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What Do Your Values Say About You?

April 25th, 2016

Values led cultures can deliver amazing things!

We all have values whether intrinsic or stated that drive our choices and lead us to associate favourably or otherwise with people, organisations, colleagues, businesses and brands depending on what we feel they stand for and what that means to us.

Your values represent what is most important to you in how you live your life, work, behave in general and will drive your key decisions in life and work.

As a business it is becoming more and more important to be clear about your values and to ensure that you embed, lead and live by these and are willing to be held accountable to them. They impact on and drive the culture of your business and therefore who is attracted to working with you and how long you retain these talented people and partnerships.

I have worked with businesses who have no clear stated values, but who when working with them have an obviously values driven culture. These are often smaller businesses where the values of the leaders are clear from their behaviour and decisions and guide the key decisions made by the business and their team.

Articulating and committing to these values, ensuring that they are understood by everyone make it much easier as these businesses grow to continue to keep the culture that has successfully helped them to get to where they are, and engage more talented people.

I have also worked with businesses who have a set of values on their website and possibly in the building but when I speak to the people in the business, they don’t know what these are or if they do, what they mean, or how they affect them and in the worst case scenarios find them laughable given the behaviour or decision making that is normal or accepted in the organisation.

Having been privileged to work with a number of businesses in supporting and facilitating the development of a values based culture if you are setting out or developing on this journey, be prepared for this to take time and effort, the establishment of values is rarely achieved in one stage, and bedding these in and bringing them to life takes even longer. The impact however can be huge.

If you are starting to establish your values, you need to take time as individuals and as a team to really establish:-

  • What is most important to you and what do you really believe in?
  • What would you not sacrifice to grow your business at any cost?
  • What do you stand for?
  • How will you always work and how would you never work?

After much debate and discussion on what is essential and core and what might “be nice to have” you may come up with a set of words that you feel really describe your values, this is stage 1.

These words will mean something different to potentially everyone who reads them and will be difficult on their own to use to drive decisions and behaviours.

These need to be developed into value statements and become verbs, idaelly involving the wider team, so that people understand how these are brought to life and lived or not as the case may be. These then need to be communicated, developed, refined and bought into by everyone, lived daily and brought to life.

This extra dimension makes it possible for people to make decisions and know where they can compromise and where they can’t and to hold themselves and others accountable for the values and in the ideal scenario people will hold other team members accountable as they want to make sure they represent these values at all levels.

 If you have already have values or have started to develop your values try asking yourself the following questions:-

  • What are your own values and how do these align with the values of your business?
  • How clearly defined are these and who knows them?
  • How are these embedded into the business?
  • How does this impact on decision making?
  • Which decisions and behaviours do these drive?
  • Do you lead by your values and reinforce why these are important?

Values drive decision making and behaviours throughout the business when truly lived and embedded into the culture. They define who you are, how you work, what you believe and what you stand for.

It is often when the toughest choices need to be made that values come into their own in guiding these decisions and when the team look to their leaders to see that they do live these values.

They equally come into their own when they are used by the team to guide decision making, behaviours and to hold each other accountable.

Kirsty Bathgate is the founder of Gearing for Growth working with growing businesses and leaders to support them to perform at their best, with a clear vision, values led culture, less stress, better returns and more time for the important things in life.

If you would like to speak to Kirsty about building your values led culture, becoming more effective and confident with less stress and a better work balance call Kirsty on 07425 629816 or email kirsty@gearingforgrowth.com

 Image https://www.flickr.com/photos/marcobellucci/3534516458/

Overlooking Potential

February 10th, 2016

Could You Be Surrounded By Potentia You're Missingl?

As people and leaders we all make judgements or assumptions about others on a daily basis without sometimes noticing, it is part of our human nature.

These judgements and assumptions are generally made from one particular perspective or through our own lens or filter of the world of which there are usually many for any given situation. Our own values, ethics, background commitments, priorities, world view and experiences often form our assumptions and judgements and apply our filters to how we see the world and don’t take account of another’s and those around us. This can lead us to make judgements on which we base decisions about those we work with.....

How do you feel about your team member who arrives dead on 9am and leaves by 5pm sharp every day?

  • Do you think they are unmotivated or disengaged or even lazy?
  • Do you think they are great at time management, focus and prioritising?
  • Do you know what they are committed to outside work?

 What about the team member who is first in and last out and always needs to be encouraged to take their annual leave?

  • Do you think they are eager and fully committed and you couldn’t do without them?
  • Do you think they are disorganised or waste time?
  • Do you wonder if they need extra support and help?

Perhaps this depends on both what we know about and what we value in our team members or the value of the team members contribution and output? Small as these points may seem whatever our thoughts on these, can lead us to make decisions which lead to actions all based on how we see the world and our assumptions if we don't get to understand those around us.

Whatever assumptions we make, they can only be assumptions unless we know what motivates and drives our team, know them as people and understand and value their contribution

If you were to take some time to reflect:-
What do you really know about those around you and in your team at work?

What assumptions do we all make about those around us and the decisions that they make on a daily basis?

An example of this would be how we see people in their role at work, we often see people in “a box” into which they fit on our organisation and the role they perform and we manage and judge people on how they perform in “that box”

In truth however most people have lots of talents and skills which we are not aware of and do not tap into, we’re busy and have a lot to achieve and need people to perform the roles we’ve employed them to do.

As leaders is it not one of our greatest roles to inspire, develop and challenge our teams to become the best they can be, to encourage them to continue to develop and learn, and to give them the space to take responsibility, deliver outcomes and take some calculated risks

What is Potential?

The ability, skills and attributes within each individual that are there to be tapped into and developed.

 Too often performance is managed as opposed to potential being led and developed.  

How can we uncover true motivations, hidden talents and skills in the people we work with and get to really know them, not judge them in the position in which they currently are in?

 Some questions to ask yourself?

  • What do you know about where / when and how your team lead?
  • How can you tap into and use these skills and this potential?
  • What other skills and attributes do your team have that you may be unaware of?
  • What drives and motivates them most in their life?

It may seem like a very small thing and you may not feel it is important, you know enough. Remember though people often don’t associate the skills that they use outside work with their role in work. Often indeed they don’t recognise or acknowledge these skills in themselves or see them as important.

Imagine finding out someone working in your admin team is actually the best fundraiser for a charity to which they are deeply committed and would actually be great in a sales capacity if developed well and engaged in your cause

Find out about more about your team members?

  • What did they spend the weekend doing?
  • What are their interests outside work?
  • How are they involved in their local or wider community?
  • What sports to they play / follow?
  • How involved are they with their families sport, interests and clubs?
  • Where do they get most satisfaction and enjoyment?

 When you find these out think about the skills these may involve and dig deeper, it will help you to understand them better as people, what motivates and drives them and allow you build stronger individual and team relationships. 

Kirsty Bathgate is the founder of Gearing for Growth working with growing businesses and leaders to support them to perform at their best, with a clear vision, less stress, better returns and more time for the important things in life.

If you would like to speak to Kirsty about becoming more effective and confident with less stress and a better work balance call Kirsty on 07425 629816 or email kirsty@gearingforgrowth.com

 Image https://www.flickr.com/photos/theilr/10747561946/

Ever Felt Like an Impostor?

November 17th, 2015

Many have - read on to find some tips to overcome

Have you recently been promoted or taken on your first leadership role?
Or
Have you recently promoted a member of your team and wonder why they are struggling to find their feet?

I have been privileged to work with a number of talented leaders over the years and I have in the past been surprised when an outwardly very confident and capable person tells me they feel like an “Impostor” or are waiting to be “Caught Out”

It is however extremely common for people to feel like this when they are promoted and take on a leadership or senior role, but not often recognised or discussed.

 Often people are promoted because of their technical competence in their role as opposed to their leadership skills or ability. The skills that have got them to where they are now are not what will make them successful in this new role of leadership and they need to develop new and additional skills and shift their focus from doing to thinking and leading.

People are also recognised for having leadership potential as well as good technical skills but need time and support to develop these skills in their new role

 What Drives the “Impostor Feeling”?

Fear of failure or being exposed

Can drive people to freeze, put off critical decisions and become “busy” rather than effective focussing on the unimportant tasks that detract from the important areas where they should be focussed. This can be self perpetuating and can often lead to fire-fighting and a “caught in the headlights” feeling.

It can also result in the new leader jumping in and doing the work of their team as they feel more comfortable here or to “micro-managing” to fill time that is which would have previously been filled by “doing”

Key Areas for Focus as a Leader
Thinking / Reflecting
The future and planning
Listening
Encouraging
Communicating
Learning
Taking Time Out

Some steps to Overcome Fear

  1. Write down your greatest fears and ask yourself what the worst possible outcome could be? Often just be externalising these they become less dominant and we can also see how false some of these are.
  2. Write down your greatest achievements in the last 12 months and acknowledge the hard work and dedication these took. If you can keep a reflective journal that acknowledges what you achieve and what you could do better it will help to keep these feelings at bay and be a good tool for future challenges
  3. Look at how much time you spend on the key areas of focus as a leader and work out how you can plan to spend most of your time here – what do you need to delegate? What do you need to stop or get rid of?
  4. Find someone you can trust to express these feelings to if possible this will also help the feelings to diminish and not build up.

Lack or loss of confidence

Even those who have been very confident in their previous role having clearly understood it and been able to easily achieve their outcomes, targets and goals and been seen as an expert or “got to” person for their knowledge in a particular area will feel less confident in a new role and can feel out of their depth at the start.

As with all change there will now be areas which are new to them and with which they will be less comfortable than those they know well. Understanding and acknowledging that they will have a degree of discomfort and becoming comfortable being uncomfortable as they grow into their new role is essential to building confidence in their new arena

Steps to Build Confidence

  1. Accept that you will be uncomfortable with new areas of responsibility and recognise this as a sign that you are learning, developing and accepting a challenge. You will have been here in the past and come through it to get where you are
  2. Build in time to think and review what is really important before you act, plan or communicate
  3. Break new areas into smaller tasks and set realistic expectations of what you can achieve in each of these areas over a period of time
  4. Build in time to reflect and recognise new achievements that can be continued and built on as this will build confidence in your next challenge
  5. Don’t compare yourself to others everyone has different strengths, which is good and necessary. Everyone also has different challenges, fears and anxieties which they need to work on
  6. Wherever possible build a strong peer network for support and find a good sounding board
  7. Don’t be afraid to ask for help

Fear of not being in control

In your previous role you may have had control over your own area of work, your own customers or suppliers, your own technical or research area or a combination of these.

It is very likely now however that you need to work through other people to achieve your goals and relinquish some of the control you have been used to having in the past, through effectively leading your team.

Just because you are responsible for the overall objectives and results of your team does not mean that you need to be involved or do it all. In fact to be successful in this new role you need to do the opposite and do and be involved in less and instead delegate, coach and develop your team to support them to be able to achieve more and be more successful.

Giving up control does not mean that you don’t know what is going on in that area if you delegate effectively and have good reporting systems, instead it should mean that others have the opportunity to own and input to areas to increase ideas and performance. Indeed the more control you seek to keep the less likely you are to build a strong, competent team, who trust you to support them to develop and challenge them effectively to grow, who are comfortable bringing new ideas to the table and to challenge you.

Some steps to relinquishing control

  1. Spend time getting to know your team and their current areas of strength and also to identify their potential
  2. Delegate effectively taking a coaching approach to leadership to ensure that you are both clear on the desired outcomes and have ongoing dialogue on progress, challenges and solutions
  3. Accept that taking acceptable risks is necessary for people to develop and that failure is part of the learning journey for your team
  4. Work out what information you need to know, to know that your area of the business is performing well and to easily and quickly highlight any areas of concern and put this reporting into place
  5. If you are doing something that is out with the key areas of focus for a leader above, ask yourself why you are doing it and if you are the best person to be doing this

 Things to Remember

  1. Being uncomfortable is a sign that you are taking on a new challenge and developing yourself?
  2. It is okay to feel nervous and question yourself, find someone to support you
  3. You  are now paid to think not to do and need to spend 80% to 90% of your time thinking and not doing
  4. Your need to focus on what is important as a leader
  5. Trust takes time, you need to spend time getting to know people and building trust
  6. Putting yourself in the shoes of others and thinking about how you would feel or better still remembering how you felt in their position will help you to see things from another perspective
  7. Ask for help
  8. By making yourself redundant in your old role, due to the success of your team and their ability to step up and take on your role, will allow you to be ready for and take on your next challenge and personal development

 As their leader what can you do to support your newly promoted leaders to adjust?

  1. Acknowledge that any and all of these feelings may exist and are normal
  2. Set aside dedicated one to one time to really listen to how they are getting on and support them
  3. Develop your own coaching approach and skills to be able to better support them - if you tell them the answers or what to do you will own their development not them
  4. Support them to set realistic goals and milestones to become confident and competent in their new role
  5. If you can share some of your own experiences of feeling exposed as you accepted new challenges and developed in your career
  6. Invest in their development

Kirsty Bathgate is the founder of Gearing for Growth working with growing businesses and leaders to support them to perform at their best, with a clear vision, less stress, better returns and more time for the important things in life.

If you would like to speak to Kirsty about becoming more effective and confident with less stress and a better work balance call Kirsty on 07425 629816 or email kirsty@gearingforgrowth.com

Image https://www.flickr.com/photos/gallogiancarlo/13919893185

How as the "Boss" You Can Get in the Way

May 20th, 2015

When working with a number of leaders and senior managers in business and we are looking at what takes up a lot of their time, distracts their key focus and stops them from stepping back or finishing key goals the word “Help” is often in play.

They have jumped in and “helped” their team to meet a deadline, complete a project, gain that new account, and devise the best way forward for X, Y or Z.

 On further investigation however it often turns out that “help” as it was given was not really what the person or team needed at this point. They may have needed a sounding board, a fresh pair of eyes, in some cases a time extension or maybe additional resource or support from elsewhere in the business.

Although the “HELP” often and to be honest, mainly comes from a well intentioned place, it is rarely seen as helpful by those being “helped”.  It is in fact more often seen as a distraction, a hindrance, additional work and time or duplication of effort and in the worst case scenario micromanagement and / or a lack of trust.

Try asking yourself these questions before you step into “Help” next time

  1. What benefit is going to be achieved by me jumping in and taking action on this task or project?
  2. What is really driving my desire or need to help in this instance?
  3. Am I really just retreating to my comfort zone here and possibly avoiding something bigger I need to tackle?
  4. Where should the responsibility for this lie, whose role is it?
  5. What is the root cause of the problems my team are experiencing?
  6. How would I feel in their shoes if someone just jumped in and tried to do my job for me?
  7. What impact is this having on their team and the rest of my team if I am seen to jump in and do their job for them?
  8. How could I really help and support this person or team more effectively?
  9. What’s stopping me from asking the right questions and having the conversation to find out what would be most helpful or supportive to this person or team?
  10. What benefit would setting aside time for quality updates and feedback sessions where I was able to act as a sounding board and support them to come up with their own solutions have?

If you take the time to reflect and really answer these questions honestly, I am sure that you will come up with a better solution for both you and your team, which in turn will lead to your effective help being sought more often as a sounding board.

Occasionally there is a genuine need for all hands to the pump and for you to become actively involved to support your team.

If this is the case think about how you engage in this in terms of do you take over or genuinely support by asking how you could be most effective and by becoming part of the team in the role you take on. Equally important do you ensure that any glory or praise is reflected on the team and not on you on completion.

Kirsty Bathgate is the founder of Gearing for Growth working with growing businesses and leaders to support them to perform at their best, with a clear vision, less stress, better returns and more time for the important things in life.

If you would like to speak to Kirsty about becoming more effective and confident with less stress and a better work balance call Kirsty on 07425 629816 or email Kirsty@gearingforgrowth.com

 Image - https://www.flickr.com/photos/sancho_panza/54940367

Stepping Up With Confidence

March 31st, 2015

Make the step to the Executive or Senior Team work for you

Often when I work with people who have recently been promoted to a Senior or Executive role, they are struggling to find their feet and to feel confident and competent in their new role. They often express doubt in their ability to perform at this level and a feeling of being an “imposter” or waiting to be “caught out”

What is it that makes confident, high performers often feel like a fish out of water when they reach their goal of joining the Executive Team? As with lots of things in life there is often a difference between the expectation and the reality, the landscape and the view when in the Executive Team is often very different from how the landscape and view appeared while looking in from the outside.

Here are some key things to consider as you approach that move to the senior team, that can make it more comfortable or which may help you to regain that confidence and competence if you have recently been promoted to a senior role

Mindset
As part of an Executive or Senior Team you will now be expected to take a view and responsibility for the business as a whole and not only your own area of expertise or team. This can sometimes take a while for people to fully understand and therefore be able to adjust their mindset accordingly.  

1. Concentrate on listening and observing at initial meetings as opposed to contributing this will help you to understand the expectations of the meetings, the role of each of the members, any politics in play, make you more comfortable and able to listen effectively, if you aren’t concentrating on what you need to say.  All of which will allow you to make more valuable contributions later
2. Try to put yourself in the shoes of your other team members to see if you can understand their point of view even when you felt you disagreed with it
3. Spend time with other members of the team to understand their area of the business and remit more fully, along with their goals and challenges

Thinking not Doing
En-route to this role and promotion you will no doubt have been measured and rewarded to some degree on the output and /or contribution of you and your team. You may have always been extremely busy with little time to think or plan.
You are now however responsible for being part of the team that lead the whole business as well as leading a key part of the business, so what does this mean for you?  Whether you are leading a team that is new to you or have taken a step up from within your own team, it is really critical to take some time to really understand each of the people within the team and to reflect on what you would like to achieve. Too often I see people who have been so keen to jump in or “make their mark” that they later have to undo a lot of their early actions in their new role as they didn’t fully understand, made assumptions or assumed they already knew the people.

1. One of your key roles is thinking about how your team can contribute to the wider business vision, and strategy and how you can enable and develop your team to achieve this through a shared vision, strategy and culture which you lead effectively as part of the wider company
2.  Being able to lead effectively means that you need to set aside quality time to spend with each of your direct reports, really listening to their feedback and understanding how you can support them to develop and achieve their goals
3.  Effective delegation will be key for your own leadership development and your ability to lead and develop your team and to ensure that you delegate your previous role and areas of responsibility and develop a strong team around you.
4. It is also likely to be the case that in this new role you need to expand your knowledge of the marketplace and spend more time interacting with your customers, suppliers and competitors and build a strong external network 

Fear of Making Yourself Redundant
Often when I work with people and they are at the stage of becoming more effective at thinking rather than doing and are able to stand back from the day to day work in the business an element of fear or even panic sets in.

I have found that often this is due to being in change mode but not having quite reached your destination yet. It is also something that people are very unwilling to discuss with colleagues or their MD as even admitting to themselves that this fear exists and understanding it is quite difficult.
You may not yet be fully clear how you are going to spend all of you time, and not see your new role with full clarity yet. It may also be completely alien to you to have time to think

1. Remind yourself that you are now paid to think not act
2.  Ask yourself if you were to act, what would you do? Whose role is it to now do this? What impact would you have if you were to act?
3.  Understand that this fear is a natural part of the change process and that by acknowledging and feeling this fear you are well on your way through the change process and to moving to feel more comfortable in your new role.
4. In order to see your role more clearly it can often help to think what success would look like 2 to 3 years ahead and then work backwards to what steps you need to take or what you need to put in place to make this success a reality.

 

Be aware of your comfort zone
As you make the change into your new role, adjust your mindset to take a company-wide view, move from doing to thinking, lead rather than manage and move through the change process to rid yourself of a fear of becoming redundant and gain real clarity in your new role, there is often at points a powerful draw to retreat to your comfort zone of the past.This however can be counterproductive in a number of ways

1.    What makes your comfort zone comfortable
2.    Where has this taken you? Back into the realms of doing and managing perhaps?
3.    Often when I hear the term micro management from a team it is because their leader has retreated to their comfort zone

Image - https://www.flickr.com/photos/ruthanddave/9459856225 

 

The Power of Ask Over Tell

March 7th, 2015

How much time do we all spend telling? 
What would the impact be if we spent more time asking?

Why do we spend so much of our time as leaders telling other people what to do and how to do things and then wonder why we don’t have a team who can be innovative, provide solutions, work autonomously and take ownership?

As leaders is one of our greatest roles not to inspire, develop and challenge our teams to become the best they can be, to encourage them continue to develop and learn and give them the space to take responsibility, deliver outcomes and take some calculated risks?

How else will we tap into the potential of our team and support them to develop this potential, be creative, engaged, take responsibility for solutions and thrive?

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn” – Benjamin Franklin

To me this embodies the problem and solution to a lot of the issues I come across when working with leaders who know they need to stand back and focus more on the strategic development of the business, but find themselves constantly brought back into the day to day running of the business and wonder why fire fighting is the norm, and I have also experienced this myself.

Not only do people forget what they’re told, people’s creativity is often stifled or lost when being told and as, if not more importantly the responsibility lies with the person doing the telling.

When you tell someone what you would like them to do and how to do it, you take the responsibility for the outcome from them and if it goes wrong they can report back, but do not own solving the problem. You have held onto the responsibility and they will generally be happy to let you have the responsibility.

If however you engage people within your team to deliver an outcome, and support them to come up with the solution to deliver it, this raises their awareness, encourages their learning and they choose to take responsibility for delivering the outcome and solving any problems along the way.

Simple or so it seems, but how do you actually put this into practice – Using a coaching approach to leadership is one very powerful way and here are some very practical initial thoughts to try putting this into practice:-

  1. How you can be more aware of whether you are telling someone how to do something and giving answers and solutions to problems. Or alternatively explaining what needs to be achieved and why and then asking them how they could deliver this and delving deeper into the perceived problems to hear their potential solutions?
  2. As your awareness builds what impact would asking a question each time you are inclined to tell someone something or give the answer to a problem have on you and your colleagues?
  3. How can you be focused on the desired outcome and what this needs to deliver for the team and business when you are approaching the delegation of a task or project to your team or a team member?
  4. How would asking open ended questions help to ensure the understanding of the outcome and how your colleague or team understand the impact, importance and consequences of the outcome and how they plan to deliver these and what the potential obstacles could be and how they would tackle these?
  5. What impact are you having in terms of responsibility, each time you tell someone what to do or how to do it or tell your answer or give instructions? Are you are taking the responsibility for the outcome and potentially stifling , thought, creativity, development and innovation?
  6. How would ongoing quality communication and dialogue with your team which involves encouraging broader thinking and creativity in problem solving, avoid micro-management?
  7. What impact would allowing your team members to be able to lead a project have on developing their skills?. As the business leader do you need to be the leader of all your team need to deliver?

What stops leaders engaging with their teams like this, could it be..?

  1. The need to have and retain control
  2. Fear of failure, the leaders still feels responsible for the end outcome and everything
  3. Time pressure
  4. It’s how they were led and they don’t know another way
  5. The desire to “ help” which actually hinders
  6. The desire to retreat to a comfort zone

As with any change we make in life it is not easy to break habits and form new ones and it takes time, perseverance and practice to be able to take this approach more often.

It often helps to put ourselves in the shoes of others and to remember what it felt like when we were given the freedom to make decisions and take risks knowing what we had to deliver and excited by the prospect of doing so or of over achieving.

Why is it that as children all we do is ask, but as adults all we often do is tell?

Kirsty Bathgate is the founder of Gearing for Growth who work with growing businesses and leaders to support them to perform at their best, with less stress, better returns and more time for the important things in life.
Photo Tiffany Terry https://www.flickr.com/photos/35168673@N03/

The Impact of Listening

February 4th, 2015

Really  just Listening can improve the bottom line?
 

 

Would you believe that by doing what we all think we do all the time more effectively, more often and more consciously, that you could improve the morale, motivation and engagement of your team, improve your organisations effectiveness and add to your bottom line? Read on....



Listening is something we do all the time right?


To a small degree this is true, but are we really listening, do we really hear the message behind the words or are we too busy after the first few words already preparing our response?

Listening with the intent to understand not with the intent to reply?.. Stephen Covey

As a leader of a business or team listening is one of the most powerful tools and resources that we have available to us to successfully lead, engage, motivate and influence our people.

How often have you been in a dialogue with someone and are only too aware that they are distracted, their mind is elsewhere and you are not being heard? How does this make you feel?

On the rare occasions where someone really takes the time to listen to you and really listen to you to really understand what you are saying how has that made you feel?

In today’s busy world we have deluge of interruptions and time thieves, an infinite number of ways communications take up our time, and our job to get done! If your job is leading people it is imperative that you make time for your people and real quality time

Dangers of not listening

  1. You make rash or wrong decisions having heard part of an issue or problem and aren’t aware of the full picture
  2. People feel it’s a waste of time coming to you with ideas or issues as you don’t really listen and they never get any feedback
  3. You are unaware of pending issues that could be easily dealt with if caught and understood early, instead they escalate and take more of everyone’s time and effort to resolve
  4. You make snap judgements about people and their ability or potential based on the snapshot you have heard and miss opportunities to understand and develop the talent within your business
  5. Ideas, creativity and innovation are missed and then stifled as feedback and input isn’t there
  6. Your people feel undervalued and aren’t engaged or committed

How to ensure you spend more time listening effectively

  1. Set dedicated time aside for each of your direct reports on a regular basis and before you deliver any of your own messages, ensure you listen to their input
  2. Ensure that there are no distractions when you meet with your direct reports, you’re not a desk with a computer, you have private space, phones are off.
  3. Prepare in advance for the meeting so you are informed and relaxed, think through key things you want to find out about, discuss, give feedback on, ask effective questions and listen intently.
  4. When someone stops you as you walk through the office make the decision – do you have the time to really listen or would it be better to ask the person to come back to you later that day when you will really have the time to listen
  5. Set time aside regularly to “walk the shop floor” making sure you ask questions and take the time to really listen to the answers and any feedback. This is where you can pick up some real gems on what’s really happening in the business, what customers think, ideas for improvement or innovation and spot potential and talent that could be a real boost to your organisation and might otherwise be missed. Ensure this is casual and not contrived and that you hear from everyone in the business throughout the year.

Key tips for more effective listening

  1. You’re the boss and no matter how well respected or  nice you are you have an impact on the life of everyone who works for you so they are unlikely to always be upfront and open with you if you have just started to listen. It takes time for them to really trust you, and to build trust, requires consistency from you in being there to listen and either acting on or feeding back on what you hear
  2. Even when trust is established you are still the boss so it is likely that there will be some level of filter system in what you hear. Think about yourself in the same or a similar position in the past if you can.
  3. Given the points above your job is to listen and to hear what is not being said, and to build the trust and confidence so that in time you do hear more, more often and with a reduced filter.
  4. Most importantly don’t interrupt, if you have a question or want to clarify something wait until your colleague has stopped speaking. If you don’t you may not get the full picture as your question or clarification may lead down as slightly different path. It is really rare that we get dedicated time to really speak about something without interruptions or questions,  and in giving your colleague this space they may also surprise themselves with how they see things on being given the space and time to articulate their thoughts. It is interesting to note afterwards if the conversation went the way you had guessed or assumed it would at the start.
  5. Checking in on your own assumptions after a conversation with a colleague
  6. When you are listening look out for what is not being said in body language, eye contact, actions, the pitch tone and volume of the speaker will also help you to hear the unsaid.
  7. To ensure that you are hearing what is being said, understanding the message and to let your colleague known that you are really listening, try repeating back what you have heard and / or confirming to them that what you are hearing is what they have said. This won’t always be the case, people may be nervous or stressed and not clearly articulating their real message and by confirming and repeating back to them you are allowing them the opportunity to hear what you are hearing and clear up any potential misunderstandings

Food for thought.....All of these listening techniques can not only be used in leading your team more effectively they can also be used with customers, and potential customers to help you to really understand their needs and with suppliers to ensure that you really understand what you are buying and at home...

Photo:  ibm4381 https://www.flickr.com/photos/j_benson/2697702605/sizes/l, Flickr

Making the Leap to Senior Management Work For You

July 30th, 2013

It can take time to become effective in a new senior role. Here we outline some of the pitfalls to avoid to allow you to become more effective more quickly.
  
1.      
Feelings of guilt when not acting or doing

If you have previously been in a role where you have been measured and rewarded for the output of you and your team, in whatever form, it can at first be very strange to stop focussing on the delivery of output. Or in other words to stop doing and start thinking.

You are now more likely to be responsible for creating the vision, strategy, culture and conditions, for the team who are responsible for delivering the output.

This involves a lot more time thinking and speaking to people, getting good feedback and finding out what works and what doesn’t work within the business or your area of the business.

 You will also need to spend more time thinking and interacting out with the business, with customers, suppliers and competitors gaining more insight into the market at a strategic level and not an operational level.

It is only if you spend this time effectively doing these things that you will be able to set out the roadmap for future, for the teams that will deliver this vision and strategy as without it they will be lost.

You are now rewarded for your mind and your insight, innovation and vision and to enable you to utilise these effectively you need quality thinking time.

You need to feel guilty if you don’t make this time as this is your productivity now and you won’t support or help your team if you don’t

2.       Retreating to comfort zone

This can take a number of forms. If you have previously worked in leading a technical or specialist team which you have enjoyed and know thoroughly when the going gets tough in your new role it can be extremely easy to retreat to your old role and find a myriad of reasons for justifying this.

Equally you could now have responsibility for an area of the business in which you are not an expert as well as an area of the business in which you are an expert and it can be extremely easy to focus your activities and effort on the area you know best and where you are sure you can achieve results.

Both of these will detract you from your key role now and make it more difficult for you to become effective in your new role.

As a member of the Senior Management Team you are now responsible along with your colleagues for the effective running of the whole business.

 You need to gain an understanding of all areas of the business and the challenges and successes of your top team members and the reasons that they make the recommendations and decisions that they do.

The senior management Team are now your number one team and you need to be able to effectively support and challenge your team colleagues. You can only do this if you spend time getting to understand their challenges and issues and how these impact on the business overall. From a position of understanding your input will be much more valuable and your understanding and ability to impact the wider business will grow.

Each time you retreat to your comfort zone you are losing a valuable opportunity to understand the wider business and take a broader view of the issues and the business.

3.       Lack of training and development in leadership

Very often people are promoted because they excel at their role and / or are an expert in a key area of the business. Traditionally businesses have not been very good in offering quality management and leadership training programmes which are effective in supporting people to develop within their role within their business. These skills and this development are essential to create effective leaders. This is not solved by sending a few people on the odd training course we would suggest.

Instead we would suggest that this needs to be part of the culture and ethos of the business and people need to be supported, challenged and given the opportunity to put what they learn into practice on a day to day basis.

This needs internal support from their leader who understands what they are learning and has ideally agreed the key objectives and desired outcomes before the training has commenced. It also needs support potentially in the form of an internal mentor and to be truly effective from an external coach.

If you aren’t getting this support or training you need to negotiate internally to ensure that you do to ensure that you can be truly effective in your new role.

4.       Lack of clear thinking and planning time

It is easy for people at all levels within an organisation to get caught up with day-to-day needs of the business and setting aside good quality time for planning and to allow you to think and reflect and review results can seem like an unnecessary luxury.

Without this time however your decisions could be flawed and could indeed cost a lot in terms of time, resources and cash, if you need to back track or alter course later on.

Dedicating time each week to allow, yourself to think, reflect and review is critical to planning and good decision making, plan it into your diary each week perhaps initially only an hour or two until you become comfortable with this time and the benefit it brings.

5.       Unclear of expectations

In order to be at your most effective you need to clearly understand what is expected of you.

You may initially feel that this is clear until you really get into the driving seat, when the picture can become a little less clear.

If you think about what is your definite major purpose in your role and they key outcomes that you need to deliver and where this should make your priorities lie and make a clear note of these.

If you then note where you currently spend most of your time currently and see how this compares to your definite major purpose, your outcomes and your priorities and where the differences lie this can help you to plan to make changes to make sure that most of your time is spent where it should be.

With these key factors and an outline plan in place to make the necessary changes, this is a great starting point to have a conversation with your Director or CEO to ensure that you both agree your definite major purpose, key outcomes and priorities.

This will help you to be very clear of what is expected of you and will also ensure that your Director or CEO is comfortable that you are on the right track and will be able to support you more effectively where you need it most.

 6.       Focussing on the here and now and not the future

This point links very closely to the previous point re clarity around expectations and also to the point with regards to planning and thinking time.

As a Senior Manager within the business and part of the Senior Management Team you need to ensure that you have a team in place to support you to deliver what is required within the business on a day-to day basis.

You also need to have a very clear focus on the future, the market, your customers and suppliers so that you can plan ahead effectively and are not caught out by developments and changes.

If you only focus only on the short term you could find yourself being overtaken by competitors, loosing good customers who want to move forwards or miss market opportunities.

If you have put good communication, systems and reporting in place which allow you to keep your finger on the pulse of the performance of your team, without having to be involved, this should free you up to focus more time on the future.

7.      
Fear of Failure
This is particularly prevalent if you have been working your way up through and organisation and are promoted to lead and manage your previous peers. Or if you have felt ready for this opportunity for a while and been waiting for it to arise.

Fear of failure can be debilitating and can leave you caught like a rabbit in the headlights if you let it take hold.

If you spend time avoiding the pitfalls we have mentioned above you will be in a good position to deliver well in your new role.

Additionally it can be good to set up your own “advisory team” of people who you can use as a sounding board for different areas of advice as you move into your new role and during the first six months to a year in your new role. These people could be from business, family, friends, and sport who you respect for their knowledge, expertise or general wisdom and who you can trust to be honest and objective when using them as a sounding board.

It is important to focus on the future and what you want to achieve and to have a good support structure in place, it can be lonelier the further up the ladder you climb and these people can be invaluable. Additionally an external coach can be invaluable in these situations where they are completely impartial and dedicated to supporting you to develop and change to succeed in your new role. They can generally be more supportively challenging than those who you are closest to.

Growing Pains

July 30th, 2013

8 Mistakes to Avoid When Driving for Growth, make sure your team are with you on the journey.

1.       Lack of clear vision and strategy

These are often well know by the MD and also some key colleagues but are very often not shared with all of the team across the business. If People don’t know where you are going and the route you want to take to get there it is very difficult for them to follow or to arrive at the same destination.

The net effect is additional costs, lack of efficiency, duplication of effort and potentially de-motivation of your team.

How much does your team taking the long-route or the diversions cost your business?

How much would it cost to have everyone on the same route heading to the same destination and what benefits would this bring?

2.       Not having a clear role and responsibilities within the business.

What is your role in leading the business?

Is this really clear to you?

Do you have a defined role with clear responsibilities and clear reporting and communication lines?

If not this is very likely to cause confusion within the business and at worst undermine the other leaders and managers within the business.

So it’s your business or you’re the boss but this shouldn’t mean that you can change your mind at the drop of a hat or that you can interfere or “help” in other people’s roles or responsibilities.

If you really want a great business you need to understand the impact that you can and do have on other people and how to use this for maximum benefit for all within the business. You have a good team your role is too support them to be great in whatever context that takes. This helps everyone else to clearly understand their role and take responsibility for it.

3.      
Too high or unclear expectations

When you own or run a business and have built it from a small seed it is effectively like your child and a huge part of you. You need to understand that no-one else is ever going to care about this business quite as much as you do.

They hopefully care about it a lot and are willing to go the extra mile for you and the business, but they are not you and they have not invested their heart and soul.

Let’s be honest why should they, they are not going to get the same rewards as you at the end of the day.

To have your team care about the business and to want to be a part of it and its success and to continually improve is the best you should want and that is a lot of commitment.

You should not compare yourself to your team, or the effort of your team to your effort, these are your choices.

If you do, you will always feel disappointed as opposed to delighted with your team which could in turn lead you to de-motivate your team and certainly not get the best from them. Be realistic in your expectations and set goals that your team think are realistic. They are much more likely to be driven to exceed something that is realistic than strive for something they believe is out with their grasp.

4.       Little or ineffective communication

Nobody knows what is going on inside your head unless you tell them.

Importantly sharing regular updates, being open to receiving feedback and really listening to your team on a regular basis are critical to the future success of your business.

People like to be well informed and know what’s going on. They don’t like surprises. They also want to feel valued and that they are being listened to.

5.       Lack of trust

One of the most important things for people to be able to feel free to make decisions and take responsibility and ownership for their role is too feel trusted to do the right thing and make the right decisions. 

How you react when things go well and as, if not more importantly when things go wrong will either reinforce the fact that you trust your team or will make them feel doubted and second guessed leading to erosion of their confidence and self belief and a lack of motivation.

If you spend time with people understanding what led to a mistake and listen to their solutions, mistakes are much less likely to recur and more importantly you haven’t had to fix the problem the owner of the problem has fixed it and it is extremely unlikely to happen again.

6.       Not giving praise and positive feedback

How often do you tell people they are doing well and thank them for a great job.

Or are you more likely to be the one to notice all the small annoying things that haven’t been done or how something could have been done better.

Which of these two option s would make you feel good if you put yourself in the position of your team?

7.       Lack of structure and delegation of authority

This one works alongside number 2 if your own role is clear and communicated well this will helps you to build a good structure within the business.

Yes when the business is very small an all hands to the pump approach is often very successful. As you grow the business however it is important that people have clearly defined roles and reporting structures and also understand the level of authority that they have to make decisions and take action.

Without these, the amount of unnecessary work that you the leader will retain will increase. By putting these processes in place this will support your own role and allow you more time and energy to work strategically on the business and you will be less likely to be drawn back into the day-to –day activities that you have employed others to manage.

8. Fear of Difficult Conversation or Conflict

No-one in business makes the right choices all of the time.

This is often the case when we recruit new people and experience to a business as it grows or to support future growth.Often the experience the leader seeks to enable them to grow the business is sought from individuals from larger companies, which often works.

However a number of times this is not the case and the person recruited is not necessarily a good fit for the culture of your business, they are used to being supported by more peers and better systems than you currently have in place.

This can potentially lead to under-performance and often you as the leader avoid these difficult conversations seeing them as unwanted conflict.

Is it not better to face up to the reality of the situation and ensure everyone retains their dignity and self-confidence, than to let it fester away until it becomes untenable and is affecting the wider team.

In this situation as in any situation where a difficult conversation is required it is better for all concerned if this is done as early as possible,  when it can very often be easily resolved and any mis-understanding dealt with.

In these situations it is always better to think through what you want to say in advance and be aware of the feelings of the other person. However it is equally important to really listen to what the other person is saying to ensure that you understand their point of view if true resolution is to be found.

Remember conflict is not confrontation and conflict is healthy. It is extremely helpful to be constructively challenged as the leader.