What Do Effective Leaders Do?

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What Do Effective Leaders Do?

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

by Andrew Cooke, Growth & Profit Solutions

effective leadership

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

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

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

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

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

Six Leadership Styles

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

Being an Effective Leader

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

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

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

Next Steps:

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

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

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Measuring Performance Doesn‘t Help, Measuring How You Perform Does

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Measuring Performance Doesn‘t Help, Measuring How You Perform Does!

It is not what you do that matters, but how you do it that does!

by Andrew Cooke, Growth & Profit Solutions

Significant effort, time and resources are spent by companies in assessing the Managing Performance 2current level of performance in order to be able to determine what we need to do to perform at the right level.  This focuses on the result.  This is backward thinking.  This is like managing for profit by measuring your profit.  Profit cannot be improved by managing profit, rather but by improving your revenues and costs.  So it is with performance.

To improve performance you need to understand what the three drivers of performance. Once we do so we can then start to analyse what we need to do to sustain or improve our performance

Andrew’s 3 Drivers of Performance

  1. Right People
  2. Right Tools
  3. Access to the Development of the Skills (Aptitudes) and Behaviours (Attitudes) Needed 3 Drivers of Performance

Right People

You want people who want to work for you, who are able to use their talents in the right role and find gratification and recognition in their work. Their values and approach match those of your business.

Right Tools

People need to have the necessary tools to enable them to do their work and to support them in doing so. For example, an architect needs to have the right software to design and develop buildings, the necessary space

Access to the Development of the Rights Skills & Behaviours

These are probably the most important drivers.  You may have the right people and the right tools, but it is the skills they bring to bear in doing the work, and their attitude they have to how they do their work, that will differentiate how they individually and collectively perform.

  • Skills – people have the necessary skills to do the work, or ability to learn the skills they need to be a high-performer.  This is the what of the work done.
  • Behaviours – this is the how of the work done.

You want people who have high-performing behaviours, that is the way they do their work creates synergies, opportunities and virtuous cycles – for example, they hold themselves accountable for their work, and look to remedy their own mistakes without being told and share lessons learnt with others.. You also want to ensure you don’t have people whose behaviours are those of low-performers (for example, they always find fault in others but never themselves, they are unable or unwilling to learn and develop (especially from their mistakes), they put their self-interests above those of the team etcetera).

Here you need to be able to provide access to the means by which people can develop the right skills for their job as their role and business conditions change, and to have the rights systems in place for recruiting, managing and developing the right behaviours – the high-performing behaviours which drive higher performance.

Next Steps

So stop measuring your performance in terms of what you have done – this is an end-result.  Rather, start measuring how you perform – look at how you have performed (or  failed to) in terms of each of these three factors, and how you can improve each factor both individually and in their interaction with each other.  Only by focusing on how you perform can you improve your performance.’

Look at your performance in terms of each of these three factors in term.  In doing so look at where you are performing now, and determine where you need to perform, and identify several strategies to help you bridge the gap. Look at how each factor interacts with the others, assess the gap in performance, and again identify several ways to bridge the gap. Once you have done this then identify the top three actions from the list you have created which, if you address first, will have the greatest impact on improving your performance.

Good luck and share your experiences here!

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

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Two Questions to Attain and Maintain Focus

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Two Questions To Attain and Maintain Focus

Achieving and maintaining focus is a key skill in modern business.

by Andrew Cooke, Growth & Profit Solutions

In a time-poor environment in which more demands are being made of us it is more and more important that we focus on what we do.  This is especially true as the business environment becomes increasingly volatile, uncertain and complex resulting in managers having to make decisions more quickly, with less information and greater risk.focus

Focusing allows you to concentrate your efforts, time and resources on what needs to be at the center of your attention and your activity.  To do this you need to be able to ensure that you have prioritized what needs to be done and to avoid unnecessary procrastination.

There are two questions to ask yourself when you are about to start a piece of work or, as occurs more and more frequently, people interrupt you with a request for your assistance.

  • Is this piece of work important to me?
  • Is this piece of work urgent for me?

If the answer to both is then you might accept it – or guide it to the right person if it is not you.  If the answer to either question is “No”, then you don’t need to focus on it now. You can either refuse it, accept it conditionally (you might do it later or delegate it to someone else, for example), or if you are not sure then you can ask for more information (often a good idea if it is your boss who is interrupting you!).

This is a simple technique by which to maintain focus on what is important and what is urgent, and by which you can consider tasks which you are only important or urgent, and to reject those that are neither important or urgent.  Try it out for yourself, and find out how much time you free for yourself and how much easier it is to do the work that matters!

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

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The Three Key Determinants of Business Performance

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The Three Key Determinants of Business Performance

Having two out of three is not good enough…

by Andrew Cooke, Growth & Profit Solutions

There are three key determinants for business performance – direction, aptitude and attitude.

Direction
Performance occurs in context of the goals, outcomes and measures that have been established
.

How well are the desired goals and outcomes of the business communicated, and commonly shared and understood?  This needs to be meaningful, relevant and measurable at all levels from the corporate overview to the contribution of departments, teams and at the individual level.

Aptitude
To achieve your goals and outcomes you need to have the necessary skills and abilities which you can use when planning, executing and reviewing.

What are the key skills and capabilities the business needs to have?  What is needed now? And what else is needed to meet the future goals and outcomes of the business?  Again, these need to be identifiable at all levels of the business – from the corporate to the individual level.

Attitude
What are the core attitudes and associated behaviours that we need for driving high performance?

Conversely, what are those attitudes and behaviours that we want to avoid which lead to low performance?  These core attitudes pervade the whole business at all levels and, in themselves, do not change.

Generally, businesses are good at identifying the skills and capabilities needed both now and for the future; mediocre in establishing and establishing a clear vision, goals and outcomes; and very poor at identifying, understanding and making tangible the core attitudes and behaviours needed for performance.

To be a high performer we need to be able to accurately assess how strong we are for each element.  As can be seen in the diagram below, being strong in two out of three is not good enough or able to drive high performance on a sustainable basis.

3 Elements of High Performance

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So what do we need to do to achieve high performance?

1. Be clear on your direction – make sure everyone understands and can articulate it.

2. Ensure you have the right skills, capabilities and resources to enable each individual, team and group to achieve high performance in their aligned goals.

3. Recruit for and manage people with the right attitudes – understand what your core attitudes and associated behaviours are necessary to drive high-performance in your business, and avoid and manage those which result in low-performance.  Remember, you hire for attitude and train for aptitude.

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

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Developing Emotional Agility and Overcoming Your “Inner Chatter”

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Developing Emotional Agility & Overcoming Your “Inner Chatter”

What to do when you become your own worst enemy, and how to overcome to win over yourself.

by Andrew Cooke, Growth & Profit Solutions

On average you speak sixteen thousand words, a day or nearly six millionemotional agility words a year.  That is a lot. What we forget is that this is a fraction of what we think – our inner stream of consciousness, your “inner chatter” that provides a running commentary whether you want it or not.

We are influenced by what we people say, how they say it, when it is said and the context. But we forget the first rule of influence – influence starts with you. As such we influence ourselves and we inform our own behaviour – primarily through our beliefs and attitudes which become apparent to us through our “inner chatter”.

How we behave, and the consequences we incur, occurs when we put a “story” around an event or experience we have just gone through.  We tend to behave in accordance with how we feel about this and then incur the consequences.  The flow looks like this:

SeeTellFeelAct

How many times have you had thoughts and feelings which have led to behaviour which has caused you problems? We see someone do something, or ourselves, and we create a story about.  For example, “He always takes credit for what was done, yet I did most of the work…” or “The same thing happened in my last job, I obviously can’t do this type of work…

What happens here is we get hooked by our thoughts in that we either treat these thoughts as facts and therefore true or, with help, we challenge them and rationalise them away which can lead us into situations where we act against what we feel are our values and best interests.

So how can we mitigate our “inner chatter”? How can we avoid either buying into it or suppressing it? How can we approach our “inner chatter” in a mindful, constructive way?

Four Steps for Building Emotional Agility

To do this we need to build emotional agility. This is the ability to free yourself from patterns of negative thoughts and feelings and move forward positively.  In doing this for yourself you:

1. Recognise Your Pattern

Notice when you are hooked by your thoughts and feelings – for example, your thinking becomes rigid and repetitive.  You are re-running past experiences, or seeing the same attitudes surface again.  Only when you realise you are stuck in a pattern can you break out of it.

2. Label Your Thoughts & Emotions

“Name them and shame them”.  By naming or labelling your thoughts or emotions you are able to see your thoughts and feelings for what they are.  They are transient and may or may not be helpful.  Doing this helps you to free up your thinking and begins to break the pattern.

3. Accept Them

Once you have labelled them then just accept them without judging them.  You experience your thoughts and feelings and take the time to see what is happening in the moment.  What is really happening in the situation and what do you need to do to take productive action?

4. Act on Your Values

You can now consider more choices, rather than going along with your “inner chatter” and you can choose to act in a way that is consistent with your values.

By providing yourself with emotional agility you have the opportunity to change the story you tell yourself which, in turn, allows you to choose to behave in a different way and obtain consequences which are both beneficial and less adverse.  Simple and effective.  Try it, use it and practice it and build your emotional agility muscle.

This article is partly based on the article, “Emotional Agility” by Susan David and Christina Congleton, HBR November 2013.

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

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Developing Your PVP – Personal Value Proposition

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Developing Your PVP – Personal Value Proposition

People “buy” you – so how do you differentiate yourself from others?  What can you do to attract the people you want, and to be attractive to them?  Four steps in this simple template help you do this.

by Andrew Cooke, Growth & Profit Solutions 

People don’t buy from companies, they buy from people.  If people buy from people, then trust is underlying factor why they do so.  You need to create, develop and maintain trust with people in order to win business, influence other people, negotiate, persuade, manage conflict and to collaborate.

What people “buy” is you, not “what” you are selling – whether it be a product or service, or trying to persuade someone around to your viewpoint internally or at home.  To be able to do this you need to stand out from the crowd and your competitors.

For this you need to have your Personal Value Proposition (PVP).

People are often familiar with value propositions for products and service – the target market segments, the benefits your offerings provide, the value they provide and the pricing. It’s why a target customer should buy the product.

Why a customer should buy your products is focused on not what the product does, but why you do what you do, it is that which inspires you.  For an overview of the power of “Why?” click here.

Your “why” is based on your values, beliefs, and your behaviour – how you exhibit your beliefs and demonstrate those strengths which make you stand out.  This is the essence of your PVP, and it lies at the heart of why people want to work with you, trust you and build a strong, healthy relationship with you.

How Do You Develop Your PVP?

We intuitively know what our PVP is, but we often fail to make it explicit and easily identifiable to others.  To do this we need to develop our PVP.  In doing this there are four steps:

  1. Set a clear target. Be clear on what you want to be known for. You cannot fake this as people will quickly realise this, you need to be authentic.  You need to be clear on not just about what you want to be known for, but the kind of people you want to attract.  This allows you to target people effectively.
  1. Establish your strengths – be as clear as you can in identifying these strengths. These fall into several areas:
    1.  What are your personal strengths?  – for example, are you a good listener? Empathetic? Able to make the complex simple?
    2. What are you known for? – for example, your ability to coach people to change their behaviours to help them personally grow and achieve outcomes; your ability to optimise production processes? Your skills in building and developing teams?
    3. What environments and situations do you enjoy and thrive in? – for example, you have considerable experience in the healthcare industry, or in people development or developing financial solutions.
  1. Link strengths to target –it is not enough that you know how to link your strengths to your target audience, you need to make it clear to them (that is those who you want to know, and those who you want to know you).  You need to be able to understand their perspective as to how you meet their needs and can provide value to them – you need to make yourself meaningful and relevant to them. To do this you need to….
  1. Demonstrate how you can benefit them – you need to be able to provide evidence and success stories. They are not interested in your strengths but rather what your strengths can do and mean for them. A good analogy is that no-body buys a ¼” drill – they buy ¼” holes; that is people are not so interested in what you do as they are in the outcomes you can help them achieve. As such, your achievements are the evidence you have those strengths e.g. sales growth or cost reduction. They make your case convincing.

Putting It All Together

Below is an example of how this information can be put together.

1

What Do You Want to Be Known For?

To be known as the go-to person for those looking to develop their people’s strategic thinking, business acumen and management skills in achieving business results on an on-gong basis”.

Who You Want to Target?

“Mid-size companies or divisions of global companies who are experiencing significant changes, challenges to growth and/or the retention and effective development of key people/teams”. 

2

Your Strengths

Personal Strengths What you are known for. Environments & Situations?
These include being able to:

  • Quickly build rapport
  • Simplify the complex
  • Empathise and be a good active listener
  • Coach others
  • Share and develop ideas, insights & experiences

 

This includes:

  • Driving business growth and results
  • Facilitating change and engaging people
  • Developing your leadership pipeline
  • Developing your organisation’s key strategic, business and management skills
  • Simplify the complex

 

Environments

  • Across all industries
  • Where rapid change is being experienced
  • Increasing levels of volatility, uncertainty, complexity & ambiguity
  • Problems are not being resolved
  • People lack skills

Situations

  • Challenged by rapid change
  • Growth has plateaued
  • Increasing levels of competition
  • Where they know they cannot continue the way they have

 

3

Link Strengths to Target

I work with: To: By:
  • Businesses that are looking to grow in a competitive environment;
  • Which lack key in-house skills & capabilities including, but not limited to, strategic thinking, business acumen, and management and leadership skills;
  • With people who are open-minded, prepared to be challenged, and who can realise significant value from engaging with us.
  • Developing and implementing strategic plans focused on achieving business outcomes;
  • Unlocking the potential of key people and teams;
  • Developing people’s ability to leverage resources, people, time and money effectively;
  • Engaging and aligning staff with strategic goals; and
  • Building business acumen with the necessary management and leadership skills to support business growth.
  • Grow and develop the people to meet future needs, challenges & opportunities;
  • Improve the retention & motivation of key people;
  • Meet changes proactively and;
  • Develop & maintain sustainable competitive advantage over existing and new competition.
  • Developing and implementing strategic plans focused on achieving business outcomes;
  • Unlocking the potential of key people and teams;
  • Developing people’s ability to leverage resources, people, time and money effectively;
  • Engaging and aligning staff with strategic goals; and
  • Building business acumen with the necessary management and leadership skills to support business growth.
4

Demonstrate

This can include, for example:

  • Suitable “war stories”
  • Previous experience with similar companies, situations
  • Case studies
  • Client testimonials
  • Client referrals

This template helps to provide focus on how you can develop your Personal Value Proposition from the perspective of your clients or the people you are looking to interact with.

So who are you targeting, what are your strengths and how will you leverage them, what does it mean for these people, and how will you demonstrate it to them?

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

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Do You Have Sustainable Engagement?

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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?

by Andrew Cooke, Growth & Profit Solutions 

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 abseentism 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 organization’s 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.

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High-Potential Leaders and Building Partnerships

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High-Potential Leaders & Building Partnerships

by Andrew CookeGrowth & Profit Solutions 

High-performing leaders need to know how to partner, both internally and externally, to manage the on-going changes in the business environment.

A survey, asking high-potential leaders describe today’s ideal leader, produced an unequivocal result – the ideal leader is a person who builds internal and external partnerships.

Internal partnerships include direct reports, co-workers and managers.  External partnerships include customers, suppliers and competitors.

Inside the Organisation

1. Partnering with Direct Reports.Leaders Need to Partner

Organisations no longer provide employees with job security.  As job security has diminished so has employee loyalty.  High-performers see themselves as “free agents”, able and willing to move to those who will cater to their needs for personal growth and development.  Leaders here need to develop a “win-win” relationship with these high-performers, and to be their partner rather than their boss.

This is especially true when managing knowledge workers, where managers know less of what is being done than their reports.  If you don’t partner these people then you won’t have them.

2. Partnering with co-workers.

Successful leaders will share people, capital, and ideas to break down boundaries:

  • Share people –  so that the leader can develop the expertise and breadth needed to manage;
  • Share capital – so that mature business can transfer funds to high-growth business; and
  • Share ideas – so that people can learn from both successes and mistakes.

These are difficult to do, especially when areas may have to suffer a short-term loss to allow the organisation to benefit in the longer- term.  It requires leaders to collaborate and be skilled in negotiating, and to create “win-win” relationships.

3. Partnering with managers.

The changing role of leadership will mean that the relationship between managers and direct reports will have to change in both directions. Leaders will need to be partners leading in a network, not managers leading in a hierarchy.  Leaders need to collaborate as a team and combine the leader’s knowledge of unit operations with the manager’s understanding of larger needs. Such a relationship requires taking responsibility, sharing information, and striving to see both the micro and macro perspective. When direct reports know more than their managers, they have to learn how to “influence up.”

Outside the Organisation

1. Partnering with customers.

Customers are now buying solutions and systems for delivery that are customized to meet their needs to meet their needs. Many customers now want “network solutions,” not just hardware and software.

Leaders from supply organizations will need to become more like partners and less like salespeople. This trend toward building long-term customer relationships, not just achieving short-term sales, means that suppliers need to develop a much deeper understanding of the customer’s total business. They will need to make many small sacrifices to achieve a large gain. In short, they will need to act like partners.

2. Partnering with suppliers.

As the shift toward integrated solutions advances, leaders will have to change their relationship with suppliers. Many leaders now realise that their success is directly related to their supplier’s success. As such they now make a commitment to their suppliers as part of their joint focus on serving the end user of the product or service.

3. Partnering with competitors.

The most radical change in the role of leader as partner has come in partnering with competitors. Most high-potential leaders see competitors as potential customers, suppliers, and partners. When today’s competitors may become tomorrow’s customers, the definition of “winning” changes.

Summary

These six trends toward more partnering are mutually reinforcing. As people feel less job security, they begin to see suppliers, customers and competitors as potential employers. Leaders need to learn about these organisations, create “win-win” relationships and build long-term relationships,

What are you doing to do build partnerships in your strategy, direction and actions?

John Donne put it very eloquently:

“No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main”.

Are you looking to work alone, or do you see yourself as part of a greater whole and a greater opportunity?

Thanks to Marshall Goldsmith whose work provided the basis for much of this article.

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

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The Four Components of Human Performance

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The Four Components of Human Performance

There are four key components that need to be in place for people to perform, and for organisations to prosper.  What are they and what can we do to ensure they are in place? 

by Andrew Cooke, Growth & Profit Solutions Human Performance

Performance is about people, and people can be fickle.  Organisations are under pressure to do more with less; organisations are becoming flatter which, in turn, is extending the scope and responsibility of managers and leaders, increasing the number of reports and reducing the time that manager and leaders can spend with them.

 So what do we need to do to ensure that we have the right building blocks in place so that people can perform effectively and efficiently?

Andrew’s Four Building Blocks

There are four building blocks which form the foundation for performance.

4 Components of Human Performance

1.  Desire to Work – people need to want to work.  It is not about just satisfying their monetary or security needs.  People want the opportunity to apply their skills and talents, to gain gratification from doing so, and to receive recognition for doing so.

2. Adequate Skills- if people have the desire but lack the necessary skills they will be unable to perform, they will be frustrated, and the organisation will be negatively impacted.  Certain skills are essential for success.  Employees may already have these skills; they may need to be trained in them, or to develop these skills experientially on the job.  At the same time, especially with “knowledge workers”, the necessary skills and expertise may erode or even become obsolete (how many rotary telephone repair people do you know?  Or typewrite repair experts?)

3. Right Attitude - if you hire nothing else, hire enthusiasm.  Hire energy, hire excitement, and hire passion.  These are not teachable.  You can teach people your content and the skills required. The adage, “hire for attitude, train for aptitude”, has never been truer.

4.  Right Behaviours- if people lack the right behaviours, even though they have the desire to work and the necessary skills, you will find poor performance. How many times have you gone out for a meal, which was excellent, but marred by slovenly, slow or disinterested service?  How are you clients experiencing your people? Behaviours have to match the job results expected.

Look at your organisation and ask yourself how are you doing in each of these areas?  Are you recruiting people with these four components from which you can build a foundation from which to build high-performance? Are there are weaknesses or gaps in your business, divisions or departments? Are these gaps areas which you can influence or are they areas which are in the domain of the employee?

All four components are required for human performance and measurement, but only some of them can be built by the employer, although all of them can be nurtured by the employer.

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

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When Leadership Fails – and Why!

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When Leadership Fails – and Why!

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

by Andrew Cooke, Growth & Profit Solutions

Let me paint you a picture.

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

Failing Leadership

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

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

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

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

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

So why is this happening?

Why Leadership Training is Failing Leaders

There are five main reasons:

1. Leadership is a Choice, Not a Position

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

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

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

2.  Leaders are Developed not Trained

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

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

Herein lies the crux.

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

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

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

3. Leaders are Unique – Not Standard

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

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

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

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

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

5 Levels of Leadership

5 Levels of Leadership

1. Position -rights granted by the position and title.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Can We Stop Our Leaders from Failing

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

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

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

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

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

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