Monday, June 24, 2013

Encouraging individual achievement as the basis of collective performance

Most, if not all, managers worry about how to bring the best out in their people. There are a number of ways you, as a manager, can encourage achievement.  Here is a list I was given many years ago.  Unfortunately the source is unknown so I cannot make the normal acknowledgements.  And I do not claim the ideas as my own!  They, however, have proved to be helpful (especially the tips on what to avoid!)

The Do’s for fostering high achievement in organisations.

1.     be prepared to develop, and recruit, followers who will exceed you in performance and achievement.
2.     remember to provide a role model of how to function in your business.  Assign a mentor or provide opportunities for mentoring.
3.     delegate tasks but don't delegate people contact.
4.     set quality standards, but don't be afraid of mistakes.
5.     acknowledge personal achievement and/or meaningful group achievement.
6.     give as much responsibility as possible.
7.     remove as many controls as possible, but maintain accountability.  Encourage self-assessment.
8.     provide opportunities for creativity and growth in personal ability.
9.     practice participative management.
10.  encourage an active break during the day - the ability to concentrate declines dramatically after four hours.  Aerobic exercise will reverse this trend.  Food alone will not.
11.  set difficult goals but maintain high expectations - expectations influence performance.
12.  allow space for calculated risks for innovative action. 

13.  set clear goals.
14.  provide a short  purpose statement.
15.  remember, managing yourself is a pre-requisite to managing others.
16.  respect staff as individuals who have commitments outside the workplace.

The Don’ts for fostering high achievement in the organisation setting.

1.     don't push too hard when people are under stress.
2.     don't use manipulations, threats or coercion, implied or actual.
3.     don't mistake quantity of working time for quality of working time.
4.     don't be constrained by rules or conventions.
5.     don't communicate only to delegate or criticise.  Positive appraisal is a powerful motivator.  Criticism without appraisal is a demotivator.
6.     avoid role conflict and ambiguity.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

If your a little bit down it may help you make better decisions: depression and leadership

Winston Churchill struggled with depression, and that may have made him a better leader.

Referring to Churchill, Nassir Ghaemi, professor of psychiatry in Tufts University School of Medicine, states: “The depressive leader saw the event of his day with a clarity and realism lacking in saner, more stable men.”  (Johansen, 2012, p.50)

This was one insight that hit me reading “Leaders Make the Future” by Bob Johansen.  Johansen is the former President and now Distinguished Fellow of the Institute for the Future (IFTF) - an independent non-profit think tank that has produced an annual ten-year forecast for over 40 years.  The 10 novel leadership skills he introduces in this book are worthy of deep consideration.

First, I should put a bit more context on the depression issue – Ghaemi’s work suggests that mood disorders may actually help people find leadership clarity in a world of increasing volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (VUCA).  He considers that in good times, healthy people function effectively as leaders, but “ times of crisis and tumult, those who are mentally abnormal, even ill, become the greatest leaders…..Mildly depressed people…tend to see the world more clearly, as it is” (my emphasis).

Johansen contends that “Being normal may be a disadvantage in abnormal times.”  And I am sure he is not advocating depression - rather the need for a mindset open enough to see reality as it is.

There is little normal in a world of increasing volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (VUCA), and Johansen argues that leaders operating in this world must learn new skills in order to make a better future including:

1)            Maker instinct (leaders approach their leadership with commitment of a job and energy of a passionate hobby)
2)            Clarity (leaders being clear about what they are making but flexible about how it gets made)
3)            Dilemma Flipping (turning problems that can't be solved into opportunities)
4)            Immersive Learning (learning by doing)
5)            Bio-empathy (understand, respect and learn from nature)
6)            Constructive depolarization (calming tense situations and bringing people from divergent cultures towards constructive engagement)
7)            Quiet transparency (ability to be open and authentic about what matters to you without self-promotion)
8)            Rapid Prototyping (ability to create early versions of innovations)
9)            Smart mob organizing (creating, engaging and nurturing social networks)
10)        Commons creating (stimulate, grow and nurture shared assets that can benefit other players)

The book is probably best suited to a seasoned leader with an experience on which to reflect and make sense of Johansen’s words.  He is effective in explaining the "what" and the "why" but not the "how”, and this is where an ability to draw on an extensive practice would be useful.  Getting through the book is not an easy task, but is one that will be highly rewarding.

My one major insight is that “Leaders make the Future” offers a novel approach to making sense of the present.  If you can do that, you are in a better position to shape the future.

I read many books on leadership.  Not often do I recommend one.  Johansen’s “Leaders make the future” is an exception.  You won’t find it easy, and you will need be prepared to take a time for some deep reflection.  If you care about the practice of leading then you will find Johansen’s ideas as very useful (along with anything written by Max De Pree!!)

Bob Johansen (2012) Leaders Make the Future: Ten New Leadership Skills for an Uncertain World.  Berrett-Koehler Publishers: San Francisco.  ISBN 978-1-60994-487-2

A leader must break free of the wisdom of the herd, and strike out in bold new directions.

In 2002 Steve Sample, Tenth President of the University of Southern California penned the book, “The Contrarian’s Guide to Leadershi...