Archive for November, 2009

Communication and Leadership

Posted on November 16, 2009. Filed under: Leadership and teams |

Some people may wonder why I have used an analogy to put forward some views on leadership. Well, in my experience people respond more positively and powerfully to analogies than they do to specific and direct language about things that are personal or challenging. And the fact is that we humans have been telling stories since the beginning of life – myths, legends, stories and fables are all powerful tools in communicating and establishing shared understanding.

Many cultures also use verbal history rather than the written word to preserve and hand down information about ancestors, key rituals and experiences of the group. This is an important process and mechanism in the establishment and maintenance of a culture and history.

And so, back to leadership, people have different ways of sharing and retaining information: note different not difficult. Yet the differences are often challenging and can lead to misunderstanding and even conflict. Just like my analogy of gardening – to deal with things when they are small rather than waiting until they are fully grown and overtaking all else – differences in the way we communicate ought to be captured early and addressed or clarified rather than being allowed to build up into a crescendo of confusion and misunderstanding.

Leadership is often said to be all about communication – clarity of expectations, timeliness of feedback, and openness of views just to name a few. Yet communication is one of the hardest things to get right – especially as we cross cultures (not only verbal vs written, but complexities of language and multiple meanings of works) and also develop more and more methods of communicating. It’s not just speaking and writing letters anymore – we need to deal with telephone, web-cam, video conference, tele-conference, SMS, email, instant messaging, the entire web 2.0 (and beyond) tools and the list goes on. Yes many of those alternate forms are written, yet the form of writing is so different for each. Many of the newer communication forms are by nature informal yet they are frequently used in a business context and to communicate formal messages. Does this seem inconsistent to anyone else?

Shorthand and abbreviations are essential tools when you have a limited number of characters available – yet there seems to be no reference guide about what those abbreviations mean. Some of you will be thinking that if you need a reference guide then you shouldn’t be in that space to begin with. Possibly – although many of us who have worked in or with the Public Sector know how important such guidelines are to navigate the myriad of acronyms and abbreviations used. The question then may be who writes the guide and where do you store it – and how is it updated. The internet is a fabulous tool with a vast range of search engines and information repositories for such lists and guides.

Wouldn’t it be good to have a “how to” for key communications as leaders?

Leadership and communication are two inextricably linked skills and attributes. Both have aspects that can be learned. There are a few threads in this post that I will probably draw out in future posts – let me know if you have any preferences or priorities.

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Leadership is like Gardening

Posted on November 8, 2009. Filed under: Leadership and teams |

While doing some well overdue weeding in my garden this morning I began pondering the similarities with leading teams:

– if you leave weeds/problems unattended they just get bigger

– a garden just like a team needs a variety of plants, some flowering and some not, to create beauty

– the climate your garden is located in is like a company culture – some plants just are not suited to frosts, or excessive heat

– regular and gentle tending and weeding is far nicer to do than the wholesale removal of masses of weeds – and is less hard work

I did some web searching as I was sure these thoughts were not mine alone. And I did find some sites referring to leadership garden as a legacy and to experiences being like seeds that grow weeds for the future. There were some slight variations though with some of my thoughts not being found on other sites – and hence this blog post.

Regular tending keeps weeds or problems under control: how many times have people complained to you about how hard something is to address? Very often it is because that something (behaviour or performance) has been occurring for some time and has been overlooked. Until there is a downturn and extra scrutiny is placed on us all. Or until a new person enters the scene who refuses to accept what others have. Or until a new person behaves in a different way that highlights the problems that have been there all along.

If behaviours or performance concerns were addressed when they were small – like weeds first appearing – they can be resolved quickly. There’s no well established habits (or root system for the weed) not are there many others that have grown up arond the original miscreant.

One of the interesting things about gardening is that others will often come along after your tending and point out one you missed. That happens with our teams as well – there’s a weed/problem and someone external comes along and points it out. As if you hadn’t already seen it. Our reaction can be telling – are we frustrated because we missed on? Or thankful that someone spotted something I’d overlooked? Perhaps the feedback is just accepted because there has been enough weeding for today and that one weed won’t cause problems if it’s left another day or two – whereas if I try to pull another weed when tired I may overwhelm myself of trample something else in the garden. Remember not to over weed.

I mentioned variety as it allows cross pollination in a garden and creativity in a team. Sometimes there may be clashes – too much vibrant colour, but as long as there is a little space and we haven’t planted items too close together there should be room for all.

And finally – it’s important to select plants and team members to suit the climate and culture. Too often people are hired for skills or their floral display and planted in the wrong environment in which they wither. Recruites have said for years that the statistics show that companie shire on skill and fire due to a lack of culture fit. Don’t let that new exotic bloom you found become a casualty of your team garden that needs to be later removed along with the weeds.

Let me know what you think of this blog. Feedback is like fertiliser – it’s needed for growth even if it is can be hard to handle at times.

Have a great day. Pam

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Hello world!

Posted on November 8, 2009. Filed under: Leadership and teams |

My name is Pam and I run Broadspring Consulting Pty Ltd. I’m based in Victoria, Australia and love to travel for my work.

Feel free to read and comment on my blog – it will be a series of musings and thoughts about leadership, teams, change management and coaching.  All are areas that I work on through my business.

This is not a sales site – it is a place for comment and reflection and education.

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