Month: July 2013

Leadership development is about developing the right habitsIn 2000 Mike Gaffney, along with co-founder Tricia Cunningham, established LEAP as a leadership development and management training consultancy. Armed with twelve years experience working at Nortel Networks he embarked on a new role as an executive coach. Over the past thirteen years he has developed substantial leadership programmes for owners of Irish and international companies.  Mike’s philosophy is that leadership skills can be learned like any other skill.  Here he discusses why leadership development is about developing the right habits, which ones have served him best as managing director, and the person who influenced him in his role as an executive coach.

You’re a business leader Mike. What leadership habits have helped you the most?
I think the most important thing I’ve learned in my journey is to be self-aware. It’s crucial to be aware of how you behave and keep that awareness to the forefront of your decision making, particularly in interactions with your team and with your customers.

Can you give an example of self-awareness as a business owner and leader?
I learned a valuable lesson one August a number of years ago when I came back into the office after getting some business from a new client. My team asked me ‘who is going to deliver the work?’  I said I talked to the client and I volunteered myself after having sat down with them for a couple of hours and gone through their challenges. One of the team then said to me:  ‘Mike , we have a problem. You don’t trust us.’ I got on my high horse, I was annoyed at the comment. Of course I trust you! But they were right. When push came to shove I didn’t trust anyone else in the business to do as good a job as I could do.  As I have since learnt: Ego is a poor Amigo.

What was the leadership lesson learned there?
As a leader, I had to stop thinking that if I don’t do it, it won’t get done properly, because that’s not leading a team. I’m just playing the role of the hero with the hundred helpers, which is unfair on the helpers, and it hugely limits the capacity of the business to grow. So that myth I was telling myself, that if I don’t do it, then it doesn’t get done properly, had to stop. Unless I found a way to leave that out and move beyond it, I could not grow LEAP as an organisation. You have to be willing to trust your team, that’s the lesson.  As Harry Truman put it so eloquently: “If you don’t mind who gets the credit, you can achieve great things.”

So self-awareness plays a key role for leaders when growing a business?
It’s critical. Without it you keep making the same mistakes. Particularly if you are successful, the skillset that made you successful will need to be fine-tuned to get you to the next level. Take sport for example. What drives a team to win their first All-Ireland will not work second time around. They will need something more if they want to win back-to-back, because the same hunger won’t be there. They need to frame their challenge in a new way and they need to tap into new approaches in themselves to make that work.

The same thing applies to a business leader who wants to grow the organisation. The skills that get you to succeed initially in the start-up stage can be the same skills that hinder you as a leader. Your own drive to be successful – doing it your way -may work in the early stages, but that can hinder you in the later stage in the context of managing a team and growing the business. The challenge as a leader is to let your team be themselves identifying areas where th ey can apply their strengths, which is where their contribution can be maximised for the company. Then give them space and support.

What are the skills that you have developed that have served you best as a business leader?
For me it’s being creative. We are a consultancy service in leadership and management for businesses, so providing creative and practical solutions for our customers is a good selling point. That’s a natural flair I have that has served me well as a leader.

But I think behaviours are more important than skills and a key behaviour is persistence. In times of recession there are going to be challenges but the longer you stay in the ring the better chance you have of landing that knockout blow, and maybe more importantly you are still standing.

What trait as a business leader has served you well?
Persistence; to keep going when it looks easier to give up and it feels like you’re pushing a stone up a hill, to trust in yourself and your team and keep going and keep looking to improve.

What leaders have influenced you, who are the people you admire?
I had a very good friend who passed away last year: Tom Touhy. The two of us coached rowing in the NUI,Galway for 14 years. He was the recognised front man and rightly so. I learned from Tom how best to support the leader, and advise him and steer him (when needed) and that has stood me in good stead.  I was becoming an executive coach without realising it.

Being the leader is a lonely place, having someone who can eye-ball you and call a spade a spade, is a great help. My time as a rowing coach has helped equip me with a framework to work with business owners and leaders in an unobtrusive and supportive manner. This enables them to be themselves, while having someone to question them in a constructive way regarding they’re thinking and decision making.

In interview with Des Kirby
Are you a company owner or team manager? What are the leadership traits and skills that serve you best. Leave a comment in the box below.

LEAP’s Make Leadership Happen Programme was designed by Mike and his team specifically to support company owners in growing their business and helping them get the most out of their teams. Contact us to find out how we can help you take your company to the next level.

In part 1 of this interview with John Raftery we addressed issues of micromanagement, and the detrimental effects it can have on business leaders and their staff. In part 2 we address the task of reclaiming your role as a business leader. This task may appear daunting at first, but with a practical and methodical approach it’s possible to reassert your position as innovator, visionary and business leader.

How can a business leader reclaim the leadership role?

You’re talking about changing behaviour and that’s one of the most difficult things to do, whether it’s giving up smoking or losing weight or cutting down on drinking. These are all behaviours that are very challenging and we often need external help to tackle them. When we talk about changing the behaviour of your team, or how you reclaim the leadership role, it’s difficult to do but it can be done through a programme where you identify and articulate what the issues are.

Why is there a lack of confidence or performance?  What are the capabilities of the management team? What’s the level of trust between the management team and the business owner?  What’s the level of performance versus the level of potential? All of these things are in the mix, and from that you have to try and reshape the management team, and at the same time get the leader to change their behaviours and their way of managing.

What are the first steps in reclaiming the leadership role?

It will have to start with the relationship between the business owner and the senior management team. In an organisation where the owner is there every day, there is a lack of clarity about the role of the senior managers. It’s very up in the air. Responsibility is spread across a number of people. Those organisations are not good at structure, clarifying roles or measuring the impact of each department and assigning accountability to senior managers. Or getting them to report regularly, weekly or monthly, so you get a clear insight into business performance. Or get clear accountability so you can assign performance to individuals. You have to create that environment.

When you create that environment the owner should then be able to step back and look more at the bigger picture, the bigger issues. The big issue could be one or two managers who are just not capable of performing at the level required. They can step back and deal with those bigger issues. A lot of SMEs just get stuck into the work and build up a lot of knowledge about the product or service, but they don’t get any formal training in managing people or management methodologies.

You can get away with that to a certain level, but it can eventually undermine the business, so you have to determine if it’s a capability issue or a training issue, or is it just the wrong person in the wrong job. The management team have to know what their strengths are and play to those strengths. Some managers end up becoming involved in areas they should not be involved in.

How can LEAP help business leaders reclaim the leadership role?

Over the years I have seen a lot of people in leadership roles observe problems in their organisations but they don’t know what to do about them. So they often go and decide there is a problem with a particular supervisor or department. Then they go out and get them a training programme and hope the programme will address the issue and they don’t really look beyond that.

But very often we find the issue is not really with the supervisor, it might be with a senior manager or even the owner, but they don’t see that, so there is a great benefit to getting someone external to see what exactly the issues are within the whole organisation. Going back to what I said earlier on about changing behaviours, you do need an external force to help you change behaviours. It’s very hard to do it on your own.

Does LEAP act as that external force for business owners?

That’s what LEAP offer, a sounding board. LEAP can act as an honest broker between people and give a non-biased view of people and situations where there’s no vested interest. A lot of people would be afraid of upsetting the apple cart, acting very cautiously and that gets in the way of real honesty. People’s motives are not as clear as they should be and cultures build up in a company, like a culture of fire-fighting, or a blame culture, and that can spread right throughout the organisation.

It’s very hard to get it out and it can have huge detrimental effects. Sometimes people within the organisation can’t see it because they are the culture. But someone external can see it straight away and challenge it, and also figure out how they are going to help the organisation rid themselves of that culture, and replace it with something more positive and beneficial.

If I’m a business owner struggling with these issues why should I call LEAP?

Because of our depth of experience; we have undertaken very transformative programmes with companies where we have had a serious impact on their business. Another reason is the level of integrity. If we feel that a client is not on board with us, if we feel there is a lack of honesty, we would walk away from an assignment if we felt it wasn’t right for us, or for the business owner. Integrity is huge and I think people pick up on that when they meet us, that we genuinely want to help clients. We have the knowledge, the experience and we have the track record of being able to help.

 

‘Managers are people who do things right, while leaders are people who do the right thing.’ So said Warren Bennis over 20 years ago, but micromanaging is still one of the most common bad habits of business owners today. That is, getting bogged down in the day-to-day operations of their company, when they should be focusing on growing their business.  I talked to John Raftery  about leadership skills and how great business leaders avoid micromanagement in order to create the right environment to grow their companies.

Why do some leaders end up managing instead of leading their companies?

If you look at the evolution of businesses, particularly in the SME sector, what you find is that when people start off a business they take on a lot of the roles themselves in terms of sales, deliveries and operations and so on. As the company grows that’s fine, it works for a while, and they bring in more people. They continue on as they were, but eventually the business begins to plateau. The potential of the business isn’t realised, because they are now doing more and more and running around dealing with the day to day stuff.

So when they reach this plateau this is the critical point for them to move on to really try to grow the business. They have to put the systems and processes in place to help them move to the next level. The biggest thing that prevents people from doing this is that they are not very good at delegating, and also they don’t have enough trust in the people that work for them. And even if they do trust them they haven’t got the systems in place that can actually monitor and measure the effectiveness of their management team.

Leaders need to focus on growing the business, but what does that mean in practice?

For a lot of people I come across the big frustration is they don’t spend enough time meeting their customers, finding out what they want and developing new products and services. In order to grow the business, that’s where they need to focus their attention and spend their time.

Usually they spend their time playing catch-up, or making sure the day-to-day stuff is getting done adequately. Then there’s no time left at the end of the day to address the potential that could create the growth for them. Like spending time with customers, developing new products and services, meeting new people and getting ideas, and spending time looking back at the team who are running the business day-to-day. Figuring out how well they are performing, what their issues are and trying to come up with solutions that they can implement.

It’s a skill that a lot of business owners don’t have, they might be good in some areas but they are weak in other areas. And the weaknesses trip them up. No business leader is good in every area, if you really want to be a good business leader you need to identify what areas you are weak in, and then identify people who can support you in that area and get them to work with you.

So the leaders true skill is the ability to delegate?

Yes…and driving innovation and growth. The leader’s vision is about the future and trying to achieve some vision they have for themselves and their business. Delegation is an important part of it, because in order to achieve what they need to achieve they have to bring people with them, they can’t do it on their own.

It’s also about communicating exactly what they require, it’s about having the discipline to follow through, it’s picking the right people, it’s a whole series of boxes that need to be ticked to achieve what you want to achieve. But essentially it’s about getting other people to use their energy to help you to achieve your vision and that’s the skill. Having the vision is one thing but being able to implement it and realise it is another thing. And that’s the difference between management and leadership.

It sounds like leadership requires a lot of trust?

Well trust and integrity are vital ingredients for any leader. I think we can all agree on that. If a leader loses integrity and people lose trust in him or her, then they have no role. And trust is simple to build. Essentially it’s doing what you say you are going to do. And people have huge sensitivity, they’re antenna is out all the time, and they are watching how leaders perform every minute of the day. And if at any stage what they say and what they do is not congruent people spot it immediately.

Trust is vital in a leader, but likewise leaders have to be able to trust the team to deliver. That trust is built up through a steady performance of delivery, through mechanisms that can monitor what their inputs are, how accountable they are and how effective they are. If all those boxes are ticked then the leader becomes more trusting of the management team, and stays out of the micromanagement that some leaders get involved with. So there is this continued tension between letting the management team get on with it, and at the same time observing and monitoring what they are doing as well, so it’s a fine line.

Micromanaging can damage that trust?

If a management team feel they are being micromanaged by the leader, it undermines their confidence in themselves and in the leader as well. It can be very detrimental. So trust is easy to say but it’s hard to achieve it, because it’s not something that can be measured with a slide rule, and say ‘this is the level of trust that has been achieved.’

It’s about people’s views and opinions and some people find it difficult to articulate what the levels of trust are. Or what the factors are that undermine trust, but it’s evident to us who come in externally, and have experience of looking at effective leadership and management team performance. You can pick up on it fairly quickly if you have enough experience and you know what you’re looking for.

Tricia CunninghamEmployees are often chosen for a new management position based on performance in their current role. But individual skills in a current role are not always a good indicator of an employee’s ability to manage a team of people. Managing teams is a different ball game requiring a different mindset and tactics to match. With years of experience in delivering management training and development programmes, Tricia Cunningham discusses the critical issues that new management recruits need to consider from the start. Senior managers and managing directors should also consider these insights before choosing employees to fill management positions.

Tricia, in terms of effective management what are the things new management recruits need to know?
New managers generally begin with confidence – after all, they have been promoted because of their skills and what they have done to date. However, when you move into a management role, what served them well in getting to that point isn’t necessarily going to serve them well going forward. Things have to change.

First, the way they think about their role and get their heads around what it means to be a manager. So it’s no longer good enough to work really hard, and deliver on what you have been doing before. You have to get your team working effectively, and ensure everybody in the team is doing what they should be doing, delivering on what they should be delivering on, and you’re giving them the feedback to keep them motivated.

After that you then need to consider ‘what do I need to do to deliver on my new goals?’ Many new managers begin with working hard at what they are doing and feel their staff is dragging from them. They see them more as a burden rather than as a resource they can use to ensure the organisation is moving forward, and more targets are achieved. So the first mistake managers make is they don’t change their mind-set, they don’t think about what the role is and what’s required.

Secondly, because they haven’t changed the way they think about nature of the role, they continue to focus on delivering on just the tasks they had been doing all along, and just doing more of them.

What other factors affect new managers?
Often the challenge for many new managers is that they are managing people they have worked with before. So now a colleague has suddenly become somebody who is directly reporting to the new manager. And managing that relationship can be difficult for a new manager, understanding that things have shifted.

What can a new manager do in that situation?
You need to have a conversation with your employees and outline what it is that you, as a new manager, want to achieve. When we don’t make that space for that conversation we continue as we were until an issue arises. Then when an issue arises the new manager chooses to bury their head in the sand and pretend it isn’t there, they don’t address it properly, so they need to make that space.

It has to be a discussion around, ‘look this is the role, this is what I want, and this is how I see us working together as a team. And this is my role within the team.’ So that people understand the new context, and it is set out from the beginning that I am the new manager and you are my team. It becomes very difficult for emerging managers to establish themselves and their authority with the team if there hasn’t been some type of formal introduction.

Regarding these particular issues how can LEAP help new managers?
New managers need to feel confident in their role. To have confidence you have to have the knowledge and the skills to deliver. There’s no point in putting a new manager into that role if they are not given the knowledge and skills to deliver on it and execute the role effectively. The Emerging Managers programme provides a setting for them to learn new information and to understand how that information applies to their role. They get the knowledge they need, and they get the opportunity to see how that’s applied so they can build their skills further.

Equipped with knowledge and skills, you start to build your confidence, so new managers need a formal programme to help them develop. Just assuming the person understands what it means to be a manager is just setting the individual, and the organisation, up for failure. A good management development programme is one that addresses the core issue – people management skills – and does it in a practical way.

What’s the qualification at the end of that?
The Emerging Managers programme offers a  QQI Level 6 component certificate in Managing People. The certification is very practical and is based on the individual’s experience at work. It’s asking them to analyse and evaluate what they are currently doing in terms of managing people, and what insights they have learned about themselves. It’s through that process that they earn their certificate. It’s a great practical assessment and it reinforces best practices, and provides an opportunity for an individual to build their confidence.

What kind of feedback do you get from people about Emerging Managers?
We get great feedback, just look at some of the  testimonials we receive. To summarise the impact I would say its increased confidence in people’s ability to manage people, and early detection and addressing of issues with people. Participants also improve their communication skills across teams as managers become confident, and recognising the importance of communicating with team members, whether it’s in team meetings or providing feedback on a one-to-one basis. There is also evidence of greater confidence in their ability to manage the workload because practical tips, suggestions and tools are provided in terms of managing workloads.

Does Emerging Managers provide mentoring?
It depends on the programme and the agreement with the client. Some companies opt to do internal mentoring. We will sit with senior managers to identify who would make a good mentor. We run a mentoring workshop with them to help them understand what the role is, and they will mentor participants as they work their way through the programme. Or sometimes LEAP will be involved in the mentoring itself. Sometimes there’s no mentoring, just workshops that are delivered for them. Working with the client we help them determine the best option for their organisation and for their team.

 

 

What is management?

Managers need to do many things, but clarifying business objectives, and deciding key performance indicators (KPI) to measure against those objectives, is crucial to effective performance management. It may, or may not, come as a surprise to you that many businesses in Ireland don’t document either of these. A company’s vision has to be supported by a clear set of objectives. Managers need to know how and why they reached some objectives, but failed to reach others. Maureen Grealish, director at LEAP, spent eight years in a business advisory role dealing with these very issues. Here she shares some of her insights into why business objectives and KPI’s are inextricably linked to your bottom line.

Maureen, in your experience how many businesses have their objectives clearly defined?
Most businesses don’t have any objectives, because they don’t realise the importance of it. There is a phrase ‘what gets measured gets managed.’ Sometimes people are taken up with the enormity of their tasks and they don’t realise that by focusing on 5 or 6 key things they can have a lot more impact on their business. Objectives are the 5 or 6 key things that they need to address in a given time period. That time period could be 6 months or a year, whatever the right time frame is for that particular business. But without that reference point you find that people are fire-fighting a lot, or business becomes very reactive. When they have an objective in place they have a target, and it helps them act in a more disciplined way. It also helps them measure how they’re doing as they go along so they know if they are on the right course or not.

So there are businesses operating without any set of objectives in place?
Yes because they don’t have a strategy. We ask people ‘what’s your vision for the business?’ If that’s your vision what’s your strategy for getting there? The objectives need to be linked to the strategy. So your strategy might be for a 5 year period. So let’s take the first year as a time frame. In order to achieve the vision, and thereby the strategy, what do you need to have achieved in that first time frame. And then the next time frame, and then the next. So the objectives should be seen as a set of milestones towards achieving the vision. But many businesses don’t have a vision, don’t have a strategy and don’t have objectives.

If they don’t have a set of objectives, what are they actually doing on a daily basis?
It depends. This is one of the big issues in business. They are essentially managing what’s in front of them. Some are managing their current customers, others are managing their current work rate, or they’re managing current staff but they don’t have an eye on the future. They might have an idea of where they want to get to but they’re not actively managing towards it. They’re almost hoping it will happen without actually steering themselves towards it.

How are objectives measured in terms of Key Performance Indicators?
If you have five or six key objectives you will have a measure for each one that makes sense to that particular objective. You generally have two financial based objectives, so you’ll have two financial KPIs. So for turnover you’re measurement will be a sales report. For a profit objective the measure would be your monthly managed accounts, the actual profit or loss figure.

For non-financial objectives you need to come up with a measure that makes more sense to that objective. Once you have developed the objectives the next thing you do is develop the measures for each one. For a customer service type of objective you may look at doing customer surveys, or mystery shoppers or you might do some kind of audit, where you score for a particular performance, and monitor that over a period of time to see that the action you are taking is making an improvement. It’s about picking a method that will measure the effect of an objective.

Give an example of a poorly thought out objective.
A poorly thought out objective would be ‘I’d like to increase sales.’ It doesn’t have any reference to how much you want to increase sales by, where you’re starting from or the time period where you want it to increase. So a better objective, when you’re looking at sales, would be to increase sales by 10{aa1e4c34c9c0f46e0a1f04e30c2eb1b9efaea7a47ed6ca6f324476e114da37f4} by Dec 2014. What you’re trying to do is establish a measure that will hit every element of the SMART acronym – specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time bound. Until the objective can tick each one of those then you don’t have a good objective.

How can LEAP help managers and businesses with this critical issue?
We do it as part of an overall process. We need to see the wider context of what they’re trying to achieve in business. So we work with senior management initially to work out what the vision is for that business. Then they need to break that down into manageable chunks. So they may have a three year vision, but they need to focus on the first year. So in the first year what are the five or six key things they need to focus on in order to help them get closer to their vision?

What LEAP can do is help them with their vision. Agree on what the specific objectives are, and identify the measurements they will use. Help them agree on the timeline and implement the strategic plan. Help them monitor their performance, adjust their behaviour and achieve their vision.

Maureen Grealish is a partner and director at LEAP.