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During their long journey across the skies, Canada geese, in their V-formation, have a clear goal and a sense of purpose.

 

Growing a business is also a journey that can be much more productive when everyone is working in a supportive environment. With this in place your team can adopt the vision of the business and can be actively engaged.

Just how engaged are the majority of us?

A recent survey by the Harvard Business Review showed that less than a quarter of business leaders are actively engaged. But those who are, are much more productive, actively find solutions to work challenges and have a real sense of belonging in their workplace.

More than a quarter are actively disengaged and the remaining 50%, the silent majority, don’t identify as either. They are just turning up and blending in. They represent huge untapped potential. By putting a little more time and effort into this group, you could turn it around and gain great business benefits.

Actively communicating with and engaging this group will reduce employee turnover, increase productivity, improve customer retention and therefore significantly increase profits.

To enhance engagement use the three Cs: communicate, collaborate, celebrate.

 

Communicate

There is an increasing variety of communication tools available to teams. Many are time-saving, like texts, emails and conference calls. These are efficient and easy, though frequently result in miscommunications. Having an ‘old fashioned’ face-to-face chat over a cup of coffee is a wonderful way to connect with colleagues.

In one of my earlier roles, I had a boss, Alex – a tall fair-haired friendly Scottish chap who always took time out to chat with us individually. We would review progress from the previous week and look at goals for the coming week.

Alex would always finish by asking: “Karen, what do you need from me to reach your goals this week?” It was great knowing he was offering his support and it encouraged me to give him and the team my best.

Your Action

Schedule a one-on-one conversation with everyone reporting directly to you. The start of the week is an ideal time for this. Develop an interest in them as people. You might well find out about challenges they are facing personally and, for that week, know they may not be able to give you 100%. You can then organise support from other team members. Your empathy will be repaid in many ways. You can also take this time to review progress from the prior week and review priorities for the coming week.

I practice this weekly routine and end these meetings with the same question…. “What specifically do you need from me this week?”

With this sense of connection your team is likely to expend less energy and complete projects more quickly. This again translates to bottom line financial benefits.

The small amount of time you spend engaging with your team, building rapport and trust, will actually save time by eliminating complications down the road and increasing engagement.

 

Collaborate

Do you recall when a colleague or boss listened to your suggestions and took on board your ideas? It’s a great feeling when your recommendations are considered and even implemented.

Effective collaboration comes from each team member feeling engaged, as though they are an integral part of the success of the organisation.

Your Action

Develop a corporate culture of listening. Brainstorm with your team and you will uncover gems – this will ensure a high level of collaboration. When you encourage ‘idea sharing’ within your company, you empower employees to think outside of the box to generate new products and services for your organisation. They are also best equipped to come up with improvements on how they can be more efficient and effective. When teams have a sense of inclusiveness, each member has a vested interest in the success of the project and they collaborate.

 

Celebrate

When we are acknowledged and appreciated, we are more likely to help and co-operate with other team members.

 “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others’Cicero (Roman philosopher)

Many companies do acknowledge and recognise employee achievements at the end of a project or with an ‘employee of the month’ award. But by then the good deed is well forgotten. I would recommend celebrating immediately and frequently. These small moments of thanks occur as informal, real-time exchanges of social praise and feedback, performed by employees and leaders alike.

Being acknowledged, even with micro-recognition, on a frequent basis triggers our intrinsic motivation and inspires us to work better, harder and more efficiently. This recognition happens ‘in-the-moment’ as a verbal appreciation of gratitude and helps employees to draw immediate connections between the noteworthy behaviours they performed and the positive lift they feel from the instant recognition.

Your Action

When I thank a team member, I use the power of three: (1) say thanks, (2) specifically mention what they did that’s worthy of praise and (3) explain how it is in line with the company’s vision and goals.

Catch team members doing good things and thank them for it. Celebrate even small achievements. Say, ‘thank you’ – two simple words that have an immediate impact. Saying it in front of others will magnify its impact.

 

Employee engagement supports business growth. Build the 3 Cs into your communication process and it will help you achieve a fully engaged team. A team in which everyone is committed to the business vision and feels part of it. This, in turn, will lead to a strong brand, greater customer loyalty and long-term profitability.

 

 

About the author

Karen O’Donnell is from Toastmasters International a not-for-profit organisation that has provided communication and leadership skills since 1924 through a worldwide network of clubs. There are more than 400 clubs and 10,000 members in the UK and Ireland. Members follow a structured educational programme to gain skills and confidence in public and impromptu speaking, chairing meetings and time management. To find your nearest club, visit www.toastmasters.org.

 

One of the reasons why we sometimes have such an overwhelming amount of things to do is that we don’t delegate enough.

 

Some of us find it easy to ask others for help and others do not.

Then there are those of us who just don’t realize that we could ask someone else to do the things we do not have time for.

It simply does not very often occur to me that some of the things on my to-do-list could just as well be on somebody else’s.

Receiving help is all about having faith and, yet, it is actually quite easy to get the help we need if we just ask for it. I find it hard to imagine a person who never likes to be of service to others – as long as there is time and space for completing their own tasks as well. Being asked to take over a task from someone can even feel like you are being recognized, that someone puts their faith in you to do something to the best of your ability.

 

Not everything, but at least something

If we get a reply along the lines of “I’m sorry, I can’t right now”, we might feel disappointed. Perhaps our colleagues are just as swamped with work at the moment and need to prioritize doing their own tasks first. Perhaps we could ask for help from someone on the ‘outside’ or get help with a task that does not concern the core of our project or task. Regardless what we can transfer from our own to-do-list to somebody else’s, even if it is just a small part of the puzzle, we will still feel relieved if our list is long and time is short.

If you, like I, rarely spontaneously think of asking others for help, you might find it useful to once in a while make an active and conscious attempt to figure out what you could ask for help with.

If you want to, try the following:

Simply look through your to-do-list and identify tasks that you do not necessarily have to do by yourself. If you find some, it does not mean that you have to ask others to do them, but you could.

When you find a suitable task, take a moment to think about who you could ask to do it instead of doing it yourself. If you cannot think of anyone, ask a colleague if they have any ideas.

Either ask the person for help right away, or formulate a to-do-task that entails doing so later, and you will at least have taken action towards getting some assistance.

 

More space for what matters most

If you actively search out the tasks others might help you with, you will have more time for what matters most – meaning, the tasks that to a greater extent contribute to the goals you are responsible for and that you need to do yourself. Because if truth be told, the time you spend on all those less important tasks is time you cannot spend on those that really matter. If it works out well when you finally asked for help, you will start thinking of things to delegate more often and spontaneously.

 

About the author

David StiernholmSUPER STRUCTUREDDavid Stiernholm is a trainer who teaches thousands of people every year in companies, government authorities, organizations and universities how to become more structured and attain a higher degree of personal efficiency.

He is also the author of Super Structured.

“Information overload”, “too much going on”, “full email inbox”, “too much on your plate”, “heavy workload”, “ASAP”, “piles that keep growing”, it has to get better soon… Yes, there are many ways to describe the chaotic life many of us lead at work. But, if we create a better structure at work, we will have more time for what matters most to us and to our business. Super Structured is based on a highly successful training program and is for anyone who wants to create a workday that runs smoother and with greater ease. In short chapters with useful advice and tips.

 

Business and finance journalist, Matt Packer discusses key news stories with the Institute of Leadership & Management (ILM) head of research, policy & standards, Kate Cooper.

 

Whether we have the word ‘manager’ in our job title or not, we all manage on a day to day basis. From employees and meetings, our time and our workload, to the expectations of others. Being given the freedom to manage these things as we choose presents both a challenge and an opportunity.

A New Zealand company’s experiment in cutting the working week down to size has yielded such impressive results that it is now looking to make the arrangement permanent.

As an article at the New Zealand Herald explains, estate-planning firm Perpetual Guardian conducted an eight-week trial in which it brought the week down from five days to four, while keeping each of its 240 employees on the same salary. Keen for a scientific eye to make a balanced assessment of the initiative, the firm enlisted HR academics Jarod Haar of the Auckland University of Technology and Helen Delaney of the University of Auckland Business School to measure the outcomes.

Haar and Delaney found that stress levels across the firm dropped from 45% to 38%, while the work-life balance rating rose significantly from 54% to 78%. Other improvements were seen in commitment (up 18% to 82%), stimulation (up 18% to 84%) and empowerment (up 18% to 86%). Staff were also more impressed with leadership in the firm as the trial played out, compared to how it was before, with their satisfaction levels rising by 18% to 82%.

Crucially, the firm remained just as productive with a four-day week as it was at full, Monday-to-Friday stretch.

 

Sustainable working

Permanent Guardian CEO Andrew Barnes said: “What we’ve seen is a massive increase in engagement and staff satisfaction about the work they do, a massive increase in staff intention to continue to work with the company and we’ve seen no drop in productivity.”

He added: “Our leadership team reported that there was broadly no change in company outputs pre and during the trial. They perceived no reduction in job performance and the survey data showed a marginal increase across most teams. We’re paying for productivity. We’re making a clear distinction here between the amount of hours you spend in the office and what we get out of that.”

What does the say about traditional perceptions of how productivity should be achieved?

Kate Cooper says: “This story in many ways supports our work on how productivity is best measured in outputs, rather than in presenteeism. One theme that really stands out is that Permanent Guardian’s employees have such strong morale – not only do they feel valued, they also feel that there’s something great about the company they’re working for. That’s evidenced by the sharp rise in the staff commitment rating: workers are repaying the company for the loyalty it has shown them.”

Cooper notes: “It will be interesting to see how sustainable this model proves to be. Arrangements that seem novel and exciting to the current staff base – which has seen the changes play out first hand – may be regarded as fairly standard by newer hires who are recruited with advance knowledge of how the firm operates. So there will certainly be a level of challenge for the senior managers, in terms of how they maintain a sense that the four-day model is special and different.

“Furthermore,” she adds, “managers’ and employees’ expectations of what they are meant to achieve while they’re in work will be higher, so keeping up that intensity will be another challenge. And that presents a question mark relating to the social aspects of work: if staff are coming in on those four days each week knowing that they really have to focus on delivering, will they have time to develop the meaningful relationships that are part and parcel of any, well-rounded experience of the workplace?

“So there is one, key message for any firm that makes these sorts of changes and sees dramatic improvements: keep an eye on the sustainability of the model you have devised, and see how you can retain the features that have had such a dramatic impact, so that they endure well into the future.”

 

Managing upwards

While managing your own workload might be a given for any employee, managing your manager is something we may be less familiar or comfortable with. But it’s increasingly becoming talked about and doing it well is important for both you and your boss.

Cardiff City coach Neil Warnock recently spoke to Wales Online about the side’s prospects in the upcoming Premier League, following its promotion from the Championship.

Warnock is broadly upbeat about the condition of his own role within the club, saying that the fans are onside, Malaysian owner Vincent Tan is onside, and he feels that he’s got “the best chairman”.

However, he says: “I’ve had a struggle at times – I think managing upwards is more difficult at times than managing the team.”

In those few words, Warnock has flagged up one of the trickiest areas of the dynamic between junior and senior managers: how exactly do you manage upwards – not just in terms of reversing the flow of authority, but ensuring that your efforts to manage up are not misinterpreted as something altogether less helpful?

 

Helpful or hindering

It’s a quandary that also surfaces in a 15 July column at Fast Company, in which executive coach Suzan Bond describes a time early on in her career where her attempt to manage upwards by opposing a strategic change in her company was seen by her colleagues as stubborn resistance, and they pulled her up on it.

“Without that reality check,” she writes, “it could well have cost me my job. The truth was that I didn’t see my resistance as a problem; I thought I was sticking up for myself instead of getting dragged along against my will.”

She adds: “Initially, I was focused on what the change meant for me, rather than what it meant for the organisation as a whole. After that conversation, though, it was easier to shift my vantage point to include a ton of other context about the full situation my team was facing. The change I was so afraid of? It actually turned out to provide me with more opportunities to learn and challenge myself in my work, which I simply hadn’t anticipated.”

When should junior managers feel that it’s okay to manage up – and how should they go about it?

 

If you look good, we look good

Cooper says: “A young graduate who hadn’t been in her job very long once told me that it was clear to her that she was in her job specifically to make her boss look good. And if we consider notions of servant leadership – that we’re all working towards a higher purpose – then we should all be managing upwards and downwards at the same time. At no point should any of this mean setting out with some manipulative intent: it’s about all of us together wanting to achieve something better.

“But as the Suzan Bond example shows, there has to be a certain humility – and generosity of spirit – in the junior’s outlook. Because if they help their boss to look good, then their department or section also looks good, and the benefits flow to everyone.

By the same token, Cooper warns: “Any boss who unilaterally assumes people’s hard-won credit, or simply doesn’t give credit where it’s due, is taking a very inauthentic position. It’s also unlikely to be a sustainable one. I have seen some great stuff on LinkedIn recently about how people don’t leave jobs, but managers – and that’s the sort of manager that you’d typically leave.”

She adds: “If you get pleasure from seeing your manager succeed, then that, to me, is great managing upwards. But if that manager then scoops up all the credit for the relevant achievement, that’s not fulfilling the criteria for an authentic relationship. So at the heart of all this is the extent to which the relationship is a reciprocal one.”

 

For more on these topics, listen to Episode 8 of the ILM podcast in partnership with LID Radio:

 

About the authors

 

Matt Packer

Matt Packer is a business and finance journalist who provides expert comment for organisations such as CPA Global, Inemmo Leadership Development Consultancy, The Institute of Leadership & Management and the Chartered Management Institute.

 

 

Kate CooperKate Cooper is head of research, policy and standards at the Institute of Leadership & Management (ILM). She has appeared on BBC Television, BBC Radio 4, has a regular column in Dialogue magazine, is a key note speaker at conferences and provides expert commentary on a range of topics arising from the Institute’s research agenda.

 

 

 

There’s a lot written and said about what teams at work can learn from sports teams.

Much of it is inspirational, some of it is useful, and some just doesn’t travel into your average workplace at all. That’s because there are fundamental, but often overlooked, differences – beyond the obvious dress code issues.

 

Goal clarity

A significant advantage sports teams have over many teams in organizations are clear goals and a finite time in which to achieve them. The whistle will blow. The final will take place. Everyone will know who has won and lost.

Sure, there are work teams who may be given goals at work; however it’s my observation that these are very long-term, typically annual. Yes, a sports team wants to win the league, the race or the tournament, but first they’ll focus on winning each match, each game, each race.

Tip: break long-term goals into short-term goals – annual, quarterly, monthly, weekly.

 

Opponents

Sports teams know who they have to beat. Opponents loom large in training: top sports team work constantly on their own skills and capabilities, and at the same time take a short-term focus on tactics to limit the next opponent’s strengths and exploit their weaknesses.

At work, the concept of opponents shows up in different ways, for example with one team or department trying to outdo another, to the detriment of the organization’s performance. Sometimes, there’s little concept of opponents or competition – say on a very long-term project – making it tough for people to stay motivated day in, year out.

Tips: identify your team’s opposition – there may be more than one opponent. If you can’t find any, identify your team’s challenges.

 

Clear roles

Sports teams tend to have clear roles: people know what position they’re supposed to play in and what’s required. Different specialisms may even require different physical attributes, such as height. When roles are unclear, there can be anarchy on the pitch.

Back at work there tend to be layers in the hierarchy, specialisms and departments. There may even be job descriptions and competency frameworks, but seldom are specific roles worked out for each team member, for each team they’re in. Maybe we think that’s a bit patronizing for professional roles. Maybe it’s just too hard. But when a short-term team is formed for a pitch or a project and clear roles are defined, the performance can really pick up.

Tip: don’t assume the job title means the role is understood on any given team. Clarify what’s expected of each individual.

 

Practice

The actual time sports teams spend competing and playing is small; they spend most of their time practising, both together and individually. Members may work alone on building strength or improving technique. There will be team practice with feedback.

By contrast work teams practise on the job, as work is done and tasks are completed. There may be time for a training workshop, or even a 1:1 coaching conversation – but the importance of learning can be underplayed.

Tips: encourage team members to share lessons learned in regular team meetings. Give and get feedback to and from fellow team members. Make time for training.

 

Accountability

Miss the final penalty in a shoot-out? Team-mates will all know – and the whole world might be watching. There’s nowhere for sports team members to hide if they drop the ball, catch a crab, or stuff up a shot. This will be discussed, both in the immediate aftermath when emotions run high, and later to learn the lessons and improve.

With work teams, wrap-ups (if they happen at all) can focus on task and not pay enough attention to individuals.

Tip: once clear goals are set for the team’s performance and everyone’s clear on their role, check in regularly on how members are collectively and individually performing.

 

We can’t expect all teams to work in the same way, but by learning these lessons and putting these tips into practice, we create the environment for a better functioning team.

 

About the author

Dawn SillettDawn Sillett has been designing and delivering training workshops and executive coaching for over 15 years.

 

Author of: The Feedback Book

THE FEEDBACK BOOKMaintaining performance today is no longer simply about having an annual appraisal and telling employees “you must try harder”. Research demonstrates that regular discussions about performance and providing feedback to the people you manage is a more effective way to motivate them and keep them on track.Distilled into this single, handy-sized volume are 50 tips, advice and techniques to help any manager become quickly skilled at regularly discussing performance, setting goals and objectives and providing the necessary feedback to ensure individuals and teams thrive in the company. Structured into five key parts, each of the 50 concise chapters also contains a practical exercise to help the reader understand and implement the concepts and ideas of this book.

With the pace of development of AI accelerating we are all being impacted by AI at work and at home.

 

Because of this, we all need to keep learning about it and stay up-to-date with its evolution.

At the present time hundreds of thousands of developers and data scientists are working on AI projects.

Here are seven possible stages through which AI might develop, and the types of applications of AI we might see over the next 15-20 years.

 

Stage 1 – Rule Based Systems

These now surround us in everything from business software (RPA) and domestic appliances through to aircraft autopilots. They are the most common manifestations of AI in the world today.

 

Stage 2 – Context Awareness and Retention

These algorithms build up a body of information about the specific domain they are being applied in. They are trained on the knowledge and experience of the best humans, and their knowledge base can be updated as new situations and queries arise.  The most common manifestations include chatbots – often used in frontline customer enquiry handling – and ‘roboadvisors’ that may, for example, suggest the right oil for your motorbike through to giving investment advice.

 

Stage 3 – Domain Specific Expertise

These systems can develop expertise in a specific domain that extends beyond the capability of humans because of the sheer volume of information they can access to make each decision. We have seen their use in applications such as cancer diagnosis. The most commonly cited example is Google Deepmind’s AlphaGo. The system was given a set of learning rules and the objective of winning and then taught itself how to play Go. It had human support to nudge it back on course when it made poor decisions. In 2016, AlphaGo defeated the 18-time world Go champion Lee Sedol by four games to one.

The following year, AlphaGo Zero was created. Equipped only with her learning rules, she watched thousands of Go games and developed her own strategies. After three days she played AlphaGo and won 100 games to nil.

 

Stage 4 – Reasoning Machines

These algorithms have a ‘theory of mind’ – some ability to attribute mental states to themselves and others. For example, they have a sense of beliefs, intentions, knowledge and how their own logic works. Hence they have the capacity to reason, negotiate and interact with humans and other machines. Such algorithms are currently at the development stage, but we can expect to see them in commercial applications in the next few years.

 

Stage 5 – Self Aware Systems / Artificial General Intelligence (AGI)

This is the goal of many working in the AI field – creating systems with human like intelligence. No such applications are in evidence today, however, some say we could see them in five years, while others believe we may never truly achieve this level of machine intelligence. There are many examples of AGI in the popular media ranging from HAL the ship computer in 2001 A Space Odyssey, to the ‘Synths’ in the television series Humans.

 

Stage 6 – Artificial SuperIntelligence (ASI)

Developing AI algorithms that are capable of outperforming the smartest of humans in every domain. For example, we could imagine ASI solving current world problems such as dangerous climate change. Such systems might invent new fields of science, redesign economic systems and evolve wholly new models of governance. Again, expert views vary as to when and whether such a capability might be possible, but few think we will see it in the next decade.

 

Stage 7 – Singularity and Transcendence

The exponential development path enabled by ASI could lead to a massive expansion in human capability. Humans might be sufficiently augmented and enhanced to allow us to connect our brains to each other and to a future successor of the current internet. This ‘hive mind’ would allow us to share ideas, solve problems collectively and even give others access to our dreams as observers or participants. Going a stage further, we might transcend the limits of the human body and connect to other forms of intelligence – animals, plants, weather systems, etc. Some proponents such as Ray Kurzweil, Google’s Director of Engineering, suggest that we could see the Singularity happen by 2045 as a result of exponential rates of progress across a range of science and technology disciplines. Others, of course, argue fervently that it is simply impossible.

 

Envisioning a Smarter World

To help bring to life what a smarter future might look like, we have outlined a possible development timeline for AI:

 

Now to 2020 

  • Instantaneous real time translation
  • Intelligence built into the machines, sensors and objects that surround us
  • Self-editing software
  • Fully automated decentralized autonomous organizations (DAO) – smart corporations with no employees
  • Artificial intelligence adopted by most firms either deliberately or unknowingly through the applications they rent or purchase
  • Personal device based intelligent agents manage our lives and guard our data (e.g. Siri+++++)
  • Swarm robotics – groups of robots combining and self-managing to complete a task such an environmental clean-up, bridge repair, or building construction.

 

2021-2025

  • Between 70% and 90% of all initial customer interactions are likely to be conducted or managed by AI
  • Product development in a range of sectors from fashion items and consumer goods to manufacturing equipment could increasingly be undertaken and tested by AI
  • Individuals will be able to define and design the personalised products and services they require in sectors ranging from travel through to banking, savings, and insurance
  • The technology is likely to be deployed across all government agencies and legal systems – with only the most complex cases requiring a human judge and full court proceedings
  • Autonomous vehicles will start appearing in many cities across the world
  • Our intelligent assistants could now be managing large parts of our lives from travel planning through to compiling the information we need prior to a meeting.

 

2026-2035+ 

  • Globally approved, smart crypto tokens may be accepted alongside fiat currencies as we edge towards a single global medium of exchange
  • Artificial intelligence is likely to have penetrated every commercial sector
  • The evolution of AI could see the emergence of a wide range of fully automated DAO businesses including banks, travel agents and insurance companies
  • Scientific breakthroughs could enable us to develop artificial animal and ecosystem intelligence
  • The emergence of self-aware and self-replicating software systems and robots
  • The singularity remains an unlikely possibility in this timeframe.

 

Getting Ready for a Smarter World

The pace of AI development seems likely to continue and we can expect to see regular breakthroughs that blow our collective minds. However, we shouldn’t assume a smooth progression through the seven stages. It won’t be equivalent to the exponential progression we’ve seen in computer power, memory storage and internet connection speeds. To reach the final three stages, massive breakthroughs are required in areas such as neuroscience, neural networks and deep learning algorithms.

Over the next 15-20 years, we’re likely to experience several fundamental transformations as this ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ powered by smart machines touches every nation, life and sector. The critical priority and challenge is ensuring that these advances don’t progress unchecked.

 

About the authors

Rohit Talwar, Steve Wells, Alexandra Whittington, April Koury, and Helena Calle are from Fast Future, a professional foresight firm specializing in delivering keynote speeches, executive education, research, and consulting on the emerging future. Fast Future publishes books from future thinkers around the world exploring how developments such as AI, robotics, exponential technologies, and disruptive thinking could impact individuals, societies, businesses, and governments and create the trillion-dollar sectors of the future. Fast Future has a particular focus on ensuring these advances are harnessed to unleash individual potential and enable a very human future. The latest books from Fast Future are: ‘Beyond Genuine Stupidity – Ensuring AI Serves Humanity’, and ‘The Future – Reinvented: Reimagining Life, Society, and Business’. And their forthcoming book is ‘500 Futures’. See: www.fastfuture.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Successful organisations automatically erect formidable barriers to change – with very few exceptions.

 

When you are the market leader; when revenues are growing year on year; when shareholders are ecstatic and when your company’s performance and your personal pay packet continues to bulge at the seams – where is the incentive to change?

Only a madman would even think about rocking that boat.

And yet rock you must.

History is littered with companies that succumbed to complacency – the fatal disease that only infects the successful. Kodak, Blockbuster, Lehman Brothers, too many retail banks to mention, AIG, TWA, Ansett Airlines, Woolworths (both the US and UK varieties) … this list could go on and on. Each one could not – or perhaps would not – see the seeds of their ultimate destruction. It isn’t arrogance (per se). It is the inevitable consequence of market-dominating success.

Dr Clayton Christensen’s multi-million-selling ‘The Innovator’s Dilemma’ (HBR Press 1997) documents the phenomenon in even more detail.

The sense of infallibility within highly successful organisations can be intoxicating, but it is also stultifying. Inevitably, a culture develops that simply discourages change.

Even if the leadership intends to promote change and innovation, the company’s very success often holds people back.

Consequently, successful companies keep doing what they have always been doing, because what they have always been doing has been so eye-watering successful. Until, suddenly, it isn’t.

I you are not leading change, you are not leading anything. You are merely managing status quo. Click To Tweet

How can you break out of this self-perpetuating and self-congratulating loop?

 

Step 1: Acknowledge the problem – before it becomes one.

This requires humility (a trait of truly great leaders), awareness and a genuine desire to leave your business in greater shape for the next generation of leaders. This sense of stewardship is very rare in the world of business. The best example of it that I have witnessed in recent years is in the leadership of Wellington, a trillion dollar asset manager based in Boston whose leadership team live and breathe stewardship – not only because it is the right thing to do, but because it delivers superior long-term shareholder returns.

 

Step 2: Action.

After genuine acknowledgement of the problem, you can then move into action mode. Here are some options for you to consider.

 

Make continuous improvement a core part of your company’s DNA

Change doesn’t have to be large and disruptive to be effective. The most effective and sustainable changes are often evolutionary rather than revolutionary. Every leadership team needs to help their people to embrace an attitude of continuous improvement – and empower them to act upon it. Give them explicit and implicit permission to look for, and implement, ways to improve the business – ways to improve the customer experience, streamline processes, improve the office environment, … Your people are the ones who are best equipped to do this. Let them. Encourage them to make changes, allow them to fail and celebrate the successes loud and wide.

 

Allow your people to (constructively) question the status quo.

Then go one step further and permit them to ask, “Is there a better way?” This is where your newer employees will add the most value. Allow them to (constructively and respectfully) query the way things are done. The Founder and CEO of Intel, Andy Grove, used to take his leadership team out the front door of the office and then ask them to walk back in “with fresh pairs of eyes” – looking for opportunities to change and improve the way the business works.

But be on the lookout for the ‘fear of blame’ among some of your long-serving team members. They will be offended and threatened by newcomers asking heretical questions such as “Why?” and “What if?”. As leaders you will need to provide air cover for the new catalysts of change and remind old hands and newbies alike that they are all trying to achieve the same thing – long term success for the organisation.

 

Ask yourselves, “What could possibly go wrong?”

You can call it risk management if you like but I prefer to keep it simple. Pausing to contemplate ‘what could possibly go wrong?’ and honestly answering the question will pay enormous dividends. After all, your competitors are already asking themselves how they can eat into your market share. If you were one of your competitors, what would you do …?

 

Start a skunkworks

Market dominators find it impossible to cannibalise their core business – strangely enough. Yet this is precisely what your competitors are attempting to do to you. So why not set up a competitor? Imagine that you are a highly successful wealth management company that does all of its business through financial advisers, with 90% of your end clients therefore aged 45+. You know that people younger than this tend not to use financial advisers and we are all increasingly going direct. You can’t do this yourself as it could affect your share price and alienate your advisers. What should you do?

One solution would be to establish a completely separate business focused on providing robo-advice direct to investors – one in which you hold a minority stake and the rights to a) use the technology and b) become a majority shareholder in the future. Another solution would be to invest in one. But whatever you do – keep it separate.

 

Create a mini-crisis

If you don’t wish to start a disruptive competitor, then you need to manufacture a ‘burning platform’ for change within your organisation. The All Blacks did this back in 2010. They went into full crisis mode after they lost two of their four games in the Tri Nations championship and ended up last at the end of the competition. (The fact that Australia and South Africa also only won two games was deemed to be irrelevant.) Before they had a chance to lose their coveted position as Number One team in the world, they instigated a major structural and cultural overhaul of their team and the entire organisation that makes the All Blacks great. They have remained number one ever since.

 

Stewardship is everything

Whichever option you choose, remember one thing: The legacy of great leaders is to leave their businesses in better shape than they found them. As the leader of a market dominator, this will be tough – but this is the task you have been handed. For if you merely manage the status quo, the business will ultimately fail.  You need to lead change.

 

As the All Blacks say: “When you are on top your game, change your game.” *

 

 

* James Kerr, ‘Legacy’, Constable Press 2013

About the author

Campbell Macpherson Campbell Macpherson is an international business adviser, speaker and author of ‘The Change Catalyst’ (Wiley 2017), 2018 Business Book of the Year.

www.changeandstrategy.com

To hear more from Campbell, listen to episode 96 of the LID Radio podcast.

 

 

 

 

Business and finance journalist, Matt Packer discusses key news stories with the Institute of Leadership & Management (ILM) head of research, policy & standards, Kate Cooper.

 

In order to communicate well with customers, businesses first need to learn how to communicate well internally. Providing a safe space for people to voice their opinions while creating a positive workplace culture and lexicon is vital.

But that space doesn’t have to be physical, as demonstrated by US real-estate firm eXp Realty.

As a recent Business Insider article reveals, the company has made huge strides towards creating a shared sense of its culture among its remote-working staff.

Instead of using conference calls to communicate, or team-messaging apps such as Slack, it has built a virtual island inside a computer server that acts as a ‘campus’ for workers to report into.

The Thunderbirds-style base of operations has a number of virtual buildings filled with digital recreations of offices and conferencing facilities, and each worker is represented by an avatar. The whole experience harnesses the audio-visual techniques of online videogames to help distributed workers feel as though they are all in the same place – and on the same page.

After taking a tour around the island, Business Insider journalist Prachi Bhardwaj noted: “It became clear that these execs were totally used to being immersed in this world. They referred to things being ‘behind me’ or ‘behind Mitch’, showing that they have a sense of where things are in this virtual space.”

 

Reality check

Tellingly, at the end of last year, Glassdoor named eXp Realty a best place to work. But what about companies that haven’t developed such sophisticated facilities, and still rely upon staples such as conference calls and team messaging?

Which communication skills are most critical to deploy among any kind of team in order to build an authentic sense of community and trust – and to ensure that the whole working experience doesn’t feel impersonal?

Kate Cooper says: “A couple of years ago we did some research on managing and leading distributed teams, and we found that the most effective methods revolved around evoking a sense of connectedness. The Business Insider example is terrifically sophisticated – almost like something out of Second Life. But one of the most accessible and easy-to-replicate methods that we found really worked was for each team member to set up a webcam in their remote office. That way, everyone else can see who’s ‘in’, and get a feel for the shape of the team at any given moment.”

Cooper points out: “One interesting behavioural aspect of videoconferences – especially among people who are used to seeing each other in that particular format – is the amount of waving that goes on. So there’s that important note of personal recognition, plus a desire to use warmth to overcome the distance and technological trappings.”

However, she notes that in cases where sophisticated technical equipment is in short supply, one of the most effective steps is to use voice in place of tools such as email.

“One of the biggest tendencies in the early days of remote working was for people to use the written word in place of the spoken word: ‘I can’t see you, so I’ll write to you instead.’ But when you reflect back on that, even just a few years later, it all seems rather nonsensical. Then we got to the point when even office-based workers started emailing each other about everything, and even emailed the people right next to them,” she said.

“The use of voice, whenever you can, reframes that whole relationship, because it takes micromanagement out of the equation. It’s about finding out, through conversation, what you want out of someone, rather than telling them in often gruelling detail what you think they should be doing. One great concept that seems to be quite popular among distributed workforces is Pizza Night: everyone rounds up a pizza for themselves, tunes in to the rest of the team and the company collectively gorges on pizza even though all the members are dispersed around the world.

Cooper adds: “Alongside all those behavioural points, it really is important to note that no matter what technology you use – whether it’s videoconferencing, webcams or Skype – it has to work. That is a perennial frustration of remote teams: being unable to start the task you’d planned to fulfil because a key colleague isn’t connected, or something in the system has broken down.

“All told, though, I’d say that in ever greater numbers, workers are definitely enjoying this process of connecting, and are growing increasingly comfortable with the connection being a virtual rather than physical one – because they understand it doesn’t prevent them from getting to know their peers.”

 

Communication problems

Whatever platform you use to connect, and whatever position you hold within the company, remaining professional and respectful should be a given.

Global pizza chain Papa John’s recently made the decision to remove founder John Schnatter from day-to-day running of the company for using a racial slur in a conference call.

In the May discussion – which had been convened by the firm’s marketing agency – attendees were supposed to carry out a roleplay exercise designed to help them sharpen their approach to PR crises.

During the call, Schnatter said dismissively that KFC founder Colonel Sanders had never been criticised for using the slur in question, which Schnatter stated clearly and unambiguously.

Schnatter’s misstep came as the final straw for his fellow senior leaders, following the founder’s earlier decision to criticise the NFL for not cracking down on black players’ kneeling protests in last year’s US football season. A Washington Post report notes that Papa John’s stock price plummeted 12 points once news of Schnatter’s use of the slur went viral – then immediately rose by 12 points upon the news of his removal from daily operations.

In a 13 July open letter to investors, the company’s CEO Steve Ritchie wrote: “Papa John’s is not an individual. [It] is a pizza company with 120,000 corporate and franchise team members around the world. Our employees represent all walks of life, and we are committed to fostering an inclusive and equitable workplace for all.

“Racism and any insensitive language, no matter what the context, simply cannot – and will not – be tolerated at any level of our company. The Board of Directors of Papa John’s accepted Mr Schnatter’s resignation as Chairman of the Board earlier this week. It has also been decided he will no longer be in any of the advertising or marketing materials associated with the brand.”

However, as a 30% shareholder, Schnatter will remain on the board.

 

Brand voice

Does this show that it is inherently risky for companies to be closely identified with their leaders?

Kate Cooper says: “Quite a few commentators, notably Patricia Pitcher, have developed models and methodologies for what firms need at various stages of their development. Pitcher divided leaders into three categories – which she labelled Artists, Craftsmen and Technocrats – to convey how leaders with an approach that works for one, specific phase of a company’s life would not necessarily work for later or earlier phases.

“So what we can say on that basis is that when it was an early-stage, homespun startup, Papa John’s needed Schnatter’s creative, entrepreneurial zest and energy. But when it moved into a different phase, becoming a vast multinational, it required the input of different skills and personalities.”

Cooper explains: “By sticking religiously with the founder as a figurehead, the risk is that you will have a highly visible team member who is overly identified with the organisation… and yet the skillsets upon which they have based their own – and the firm’s – reputation are not the ones you need to prepare the firm for future challenges. It’s a problem that crops up with painful frequency within small, family-run businesses: the reluctance of the founder to let go, because so much of their life and ego is tied up in the company.”

She concludes: “A certain level of self-awareness – a quality that appears to have gone missing in Schnatter’s case – would enable a founder to grasp that what is good for them may not necessarily be good for the company. So I think that acquiring that level of insight, whereby you are able to separate yourself from the organisation, is one area in which a solution such as coaching could be of terrific help.”

 

For more on these topics, listen to Episode 7 of the ILM podcast in partnership with LID Radio:

About the authors

 

Matt Packer

Matt Packer is a business and finance journalist who provides expert comment for organisations such as CPA Global, Inemmo Leadership Development Consultancy, The Institute of Leadership & Management and the Chartered Management Institute.

 

 

Kate CooperKate Cooper is head of research, policy and standards at the Institute of Leadership & Management (ILM). She has appeared on BBC Television, BBC Radio 4, has a regular column in Dialogue magazine, is a key note speaker at conferences and provides expert commentary on a range of topics arising from the Institute’s research agenda.

 

As temperatures keep getting hotter and hotter this summer, staff absences are set to rise.

 

This is not so much about people wanting a day off in the sun, but more likely due to the effects of the heat, such as stomach bugs, heat strokes, sunburn and hay fever.

Regulations place a legal obligation on employers to provide a ‘reasonable’ temperature in the workplace. However, while there is a minimum working temperature in the UK, there is no statutory upper limit.

Effective absence management and flexible working options can help maintain staff productivity and reduce the cost to businesses.

Here are five top tips to reduce the impact heat-induced absence can have on your business:

 

1. Let employees know what is expected of them

If you do not have an adverse weather policy or procedure in place, now is the time to develop one.

Having clear plans in place will help you prepare for any possible difficulties and will also inform your employees of what is expected from them in these situations.

 

2. Know the law

Employers and employees alike are often unclear about what they are legally obliged to do if adverse weather prevents employees from attending work.

There isn’t any specific legislation that covers adverse weather. Therefore, the normal legislation applies:

  • Employees are responsible for getting themselves to work and should make every effort to attend as normal.
  • They are not entitled to be paid if they do not make it in to work.
  • If the employee arrives at work late, they are not entitled to be paid for the time not worked.

 

3. Keep cool in work

While employers are not legally obliged to provide air conditioning in workplaces, they are expected to provide reasonable temperatures.

So, if you have air conditioning, switch it on, if you have blinds or curtains, use them to block out sunlight, and if you’re working outside, wear appropriate clothing and use sun screen to protect from sunburn.

Ensure you provide your employees with suitable drinking water in the workplace. It is important to drink water regularly throughout the day and not to wait until you are thirsty, as this is an indication that you are already dehydrated.

Factors other than air temperature – for example humidity and air velocity – become more significant and the interaction between them becomes more complex with rising temperatures, according to the HSE.

 

4. Consider your dress code

Employers often have a dress code in the workplace for many reasons, including health and safety. Additionally, workers may be asked to wear a uniform to communicate a corporate image and a dress code can often be used to ensure workers are dressed appropriately.

While employers are under no obligation to relax their dress code or uniform requirements during hot weather, some may allow workers to wear more casual clothes, or allow “dress down” days. This does not necessarily mean that shorts and flip flops are appropriate, rather that employers may relax the rules around wearing ties or suits.

 

5. Be as flexible where possible

Be as flexible as possible. Deducting pay could have a long term impact on productivity and employee morale – offering the following alternatives is likely to be much more effective:

  • Arrange for employees to work from home or at an alternative office/site if possible.
  • Consider altering working hours in agreement with employees wherever possible.
  • Allow employees to take any outstanding lieu time or flexi-time if available.
  • Allow employees to take the time off as holiday, if available. Remember, however, that employers cannot require employees to take holiday entitlement at short notice.

 

About the author

Stephen Johnson is HR Policy Review Consultant, Moorepay.

Your colleague – maybe your best work buddy – just got promoted, and you didn’t.

 

As well as feeling pleased for them, for some of us it’s natural to feel a pang of envy too. But don’t let this feeling get the better of you. Get jealous and it could sour an important working relationship, and lower others’ esteem of you.

It’s not all about you, even if that’s how it feels right now. Step away from the ‘It’s not fair!’ button.

What can you do instead? Reflect and learn.

 

How well are you doing the job you have?

Ouch. Sometimes a reality check can hurt. But it’s necessary before we explore steps you can take to get on the promotion track. Take an evening to review the job description for your current role and self-assess for each criterion. Do you ace the critical criteria for the job? Or are there areas where you fall short – or may have completely overlooked? Now I’m not saying you’ve got to be 100% all over the current job – too many of us can stay stuck thanks to that mindset – but if your shortcomings are in critical areas they’ll have to be overcome. Dig out your last appraisal / review / whatever it’s called where you work. What feedback did you get from managers, peers and direct reports? What development goals were agreed and documented? How are you progressing towards achieving them?

 

Were you expecting promotion? Who knew?

It’s unusual for someone to be moved up the ladder without a discussion taking place. If you’ve just been hoping your manager will look kindly on your efforts and – ta dah! – give you an elevated role, sorry but it doesn’t work like that. You need to clarify what you want, why you want it and – equally importantly – identify how your employer will benefit if they promote you. Take some time to write down your thoughts and consider them from your manager’s point of view. Then give your notes the overnight test, refine them and arrange a 1:1 conversation with your manager.

 

Do you really want to be promoted? Or simply recognised?

There’s a difference between wanting the next rung up and wanting your efforts to be recognised. The latter can all too often be lacking in many workplaces: ‘well, it IS their job, after all’. Recognition can take many forms: a few comments, feedback and praise, and a ‘well done’ from someone much more senior. It can also be a stretch task or new opportunity. And yes, it could be money. If what’s really bugging you is a lack of recognition, you can approach that 1:1 differently and ask for feedback on how you handled a particular task and any suggestions for how you can improve.

 

What’s holding you back?

You may be holding yourself back by believing you need to demonstrate all the requirements of the role you aspire to before even daring to ask about your promotion prospects. If that’s you, get hold of the job description for the role you seek and devise an action plan for discussion, showing the steps you’ll take to get closer to what’s needed. Ask for more challenging and varied tasks – and do them well. Get a mentor – whether they’re someone in your workplace or outside, such as a contact on LinkedIn or via an industry network. But don’t wait until you’re the finished article; the most valuable learning and development will take place once you’re in the role.

 

About the author

Dawn SillettDawn Sillett has been designing and delivering training workshops and executive coaching for over 15 years.

 

Author of: The Feedback Book

THE FEEDBACK BOOKMaintaining performance today is no longer simply about having an annual appraisal and telling employees “you must try harder”. Research demonstrates that regular discussions about performance and providing feedback to the people you manage is a more effective way to motivate them and keep them on track.Distilled into this single, handy-sized volume are 50 tips, advice and techniques to help any manager become quickly skilled at regularly discussing performance, setting goals and objectives and providing the necessary feedback to ensure individuals and teams thrive in the company. Structured into five key parts, each of the 50 concise chapters also contains a practical exercise to help the reader understand and implement the concepts and ideas of this book.

There are a few stand-out competencies that make up stand-out leadership.

 

Strategic thinking. Communications. Influencing. Building relationships. Execution.

But, in the end, unless you’re delivering results the world deems valuable, none of the rest is going to matter all that much.

This is obvious: leaders must deliver. So why does it get a mention here? Because the day-to-day can quickly send us into a cascade of busy-ness and firefighting that promotes focus and attention on the immediate – and forgets the longer-term result. And I don’t want my agenda dictated by the fires, but by my #1 result.

So, as leaders, what do we need to know to ensure we are on track to deliver the ultimate result?

Here are five cornerstones to your results-delivering leadership strategy.

 

1. Know what a successful result is

Get really clear on what a successful result is – including all its components and in all its potentially varying forms. The ultimate result is always going to be a mix of many moving parts, with trade-offs, compromises, additions and subtractions along the way. Having a crystal clear vision of what a good result looks like grounds those decisions and keeps us heading towards a positive result.

Notice we’re talking about successful, intended, positive, valuable results – not just results. We always get a result. We want to be more specific than just a ‘result’ in our vision thinking.

In tandem, get clear on why the result matters and what it’ll lead to. The why is crucially important when communicating the intended result to the team, stakeholders and all others involved, to set the right foundation, get necessary agreements and buy-in – and to keep everyone motivated.

 

2. Know who your result is for

Right alongside knowing what a result is and why it matters, the high-performing leader knows how the result is for. And let’s not just say the ‘client’ or ‘customer’. Let’s ask: “for whom does this result matter the most – and why?”

The answer to this question should be clear – else we need to revisit the fundamental questions of whether this is a project we should be spending time, money and resources working on.

With that clarity on who the result is for: keep coming back to them as one of the key determinants of a successful result. Not just at the project’s conclusion, but as we move through the project. Their wants and needs will continually help clarify the conditions of that successful result. And offer valuable perspective and input that can lead to faster and better (defined as: valued!) results.

 

3. Know the big pieces and key milestones

While everyone else working on the project will be focused on their interests and their little corner of the result, your role is to be up above that granular thinking and to direct from a higher-level perspective.

Start with the vision. Set the goals. And then work backwards from there. Reverse engineer back from the result to get clear on the major moves and key milestones to achieving the result. We’re not looking for every detailed step (no forward planning would survive contact with the real world anyway!), but rather the overarching path to an outcome.

Working backwards in this way will help you stay out of the detail, while getting clear on the kinds of resources (especially people) you’ll need to deliver the result.

 

4. Know who you need for a result

The immediate team might be our first thought when we think about who we need. But there are other crucial roles in the achievement of a result. Influencers. Champions. Sponsors. Advocates. Partners. And who else needs to know?

Assembling the right support network around an initiative is central to its successful achievement. This is not business-as-usual. This is a special project that’s leaning into the status quo. Creating something new. Delivering change. You’re going to need the involvement of key players in the organisation.

When thinking about the immediate team needed, ask: “who do I need that complements my strengths and go-to talents?”

If you’re great at the strategic thinking, but not that keen on the detail, who will you bring-in who loves and is great at that detail stuff? If you’re superb at organisation, how valuable is it to add another organiser to the team? Take the mature leadership stance that we can’t do or be excellent at everything; and that it’s far more effective to bring-in a group of people, all of whom spend the project working in their area of special talent.

 

5. Know the best use of your time and attention

What gets time and attention gets done. And as we’ve just reminded ourselves, we can’t do it all. So as a leader: what’s our primary role in this result? And given that, where does our time and attention need to be focused?

As a leader, our role is not to figure-out every tiny detail on getting to the result. It’s about crafting and communicating the vision, assembling and influencing the support network around the change, coaching and mentoring the people who are on the delivery end, and taking the strategic decisions that keep bringing us back to the result.

 

A quality of leadership thinking

A final challenge for you. In pursuit of the result, keep asking yourself: “how do I rate the quality of my leadership thinking, right now?” Notice where your thinking is. What you’re doing well. What you’d like to modify in the immediate future. As a leader, your quality of thought is the most powerful contribution you make to your team.

 

SOURCE: Dan Beverly

Dan BeverlyDan Beverly is a leadership and performance coach, helping high-achieving professional women embrace the pivotal career moments.