How to Be an Effective Leader?

What Do Effective Leaders Do?

The one thing effective leaders do. Do you do this too?

by Andrew Cooke, Growth & Profit Solutions

effective leadership

When you ask people what do effective leaders do you will get a range of responses – set strategy, provide direction, develop people, motivate people, create alignment of activities, and so the list goes on. All true, but they are all facets of one thing,

To discover this, ask yourself what should an effective leader do? The one thing an effective leader should do is to get results.

All the earlier responses are actions that an effective leader makes in order to get results.  If it were that easy then virtually all leaders, by dint of what they do, could be effective leaders.  But this is not the case. A leader is not effective because of what he or she does, but rather because of how he or she does it.  An effective leader is followed, and people follow the leader for who they are and not because of the position.

As such, it is how leaders lead that encourages and engages other people to follow and get results.  The “how” is the individual’s leadership style, and this is made visible and tangible in the behaviours they exhibit when leading.  This is important as people will pay more attention to what their leaders do than what they say, and if there is a conflict between (such as when the leader does not “walk the talk”) then people will follow the example of what is done rather than what is said.

There are six common leadership styles which are utilised by leaders, and which they switch between in the short-term on a frequent basis.  These six styles provide a context in which a leader behaves, and depending on the leadership style the behaviours that exhibit can be very different.  The leadership style used is a result of the individual’s perception of the situation at hand and how they need to adapt it, and their personal preference in leadership styles.

Six Leadership Styles

  • Coercive leaders – demand immediate compliance.
  • Authoritative leaders – mobilize people toward a vision.
  • Affiliative leaders – create emotional bonds and harmony.
  • Democratic leaders – build consensus through participation.
  • Pace-setting leaders – expect excellence and self-direction.
  • Coaching leaders – develop people for the future

Being an Effective Leader

So, to be an effective leader – a leader who gets results – you need to

  1. Be clear on what the results that you want are – ensure you articulate and communicate them clearly to everyone.
  2. Be clear on how you will achieve them, in doing this you need to:
  • Use a suitable leadership style given the context of your particular situation.
  • Adapt your behaviours to the style, but make sure that they provide the right example to others and for others to emulate.
  • Switch between styles and behaviours as needed so you not only get the results, but you get them in the right way.

Remember, the difference between a good leader and a great leader is in the how.

Next Steps:

Look at what you are looking to achieve as a leader.  Once you are clear on what you have to do, and can articulate it, then ask yourself how can I do this to be effective?

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

Are You Setting Up People to Fail?

When Leadership Fails – and Why!

Leaders and potential leaders are often set-up to fail by their own companies.  Where are companies going wrong, and what can we do about it?

by Andrew Cooke, Growth & Profit Solutions

Let me paint you a picture.

Your business has a new global initiative to identify and develop leaders to meet both the current and the future needs of the business.  Your business is looking to expand globally, and with the slow-down in the developed world you are looking to improve your efficiencies where you are established, expand your existing products and services to new markets, and to develop a culture of innovation to help support and spur on the planned growth over the next 5 years.

Failing Leadership

You have spent considerable time and expense in establishing what your current talent pool looks like, and you have developed a framework of the key skills and capabilities that you need now and in the future as your existing business expands.  Against this you have tested and measured all those who are above a certain level to ascertain their potential, to identify how their skills and capabilities rate against the levels that you have identified as necessary.  From this you have developed the training needed to develop them.

This is a very broadstroke approach, but one that is familiar to those involved in developing, acquiring and retaining talent, and in organisational development.  It is time-consuming, expensive and requires considerable time, resources and top management time and active sponsorship.  And let’s assume you have all of this.

Now let me ask you – how successful have you been in doing this?  Yes, I know you can point to significant successes that have been realised.  But take a deep, deep look at what has been achieved and compare it to what was planned.  Compare this to what is actually needed.  You will find gaps and, dare I suggest it, gaps there are larger than you would like.  Or maybe you have some anecdotal evidence of some success, but you do not have clear measures in place or those that are in place are not meaningful.

So you want to have better leaders, for both now and in the future.  You want the right people in the right place who have the skills and capabilities to take the business forward, both now and in the future.  Yet despite investing millions of dollars, thousands and thousands of man-hours, and dedicating the necessary resources, time and senior management support your efforts fail or, at best, are only partially successful.  I know this is not true for you (?), but take a deep and long look at your efforts and see what has really been achieved.  I suggest you may be taking an over-optimistic view.  I am not disparaging the effort that has been put in, or people’s intent – that is in place.  However, the efforts have been made either in conflicting directions, reducing their effaciousness, or even in the wrong direction.

In the USA, according to the American Society of Training and Development, U.S. businesses spend more than $170 billion dollars on leadership-based curriculum.  Yet despite this massive annual investment what is the return that is achieved?  Few companies measure this in a meaningful way, and of those that do few achieve a significant return

So why is this happening?

Why Leadership Training is Failing Leaders

There are five main reasons:

1. Leadership is a Choice, Not a Position

Companies spend considerable time and effort in testing and assessing people to identify the potential leaders.  Here is my first gripe.  How can you test for leadership?  You can’t.  Leadership is only apparent when people stand up and lead.  It is a choice.  I might have perfect pitch, an ability to follow music by ear, and a great pair of lungs but if I am not interested in playing the trumpet it does not mean I will be a great trumpet player.

I suspect many companies “test and assess” people for leadership because this is what they do for technical roles.  The thinking is that it has worked well for them there, so by extension it should work for leadership roles.  As a result of this companies spend significant money and time in trying to skill up those who have leadership “aptitude” (as tested for) but no “attitude” (no desire).  This has a double-impact with:

  • Many of those being developed lack the passion required to be a leader.  Investing   time, resources and money into such candidates is ineffective; it also means that the level and quality of leadership being developed is sub-par (as well as all the implications and costs of having poor leaders in place who are not able to lead effectively).
  • There being a significant opportunity-cost in that those who do have the passion, hunger and desire to be great leaders lack the opportunity to be fully developed.  Frustrated they will leave to work for other companies, including competitors, where they can grow.

2.  Leaders are Developed not Trained

Companies confuse training and development, using the terms interchangeably when they are not synonymous.  Here is why.

Training focuses on teaching people about the necessary systems, processes and techniques and, in doing so, assumes that these are correct.  It looks to standardise, and to acquiesce to “best practices” which are in themselves static as they represent a fixed goal. Training assumes a status quo and is not suitable for equipping people to deal with dynamic or volatile environments.  Leaders will try to avoid training because, quite rightly, they do not see it as supportive or developmental.

Herein lies the crux.

Leaders need to be developed. Leaders have to adjust to the new business reality, where they need to lead the business in a volatile, uncertain, ambiguous and complex world – and one which is becoming increasingly so.  To develop our leaders we need to help equip them to develop and grow themselves, and in turn to grow their teams and reports, to provide the agility, flexibility and speed to adapt and grow.  Training, to be frank, does not cut the mustard – it is one-dimensional, one-size-fits-all and static – it looks back, not ahead.

Developing leaders is challenging – because they want to be and need to be challenged.  In this dynamic environment the adage of “what got you here, won’t get you there” is increasingly true.  Leaders need to be proactive, not reactive.  They need learn experientially, expand their social and business networks to gain alternative perspectives, and they need on-going support in doing so.  Too often leaders are “trained and left”.  The erroneous belief being that now you have ticked the box and attended the course you can do it all, when it is apparent this is not the case.  This is especially true as leaders, at all levels of the business, have no prior experience on which to draw in working in this new business reality in which we exist.

As such, leaders have to be trailblazers to lead the business and its people into new territory – and to do this they need to be fully supported and provisioned, whilst being supported in learning how to live off the land as they progress.  You need to develop them and support them on a continuous basis.

3. Leaders are Unique – Not Standard

When developing leaders too many companies adopt a “cookie-cutter” approach, believing that a standardised process will produce a standard human output.  Yet every leader, or high potential, has reached their current position through a unique blend of education, experience and skills; and each has their own unique set of strengths and weaknesses.  This means that they need an individualised approach to their development to not only build on this, but also to recognise that what got them to their current position will rarely be sufficient or appropriate to taking them further.

In doing this you need to identify what are the business outcomes you are looking for, the metrics and the expected benefits and value you will realise from achieving the outcome.  There will be areas of development that are core to all leaders and high-potentials, but there is a sizeable portion which needs to be customised.  Broadly speaking this is a 80-20 split between common areas and personalised approaches, however the benefits are often more split 20-80 as dealing with the individual’s requirements has greater relevance, immediacy and effect in helping them achieve results.

4. Leaders Never Stop Learning, the “Level” of Leadership is Fluid

The idea that you can complete a course, or a fixed program, and “become a leader” is a misnomer.  Leaders, instinctively, are great self-learners looking to challenge themselves and others, and have the humility to know they never have all the answers.

Leaders progress not only in their position in the hierarchy, but in how they lead or their “level” of leadership – and as they stay and/or move with their position in the hierarchy so they can go up and down in their “level” of leadership  The idea of the Five Levels of Leadership (from  John Maxwell) is shown below:

5 Levels of Leadership

5 Levels of Leadership

1. Positionrights granted by the position and title.

2. Permission – People follow because they want to. Level 2 leadership is based entirely on relationships. You can like people without leading them, but you cannot lead people well without liking them.

3. Production – People follow because of what you have done for the organization. Level 3 leadership is based on results. This is the easiest place to plateau.

4. People Development – People follow because of what you have done for them personally. Leaders become great, not because of their power, but because of their ability to empower others. Level 4 is based on reproduction.

5. Pinnacle – People follow because of who you are and what you represent. Here leadership is based on reputation.

As such, as leaders oscillate between these different levels they will need to not only learn more, but also how to apply it.  This leads me to my last point.

5.  Leadership is a Verb & Active, Not a Noun & Passive

Leaders lead, they make decisions and they take action.  They are proactive and not reactive.  They produce a centrifugal force that draws people to them, and which often places them at the nexus of event.  Leaders not only learn from their experiences, but they apply what they learn.

Research varies in how effectively what is taught in leadership courses actually transfers to leadership practice. Some have suggested that knowledge transfer is as low as 10%. Other studies show the number closer to 60%. Others estimate that 20% to 30% of ideas learned in leadership training turn into practice. Whichever of these statistics you believe, it is clear that the investment in leadership training is not having the impact it could, or should.

Why is this?  My belief is that they many of the methods use are essentially passive, and are not practically applied or built into helping leaders improve how they work.  It is assumed that a process of osmosis will move theory to application, rather than building it into experiential learning and supporting its on-going application and use.

How Can We Stop Our Leaders from Failing

To develop a leader you need to understand three key things when learning:

  • Reason – what is it that they are learning? What is the underlying purpose?
  • Relevance – why is it important, and what is the relevance of it? They are especially time-poor, so they invest their time carefully.
  • Results – how can they use and apply what they have learnt to good effect?

As such they need to learn experientially – it allows them to apply what has been learnt, to fully comprehend it, and to build it into how they do work and, in doing so, to drive performance and results.  You need to develop your leaders, not train them.  You can train a sheep-dog, but training a leader is like trying to teach a sheep how to herd a flock – it will only end up following the herd rather than leading it.

So how will you identify, engage and develop your leaders?

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

3 Steps for Creating Meaning

What can we do to make work a place people want to be?

Too often we look at work as a place we go to, and where we can be found from Monday to  Friday for eight to nine hours a day.  This perspective, although true for the workplace in times gone by, is no longer valid or useful today.

Work or Vocation

Amy Wrzesniewski of Harvard Business School carried out a study of cleaning staff in a hospital. She was surprised at how people the viewed the same job differently. Some saw it as way to provide a pay check to pay the bills, while others considered their work to be a true calling. The difference lay in whether or not a worker had strayed from their formal job description and become involved in meaningful interactions and relationships with patients and visitors. Those who had done this found greater meaning in their work.

As one of the workers explained to Wrzesniewski, “I do everything I can to promote the healing of patients. Part of that is about creating clean and sterile spaces in which they can recover, but it also extends to anything else I can possibly do to facilitate healing.” When these workers identified with being a part of the overall care team, it completely transformed their work and identity.

Transactional or Transformational Staff

The two approaches above highlight the differences in the relationship your organization can have with your staff.

  • Transactional – here the focus is on being paid to do the work. Typically you have employees who show up to punch a time clock and who give only a fraction of their energy and effort to the organization’s mission.
  • Transformational – here the focus between the employee and the organization is on the relationship. The employees see meaning in what they do, and the employees go over and beyond what they need to do as they see what they do as contributing to something that is greater than just what they do.

Work for More Than a Living

Gallup conducted research on this topic. When workers across the United States were asked whether their lives were better off because of the organization they worked for, a mere 12 percent claimed that their lives were significantly better. The vast majority of employees felt their company was a detriment to their overall health and well-being.

Transactional relationships make it easy for companies to work someone to the point of burnout, knowing they can hire the next person in line. Everything from organizational hierarchies to compensation structures sends a simple message: you are replaceable.

Organizations need to move from a transactional approach to a transformational approach. We want engaged staff. The reality is this: what’s good for an employee is in the organization’s best interest as well. If you show up for work fully charged, it increases your engagement and leads to better interactions with your colleagues and customers. This is good for your peers, the people you serve, and the long-term interests of the organization.

A 2013 study of more than 12,000 workers worldwide found that employees who derive meaning and understand the importance of their work are more than three times as likely to stay with an organization. Author Tony Schwartz described how this one element has “the highest single impact of any variable” in a study that looked at many elements of a great workplace. Meaningful work was also associated with 1.7 times higher levels of overall job satisfaction. All of this delivers valuable benefits to the organization including the bottom-line.

So What Can You Do

Make your work, and that of your colleagues and report, a purpose – not a place. Help them understand what the greater purpose of the organization is, how they contribute to it, and how they can determine their progress in doing so.  You need to repeat this message continually, and you know they have begun to get it when they can articulate it for themselves.  Make the message clear, consistent and concise in language that they can both understand and relate to. Look to catch people doing the right things, and publicise their success. Most of all be prepared to let go so that they can work in a way that can transform themselves and your organization in successfully serving your customers.

To view or download a PDF version of this blog click here

Share your thoughts and ideas here, or email me at andrew.cooke@business-gps.com.au

If you found this article of use or interest please don’t hesitate to share it with others.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

Having Meaning & Profit

How meaning and progress drives engagement, the bottom-line and results.

Meaning is something you create, not something that is. Meaning is a powerful tool as it can help you from dwelling on factors and conditions that are beyond your control; and you can create a little meaning for yourself, and others, every day. This helps to give people better focus and a sense of control as they work on what they can influence. Meaning is central not just to your personal purpose and existence but also to that of your organization.

Meaning is also important as it increases the level of individual and collective engagement, and this has been proven to contribute directly to the bottom-line as well as providing other benefits. Meaning occurs not just in what you do, but in the progress you make in what you do. As such it is small wins that generates meaningful progress. Research from Harvard Business School’s Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer concluded: “Of all the events that engage people at work, the single most important — by far — is simply making progress in meaningful work.”

Meaning also provides intrinsic motivation and elevates your thinking above yourself and your own monetary needs. “Helping people focus on the meaning and impact of their work, rather than on, say, the financial returns it will bring, may be the best way to improve not only the quality of their work but also — counterintuitive though it may seem — their financial success” (Wrzesniewski).

Andrew’s 3 Steps for Creating Meaning

One of the most important elements of building a great career and life is attaching what you do each day to a broader mission. Until you understand how your efforts contribute to the world, you are simply going through the motions each day. Use these three steps for yourself, and your team, to create meaning by:

  1. Start by asking why your current job or role even exists. In most cases, jobs are created because they help another person, make a process more efficient, or produce something people need.
  2. Once you have identified how your efforts create a better life for others, consider what you could do to deliver a better product to the people you serve. This is the type of daily impact you can have in your interactions with your friends, family, colleagues, and customers. But it takes effort to determine exactly how your interactions charge the environment around you every day. Start by attaching meaning to small interchanges. Over time, you will be able to connect the dots between your efforts and a larger purpose.
  3. Identify one or two key actions that you can take, every day, which will help you to create the daily impact you are looking for.

Work on this for yourself, share it with your team and colleagues and get them to share theirs with you in turn. Work with each other to keep yourselves on track so that you can make these actions into new positive habits.

To view or download a PDF version of this blog click here

Share your thoughts and ideas here, or email me at andrew.cooke@business-gps.com.au

If you found this article of use or interest please don’t hesitate to share it with others.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

 

How to Handle Stress

A simple lesson for managing your stress. 

I’d like to share a short story I came across a long time ago. While it is short, the story is full of insights, learning, and wisdom.

“A psychologist walked around a room while teaching stress management to an audience. As she raised a glass of water, everyone expected they’d be asked the “half empty or half full” question. Instead, with a smile on her face, she inquired: “How heavy is this glass of water?” Answers called out ranged from 8 oz. to 20 oz. 

She replied, “The absolute weight doesn’t matter. It depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute, it’s not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I’ll have an ache in my arm. If I hold it for a day, my arm will feel numb and paralyzed. In each case, the weight of the glass doesn’t change, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes.” 

She continued, “The stresses and worries in life are like that glass of water. Think about them for a while and nothing happens. Think about them a bit longer and they begin to hurt. And if you think about them all day long, you will feel paralyzed – incapable of doing anything.” It’s important to remember to let go of your stresses. As early in the evening as you can, put all your burdens down. Don’t carry them through the evening and into the night. Remember to put the glass down!?

So what can we learn from this?

Stress is dependent on two things. Firstly, how you frame the situation you are in will inform how you might experience it. Secondly, how you actually experience is a matter of your choice. So if you don’t like the results you are getting, then change your choice.  Looking to change the results you are getting without changing what you are doing, without taking action, is pointless. Change requires action, change without action is just wishful thinking.

To view or download a PDF version of this blog click here.

Share your thoughts and ideas here, or email me at andrew.cooke@business-gps.com.au

If you found this article of use or interest please don’t hesitate to share it with others.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

3 Factors for Fast Prioritization

The three factors by which to prioritize quickly and easily.

People, when listing their top issues, often include time management as the cause of many of the problems.  This is not an issue.

Put plainly, the issue of time management is a fallacy.  We all have 24 hours a day, 168 hours a week and 61,320 hours a year.  No more, no less.  The underlying problem for what people call ‘time management’ is the ability to prioritise and making choices.  If something is important to you, then you may choose to do something about it – conversely, you may not.  Importance does not equate to action – how many times have you procrastinated over something even if it was of importance?

You need to establish your priorities, for that you need to have clear criteria so that you can properly assess between your options.  One way that I use is to apply 3 criteria:

  • Seriousness – how important is the matter that you are evaluating (1=Low, 5=Average, 10=High);
  • Urgency – how quickly does this matter need to be attended to; is there a window of opportunity that it needs to be addressed in (1=Low, 5=Average, 10=High);
  • Growth – if you do nothing then will the matter get worse, stay the same or improve (1=Improve, 5=Stay the Same, 10=Worsen)

Score each item for each of the 3 criteria out of 10.  Multiply the 3 numbers – this will give you a value which you can compare with that of the items being evaluated so that you can initially establish the relative priorities of all the items.

Once you have established your priorities you then choose which ones to address or not.  It is your choice, no-one else’s.  So step up, make your choice and be honest with yourself – you have made your choice, so take responsibility for it.  If you choose to work late and miss your child’s first concert then be prepared to take the consequences, whatever they may be.

Time management is not the problem – the real problem is you setting your priorities and making your choices.  Only you can determine them, so let’s be honest and not blame an imaginary problem of time management.

What do you feel?  How do you prioritise and make your choices?  Share your ideas, insights and experience!  Share the knowledge, share the wealth.

To view or download a PDF version of this blog click here

Share your thoughts and ideas here, or email me at andrew.cooke@business-gps.com.au

If you found this article of use or interest please don’t hesitate to share it with others.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

The 1 Thing Most People Want from Their Boss

How you can improve employee commitment and engagement by demonstrating respect?

A recent Forbes article revealed that 65% percent of people would rather have a different boss than a raise!

Take that in for a moment; people would trade money for a better boss. Furthermore, a recent study by Harvard Business Review of 20,000 employees around the world found that the most important things managers want from their managers is respect.

So as a leader how do you demonstrate and provide respect to your people?

Here are a number of things you can do:

  • Goals – be clear on what you want them to do and achieve. What are their goals and how do they contribute to a greater purpose? Make sure you are clear on how this fits into what you are looking to achieve.
  • Learning – help your staff understand what they need to learn, and why, so they can perform to the best of their ability.  You also need to ensure that they have the necessary access to the skills development and support in developing the necessary capabilities and capacity.
  • Communication – help them to communicate with you. In doing this make sure your people are not only able to communicate with you, but that you create an environment where they can take the initiative and responsibility for communicating and engaging with you.
  • Empathy – help people to understand where you are coming from, and actively listen to understand where they are coming from. In doing so help them to understand what your priorities and why they are important. Look to help them align them with the goals of your business.
  • Relationships – respect is based on knowing and understanding each other. Help people to understand how they ‘fit’ into the team and contribute. Help them to answer for themselves the question “How can I help?” This allows you and them to develop the necessary insights, advice, and understanding on how you can both work together most effectively.
  • Feedback – you need to provide timely and regular feedback to others as to how they are performing and how they can improve.
  • Reflection – take time out to reflect and think about how you are working with others, and how they may perceive you as a result.

You may be the boss, but everything with your people runs along a two-way street. Being a boss does not give you respect, you have to earn it. These tips will help you to develop the respect that you need to have to operate with the active support and endorsement of your people.

So what are the benefits of this? Well, no other leader behavior had a bigger effect on employees. Being treated with respect is more important to employees than recognition and appreciation, communicating an inspiring vision, providing useful feedback — even opportunities for learning, growth, and development.

Those that get respect from their leaders reported 56% better health and well-being, 1.72 times more trust and safety, 89% greater enjoyment and satisfaction with their jobs, 92% greater focus and prioritization, and 1.26 times more meaning and significance. Those that feel respected by their leaders were also 1.1 times more likely

So, in improving how your people perceive they are treated with respect, how are you going to do this and what are you going to do first? Now is the perfect time to start!

To view or download a PDF version of this blog click here

Share your thoughts and ideas here, or email me at andrew.cooke@business-gps.com.au

If you found this article of use or interest please don’t hesitate to share it with others.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.