Improving Your Leadership Skills

the one thing to create a multiplier effect for your leadership skills

There are a broad number of leadership skills that you are expected to have and to develop. However, this takes time and effort and you cannot develop these skills in a classroom. You have to develop them in real-time and quickly.

The “key leadership skills” that are commonly cited include: inspiring and motivating others, problem-solving, delivering results, good communication, driving innovation and strategy, providing direction and goals, developing others, internal and external relationship building….

So how can you develop these skills quickly and effectively, and in a way that leverages your experience and helps you to improve what you are doing?

Simple. Ask questions!

In a blog post by Johannes Bayer he looks at some of the key questions that you might ask for each of these key leadership skills.  I have included his ideas here (thank you, Johannes!).

In a nutshell, the process is:

  1. Define the skill you want to improve
  2. Create a list of many questions you can use to demonstrate this skill
  3. Narrow the list down to a handful of key questions.

The questions should help you elicit ideas for yourself and from others to: generate and gain insights; to expand your thinking and that of others; to generate new ideas and thinking; to leverage your experience; to help you gain traction and overcome inertia; to challenge the status quo; and to learn.

For the key skill, you are looking to improve what are the top 3-5 questions from your list which will have the greatest effect for you and others?

Here are a few examples too of how this might look like

To improve this skill You may want to ask questions like these
Inspiring and motivating others
  • If I gave you 4 hours each week to work on anything you like what would it be?
  • What roadblocks can I remove for you?
  • If you could change 1 thing to make you happier at work: what would it be?
Problem-Solving
  • What exactly is the problem? Why is it a problem? How big is it?
  • Has someone else solved this problem already? If yes, how can we use this?
Delivering Results
  • What are the key factors that influence the results I need to deliver (data, process, people, turnover, price, customer satisfaction….)?
  • How does world class performance look like and how do we compare?
Good Communication
  • What questions should I have asked but did not?
  • Let me understand your communication preferences: what are they?
  • What questions/comments do you have for me?
Driving Innovation and Strategy
  • If you had to do this in half the time / with half the funds / half the resources / … how would it work?
  • What does the customer value that’s not in our product?
  • What is in our product that the customer does not value?
Providing Direction and Goals
  • What is the #1 goal to focus on this year?
  • What are priorities vs sideshows?
  • What should guide all decisions we make ($, quality, client satisfaction, data…)?
Developing Others
  • Which of your skills are we not using?
  • What have I done today to develop others?
  • If you were in my place, what would you do?
  • How do you add value around here?
Internal and External Relationship-Building
  • What questions can I ask colleagues / clients to get into a deep, meaningful conversation right away?
  • What was the achievement that makes you most proud this year?
  • What key challenges are you working on right now?

Use this approach to help you develop your leadership skills.  Even more importantly, share this approach with your peers and reports – a great leader helps others to surpass himself or herself. So what have you found of most value in this blog post? What will you do as a result?  Share this here and we can learn from each other!

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 Three Areas of Leadership Focus

Self-focus, others focus and a wider world focus

The Three Areas of Leadership Focus Being a leader is continually demanding role. To be effective you not only need to know what to focus on, but also what to not focus on.  This is made more complex is that you need focus on and understand yourself, your people or team, and the business environment in which you operate.

Self-focus and others focus on developing your emotional intelligence, and a wider world focus develops your strategic, management and innovation thinking and capacity.

To develop your self-focus you need to develop your self-awareness and your self-control. Your self-awareness is being aware of your ‘inner voice’ and self-control is about keeping and maintaining your attention where it is needed. To develop your self-awareness you need to develop your ability to interpret your gut instinct, whilst also being authentic – being able to look at yourself objectively and compare that to how others perceive you.

To improve your others focus is about focusing your attention on other people, not yourself, and to do this you need to build your empathy and create relationships.  There are three distinct types of empathy:

  • Cognitive empathy—the ability to understand another person’s perspective
  • Emotional empathy—the ability to feel what someone else feels
  • Empathic concern—the ability to sense what another person needs from you

You need all three types of empathy and to be able to draw on them as and when you need. This helps you to build strong relationships with other people and helps you to have influence.

Finally, developing a wider world focus helps you develop your strategic thinking and allows you to pursue new ways forward, and to spot and take advantage of opportunities and changes before others. This is especially important as the business environment is becoming increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous; this has meant that you can no longer get the same results from what you have always done. You need to change and anticipate the changes.  So type of focus also needs you to develop your creative thinking which includes that you have:

  • Vigilance – that you remain alert for relevant information while immersing yourself in all kinds of input
  • Selective attention – you focus on one thing while filtering out everything else
  • Open awareness – when you keep yourself open to new possibilities as you explore the environment around you.

Each of the three areas of focus – self, others and the wider world – comes together for the greatest effect.  Do this for yourself, but also help others to develop their focus in each of the three areas – this will provide you with leverage and opportunities!

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.

Using Peer Pressure to Create Alignment

How to design and create peer pressure to align people and efforts.

Peer Pressure

Peer pressure is a useful way to get people to work together.  A working definition of peer pressure for the purpose of this is:

“Peer pressure is the influence exerted by a peer group or an individual, encouraging other individuals to change their attitudes, values, or behaviors in order to conform to group norms”.

In other words, the group or individual(s) are looking for their peers to behave in a desired manner to achieve given outcomes.

Key Steps to Creating Peer Pressure

1. What is the peer group? – for what group of peers are you looking to create peer pressure for?  Be clear on who they are.  If the people identified to belong to different groups then you will not be able to work with a group who have commonality – these may be in terms of roles, responsibilities, position etcetera.

2. Identify the outcomes you are looking for – what is it you want the peer group to achieve?  Be specific.  The tighter the description of what you are trying to achieve the better.

3. What behaviors are you looking for? – this works in two parts:

a. Desired behaviors – what are the behaviors that you want the group to exemplify and demonstrate in working to achieve the desired key outcomes.

b. Undesired behaviors – what behaviors do you not want to see portrayed by the group which, if they occur, will be subjected to peer pressure from the group to make the individual(s) conform to the desired behaviors.

4. Determine the metrics:

a. Outcomes – how will you measure your progress in achieving the outcomes you are looking to realize; how will you know when you have got it?  The metrics used need to be meaningful, relevant and commonly shared and understood by the peer group.

b. Behaviors – what will people be doing that need to be exemplified and demonstrated in achieving the desired outcomes.

5. Establish the process – make sure there is a clear process to guide and assist the group to achieve the outcomes and exhibit the desired behavior.  This process should align people with what is wanted and set the desired expectations.  Furthermore, this process should help to make the situation visible and tangible so those impacted can see what is happening.  Furthermore, the process should make clear:

The benefits to every one of adhering to the process

A. The costs to everyone if one or more people do not keep to the process.

B. The costs to everyone if one or more people do not keep to the process.

Case Study

The Situation

A company I worked with had a number of teams working on a variety of different projects at the same time.  The reports that were written, based on fieldwork, took time and effort to develop and needed to be cross-checked and submitted to a quality control process.  This involved a small report processing team of people who liaised with the team leaders.  A key aspect of this was for all team leaders to inform the report-processing team on upcoming work for the next week.  This allowed them to schedule the workload and ensure that the work was properly prioritized.

The Problem

Several of the team leaders, despite repeated requests, were either late in submitting the information or did not pass it on at all.  This caused problems for both the report-processing team who were given the work at the last minute, with no prior consultation, and then had to try to fit it into the workload that had already been scheduled.  This caused them difficulties and could also adversely affect the work of those team leaders who had informed the report-processing team of their upcoming work requirements promptly.

Developing Peer Pressure to Help in Solving the Problem

Step 1: Determine the Peer Group

This is the team leaders in charge of the field teams which compile the information used to create the report.

Step 2, 3 & 4. What are the Desired Outcomes, Desired Behaviours & Metrics?

Creating Peer Pressure - Case Study

Step 5: – The Process

The report-processing team developed a report which highlighted who had submitted information, when (whether on-time or late), for which project and the principal responsible.  All information was to have been submitted by midday on Friday.  Anything coming in after that was regarded as late and was detailed in the report that was emailed to all team leaders, their reports and the principals to whom the team leaders reported.

Sample of the Project Information Update Status Report

Creating Peer Pressure - Case Study Report

The report was sent out with a message to highlight the benefits of conforming to the group and the costs of non-conformance.  This was to help stimulate and direct peer pressure.

Sample Text

“Please find below the information submission report.  As you are aware providing us with the necessary information when required helps us to schedule the resources to ensure that reports are produced on time and to standards.

Please note that delays in submitting your information will not only make it difficult to schedule your work, and may cause delay, but may also negatively impact the work of your colleagues.  Please help them by submitting the information on time.

Currently, 60% of projects are supplying information on time; this is a standard expected of 100%.  There are four projects for which we lack information, some of which are significantly overdue.  Please help us to address these outstanding projects so we can help you effectively”.

By doing this it made everything visible and tangible. It identified trends and patterns in what people were doing, created peer pressure by highlighting those who were not conforming against a background of everyone conforming, and made it difficult for people to maintain non-conforming behavior.

Try this for yourself.  Use the five steps to create the process to help you achieve the desired outcomes and behaviors which will be encouraged by the resulting peer pressure.

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3 Requirements for High Employee Engagement

Sustainable Engagement

Are your people really engaged in their work or not?  What does current research tell us? What are the implications of the results?

Falling levels of engagement are leading indicators that your business is likely to experience a fall in productivity, a decline in customer service, and increasing rates of absenteeism and employee turnover.

Disengagement, in all its forms, is a real risk to the organization’s productivity and performance. This is especially important in increasing competitive and volatile times, especially as organizations downsize with reduced workforces having to do more with less.

The 3 Elements of Sustainable Engagement

Tower Watson describes sustainable engagement describes the intensity of employees’ connection to their organization, based on three core elements:

  • The extent of employees’ discretionary effort committed to achieving work goals (being engaged)
  • An environment that supports productivity in multiple ways (being enabled)
  • A work experience that promotes well-being (feeling energized)

Traditional engagement

  • Belief in company goals and objectives
  • Emotional connection (pride, would recommend employer)
  • Willingness to give extra effort to support success

Enablement

  • Freedom from obstacles to success at work
  • Availability of resources to perform well
  • Ability to meet work challenges effectively

Energy

  • Ability to maintain energy at work
  • Supportive social environment
  • Feelings of enthusiasm/accomplishment at work

How Engaged are You & Your Team?

A study by Towers Watson in 2012 shows that only one in three employees are highly engaged – the rest are unsupported, detached or disengaged.  These types of engagement and whether people in each category are engaged, enabled or energized is shown below.

Types of Engagement & Attributes Mix

Types of Engagement & Attributes Mix

Global Levels of Engagement (Tower Watson, 2012)

2012 Global Levels of Engagement On average, only one in three of your employees are engaged – the rest are not sustainably engaged.

About one in five is engaged but lack the necessary support to perform and/or a feeling of achievement and support at work.

Nearly one in five is detached – they have the support they need to perform, and the feeling of achievement and energy, but they are not aligned and engaged with their work.

One in four is disengaged – they are not engaged, energized or enabled in their work.  As such they are unhappy in their work, and use your business as the means by which to share their unhappiness to other employees, clients and others.

What Does This Mean for Organisations?

Organisations need to take the time and make the effort to understand their people and where the engagement gaps are that need to be addressed.  To help engage people, and to create performance and the realization of the right outcomes and productivity you need to ensure:

  1. You have the right people
  2. Who are using the right tools, who have
  3. Access to the development of the skills and behaviours they need

So what are you going to do, and where can you work first to have the greatest impact?  Your people are your biggest asset not on your balance sheet – so invest in them!

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

3 Ways to Meet the Faster Pace of Business

It.is not how fast business goes that matters, it is how and if you can keep up!

The pace of doing business is speeding up not slowing down.

Each year the pressure grows on all areas of a business including its people, cash-flow, leadership, innovation, business models, technologies and ability to implementation strategies successfully. This pressure can lead to issues arising across the business that ultimately impact its overall growth and profit potential.

Standing back from all the specific issues stemming from this ‘high pace’ of doing business most can quickly be related back to the in-ability to implement ‘change’ successfully.

So what does a business leader or owner do? What are the strategies that should be implemented to ‘adjust’ the business and its people to this NEW normal environment for doing business?

Here are three strategies that can assist businesses and teams cope with the high pace of doing business:

Strategy 1 – Focus on Micro tasks
Think back to the last planning session you had or project team you were involved in. What was the nature of the strategies / actions that were set? Were they quite broad or were they very specific outlining the steps that need to be taken. Too often planning sessions lead to broad statements such as: ‘Do a marketing plan’, ‘Refine our sales process’ or ‘Fix that problem’ but rarely outline HOW to achieve those outcomes or the micro steps / tasks required. This leads to teams either heading down the wrong paths or not starting to change at all.

The simple solution when you see this occurring is to keep breaking down the broad task into micro tasks that highlight the HOW and the steps required to reach the desired outcome. Try this simple strategy in your next planning session and you instantly see the benefits.

Strategy 2 – Provide just-in-time learning
Sending teams to two day residential training sessions to learn new skills are slowly becoming a thing of the past. There is certainly still a need to hold those types of events in specific situation but 5-7 years ago every training event was a two day off-site with little accountability to the new learning acquired or how it would be implemented. The retention of new learning was thus very low and too often forgotten (until a need arose and the learning had to be acquired again!).

To obtain the skills to address specific issues in this fast paced business world you need to shift the thinking of your people to ‘just-in-time’ learning. This means that as a need arises to address a specific issue (such as understanding the strengths / weakness’ of your competitors as part of a marketing strategy) the focus should be on putting time in your schedule to learn that skill in 30-60 minutes via an online learning platform or quick internal training session and then applying it in the field quickly. The retained learning is much higher with this approach as there is immediately application of the learning. Best of all a solution to the issue is provided straight away to allow momentum to continue with the desired ‘change’ or ‘new strategy’.

Strategy 3 – Capture and track your strategies / actions using innovative technologies
How often have you gone to reflect on a strategy you development months ago and then had to spend hours searching through your emails, journals, files or go and follow-up a team member to get yourself up to speed again with the discussions that occurred and actions that were confirmed. Even if you have a good discipline of having ‘One Page Plans’ operating in your business (and even pasted to your office wall) it can still waste many hours in your day searching for the detailed plans you have developed or putting yourself back in the same ‘head-space’ you were in to reflect on the next steps you should take.

To assist this process and speed up your pace of implementing strategies it’s critical in any modern business to be using the latest cloud technologies / applications to help you track projects and tasks. What are you currently using in your business? Nothing? There are a lot of great, cost-effective options available. The time savings and productivity gains will be felt immediately and free you up to be focusing on the growth and profit of your business.

While these three strategies are not a magic bullet they do help you adapt both you and your teams approach to allow you to implement change much more effectively in this fast-paced business environment.

To assist this process we provide all our clients’ access to GPS-Mindshop Online. GPS-Mindshop Online allows you to capture and track in one location all your strategies, actions and professional development which are only visible by you and your advisor. Your advisor can then provide confidential support and solutions drawn from hundreds of tools, courses and resources within GPS-Mindshop Online.

GPS-Mindshop Online is a fantastic way to help leaders speed up their pace of implementation to give them back valuable time to focus on the growth and profit of their business.

If you would like to discuss how we can assist you implement change more effectively in your business please email us to arrange a call or meeting. In the meantime, check out the overview videos for GPS-Mindshop Online at http://www.business-gps.com.au/gps_videos.

 

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

How to Change Challenges into Questions to Find Solutions

The power of changing your challenges into questions

Tell me:  “What challenges do you face currently?”

Challenges AheadThis is not a rhetorical question, think about it and spend 5-10 minutes writing them down.  Do this with your colleagues.  As a group defines what your top 3 challenges. Only then read on. It will be worth it.

You now have a list of key challenges.  Look at them.  My money is on that most, if not all, of your challenges, are “out there” and not “in here”.  For example, we have challenges to do with the market, with senior management, our reports, our suppliers, our customer’s etcetera.

Funny that – have you noticed that we are never part of the problem?  If this is not ringing alarm bells for you then it should.  If we see our challenges as external to us then we are admitting two things:

  1. We lack ownership of the challenge and we are prepared to abrogate our responsibility in taking on the challenge, and secondly,
  2. We are adopting a fixed mindset in that it is the external factor that needs to be changed, not us.  As such, it reduces our opportunity to learn and develop from the situation, and to realize the associated benefits.

So how can we turn this around?

Using Questions

Take your top three challenge statements and change them into questions.  This has two powerful and helpful effects:

  1. Asking questions elicits answers – and within those answers are strategies for actually carrying out the work.
  2. Questions inspire thoughts about our intrinsic motivations for successfully meeting the challenge.  As such, intrinsic motivation is more powerful than extrinsic incentives in moving people and driving results or outcomes.

To do this is not as easy as it sounds, and it often takes longer to do than expected as there is a much sharper focus on the issue at hand. It also makes us responsible for the challenge and to identify, develop and implement the solution.

Question-Goals – Identifying Solutions, Not the Problems

Challenge Statement Challenge Question
Difficulty in retaining key skilled staff How can we use the skills of our key people so that they are engaged, challenged and contribute to our business goals?
We have too much to do, and too little to do it with What are our customers’ key needs and how does that affect our priorities?
Difficult to plan in such an uncertain business environment What are our core skills and competencies and how can we employ them effectively in a variety of alternative scenarios?

So, start the year, and continue to review during the year, by looking at your challenges and turning them into questions.  Cascade this approach throughout the business and you may be surprised at the impact!

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How Starbucks Demonstrated Leadership During Hard Times

Millions of people and businesses have been impacted, directly or indirectly, by the recent stockmarket drops in China and elsewhere. It is a cause of concern with over $1 trillion being wiped from Asian markets recently, the Dow Jones Industrial Average being sent plunging, as well as in other markets.

Starbucks’ CEO Howard Schultz decided to do something about it. He proceeded to address some major concerns – not directly to customers, but rather, to his employees (these are known as “partners” in Starbucks parlance).

All 190,000 of them.

Here is the brief memo that appeared in the Washington Post.

To: Starbucks partners; managing directors for company-operated and joint venture markets
Date: August 24, 2015

Re: Message from Howard: Leading Through Turbulent Times

Dear Partners,

During our 23-year history as a public company, we have experienced–and successfully navigated through–several periods of extreme stock market volatility. And although we are not immune from the global stock market selloff that has now made its way to Wall Street, my confidence in our company and in all of you has never been greater. We are in the midst of another record-setting year – combining our unique “third place” in-store experience with highly relevant coffee and tea innovation and differentiated customer-facing mobile and digital technologies. We are making a profound social impact in the communities we serve around the world, and will continue to do so today and into the future.

Our company has weathered many different types of storms. But our brand has never been stronger or more relevant. Our pipeline of new products and breakthrough innovation has never been more robust. And our long term commitment to delivering an elevated partner experience is unwavering. I can assure you that we will continue to lead and manage the company through the lens of humanity, doing everything we possibly can to continue to make your families proud of our company and all we stand for. You have my word on this.

Today’s financial market volatility, combined with great political uncertainty both at home and abroad, will undoubtedly have an effect on consumer confidence and perhaps even our customers’ attitudes and behavior. Our customers are likely to experience an increased level of anxiety and concern. Please recognize this and–as you always have–remember that our success is not an entitlement, but something we need to earn, every day. Let’s be very sensitive to the pressures our customers may be feeling, and do everything we can to individually and collectively exceed their expectations.

Our growth plans for the future of our company will not be impacted by the turmoil of the financial markets. We will positively manage through today’s challenging environment just as we have positively navigated through challenging moments in the past. The experience we deliver in our stores, the strength and equity of our brand, and the primary reason for our current and future success is because of all of YOU. I believe in you and have never been prouder to be your partner.

Onward,
Howard

In this brief memo Shultz did a number of things:

  1. Expressed pride and confidence in the achievements of Starbucks and its employees (paragraph 1)
  2. Provided strong, unwavering leadership and personal commitment to all employees (paragraph 2)
  3. Encouraged employees to reach out and show special concern for customers , and that Starbucks earns success from its customers (paragraph 3)
  4. Reassured employees that Starbucks and its employees would weather the storm as it has weathered other storms previously, and that current future success is because of the employees (paragraph 4)

Shultz did this in just 382 words! Brief, concise and effective. If you were a Starbucks partner how would you feel reading this?

My question for you is this: what can you do for your employees and customers to provide them with the support, confidence and direction they need? How will you lead through turbulent times?

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.