Leadership Tips for Discovery in Action Alumni + network
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June 2018

Hello and welcome to June 2018 edition of our Monthly Leadership Tips: your 'once a month'  'bite-sized' chunks of practical leadership wisdom!

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

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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

A tool to help you reflect on your people leadership practice

Over a number of months we have published a series of six posts about Practical Leadership Actions to help leaders get people to perform at their best.  This series of practical leadership actions have been organised around the six major themes that have emerged through our work with over 550 Discovery in Action® (Leading People) program participants.  We have now created a summary one-page version of this material into a ‘wheel’ graphic organised around three layers of leadership that capture the cause and effect relationships implied in effective leadership practice:

  1. The ultimate business outcomes of great leadership practice (at the centre of the wheel) – desirable outcomes such as high levels of discretionary effort in the team, high quality outputs being produced, efficient delivery, innovation and customer focus;
  2. The positive impacts of effective leadership on the people you lead (the middle layer of the wheel) that will contribute to the achievement of those business outcomes – when you are ‘doing great leadership’ your people will be saying: ‘I feel supported, valued and safe’‘I am learning and growing’‘I feel empowered’‘I am clear about my role’; ‘I feel part of a team’; and ‘I am doing purposeful, meaningful work’.  These are the six themes around which the practical leadership actions are based and largely describe the dimensions of a positive team climate.
  3. The broad leadership strategies (the outer layer of the wheel) that you, as a people leader, could implement that will enable these positive impacts on your people and maintain a healthy team climate.  We have articulated 31 of these strategies (5 or 6 per theme) that form the framework of the Practical Leadership Actions which articulate possible actions to operationalise these strategies.

These have all been captured in a simple one-page graphic.  It is important to note that this is not a validated model of leadership – it is merely a synthesis of the ‘wisdom of the crowd’ through our work with over 550 participants in the Discovery in Action® (Leading People) program as they have explored these simple but powerful action research questions grounded by their lived leadership experiences:

  • What does high performance look like?  [see outcomes above]
  • When do people perform at their best? [see impacts above]
  • What do I have do to get them to perform at their best? [see leadership strategies above + practical leadership actions]

So, how might you use this one-page graphic?

There are a range of ways you can potentially use this wheel to reflect on your leadership practice:

  1. Reflect on the climate of your team – to what extent are the six conditions present where people perform at their best i.e. people feel supported, valued and safe; clear about their roles etc (the middle layer of the wheel)?  You may have an intuitive feel about the extent to which these conditions are current present in your team.  Alternatively you could use the six statements as the basis for a simple pulse survey in your team.  A recent client ran their own branch pulse survey once per month using similar statements to these over a nine month period and saw steady and significant improvement over the period due to an emphasis on leadership practices in the leadership team over that period.  Of course, once you get a sense of which of the six conditions might need attention you can use the leadership strategies and practical actions as a guide for improvement.
  2. Reflect on individual staff performance issues – if you have a staff member with some performance issues (poor performance outcomes against the elements in the centre of the wheel) you could use the six conditions (the middle layer of the wheel) as a diagnostic tool to reflect upon what might be contributing to their poor performance and then ask yourself: What leadership strategies and actions can I take to improve their performance? and refer to the outer layer for some guidance.   You may also want to refer to our recent post: How did you make your staff feel today?
  3. Reflect on your own leadership practice – you may want to use the outer layer of the wheel (people leadership strategies) to reflect on your own strengths and areas for improvement.  This might just be a self-reflection and/or you could run your own 360-degree survey and get feedback from your team.  We have converted this into a one-page assessment tool that you could use for either purpose.  Again this may highlight areas for you to focus your leadership practice – reference to the previously published practical leadership actions provide plenty of ideas about actions or behaviours you could implement.  You may also want to refer to one of our previous blog posts on shadow beliefs that drive your actions that may provide deeper and insightful reflections about your leadership practices.

Maybe just printing out the wheel and pinning it to your wall, might just help as a simple reference guide when you are looking for inspiration!

Click here to see the original blog post.

DiA Tips ... Younger Managers leading Older employees

It is very common in today's workplace, for young achievers to suddenly find themselves leading and managing people. This situation is challenging for all new leaders, not just the young ones, but another layer of sensitivity can be added when managing a team of people that are from a different generation or peer group.

Whether the age difference is just a few years, or leaders find themselves leading teams with people their parents' age, it is not surprising for new leaders to find themselves feeling uncomfortable, or even a little anxious.

This tips and hints guide provides some ideas for young, people leaders.  Some of the tips here are just as relevant for new leaders in a team of any shape and size, however these ideas are particularly effective for young leaders of teams that are not just from their peer group.

Click here to access our DiA Tips and Hints guide - for some practical suggestions for younger managers leading older employees.

Working more effectively with your boss

Do any of these statements resonate with you?

  • I have a really positive, effective working relationship with my manager and life is good!
  • My relationship with my manager is a not as good as I would like, but with a little attention it could definitely improve
  • My manager and I do not 'fit together well' and the tension in our working relationship is stopping me from achieving my best
  • If things don't change with the relationship with my manager, then it might reach a point where I need to move on
  • I actively have to manage the relationship with my manager - so I can ensure they know what is going on, and I can take a bit more control of my career path
  • I feel quite disempowered by the way my manager treats me, but I don't know how to make things change?

The relationship you have with your manager is one of the most important working relationships there is!

You are on track if:

  • You have a good understanding of the other person and yourself, especially regarding strengths, weaknesses, work styles and needs.
  •  You use this information to develop and manage a healthy working relationship – one that is compatible with both people’s work styles and assets, is characterised by mutual expectations and meets the most critical needs of the other person.

Warning signs are if:

  • The lines of communication are constricted and information is not flowing freely
  • You are not able to make progress in your work, and your contribution to organisational objectives is suffering
  • The relationship is strained and the needs of both parties are not respected or acknowledged

Reflection activity to help you work more effectively with your boss.

If you would like to improve the relationship you have with you boss, click here to access a workbook– focusing attention on how you can work more effectively with your boss.

  1. To do this, you must first take the time to understand your boss.

    For example, consider : What are their goals and priorities? What are their pressures and challenges? What does their boss expect of them? What are the organisational ‘hot buttons’ right now? What do you think they are particularly good at? In what areas are they less strong? What are their ‘blind spots’?

  2. Then think more deeply about how your boss likes to work with you.

    What does your boss expect of you? How do they prefer to work with their staff? What issues do they want to be updated on and with what frequency? Do they want the detail or the big picture? How do they want to be informed – by email, by phone, by a formal meeting, by a report? Are they a reader or a listener? etc

  3. And then do the same for yourself -How would you answer these questions for yourself? What are your priorities, pressures, ‘hot buttons’? What do you need from your boss? And what are your preferences for how to work together?
  4. And then make a time to chat about this with them…it is essential that you develop a mutual understanding around how you want to work together. It is important to actually discuss this explicitly. You can develop a way of working that suits both your styles. You can advocate your preferences and expectations and inquire about their preferences and expectations.

Click here to see the original blog and access the links to the workbook and tips and hints guide.

Managing for performance v managing underperformance

People leadership throws up many challenges.  One of the most commonly expressed challenges is around the issue of managing underperforming staff.  But I’ve come to wonder over the years, in dealing with many people leaders, whether the issue sometimes stems from how the issue is even expressed…managing underperformance.  HR departments often have specific policies and procedures for managing underperformance, often informed by requirements of industrial agreements etc.  But, what if you just try this:

Replace the question…How do I manage underperformance? with this question:

How do I manage for performance?

In a practical sense it fundamentally shifts the thinking paradigm and opens up many more possibilities for action.  At a deeper level it is underpinned by a fundamentally different set of assumptions, or even set of beliefs, about people in the workplace and your role as a leader.

I’ve observed a couple of managers over the years that have had this epiphany and taken subsequent action with amazing results.

Example #1

One manager had been grappling with the question that we had posed to him as part of a leadership development program…when do people perform at their best?  As he thought about this question, conceptually in the first instance, he then started to think in practical terms about one of his specific staff members.  He was having some issues with her performance – she had previously been one of his better performing staff members, but over a lengthy recent period her performance had dropped off considerably.  In fact the manager felt he was on the cusp of having to manage underperformance. But when he explored the question of when do people perform at their best and thought specifically about this staff member he started wondering – maybe the work I’m asking her to do is not aligned with her motivations or ambitions, maybe her skills are not right for the tasks, maybe there’s some problems in her home life that I’m not aware of.  The upshot of his reflections was that he had a good chat with her to discuss her motivations, interests, skills and gave her some different projects and tasks to work on.  When speaking with him, about a month later, he just shook his head and said ‘I cannot believe the difference in her performance’.  He’d witnessed a dramatic positive change and was so surprised it could be achieved with a tweaking of the person’s work.  Now, just imagine if he’d gone down the typical underperformance route.  I suspect it would have simply become a self-fulfilling prophecy that would have been painful, emotionally exhausting and highly unproductive for everyone involved.  Sometimes you will only see what you are looking for.  A shift in mindset of the manager brought about a fundamentally different result.

Example #2

Another manager had been putting quite a bit of effort into managing underperformance of a particular staff member.  She had tried setting more specific expectations, clearer articulation of deliverables and timeframes and more frequent and regular monitoring of delivery.   However she wasn’t making a lot of progress and was not seeing much improvement – she just had a sense that the situation was not really going anywhere......

Click here to see the remainder of this post, as well as a link to a practical ideas list for diagnosing underperformance.


Some recent assignments

  • Kicked off another DiA program
  • Kicked off the 3rd iteration of a customised 4 part leadership development program
  • Ran workshops in providing effective feedback and coaching skills
  • Ran a couple of DiA mid-point sessions - where we interviewed leaders about their leadership journeys
  • Ran a series of workshops with a culture working group to identify improvement strategies
Click here to access the Eyres & Associates website to find out what else we do!

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