Leaders Need Three Kinds of Focus

I once worked with a CEO who was paranoid about results, so much so that he never cared for relationships with those who delivered the results. The end results weren’t surprising – the intended results were never delivered because people either stopped caring or moved on. The loss was almost irreparable. Leading in a complex world is almost like a tight rope walk and leaders cannot afford to have singular focus on either task or relationship. They have to constantly strike a balance between needs of the context, their own needs and the needs of others.

In this 2013 HBR video (6.42 mins), Daniel Goleman explains why leaders need to cultivate their awareness at three levels and what they can do to improve upon these three areas of focus.

Here is the sketchnote version I created to capture the essence while seeing the video:

If you liked this, you will also like the following posts:

Dr. Deming on Joy of Work, Innovation and Leadership

Having worked in Quality management role for a long time, I could not have afforded to miss insights from Dr. W. Edwards Deming whose thinking was way ahead of time. Dr. Deming is remembered for transforming Japan into a formidable business competitor through his management and leadership practices, especially Deming’s 14 principles.

In 1994, at the age of 92, Dr. Deming gave his last interview to IndustryWeek magazine which I read with great interest.

In part 1 of his interview, Deming says,

The source of innovation is freedom. All we have—new knowledge, invention—comes from freedom. Somebody responsible only to himself has the heaviest responsibility.

3M is a 100 years old company that thrives on innovation. 3M’s William McKnight first instituted a policy known as 15% rule – that engineers can use 15% of their time on whatever projects or initiatives they like. Later, Google also had a similar policy. McKnight used to tell his managers,

“If you put fences around people, you get sheep. Give people the room they need.”

This is even more crucial when an organization grows and if you want good people, you cannot manage them traditionally. They would want to do things in their own way. Providing a conducive space for performance is one of the primary responsibilities of a leader.

In the same interview, Dr. Deming also touched upon a topic businesses are still struggling with – how can leaders enable joy at work? He suggested,

The alternative is joy on the job. To have it, people must understand what their jobs are, how their work fits in, how they could contribute. Why am I doing this? Whom do I depend on? Who depends on me? Very few people have the privilege to understand those things. Management does not tell them. The boss does not tell them. He does not know what his job is. How could he know? When people understand what their jobs are, then they may take joy in their work. Otherwise, I think they cannot.

If we keep all the glorification of leaders aside, the two fundamental tasks of a leader are to get great talent (good people who care) and then help them succeed by providing clarity, reiterating the vision, mentoring and serving to their needs with a focus on achieving business outcomes.

After reading insights by Deming in this interview, I was only wondering about the depth of Dr. Deming’s passion about better business and better leadership that kept him engaged even at 93!

I am glad I stumbled upon this interview.

15 Simplest Acts of #Leadership

 

  1. Smile. It is a universal language of compassion, care and love. 
  2. Greet people by their names.
  3. Share positive feedback about the work they are doing.
  4. Ask them about their advice on a critical problem.
  5. Listen with an intent to understand.
  6. Learn about them, their work, their process and their challenges.
  7. Help them in getting rid of their roadblocks.
  8. Establish trust to create a non-threatening environment for people.
  9. Be your authentic self when dealing with people and remain integral.
  10. Act on their feedback.
  11. Show them how much you believe in them.
  12. Encourage them.
  13. Thank them for their contributions.
  14. Recognize their work and their achievements.
  15. Celebrate their accomplishments.

Bonus:

Talents of a Great Manager

Gallup finds that great managers have the following talents:

  • They motivate every single employee to take action and engage employees with a compelling mission and vision.
  • They have the assertiveness to drive outcomes and the ability to overcome adversity and resistance.
  • They create a culture of clear accountability.
  • They build relationships that create trust, open dialogue, and full transparency.
  • They make decisions based on productivity, not politics.

Source: Gallup Business Journal – Why Great Managers Are So Rare!

Here are a few small additions to each of the point mentioned above.

  • To be able to motivate others and build relationships, they communicate with clarity.
  • They are assertive in driving outcomes and overcoming obstacles but they are graceful yet firm in dealing with people and situations. 
  • While creating a culture of accountability, they also balance accountability with engagement.
  • They work hard to build relationships and trust but they remain objective and unbiased without letting their relationships impact the decisions.
  • They make decisions based on productivity but they think critically about other aspects of decision (and its respective impacts).

Great managers are the catalysts of employee engagement.


Related Reading: 

Great Quotes: We Are Made of Star Stuff, Carl Sagan

“The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of star stuff”.

– Carl Sagan

From – “That “we are” – The Connective Tissue of Humans Being” by Bernie Nagle which is a must read. Here’s one more:

But it all begins with acknowledgment and profound appreciation for the most rudimentary fact of human existence: “we are”. Joni Mitchell said, “we are stardust, we are golden” and in the workplace we are so much more than “Humans Doing”…we are “Humans Being”, with all the wonderful gifts of our unique person-ness right there for the sharing.

Do I need to say anything more?

Leadership: Look For Intention First

Assessing intention is a powerful way for leaders to understand how people and teams operate. Intentions are hidden, not always clarified directly through words, and hence easy to overlook. We therefore end up focusing on behaviors and actions.

A team member who always asks difficult questions (act) is looked upon as a ‘trouble maker’ when the reality could be that this team member cares more about the work or wants to really help the team improve.

Because actions are directly visible, we end up judging actions. And the fact is, when we constantly assess actions, we also end up being more judgmental. But what people seek is acceptance – they want their leaders to understand them completely.

Without acknowledging the intention behind an action, acceptance is not possible. Unless you are working with robots, human beings will make mistakes and act in ways that may not be coherent with your worldview. Constantly judge them and you stand a chance of losing them.

As human beings, we are essentially flawed. If you have to make things work, in spite of these human flaws, you need to assess people by their intentions first and then judge the methods.

The idea here is not to simply accept poor behaviors, substandard work or compromise on results. The idea is to look for the big “why” – the cause of a certain behavior or action. That is because our intentions drives our actions.

If intention is right, you can correct the methods, behaviors and actions. But I doubt if it is as easy to correct someone’s intent even when their methods seem be perfectly placed?

Flight Mode

Notifications on the devices are constantly craving for our attention. We check them when waiting at the traffic signal, while having the food, during meetings and while talking to our loved ones.

Constant connection with technology is not allowing us to establish real connections with others. It is taking a toll on our ability to communicate, converse and connect effectively.

We want others to listen to us, really understand our ideas and acknowledge our thought process. Being understood is a fundamental human need. Key question is: How often do we fail to do the same when communicating with others? 

Flight mode on your phone is not simply for when you are on an airplane. Try it at family meal, in the cinema queue with your friend and when taking a stroll through the park with your kids. Sanity mode. You know it makes sense. – Nicholas Bate, Jagged Thoughts for Jagged Times 112

Turning off technology when meeting a fellow human being is a way to tell them, I respect you.”


Also read: The lost art of fine conversations by Kavi Arasu which has some excellent ideas  on conversations, leadership and learning.

Too Much Celebration Around Failure?

Failure is glorified. In a number of start up events that I have attended, people eloquently talk about how many times they failed before their venture took off. Successful entrepreneurs and role models tell us that failure is good.

Arthur Rock, one of Apple’s board members, said, “The best thing ever to happen to Steve is when we fired him, told him to get lost” (Isaacson 2011). The tough love gave him the opportunity to become wiser and more mature. (Source)

But there is other side of this feel-good failure thing. Here is an interesting take on the other side of the argument:

I also think not all failure is good. What’s important is being able to tell the difference between the productive failures, where you were a bit overly ambitious but learned important lessons, and wasteful failures, where you’re just throwing out ideas without thinking them through beforehand.

We learn how to walk only after we stumble a few times. We learn by doing, failing, adapting, learning and then applying that learning all over again. But in my view, too much celebration of failure sets us up for more failure and breeds complacence. We  may be setting a wrong precedence for aspiring entrepreneurs and leaders. If we fail, we should certainly learn our lessons and there is no stigma attached to it – but only after we have done everything we could have to avoid failure.

I also believe that we should not let our failures stop us from attempting again. Remaining optimistic and hopeful in the face of failure is a critical life skill. 

In the same context, I read this Washington Post article “Failure porn: There’s too much celebration of failure and too little fear” with great interest which says,

People seem to forget that start-up founders can endure years of psychological trauma for naught, employees can lose their jobs and investors can lose significant money. Rather than being a springboard to greatness, failure can simply be devastating.

Paypal’s co-founder Peter Thiel makes an important point as he refers to the concept of ‘accomodating a failure’ as a dangerous one:

“Every time a company fails it is not a beautiful working out of the Darwinian free market and it is not a fantastic educational experience for all involved. Every death is a tragedy and that is even true of deaths of companies.

Not all failures are worth celebrating, especially when stakes are high. And just because failure is marketed well does not mean we should buy it as easily.

Your thoughts?

Organization Life: Insights from Michael Wade

There are a few bloggers who inspired my blogging journey that started in 2006 and Michael Wade tops that list. His blog Execupundit offers a daily dose of  provocations, ideas, inspiration and links to great content on leadership and life.

Here are a few insights on organization life extracted from posts that I loved reading.

“Technique alone will not suffice because there will be moments when strong character must intervene.” – from the post More Than Technique

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“Leaders can talk about goals and missions as well as plans and techniques but until a single version of reality is established, effectiveness will be hindered or thwarted.” – from the post Getting Real

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“When problems make you want to withdraw from the world, usually the best strategy is to engage.” – from the post Random Thoughts

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“There are few things more powerful within a group than that which is understood but never spoken.” – from the post Random Thoughts

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“Poor indeed is the organization where there is a widespread lack of: Honor, Knowledge, Wisdom, Courage, Ambition, Humility, Humor, Fairness, Opportunity, Energy, Loyalty, Initiative, Caring, Cooperation, Flexibility, Imagination, Objectivity, Toughness, Decisiveness.” – the post titled Lack

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“The savvy employee studies the organization, both the people and the beast itself, and pays closer attention to what is done than to what is said.” – from the post Informal Rules

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There are times when we get more productive ideas on the drive to the office than in the office. – from the post Get an Idea

These are very astute observations that generally come from a wide and deep experience in navigating through the organizational jungle.

To Communicate Effectively, Connect First!

I have seen people feeling more comfortable about a presentation or a meeting when they have all the details and facts lined up in a presentation. They massage the message and try to cover as many statistics and nice looking pictures as they can.

They feel comfortable because they focus on communication – transfer of facts, information and figures. But this alone may not be sufficient, because people look for connection first. Communication is simply a tool to connect – a means to an end and not the end in itself.

Connection is the transfer of energy and emotion. Communication starts with details whereas act of connecting with others starts with an intent to identify with people, to understand their context, find a common ground and then demonstrate passion while mapping your ideas to their context.

You can devise complex plans with lot of information to do an effective sales pitch however, the real impact depends on how much you were able to connect with the prospect. That’s because people first look for energy and intent and emotion and authenticity. Once they are connected, they pay heed to information.

Ability to connect meaningfully with others and generate influence is so crucial for leaders at all levels (parents included!) and lack of connection is also the biggest reason why leaders fail to make the mark.

Getting stuff done is, quite obviously, the reason why leaders exist in organizations at first place. But the real legacy of a leader is how well they connected with others and how did it help others in becoming better versions of themselves while still getting the stuff done.

Your ability to connect with others enables you to build that legacy – one conversation at a time!

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Double the Love: An Interview with Lisa Haneberg

 

Lisa Haneberg is an expert (and lifelong student) in the areas of organization development, management, leadership, talent management, and personal and organizational success. With over 25 years of experience she has provided departmental leadership, consulting, training and coaching solutions for manufacturing, health care, high technology, government, and nonprofit organizations. She has written 14 business books and speaks on a broad range of topics of interest to leaders and managers.

Lisa recently published her new book Double the Love – 11 Secrets for Cultivating Highly Accountable and Engaged Teams and I had a privilege of previewing some of the ideas before it was released and share a blurb in the book. I read the book with great interest and it just consolidated what I wrote in my blurb,

“Double the Love is a treasure trove of transformative ideas, secrets and wisdom on how to build an engaged and accountable workforce. Wish I had this book early on when I built my first team!” – Tanmay Vora, author, blogger and improvement consultant, QAspire.com

I caught up on a conversation with Lisa recently and here is what she shared:

[Tanmay Vora] Lisa, welcome again to QAspire Blog. I often hear senior leaders who complain about lack of accountability within their teams and organizations. What is the #1 mistake that leaders make when trying to make their teams more accountable?

[Lisa Haneberg] Thanks, Tanmay. I think that the #1 mistake is failing to understand how our performance systems work. As leaders, we use two performance systems – accountability and engagement. Accountability is an extrinsically motivating system, which means that it is a “push” system and thus the secret is to be consistent and have strong follow through. I have worked with leaders who proclaim a need for accountability, publish metrics, but then do little else to operate the accountability system.

[Tanmay Vora] I loved how you have differentiated and then related accountability and engagement. Please tell us a little more about that.

[Lisa Haneberg] Accountability and engagement are distinct systems, as I mention above. What this means is that the leadership actions that increase accountability are not the same as those that increase engagement. At the same time, accountability and engagement are interdependent. When you increase accountability, for example, you might see a downturn in engagement because accountability systems can make employees feel audited and unappreciated or untrusted. This is where the phrase “double the love” comes from – when you increase accountability, you need to double the love to keep accountability and engagement in balance.

[Tanmay Vora] “Love” is not a word that we use often at workplace. What has love got to do with the whole topic of accountability and engagement?

[Lisa Haneberg] Let me start with defining “love.” Managerial love is taking initiative on behalf of someone else. It’s doing the things that enable our team members to do their best work. It’s caring enough to apply individualized support. As leaders, we give love when consider and act in ways that engage and help our team members. Sometimes love is as simple as letting someone skip a long meeting so they can get out of the office at a decent hour or spending time listening deeply. Managerial love is the fuel for engagement – it’s how we create more pull and satisfaction in the workplace, so it is HUGELY important for engagement (and helps counteract morale hits from accountability measures).

[Tanmay Vora] If there was one key message from “Double the Love” that you had to share with HR, Managers and Leaders at all levels, what would that be?

[Lisa Haneberg] In the book, I share 11 “secrets” and the final one is that the secret to performance velocity is design. This idea pays homage to Dan Pink’s belief from “A Whole New Mind” that design is a critical competency for our time. And this is particularly the case when trying to cultivate accountability and engagement. Design in this context means that we have been deliberate in choosing and using leadership practices that will support our goals. Being deliberate means that your intentions show up in your actions, decisions, beliefs, and behaviors. I believe that many leaders know – intellectually – the best things to do but that few follow through with their intentions. Design is the most fascinating discipline for leaders, I think. I love the challenge and possibility of creating my leadership practice. BTW, Dan Pink endorsed the book based on this connection to his earlier work and I love what he said.

“This terrific book brings together the intentionality of good design with the science of motivation to help leaders create better workplaces. The synergy is extraordinary.” Daniel Pink, author of DRIVE and A WHOLE NEW MIND

[Tanmay Vora] Lisa, thank you so much for provocation to lead better through this book. Thank you also for being so generous with your art and sharing your insights here. I am pretty sure readers of this blog will find your blog and books very useful and inspiring.

[Lisa Haneberg] Thanks, Tanmay. I hope that your readers will double the love and bring out the best in others.

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Also read: Previous interview with Lisa Haneberg on her book “Never Ending New Beginnings”

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The Foundation of Collaborative Leadership

In an industrial age, people went to factories and worked together to produce the outcomes. When required, they collaborated in person. Supervisors commanded and controlled others and leadership was often equated with “taking power”. Factories depended heavily on rigid top-down hierarchies and people were viewed simply as dispensable workers.

With technological advances, our world of work changed dramatically. Today, we seldom do anything alone. With rise in knowledge oriented work, people in small and geographically distributed groups work together to create value through their expertise and creativity. There is no raw material, there are only people.

In this world of work, collaboration is not optional. In fact, effective collaboration is the backbone of how work gets done today. Most successful projects and teams I have seen have one thing in common – effective collaboration. They had one more thing in common – that one person with vision who believed in collaboration – a collaborative leader.

In this series of posts, we will look at what goes in to make collaborative leaders and their indispensable traits. Mary Parker Follett defined management as “the art of getting things done through people” and collaborative leadership embodies and extends this belief. It is about bringing diverse group of people together, have them share a common vision and provide them an eco-system where they effectively work with each other to produce desired outcomes optimally.

At the very foundation of collaborative leadership are respect for people, individual competence and engaging communication. Let us take a closer look at these.

Respect for People:

Effective collaboration starts with a simple belief that people are not “resources” or “capital” – they are not just a variable cost to your company. They are essentially humans who bring their self-esteem, emotional skills and intellectual capabilities to accomplish their work. That they want to be trusted, communicated with and inspired. Karen Martin, my friend and author of the recent book “The Outstanding Organization” says, “Organizations are not machines – they are fundamentally and irreducibly made up of people.” Respect for people imply that a leader is interested in (and enjoys) dealing with people, listening to them, help them navigate through challenges of work, solve their problems and invest time in developing their skills. Respect for people also means that a leader is able to provide the required space to people without compromising on the accountability. It means that a leader looks at conflicts as a way to improve.

Competence:

Collaboration is almost never a substitute of competence. At an individual level, a leader cannot foster collaboration and solve team’s problems without having the necessary skills and capabilities. For a leader, competence does not necessarily mean only technical skills. It also means higher visibility into work and how it fits into larger scheme of things. It means knowing how to communicate effectively and deal with problems. Competence also equates with an individual’s integrity – the extent to which thoughts, words and deeds of a leader are uniform. An integral leader quickly builds trust which is the currency of a collaborative team.

Engaging Communication:

If trust is the currency of a collaborative team, communication is the way to build it. It is only when a team frequently communicates, provides clarity, clarifies vision, shares ideas, extends their lessons and outlines problems clearly that they can really collaborate. Leaders in a collaborative environment need to be transparent and conscious about cultural aspects of communication. They need to offer a compelling view of the future (vision) to engage the energies of people. Along the way, they need to reiterate the vision, keep the team focused and resolve conflicts. They also need to be aware that communication is not just about what they speak, but also about what their actions speak.

With these fundamental elements in perspective, we will explore essential traits of collaborative leaders and related examples in the subsequent posts.

Join in the conversation: How would you define collaborative leader? What are your thoughts on how people are treated within organizations today?

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Photograph by: Tanmay Vora, A Family of Darters, Khijadia Bird Sanctuary

Managing Aggression in a Team – A Short Tale

Cute Pug, Angry Expression!

The cricket coach had some wise words for his team. This team was reeling under pressure to perform and was marred by penalties imposed on key players due to their overly aggressive behavior on the field. Coach knew that some course correction was required.

“Aggression” he said, “is a double edged sword. If used correctly, aggression can lead to improved performance. It elevates the intensity of your game”.

The coach continued, “I like to call this ‘good aggression’ because it is instrumental in generating new energy within the team. As a team, we must be aggressive but only assertively. The purpose of our aggression is to help ‘ourselves’ not to harm others.”

The team was slowly realizing their folly.

“What I call as ‘bad aggression’ makes us hostile, unfriendly and negative because we try to draw our energy from negating and obstructing others. It may improve our performance in a short term but is not healthy in a longer run. The energy within us manifests itself in many ways and aggression is just one of the ways our energy comes out. We only need to positively direct this energy.” the coach said.

He then asked the team to think about how some of the greatest players in the history of cricket handled their own aggression. After a few quiet moments, the team members realized that best players always kept their aggression in their bellies, not in their heads. They were able to channelize this aggressive energy into a constructive one.

When the team returned to nets for practice sessions, they knew they had a choice to exercise. They chose to be constructively aggressive. No snide remarks on the field, no dissent, no fierce expressions and no more clenching of fists; just a consistent focus on performance of the self and the team.

The coach silently observed them from a distance and smiled because he knew the players had learned something that will not only improve their conduct in sport but also in their lives!

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P.S.: I participated in a corporate cricket tournament recently and this post is partly inspired by my lessons from the tournament and conversations around each game.

Coaching Culture: The Art and Science of Success #IndiaHRChat

It was a time to participate in #IndiaHRChat again and the topic this time was “Coaching: The Art and Science of Success”. The topic is very dear to me and it was a great learning experience reading tweets from various people in HR Fraternity. Tweet-Insights from the special guest Mr. Gurprriet Singh (@JoyandLife), Managing Consultant and Head of YSC India helped in understanding the nuances of coaching based on his experiences.

It was fun sharing my insights and participating in this conversation. You can read all tweets in this storified version of the chat. Here are the bite sized ideas on personal branding that I shared or amplified.

Why a Culture of Coaching?

A culture of coaching fosters trust, accelerates learning and builds collaboration.

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Coaching helps people navigate change and be adaptable. Adaptable teams help in organizational adaptability.

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Better coaching = Better team/business results = Satisfied Customers = Better Bottom lines.

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Coaching takes the baton where training leaves it! Coaching complements training and induces behavioral change.

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Coaching increases performance, productivity and job satisfaction at all levels.

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"I absolutely believe that people, unless coached, never reach their maximum capabilities." Bob Nardelli, former CEO, HomeDepot

Difference Between Coaching and Mentoring

Coaching addresses specific purpose or task and is time bound. Mentoring focuses on the individual and long term.

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Coaching is the subset of mentoring and focuses on specific goal or task at hand.

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Mentoring is broad & relational while coaching often tends to be about functional improvements. (RT @sundertrg)

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Mentoring is led from the front, coaching supported from behind. Mentor sets agenda, coach does not. (RT @SeapointCenter)

When Should Coaching NOT be Used?

When challenges are related to attitude and thinking of the person, coaching will not help.

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Never ask managers to coach people unless managers have demonstrated capabilities to be a good coach. (RT @ThinKritical )

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Try coaching in a situation of fire/escalation where response time is critical and you may fail. Coaching needs time.

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Never ask managers to coach people unless managers have demonstrated capabilities to be a good coach. (RT @ThinKritical)

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Coaching is ineffective when used as a last resort to retain an employee. (RT @ThinKritical)

Characteristics of a Good Coach

A coach has to be humane. Interested in people. Committed to growing others and elevate their game.

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You can never coach others when you are insecure about yourself. Personal proficiency is a pre-requisite.

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To ENLIST people, a coach has to LISTEN, probably why both words are formed using same letters!

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When people are being coached, feedback is their compass. Trust is the currency. A good coach knows that!

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A good coach needs content skills and context skills – ability to map the knowledge and actions w.r.t. specific context.

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Good coach is: Positive. Enthusiastic. Respectful. Empowering. Supportive. Patient. Result Oriented. Knowledgeable.

The Ideal Coaching Candidate

An ideal coaching candidate is open-minded and willing to learn.

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When it comes to a coaching candidate, as @tom_peters says, “ATTITUDE > ABILITY”

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The coach will appear when the student is ready ! start getting ready. (RT @JonasPrasanna)

Challenges in Establishing a Culture of Coaching

Not having clear objective of coaching exercise OR not aligning the coaching goals with business objectives.

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An organizational culture that thwarts new ideas will seldom succeed in building a coaching culture.

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Coaching being given by people who don’t "get" the essence of coaching.

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Looking for short-term ROI from coaching exercise :)

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BONUS: Read the interview I did with Marshall Goldsmith and Chip R. Bell on The Art of Effective Mentoring to complement these lessons.

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Also Read: Bite Sized Insights on Personal Branding #IndiaHRChat

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How to Build a Great Team and Culture? 60 Pointers

I recently delivered a talk at a local entrepreneurship forum on the topic “How to Build a Great Team and Culture”.

It won’t be unfair to say that establishing a great culture and team is highest on priority of a business leader. And why not? A great culture enables success, builds team fabric and attracts talent too. We have all seen many talented teams failing simply because of a poor culture and human dynamics. Here is the running list of 60 odd lessons I shared during my talk:

A Great Team is all about “People”

  • Good team work is mathematics – it adds leverage, divides work and multiplies success.
  • People are at the heart of a great team. Where there are human beings, there will be dynamics of how they operate. Human dynamics remain the same –be it team, family or community.
  • Treat them as humans. Living, breathing, emotional and intelligent people are not “resources”. They are not a part of machinery. They are humans.
  • Human beings have self-esteem.
  • They are driven by ambition.
  • They want to grow.
  • They want independence.
  • If ambition is the driver, inspiration is the fuel. Feedback is the compass that enables them to validate direction. Trust is the currency.

Why Team?

  • A team of discrete individuals join hands because they want to achieve something that is beyond their own selves. Having a compelling purpose is the first pre-requisite of building a great team.
  • In today’s world, people cannot be simply “roped into” the team. They have to “opt-in” – which means that a leader’s first job and biggest value addition is to articulate the clear vision and principles for how the team will reach it. To clarify the purpose in so many words (and through actions). People need to know how their work fits into a larger picture.
  • Clarifying the purpose and setting the vision is not a one-time communication. It has to be re-iterated in every meeting and every interaction. Vision and values are not “feel good things” written on the wall plaque – they have to be lived in every decision that an organization takes. Formal and informal forums like water-cooler conversations, one-on-ones, all hands meetings, and internal newsletters are a great way to reinforce the message.
  • If you want to ENLIST people onto your vision, you have to LISTEN – probably a reason why both the words are made up of same letters.
  • Communication is the most important tool in a leader’s toolkit. Communication that sets expectations right!
  • “If people are subordinates, what are they subordinating to?” In my view, people never subordinate other people. They are subordinates to a cause. In that sense, even a leader is a subordinate to a cause.
  • Set expectations on behaviors you value. As Michael le Boeuf says, “You get more of the behavior you reward. You don’t get what you hope for, ask for, wish for or beg for. You get what you reward."

Getting Right People

  • A team is as good as the people in it. Get people on your team who are either rock stars with proven capabilities or the ones who possess the attitude of being rock stars.
  • Never hire on capabilities alone. Attitude is as important as capabilities. In fact, with the right attitude, a team member can build capabilities. Skills alone, without right attitude doesn’t move a needle.
  • As Tom Peters says, “Attitude > Ability”
  • Embrace diversity. Diversity is the key to an innovative team. If everyone belongs to a similar background or have similar thought processes, how will the team think different? How will they look at same things with a new set of lens? How will they challenge the status-quo? Celebrate these outliers, for they are the ones who will help you grow!
  • Before hiring a team members, look for actual working skills. Learning history. Communication. Adaptability and most importantly, integrity.
  • After all this, ensure that the person is fun to work with, social and emotionally intelligent.
  • Get people on team with complementary skills. A good team is the one where people complement each other. It is like a puzzle where the whole picture is not complete without any one of its parts. Each piece of puzzle fills the other!
  • Even after having all traffic rules, accidents still happen. It will happen when you are building team. The key is to know when to let someone go.

Managing Smart

  • People don’t need micromanagement. They don’t need carrot and stick. They need an ecosystem where they can exercise their discretionary effort and deliver their 102% – 100% of what is expected and 2% value addition.
  • How to create such an ecosystem? Dan Pink’s new theory of motivation comes in handy. People need autonomy (control over their work). They want to pursue mastery (work that helps them become better). They need a strong purpose (working on what matters).
  • Trust is the currency for eliciting excellence. Because it is simple: people only do their best work when they are trusted. With traditional “command-and-control”, people will comply at the best. With trust and empowerment, they will exceed the expectations.
  • In a team, people share the same vision, but not accountability. Establish clear roles, responsibilities and accountabilities early on.
  • If people are involved in planning, they co-own the plan (buy-in). Involve people when planning for tasks that impacts their work.
  • Rituals are powerful. Communication cannot be left to a chance. Establishing rituals (daily stand-ups, weekly meetings, one-on-ones, retrospective meetings) are a powerful way to ensure that team stays on track.
  • Have systems in place. It is said that “Processes without results are a waste. Results without processes are not sustainable.”
  • Share feedback early and often. Feedback validates the direction and helps in course correction.
  • Manage meetings well. Keep them short and focused on actions.
  • Foster collaboration. Don’t rely on emails when you can walk up and talk to a team member.
  • Play to their strengths and let them shine. A lot of team leadership is knowing who can do what and delegating accordingly.
  • Let them take lead. People fondly remember what they started or owned.

Grace Under Fire

  • In Storming phase of a team’s lifecycle, conflicts are inevitable. It is not about conflicts but how you manage them.
  • The harder the conflict, the glorious the triumph – because every conflict tests (and strengthens) the team fabric. It refreshes the dynamics.
  • Treat people well when they make mistakes – when they least expect it.
  • When you have to be firm, be firm – but not at the cost of politeness. Being firm and polite is an art! Dealing with others without grace kills autonomy.
  • Manage the grapevine. Avoid small talk within the team. Encourage people to address issues directly.
  • In all situations bad and good, always be transparent about what is really going on and how will it impact the team.
  • Monitor progress, not people.
  • Question process, not individuals.
  • When you encounter an ego situation, quiz your goals. Am I (are you) focusing on ‘who’ is right, or doing ‘what’ is right?
  • Be graceful, always!

Inspiration and Gratitude

  • Someone rightly said, “We always get more from people by building a ‘fire within them’ than we do by building ‘fire under them.’
  • Be generous about recognizing contributions. Be authentic when appreciating. Say more than just “good job” and tell them what exactly do you appreciate.
  • Thank often.
  • Own failures but share success.
  • Gratitude and Recognition feeds self-esteem (one’s assessment of self-worth) – one of our basic needs.
  • Inspire by improving the work, processes and rituals. Constant improvement leads to better engagement. “The greatest danger a team faces isn’t that it won’t become successful, but that it will, and then ease to improve.”
  • Celebrate successes and early wins.

A Note about Culture

  • It is said that an organization is an elongated shadow of the leader. As a leader, your beliefs, opinions, likes and dislikes will become the culture of your organization. It pays to be careful about what kind of organization you want to build.
  • Be the example others want to follow. If you want excellence, be excellent first. First “be” and then “seek”.
  • Culture is built one choice at a time. Choices made up in start-up phase often end up building culture.
  • If you are not conscious about what culture you want to build, culture will happen. Culture by default or Culture by Design? That is the choice every business leader has to make.

Growing Others

  • When people do the work, their work makes them. It helps to see what people are becoming as a result of the work. 
  • A leader’s real legacy is the net positive difference they have made in lives of people working in their team.
  • Actively mentor them through the journey. Mentors elevate human potential and hence performance. Mentors open up a world of possibilities for people being mentored. Great leaders are farmers – cultivators of human potential.
  • Practice tough love with them – push them to achieve more or achieve better!
  • Have a goal to make yourself redundant, so that others (with potential) can step up and play a bigger role.
  • Dr. John Maxwell puts in brilliantly, “The point of leading is not to cross the finish line first; it’s to take people across the finish line with you.”

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Review: Managers as Mentors by Chip Bell and Marshall Goldsmith

For thousands of years in India, there prevailed a tradition of “Guru-Shishya” – mentor and protégé in other words. In this relationship, which was a primary form of education then, powerful and subtle knowledge was conveyed to protégé on a one-on-one basis in an environment of complete trust, dedication and intimacy. As realization grew, the protégé would extend his lessons to others and so, wisdom kept flowing across generations.

Cut to the corporate environment today. Ability to provide mentoring is a part of almost every manager’s KRA. They are expected to help people grow and ensure that they learn as they do. Managers are the glue that builds engaged teams in organizations. But the reality is that managers get so engrossed with lines – deadlines and bottom lines – that they forget they also need to help others grow. Sadly, they start looking at people as “resources” to get the job done.

If I were to judge a manager’s performance, I would do so based on two parameters: 1) How effectively do the managers get the job done? 2) While doing so, how much did people in the team grew and learned? To be effective and make a lasting difference, managers have to be mentors first and then guardians of tasks.

Mentoring is an art. This week, Chip R. Bell and Marshall Goldsmith released the revised edition of their classic book “Managers as Mentors: Building Partnerships for Learning” which I read with great interest. I loved the sub-title which says it all. Mentoring is the highest form of teaching and every manager who wants to make a difference in their people’s lives will find this book useful. I was reminded of the powerful tradition of “Guru-Shishya” while reading parts of this book.

The book starts with a section that defines mentoring. It says,

“At a most basic level, it is simply the act of helping another learn”…“Mentors” are people (especially leaders) who engage in deliberate actions aimed at promoting learning.”…”Bottom line, a mentor is simply someone who helps someone else learn something that would have otherwise been learned less well, more slowly, or not at all.”

The book then goes on to provide practical ideas and case studies that can help any manager in mentoring their team members effectively and thereby build an engaged and connected team that delivers results and grows. I also loved the useful tools (book has an entire mentors toolkit section) like self-check scale for a mentor which helps you assess your own aptitude to mentor others.

On a long run, a manager’s real legacy is not the projects executed, but difference made in the lives of other people. People already have potential hidden (like gold dust within the sand)  and a mentor’s job is to help a protégé so that the gold surfaces. It is about gently and constantly pushing them towards higher plane of possibilities and learning.

Learning and extending that learning to others in an organization is not a “feel-good-nice-to-have” thing – it is a competitive strategy that helps in innovation, improvement and growth.

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Also read: Other Book Reviews at QAspire Blog

Managing the Real

How often do we, as professionals and managers, get sucked into the whirlwind of status reports, new-initiatives-everyday, number crunching, endless meetings and presentations? Sometimes, the best management is to do simple and obvious things more effectively.

In this context, I enjoyed reading an insightful post titled “Finding more time for real management” at Business Strategy Review, London Business School. Here is an important question raised in the post.

The classic example is people management. The principles (work autonomy, knowing what you do matters, the importance of the first-line manager) are well documented, but they are frequently ignored in practice. So what would happen if we could find a way of putting some of them into practice in a dedicated way?

In this post, authors Julian Birkinshaw and Simon Caulkin report on one experiment they did with sales and service team at the Stockholm offices of a major insurance company. In this experiment, they asked a team’s manager to free up a few hours each day (delegate more effectively and excuse herself from meetings etc.) to just do the real management. The team was not aware that they are a part of experiment, just the manager knew about it. She started spending these couple of hours everyday to work directly with her group, help them do their job better, brainstorm and improve constantly. After 3 weeks, the results were dramatically different with 5% improvement in sales, improvement in team performance and increased motivation levels.

Here is the key thought:

If you are trying to help your company to improve its management processes, it is easy to get drawn towards exciting new initiatives like crowdsourcing; but the real impact is more likely to come from doing simple and obvious things more effectively. And frontline coaching is about as simple and obvious as it gets: every company needs it, and yet most do it pretty poorly.

Read the original post for more details and findings. They are definitely worth a thought (and action).

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Never-Ending New Beginnings: Interview with Lisa Haneberg

Lisa Haneberg is a great friend who is an expert (and a lifelong student) on the craft of management. I have been following her blog and her work since last six years and she has greatly influenced my own blogging journey so far. Lisa is an expert in the areas of organization development, management, leadership, talent management, and personal and organizational success. With over 25 years of rich experience in providing departmental leadership, consulting, training and coaching solutions for manufacturing, health care, high technology, government, and nonprofit organizations, Lisa has written 13 business books and speaks on a broad range of topics of interest to leaders and managers.

Lisa recently released a new book titled “Never-Ending New Beginnings – A Manifesto on Personal Impact” which features 69 best posts from her blog Management Craft. It was my long term wish to bring Lisa’s thoughts to the readers of this blog and I grabbed this opportunity to catch up a conversation. Here is goes (emphasis added on important lessons):

[Tanmay] Lisa, I have enjoyed your blog since many years and I am so glad you have compiled a book with “best from Management Craft” posts. Tell us a little bit about your blogging journey so far and how blogging helped you evolve.

[Lisa] I started blogging in August of 2004 and I had no idea what I was doing or what great blogs looked like. I became a blog reader and a blog writer at the same time. I don’t recommend this! My learning curve was steep and I had to learn a lot of lessons. Eight years later I can say that blogging has helped me develop a unique voice and greater authenticity. When I write books, the publisher often wants a fairly formal treatment of a topic. But the blog is informal and therefore more me. So my blog helped me find the real me.

[Tanmay]  At QAspire, I write on the “human” aspect of leading others for excellence. I loved the post where you say that all of us are “beautifully flawed persons”. What according to you makes these flaws beautiful?

[Lisa] I think that flaws are beautiful when we get things done in spite of them. The leader who builds a great team even though he is shy.The manager that struggles against her defensiveness to be more inclusive. Our most interesting qualities are usually productive flaws. And I think we are beautiful when we work well with people regardless of their flaws or ours.

[Tanmay] How do you see the role of manager evolving in a knowledge-intensive world where teams are distributed across the globe?

[Lisa] I think we need to be better at showing the love. Really. As our ways of working become more physically detached, I think we need to try extra hard to create connection and build ownership. Managers need to become expert connectors and they need to learn to show warmth, care, and support through the phone, email, IM, and social networks. Not easy!  – not a set of tasks to do. We help people do their best work.

[Tanmay] How was your experience curating and editing “The ASTD Management Development Handbook”? Any lessons from that journey that you would like to share?

[Lisa] I was honored to be asked to select and work with a collection of nearly 40 authors. The best part was finding and inviting people. The toughest part was keeping them all in the loop. If I were doing it over, I would have done a better job with communication. Perhaps I need to apply my own advice from the previous question.

[Tanmay] If there was one key message from “Never-Ending New Beginnings” that you had to share with today’s manager, what would that be?

[Lisa] That we will enjoy a better career and impact more people if we constantly reinvent ourselves. Always look inside yourself first to discover the path to catalyze breakthroughs in organizations. That is why the name of the book is what it is – there is no single post with this title, but it is the central idea. Never stop reinventing.

[Tanmay] Thank you Lisa, for your thoughtful responses. Thank you also for inspiring me at various points in my blogging journey so far. I am pretty sure readers of this blog would find your blog/books useful and inspiring.

[Lisa] Tanmay – thank you so much. I have enjoyed reading your work, admire your thinking, and look forward to seeing what you do next!

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Announcing: The ASTD Management Development Handbook

American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) recently released a fantastic collection titled The ASTD Management Development Handbook”. This book provides current thinking on various management aspects by practicing management professionals. Lisa Haneberg, the editor of this book invited about 37 bloggers/authors to contribute their thinking – people who are active NOW, who are exploring the emerging trends in management and are willing to share their thinking on the best management practices. This is a very non-traditional approach to write a handbook of management development!

I am grateful to Lisa for inviting me to write in this book. I contributed a 23 page chapter titled “From Quality to Excellence: Essential Strategies for Building a Quality-Oriented Culture” (download the table of contents and a sample chapter here). My chapter covers key insights to lead for excellence.

In her foreword, Betsy Myers writes,

“The book in your hands is a remarkable compendium of fresh perspectives on management and leadership. As richly diverse as these authors and approaches are, they have one thing in common: They all are aimed at helping you become better at bringing out the best in yourself and the people around you.”

This is a management compendium for people who are already managing, people who are responsible for developing managers and the ones who aspire to manage someday. I think this book is also a very useful resource for the management students because it is a forward-looking book that touches upon very important topics which may not still be a part of their curriculum.

In management, it’s the soft stuff – the people stuff – that’s actually very hard as Tom Peters rightly says. People are right in the center of any excellence program and chapters in this book lay enough emphasis on this all-important human aspect of leading others towards greatness.

Management is important – a crucial link between strategic intentions at the top and real actions on the floor. It is also a privilege, an opportunity to make a huge difference in lives of others while getting important things done.

I hope you will pick up a copy of this book, have it in your library and share it with those you think will benefit out of it.

Team Performance: Keeping Ego at Bay

Ego is a strong emotion and often, success feeds it. As we evolve as professionals and accomplish more, we tend to accumulate beliefs about ourselves (and the world around us). Soon, we start looking at world from the lens of these beliefs and decide what is right or wrong. Unfortunately, our world view is often skewed when it is only seen from the lens of our egos and limited beliefs.

By definition, ego is a false and emotionally charged image of the self. At work place, personal egos between peers often result in situations where work takes a backseat. He thinks that she should have initiated that difficult conversation. She thinks why would he not initiate? If he delayed it by one week, why should I walk the extra mile and complete it on time? People in meetings try to protect their forts and drive meeting through their egos. They avoid confrontations and often resist change.

End result? Things don’t move and progress stalls.

Here is what works for me: When you encounter an ego situation, quiz your goals. Ask yourself (and others) this question: “Am I (are you) focusing on ‘who’ is right, or doing ‘what’ is right?”. In teams and projects, doing what is right (and actually doing it) is more important than proving who is right.

Secondly, while individual accomplishments are important for your self esteem, you need to check if they are helping the team. Higher technical proficiency or better individual traits are of no use if they don’t help the team achieve the desired outcomes. If you are known as a best designer or coder, but your projects still fail then being the best may not be as important.

Finally, business leaders need to keep a constant check on the ego-index of middle management. You can work hard to hire best people but if they are being led by ego-driven managers, their spirit and enthusiasm will quickly fade out. People who cannot manage their own egos are not the good ones to manage others.

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Join in the Conversation: Have you encountered ego situations at your work place? What advice would you share with a manager who is struggling to keep ego issues away in the team?

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