Lean – Use Lean to Transform Your Organisation’s Culture

Lean – Use Lean to Transform Your Organisation’s Culture

A common misconception is that lean is only suitable for manufacturing but have a look at the article below and see how lean can be applied in the creative world and professional services.

Lean – first of all, what is it?

The core philosophy of lean is the elimination of waste. While it is easy to identify physical waste the greater challenge in most organisations is to identify the waste of time and resources. Most organisations are extremely busy, fire-fighting and pressure to meet deadlines are a way of life. Lean provides a structured approach and tried and trusted methodologies to eliminating wasted effort in organisations. It goes beyond the sloganeering of “work smarter not harder” and shows people how to analyse the true value of their work and eliminate non-value added activities.

A popular misconception is that lean is suited only for manufacturing. Not true. Lean applies in every organisation and every process. It is not a tactic or a cost reduction program, but a way of thinking and acting for an entire organisation.

The starting point of any lean programme is Value Stream Mapping. This involves the people working in the process stepping back and mapping the process to identify the value and non-value activities they regularly engage with. From here several techniques are employed to get to the root cause of the non-value add activities. The result is an increase in the effectiveness of the individuals or team performance.

Lean is not a stand-alone programme but supports the implementation of policies and procedures in a meaningful way. It is a change management programme and as such will require the engagement of employees fully. Therefore, it is important that a lean initiative is not seen as the “flavour of the month” or something that is imposed by senior management. Key to success will be introducing a lean programme in such a way that employees see the benefits of the programme and that it is fully supported by the leadership of the organisation. All successful lean initiatives recognise that people are the key to success and as such LEAP are well equipped to support the people development element of the programme.

 

 Examples of Lean in practice.

  A Design Studio

A design studio in a printing company kept five fully committed designers very busy. When we analysed how many hours of their working week was billed to customers (Value add work) we discovered that they were 52{aa1e4c34c9c0f46e0a1f04e30c2eb1b9efaea7a47ed6ca6f324476e114da37f4} efficient. The remaining 48{aa1e4c34c9c0f46e0a1f04e30c2eb1b9efaea7a47ed6ca6f324476e114da37f4} of their time was non-value added work. This was the time spent answering queries from production, requesting further information from clients, clarifying issues with the sales teams etc.

The first thing we did was create an “Interruptions Board” We assigned one of the five designers to deal with all interruptions. Each of the five were assigned one day per week as their day to deal with interruptions. On their assigned day, they would deal with the call or visitor and place their query on the board under the name of designer the query was directed towards. That designer would then deal with the query when he/she was taking a break or at the end of the day. This allowed four designers to work uninterrupted every day.

Following on from this, the designers could look at the nature of the interruptions and through using lean techniques were able to establish the root cause of the interruptions. Working together with production, clients and sales team they developed systems to reduce the non-value added activities.  The increase in value added activity in the studio increased from 52{aa1e4c34c9c0f46e0a1f04e30c2eb1b9efaea7a47ed6ca6f324476e114da37f4} to 83{aa1e4c34c9c0f46e0a1f04e30c2eb1b9efaea7a47ed6ca6f324476e114da37f4} within months and they continue to uses the methodology for continuous improvement.

 Accountancy Practice.

When you visit an accounts office the “work” is invisible, in other words you see lots of people sitting at computer terminals. It is impossible to determine how effective the operation is or how efficient each individual is. There is no doubt that everyone is “busy”.

By undertaking Value Stream Mapping, we were able to see that most of the work that came into the office had incomplete paperwork, forms missing, items not attached etc. This meant that when employees started a job they were not in position to complete it. This necessitated making a phone call or emailing a client to request the full information. The job was set aside until the information was made available. They then started another job and the same thing happened. This resulted in a huge amount of Work In Progress. There was confusion as to the status of individual jobs, clients not returning information, forgetting to chase up etc. This kept everyone busy.

When we demonstrated this by graphing the workflows we then set about doing a root cause analysis to develop systems and processes to prevent incomplete jobs entering the system. We also created a visual system that could measure the improved efficiency of the department. It resulted in much better management of peak times in the business such as year-end accounts. There was less stress for the staff and the necessity to work late in the evenings disappeared.

 

John Raftery       March 2017

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4 Key Questions Every Successful Manager Must Be Able To Answer

4 Key Questions Every Successful Manager Must Be Able To Answer

4 key questions every successful manager must be able to answer

Management effectiveness is ultimately about developing a strong team capable of delivering company objectives. There are two crucial components of a manager’s job – operational management and people management. In this article Tricia Cunningham outlines the people aspect of the role and what managers need to get right in order to be successful.

Tricia, what is management effectiveness in practice?
A great manager has two fey focuses. There is the technical or operational side of their role and there is the people side of their role. So for a great manager there are two components to the management role, with 4 elements within each component.

On the operational effectiveness side there are four key requirements:

Technical

1. Plan
2. Organise
3. Influence
4. Control

As Marcus Buckingham, prolific writer on best management practices points out, there are four key requirements on the people side that an effective manager needs to get right:

People

1. Select the right people for their team
2. Set and agree on expectations with the team members
3. Motivate the individual members
4. Develop people for long-term contribution to the organisation

Management effectiveness is about achieving results through optimum use of the resources available, the key resource being the people on the team. If you really want to be a great manager you need to pay attention to both the operational and the people aspects of the role. Our experience of working in the SME sector for nearly 20 years has highlighted the need for management to understand how to manage a team effectively. That’s the most challenging part of the role.

Our Management Effectiveness Programme doesn’t focus on the technical aspects of the role because that is very specific to each organisation, but the issues and challenges around managing people are common across all sectors and all industries. This is the area we zone in on and explore comprehensively with participants – building their confidence and competency in a range of management skills.

Here are 4 Key Questions for Managers in Managing People

1. Do you understand how to select the right talent for your team and for the organisation?

2. Do you know how to set expectations and measure results?
– do you regularly review expectations with feedback sessions with your employees?
– do you know how to measure performance effectively?
– how about annual performance appraisals with your team members?

3. How will you keep your team members motivated so that they want to keep coming in to work and continue to do the very best job they can?

4. Finally, when you have developed a great team, ask yourself how are you going to keep them in the organisation long-term? You need to keep them engaged and that requires further development. Have you a long-term development plan for your team?

 


Tricia Cunningham

 

 

 

 

Tricia Cunningham, senior partner at LEAP.
Click here for information about our management development programmes.

Contact us today to speak to a business advisor
Tel: 091 755736
E: info@leapleadership.ie

Interview with Des Kirby

Anger Management in the Workplace

anger management

It is imperative for anybody in an organisation, whether at a leadership level or employee level, to manage their responses to tense situations. There are times when an individual will feel annoyed, frustrated and stressed. Each of us will express that differently. The challenge for us as adults is to recognise our triggers – things that make us angry, frustrated and stressed. Finding effective approaches to handling those triggers will depend on the individual and the context in which they find themselves.

Here are 3 simple steps you can take to better manage your anger in the workplace.

1 Pause and walk away
Pause for a moment before responding in any situation. Very often we respond immediately but once the words are out we can’t retrieve them and we regret the words we said. So taking a moment to pause before responding is a critical skill. It’s difficult to do in the heat of the moment when employees are engaged in a task that’s causing problems, but the more you practice this response the better you get at it.

Pausing can be as simple as suggesting to the team that you take a break for an hour and return to the issue again with clearer heads. This gives everyone a chance to calm down and gather their thoughts. Or pausing could simply mean excusing yourself to use the bathroom. This gives all of you a few minutes to step away from the situation and break the negative cycle that was happening.

2 Acknowledge that emotion is affecting the situation
When we get stressed we often find ourselves in a cycle where we are responding by getting caught up more and more in the issues and becoming more and more stressed about it. The more stressed and frustrated and angry we get, the more we talk from the heart rather than the head.

If an individual is talking logically to me, talking from the head but I’m frustrated and angry, I’m going to respond by speaking from the heart. This often leads to difficulties in communication as these two approaches don’t speak well to each other. A simple acknowledgement of the person’s frustration or anger or irritation and a request to discuss how to address that emotion can lead to a more productive discssuion.

3 Return to the issue with a clear logical approach
Once the individuals involved have managed to lower the emotional intensity they you can have a more logically, structured and thoughtful conversation. When the person is thinking logically they are more open to hearing constructive ways to address the issue. This means that the person is now focusing on results. We have moved beyond expressing frustration and anger.

Does the same logic apply to email communication?

Definitely. You should never use email to express anger or frustration or any emotion because it’s hard for the person receiving the email to understand all the emotion behind it. It can end up as a table tennis match with both sides responding emotionally and comments are very easily misinterpreted which can escalate the situation.

If there are issues that have the potential to be emotionally charged they need to be addressed face to face or at least over the phone but certainly not by email.

So if your natural response is to get angry at something in an email then as a rule of anger management, a manager needs to pause and acknowledge their own anger and ask themselves, ‘why am I angry about this?’ At least when you acknowledge that the situation has triggered something in you, and you recognise what it is, then you can ask yourself ‘what can I do now to progress and resolve this?’

You can try to put forward some constructive solutions. Sometimes you will be able to do this quickly, other times you will need to walk away and take some time to think about it.

What should a manager do when two employees just cannot resolve their issues with each other?

Well of course a decision has to be made with regard to their suitability within the team and in their particular roles. You cannot have an atmosphere where two people don’t get along and hold the whole team back. Or if it’s a case that the manager and a team member cannot resolve their differences, then the business owner, or some other third party, may have to step in and figure out how to resolve the issue.

You cannot afford to ignore a situation where two people in the same team clearly don’t get on. If the issue persists it may even involve some kind of disciplinary action being taken to resolve matters. So in volatile situations remember the anger management steps to take:

1. Pause and walk away from the immediate situation

2. Acknowledge that your heart is speaking not the head – emotional not logical

3. Give yourself sufficient time to calm down. Postpone meetings till another day if necessary. Return to the issue again with a logical mind and offer practical solutions.

There are other small practical steps that individuals can take to manage anger

• Take physical exercise to reduce stress. It’s harder to be angry when you feel physically good
• Meditation can help control stress levels and promote clearer thinking
• Yoga helps to keep you mentally and psychically fit which aids clear logical thinking
• Eat a healthy diet and reduce sugar and caffeine intake
• Get adequate sleep

All these actions can help the individual manage themselves and their anger more effectively.

Case Study

Operations ManagementWe had a situation between two individuals in a company where one was involved in operations and the other was in purchasing. They had reached the unfortunate point of no longer talking to each other. Now clearly you could not run an organisation with these two key individuals not working together effectively. Everyone was impacted by the tension and expressions of frustration.

So LEAP worked with the larger team and in the process also worked with the two individuals. We used a psychometric testing tool to help them both understand each other and appreciate their differing perspectives. The insight they gained from using this tool allowed them to recognise that not everyone is the same and people need to work differently. They recognised that the way the other person was operating wasn’t deliberately negative or unhelpful it was simply that they viewed issues from a different perspective and worked differently to their colleague.

That freed the two individuals up to understand themselves better, each other better and find a way to resolve their differences. They eventually figured it out and continued working together and did so quite effectively. They wouldn’t necessarily be best friends, they wouldn’t socialise together but they did prove they could work effectively together and that was a good outcome for them and the company.

So often we see companies resolving these types of scenarios by separating the two people involved and placing them in different departments. But that’s only because nobody has invested any time in trying to understand the issues that are at the heart of the matter. Transferring people isn’t always the right option and sometimes it’s not an option at all. Helping people understand how to respond with the head as opposed to the heart can often be a better solution.

Key Takeaways
Anger management is something that has to be practiced. With time and experience managers can learn to respond positively to all kinds of difficult situations. The more the individual practices it, the better they become at responding with their heads and not with their hearts. Pausing and walking away from stressful situations can give people the necessary time and space to calm down and think logically as opposed to emotionally. Return to the issue with a clear and logical mind. The same method applies to email communication. Give yourself time before responding and never use email to express anger.

Recommendation
Try reading First, Break All the Rules by Marcus Buckingham. Subtitled ‘what the world’s greatest managers do differently.’ It’s worth reading for advice on management practices and disciplines that lead to better overall employee and manager satisfaction.

Interview by Des Kirby


Tricia Cunningham, senior partner at LEAP. Learn about our management development programme

Tricia Cunningham

 

 

 

 

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Professional Development is Key to Retaining Key Employees

professional development

Now that the economy has started to take a turn in the right direction, the skills that employees currently have may not be the skills that will allow them to help an organisation grow and maximize opportunities that may lie ahead. For many organisations the focus over the last number of years has been doing what’s needed to get ahead, one step at a time.

But now that things are improving and opportunities are opening up, organisations will need to start thinking differently and will need to support employees as they develop new and necessary skills.

Professional development – does your team have the right skills?

Organisations need to start thinking about the goals they wish to achieve over the next eighteen months and map out the skills that will be required to deliver on those goals. Then they must assess their employees at every level against those requirements and goals.

This will help the organisation to determine the best way to develop the new set of required skills. The approaches identified may include formal training, or may involve partnering employees together to teach each other various skills. It could involve giving employees the opportunity to work on new projects. There are multiple approaches that can be taken to develop skills.

How you manage is critical to long-term success

Over the last number of years managers have had to focus strongly on working in a cost-cutting environment, with few resources available to them. This has meant that the focus has been on technical deliverables. In other words, delivering the specific product or service to the customer and ‘just getting it done.’

But as well as keeping the customer happy, managers also need to understand that how they interact and manage a team is vitally important and people skills are critical to that. It’s no longer good enough just to focus on the technical aspects of the job.

Managers need to be supported by the organisation in developing the key skills to manage people effectively. Learning from their experience isn’t sufficient; they need to understand best practices and determine how they can be applied in the organisation so that you are developing a strong, competent team who can work effectively together; a team who respect the manager, who can learn from the manager and can work with the manager.

How to retain your key employees

If the economy continues to grow, with the unemployment rate dropping from 14{aa1e4c34c9c0f46e0a1f04e30c2eb1b9efaea7a47ed6ca6f324476e114da37f4} in 2012 to a current level of 7.0{aa1e4c34c9c0f46e0a1f04e30c2eb1b9efaea7a47ed6ca6f324476e114da37f4} (September 2016), we can see that it is once again turning into an employee market. This means that organisations who fail to invest in employees run the risk of losing key employees.

Employees working in an organisation, generally speaking, value opportunities to develop and enhance their skills. Investing in them can have considerable payback in terms of commitment, loyalty and a desire to do more, deliver more and to help the organisation to grow.

So owners and team leaders need to consider employee development as an investment. They need to agree with participants about the skills that will be developed and how the organisation expects the individual to demonstrate those skills at work. This way organisations are in a position to grow and to retain key individuals that assisted that growth.

Setting expectations of employees

Development does not always mean an automatic expectation of promotion. It can also mean simply enhancing the basic skills employees already have, allowing them to get better at their current jobs. It’s about broadening their knowledge and skills, and being in a position to embrace opportunities should they arise in the future. That is development and that can often be very satisfying for an employee, even if there is no immediate offer of promotion.

When you work in the SME sector you know there are fewer opportunities to climb up the ladder compared to the larger corporate sector. By the same token, large corporations also need to be careful and make it clear that professional development is not always about promotion. Six people may put themselves forward for promotion but only one will get the job. What happens to the other five candidates? How do you manage them to ensure they don’t become disheartened? You need to make it clear to them that they are highly valuable to the organisation and the investment in their development is a reflection of that.

LEAP professional development programmes

LEAP recognises the need for strong leadership, management and employees in organisations. From our experience working with companies, we have put together professional development programmes that focus on developing the core skills of these three groups. Additionally, we look at operational effectiveness to ensure that not only are people working effectively but they are focusing on the right things and doing them right.

Tricia Cunningham, senior partner at LEAP.

Tricia Cunningham

 

 

 

 

Interview by Des Kirby
Check out our professional development programmes.


 
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Leadership Programmes

 

3 Signs You Have an Effective Team

3 signs you have an effective team

In 3 signs you have an effective team, Tricia Cunningham focuses on results, communication and conflict resolution. Here she outlines why these requirements are so important for managers, not just for the immediate impact on the bottom line but also for the long-term stability and profitability of the business.

1 The Team Achieve Positive Results

The most obvious sign of effective management, and the one most people are eager to see, is results. However, it’s not just the positive results themselves that needs to be achieved but the process needs to be positive. Results need to be achieved in a way that can be maintained long term. If the process of achieving the positive results is too stressful and intense employees will burn out or leave – not a desired outcome.

2 Team Members Communicate Effectively

The second sign of effective management is clear communication between each team member within the group and with management. Core to this communication is clarity of role and responsibilities. People need to know what others are doing and where there needs to be a handover. Effective communication allows team members to understand what is happening within the team, what is likely to happen next and where support is needed. The manager drives this activity assisting the team in finding the optimum communication approaches and ensuring they are adhered to.

3 The Team Resolve Issues Without Resorting to Blame

Thirdly, when an issue arises, effective teams are able to resolve it without it becoming personal or resorting to blaming each other and falling out over it. Managers guide team members to analyse and solve problems systematically rather than by intuition or natural instinct. The focus becomes the issue and not the person. Language is monitored and labels are avoided.

No playing the blame game or finger pointing.

What if the team gets along well but their results are poor?
Every area of the business must have clearly identified targets they are expected to achieve and these targets need to be clearly communicated to all team members, tracked regularly and assessed for corrective action. If targets are not achieved, then something has to change. Managers may need to review targets to see how realistic they were in the first place; maybe they were never achievable based on the resources available.

However, if the targets have been properly assessed and found to be both valid and necessary but the team can’t reach them, then the team has to be held accountable. There needs to be a rigorous review of what prevented the team from succeeding. The manager needs to have that tough conversation with each team member who didn’t perform and with the collective team. Together they need to determine the corrective course of action and need to commit to sticking to that course of action. Once agreed, the manager needs to be rigorous in monitoring progress and address issues promptly.

By the same token, if the results are good in terms of the bottom line but morale within the team is poor, the manager must also address this issue. Fortunately, most team leaders and business owners understand that to sustain the business, you need a motivated workforce.

Low morale will eventually lead to poor results. Productivity will drop if morale is poor.

The other advantage of focusing on developing a strong, positive work culture is that it attracts stronger talent. A positive work environment is more likely to achieve positive results and attract positive, strong performers to the organisation. That’s a win for everyone.

Interview by Des Kirby

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Effective Performance Management Means People Working Smarter

Performance Management

Effective performance management is more than just measuring the KPI outputs of the team. It also focuses on the behaviour of individuals and whether or not they reflect the values of the whole organisation. Here John Raftery discusses performance within a core competencies framework while Tricia Cunningham  outlines key elements in the performance management process that all managers need to be aware of.

Performance Management Systems

There are a number of issues with performance management. A lot of the larger companies have performance management systems and some of the complaints that are made about them is that they become tick box exercises and people don’t particularly enjoy doing them. They are often reluctant to use them to their full potential, but really good performance management systems cover two things.

One is the hard metrics i.e. your outputs, your KPIs and other deliverables that can be measured. The other side of it is the side that I think people find more difficult and challenging and relates to behaviours and attitudes. Effective performance management systems will examine those through a competency framework. At the very top level of the organisation the senior management team will work with us to identify what are the core values or competencies that the organisation requires.

The organisation may require three or four core competencies that can be turned into behaviours.

We then identify what those behaviours are so we can begin to rate people in terms of what level they are at in relation to the core behaviours. To use time keeping as a simple example; if people turn up for work two minutes to nine and they leave at two minutes to five, this causes a lot of frustration for managers because they feel they can’t challenge the employee as they are arriving on time and leaving on time. But there are three levels of time keeping.

1. You arrive on time and you leave on time. That’s the basic entry level time keeping requirement.

2. At the next level the employee is ready to start work at 9am with all of their documents ready for a team meeting for example. And if meetings or tasks go past 5pm people are willing to stay on. They will show the same flexibility regarding lunch breaks.

3. The third level concerns flexibility, particularly when there is an emergency or if issues arise at the weekend. Are you available?

You can then develop a template or framework for behaviours that you measure employees against in terms of their time keeping.

But performance management means getting people to work smarter as opposed to working longer hours.

You are trying to help people focus on achieving what you want them to achieve and make sure they are moving in the right direction. People at every level of the organisation should have some way to measure performance in terms of the hard metrics but also for attitudes and behaviours and to get constructive feedback from a supervisor at least once a year.

Performance Management Process

A challenge for many managers with the performance management process is managing the conversation. Many worry about how the conversation will go and how they will raise “difficult” points with an employee.

All examples of an employee’s performance should be discussed with the employee close to the time it occurred so that the details are fresh and can therefore be explored properly. The performance management conversation is reinforcing the comments made previously in addition to discussing important issues like future objectives or goals.

Managers should regularly discuss an employee’s performance so that there are no “surprises” in the meeting regarding behaviours the employee demonstrated.

Managers and Communication Skills

Performance ManagementCommunication involves words, tone and body language. A manager needs to make sure all three elements are aligned.

For example, if the message is positive then the tone needs to be upbeat and the body language engaging. If on the other hand the message is reminding the employee of the need to change behaviours then the tone and body language needs to reflect this requirement. Managers can’t confuse employees because they are uncomfortable with conveying a particular message. Practice makes perfect so managers need to practice how they will convey a difficult message.

Managers Need to Anticipate Difficulties

Anticipate possible difficulties the conversation might raise and consider your responses ahead of time. By anticipating your response you will be more relaxed and confident and you know how you will respond. Remain calm and focused.

Isolate the issue and address that issue before moving to the next point.

Employee Assessment

An employee values this conversation. This is an opportunity for an employee to really understand how the organisation is assessing their contribution. The majority of employees, and especially your top performers, are eager to discuss what they need to do to continue being valuable to the organisation.

John Raftery
       John Raftery
Tricia Cunningham
Tricia Cunningham

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interview by Des Kirby

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Create a Personal Development Plan to Help You Succeed

 

Create a personal development plan to help you succeed

A Personal Development Plan can prove to be a very useful tool for managers at every level of the organisation, whether you are just starting out or you’re a management veteran. Here Tricia Cunningham outlines what a personal development plan looks like, how it helps you as well as your boss and why measuring the plan is vital. 

What is a Personal Development Plan?
A personal development plan is a document that captures agreed actions and areas of focus to help the individual with an existing role or a potential role and to be able to deliver on that role. The personal development plan generally speaking includes a number of areas of focus the person is going to take on board. Specific actions that they can take on board relate to those areas of focus.

For example, to attend a training programme or it might be to read up on some specific area of the business, or it could be to work in a different area of the business for a period of time. That may be one day a week continuously or for a temporary period of several weeks working in a particular area of the organisation. It outlines some action the individual will take that they need to develop to enhance their existing role or to grow into a new role.

Is the plan time-based?
There has to be time-frames associated with it otherwise it will drag on indefinitely. We know from studies and from experience that what gets measured gets managed. So if the time frames have deadlines included in them, people are more likely to feel accountable and therefore more likely to deliver on the plan.

What would a typical personal development plan look like for a manager?
Well for example, we have front line managers starting on our programmes and one of the key areas they would list in their personal development plan would be communication. So an action might be attending a training programme on developing communication skills. Or it may be simply watching a set of videos or TedTV clips on how to give constructive feedback effectively. Another step would be the individual, within a defined period of time, would provide some kind of feedback to each employee within their team, then assess the impact that it had and evaluate whether or not the individual handled the process effectively in terms of changes in behaviour.

In addition to communication skills, a frontline manager could also have some technical aspect to their role. For example, project management skills. So the individual may include completing a certified course in project management in their development plan, by a particular date. There may be an upcoming project that they will be working on where knowledge of project management tools will be required. They could be partnered with a mentor in the company who will work with them using those project management tools.

Essentially the personal development plan recognises the areas where the employee needs to improve or some new aspect of the job that they have never worked in before. So the plan may be written in order to address deficiencies in a particular area, or it may be used to develop the ambitions of the employee who wants to be in a stronger position to take on new opportunities within the organisation.

Personal Development Plan

What should be done with the Personal Development Plan once it’s written?
A personal development plan usually comes about as a result of an appraisal of an employee. So the senior manager and employee sit down and they talk about the areas of focus and then from that they write a development plan. They may get input from another area, for example HR, or it may be just between themselves. Or the manager may suggest to the employee that they come up with the development plan themselves and then review it together.

However once written, it’s vital there is always somebody driving this process. Ideally it should be the employee driving it but the employee must provide feedback to their manager to show that real progress is being made. Senior managers should also demonstrate interest by agreeing when they will review the plan – weekly or monthly – and discuss the progress that has been made. It cannot be left in a folder on your desktop as some aspirational document that just gets forgotten, that’s no good. Both sides must take responsibility for monitoring the document otherwise neither side gains from it, nor does the company.

Interview by Des Kirby

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Advice For Those Who Want To Be Leaders

advice for those who want to be leaders

We already know many of the stereotypical characteristics of great business leaders. Many of them have become engrained in our culture such as steely determination, fearlessness, aggression and being thick-skinned. Most people don’t think of ‘detachment’ or ‘reflection’ as major features of effective leadership.

Here, Mike Gaffney discusses these skills and offers leadership advice for those who want to be leaders and how to get others to buy into your vision.

Reflection – create the space to reflect on your vision
Most business owners have a good grasp of the daily activities and operations involved in running their business. The first challenge for them in becoming more effective business leaders is to create the space where they can step away from the phrenetic daily activities and spend time reflecting on where the business is at, and where it needs to get to.

What is their vision for the future of the business? How well do they understand that vision and can they explain it in basic terms to their staff, customers or investors?

Detachment – remain focused on good business decisions
The second challenge for a business leader is to develop a strong sense of detachment. Too many times we have seen business owners become too emotionally attached to the idea of the business, or the location of the business. They see their own self strongly reflected in the success of the business. This lack of detachment can adversely affect their ability to make logical decisions regarding the direction of the business.

Whether its economic contraction or some particular loss-making component of the business, or addressing individuals in the organisation who are not making the required contribution, they get stuck in the mind-set that says ‘this is the way the world is.’ They then just try to work harder and hope they can work their way out of their problems.

Don’t delude yourself into thinking something’s working when it’s not, or you’re gonna get fixated on a bad solution – Elon Musk

To be a good leader it’s important to develop a sense of detachment and be able to look at the business in a cold logical way to determine what is working and what isn’t and then make decisions accordingly. Once a sense of detachment has been developed there is really only one more thing the business leader needs to address.

Clarity of vision – your team needs to know where the business is going
Clarity of vision is vital for bringing others with you as you move your business forward.

You need to provide clarity in terms of where the business is heading and how you are going to achieve your stated aims. Unlike management, business leadership taps into the emotional triggers of the team as to why they want to invest their time and energy in the organisation. The reason clarity is so important is because people will only follow the leader who can provide that clarity of vision and knows where their future is. People want answers to pertinent questions regarding the future and your vision for the organisation.

If I stay with this company…

• Can I develop myself through further training?
• Will there be opportunities for promotion?
• Can I earn more money?
• Will I be able to put my kids through college or pay off my mortgage if I stay with this company?
• Is this company clear about its vision and how it’s going to achieve it?

You don’t have to be an amazing public speaker but you must explain your vision in a way that will make sense to others, so keep it simple – Mike Gaffney

Sometimes the leader thinks they have to be great communicators or be a good ‘people person’ and sure, they are good skills to have. However, even without those skills, if the leader can provide a simple, clear and compelling vision that the whole team can understand and see the merits of, both for themselves personally and in terms of the organisation, then that’s your primary job as a leader achieved.

You don’t have to be an amazing public speaker but you must explain your vision in a way that will make sense to others, so keep it simple. When they get it they are more likely to buy into that vision.

Think of leadership as a skill set to be learned
There is a lazy logic that exists which says ‘leaders are born, not made.’ Well, rocket scientists are not born with their knowledge; they are made through years of study, training and development. So too with doctors, engineers or any professionals. There are management training programmes for junior, middle and senior managers.

Why should it be any different with business leaders?

Leadership is another skill set, another perspective on how to act and engage with the world around you and yes, it absolutely can be thought and it can be learned. A lot of effective leadership hinges on the old Greek philosophy of self-awareness, or as Socrates said – know thyself. Great leaders develop a high level of self-awareness.

They know when they are having a direct positive impact on others and when they are just getting in the way and need to step back, and that takes real awareness and discipline.

 

Interview by Des Kirby

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What Leaders Really Want From Managers

what leaders really want from managers_

What do business leaders really want from their managers? Is it their experience, knowledge and technical expertise?

These things are important to business leaders when they recruit people into management positions. However, as LEAP MD Mike Gaffney explains, what leaders really want from managers more than anything else is for them to take ownership of the role of manager. That means making decisions, fully committing to them and taking responsibility for outcomes.

Take Ownership
The number one requirement that leaders want from managers is for managers to take ownership for their area of responsibility. That means making decisions, dealing with the problems in their area and generally getting on with the job and delivering on their department’s objectives.

They want managers to stop looking over their shoulder waiting for approval or permission to make decisions.

Be Decisive
There is an old saying that many leaders and managers are familiar with that goes ‘seek forgiveness rather than ask for permission.’ It’s vital to be decisive in your role as manager. Make a decision, look for the best outcome and if it works out great. Make sure you are able to explain why it worked out so it can be replicated.

If it doesn’t work out, dust yourself down and get on with the job because that’s your responsibility.

Commit to your decisions
So ownership is by far the biggest requirement leaders are looking for from their managers, but decisiveness is also a crucial factor. Another key element leaders look for is commitment. This simply means following through on decisions and ensuring that others in the team do the same until company objectives are met.

If managers take ownership of their area, and are prepared to make clear decisions and fully commit to them, then leaders can focus more of their time on doing what they do best – leading the business.

So the message for managers is clear: take ownership, make decisions and fully commit to them.

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What if I as a manager make a decision and it turns out to be the wrong one?
If the decision goes wrong for the manager, it might cause problems and tempers may get frayed because of it. However, you are actually delivering on what you were hired to do. You were hired to take responsibility for a particular area of the business, to make it work as best you could.

If you don’t take ownership or you can’t make decisions then you are not managing.

You might get into hot water from time to time but when things cool down, the smart business owner will realise that you took ownership and you were decisive and you fully committed to your decision. They can see you are doing your best as a manager. That shows you take responsibility for your actions and that is something they can respect.

What they cannot respect is a lack of responsibility or ownership of decisions and outcomes.

So managers should be prepared to make decisions rather than asking the business owner for permission all the time. The outcomes may reveal that the role was beyond you and your capabilities but it won’t be because of a lack of commitment or indecision on your part.

 

Interview by Des Kirby

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4 Ways to Increase Leadership Effectiveness

4 ways to increase leadership effectiveness

 

We work mainly with business owners and managers in the SME sector and what we find in general is that they have a clear idea of what they want to achieve with their business, but what they don’t have are good methodologies in terms of implementing their vision for the business. One of the programmes we deliver is the futureSME and the management team programme. These programmes try to help business owners and senior management teams to deliver true leadership in the organisation. Any discussion about leadership effectiveness can be quite difficult to pin down. It’s about behaviour which is very hard to measure and values that can be difficult to articulate. At LEAP we have our own template that we go through with business owners. Here are 4 ways to increase leadership effectiveness.

1. Clarify the vision
The first thing we look at is the vision. We clarify what the leader’s vision for the company is by asking the question, ‘where do the leaders see the company going in the next two to three years?’ It’s about articulating that vision and finding a way to communicate that vision to the rest of the organisation.

2. Decide the purpose of the organisation
Once the vision has been established and clarified, we look at the core purpose of the organisation; what does the organisation represent and what do they want to achieve? I use the example of Ryanair distilling their message or purpose down to just two words – no frills. We try to help organisations to simplify their message and what it is they represent, so people in the organisation are clear about what behaviours and attitudes and standards are being set. That’s not just for the benefit of the staff but also to establish that sense of purpose for customers and suppliers as well.

3. Establish goals
Once we establish that purpose we look at the three or four primary goals that the organisation wants to achieve. Then we find a mechanism to articulate those goals particularly through visual management systems. One of the visual tools we use are Gantt Charts featuring various lines of action, where we assign work to people, in other words who is going to do what and when. It’s essentially a visual monitoring system , like a traffic light system to show what’s working and what isn’t. Green means the action is on target, orange means the action has been delayed or is still in progress and red is for tasks that have missed their completion date.

4. Measure performance
Another thing we try to establish is what the correct key performance indicators (KPI) are in the business. KPIs show the activities of team members and the level of progress in different areas within the business. One of the things I find working with companies is that they either have no KPIs at all, or they are measuring some KPIs but they are the wrong ones. The KPIs they are measuring are driving the wrong behaviours and activities within the organisation. That can greatly hinder a company’s performance and needs to be corrected as a matter of urgency. 

So it’s very important that everything is aligned from the leader’s vision to the purpose of the company through to the goals, lines of action and KPIs. You can talk about leadership styles and the different types of leaders, but if you follow this clear methodology you can’t go far wrong.

 

leadership, leadership ireland, executive coach John Raftery is Senior Partner and Executive Coach at LEAP. To learn about our leadership and management programmes click the button below.

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Content Manager: Des Kirby