culture

Workplace Culture – the Inside Story

Posted on August 16, 2016. Filed under: culture, Leadership and teams |

Inside Story Blue Ribbon Foundation

Attending a fundraiser dinner for the Blue Ribbon Foundation  last week I was inspired by the similarities between what one of the speakers Detective Inspector Andrew Gutske  was saying about the community not the police being the key factor to solving counter terrorism and workplace culture.
Currently in the Australian environment there is a complex and at times overlapping set of legislation, regulations and regulatory bodies who set out to govern workplace behaviour and prevent bullying. There is the Fair Work Act and the Fair Work Commission, as well as WorkSafe and OHS act as well as Brodie’s Law in Vic (and the list goes on for other Australian states)
These regulatory bodies and the legislative or policy framework in my mind mirrors the police frameworks and approach to addressing counter terrorism. There have been some successes yet people still fear terrorism. In the workplace there have been some improvements, improvement orders (check term) and penalties yet many people (managers and employees alike) fear bullying at work.

Let’s get clear on what bullying is, and what it is not.

According to Lawstuff a NSW based webpage Bullying at work is when someone repeatedly victimises, humiliates, threatens or intimidates you AND their actions create a risk to health and safety. Some examples of bullying are:

  • insulting, yelling or swearing at you
  • spreading rumours, gossip or innuendo about you
  • threatening phone calls or text messages
  • physical abuse like pushing, poking or hitting you
  • teasing or playing practical jokes on you at work

Workplace bullying can happen in lots of different ways, including face-to-face, on the company intranet or over the phone, email or SMS.  It can happen to volunteers, work experience students, interns, apprentices, casual and permanent employees.

Bullying doesn’t have to just be making fun of you or being mean to you.  Sometimes it can be stuff that is hurtful but less obvious like:

  • deliberately changing the roster because it inconveniences you
  • continually overloading you with work, or not providing enough work for you to
  • setting deadlines that are impossible to meet, or continually changing the deadline.

What’s not workplace bullying

Some behaviour that feels humiliating, threatening, intimidating or demeaning is not against the law. For example:

  • your employer can give you feedback about your performance.
  • your employer is allowed to transfer, demote, discipline, counsel, retrench or dismiss you (as long as your employer is acting reasonably).
  • your employer can decide not to promote you (as long as they transfer you to another department or provide you with some other benefit).
  • occasional one-off incidents in the workplace, for example if someone loses their temper or shouts or swears.

The DI commented that community communication, networks and observation as well as self monitoring will be the solution. When a community keeps an eye and ear out for each other, takes care of each other and quickly stops out of bounds behaviour quickly. That is community action.

So it could be that workplaces can be the equivalent of community action and here are 5 ways how we as leaders can achieve this.

1. Reduce the “us” and “them” responsibility for preventing bullying and have employees equally accountable as managers. Every individual is aware of the need for them to behave and speak in reasonable fashion to others and there is no abuse of formal or informal positions of power and influence. Bullying is perpetrated by more employees and team members than managers (stats and reference to back this up)
2. Emphasise the place and importance of role models or community leaders to set and model target or acceptable behaviours. These people when respected by the remaining staff have the permission to be a guide as well as a monitor to give corrective feedback. These people may be similar to the Contact Officer Role that many organisations already have set up, although perhaps with s broader level of responsibility.
3. Individuals value their “place” within the community and behave in a respectful manner towards each other because that is a normal outcome of a like minded community. There may not always be agreement yet disagreement is expressed openly, factually and in a respectful manner. The company has a community culture where acceptance is desired and high standards of behaviour and respect are desired and upheld.
4. Training and guidance is given on how to speak, speak up and speak out in ways that match community norms and expectations. Members of the community and workplace are given the skills and tools to behave in ways that stand them in good stead for a variety of circumstances.
5.  Workplace equivalent of neighbourhood watch exists where individuals are observant for risks or potential breaches of community standards. Individuals take care of themselves and also seek to care for others.
The Inside Story of workplace culture is that every single one of us within an organisation needs to accept accountability for the existence of bullying.
Do you accept the Inside Story challenge to create a community at the workplace and to eradicate bullying?

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Are you connected with technology but not with people around you?

Posted on July 12, 2014. Filed under: coaching, culture, Leadership and teams, managing change, personal leadership, team dynamics |

Many people and businesses have been grappling with the range of technology and devices and channels that are now available for us to communicate. In fact the rate of change with technology has far outstripped the development and evolution of pretty much every other element of our work and personal worlds.

In businesses, large amounts of money have been spent on upgrading IT systems, telecommunications and internat access and speeds. (Australians know all about the publicity around the NBN). And the pace of change with technology has been astounding -there are policies about social media use and access, policies on whether employees can access work applications and systems from their own device or only from a work device. Then of course there is the aspect of time at work becoming more elastic as people read emails and the like on their device while commuting to and from work, as well as those who review and write reports after hours and on weekends.

All this technology has meant that we are better connected than ever before – with people in our own workplace and also with people around the world. (I am currently reading The World is Flat by Professor Thomas Friedman which is all about the ease with which we deal with people anywhere in the world)

And yet, despite all of this capacity to connect we seem to be experiencing greater disconnection as human beings. People have devices and tools with which to communicate, and yet in some ways there seems to be more confusion and mis-communication than ever before.

People and businesses have been grappling with increasing
– bullying
– complaints of harassment
– tension and conflict at work
– mental health issues
– complaints, sick leave and confusion

What does this all mean? Does it mean we should abandon our technology?
Not at all in my view, the technology is merely the tool or the channel. We seem to have been cut adrift from the essence of why we communicate with each other.
To share news.
To learn.
To collaborate.
To provide feedback.

It seems that the ease of using the tools has somehow been transposed into an assumption that communication itself is easy.
Which it is not. Human communication is a complex interplay of voice, language and body language. Layered on top of beliefs and mental models and assumptions. Added to cultural and interpretation differences – some cultures do not shake hands while others rely on that action to establish trust.

When you distl your communication down to words on a screen – such as I am doing right now – you cannot glean any real insight to how I am feeling right now, unlike that which you would gain if we were face to face (or I had posted this as a video).

Research tells us that only 7% of our total communication message is derived from the words we choose, whereas 38% is from our tone and 55% from the rest of our body language.
If you picture me with my arms crossed and with a frown on my face this blog takes on a much different meaning than the one you would gain if I was sitting in a relaxed pose with a quizzical or curious expression on my face.
Consider how the message may change if I were speaking in slow and measured tones as opposed to a fast and higher pitched tone.

While the technology enables us to connect more readily with others locally and in other geographic locations, we cannot ever afford to lose sight of the importance of the person to person communication.
Has technology made us more complacent or lazy?
Has technology led to assumptions that we are all alike?

Technology has improved our physical process of communicating and yet we as humans need to remain attentive to the emotive and relationship process of communicating.

Workplaces of today perhaps need effective communication skills and stakeholder management (or relationship building) skills more than ever before.

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What happens outside the office DOES matter at work

Posted on September 13, 2012. Filed under: culture, personal leadership | Tags: , |

Amongst all of the things that have been written and said about the Charlotte Dawson trolling and social media situation the one that really stood out for me is this one.

That it IS important for managers and employers to take note – and perhaps action – on the activities of staff outside office hours. 

You see one of the early troll comments was (apparently) posted by an employee of a university. Yes it was done on a private account and outside office hours.

But – and it is a big one for me – don’t you think that it is highly likely that a person who is (allegedly) comfortable to bully and make threatening comments to someone outside work is also likely to be like that inside the workplace?

And yes there is a dilemma here: at what point do we feel as managers or business owners that we are over stepping the mark? At what point do employees feel that their privacy is being invaded? The other question that has been raised is what should be done about it?

Well, I disagree with those who are calling for more rules and regulations.

Enough already!

We have anti bullying legislation and policies all around us and still it goes on.

Let’s stop looking for punishment – my goodness, that seems to be similar to what the trolls attacking Charlotte (and now Robbie Farah – as well as many others).

It’s time that we look for another solution.

Yes this is my favourite Einstein quote: Insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

If our current framework of rules and legislation and punishment are not working, then surely it is insane (or close to it) to expect that more of the same will achieve a different result.

OK, now you’re wondering what I’m suggesting as a solution.

Well I think it is high time that we turn our attention to the communication skills of the individual.

I’ve always advocated people taking responsability for their actions – and their words. It’s about time that we looked to people being alert to the impact and consequences of what we do and say.

Consequences not necessarily being punishment (although that has it’s place especially in extreme and/or repeated cases). It’s also the consequence achieved when we are respectful towards each other.

(This image may be hard to read – if you want more info I suggest that you check out Warrior Mind. ) This picture says that it is easier to defend (or I say to attack) actions than it is to honestly examine them. If we can make this shift there will be a change in many ways.

And I believe this to be true.

It’s time that we who have influence – however large or small – begin (or continue) to help people to recognise that what they are doing or saying may reap a very different set of outcomes to what they anticipated. Or even to encourage people to think about what the outcomes may be! rather than just lashing out.

No, it won’t work in every situation – we are so very good at identifying situations where this won’t be effective (drug and/or alcohol affected individuals being one group).

My challenge to you: is finding the extreme example a reason to do nothing in all situations? If something won’t work every single time, does that mean that we discard it altogether? Gee I hope not.

We can make a difference to the issue of bullying – I believe by raising the quality of communication skills of everybody we’ll make some aware of their unintended consequences, and emplower others to address it before it becomes damaging. (and yes, once again I can see that there will be exceptional or extreme cases where this won’t work) But if I can help one person to recognise that they are acting like a bully and help them stop that, or if I can help one person to take steps to prevent themselves from feeling bullied then I’m going to do it!

Can you do something to recognise trends of poor behaviour (whether at work or outside the workplace) and take some positive and practical steps to prevent it happening again?

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Bad blogger is back

Posted on December 4, 2011. Filed under: culture, Leadership and teams, personal leadership |

Yes I am a bad blogger because it has been some time since my last post.  Blogging is intended to be a regular way to connect with people and on that I have done rather poorly recently.

Because I have been concentrating on connecting with people face to face.  Not leaving time or space for connecting on line.

Connections are critical – yes, we all know that the number of facebook friends you have is important as is the number of LinkedIn connections (I admit to feeling a pang of competitiveness in a meeting last week when a colleague commented on having over 1000 connections because I have around 660)

A tweet today about tibes from @gettribalnow noted that tribes don’t need to do engagement surveys because they connect meaningfully every day.

And it made me wonder – are we over engineering or overcomplicating some things?  Why do we need to survey everything and everyone – what ever happened to just asking people when you see them or speak with them.

What has happened to good old personal contact?

This is something that I have been chatting with people about for some time now- I agree that social media is a great tool and has its place for business people.  It should not be the only avenue by which we build profile and engage people.  People need the human touch.  We need to know that someone is taking an interest.

 

Think about those phrases we are all familiar with:

– no-one cares how much you know until they know how much you care

– buyers buy from the person not the brand

– charisma and being a people person is a highly sought after skill

 

My work is focused on helping people work more effectively with each other – and this post gets to the heart of that.  If you are challenged by people, then perhaps you need to ask yourself if you are engaging on their level or yours.

Brad Tonini asks a great question (well he asks more than one actually!) in terms of sles “Are you selling the way your buyers buy?” And I think the principle applies to every human interaction.  Am I dealing with you in the way you interact or the way I prefer to interact?

When we are speaking about friendships and personal relationships sure we need to be comfortable and maybe that inability to connect means that we are not going to make a friendship with this particular person.

In business how does that translate?  Some people seem to be trying to make themselves all things to all people – and that is not a characteristic that many of us want to buy from.  We mistrust the chameleon.

Yet as a manager or leader can you afford to only deal with people that you like and are comfortable with?  Isn’t that the essence of that phenomena called group think?  Where people think and act the same way.  And get the same responses and the same results.  Not so good for innovation.

As leaders and managers of people we need to establish and maintain an environment where there is a range of views – within the scope of the company or business goals and style of course.

My question for today is if you are experiencing challenges in sales or in your team (or with your online following!) you need to ask yourslef: how regularly and how well am I communicating?

Because if I am not clear in my messages to you, how can I expect you to understand what it is that I am trying to say?

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How and why loyalty counts

Posted on September 21, 2011. Filed under: culture, expectations, personal leadership |

It’s been a while and I have a few draft posts waiting – yet this one has come to the lead.  Why?  Well, last week in Australian Football League – not the round ball football – there was a fair bit of media coverage and criticism of one coach in particular who changed teams.  His team had been eliminated from the finals, it was (allegedly) thought he was contracted for next year and suddently we get two announcements.  First that another team’s coach has been sacked.  Secondly, within an hour, news that the first coach is being appointed into the sacked coach’s role.

Can you see how thi slinks to loyalty?

Coach A was seen to have been disloyal (or deceptive) to his team by going to another club despite his contract, he was probably seen as disloyal to fellow coaches as he stepped in while the seat was still warm – in fact I have heard it said that negotiations must have been going on before the sacking which sounds like someone is implying that he was more than disloyal.

There was lots of talk back radio chat about this being what happens when sport becomes business – loyalty goes away to be replaced by money.

I’m not so sure I agree with that.

According to dictionary.com, loyalty is  

1. the state or quality of being loyal; faithfulness to commitments or obligations.
2. faithful adherence to a sovereign, government, leader, cause, etc.
3. an example or instance of faithfulness, adherence, or the like: a man with fierce loyalties.

My question in a business context is how well we define loyalty and communicate that definition and expectation. 

If an employee works with a company for 5 years, attends skill development activities and is an important part of the team – and then resigns.  Do we question her loyalty? 

Some will.  Why?  I think it is point 2 above where differences really come into play – employers seem to tacitly expect loyalty to the CEO or team leader above all else.  What about an indiidual’s loyalty to their family – the expectation that I do the best I can to provide as best I can for my family – including changing job to reduce my stress/live closer to home/earn mor emoney/have better future career prospects.

Yet that person, let’s call her Madge, considers herself loyal and will be hurt and angry when it is said that she has been disloyal.

If we as business owners and mamagers fail to define what we expect from our employees – on any level including loyalty, performance, work role – how can we realistically expect people to meet our expectations.  If others do not know what is expected of them then their chances of meeting those expectations become more like a lottery and game of chance.

Personally I believe some people are also not quite clear on where their own loyalties lie and so they find themselves making decisions all over the place.  What are you loyal to? What drives and inspires you?  What or who do you put first above all else – I mean really put first?

Loyalty is something I think we all have, it’s just that different people define it differently.  And because it is often unspoken we assume that other people share the same loyalty as us OR that they understand our personal loyalty.

It’s not so and like many expectations, trouble can come from a mis match.

In terms of work (and probably sport) let’s focus on value and delivery.  What is the work that is done.

And by the way, according to Aristotle:

We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly.

And

Our actions and behaviours are our morals in conduct

I think sometimes we get loyalty and morals confused – but either way, it is what we do that speaks volumes and not just only what we say.

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Social norms for social media

Posted on July 11, 2011. Filed under: culture, leadership legacy, personal leadership |

Somewhat following the theme of my last post about beliefs and how strongly held they are – and hence why arguing logically about them is unlikely to help – I’m now thinking about social media.

For some reason social media appears to be perceived as being exempt from usual norms and protocols of communicating.

What makes me say that?  Consider these examples:

  • the increasing amount of press and media coverage about cyber bullying using facebook and twitter
  • media article about schoolchildren using facebook pages and blogs to vent their deep feelings as they believe their parents are not savvy enough to find them
  • requests from people on their twitter and linked in accounts for others to stop selling before “getting to know them”

This last one in particular has really spurred me into action (well writing at least!).  Why is it that people who would not cold call or doorknock – because they feel that this is hard selling and not the way they want to run their business – appear quite comfortable to straight off the bat sell to a new connection?  I’m sure we’ve all had the experience of connecting online with someone who has then done something we feel has stepped over the line.

Or have they?

Isn’t this another example of differing beliefs?  I had an experience not that long ago of meeting someone at an event and we exchanged conversation and then business cards. As you do. We connected via LinkedIn soon after.  Within a day or so I received a request to refer this person to someone else in my network.

That last step was the one where I felt uncomfortable – and I replied saying that I only refer people whom I know well and that sadly I did not know this new contact well enough to do that just yet.  Perhaps my phrasing was not quite right because I received a pretty strong message back from my new contact reassuring me that they were ethical and would not act inappropriately and felt offended that I felt the way I did.

Hmmm.  My response was to let it cool.  The contact and I are still connected, although there have been no direct follow ups or other requests for referrals – from either of us.

Picking up another thread, I attended an internet security briefing last year where a presenter made a great comment about  people seeming to believe that what happens online is somehow less real than things that happen face to face.  The example was to ask us how we would respond if walking along the street and someone approached us with a software package valued at $900 for only $39.99.  Most people would not buy as they would suspect it’s legitimacy or legality!  Yet how often do we buy this sort of offer when it is online?

And so going back to my LinkedIn connection – if the same thing had happened at a function (say a networking lunch) would I have made the introduction? Yes I would.

Having had time to ponder why I said no online when I would do the opposite in real life I believe it was for two key reasons.  Firstly face to face I can position the introduction as “here’s someone I just met who said they are keen to meet you” and also I can assess the established connection’s reaction at that time.  Secondly, I could have “sussed” out exactly why the new connection wanted the introduction and if I felt it was going to be for a sales pitch I still would have said no.

Are there things that you do or ways that you behave differently online?

As business people we need to be really careful about this because our online activity and presence creates just as strong an impression of our character, if not stronger, to others.  One great comment is that words published online remain accessible to everyone forever.  How much do we really think about what we post about ourselves?  It’s not just our words – such as in blogs – it is also the messages about ourselves that those words create and sustain.

When training managers and teams I often refer to the fact that we judge ourselves on our intention and others on their behaviour.  Just as we cannot see their intent, only their behaviour – that is also all they see of us.  Are we really certain that our behaviours are giving the message we intended?  Social media allows us to have an online presence and personality – I wonder how many of us are as careful with that as we are our real life one?

 

 

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Trekking in Nepal – travel tips

Posted on May 24, 2011. Filed under: culture, Inspired Adventures, Nepal trek, personal leadership |

When travelling to a new country there are always lots of questions:

-what will it be like?

– what do I need to be alert for?

– what do I need to pack?

– what security questions should I have?

And the list goes on.

Luckily for me, my recent trip to Nepal was organised through Inspired Adventures who worked with a local group Royal Mountain Tours, so we got some pretty good briefing notes.

However there are always tips hat you pick up along the way and here are a few of mine – that should be applied over and above your own checks about security, medical advice and your own travel needs.

Take good socks and jocks – there is something to be said for comfy feet and comfy undies. I spent a lot of money on proper hiking underwear and it paid off. Despite lots of hours of trekking and walking through heavy rain I did not even get one blister or red mark on my feet. And there was no chafing from my undies either.

Use hand sanitiser – before and after every meal. And in between times. Germs are transmitted from hand to mouth and when you touch something you can pick up germs. No wonder I did not get even a slight tummy bug. Thanks for the tip.

Keep up the (bottled) water. In other countries, especially when exercising as hard as we were at times, maintaining water intake is vital.

Have a sip of a soft drink at each rest stop to get an energy burst but keep up the water. These regular little sugar hits along with energy bars and eating well were all part of me more than just surviving some tough days.

Check if you can use credit cards or need to take cash and your debit card. Too many of us assume that you can use credit cards pretty much anywhere you go nowadays – in most of Nepal that is not true. Cash is king. Check before you leave – and remember that carrying too much cash is not a good idea either. ATMs near our hotel in Kathmandu were secure to use – not all are that way.

Pack clothing for both your destination weather and your home weather – I used thermals when leaving and landing and for about 4 hours of the rest of the trip. It meant I was comfy at all stages and they really didn’t weigh too much. I also took a shawl that doubled as an extra blanket when I needed it.

Waterproof gear is not always waterproof – or should I say storm proof. We had some storm experience – get good gear, and pack your things inside plastic bags as well.

Always carry a clean and dry pair of socks and a shirt. When you get wet trekking you will appreciate the ability to put on a dry shirt and socks. Even when your shoes and pants are wet something dry picks up your spirits incredibly well.

Take extra plastic bags – they are great for packing wet or dirty items (including shoes)

Take extra big safety pins – they can be an emergency fix and also a portable washing line – several of us hiked with socks dangling off our packs.

If you journal – carry a clutch pencil as it saves running out of ink or needing to sharpen the pencil. Also carry a glue stick so you can glue in items as you go – saves work when you get home and keeps things in chronological order.

Carry toilet paper and tissues everywhere with you. You never know when you may need them and when you need them you need them!

Remember that it is a holiday, an out of the usual spectrum advanture. Things will be different to home – and not always in a good way. Accept it.

People will be different and may not speak your language – learn a little of theirs. Customs can vary – it is important to be respectful. For example, in Nepal always ask permission before taking somone’s photo. Always.

Fellow travellers may be tired, grumpy or missing home – be relaxed about it. You might be the same at times. Those moments pass. If you make a harsh or judgemental comment, the memory of your words will last longer than the ” spat”  that started it.

Hard times can make the best memories. Keep that in mind because the hard moments will pass but the memories will last.

Keep an open mind – you never know what you will experience.

Bartering is required and expected in many Asian countries. Embrace it and also be prepared to walk away if you feel you are paying too much. Do not compare what you paid with what someone else paid – ask yourself if you are happy with the item you bought and the price you paid. It is all relative.

Tipping is often expected – porters who carry your bag or waiters who do something extra for you (such as getting herbal tea rather than black tea) earn a tip. Have small notes with you at all times to be ready. Check in the country about what is a usual tip.

In Nepal many prices are quoted for food and drink excluding tax and tip/service chares – this can add almost 25% to your bill. If you expect it then you won’t be surprised.

Smile.

When travelling you are typically on holidays or an adventure of a lifetime.

For me who has always wanted to go to Nepal this trip was so much more than even a bucket list item. It has been incredible.

Having a few tips and being prepared helped me keep smiling and enjoying the journey – even at the hard moments.

Life is short. Live it well.

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Trek to Nepal – six weeks to go

Posted on March 21, 2011. Filed under: culture, Inspired Adventures, Nepal trek, personal leadership |

Amazingly there are now only six weeks to go until the journey of a lifetime begins. Am I ready? That is a question that can inspire and terrify at the same time. It is a question that cannot really be answered fully until the journey is complete and the reflection and review occurs. And pehaps even then it may not be clear as I may have been ready for a set of circumstances that do not eventuate.

One area I am feeling far from ready with is the fundraising. Please support the great work of Plan Internationald and their Because I’m a Girl Fund by donating to my page here http://gofundraise.com.au/page/MacdonaldP

Donations have been trickling in and I am well away from my target amount. That as I said is an area I am not ready in – I have been busy with work and not focused on setting up events. Lesson number one – the first thing to focus on and plan is the fundraising events when you are embarking on a trip like this. I focused initially on the physical challenge and getting myself fit – which in hindsight actually was, for me, the right thing to do. Because I have been so busy over the past month there is no way I could have managed a fitness campaign as well as the workload. My routine of exercise over the past month has been one of maintenance more than anything else. And of course me working on the blood type diet.

Visas and vaccinations are the order of the next week – organising and getting them. Making sure all is ready before the last minute. Or the last week – which is really approaching quickly now.

I’m continuing the work on steps and stamina – gave my quads a really good workout over the weekend and they are letting me know today. Short sprints uphill on rough ground. I know I am not running in Nepal however all of my research and conversations with people has really emphasised the need to be able to cope with lots of up and down work – and coping with uneven ground. That’s where the core strenght comes in. And of course we all know that going downhill is harder on the legs than walking uphill. I remember a school camp where many people got to the top quicker than I did but they had “jelly legs” on the way down so i caught up and actually arrived at the bottom sooner than quite a number of them did.

Not that Nepal is about a competition. It may well be a competition with myself and my frame of mind, yet it will also be a real test of our physical fitness and the legs are going to be key. I think I ought to book myself in for a spa and massage treatment the first week of my return. I have a feeling I am going to need it, or at least will want it as a reward or something.

All accounts suggest that the weather is going to be warm – like 30 degrees C during the day and down to say 10 degrees at night. Thank goodness our local weather has been similar so I’m a little used to warm days that cool down quickly. It presents a challenge for packing and the packs thoug – our porters will not carry more than 15kgs and I certainly do not want to be hiking with a 50kg pack just so I have enough clothes.

It will be all about layering and light clothing – of which I have plenty having bought lots of hiking wear over the years. It will be interesting to learn which fibres work best – merino is supposedly best for thermals as it does not sweat and smell like synthetics. It is hard to get and quite expensive. Yet worth it if it keeps me warm and does not smell out my room mate.

If you are reading this and enjoying it, please consider making a donation (if you have not already done so) because just $10 from each person I know on LinkedIn and Facebook will go a long way to helping Plan International. http://gofundraise.com.au/page/MacdonaldP

Thanks for reading.  And thank you in advance for your support.

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Listening Leadership

Posted on August 3, 2010. Filed under: client centred, culture, expectations, Leadership and teams, leadership response, personal leadership |

Today I participated in a web conference about marketing and I began thinking about how some of those principles would apply to broader business activity including leadership.

Being focused and having a goal: this is like management and leadership 101 isn’t it? We all know that without a goal you might have a nice trip or journey yet you don’t know where you”ll end up. I agree that sometimes that’s not such a bad thing, although there are limits: my view is that life is about the journey as much as the destination and that it is the how as well as the where that is important.

Keeping it about others not you: in marketing terms this is about focusing on your segment of the market and delivering what they want (like the pull concept) rather than what you want to produce (or a push context).  In coaching and counselling terms this is also referred to as client centred: keep your attention 100% focused on the person/people you are dealing with and when they are satisfied with what has occurred then you have done a great job.

This one took a while to really “get” because being someone who takes pride in what I do I was always wanting to do the best that I believed was possible for me to do. And then I realised that sometimes when people have developed or learned or received what they needed that is enough. Sure there may be future times where they come back for more and the additional pieces of the puzzle, but there can be limits on over delivering. Please note that I do also manage to have this co-exist with a principle of going the extra mile and the belief that it is better to over deliver than to over promise.

Listening and responding: no this is not just about communication, it is more about hearing what the audience needs and then responding and perhaps adapting so that need is met. I like the alliteration of leadership is listening, but really what does it mean?

To be a leader is to be the first to correctly interpret what a team or a client is saying, confirm that with them and then work with them to deliver on that need.

Being a leader is being open to the views of others, even when they may differ from your own. This can be one of the hardest things to master – especially when new to a leaderhip role and/or when working in a competitive environment. So many people seem to believe that they have to be and be seen to be right 100% of the time in order to be effective or successful. Making space to listen to alternative points of view may seem like a weakness to some.

Creating the right environment for people to bring their best to the table is all about leadership. Many people talk about employee engagement and the statistic at the moment is that one third of employees are looking for another job. Another current statistic is that 48% of employees admit to having covered at work for a colleague who is hung over. Would these numbers be any different if leaders in companies had created open and honest environments where matters such as these could be discussed in a no blame context?

We talk of consultation and communication without really paying attention to the ground work that needs to be done, especially by leaders, to create the culture and perceived safety that is essential to staff being really open about their views. And being brave enough to contribute their best creativity in brainstorming activities. At this point I am harking back to one of my earliest posts about leadership being like gardening – the leader needs to prepare the ground for there to be a fulsome harvest.

These words of mine feel very similar to the concepts and principles of Courageous Followership and Servant Leadership, yet I’ve deliberately tried to keep away from words such as those due to the uncertain or negative connotations they often have.

Effectively leadership as a concept is as unique as every one of us, yet as tried and tested as the tides. There may be variations and sometimes stormy weather, yet the patterns of success are the same and there are some consistent fundamentals that need to be applied for there to be success.

When I think of leadership at the moment I am thinking of a couple of friends. Their story is a very personal one and not for me to share: suffice it to say that they have been through a deep loss and are grieving. Yet they have remained constant as friends to others while being able to ask from their friends when they need. Their story is powerful and compelling yet they listen closely and attentively to the words and expressions of others around them too. They are leaders in the way they have accepted their individual journey and made it their own: not allowing themselves to be swayed or judged by what others expect, yet at the same time forging a path that is open to others to learn from and follow regardless of whether they are in the same situation to begin with.

Isn’t that leadership?

Of course environments and people are different. And so there cannot really be one leadership way. I do agree with Stephen Covey from 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – begin with the end in mind, first look to yourself before looking to others to resolve concerns, and sharpen that saw.

I’m off to do some saw sharpening this week: attending a BizFest tomorrow in Bendigo and a breakfast event the day after. Networking and learning and sharing my knowledge where it is relevant. What a great week.

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