Category Archives: High Performance

A view of leadership from the ‘other side’

Below is a dialogue between two colleagues. One of them Paul, is upset with his manager because he believes that while she preaches ‘collaboration’, she is in fact (to him) a hypocrite. His colleague Aiden provides a different perspective and eventually enables Paul to see that maybe his manager isn’t the hypocrite he thinks she is.

Paul: “Amanda is a hypocrite!”

Aiden: “What do you mean?”

Paul: “Well, she says that she wants us to collaborate, so I gave her my opinion about the Seymour incident and she’s pulled rank on me. I’ve been told that it’s her decision and that if I do what I said I was going
to do, then I’ll be in trouble.”

Aiden: “Hmmm. You’re saying that Amanda has asked you for your opinion, you’ve given it and she’s made a decision that is not what you want. Is that correct?”

Paul: “Yes. That is exactly what has happened. She’s a hypocrite!”

Aiden: “Paul, let’s slow down for a second. What behaviour does Amanda display when you believe that she has listened to you?”

Paul: “Well, that’s easy. She does what I want. That proves that she has listened. After all, that’s what collaboration is, isn’t it?”

Aiden: “Well, not exactly. If we slow down and listen to what you’re saying it sounds like Amanda has to do what you want otherwise she isn’t seen to be listening to you. Is that what you mean?”

Paul: “No, not really. But she asked me to give my opinion and then she didn’t take it. What’s the point of asking me what I think?”

Aiden: “The point is that Amanda is seeking more information by getting your opinion. Think back over the past few times that Amanda has asked your opinion, have there been any times when she has appeared to listen to you?”

Paul: “Yes, a couple. There was the Monroe issue and the Pothole issue where Amanda’s final decision was very close to what I thought we should do.”

Aiden: “So, from your perspective Amanda does listen sometimes?”

Paul: “Yes, sometimes.”

Aiden: “What’s your definition of when Amanda isn’t listening to you?

Paul: “That’s obvious. When her decisions are different to what I want.”

Aiden: “Paul, Can you hear what you are saying? It seems to me that you’re saying that unless Amanda’s decisions equal what you want, then she’s being a hypocrite because she hasn’t listened to you. Yet you agree that there have been times when her decisions have been very similar to what your input recommended.”

Paul: “I’m listening” nodded Paul.

Aiden: “Look at it this way. When you’ve been a boss in the past, don’t you expect your positional authority to count for something from time to time?”

Paul: “Yes”

Aiden: “In that case, isn’t it possible that Amanda really has listened? In taking your opinion on board she has decided to do something different. She has then used her positional authority, which she is entitled to use, to make the decision. What’s wrong with that?”

Paul: “Okay. I suppose that you have a point. In fact she did say that she was using her positional authority to ‘make the call’. I took offence to that for some reason, but I’m not sure why”.

Aiden: “Great. I’m glad you’ve been open to having this chat.”

Paul; “Yeah, so I am I. I was going to go and do something that probably wouldn’t have been the right thing to do. In fact,, I probably would have undermined Amanda if I had continued with the action that I was planning to do. I suppose there are just times when I’m not going to fully understand Amanda’s decisions. I suppose I’ll just need to trust her and keep asking questions. That can’t hurt, can it?

Aiden: “Of course not. And my experience with Amanda is that she does listen and does try to explain why her decisions are what they are. I think that sometimes we don’t listen to her because we’re so focused on what we want. Maybe it wouldn’t hurt for us all to have a chat about these issues at our next meeting.

Paul: “You really think that she’d be up for it?”

Aiden: “Yeah, I do.”

This dialogue highlights how powerful mental models (see How what you think affects what you see) can be and how they can influence what we see and don’t see. In this situation a manager who collaborates with her team is seen as being a hypocrite simply because she at times, makes decisions that aren’t exactly what her team members want her to do.

Collaboration exists when people work as a team. Teamwork requires members to perform their role from both a technical role and team role (see What Makes People Tick Personality Profile & Job Fit Assessments) perspective. In this context it is fair and reasonable for a leader to exert their positional authority from time to time when making decisions. Providing the leader is constantly seeking and absorbing input from team members, there may be times when the leader has to make a decision and that decision may not be popular with the rest of the team. The nature of a leadership role means that leaders are exposed to information that other staff are not able to access. (at least not in the same timeframe). This means that sometimes leaders have access to information as an input to their decision-making that other team members may not yet know. This can create a paradox for the leader who wishes to be known for their collaborative style because there are times (such as employee disciplinary processes) when a leader is not able to share all the information with their team members.

A way to manage this situation is for the leader to declare when they are expressing a view from the perspective of their formal position and authority, compared to when they are simply expressing a view. For such a system to work the leader will need to conduct a series of conversations with their team about how such a system should work. The intention of the system is to enable team members to be able to speak candidly with their ‘boss’ (see the video Transparency – How leaders create a culture of candor).

If conversations such as the ones just described had been conducted throughout Paul and Aiden’s team’s history, it is unlikely that Paul would have been so convinced that his manager, Amanda, was a hypocrite.

What have been your experiences with regard to the challenge of having a collaborative leadership style, with making decisions when required?

Gary Ryan enables individuals, teams and organisations to matter.
Visit Gary at http://garyryans.com

Candor as a catalyst for high performance

Recently I was honoured to be interviewed by Ian Berry, author of Changing What’s Normal and creator of the Enhancing Their Gifts System.

As part of Ian’s Candid Conversations Series I was interviewed on the topic of “Candor as a catalyst for high performance.”

Once you have completed viewing the conversation, I’m interested in hearing about your experiences of candor in the workplace.

Gary Ryan enables leaders and talented professionals to move Beyond Being Good.

If you listen, service excellence follows

The capacity to listen is probably the most important skill that relates to service excellence. Without this capacity staff will not know the expectations of their customers, each other, or the key stakeholders of their communities. Organisations that provide great service are fantastic listeners; to their customers, to their key stakeholders and to each other within the organisation.

William Isaacs (1999) notes that our culture is dominated by sight. Light moves at 186,000 miles per second, yet sound only travels at 1,100 feet per second. In summary, William Isaacs says that in order to listen we must slow down.

How do you and/or your organisation slow down to listen?

Quote
Our hearing puts us on the map. It balances us. Our sense of balance is intimately tied to our hearing; both come from the same source within our bodies…Hearing is auditory, of course, relating to sound. The word auditory…most ancient root means “to place perception.” When we listen, we place our perceptions.
(William Isaacs, lecturer at MIT Sloan School of Management, consultant and author)

Gary Ryan enables individuals, teams and organisations to matter.
Visit Gary at http://garyryans.com

Increasing Team Member Motivation – Audio Version

If you are leading a team within a poor company culture, how can you increase the motivation of your team members? Gary Ryan explains a series of practical behaviours that a Team Leader can do that will enhance the self-motivation of their team members.

Find out more about creating Teams That Matter® here .

Gary Ryan enables individuals, teams and organisations to matter.
Visit Gary at http://garyryans.com

Learn how structures drive development – an example from karate

One of our close friends had invited our family to watch their 10 year old son Joshua complete his grading for his Black Belt in karate. Having been training in karate since he was six years old this was a ‘Big Occasion’ for him.

A crowd of over 200 people had assembled in the local karate club’s hall to support children from the age of nine through to 14 complete the requirements for their various Black Belt or First Dan assessments. The formworks and kata were performed to perfection to the delight of everyone. This was followed by various fighting stick assessments, jumping and tumbling kicks & strikes, a nun-chuka formwork and finally wood breaking strikes. Considering the ages of the children their performances were very, very impressive!

Finally, six of the boys and girls who were also being assessed for a special leadership award (which is specific to this club) took it in turns to perform a speech about leadership. As each child gave their speech on their own in the middle of the gymnasium floor, no notes in hand, a structure for their speeches became apparent. The structure was:
1) Introduce yourself and your age
2) Identify your favourite karate activity
3) Name a high profile leader of your choice
4) Provide a ‘key-point’ history of your leader
5) Share a quote created by the leader
6) Explain how the quote relates to your own personal circumstances
7) Thank your parents for their support
8) Thank the audience

While I had been highly impressed by the various karate demonstrations, I was astounded by the performances of these six children. It was clear that they all had different personalities yet each of them was able to stand up in front of a crowd of predominantly adults and provide their speeches. One of the children spoke about Ghandi and provided great detail as he shared an accurate account (including dates) of Ghandi’s life. This boy was nine years old!

It was also interesting to watch each of the children stumble at some point in their speeches. When this happened, each of them drew a long slow breath, gathered their thoughts and then continued with their speech. Imagine the pressure that could have been mounting and the ‘self-talk’ that could have been going on in their heads. Yet they remained focussed and completed the task at hand. It seemed to me that the children had been well taught with regard to the structure that they should follow in providing their speeches, including what to do when they lost their train of thought. It really was a delight to watch.

To me the high level of performance that the children were able to achieve was due to a clear structure that they had been provided in preparing for their speeches. No doubt each of the children had also practiced and practiced this structure, much like they had practiced their kata and formworks. Imagine the confidence that these children will have in their lives going forward. Many adults would run away as fast as possible rather than provide a speech in front of 200 hundred people. Yet these children did it and did it well. They will have that experience to draw on for the rest of their lives. As each child finished their speech the applause sounded like it was coming from 1,000 people and not just 200. It really was extraordinary to witness!

This experience once again highlights the power of having structures to support the outcomes that you desire. While the structures that the children used for their speeches may appear simple on the surface, their importance is no less valuable. What similar examples do you have where a clear structure has supported your own or someone else’s development? What stories are you willing to share with our community? What key lesson stood out for you from your experience?

Gary Ryan enables individuals, teams and organisations to matter.
Visit Gary at http://garyryans.com

Managing High Performing Culture Breakers

A recent article When to Fire a Top Performer on the HBR Blog Network by Eric Sinoway caught my eye. In the article Eric classifies employees into four categories based on their performance and their alignment with the organisation’s values and culture.

Sinoway’s four categories include:

  • Stars are the employees we all love — the ones who “do the right thing” the “right way” .
  • High potentials are those whose behavior we value — who do things the right way but whose skills need further maturation or enhancement. With training, time, and support, these people are your future stars.
  • Zombies fail on both counts. Their behavior doesn’t align with the cultural aspirations of the organization and their performance is mediocre.
  • Vampires are the real threat. These employees perform well but in a manner that is at cross-purposes with desired organizational culture. 

The ‘Vampires’ as Sinoway calls them can cause untold damage to your organisation, despite the appearance that they ‘get results’.

Reading the article reminded me of a framework I had learned from Jack Welch while he was CEO of GE.

In this matrix, the vertical axis refers to ‘on the job performance and the horizontal axis refers to alignment with company values. Welch argued that so called high performers who didn’t align with company values hurt the company in the long term, despite their short term ‘performance’ results. 
Welch’s view was that these people damaged both internal and external relationships and as such would damage the company in the long term, which is why he fired them.
Folk who were aligned with the company’s values but fell short on ‘performance’ were worth a second chance. Of course those who scored well in both areas were the company’s stars and should therefore be promoted and their opposites, those who neither ‘performed’ nor shared the company’s values were asked to leave.
The beauty of these models and approaches is that they provide us with a framework for conversations and decision making.
How does your organisation manage the dilemma of a high performer who doesn’t align with the company’s values?

Gary Ryan enables individuals, teams and organisations to matter.
Visit Gary at http://garyryans.com

Ebook for Senior and Developing Leaders Released

This complimentary ebook is for Senior & Developing Leaders who share our view that organisational success is created through enabling people to be the best they can be, was created from a selection of articles published on the OTM Academy from May 1st 2012 through to August 31st 2012.
The ebook includes articles to help you move from ‘good’ to ‘high’ performance.
Please feel free to join the OTM Academy – it’s free!

In the ebook you will discover:

* What ‘Truth to Power’ is and how it affects performance

* Why communicating via multiple channels matters

* How Virgin Australia handled a brand damaging event

* Why change management is an oxymoron

* How to use three steps to bring organisational values to life

* How to be free of problems within your business

* How to use five steps to connect strategy to action

*And much, much more!
Order this free ebook to download here.
Contributing authors include:

  • Gary Ryan
  • Ian Berry
Gary Ryan enables individuals, teams and organisations to matter.
Visit Gary at http://garyryans.com

Understanding Fact Based Conversations

Do you wish that workplace conversations could be more fact based? Are you frustrated with the poor quality of conversations that exist because people treat their assumptions (often unfounded assumptions) as if they are facts?

Understanding the complexities that underpin conversations can help you to have greater influence over them and to ultimately generate more Fact Based Conversations.

In the presentation below I explain how Fact Based Conversations work and how you can practice the skills to improve the quality of your conversations.

Fact Based Conversations from Organisations That Matter

Gary Ryan saves leaders time and helps them to identify effective strategies that lead to high performance and respect.

Gary Ryan enables individuals, teams and organisations to matter.
Visit Gary at http://garyryans.com

As A Manager, How Do You Show Respect For Your Team Members?

Recently a participant in a leadership development program for managers asked, “I’ve discovered that ‘respect’ is a core value of mine. What are some practical ways that I can ensure that this value is present in the way that I behave as a manager?”.

The following is the list of suggestions that emerged from the conversation that was conducted with this participant and another four people at their table. It is important to note that the following behaviours can be conducted irrespective of the culture that exists within the organisation.

  • Take the time to get to know each member of your team individually. This means that you would know the names of their partner, their children (if they have any). You would remember their hobbies and passions and genuinely inquire about how they are going with those pursuits. If you had a poor memory you would create a structure to ensure that you could remember these things. An example of such a structure is creating notes for each of the members in your team.
  • You would have a clear understanding of the career path that each of your team members is travelling and raise their awareness of any opportunities that would enhance their development in that direction.
  • You would let people do their jobs and trust them with appropriate authority for their roles. As much as possible you would stay out of their way but you would be explicit with them about why you would do that.
  • When bad information about your company was required to be shared with your team, you would share it. You would not ‘sugar coat’ the news.
  • You would provide performance feedback to your team members and make it as easy as possible for them to provide you with feedback. You would not ‘sugar coat’ feedback.
  • You would be proactive about ensuring that the remuneration of your team members was ‘fair’ in the context of your organisation and industry. This means that if you discovered that someone’s package was not ‘fair’, you would do whatever your system would allow you to do to rectify that situation.
  • You would recognise and reward your team members for their contributions.
  • You would be proactive with letting your team members know about opportunities that might take them out of your team if your view was that the opportunity aligned with their career aspirations as you understood them.

This list of examples is just a start. Once again it is important to note that these behaviours can be adopted irrespective of the overall culture within the organisation.

What are your examples of how, as a formal leader you have practiced the value of ‘respect’ in your role?

How have you catalysed Conversations That Matter® within your team?

Gary Ryan enables individuals, teams and organisations to matter.
Visit Gary at http://garyryans.com