Month: August 2013

In the business world, managing directors face a variety of challenges when trying to develop their companies into successful and profitable enterprises. As business leaders they need to arm themselves with a set of skills and traits that will allow them to maximize their own potential and the potential of their staff, and thereby maximize profits. But how do successful business leaders get investors, employees and consumers to trust their vision and ideas? The answer is through effective leadership and at the heart of that lies the concept of personal development. There are no magic formulas for success but as LEAP’s John Raftery explains, there are 5 key factors in personal development for managing directors that can influence your company’s bottom line.

1. Self-Awareness

“The key factor that dictates success in any endeavour, whether it’s in a business, a family, social settings or in a community, is emotional intelligence. The concept has been around for years, but essentially the most successful people in all walks of life are people who have high levels of emotional intelligence. What defines emotional intelligence more than anything else is self-awareness. There are lots of techniques to develop it such as psychometric tests and personality testing, but essentially what you need to do is devote a lot of time to reflecting on your behaviours, your attitudes and emotional responses to situations. It’s about questioning yourself and trying to reflect as much as possible in order to build up self-awareness. The reason why self-awareness is fundamental to emotional intelligence is because without it you won’t know what needs to change, or what issues need to be addressed in the way you behave. Self-awareness is the foundation to good personal development and making an impact on the world around us. Without it we are lost and it’s a never ending quest. We can spend our whole lives developing and honing self-awareness.”

2. Motivation

“There are two types of motivation; intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation. By intrinsic motivation I mean you are motivated internally, by something you want to achieve or gain for yourself in order to find personal fulfilment. Extrinsic motivation is where you are motivated by external factors such as status, money or power. Both internal and external motivation can be quite strong and lead you to achieving huge success, but ultimately intrinsic motivation is the stronger of the two because that always remains with you. And linking that back to self-awareness; the more awareness you have, the more you can tap into your source of motivation to drive you on.”

3. Self- Efficacy

“The third element is one of the more important ones. Self-efficacy is the ability to control your responses and your emotions without being stoic or frigid in your responses. In other words you give the appropriate response in appropriate situations. You can decide what your response is in a particular situation and you can control your behaviours. That includes behaviours relating to alcohol, exercise or diet and more importantly having control over your emotional responses. It means accepting you are in control of your emotional responses.”

4. Empathy

“The fourth element is the one that is most lacking in the world today. Essentially empathy is the ability to put yourself in another person’s shoes, to see things from their point of view. All conflict comes from a lack of empathy, from major conflicts to minor ones. People who are psychopathic have no empathy at all so they can’t feel another person’s pain. They can’t relate to other people. People with high levels of empathy can tune into other people and read situations better. They are better at reading the emotional responses of the people they’re trying to manage, or motivate or develop or relate to in some way. They are much better listeners than talkers, and by listening more you learn a lot more. There’s an old truism that God gave us two ears and one mouth and we should use them in that proportion. Listen twice as much as you speak. Allow others to speak without interrupting. Often when we are in conversation we are thinking about what we are going to say next rather than listening to what others are actually saying, and being inquisitive about what others are saying to us.”

5. Social Dexterity

“The last thing is what I call social dexterity which, at its most basic level, means interacting with other people. Basic things like shaking people’s hands, how you look them in the eye, and what your body language says about you. How confident are you in certain situations? How assertive are you? How do you relate to others in your network? How do you communicate with people? Can you actually lead teams or teams of teams? Can you lead an organisation? Can you relate to and manage large numbers of people? Social dexterity is something we try to develop in our children; we try to make them socially comfortable. We try to get them to relate to their peers, to get them to develop leadership skills through sport and so on. Ultimately this is the foundation that should lead people to greater levels of social dexterity further down the line. It’s one of the key components of leadership. I believe if an individual can develop the five key areas of self-awareness, understanding motivations, develop high levels of self-efficacy and empathy, and are comfortable and assertive in terms of social dexterity, then you’re looking  at an individual that can have a great  deal of influence on the people they come into contact with.”

 

Maureen Grealish director at LEAPResearch into the factors leading to strategic planning failure in business reveal a myriad of reasons why some companies struggle to survive in the marketplace. But the more conspicuous statistics relate to development versus implementation. Reports such as the Bridges Strategy Implementation Survey indicate that 80 of team leaders feel satisfied with their development plans, but only 44 are happy with its implementation.  Spectacular strategic failures like Kodak grab headlines for all the wrong reasons, but in truth many companies suffer the same fate with business leaders failing to innovate, or senior managers failing to implement the business plan. With her extensive experience in strategic planning, Maureen Grealish outlines 5 reasons why some strategic business plans fail, and why companies struggle with this critical issue.

1. Lack of Alignment Between Strategy, Objectives, Vision and KPIs

“Some businesses develop Visions, Strategy, Objectives and KPIs independently of each other, not understanding that they should be linked. Even though they may focus on each area, the fact that they are not aligned results in lack of focus, direction and impact. The idea is to fix on a vision first, then identify a strategy that will get the business there. Once the strategy has been agreed, 5/6 Key Business Objectives for the next 12-18 months can be agreed, and with them the measurements that will measure the progress (or otherwise) towards the achievement of the objective.”

2. Lack of Discipline

“Lack of consistency in discipline will affect the outcomes from any Strategic Development Programme. A lot of discussion, time and effort can go in to developing the strategic plan of a business. The biggest reason that they fail is that the action elements are not applied, monitored regularly or refined when required. This results in lack of focus and direction. It also results in lack of energy…if actions aren’t being completed then nothing can be achieved.”

3. Lack of Accountability

“As part of the strategic plan development, actions will have been identified. Each action will have a deadline and an owner. If the MD does not encourage accountability for completion of the actions, then people will realise that there are no consequences for lack of action and the drive to complete them will be pushed to the background when other, often immediate, challenges arise.”

4. Lack of Head Space

“When managers, leaders and team members are so busy that they cannot ‘lift their heads’ away from the immediate requirements of the business, it is difficult for them to get the head space to address the medium and long-term elements of the business. It is human nature to focus on the immediate, however, it does not help a business progress towards the completion of an objective, which makes it impossible to successfully realise a vision. It takes practice and discipline to give some time to the future, and to ensure that decisions made and actions taken will assist with getting the business to where it wants to go.”

5. Lack of Courage

“It is easier to focus on the elements of our responsibilities that we know we are good at. The natural tendency is to achieve NOW. It can be more difficult to spend some of our time focusing on the future – that may be uncertain, may have risk and may be uncharted territory. We all need to be courageous to challenge what we are doing now, what is comfortable for us, and to adapt to changes which may be difficult in the short term, but will have greater impact in the longer term.”

Maureen Grealish

Managing conflict in the workplace is a critical skill that managers need and having a process to follow is a key factor in developing that skill. Before getting into the process of conflict resolution within work teams, let’s get a little more insight into the issue from Tricia Cunningham, business advisor at LEAP management consultants. Here are her tips for the manager in resolving conflict within work teams.

First Tricia, what is meant by conflict resolution within work teams?
When we hear the word conflict many managers become fearful.  The word conjures images of difficult arguments or people entrenched in views.  The manager then becomes reticent to deal with the issue. Let’s put it into context; conflict is really about a disagreement that’s been allowed to escalate, where there’s a lack of focus on what the real issue is and now it has become more complex and often more personal. Disagreement within any team is healthy; it gets ideas out on the table, it challenges people’s way of thinking, and it pushes people to defend their ground or consider an alternative point of view. So disagreement is healthy.

When it escalates to the point of conflict it’s no longer healthy. So managers need to learn that whenever there is a disagreement its ok to allow it to come out. Have a discussion about it, see where it’s going but rein it in at the right time, before people become entrenched or the discussion becomes personal. It should come as a relief to the team members that when there is a disagreement it’s allowed to be discussed, and people are allowed to have different opinions and voice them, without being shut down.

How do you manage conflict?
If there is a disagreement between two employees, and one of them approaches the manager about it, the manager needs to handle the situation carefully. The first thing to do is make sure the two employees have discussed the issue and tried to resolve it themselves rather than the manager stepping in immediately. If the two employees have talked it through but can’t reach consensus then the manager does need to step in. This means organising a meeting between the two employees to hear both sides. At this point the manager is acting as intermediary between the two. As intermediary you need to be careful that the employees are using language that is not inflammatory and is non-judgemental.

Staying with intervention, what advice have you for managers in their role as intermediary?
The manager’s job is to keep things focused on the core issues and not get blindsided by personal issues. The process may take one, two or three meetings to get the employees to understand each other’s position, but at the end of the process the manager needs to make sure to track what actions were agreed. Tracking actions is vital so the conflict doesn’t raise its head again.

The manager needs to have a plan of action that the two individuals have agreed upon regarding what’s going to happen next, and it’s the manager who must ensure that plan is followed through. The plan could involve specific steps that they have to take to resolve the issue, or it could simply be that both parties agree to disagree but they also agree to respect each other. The manager needs to ensure that respect is observed in meetings, interactions or emails. In any kind of communication that respect must be demonstrated.

The Process for the Manager

  1. Check that both parties have made an effort to discuss and resolve the issue before intervention.
  2. Understand the real issue causing the conflict.
  3. Organise a meeting between both parties.
  4. As  manager/intermediary make it clear that inflammatory language is unacceptable and both sides need to respect each others right to speak. Ensure respect is maintained throughout proceedings.
  5. Maintain focus on the core issue at the heart of the conflict. Do not get side-tracked by irrelevant issues.
  6. Develop a conflict resolution plan outlining an agreed set of actions for both employees to follow.
  7. Track those actions to ensure they are being implemented in the workplace.
  8. Review the situation regularly to ensure the conflict has been resolved and both employees are working effectively together.

Tricia, what happens when two employees just cannot resolve their differences?
There are different approaches a manager can take. The Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument does a very good assessment of different styles of conflict resolution. Sometimes the manager’s approach can be about consensus. But if the issue is simply too big or the two individuals can’t reach agreement, then the manager takes a more competitive approach and drives through their agenda and says ‘this is what has to happen.’ So there are different styles you can use in different situations that you encounter. It’s about knowing which style is right for each situation.

Sometimes employees don’t get along and it will never work. The two have to figure out how to work together while respecting that they may not like each other. They don’t have to be friends and they don’t have to socialise, but they have to work effectively together and that’s what the manager’s job is; to try and help them figure out how they can work together effectively despite their differences.

Tricia Cunningham has designed many management training courses over the past 12 years, including programmes for new managers. Working across a variety of business sectors, she has gained many insights into the challenges that emerging managers face when trying to build high performance work teams. Here Tricia discusses motivation and how to motivate teams, a common problem for new managers.

Q. Tricia, what is the most common problem that new managers face?
The most common problem is motivating team members. Often managers complain that ‘I can’t motivate a person.’ They feel that everything is out of their hands in terms of the factors that motivate people. For example they think I can’t increase their pay, I can’t promote them up the career ladder, there are no promotions going. So managers feel like they have no leverage to motivate an individual.

In LEAP’s programmes we look at the real factors that motivate individuals. We try to get managers to look at each individual team member and determine what the manager can do to motivate that person. The factors that motivate an individual are usually within the control of the manager, but the manager doesn’t always see that. Factors such as having interesting work to do and playing to strengths are very powerful and need to be used to better effect by managers.

Managers need to find ways for employees to play to their strengths within the defined role. Another factor that’s within the manager’s control is employees feeling they are involved in things and understanding what’s going on in the organisation. When the employee understands that this is the direction we’re going in, this is what’s happening, this is why my role is important, they are more concerned about the business and its success. When managers start looking at it this way they start to see that actually there is something they can do about motivation. It isn’t always down to money or steps on a hierarchical ladder that needs to be climbed.

Q. How effective is this approach with new managers?
It’s very effective because you’re getting managers to see things differently, and that’s what a manager’s job is; to constantly look at a situation or problem from a different perspective and come up with a workable solution. They are at least beginning to think more constructively and positively.

Q. There are some tasks that people don’t want to do. Is it difficult to get an entire team motivated by playing to each of their strengths, and at the same time making sure that all tasks get done?
Of course. People are realistic. If 80 of my job is made up of tasks I really love doing and 20 are tasks I don’t like doing, then I’m probably very happy in my job. We try as much as possible to get employees to play to their strengths so they will enjoy what they’re doing, so the other tasks that they have to do, they don’t mind doing them as much. It’s when the balance is incorrect, where nobody gets to play to their strengths, where 80 of the job are things they don’t like, and only 20 are tasks they like, well then they start to hate their job.

It’s not about changing everyone’s role in the team. You don’t have the scope for that. It’s about the manager stepping back and figuring out what the person likes and what their strengths are, is there scope within the role, and within the organisation, to get them playing more to their strengths?

When the employee says ‘yeah this suits me better, I like this.’ Then they are motivated.