Leadership Development: Shiny New Gadgets

I’m a big fan of gadgets.  Technology.  Software.  In fact anything that cuts down on life’s complexity and enables me to focus.  What I won’t do is throw out perfectly useful tools; or bet the house on an untested scheme.

In terms of the ‘influence curve’, which separates the innovators from the early adopters, I sway between these options.  And I’m definitely on the ‘safe’ side of the chasm when it comes to budgets, cashflow and P&L.

Which is why I look to the evidence.  To the tried and trusted.  Especially when it comes to leadership development.

Having experienced the wrong end of the personality profiling fads, I look for what works.  Not the latest shiny gadget.  So when clients ask for the latest thinking.  I point to Aristotle (died 322 BCE).

 “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit”

This attitude is vital when we develop strategic leaders.  Which is why we apply a consistent high-performance behaviours (HPB) framework, that people can easily understand and apply.

Strategic leaders stand out by doing five things well – they –

  • Behave in leader-like ways consistently
  • Systematically apply what works
  • Are ready to be bold and root out what doesn’t work
  • Develop others

And, perhaps most importantly of all, they –

  • Understand the importance of being strategic

Yes we stretch and challenge leaders.  But we don’t offer shiny new ways to do that.  Their world is stretching and challenging enough.  It’s complex and uncertain.

We help leaders do more of what they’re good at – consistently and systematicallyDiscard out-of-date ways of working.  Be more flexible.  More agile.  More responsive.

Help them draw on the strengths of others around them.  Especially those energetic, better educated, full-of-creative-ideas people that lesser leaders would feel threatened by.

The good news is that, by developing strategic leaders in this way, two main benefits emerge:

  • They’re building bench strength and leadership capacity in the organisation
  • They’re making their own lives less stressful as a result

I interviewed a regional manager who spent 3 days every week travelling to see his direct reports, dotted around the south of England.  Much of this time was spent on the road.  Little was spent with his people.  And when he was there, he was distracted by other demands on his time.  The phone.  The emails.  The instant messaging.

Our programme helped him recognise the waste for what it was.  And he did four things as a result – he –

  • Cut down the number of trips he made
  • Made them shorter
  • Committed to really being with his direct reports when he was there in person with them. No emails.  No phone calls.  Just eyeball to eyeball.
  • Got proficient at that most hated of time and money-saving gadgets: the conference call.

He didn’t just decide to host these calls, he explored the best ways to be effective.  He encouraged everyone to contribute; to share insights; and to stay engaged while listening to others.

He told me how he benefited personally by being more office-centred, and how his home life improved too.  The team felt more engaged with him, and took a lot of the day-to-day challenges off his back.

He didn’t put a financial figure on it, but the organisational savings were clear to him.

The most effective leadership development enables people to be more effective as a result of their own insights.  Unpredictable?  Probably.  Effective? Definitely.  At Forton we deliver the practical support leaders and managers need to apply these skills, consistently.

In ways we can’t predict, you’ll benefit from more effective and productive teams, and higher employee engagement scores too.

At Forton we change cultures and support leadership development from bite-sized to week-long events.  And we can show you how to demonstrate return on your investment (ROI).

To experience this for yourself pick up the phone.  You’ll find us at +44 (0) 845 077 2980 option 1, or email info@thefortongroup.com.

 

Leadership development: get past the roadblocks to attracting and retaining talent

Each time I update my know-how on unconscious bias with Wikipedia, it seems like they’ve added more categories and refined the definitions further.  I’ve given up trying to remember them all…

…And now the Nobel Peace prize-winner for cognitive biases, Daniel Kahneman, has introduced a new concept, which he calls ‘noise’. 

Put simply, ‘noise’ is inconsistency in decision-making.

It’s linked to bias in that more experienced people are more prone to it.  They think they’re better at decision-taking, and consistency, than they actually are. 

It takes me back to the reason why I’m so passionate about organisational development generally, and leadership development in particular. 

My early experiences of corporate life were filled with examples of inconsistent decision-making. It disengages people – and costs an inordinate amount of time as people invest emotionally in trying to understand why a decision has gone the way it has.  

Yes, there was sexism, lack of cultural diversity and all the biases that are now better-acknowledged in society generally, and the world of work in particular.  I cringe when I glimpse those 1970’s TV revivals, as it brings back so many moments I’d rather forget. 

My belief is that a need for consistency is linked to our innate desire for ‘fairness’, which most of humanity seems to share.  If we apply a rule consistently we’re perceived as ‘fair’, even when everyone appears to ‘lose’ as a result.

Even peace negotiations have run successfully on this principle. 

Kahneman’s book (yes, called ‘Noise’, to be published October 2016) talks about the estimated costs, versus the actual costs, to an organisation of this interference.  Leaders assumed that inconsistency was costing around 5-10%, when actually the costs are more like 40-60%. 

So I’m delighted that Kahneman, and his team, have done all the heavy lifting in terms of scholarship, research and validity.  

I can see the particular relevance of ‘noise’ to talent identification and performance management. 

If we can improve the quality of our decisions around identifying, filtering and selecting talent for management and leadership roles, we’ll reduce the costs of staff turnover, improve the leadership culture, and raise employee engagement levels too.

What’s particularly interesting to me is that the solutions are simple.  Just identify the practical variables and find a way to apply them systematically.  And that’s it.

Don’t wait for outcome data.  Don’t apply weight to one practical variable over another. 

The implications of this approach are issues such as:

  • Train Managers and Leaders to identify talent consistently
  • Develop HR team to filter and select professionally
  • Provide checklists for the systematic application of judgement
  • Automate, such as by using consistent assessment tools 

At Forton we support clients to identify the relevant variables to their talent pool selection, and performance management processes.  Then we provide the training and skills support to create a culture of fairness.  

And we don’t stop there; our 4D model includes the practical support leaders and managers need to apply these skills, consistently. 

This delivers more effective and productive teams,and higher employee engagement scores too. 

At Forton we change cultures and support leadership development through bite-sized, half-day and week-long events.  And if you need to demonstrate return on investment (ROI) evidence, we can show you how. 

To experience this for yourself pick up the phone.  You’ll find us at +44 (0) 845 077 2980 option 1, or email info@thefortongroup.com

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.

 

Donkeys and the language of leadership

donkey and cart

I was stuck in a traffic jam on a dual carriageway when I was overtaken by a donkey and cart travelling in the outside lane. My journey to deliver this particular training programme was a little different – a couple of weeks ago I was delivering leadership and influencing training to a group of managers in Senegal in West Africa. Continue reading

Brain scan or brain scam?

I’m fascinated by the possibilities that might come from neuroscience. At the same time, I’m sceptical of many of the claims made in its name. So I decided to do a bit of research and found an excellent book on the topic called “Brainwashed – The Seductive Appeal of Mindless Neuroscience”, written by Sally Satel and Scott D Lilienfield.

I wouldn’t normally rely on a single source, but this book has 57 pages of notes and references – they’ve done the research for me and written an excellent book on the strength of it.

One problem with many of the claims supposedly based on neuroscience is the assumption that what happens physically in the brain is a predictor of what I might be thinking or feeling. Continue reading

The unintended consequences of poor communication

Some years ago a dear friend of mine had to sack a member of his team. He tried to do this as humanely as possible and so called the team member into his office for a chat. At the end of a conversation about poor performance, he said “I think you need to consider whether you have a future in this organisation”. The next day his team member came into his office smiling and said “I’ve thought about this and I really do think I have got a future here!” At which point my friend had to give the message in a more direct way. Continue reading

Transformational Leadership: what do tea, cakes and computers have in common?

Driving back from a client this week, listening to the radio, I heard an article about a company called Leo Computers Ltd, set up 60 years ago by J Lyons and Co.

Lyons were famous for their teashops known as Corner Houses.  In beautiful art deco style, which were so popular that, at their height, they employed 400 staff in each store and stayed open 24 hours a day. Continue reading

Coach training for experienced coaches: the Forton difference

If, like me, you’re an experienced coach working with executives and leaders in corporate settings, you may be wondering why you need to invest in specific leadership coaching training. Of course, you may be about to renew your credentials, which is a great reason to do this!

Here at The Forton Group, we provide a wide range of flexible ways of getting the CCEUs and supervision hours you require for ICF renewal.

But what’s different about leadership coaching, why should you add it to your kitbag and why The Forton Group? Continue reading

Driving through the pitfalls of adult learning

I am currently doing an advanced driving course. I’d like to pretend this was solely driven by my interest in driving, but I have to confess that a gentle nudge from a driver awareness course, offered to people who have been caught speeding, was part of the reason why I started it.

Now, I’m really enjoying it and I would heartily recommend it to anyone. (Go for RoaDAR rather than IAM if you do want to) Continue reading

Football management and leadership behaviours

I’ve been interested recently in the fortunes of a UK football (soccer to our North American readers) team and their manager. Now, I enjoy watching football, and I follow a particular team – Manchester City – however, I can’t be a true fan, because I don’t indulge in the hatred of their traditional rivals. I’m quite geographical in my allegiance, so I’d rather a team from Manchester beat one from London or indeed any northern team succeeded over a southern team. Continue reading