention. ‘Empowering’ is how he described it.

Do you have the courage to walk to the flame and be a real leader?

Click here to read the original blog.

Radical Candour - do you care for and challenge your teams?

Radical Candor™ is a simple 2 x 2 model that asks leaders to both Challenge their teams Directly and show they Care Personally at the same time.

Many leaders struggle with providing effective feedback to their team members. Some are too blunt and leave the person feeling defeated rather than inspired to work on something that can help them to be their best. Others are fearful of hurting someone's feelings and decide instead to take the seemingly easier route and tolerate unsatisfactory performance. And then there are people who are frightened of the response they'll get, and avoid providing feedback all together.

As we've shared in previous posts on providing feedback, 'can I give you some feedback?' can be 6 of the scariest words in the English language!

And yet our team members deserve to know

a) what is expected of them and

b) how they are performing

Feedback should be given for two purposes:

  • to recognise and motivate people to keep doing what they are doing, or
  • to help them to make a change and improve their performance


Can you really challenge and care - can these concepts co-exist?

We've previously shared Angela Duckworth's 'Supportive v Demanding' model - which shows that to be a great parent - and leader - you need to be both supportive and demanding. Being supportive but undemanding is permissive. Being demanding but unsupportive is authoritarian. And being undemanding and unsupportive is neglectful!

This concept is taken a little further with the Radical Candor model, as it explores that to help people to be their best, you need to challenge them directly, but do so with a deep care for them as a human being.

The purpose of feedback is to help people to succeed and it is therefore one of the core responsibilities as a leader to:

  • ask for feedback to role model your belief in its value
  • give it to others - to help them to be their best, and
  • encourage others to ask for an give feedback to others - so a culture of feedback becomes the norm.

The radical candor model encourages providers of feedback to be:

  • kind and clear, and
  • specific and sincere

Here is a quick visual of the radical candor model:

Click here to access the 'Radical Candor' website which has loads more information on how to apply it, and a great video by co-founder Kim Scott sharing stories about its evolution and application.


And thanks to my recent DiA Learning circles groups for drawing this model to our attention! It is great having leaders share things that inspire them with each other!

What Frustrates Employees Most about their Managers

Employee engagement can quickly turn to ‘enragement’ when managers commit certain mistakes – and these mistakes are a lot more common an occurrence than they should be! In a blog from HR daily sharing research by James Adonis (What frustrates employees most about managers?), we learn that the following actions / behaviours / situations, rank highly on the list of a survey of employee frustrations (interestingly : 40% of the respondents were Australian!):

  1. Spending time on lazy and underperforming employees at the expense of paying attention to more talented ones. This was actually the most highly ranked management attribute that most frustrates employees.
  2. Failing to appreciate or recognise the effort that team members put in  – many employees are wanting to know if they are meeting expectations, and are craving both positive and critical feedback. Many are searching for recognition of the additional efforts they are putting in or someone to notice the challenges they have had to overcome – and just say ‘thanks’.
  3. Failing to communicate effectively – employees often want more face to face – rather than email communications, and want their managers to listen more.
  4. The imposition of unreasonable deadlines – is a contributor to employee frustration, especially when the current workload of employees is not taken into account. In these times, more direction is often sought from managers, and employees need more guidance about the priorities – what things do we do and what do we decide NOT to do, or do later?
  5. The appearance of favouritism or inequity – especially in terms of time spent with team members, and inconsistencies in employee dealings.
  6. Micromanagement – managers who ‘manage’ far too closely, favouring control over autonomy and empowerment – are those who most frustrate employees.
  7. Ignoring problems – managers who fail to listen to or follow up on issues that are raised, who fail to deal with actions or behaviours that are negatively impacting others in the team enrage employees – ‘the standard you walk past is the standard you accept’ (click here to see the powerful message from Australia’s former Chief of Army Lieutenant General David Morrison about unacceptable behaviour).
  8. Delaying decisions – “employees wait painfully on managers to make decisions about giving promotions, approving leave requests or authorising project plans”. These may well be unintended consequences when things are delayed, but managers need to be mindful that they can contribute significantly to how employees perceive their manager and their environment.

Quoting from the blog : “In short, Adonis says a good manager is one that:

  • seeks employees’ input or consultation with sincerity by giving them an opportunity to influence what’s going on when change takes place;
  • knows the difference between directing employees (when employees feel they can’t be trusted to use their own minds) and direction (knowing the parameters and foundations that guide employees to where they need to be);
  • empowers employees rather than delegates by putting aside their own fear of losing power, and coaches and trains them to take on additional responsibilities, encouraging them to make final decisions;
  • sets up the right kind of environment where teamwork can flourish so employees can express their opinions and ideas, ensures everyone is clear on each others’ roles and responsibilities, and makes sure communication is free-flowing;
  • knows what employees’ natural talents are and builds close relationships with them; and
  • is always honest and doesn’t focus on employees’ faults.”
Which list did you mentally tick off against? The list of actions and behaviours that frustrate or the list that helps engage?

What is one thing you can do tomorrow – something you can start, stop or continue – to positively contribute to higher levels of team member engagement?

Want more on this topic? Click here to see other blogs.

Click here to see the original blog.

Poor performer? What to consider before you 'take them off the bus'

Most leaders have been there…a team member who just doesn’t ‘cut the mustard’, who fails to deliver what is expected, who behaves in a way that brings the overall vibe of the team down….

Our natural inclination is to think – it is all about them. They are the problem. They need to go…

And for some poor performers, this may very well be true…but as a leader, it is important to stop for a moment, and think about some key questions before we move too far down the path of ‘taking them off the bus’.

Is it a skill issue?

Is it a will issue?

Is something else stopping them? (a personal thing? a team thing? an organisation thing? could it be me?)

Have I set them up for success?

Start by checking your mindset

Mindset can play a key role in how people perform. As mentioned in a previous blog, Mindset – Do you mine for Gold?, it is frightening to appreciate the impact your thinking has on you and your dealings with people. What you believe about a person can have a profound effect on what they do, what they don’t do, and even how they see themselves…

It is important to reflect for a moment…have I already written them off as a troublesome employee? Or is there the potential for a little bit of ‘gold’ somewhere there? Yes or No? If yes, am I truly making an effort to look for it….?

As Naomi Smith writes in her blog entitled “Before You Take Them Off The Bus…Consider This”, “the reality is though, that we will generally all be faced with a mixed bag of performance across our team.    A standard bell curve means that around 10% of our team will be low or non performers, 20% high performers and 70% somewhere in the middle.  These may be classified as the A, B & C categories with an objective to move the C’s out, and progress the B’s into A’s.” Before we move the C’s out, it is vital we reflect on a series of other important questions.

Other questions to ask

Once you can satisfy yourself that mindset is not an issue – and becoming a self fulfilling prophecy, it important that you consider a range of questions. Described in more detail in her blog, Naomi Smith suggests reflecting on these questions:

1.   Does the employee really know what is expected of them?

2.   Does the employee have the skills and the tools to do the job? 

3.   Do they want to do the job?

4.   Could we have done something different with our hiring process?

5.   Did we on-board them effectively?

6.  Are my expectations too high?

7.  Have I given them specific feedback & coaching to help them achieve?

8.  Am I measuring, rewarding & recognising what I want most?

9.   Have I done everything I could have as their Leader?

10.   Are they having personal issues which are impacting their performance?

11.   Are they overwhelmed with everything they need to do?

12.   Are they the right person, but in the wrong position?”


How would you answer these questions? Have you done everything you can to help the gold shine through the rubble?
If yes, then it is time to move them on. You owe it to your A’s and B’s so they can have the best opportunity to shine!


Source : Click here to see the original LinkedIn blog post by Naomi Smith


For previous DiA program participants who are DiA website members : if you’d like further information, click here to see some tips and hints on:

  • dealing with needy staff
  • how to have difficult conversations
  • holding people accountable
  • diagnosing poor performance ….etc

Don’t forget to be signed in before clicking on this link!!

Some recent assignments

  • ran a Safety + Wellbeing strategy workshop
  • started delivering a People Management Fundamentals program for a client
  • designed and ran a follow up workshop post a Departmental Planning workshop
  • ran a 'Social Styles' team building session
Click here to access the Eyres & Associates website to find out what else we do!

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