The subject of return on investment is always a bit touchy with training groups. There are so many intangibles that could impact ROI such as adoption, management buy in, and so on. With Performance Leadership it is not a question of whether there is ROI but how much?
One Company's Story
With an oil and gas company there was a need around building a culture based on metrics. They did not know how to go about doing this and so I had the chance to work with their team. We established a base line of performance that worked out to around 52% daily. I taught the leadership and crews how to measure their activities as they related to the overall performance of the team and how they could incrementally drive performance up. By the end of the engagement daily performance was averaging 93%!
But How Do You Measure ROI?
One of the outcomes of the Operational Excellence method is crews learn the value of a minute. That is to say that they calculated what a minute of downtime cost the company. For this group it was $642 for each minute of downtime. It was a simple measure that was easy for crews to understand. They knew that a one percent improvement in efficiency was equivalent to a decrease in downtime of 14.4 minutes. Multiply that number by what a minute of downtime cost and each percent saved the company $9245! Moving from 52% to 93% daily efficiency amounted to a daily savings of almost $380,000! Now of course there are a number of factors that could move that number up or down but the fact was when the crews began to see the numbers and found a "placeholder" to use as a measure they were eager to strive for daily improvements. Clients took note of the change in character and work of the crews and new contracts were added too!
How to Face Tight Times
Another oil and gas company who had applied Operational Excellence to their crews and leadership had also done quite well. Savings were being made, crews were engaged and there was a general sense of having a unified and common understanding of how things were going from front line to the executive offices. When the downturn hit the executive presented a much lower ops budget to the crews and a challenge to come up with cost savings ideas. Applying the principles of Operational Excellence, they not only came up with cost saving ideas but also income producing ones as well! In a year when the ops budget had been slashed drastically the crews were coming in significantly UNDER budget! It was a win win for everyone!
These Results Are Not Unique
There are many stories like the one above. What’s more we haven't even touched on areas like employee retention and the savings made when staff stay rather than leave, or the application of behavior based safety programs which are a natural expression of Operational Excellence and the savings to companies in terms of a reduction in lost days due to fewer accidents and so on.
If your leadership training programs cannot demonstrate ROI that you can quantify and measure my question is how do you know what value are they giving you? Performance Leadership - Think About It!
Lesson From A Wise Man
My father in-law passed away one year ago this week. He was a man who had become wise through many years of service and commitment to his community and family. He taught me many things including servant leadership. Even in his few remaining months and days before he passed away he was always keen to find a project to work on. In fact the greatest loss he experienced was the day he realized that he could no longer work on a project. This moment is indelibly etched in my mind as the most powerful lesson he ever taught me; the power and place that purpose plays in our lives.
He has always been a "doer" and a handyman and the guy you could count on to help out. In the course of his long and fruitful life he learned many skills from mechanics to carpentry. He is a pastor which I suspect was a natural outgrowth of his purpose which was found in helping others. He taught many of our children to drive and how to change the oil on the car. Always a friend and always willing to listen and share some wisdom. These were the things that kept him going and gave him purpose.
I saw this as an expression of the deep seated need we all share with regard to having a purpose. Take away someone’s purpose and you rob them of an essential part of their identity and you indeed rob them of hope. The lesson I observed in his life is how crucial it is for a person to have purpose and for a leader to be supportive with their people regarding this need.
We All Have A Purpose
There is much research on this issue. The Association for Psychological Science has posted a study that shows that having people develop and know their purpose in life will actually have a beneficial health effect and add years to their life. Many great thinkers and humanitarians have addressed the issue of purpose as well. Helen Keller said; "True happiness... is not attained through self-gratification, but through fidelity to a worthy purpose." In another quote Sharon Angle states "There is a plan and a purpose, a value to every life, no matter what its location, age, gender or disability."
What Is Your Purpose?
You must know your purpose and you must lead others to understand theirs. You may look at what you do or what they do as just a job but a true leader will clear away the mundane to reveal the greater purpose in even the most trivial of tasks. When the Archbishop of Paris came to watch the construction of the Notre Dame Cathedral he chatted with a few of the stone masons. He would ask them what their role was and what they were doing. Most would say I am cutting stones for the front entrance or the walls of the chapel but one caught his attention when he replied "I am part of building something that will bring glory to God and will be enjoyed by generations to come!" All were stone masons but only one could see his "purpose" with clarity. What would your company or unit or team achieve if everyone had that stone masons perspective on the work they do?
Here is a challenge for you. We all know that a job is a job is a job. But a truly great leader will help their team see that job as so much more and will help them connect that to a purpose. What is your purpose? The purpose of those in your company or on your team? So I say thank you to my father in-law for reminding me of the power of purpose. Performance Leadership - Think About It!
This is one of the most powerful examples of what an effective leadership skill can look like in a real life setting. I call it counter intuitive because it screams against the flow of "conventional" wisdom that will constantly put pressure on you to put your interests and career advancement ahead of others. That will tell you to fill up your cup and take what you can in case someone else gets there first.
No, and again I say no! Empty your cup, give of yourself to your team and others, make it a habit and don't ever hesitate to step up when you see an opening. You want to communicate to your team that you are a leader who cares? You want a team that would walk across burning coals for you (sorry Tony Robbins, no pun intended) then empty your cup into them and watch them transform. Simple, powerful and effective. Performance Leadership - Think About It!
If this sounds like a strange question to you then please read on! Visioning is THE most important task you have as a leader. It is the time you give yourself to put away all the cares and interruptions of the day to take stock and to spend some time reviewing your vision for your team or company. This can be a daily time or at the very least a weekly time but it is a time that you should be carving out of your schedule for yourself.
Make Time For Yourself
You should plan this time for when you are at your "peak". What I mean by that is we all have a time of day when we get our best work done. We are focussed and on task and we can get more done during that time than any other time of day. For me that is usually between four and six in the morning. For others, they are night owls. Winston Churchill would write between eleven at night and two in the morning. What ever the case for you make sure your vision time is when you are at your best.
Just What Is Visioning?
I am sure by now you are asking yourself just what is "visioning?" Visioning is the action of stepping back and looking at your role, your team, your goals from a distance. It is the deliberate act of stepping away from the distractions of the day and giving yourself some quiet time to think, review and yes, dream. Too often we spend our days as the O&G guys put it; "Head down, ass up and in four wheel low!" Forgive the crudeness but it does paint an accurate picture of what leadership and management can become - lost in the tyranny of the urgent, swamped with minutia and details and fires to put out and certainly no time to step back and take stock. Taking time for yourself is important.
Scott Barry Kaufman, the scientific director of the University of Pennsylvania's Imagination Institute, and Carolyn Gregoire, a senior writer at the Huffington Post, write in Harvard Business Review about how solitude helps drive creativity. "Great thinkers and leaders throughout history--from Virginia Woolf to Marcel Proust to Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak--have lauded the importance of having a metaphorical room of one's own,"
How Performance Leadership Helps
This is where Performance Leadership is invaluable. The key component of this type of leadership is the work of teaching and letting your team or company take on tasks that one would typically consider management or leadership type activities. As they track their metrics and communicate with one another with regard to results they begin to take ownership of what is happening as part of that engagement it means you will have everyone watching out for the team goals and performance and not just you. The increased communication means that information flows readily to you rather than you having to seek it out and usually issues will already arrive at your desk with solutions. That is what a high performing team will behave like and what that means is that you will actually have more time to devote to examining and refining the "bigger picture."
The bottom line is that it is not "selfish" or "anti-social" to build that alone time into your schedule. You owe it to your team or company and yourself to spend that time visioning. You will be clearer about where you and they need to go and they will benefit from that vision. Performance Leadership - Think About It!
Companies have spent literally billions on assets such as equipment, software, buildings and so on. We have arrived at a place where most companies are able to be on equal footing with their competitors in terms of these issues. Yet - in the one area where they could absolutely step ahead of the competition, in the one area where their investment would see immediate and tangible returns many companies quite simply are failing. They either fail because they don't recognize the vital need this represents or because they see it but only pay lip service to providing it. I am talking of course about enhancing their leadership!
Need What Need?
Many companies simply don't believe they have a need in this respect. They take the position that those capable technical people that they have elevated into leadership come with the prerequisite skills to lead. Nothing could be further from the truth. Eight of ten people who move into leadership and fail do so because they did not have those skills and were not given the opportunity to receive training in those skills. Moreover, they take their cues from the leaders above them who also have never been trained to lead. It may be comfortable but it is not leadership and it is not performance! Gallup did research in Germany where over 90% of leaders and managers thought they did a good job. Yet when their staff were interviewed fewer than 50% got a "competent" rating. Germany is not unique in this respect - just saying!
We Provide Our Leaders With Training - Really!
These are the companies that understand there is a need but either only provide lip service through training that is perfunctory at best or just plain far removed from the realities their leaders face. They provide courses that do little to connect with the needs of their leader teams and courses that they cannot measure in terms of tangible ROI for them. When was the last time you brought in training for leadership that actually required the trainees to measure and track their performance with respect to what they were learning and applying? Never would be the correct answer. Leadership training that cannot be clearly connected to the job and the company and which cannot demonstrate value added is training that is simply part of going through the motion of checking it off on someone’s personnel file. Nothing will change because regardless of what a company may say this kind of training reveals a lack of intent or understanding about why leadership development is important.
We Know Our Leaders Are Trained!
In this situation companies have invested and are committed to the improvement of their leadership. They either look for or develop programs that connect directly to the company purpose and the work that the leaders and their teams are doing. They are not afraid to tie accountability to this training so that they can ask and be shown how the training is making improvements with leadership and how that is impacting the company bottom line. They value the training because they have given it a clear mandate and purpose that is tied to the company mission.
If the type of training listed in the previous paragraph seems foreign to you or if you are feeling uneasy about the value of the current training being provided to your leadership or if you are not doing any training at all then let me invite you to explore a Certificate in Performance Leadership. With this program you will be able to remove all uncertainty, find clarity and know, really know that your leaders and their teams are not only improving but improving the company with them. Performance Leadership - Think About It.
I am going to put you on the spot, take a look around at your team or group and answer this question; How are they performing right now? If you aren't leading a team, then ask yourself the same question. Whatever the answer you gave now answer this; How do you know?
These are probably two of the hardest questions for leaders and their teams to answer. Rarely do I go into a company and have anyone answer these questions well, or at all. More often than not I will ask people what they contribute to the company or team and I get a blank stare in return. Are all of these people adding nothing to the company? Of course not but the fact that they cannot clearly explain it points to a major gap in leadership and communication.
What Behaviours Do You Want?
I am going to save the discussion around kpi's and metrics for another time. Instead I want to focus on something that often gets over looked in performance management; behaviour. If you thought about it could you list what five behaviours are most important to you as far as what you want from your team?
There is a meme that has circulated around LinkedIn in various forms and it basically goes as follows: Ten Things That Require Zero Talent, Be On Time, Have A Strong Work Ethic, Be Teachable, Be Prepared, Go The Extra Mile, Be Positive, Be Energetic, Be A Team Player, Have A Great Attitude, Be Aware. Not all of these are behaviours but all of them could be broken into behaviours that you could observe. Do you want your people coming in on time? What does a good work ethic look like to you? How do you determine what a good team player looks like?
The point is this, if you don't know what sorts of behaviour you want from your team how will you recognize it when it happens? We can talk about metrics and kpi's which are what is produced but what behaviours are required to make those happen?
If You Don't Know What You Want Your Team Won't Either!
Here is an example - maybe you want to have a team that sets goals. What behaviour would be required to make that happen, that you could observe? It could be anything from writing it down and posting it, to tracking it on a daily, hourly or moment by moment basis. When you see someone "doing" that then drive that behaviour by acknowledging it. Or maybe you want your team to be the type of people that go the extra mile. Break that down into behaviours that you can observe such as someone completing a task and seeking out direction for the next task instead of waiting for someone to tell them. It could be that staff member who works a bit late to complete a client request rather than let it linger to the next day.
Until you decide what behaviour you want from your team you will never be able to take that next crucial step in acknowledging it and making it a habit. That's one way you will know. Performance Leadership - Think About It!
Gallup is one of my favorite sources of research around the issues of employee engagement and leadership. I was going through their recent study on the state of the North American manager (read leader) and a number they shared stood out in stark contrast. One. That is the number out of every ten leaders who actually have the skills (they call it talent) to do an excellent job leading.
Companies are not getting it right.
If you are like me this number is startling. One of every ten managers have the skills to do excellent leadership and two of every ten have the skills to lead at a reasonable level. What’s more the same study found that companies on average failed to find the right candidate for their leadership positions a whopping 82% of the time. This actually comes as no surprise as we have seen for some time the trend to hire for hard skills not manager/leadership skills. To quote the Gallup report:
"They base hiring and promotion decisions on individuals’ past experience or tenure, or they give them the manager job as a “reward” for their performance in a completely separate role. These organizations overlook talent, and when they do, they lose. They spend needless time and energy trying to fit square pegs into round holes. Their managers are not engaged – or worse, are actively disengaged – and through their impact, Gallup estimates that these managers cost the U.S. economy $319 billion to $398 billion annually." (Gallup, State of the American Manager)
One would be tempted to take a fairly narrow view of this report and at first blush they paint a pretty bleak picture. But I see it differently. This is what I would describe as a classic "opportunity"! In my work an opportunity is simply a challenge or a problem seen from a different perspective. I look at these numbers and ask myself the question; If companies get the productivity they have with just 1/10 of their leadership imagine what they could do with 5/10 or 9/10? I see that $300 billion as a ripe ocean of profit just waiting for the right company to dive into it.
Your talent is there, you just need to find it.
Why you ask? Because the talents or skills that Gallup speaks to is something I believe leaders can master. The fact that they haven't to date is really only an indicator of not having recognized the need. It is in fact why I do what I do because I am certain that every organization can develop and mentor these skills for all their leadership team - I have seen it first hand and it is incredible!
When, in terms of performance, your team moves from a mid-range, fair to middling group of oil and gas service providers to cutting edge industry leaders in just a short span of time you better believe it is because the managers and leaders found the skills to drive that kind of performance. I believe that our companies and industries have not yet reached their full potential in terms of performance and leadership.
If Gallup is to be taken at face value, and what we have is due to the power of that one excellent leader out of every ten, can you imagine if you had more than that? Performance Leadership - Think About It!
What you say matters.
One of the biggest challenges that I see leaders face is the issue of "what" and "how much" information to share with their team and with their superiors. For most who move into leadership because of their skills on the team this is particularly true. Those folks you once groused with and vented with are now "your" team and suddenly that type of activity could not only be counter productive but very much a CLM (Career Limiting Move)!
What’s more is suddenly these folks also see what they communicate up the line to be something more problematic than it used to be. Do they share the issues they are dealing with and risk looking like a weak leader? Do they say nothing and hope they can resolve the issues on their own or better yet hope that those issues will simply go away? I always wondered why communication was considered a soft skill - lol!
Who do you emulate?
If you are in a healthy company or organization you will have a good pool of leaders to watch and emulate which in most places in how the art of leadership is passed on. Open communication built on trust and vulnerability make this skill so much easier to master. By that I mean in these types of groups where you can ask. No one expects perfection just improvement and that comes with being transparent about the issues at play.
If you are in a company or group that is not healthy you will still have a pool of leaders to watch and emulate its just that the things they pass along will not enhance your skills in this area.
These are the the leaders who never really transition to a full understanding of their new role. They will share information and vent with their team much more than they should. The reason for this will be varied but typically they feel that it keeps the team on side with them. It may be an effective short term solution but upper management will see it as a negative.
Some will be information hoarders who see this as a commodity and use it to advance their career or group goals. They become the informal conduits of information. This can clog up the flow of needed communication and certainly is a performance inhibitor.
Some will be the "keep your head down and mouth shut" type of leader who will strive to stay out of the lime light (good or bad). They take the approach that as long as the team doesn't lag behind the others they can't get into trouble. Not bad per se just not performance.
And others will be what I call the plumbers; delivering solid waste down and solid waste up. They think that leadership consists of berating and driving performance through threats and criticism. They think too that communicating the deficiencies of certain people on their crew up the line is a great way to demonstrate that they are "on top of things". It is a fear driven approach to communication that is premised at some deep level upon the idea that as long as they are doing the shoveling of the solid waste none will land on them.
Right Is Not Always Easy
The question I am sure that has crossed you mind is how do you perform as an open and transparent leader in an organization that is not known for that? In one company that I worked with I had a group of young leaders that I was taking through Performance Leadership. Of that group a couple had decided they wanted to embrace this approach whole heartedly. They were the newest leaders in the bunch and were at the bottom of the totem pole so to speak. And yes, this company was not an open and transparent communication type of company.
While some of the older leaders in that group had become practiced at being "plumbers" these two new leaders went the other way. In each case I saw transformational changes on their teams as they took to the new approach. It garnered a lot of criticism among some of their leadership peers but what could not be argued with was the results that they achieved. They upheld the company goals and explained them to the team in terms that related to them and made them relevant. They upheld their teams to upper management in terms of how they were striving to meet company goals and advance the bottom line. The result were remarkable and within a short span of time they were rewarded with more senior positions. It only took two (and often it only takes one) to be willing to step out of their comfort zone to get others to take a new look at how they communicated. It wasn't easy but it was right.
Whether you have been in leadership for a while or are just moving into it examine how your company communicates, how you communicate and make sure you understand how to make your communication work for you and for your team. Performance Leadership - Think About It!
One of the things we stress at the Performance Leadership Institute is the need to develop the habit of providing feedback to your team. This is now becoming particularly true of leaders of millennials. The latest Gallup press release on the subject has some stark numbers on the topic.
Staff want feedback.
In an article by Amy Adkins and Brandon Rigoni of Gallup they found that only 19% of millennials say they get regular feedback and an even smaller percentage say that feedback is meaningful. This is bad news if you are leading a group made up of this demographic. They have grown up in a setting of almost instant feedback. To quote the authors; " Millennials have grown up in an era of remarkable connectedness. They're used to receiving instantaneous feedback from parents, teachers and coaches. They've grown accustomed to having the immediate ability to ask questions, share opinions and provide commentary." Adkins, Rigoni - Gallup June, 2016
This represents an immediate challenge to those in leadership. Regular meetings and feedback to your team is vital to employee engagement yet statistically only half of the work force report regular meetings with their leadership and that happens only once per month! Let’s be clear too that this is not just a challenge with millennials. Research shows that an increase in frequency of feedback is a key factor in raising employee engagement.
Active Supervision and Touch Points
This does not mean that you as a leader now have to engage in yet another set of time consuming meetings to drive this type of engagement but it does mean you have to be intentional about interacting with your team. Using what I call "active supervision" a leader can provide micro-feedback on a daily basis simply by walking the shop floor, office, or site and engaging in a quick 30 second touch point. It may be a bit longer at first but once the habit is in place it won't take long at all.
Once that is happening then there should be regular weekly meetings or daily if the work is dynamic and central to the performance of the team. Frequency will be based upon how much lag you want between events that occur and when you want to discuss them with your team.
Feedback Drives Engagement and Performance
You may be asking: Why the need for this level of feedback? It boils down to two areas that relate to performance improvement and continuous improvement. First is that feedback is something your team needs and their feedback to you is something you need if you are going to stay ahead of the curve and stop fires before they start. Second nothing else drives employee engagement as simply and easily.
Its like the old joke about the married couple when the wife complains that her husband never tells her he loves her and he turns to her and says "I told you I loved you when we got married. If that changes I will let you know." The reality is that no news is no news and that is not going to drive performance or engagement. How's your feedback looking these days? Performance Leadership - Think About It!
The Old Model
Probably one of the most troubling things I observe in my work with leaders is the attitude that promotions are a means to get out of the field, get off the 6th floor (or whatever floor that may be in your company), get out of the shop; you get the idea. On the one hand no one is going to fault someone for wanting to move up and make life a little more tolerable for themselves. However, and this is a big however, more often than not this has translated into an acceptable form of disengagement on the part of leadership.
What is Acceptable Separation?
Getting out of the field, off "that" floor or out of the shop is one thing; avoiding them is completely another matter. What troubles me is that this begins to happen at the first levels of leadership and almost immediately. If it happens there it is certainly happening the higher one goes until you get situations where the presence of a "C" suite leader anywhere other than the executive floor is cause for concern, so rare are those appearances.
This happens in small companies right up to the big ones. I have spoken with leaders fresh off the front line of operations who no longer go out to see how their crews are doing. I have met with divisional and business unit leaders who never venture far from their office unless it is to investigate an issue to tear someone a "new one".
It Has A Cost
In an article by Rohit Kar, a senior researcher from Gallup, he states "When executives' engagement is significantly lower than that of employees in the organizations they lead, CEOs need to act fast -- because engagement (and disengagement) cascades down. Employees look to their organization's executives to set a tone and expectations. They know that company leadership determines whether engagement is important, or even if it matters at all."
We Are Not Preparing Our Leaders
One of the top three causes for this lack of engagement on the part of leaders as cited by Kar is poor preparation: many executives rise through the ranks relatively quickly because of their role performance. But they don't necessarily receive the developmental training and opportunities they need to support their growth as effective leaders, such as programs that enhance their self-awareness or ongoing coaching and mentoring around so-called soft skills.
It Starts At The Top
There is a silver lining. Companies that undertake a disciplined approach to prepare and equip leadership at all levels also see improvements in engagement at the C suite level and how it cascades down to the front line. All executive activity has an effect on the people beside them and below them. Ultimately then, leadership engagement is what drives engagement through the whole company.
Every Leader A Mentor, Every Leader Accountable
To say that all companies suffer from this lack of leadership engagement would be overstating the case. There are some exceptions and as Jim Collins has written, those companies have leadership who from the top down view themselves as mentors to the leadership or team that reports to them. These companies don't leave leadership development to chance and have robust programs in place for leadership development along with development of leadership metrics that hold everyone accountable for their performance and the performance of their team.
If you are a leader in one of those types of companies, then kudos to you and your leadership team. If your company or group is not one of those companies, then I suggest it is time to rethink how your company does leadership. Performance Leadership - Think About It!
The most challenging behavior to master with regard to building your team's engagement is getting you and them to embrace accountability. This concept has several layers of meaning that need to be extracted so that you understand what I mean by accountability. Certainly it means monitoring and holding your people accountable for their KPI’s or performance objectives but it also means being vulnerable as a leader as well as getting your team to be vulnerable around behaviors dealing with team performance such as admitting mistakes, needing help or just saying sorry.
Not The Most Popular Approach
It is not by accident that embracing accountability is not often written about. I won’t sugar coat it, this is the hardest behavior to master. In fact, statistically this is the biggest challenge that leaders face across all the other behaviors that need developing. We all tend to get uncomfortable with idea of calling someone out for a behavior issue or a performance issue.
We Avoid But At What Cost?
If you are like most of us (and I mean most of us) you are not going to want to hold that team member accountable for a negative or non-productive behavior. Rather you will probably make note of it during your meetings or say something to others in passing to others on the team or in your department. Regardless of how you try to spin it this is indicative of a lack of respect as there is nothing respectful about withholding information from a peer that could help them improve their performance. The biggest affirmation you can give your team or staff is to hold them accountable. If you think about it from a personal perspective wouldn’t you want to be told that something you were doing or not doing was not only being noted by your peers but was impacting their ability to do their jobs as well?
It Is Crucial To Performance
This will date me a little but with respect to walking in that mutual vulnerable trust let me use this old adage – “Only your friend will tell you when your fly is open or your slip is showing.” As difficult as it may seem, the idea of holding each other accountable for behavior that impacts the team has to be done and is one of those indicators of a strong and cohesive team.
Let me give you an example. After one of my team meetings with a group I was approached by one of the team members and the conversation went something like this;
“Do you know that some of the comments you made regarding that last initiative really hurt Betty’s feelings?”
“No? What did I say? I thought I had kept my comments on the concept and not on her?”
“Well, for the most part you did but you were pretty forceful and passionate and I think she took it the wrong way.”
“That is true, I do feel pretty strongly about that issue but I really was just arguing the facts, I did not think I was attacking her?”
“Try to remember she put a lot of thought into her position and you just sort of shot it down. You were right but it is how it came across that was hurtful.”
I will admit at this point I was waaaaay out of my comfort zone! Bringing emotions into the mix scare me to death. But I trusted this team member and I knew she was not trying to put me on the spot but was actually watching my back. So I took her advice, headed down to Betty’s office and had a heart to heart. I didn’t defend myself I just apologized for coming across so poorly and hurting her feelings. (Yes, I had indeed hurt her feelings.) Done. That’s it! There was no need for any strange dynamics at the next meeting or second guessing any agenda behind the go forward discussions around that issue.
Good Teams Do The Hard Things
Was it hard for that team member to call me on it? You bet. Was it hard to go and humble myself and be vulnerable with Betty? Absolutely! But what it saved me down the road in hurt relationships, lack of engagement and loss of productivity and unity on the team cannot be calculated. A healthy team will come to understand that truth and embracing accountability will come easier as they practice that behavior and it is ultimately the highest form of respect.
It Never Gets Easy
No it never gets easy, just easier and once you have experienced working on a team that is cohesive and healthy that practices embracing accountability you will wonder how you ever managed to get things done any other way. And what’s more, it will be rewarding, enriching and fun! So tell me, how accountable is your leadership and your team? Performance Leadership – Think About It!
What Makes For A Great Leader?
There is an abundance of research on the lists of the top ten attributes companies are looking for in leadership. There is a lot of overlap on most of those attributes and many bodies of research try to encapsulate the more esoteric attributes with terms like Emotional Intelligence, strong interpersonal skills, sociable, team work and one of my favorites – creating social capital by creating strategic personal and professional relationships. (Bridgstock) I like that last one because it implies almost superhuman skills at being able to identify future leaders long before they have developed these skills. Impressive but really?
Real Relationships or BS?
Not that I don’t know what they are trying to say. The core of it is that effective leaders build meaningful relationships. So if you want to make a difference in the lives of your team these are things you need to work at. You will find this a daunting task as many may have gone before you who looked like they were building relationships with their staff but were actually just politicians who were using people not advancing them. It does not take long for folks to develop pretty fine tuned BS meters because of their encounters with bosses like this.
Be A Noticer
So what do you need to do? You build a network of meaningful relationships by being open and available to anyone in your circle of influence who is open to you. Even more so, make yourself available to those who might not look like they are open or need help but actually do. In other words, be a noticer.
Best selling author Andy Andrews wrote a book entitled “The Noticer” in which he chronicles a series of lives impacted by one individual who had taken note of their situation and offered help and advice. Let’s be clear being a noticer is not about getting ahead, it is about helping others get ahead. That difference is in perspective and it is this approach that will truly see you come into the quality and type of leadership that will not only improve your leadership skills but will quite frankly be more satisfying. We are effective as leaders to the degree that we promote and advance our team. Again it is something you have to work at at first but it is worth it.
Noticing Is A Muscle You Exercise
I recall early in my career taking note of one of my work colleagues who seemed to be withdrawing from the group and spending more and more time by herself. I am not sure why but I found that troubling and so one day I took the opportunity to sit down and talk with her about it. At first she was hesitant but when she realized that I was sincerely interested she eventually opened up about the issues she was facing, mostly personal but with the net result of causing her to question her career choice and effectiveness at work, with the team. In fact, she had quietly been contemplating quitting. It was a shocking revelation for a number of reasons but chief among them was that she was truly gifted and suited for her work and had the potential for a long meaningful career. I shared that perspective with her and over the course of the next few days she eventually came around to understanding how her personal issues had colored her perspective on her value at work. She committed to working on those issues and was now free of the guilt she was feeling about her contribution on the job. As far as I know she is still doing that work and is quite successful at it.
Noticers Get Noticed
I did not think much about it at the time or afterward either. That is until I was moved into management and was given a leadership role in that group. It came as a bit of a surprise to me at the time but my boss told me that reports of my helping that colleague along with a few others had come back to him and that was the factor that tipped the scale in my favor when it came to deciding on who to select for that opening.
Be a noticer, take the time to get to know your team be there for them and help them succeed. I guarantee you that by being a noticer you will get a level of engagement and commitment from your team that others only dream about. Performance Leadership – Think About It.
In the "I" centric world of today there are dozens of stories and articles of those larger than life ego driven leaders who produce dramatic results but typically never have the staying power to keep those results coming. Contrast this to those leaders who through determination and focus on a singleness of purpose achieve great things for their company but prefer to stay out of the spotlight. Jim Collins call these folks "Level 5" leaders.
The same contrasts can be made for those working on your team, employees who demand all your attention or employees who demonstrate high engagement and with it a compelling humility. They prefer to stay in the background, working hard and staying focused on what is best for the company and they never let ego get in the way. Another way to describe them would be the old term "they are pillars of the community."
Sprint vs Marathon
It is a bit like comparing sprinters to distance runners in the Olympics. Quick now, who is the fastest man on the planet at the 100-yard dash? Now, who is the world record holder for the marathon? If you said Usain Bolt for the first question you would be right. If you said Patrick Makau for the second question you probably looked it up on Wikipedia like I just did! Isn't it funny how the fast movers get our attention? Yet in business, if you were honest with yourself, who would you prefer to have on your team, the fast mover or the marathoner?
The Kerry Group
Take the example of the Kerry Group. Never heard of them? Don't be surprised, the Kerry Group has been shepherded by a series of modest leaders since its inception in 1972. They began as a small confectionery provider in the back of a trailer. It was headed at the time by a young accountant Denis Brosnan who was followed by two more low-key chief executives, Hugh Friel and Stan McCarthy. Still never heard of them? Under the guidance of these leaders the Kerry Group grew to a global company that employs more than 25,000 people with operations in over 25 countries across five continents. They are now a leading player in the global food industry with annual sales at almost $7 billion (U.S.). What makes this an even more interesting success story is that Kerry is an Irish company who succeeded without one dollar of government assistance. Here was a company based out of Ireland that weathered all the economic turmoil in that countries downturn when companies all around them were dropping like flies. Not only did they survive, they prospered. Other companies had the "sprinters" such as real estate developer Sean Dunne who went out in a blaze of glory when the Irish market crashed but the Kelly Group had the good fortune to be headed by quiet, modest leadership and employees were selected around that trait as well and it prospered.
When you go on the Kerry web-site you will see very little about its leaders, you will see a lot more about its mission and its commitment to the success of its employees and the well being of the communities they live in. In a day and age where employee engagement is so crucial to company health and growth, leadership and employees willing to invest in and provide for a meaningful role for everyone on the team will always do better than those companies that serve as platform for the uber-egos that join them for their own gain.
So why is modesty a key feature of good employee engagement? I believe it is what balances the first two traits we have already discussed; urgency for all things good for the company and situational awareness or a willingness to invest in the success of others. You cannot focus your ambition on the good of the company if your agenda takes priority over the good of the company every time a tough choice has to be made. You cannot invest in the success of others if your only concern is for your welfare and not theirs. Engaged employees are modest and know when to let others shine for the good of the team. People can become amazingly invested in a company if they come to understand that the company is genuinely investing in them and they are working on a team of engaged staff who exhibit these same traits.
What Do You See On Your Team?
So my questions for you are what are you looking for in your employees? Can you identify the traits you need for your team? Do you know how to grow and encourage those traits? If you can’t answer these questions with certainty, then my response to you is what are you going to do to change that? Performance Leadership – Think About It!
There are a wide range of articles and research on the quality or skill that I call "Situational Awareness". Wikipedia has attempted to define this several ways including;
"Situational awareness involves being aware of what is happening in the vicinity to understand how information, events, and one's own actions will impact goals and objectives, both immediately and in the near future,"
"Situational awareness is a state achieved when information that is qualitatively and quantitatively determined by given configuration as suitable for assumed role is made available to stakeholder by engaging them in to appropriate information exchange patterns. (Sorathia, 2008)"
"What you need to know not to be surprised" (Jeannot, Kelly, & Thompson, 2003).
The one I prefer is this; situational awareness is having a sense of your role and place in an organization; aligning your focus with that role, knowing how you are impacting others around you both positively and negatively and knowing how you are performing in that role.
First Studied in High Stress Situations
Situational awareness was first coined by the military and emergency intervention services to describe this quality with regard to making "gut" or snap decisions that had life or death consequences. Successful members of the unit had the capacity to gauge the circumstances, measure the risk and make the right decisions consistently. Of course in these settings a poor decision only needed to happen once to have disastrous consequences. Because the term grew out of this setting researchers and leadership coaches tend to only consider this trait within the confines of high stakes situations or high level leadership. Yet I believe that this skill is a key success indicator across any organization and any role. It is really an indicator too of high emotional and social intelligence and hence a key indicator of engagement.
It's Easy to See When Its Not There
I have dealt with recruitment and dismissal of staff for over 30 years and I have had many discussions with fellow HR professionals and leaders across many industry sectors and the one thing that we agree on is that in the majority of cases where dismissal was required the personnel involved had a poor situational awareness. In fact it was often the case that even after having been walked through all the appropriate levels of escalation; verbal feedback, written feedback, mentoring and education, and formal warning many of these people were totally surprised at their dismissal!
Some Just "Get It"
On the other hand we have all marveled at those whom we have brought into a company or organization who "get it". They get to know all the players, have a keen sense of the corporate culture, become the "go to" people for projects and for information and typically wind up leading if not through position then certainly by influence. These people have incredible situational awareness and are typically those who will climb the corporate ladder much more quickly than those who lack this skill.
A case in point is Jane. She came to work at a high tech manufacturing company in a support position. She took advantage of that role to get to know all the people in her company and was keen to pay attention to all the office "chatter" regarding process gaps or needs and was soon quietly advocating for change not only because it made her role more efficient but also because it was good for the company. She was quick to pick up on how her colleagues were feeling and always sought to provide the best support possible. In due course she came to the attention of those higher up the management chain and she found herself promoted to positions of greater and greater responsibility. In each case she brought the same approach and situational awareness. And in each case she was a success; a really good example of how the situational awareness skill can bring success within a company. But the story does not end there.
You see as Jane rose in the ranks and got to know the company well, she also got to know the key leadership players and evaluate their impact on the company and its bottom line. Over the course of time as changes took place in the "C-Suite" leadership she noted a distinct change in focus and priority in that group. After much agonizing she recognized that the leadership was moving in a direction that could be disastrous for the organization. She made several attempts to advocate for change all to no avail and so she began looking for a new company and a better fit. Three months after she moved to a new firm her old company filed for bankruptcy protection. Jane's situational awareness was like an internal GPS that directed her both within the company and away from the company to a new one.
Get Your Team Engaged
Gallup and many other organizations have discovered that employee engagement and some of the markers that go with it such as situational awareness are directly related to the person employees report to. Most people like Jane leave bosses they don't leave companies. You can work to get your employees engaged and take advantage of the insights that their situational awareness brings or you can watch your key players continue to move down the hall or down the street to a company and boss that they feel good working for.
Do you listen to your team? What is their situational awareness telling you and are you tapping into it? Performance Leadership - Think About It!
We See This In Times Of Emergency
We have all watched and prayed for folks devastated by storms hurricanes, wildfires and other disasters this year. Stories come out of the areas touched by the these events that are inspiring and endearing. Whether it was the "Cajun Navy" helping folks down in Texas or the heroism of the citizens of a city who are so calm and resolute in the face of this emergency or the massive outpouring of support from around the country I am sure that we all have seen things that have touched us.
While I was thinking about the issues faced by the folks in California one comment stood out and it was about how folks stepped up because of the circumstances and the urgency of the need. The word that caught my attention was "urgency".
Why Just In Tough Times?
How many times have we faced challenges in our work or business and found those gems among our staff who stepped up and met the challenge head on? Those folks who operated with a sense urgency and who revealed the depth of their character through those trying circumstances. It makes me wonder too why it takes something like an emergency or a challenge to bring this out in people? How would your business look if your people operated all the time with a sense of urgency with regard to their roles and tasks?
Can "Urgency" Be Developed?
Finding people who have that sense of urgency already wired into their make up is the ideal but what about those you already have on staff how do you develop that behavior? You can't create emergencies to drive this kind of behavior but you can create a challenge.
A Lesson From The Online Gaming Industry
The most powerful group at creating challenges (and therefore urgency) by far is the electronic gaming industry and therein lies the clue to how to do this. I have seen folks devote hours of spare time on a game on their phone or on their computer just develop the skills to "move to the next level". The challenges in the game create that sense of urgency ($16B worth of urgency last year alone!) and players work to develop skills and get instant and immediate feedback on whether that skill has been enhanced.
You may not be able to "game" the scenarios at work but you can use the same principle - metrics. Helping someone to identify and develop metrics around their role and the activities associated with it is a powerful tool for creating a challenge and in helping to develop a sense of urgency. The key to this is that metrics are used to inform that person on their performance on a day to day basis. They aren't competing against others but rather against how they did yesterday. It is the same principle whether you are playing Candy Crush or tracking response times to client requests.
Does your team exhibit that sense of urgency? If not, how are you helping them to develop it? Performance Leadership - Think About It!