Category Archives: Situational leadership

Disruptive leader

Who’s A Disruptive Leader?

As a child, I was the nuisance one in the middle.  Always asking “why?”  Trust me when I say that it doesn’t win you friends.  Teachers think you’re disrupting the class and challenging their authority.  And I’m sure I wore my parents out.

So it was a surprise and a delight to me when I got to university as a mature student.  They wanted me to analyse, argue and challenge.

In my leadership development career I also discovered that, throughout history, it’s the ‘outsiders’ who change paradigms.

It wasn’t the candle-makers who developed the electric light bulb.  Henry Ford was a farmer’s boy who adapted assembly line technology to create the first mass produced automobile.  And while Kodak staff had developed digital ideas, the market impetus came from elsewhere.  If organisations have processes that work ‘well-enough’, chances are they will make incremental improvements but not introduce radical change.

After all, it’s too disruptive.  Right?

Today we have a term for these people: disruptors; and the good news is, it’s now a compliment.

Listening to General David Petraeus at a leadership conference recently, he mentioned four revolutions in the global economy:

  1. IT
  2. Energy
  3. Manufacturing
  4. Life Sciences

So if you’re working in one of these sectors, the chances are you’re working alongside ‘disruptive’ people.  And if you don’t lead them well, the chances are even higher that they’ll leave.

I was interviewed about my thoughts on disruptive entrepreneurs recently for an article in The Guardian Small Business Network and these are often the people who have left a corporation behind to start up their disruptive venture.

Of course, I totally understand that someone has to deliver ‘business as usual’.  And this comes to the heart of the matter.  If that is someone’s strength, then help them deliver today’s operational needs to the optimum.

But if it’s not their strength.  If someone has the strategic capability, the design vision, or the creativity to innovate, then either find ways to harness that energy or watch them move on.

And every member of the supervisory, management or leadership team needs to understand how to recognise these strengths and how to harness them.

Here’s four tips for leading your disruptors:

  1. Accept them for who they are
    We use the metaphor of filling a jar with pebbles – you may have a few big rocks to start with, but then there are still gaps. So you use a different size pebble.  And then sand.  And if you really want to ‘fill’ the jar, add water. Different skills, strengths, talents and cultures are all part of who we are and what we contribute to the workplace.  Monochrome is an art form, not a practical way of running today’s workplaces.
  2. Listen to them
    Find out what drives, inspires or motivates all your people; not just your disruptors.
  3. Help them devise their career plan
    So that you and they can see themselves still productively contributing to your organisation in the years ahead.
  4. Observe where and how they are most creative and productive.
    Find ways to optimise peoples’ creativity and productivity – in ways that support delivery today, and innovation tomorrow.
  5. Create working environments for disruptors
    Some companies provide ‘personal project time’, so that ideas can be worked on without the day-to-day interruptions. Others provide creative working environments – where groups can innovate and critique new ideas.

At the Forton Group we help leaders to think differently, build their communication and coaching skills, and lead people more effectively.  From the bottom to the top of the organisations, we believe there’s a wealth of untapped leadership talent, ready to be unlocked in your organisation, to the benefit of your bottom line.  They may be the stabilisers, or the disruptors and it’s the leaders job to support their success today, to bring more success to the organisation tomorrow.

If you’d like to know more, contact me at helen.caton@thefortongroup.com.

talent development mindset

If everyone’s talented, what do you do?

 

I managed to catch an interesting programme on Radio 4 last week on the topic of ‘Talent’.  If you’re in the UK, you can catch it here.  It’s well worth 30 minutes of your time.

Like the presenter, I love the talent development projects we get involved in.  We get to work with a great mix of enthusiastic and committed people.  Highly intelligent.  Highly motivated.

And then they bump up against the filtering mechanisms and outright biases that get littered in their way, like tacks on the road to success.

Whether it’s a burst tyre, or simply a burst ego, their personal mindset can help them overcome most obstacles.

  • For some people these are the normal setbacks and challenges of life, where mistakes are genuinely seen as ways to learn and grow
  • It’s also becoming clearer that peoples’ inner values and emotional intelligence create tenacity, determination and resilience.
  • Then there’s the qualities that get the job done – the grit, hard work, sticking at it and building skill.

So great.  Mindset is important.

But how do you discern the best talent for the people, project or programme leadership roles?

The notion of ‘War for Talent’ results from a scarcity mindset, fuelled by people who profit from the churn in recruitment.  It over-values some people, and writes off others.  Both routes add to the expense of talent development

And there’s another hidden obstacle.  People of the generation that’s worked hard to pass exam hurdles all their lives, are more likely to be biased against the ‘lifelong learning’ mentality.

The good news is that intelligence is improving – as education becomes better and more widespread.

Educators know that people, young and old, in empowering environments, do better than those where no-one believes in them.

  • If we had a parent and a teacher who believed in us, we were doubly fortunate. Either one is better than none.
  • Today, our bosses and the workplace classroom tutors, facilitators and coaches are the teacher/parent substitutes.

The good news is that workplace learning challenges really add value – measurable in IQ and EQ – in our work lifetimes.

So what is the best way to develop talent?

I know that you have a development mindset.  Otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this.  But that development mentality needs to run through your organisation like a stick of rock.

So it’s not enough for the HR or L&D department to identify people with talent.  Their line managers need to believe in them too.

The solution is to develop everyone.  Give everyone challenging things to do and see whether – and how -they succeed.

Just, not only for leadership and management roles.

Everyone can have a Personal Development Plan, and every leader and manager can have the role of developing their people.

The secret is to identify what potential people have, rather than identifying solely for leadership potential.

Some of your people may have a preference for technical excellence alone.  In which case, don’t give them people or projects to organise or lead.

Others may have more general, project management potential.  Great.  Because getting the day to day done is vital.

And some people may just have those crucial leadership qualities that organisations need to succeed beyond the day to day.

Of course, it does require that your organisation stops demanding everyone has to reach the same elevated section of your behavioural or competency framework, and lets people follow the direction that their talent profile points them towards.

In this way you don’t waste the talented resources you do have – you utilise them to their optimum.  Because when you do that, chances are you’ll be tapping into their discretionary effort.  Because they’ll want to take on the challenges that best suit their talents.

And you’ll get better results.

If you want to nurture your team’s talent 2017, just get in touch.

 

Leadership Development – Silver Bullets Only Kill Werewolves

It’s human nature to want to keep our relationships simple.  Yet it’s a key leadership task to keep on top of the complex interplay of different relationships.  Put simply: our team members, colleagues, bosses and the wider stakeholder network.  It’s no wonder people find it difficult.

And of course, all this focus on others means that we neglect our own needs in this complex mix.

One solution is to analyse these groups and assess them by their power, influence or interest in your work.  A neat process, but one which doesn’t take human factors into account.

And it’s often in those that things can go horribly wrong.  Misunderstandings, lack of acknowledgement or recognition for good work, resentment of others.

Here at Forton, we regularly get asked to design workshops and programmes that help leaders and managers with ‘problem staff’: those ‘difficult conversations’, performance management; or customer relationships.

People typically ask us something like “What can I say when….?”

At the heart of these requests is the desire to have a single solution; a silver bullet.  But silver bullets only kill werewolves; sorting out relationships requires a more human approach.

Too often, when we go into organisations with these kinds of issues, we find that the basics for better relationships – at all levels – aren’t in place.

Here are three steps that you can put into place and share today:

Step 1: Make sure managers are putting their own needs first, so that they’re better able to deal with others’ needs too.

An insurance client told us a fascinating statistic recently: dentists who work fewer days each week earn more money.  This is because they have better relationships with their patients; plus they make better clinical and business decisions too.

If that’s what we need from our leaders and managers, investing in smarter working – not longer hours – is the easiest and first solution.

Step 2: Ensure that managers and leaders know about the need to give regular acknowledgements of their team’s good work. 

People need a higher ratio of praise to criticism than managers typically think.  The Gottman Ratio is 6:1 for organisations (5:1 for personal relationships if you want to improve that area of your life).

Step 3: When it’s criticism that’s required, use a consistent feedback model that works – both for the giver, and the receiver of feedback. 

The best way to give (and receive) feedback is to make it future-focused around what success looks like.  Most people look backwards and focus on what went wrong and who’s to blame.

The other step you can take, is to give your leaders and managers some perspective – and distance from the day-to-day – by investing in a leadership development workshop.

At Forton we change cultures and support leadership development through bite-sized, half-day and week-long events.

Whichever behavioural framework you use in your organisation, our programmes will align with your goals.  And if you need to demonstrate return on investment (ROI) evidence, we can show you how.

To experience lasting performance improvements in your organisation, try us out.  Attend our next open leadership Ignite event – on 5/6 December in the heart of England. 

Or bring this workshop in-house with 6 people or more.

Pick up the phone at +44 (0) 845 077 2980 option 1, or email info@thefortongroup.com.

 

The best leaders have a hinterland

“Hinterland?”  You’re probably wondering what on earth I’m talking about. Denis Healey, a retired politician from the UK, and his wife Edna, first used the word about Margaret Thatcher. Their view was that she lacked a real connection with people because she had no interests outside of politics.

Denis and Edna firmly believed that people had to have a breadth and depth of knowledge on other matters, be that sport, religion, art, culture or learning – Denis was a keen photographer. Continue reading

“There’s a better way”

Captain’s Blog

Stardate 120709

It’s been a great week discussing leadership with participants at our Foundation Course in Leadership Coaching – a diverse mix of people from small businesses, the NHS and leadership development organisations.

What I find important is to remember that it’s people who create leadership, rather than organisations, which is why coaching is such a personal process.  Sure it can be a ‘one-to-many’ activity, where groups of people work with a coach to achieve a common goal, but it’s always personal: it’s about making human connections and building leadership from those connections, not the performance targets or statistics.

Bob Hughes

Bob Hughes

I was reminded this evening that even when people achieve high office, such as getting onto a Board of Directors, it’s not the position that’s important, it’s having a voice on that board: being heard, being influential and making a difference in the situation in which leaders find themselves in.  This is what people call ‘situational leadership’ – apparently in the military it’s known as ‘point leadership’ – the ability to step up and lead from wherever you are.

Leadership is also about getting across one key message: “there’s a better way”.  If the way we’re currently doing something is ok, why change?  People with leadership qualities see the better way, they gather up their courage to speak out and gain allies when they put their ideas across.


My husband Bob had a great opportunity to demonstrate situational leadership on the national news this evening.  We were thrilled when we bought an 18th century house and had the opportunity to mix 21st century solar panels and green technologies with traditional building materials.  Our roof has a marvellous pattern in tiles, lovingly restored by the builders.  On the back of the house is a set of glistening, photo-voltaic cells, which look like large black mirror tiles, generating between a third and a half of our daily energy needs.

We were called to participate in the debate on the BBC, on the Government’s plans to announce the ‘feed-in’ tariffs, which pay small-scale generators like us for the contribution we make back to the national grid.  Bob has enjoyed working with our suppliers, Solar Century http://www.solarcentury.co.uk/, partly because we share their vision to have solar systems on the roof of every building in the UK.  Of course this will need to be backed up by other micro-renewables, and the aim is to create clean power and achieve deep cuts in carbon emissions.

So Bob showed leadership by having the courage to be interviewed live by BBC News 24, from a studio in Birmingham and Solar Century, the organisation, show leadership in pioneering this technology.  Of course, it’s not an organisation, it’s people like Founder Jeremy Leggett , who established Solarcentury to address the threat of climate change, who really make the difference.  Leaders inspire their teams to succeed, and they communicate a vision of what they want to achieve.  We may admire the brands created by successful companies, but it’s the people behind them who matter.

So here’s my manifesto for leadership: it’s about people who see that there’s a better way, they step up and they speak out, gaining allies as they do so.  In today’s environment – economic and ecological – we can’t keep doing what we’ve always done before; we need people to show us ‘the better way’.