Three constants in life. Death, taxes and change. The pace of change is increasing. It comes in many forms. It’s not going away.
In my experience most organisational change fails, for a whole lot of reasons, but mostly – lack of planning, lack of involvement of those who will be most affected by it and sadly, arrogance.
If you want to achieve effective organisational change, and let’s face it, that’s what leaders do, you have to get a couple of things right, in a particular order. My colleague, Ian Berry, has a great approach to change.
First, we need to commit to changing personally. Then we need to, collectively, commit to changing our relationships, and then, and only then, can we achieve organisational change.
Don’t make the mistake of ramming change down people’s throats as they’ll only resist. If you open yourself to changing personally and you get your guys to agree to improving relationships, you’ll have set up for successful organisational wide change.
My guess is that nine out of 10 of you would answer "very."
I'll even go so far as to predict that you what you are busy with is attending meetings, submitting reports, doing rosters, complying with regulations, reviewing contracts, renewing leases, updating policies, replying to emails etc. You get the drift. Busyness. Kind of finds a way of filling our days, weeks, months.
I get it. None of us can actually opt out of this mostly paperwork stuff completely, but many of us are risking taking our eye off the most important responsibility we have - to make people better.
When we submit to being consumed by the paperwork, and neglect people work, we simply become managers, not leaders. If maintaining the status quo ie being happy with tomorrow being the same as today and yesterday is OK with you, then by all means, keep your focus on the paperwork.
If, and I suspect it is, you'd rather make sure the future is as bright as it can be, focusing on making people better is the key. Leadership is about people work!
Want to know the single, most important responsibility of a leader?
It’s easy to become overwhelmed just thinking about everything we, as leaders, should be doing. Becoming a better leader is easier said than done. Some people have given up trying because there is just too much to think about. But what if we distilled being a great leader down into just one thing?
I recently consulted my mate, Professor Google, about a couple of burning questions that I had. I typed in ‘definition of leadership’ - 280 million search results. I also searched ‘what do leaders do’ - 515 million search results. I have a bookcase in my office that is chock full of big, thick leadership and management texts. How did leadership become so complex?
Here’s the one thing that, if leaders focus on achieving, will make a massive difference. Make people better. This thinking was inspired by the 6th President of the USA, John Quincy Adams who said “If your actions inspire others to dream more, do more, learn more and become more, you are a leader.”
Think about this really important question. As a result of your leadership, are your people becoming more, are they remaining the same or have they become less? Sort of tragic if they are less then when they met you. Almost as sad if they have not changed as a result of your influence.
‘You manage things, you lead people” said US Navy Rear Admiral, Grace Hopper. It can’t be any simpler. Focus on helping your people grow and develop as your number one leadership priority. Do this, and everything else will fall into place, as it will be your people that will step up and, together with you, make your organisation successful.
Boss, manager, leader, supervisor - they all mean the same right?
You might call me pedantic, but thinking they're just words for the same thing is a big part of the problem. I came across this image* recently and it stopped me in my tracks because it absolutely nails it for me.
Look at Boss. They've made it and they're happy. Dancing, congratulating them on succeeding. Awesome. Look where Boss' people are though. Still struggling to make it. Oops, some won't make it. No matter, Boss has and that's all that matters, right?
By contrast, look at Leader. Hasn't made it yet. In fact, Leader seems more concerned with helping others than individual success. My guess is that when Leader eventually does make it, she will be surrounded by her people, all of them, and together they can say "We did it".
Where is your focus? Individual honors or collective success?
So, a couple of things about me. I am a family man. Very proud of my four kids.
While I work with a wide range of aspiring leaders in a range of different contexts, I am always mindful that my number one leadership job is to be the best father possible. I’m not perfect by a long shot, but I am very committed to being the best I can.
I am pretty hands on with my youngest two. This week I was helping Tully (the toothy one in the middle) with her Grade 1 reading. She is an excellent reader and the book she bought home was what I thought to be way beyond Grade 1. She was going OK, but I played a trick, albeit a daggy Dad trick.
I feigned amazement that here she was in Grade 1 but reading a book that could easily have been for Grade 6 kids. I pumped her tyres. I praised her for trying hard. I told her that I didn’t believe it was possible that she was reading that well.
Within seconds, her reading went to another level. Whenever she got to a challenging word, she stopped me from helping her, sounded it out, and (mostly) got the word right. She simply believed in herself more and her performance lifted.
As leaders we have the same opportunity to build self confidence and self belief in our people. Of course it should be authentic and genuine. People will believe in themselves if you believe in them first.
Praise and recognition cost nothing, but are powerful motivating forces in the workplace.
It’s a universal problem. Too much to do, not enough time to get it all done. I haven’t met a person who couldn’t be better at managing their time, so here are 5 habits everyone should get into.
1. Slow down to speed up. Schedule an hour where you drop everything and focus on what’s going on. Too often we let ‘chaos’ be our normal, whereas we need to get back into ‘control’. Brain dump everything onto a clean sheet of paper – every deadline, tasks, meeting, detail so it is all real and in front of you. You should feel calmer already.
2. Use a system. It might be as simple as a list, better still a prioritized list. Even better, schedule the highest priorities into your calendar so you can commit to when you will complete them.
3. Be disciplined. Once a week, review steps 1 and 2. This works well on a Friday afternoon as it sets the next week up for success.
4. Decide on ‘Three Things Today’. Take a Post-it note. List the three things that you simply MUST get done that day. It will serve as a reminder when you get distracted.
5. Say ‘No’ more often. We have to accept that we simply can’t get everything done. We need to discern what are the essential, high priority tasks and work on those first. This will require us to say ‘No’ to other tasks. Better to say ‘No’ than to say ‘Yes’ and let people down.
Bonus tip for leaders: Hands up who’s got too much time on their hands? I thought so. You see, when we are time poor, the operational stuff that screams at us becomes the priority. The ‘non urgent leadership stuff’ often gets put on the back burner. Months pass by and before we know it the culture and the level of engagement have turned. We need to make time to lead!
Leading, amongst other things is about influence and change. A common source of frustration for many leaders, managers and supervisors is their inability to get others to change. Before you ask others to change, you must be prepared to do something ... to be the change you want to see in others.
I was fortunate in the last couple of years to spend some time in India. In Mumbai I visited Gandhi's house which is now a humble museum dedicated to his life and run by volunteers. I was reminded about the incredible influence he had on others and about the monumental changes he achieved, all while advocating non-violence and peaceful ways.
"You must be the change you wish to see in the world" is a famous Gandhi quote. I twist it just a little bit when talking to frustrated leaders who don't seem to be able to get their people to change the way they want them to. It sometimes elicits a strong reaction along the lines of, "I'm fine, it's them who need to change".
If you are a leader who wants to influence others, showing them that you are also prepared to change can make a huge difference.
When I speak on the impact that leaders have on employee engagement, I share my concept of what engagement means. It's simply how much employees care.
I'll ask the audience to describe a workplace that has high levels of engagement. The responses include; people are happy, they feel empowered, listened to, work harder etc.
I then ask what does a workplace that has low levels of engagement look like - more often than you will believe, someone will say 'people there don't give a sh!t'. Coarse? Yes, but almost every head in the audience nods in agreement.
I am in the process of writing a book called 'Care Factor 100' - how to engage your people and improve your culture. It covers the link between engagement levels and organisational outcomes like profitability, productivity, quality, safety and absenteeism, and the evidence is compelling.
The book also provides a simple, practical approach to increasing the 'Care Factor' of your employees. In a nutshell,
make your expectations of your people crystal clear
give them regular honest feedback on their performance (good and bad)
share the organisation's vision, purpose, key result areas and goals, and put all these into action plans that people understand
give people opportunities to grow and develop
create an environment where people feel like they belong.
There is a myth that we can have it all and we can do everything we want to do. For years this concept has been sold to us, but I'm not buying it.
A key concept in my leadership teaching is about time management. I ask everyone that I work with if they have too much time on their hands. It is almost universal that people are time poor and can't find the time to do everything that they want or need to do. It follows then, that many of the time consuming, non urgent leadership activities that they should be doing, simply don't get done.
The answer is realising that we simply can't do everything and to even try is futile. What we should be doing is identifying the most important things and do them first. In his best selling book, 'Essentialism' Greg McKeown tells us that by saying yes to something, we are necessarily saying no to something else. We have to be OK with saying no to things, yet many of us say yes, and set ourselves up for failure.
Saying yes when we know we should be saying no is also not being authentic, another key leadership concept. Many of us find it hard to say no either because we want people to like us or we feel obligated or we simply don't know how. Here are some tips on saying no more often.
Say 'I'd love to help, but at this time I'm overloaded and I really don't want to let you down.'
Ask when the deadline is and see if you can negotiate around the delivery date or time.
Explain the current priorities on your plate, and ask which one is now not that important if you are to say yes.
Stop wanting people to like you. Be OK that you being assertive is also you being authentic. Go for respect first and like second.
PS: Essentialism is a game changing book - it's the best thing I've read in years!
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