27 Aug

Essential skills every manager needs

What would you say if I told you that the flight you are taking abroad will be piloted by a new pilot who only has theoretical knowledge about flying a plane? Or that the back operation you will be having, will be completed by a surgeon with only theoretical knowledge?

I’m going to to take a wild guess and assume that your reaction will be far from favourable. Would it change your mind if I said that we should give the pilot and surgeon a chance and that they will learn as they go?

Probably not.

Yes, there are glaringly obvious gaps. Lack of practical skills and competencies. It would be unheard of for people to be placed in these positions with a lack of specialist skills.

So why is it that businesses promote individuals into management and or leadership positions without people or management skills? Unfortunately this type of practise has become a norm in business, where the newly appointed employee is expected to fumble and bumble their way through things. “Don’t worry, they will learn as the go! “ Why is this seen as acceptable? Not a great set up for that specific individual, the team they are suppose to be supporting, or the customers who are exposed to the employee’s frustrations though bad service and inferior products.

You may point out that you cannot compared a pilot or a surgeon’s lack of skills to a managers lack of people and/or leadership skills. Well, besides the imminent life or death part, you absolutely can compare it. 

Business success is built on the business goals being achieved by the people working in the business. If people don’t perform, business fails – simple. 
Survey after survey will tell you that people don’t leave companies, they leave managers. Companies spend thousands of dollars every year on recruiting, re-training, re-structuring trying to build successful, productive teams. What would the recruitment bill look like or the employee retention ratio be, if more focus was placed on promoting people and leadership skills?

Employees want and need to be treated and managed correctly, which develops engaged and motivated team members, which in turn is what builds trust, loyalty and retention.

So if you don’t want your business or department to crash and burn or bleed out on the operating table, think about your people skills and how you manage your team!

If you need some help, join the Leadership Coaching Series. a 3-month intensive distance coaching programme, to help build your leadership skills and competencies.

28 Jun

5 key points on how to maintain positive corporate culture

Peter Drucker tells us that, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast!” Quite simply, if your team is not engaged and is not willing to implement your business strategy, then you are fighting a losing battle. 

So how do you ensure your business culture is working towards driving the strategy and not eating it for breakfast?

Here are some pointers:

  1. Together with your team, define the culture you want to see and experience in your business. Culture is a living breathing element and should be given it’s own personal characteristics. For example your culture is inclusive, kind, fair and responsible. These could also be aligned to your companies values. 
  2. No one is bigger than the culture! This means that everyone must align themselves to the culture. No exceptions to the rule. For example, everyone greets visitors coming into the office, including the boss. A small gesture, but a powerful reflection of the business. 
  3. Hire for culture fit, not just for experience. You may be interested in hiring a dynamic sales and marketing manager for the business. They have years of experience and have worked for top performing companies all over the world. However, when they arrive for the interview, they are incredibly rude and dismissive to the receptionist. Do you think that that person will fit into your company culture and if they did start working for you, how would their behaviour affect the team culture? Ensure that culture fit is at the top of your interview and assessment criteria form. If ruthless and rude are what you are going for, then hire them on the spot!
  4. Everyone is responsible for maintaining the culture. If the team are vigilant and aware of the characteristics of the culture and the business values are on a daily basis consistently front and centre, then maintaining the culture is easy. However, if habits and behaviours not reflecting the business culture and values are allowed space and fester in the workplace without been checked, then by the time you are aware of what’s going on, you sit with a toxic culture. 
  5. Leaders drive culture. Yes, everyone is responsible for maintaining the culture. However, the business owner/managers/ leaders in the business are the key drivers. Remember, your team follows your lead and whatever behaviour and habits you condone will become norms in your business. You cannot delegate your role in culture maintenance, you are responsible at all times. 

Your business culture is developing and evolving on its own, every day, with cultural norms becoming embedded into the workplace wether you like it or not. Are you happy with the results or do you need to make change? 

31 May

It’s not just about the qualifications! – What it takes to be the leader

The other day I asked some of my coaching students “What do you think it takes to be the leader and to run a successful business?”.

Many of them said that the leader needed to be knowledgeable in all areas of business so that they would have the confidence to make the final and sometimes tricky decisions. The need for higher education and business experience also ranked very high.

I agree with this line of thought to some extent. Yes, they must be competent in business, however I have met many business owners who have acquired plenty of letters behind their names and yet they battle with being good leaders.

Why is that? Because it’s not just about the qualifications. I suggest that you consider these other factors as well:

1. Personal factors – Before you can start working on and improving a business, you need to be able to work on and improve yourself. The leader is never and should never be immune to critical review and change. How self-aware are you? How resilient are you to honest feedback and failure? An old boss of mine used to say that the crazier a situation got, the calmer you should be. I love that, as it encapsulates exactly what a leader should be in times of crisis. Rudyard Kipling said it best, 

“ If you can keep your head when about you

 Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,           

 If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,         

    But make allowance for their doubting too!”

        How well do you keep your head?

2. Leadership factors – Here are three factors that should be non-negotiable for all business leaders.

A good leader should have a leadership mindset, which is always focused on the business vision and how the team will achieve it.  What is your business vision and is it at the forefront of your action plans?

A good leader will never ask what’s best for them or a specific individual in the business. They will and should always ask, “what’s best for the business?”  

A good leader actively develops professional working relationships with all levels of employees within the business. Showing genuine interest and care in the team builds loyalty. Remember the old saying, that people don’t quit a job, they quit a boss. Wise leaders know that business success is not achieved without loyalty, buy-in and teamwork from everyone in the business.

3. Support factors – A good leader cannot operate successfully in a silo. They need a team of experts around them to be able to jump in and deliver when the leader calls on them.

How well do you know your team’s individual talents and expertise?

Besides your team, who else can you call upon to help you? As a leader you don’t need to be an expert in everything. You need to be able to put your ego aside and admit that you need guidance. That is a sign of strength, not weakness.

Don’t be short-sighted, its not just about the qualifications.

22 Nov

When do leaders show their true colours?

Dr John Kotter said the following, “Always think of crises as potential opportunities, and not only dreadful problems that automatically must be delegated to the damage control specialist. A crisis can be your friend.” 

What does this have to do with leadership? Everything!

Anyone can be a great leader when times are good, when everyone is behaving and doing their jobs, where money is been made and business targets are been reached. What happens when things aren’t going well? What is the leadership style like in your business during times of strive and crisis?

This is where the leaders true colours come out.

Think about a recent situation where you have faced adversity in your business, where the paw-paw has hit the fan. How did you manage your behaviour?  If you approached the situation like a total hero and swooped in and saved the day, then kudos to you! If you didn’t, then think about implementing the following strategies the next time you are hit with a curve ball.

  1. Stop. Think, breath, gather information and then react. Instantly responding to a situation can make things worse. Get into the habit of stepping back and gathering information before reacting. Giving yourself a small window of time to process the situation from all angles, allows for a more objective reaction.

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”  – Viktor E. Frankl

2. Be a curious leader, not a blame-shifting leading. Curiosity is objective. It shows your team that you are genuinely interested in discovering the reasons for the undesired outcomes. This automatically puts people at ease and they too start thinking objectively. It becomes a fact-finding discovery and solution focused session, not a witch hunt.

“Blame is just a lazy person’s way of making sense of chaos.” – Douglas Coupland

3. Always think about what’s best for the business. The solution is not about what’s best for  you, but what’s best for the company as a whole.

“Leadership is not about the next election, it’s about the next generation.”  – Simon Sinek

4. Don’t delegate from the sidelines, be part of the solution. Involve your team to build a solution and then take action with them.

“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” – John C. Maxwell 

5. As a leader you should be thinking about the future and how to make the business vision a reality, but you should also be in the rhythm of constantly reviewing and checking what’s happened in the past and what the reality of your current situation is. This allows you and your team to be agile and ready to implement change at the earliest possible opportunity.

“One of the tests of leadership is the ability to recognise a problem before it becomes an emergency. “- Arnold H. Glasow

As leaders we are always learning, developing and growing in our craft. The only way we can become better is by actively choosing to change how we tackle certain situations. What   are your true colours?

28 Jun

Selecting and developing future leaders in your organisation

What is your organisation’s leadership development acceleration plan? What programme is your business establishing to ensure that you capture the right talent to grow and develop the future leaders of your business?
I recently spoke on this topic at a leadership summit. My focus however was on the developing and grooming of future leaders as opposed to the selection of potential future leaders.
The reason for this is quite simple. Businesses can spend a huge amount of time, energy and money on selecting the right people with the right leadership traits and experience, but what happens to them when they arrive in your business? As Jim Rohn so aptly said   “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with”, so it is quite obvious  that these new future leaders will not be operating in a bubble. On the contrary, they will be constantly interacting with their team members and colleagues.
So let’s paint the picture. These new leaders of the future come into the business with their own set of traits, but they are also unavoidably adopting new traits as they engage with other employees, customers and suppliers. This could be very beneficial for their development and the future of the business if they were being exposed to sought-after leadership traits from their working environment, or it could destroy all of the hard work and effort that was spent on the initial selection process if they are constantly being bombarded by undesirable behaviours.
So before you spend time and money on expensive assessment models and recruitment services, think about the existing people and culture of the business. Think about who these future leaders will be spending their time with and evaluate those people’s leadership and management abilities.
Also, where do you stand with your leadership traits? The long list of non-negotiable traits which have been set out in the future leaders job description, how well do you match up to them?
It’s about accepting that future leaders will not function in silos and that the people they are permanently working with within your organisation will influence their behaviour and belief system in some shape or form. Besides building a future leadership programme spend time on your existing team members and the future leaders supervisors. Build their skills and capabilities, build their soft skills and build their leadership skills. Adopting the mindset that everyone within the business has the ability to grow and develop themselves is your first win.
Create an environment in your business that will nurture your future leaders, not chew them up and spit them out at the first chance it gets.
27 May

Improving employee retention

Are you continually having to re-fill key positions within your team?
Employee retention is an area in business that is often overlooked. It doesn’t sound as sexy as product innovation, marketing initiatives or even evaluating the company’s P & L. So management often pay more attention to these issues, than on how to stop losing team members to the competition, for example.
Not dealing with employee retention problems can be like walking on thin ice. The weight of your business goals become so heavy that the business resources, specifically your team, are unable to support the business demands and eventually something has to give. Without a strong team, there can be no innovation or business growth and you will find yourself sinking into icy water.
Surely it can’t be that hard? Find the right people and give them an offer they cannot refuse. Unfortunately it’s not that simple. Job offers don’t stand on their own. New hires also have to accept everything else that comes along with their new position. They are accepting the day-to-day routines, the norms, challenges, reputation and history of your business. They are accepting the leadership team and new peers. They are accepting “how things get done” within the business.
Now if they are happy with these factors, which make up a company’s culture, then performing their new job becomes easy. They are not distracted by non-work office stuff and are able to give their new position one hundred percent focus. The environment or culture will actually boost their performance, morale and efficiency. However, if things are feeling “off” they will be distracted, which will result in lower performance, lack of focus and possible demotivation. This scenario may not end there, as they can even become a disruptor within the business.
So if you are a business that wants to attract the right kind of people, with specialised skills and knowledge to drive your business forward and to remain loyal to your business, then you must take a step back and take an objective look at your business. Don’t just ask if the potentials on the shortlist can do the job, but assess whether they would fit into the company’s culture. Ask yourself if the company’s culture is able to support these people. Is your culture something these professionals will want to be part of, or something that they should sensibly avoid?
It’s not just about the job!