leadership response

Managing Staff is Like Tying Your Shoelaces

Posted on October 2, 2014. Filed under: leadership response, managing change |

No, really it is.  Managing staff is like tying your shoelaces.

Everyone does it in slightly different ways.

If it isn’t done right and the laces come undone mid run or walk  it’s annoying, frustrating, interrupts your rhythm and is important to effective operation and function.

Blog shoelacesThis came to me while I was out walking. A time and activity where I often do my best thinking.

(and here’s a pic of my foot and the lace in question!)

You see in recent weeks I have noticed that the shoelace on my left shoe keeps coming undone while I’m walking or running.


And it annoys me when I have to stop and retie it.


This shoelace has never been a problem previously and I’m sure that I am tying it the same way as I usually do, and yet it keeps coming undone. At least two to three times in a 30 minute run or walk. Only the left foot. Only in the past 4 months or so.


And then it struck me, I was getting frustrated because I had to keep stopping and tying it back up – repeating what had already been done.

(Those are sentiments that some of my clients have shared with me – that the process of dealing with repetitive staff issues is a distraction from the work that needs to be done)

It seemed the more I thought about it, the more fitting the analogy between shoelaces and managing staff was an appropriate one.

everyone has their own style of tying shoelaces, and for managing people. The core principles are the same yet the actual process is different. Some people double knot their laces – that’s probably enough on that point 🙂

– once tied we assume that the lace will remain tied until it is undone with a purpose. Managers often assume that people know what is expected of them after one conversation or briefing

it’s easy to feel frustrated with the lace for coming undone rather than first asking “is there something different that I need to have done”

having to stop frequently disrupts the rhythm and output of the run/walk and the business. SO it is really important to do it well to begin with.

Stop and reflect before the task begins on whether there is something different that staff may need to be briefed on, or that may mean the laces need double knots (rain or their age)

Consider what I need to adapt to. If the lace has come undone several times recently then it may need to be double knotted from now on to give it the extra support it needs. Perhaps I should see a podiatrist or gait analyst to assess if there is something changing in my hip or knee that is affecting the way that I run/walk.

Maybe I could use the pause to catch my breath and assess my progress – in other words turn it into a positive and useful activity.

In the words of an old song “perhaps, perhaps, perhaps”

The important thing is that leaders need to adapt just as much as staff are asked to do.


Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

Where do we see leadership?

Posted on January 24, 2012. Filed under: Leadership and teams, leadership response, personal leadership |



It’s a lovely sunny day as I write this and in the midst of a major sporting tournament.  Funny how this makes me think of where leadership can be seen isn’t it?

Well, there is self leadership – do I work or do I go outside to “play” (well not if you sunburn the way I do – there is no question about avoiding too much sun).  There is also how we manage our health and energy in the heat including keeping well hydrated.

There is also leadership of the self in terms of sport.  Twice over the past two days I have been privileged to attend the event – courtesy of a Christmas gift from a friend – and have seen two players with strong leads lose them (and eventually the match).  How?  It seemed to be a loss of concentration – self leadership in my words – coupled with a strong mindest of the competitor – positive self leadership.

It begs the questiion: how often do we see this in the work environment?

Interestingly I think we see it lots yet rarely comment.  You see I have some alerts set up and well over 95% of the mentions about leadership (as I’ve set up the alert anyway) generate sporting references.  There are very, very few mentions in a work context – and interestingly one of the few was a Forbes magazine article!  So if it is mentioned it is in a very well respected environment!

Wonder why this is?  Do we feel closer affinity with sporting analogies regardless of the country we are in?  I know it has been said that we Aussies really love our sport and respond best to sporting analogies and stories.  Yet even writing and comments on leadership and the effectiveness of teams from across the world seem to comment most often about sport rather than business.

I guess one part of it is access to the information: few organisations or companies would allow jounalists in to their “rooms” in the same way it happens with football and there are rarer interviews after a top three finish in business than there are in cycling or motor racing.  And realistically it would be unlikely – what business wants their commercially sensitive information out there in the public domain?

Potentially I wonder if it is that sport has clearer rules and criteria so it is easy to define when something is a success.  An ace in tennis is clearly an ace, the winner of a Formula 1 race has finished in less time and ahead of the others, a runner crosses the line first, an archer has more points…. and so it goes on.  Managers and leaders have been successful when…….?

So is it that the criteria that define leadership are looser or less well defined?

Is it that there are more variables and external factors in business which make it difficult to directly attribute success and hence to celebrate it?

Is it that we value sporting achievement more than business achievement?

If we’re dealing with people and teams is there really any difference?  What I mean here is that leadership of people is fundamentally the same whether it is a sporting team or individual or a business.  You still need mental toughness.  You still need skill.  You need to understand the rules of  the game.  You still need to celebrate the wins and keep up the motivation.

Hmm so once again I find myself thinking and typing that we see leadership everywhere – it is just whether we recognise it that way or not.

And of course whether the people involved recognise what they are doing well or not doing so well.

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

Is it bad HR or bad Management?

Posted on December 12, 2011. Filed under: Leadership and teams, leadership response |

In a recent tweet I posted an article that raised some key things that “if your HR manager does, then you should fire them” and it started me thinking.  Well, it didn’t really START me thinking because I do that all the time, although what it did do is turn my thinking towards the issue of workplace and staffing problems and who is a) usually blamed and b) how these situations get so far out of hand.

I think the article provided some effective tips and evaluation points – yet it was clearly written in a way that was intended to generate interest and attention rather than to really help people.  Honestly how many HR managers would openly admit that  they were doing things like or even close to those listed in an article saying that if you do them you should be fired?

Rather than taking a negative – even if tongue inc heek – perspective, why not examine what factors make up success in the view of HR and the view of line management.  (much as I did some time ago with a short workshop on “How to find and engage the right advisor”).  I realise that the “cheeky” nature of the article may have grabbed attention (well it obviously worked with me) yet I think we need more than attention – we need action.

For instance, recruitment and staff turnover is often positioned as HR failing to do their job.  With many statistics floating around that up to 30% of people fake their resumes then I guess someone needs to work out a way to stop those people getting roles they are just not skilled or suitable for.  Then I ask myself (and you): who defines the criteria for success in a role and how well or clearly is this communicated?  Isn’t this a great opportunity for the line and the HR manager to work together to clarify what on the job criteria a candidate needs to satisfy as well as the tips on what to look out for from the experience of the HR professional?

I know there are times when I have been asked for advice by line managers because I recruit more often than they do – and so have a wider field of candidates to reflect on in terms of the difference between nervous or deceptive behaviour. (By the way I may listen to my instinct but only act on it when I have evidence – otherwise that is unfair and an inappropriate basis for a recruitment decision)  When you interview a lot you have an edge over people who do not interview often.

Just as the line manager has an edge in determining what examples of workplace performance are most relevant to the job and which are just well articulated responses.  The line manager is also potentially best placed to identify the type of person who will fit best into the team and work culture – are we a loud and social team or are we quiet with everyone getting on and doing their own thing?  The work style of a group and a candidate can be one of the most important matches you make – just ask anyone who has a job/employee from hell type of story.  In most cases you’ll find that there was a major mis-match of work styles.

The point I am tyring to make here is that no-one wins when a poor recruitment decision is made: especially not the candidate themselves who might suffer stress and anxiety, or a termination of employment early in their tenure that they cannot explain or a set of hopes dashed because it just isn’t working.

Yes the attention grabbing headline has a place – and an effective one – my request or call to action for you is to read and think a little more deeply.  Go beyond the reasons to fire your HR manager and ask some questions:

– did the HR manager have all the relevant information (did they ask or was it provided are two different sub questions)

– has accountability and responsibility for key decisions been placed in the right hands (sometimes the line manager simply knows more and should have the final say, whilst at other times the HR specialist and their knowledge need to be at the fore)

– can the situation be rectified?  Rather than firing a person, can we give them feedback and coaching – if that has been tried (and document) already and in accordance with your policy then perhaps a termination of employment is the right call.  However it may be a case of having a conversation with the person and getting to the bottom of why they did what they did. (some candidates do lie and falsify their reference checks and will get through almost any recruitment process – that’s where on the job performance assessment during the probation or trial period is effective)

Read the article I shared the link to if you like and please take your thinking one extra step – what would I do if this happened to me and how would I mutually fix it?  The article is a thought provoker – let your thoughts turn into practical analysis and relevant and appropriate action.


Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

Trek to Nepal – 11 weeks to go

Posted on February 15, 2011. Filed under: Inspired Adventures, leadership response, Nepal trek, personal leadership, Plan Fundraising |

Well another week has flown by. Still working on the plan – no pun intended (remember that this is a fundraising activity for Plan Australia). Getting more and more people saying how close it all is. And also receiving offers of support and help.

I guess that is really what this sort of trip is about – realising that there is only so much that you can do alone. Sure I am responsible for planning and my personal, physical and mental preparation. The support and encouragement of others is really important to that too. And the support of others in terms of financial support to help me reach the fundraising target is unquestioned. It is also the support of others who are encouraging and positive that really helps when you have a flat or platreau week. Those weeks two to three months out where it still feels far away yet not really and where the training has stabilised and is almost a routine of its own. That is really when the support of others kicks in significantly.

Support from others in offering to help set up and run fundraisers. There is only so much you can do on your own – especially if aiming to hold a large event. Other people have ideas about what to run and where to go and have experience from doing it before. So you learn from the experience of others and leap frog your own learning curve.

It also becomes reciprocal – if we share experience and lessons learned then we save others the same sort of pain and they are also encouraged and more likely to return the favour. That is what a community spirit is. When we are willing to share insights and information to help each other.

For me that is one of the essential elements aout Nepal. There is a sense and a spirit of community and sharing. It may be very different when I am there, however my knowledge and to some degree my expectation is that I will find and experience for myself a strong community. A group of people who are gentle and willing to help. No I don’t have to go to Nepal to find that – such support and encouragement is all around. I guess it is just not what first comes to mind when I think of Australia.

With less than three months to go, (and really close to two complete months because we are almost at the end of February) I am having some thoughts and possibly doubts about how ready I really am.  I am working on different things – still my cardio and strength are a big focus with some core work in there as well. The fundraising hurdles seem close and high yet I’ll get there. And that’s probably the theme for this post. Holding that internal unshakeable belief that I will do this, and do it well.

It’s also about variety – keeping a mix of things going (multitasking some would call that!) so that I avoid falling into boredom – a personal challenge – and also so that I am tracking progress on a number of different fronts. From a fitness perspective it is more than counting reps and assessing stamina – although those are important and still improving – it is also had me trying on old clothes that have been a bit tight and seeing how they fit again. Or wearing different tops and pants that I am once again happy to wear.

The next two weeks are occupied with speaking engagements and volunteer work so the training routine is going to need to vary. More core work and static fitness. It needs to be mixed up as gym fit is different to hiking fit. They are linked yet very different. When anyone is thinking of preparing for something I always encourage them to tyr the activity itself as that requires a specific set of fitness that is hard to gain from any other activity. Hence why my preparation is so varied.

Let’s hope it works – I’ll know in just over 11 weeks when I am there.

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

Trek to Nepal – 12 weeks away

Posted on February 7, 2011. Filed under: command or control, expectations, leadership response, Nepal trek, personal leadership, Plan Fundraising |

What a difference a week makes! Suddenly an adventure that seemed so far away and with plenty of time to prepare for is just around the corner. In fact in some respects there are two complete months to go – given that we are one week into February.


What a different perspective this creates. Perhaps not in my mind as much as in the minds and responses of others. This past week when speaking with people about the trek (especially related to my fundraising targets) the responses have exclusively been “wow that’s really close”. It has been a sudden and complete shift.

In my mind there are still many weeks to go and I am tracking well on my fitness and training goals, preparing the right equipment, having test runs of all of my gear within the next few weeks and keeping up with the timing of progress payments for travel costs and fundraising donations as well. Lots of things going on yet all weaving together to form a complete tapestry of what will be a trip of a lifetime. A trip that will benefit me, will benefit Plan and will benefit communities. A trip that will also connect some of my friends and colleagues – and people who do not know me that well – with Nepal and a passion for helping others as the thread that joins us.

And that is what has really struck me about this week: many things seem to have shifted. It is not just the reactions of others, my own actiity and focus this week also shifted. It has been really hard this week to fit in the physical training due to weather and work commitments  and so I have shifted my focus to my mental and emotional state. Lots of meditation work and mindfulness. Rather than being physically active I have been mentally aware and focused. And perhaps mentally aware of what I have not been doing before I was able to turn that into what I have been doing. Making the switch from physical to mental activity initially felt like I was doing nothing and that was disappointing. Then I realised what was happening – the focal point had shifted slightly. It is all still very related to being ready and capable of trekking in Nepal. Just different.

For me one of the challenges has been that very thing: keeping my mindset positive and not lapsing into a self deprecating dialogue of how I have allowed the training to slip and what sort of risk that now poses to my making the trek safely and effectively. Progress physically has been so far great. There are lots of things I have improved greatly over the past month and persistence has been one of the kesy. For me to have a week of difference was probably a timely reminder that this trek is going to be filled with the unexpected and unanticipated. It was also a stark reminder that this is as much a mental and emotional challenge as it will be a physical one. And emotional and mental control is something I pride myself on highly.

Control. There are only certain things we can control in life – the main one is our views and mindset or beliefs about something. That’s where my personal focus has been this past week. And it has been a very different experience. There are things I cannot control and need to accept that. As Maya Angelou said “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”

And I did – early in the week I realised I needed to change my attidtude. Actually it was closer to mid week. And as soon as I did so the change was startling. Letting go of that expectation and pressure allowed me to make better progress with what really needed to be done. For example, I was going to have fruit and yoghurt for breakfast this morning (as I usually do) when I realised that there was no can of fruit opened. Not planning to breakfast at home for most of this week I initially thought it was not worth opening a can and not wanting plain yoghurt that I would have toast. With homemade jam. And then it struck me: I have homemade jam because there is lots of fresh fruit in the house from my own backyard trees. And so I had fresh fruit with my yoghurt today.

A small example of how focus that becomes fixation is not healthy or helpful. So a little bit of letting go while still holding the bigger goal is the optimal way.

Self awareness is one level, the deeper levels are where I have been. A useful event I feel as Nepal and trekking is likely to pull on all of those resources and practices. And probably even more.

I’m amazed at how even preparing for a trip like this has pulled certain issues to the fore – the past week has been full of distractions and so my focus has been tested. As has my ability to retain a level head and clarity on the end goal while also being patient with myself (personally being patient with me is a major challenge!). I’m a firm believer that life throws at us what we need – and here is an example.

trek to Nepal

For the coming week I am reconnecting with my intense physical training while also continuing the mental focus.  A coming week of continuing with the small steps while charting progress to the big one.

Being focused without allowing myself to fixate and judge.

Preparing and being prepared.

My first fundraising event was quite successful. I need to do more, much more, yet have proved that it can be done and whilst having a good time.

Experiencing and being on the journey – because the journey is just as important as the destination.

Beginning to get more excited by the prospect of the trek.

It is quite close now.

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

Preparing to lead

Posted on October 3, 2010. Filed under: expectations, leadership response, personal leadership | Tags: |

It has been a while between posts – and this has provided some room for reflection on the purpose and content of these posts. While it may seem that the theme of leadership has been covered almost ad infinitum in the literature and consulting space, questions still arise in almost every situation about “what is this thing called leadership?”

Having been involved in the usual amounts of work, delivery and development and reading it has struck me recently about how important professional and personal development is. and not just because many professional bodies and even some firms require the completion of a set number of hours of skill development and training to occur over an annual or tri-annual period. There is no doubt that professional membership requirements do provide some attention and priority to professional development. However it remains apparent that many sectors and individuals have a lower level of commitment or belief in the value of the development.

I certainly agree that development needs to be relevant and appropriate to the individual and their career/work requirements. However this question of relevance when posed by those reluctant to participate seems to be originating from a wider principle that questions the relevance and importance of skill development as a whole. Many of people appear to believe that they are where they are in their careers because of what they have achieved in the past and that as expert practitioners or specialists there is no need for them to develop. In fact how can leaders in their field develop when they are the ones forging the path ahead?

And herin lies the essence of this post: development needs to be of all the skills that we as individuals apply so as to be ready for what may come next.

What I mean there is that professional abaility and especially leadership capability is far more than the technical skills associated with the core business or area of practice. These skills also include how we research and investigate new developments as well as how we manage and lead people. It must also include how we process and communicate information as well as how we personally and professionally adapt to change. Other skills would relate to how we influence others and prepare ourselves for what lies ahead.

These are merely a few suggestions abotut the skill areas that need to be developed and maintained to a high standard in order to be an effective operator regardless of the field.

Part of a conversation I overhead last week related to Brad Sugars who is a well known speaker. The comments that I heard were about his response to the question of how much time, effort and money he puts into his own continuing professional development. His answer would have shocked many: quickly and precisely he stated that his professional development over the years has cost $400,000. That appears to be an astonishing amount, however he clearly sees the value in it and so do the people who seek out his advice and input.

Reading a book a week is one of his strategies – so development is not just about attending workshops. In fact workshops may be one of the worst ways to develop skills depending on what skills you need to develop. Taking time out from business generating and delivery is also one of the most common objections presenter to the case for continuing professional development. This example I am providing here showcases that there are other ways.

Having a personal interest in professional development I am committed to the cause of encouraging and supporting continuing professional development. However I am not blind to the key issues and here is a summary of what I believe needs to occur for effective and ongoing development:

– set a budget annual of time and money that you are willing to set aside. This is an investment in yourself and you are worthwhile. By planning out the exercise you also give yourself structure and goals which are essential to achievement

– define what skill areas you wish to develop or refine in the coming 12 months. This may be an area you are already expert in and you may be seeking to polish the edges or to develop even further. There may be some stretch goals in your business plan in the year or two ahead and you need to extend your own skillset in order to effectively deliver those expectations. Preparing yourself for future demands is a very rational and reasonable reason to continually refine your skills

– understand the expectations and requirements of any professional bodies you are a member of and ensure that your plan incorporates activity that will satisfy those requirements. Do not attend events just to gain the points or the hours for continuing professional development. All that will do is frustrate you and limit the value you get – as well as possibly preventing someone else who really needs those skills from having a seat or a place in that learning

– continually review the effectiveness of your plan and how well the planned activities are meetingyour own expectations and needs. There is no point sticking to a plan if it is not delivering what you need. Likewise if your needs change during the year then change the plan.

– remember that practiicing on its own does not develop skills unless there is some form of reflection or review. The process of professional supervision or collegiate meetings to discuss and debrief can be an excellent way to develop skills. Sadly how often to leaders meet purely as leaders to discuss and debiref their effectiveness? Most leadership meetings remain tactical and operationally oriented and would not be considered skill development

For those who have read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People you will have recognised this post as being about sharpening the saw. As leaders we need to remember for ourselves and others that continually using the saw is not sharpening – how many saws become sharper with use? There is always a need for leaders to be prepared for what lies ahead and that is our call to action with regard to leadership.

What development are you undertaking to maintain and extend your skills to be a leader?

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

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.

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

Liked it here?
Why not try sites on the blogroll...