Within a matter of days, millions of workers transitioned from on-site offices to working from home. In many instances, people overcame extraordinary obstacles to be able to continue to contribute to their organisation. It’s time we paused and recognised the value of that effort by so many people.
Retiring Australian Football League (AFL) legend Chris Judd has shared two key lessons for success in his recent speeches and newspaper article. Both lessons are not your run-of the-mill lessons. They are insightful and more importantly useful. Use them to help you stay on track on your journey toward more success and life balance.
Lesson 1 – None of us are Nostradamus
When quizzed about his decision to play again in the 2015 season, Judd was asked if it was the wrong decision. Here is his response:
Playing on this year had proved to be the wrong decision for the right reasons. By that, I meant that I hadn’t persevered for money, or for personal glory, but to help the club build a culture. I have some good memories from the second half of last season, and had hoped to solidify them. They were good reasons to play on. As it turns out, I was wrong. But none of us are Nostradamus. As long as you go about the process correctly, and your intentions are pure, even if you make a wrong decision, you can sleep at night. That’s how I feel now.
None of us are perfect. Occasionally you will make wrong decisions. As Robert Louis Flood stated, “The future is unknowable“. When your intentions are honourable, and it turns out that you made a wrong decision, so be it. Learn and move on.
Lesson 2 – Enjoy the good moments when they happen
When asked for his advice to current players, Judd replied:
I think one of the main things, if I had my time over again, is just to appreciate the good moments a little bit more. I was always so ambitious and focused on what was coming next that I probably didn’t recognise as much when something special had happened.
Jeffrey Hopkins, in his translation of the Dalai Lama’s ‘How to Practise – The way to a meaningful life‘ shares that too many people cause themselves suffering because they are not present in the moment. Rather, they are stuck in the past or already focused on the future.
You share this challenge. Remembering to live in the moment when you are doing something important is a critical trait to develop.
I recall that a good friend of mine shared some excellent advice with my wife and I prior to our wedding. He said, “I encourage you to take some time out during your celebrations. Just sit by yourselves on four or five occasions and take it all in. Commit the experience to memory. The sights, the sounds, the taste of your food and drink. You won’t regret it.”
We followed his advice and 18 years later we can both remember our wedding as if it were yesterday, as I can the birth of each of my five children and many other important events in my life as a result of practising this technique.
Taking the conscious time to be present in the moment is important for success because it provides you with the experience of success that you strive so hard to achieve. It is worth following Judd’s advice – enjoy the good moments when they happen.
Gary Ryan provided leadership development services to the Richmond Tigers in 2007 and 2009, and sat on the AFL Coaches Association Board of Management from 2009 to 2014.
Here’s a formula.
High quality conversations lead to high quality decisions, which lead to high quality actions and ultimately, high quality results and performance. The reverse is also true. Low quality conversations eventually lead to low quality results.
Achieving high quality results and performance are worth the effort to learn how to conduct high quality conversations.
Unfortunately you have experienced more than your fair share of low quality conversations. These are ones where you walk out of the meeting and think any one of the thoughts below:
- “Wow, that was a complete waste of time”
- “When will people finally start to listen around here?”
- “Why does everyone have to make my life so difficult? Why won’t they listen to me?”
- “There’s no point saying what you really think around here because no one is going to listen anyway!”
High quality conversations are more natural than you might think. Peter Senge, author of the Fifth Discipline states,
As far as I know, no indigenous culture has yet to be found that does not have the practice of sitting in a circle and talking.
For the ancient Greeks dia logos was the ‘flow of meaning’. It was the cornerstone of civic practice. The polis was the gathering space for conversation. The purpose for the dia logos was about enabling self-government to occur. This system was the birthplace of the western world.
As time has passed the practice of dia logos has diminished. When you converse in a workplace your purpose is no longer to consider what is best for the whole. Rather, your purpose is to win. You are a master of debate. I win. You lose.
Our modern word for dia logos is dialogue. When we dialogue our purpose is not to win. It is to discover what no individual could discover on their own and it is to discover what is the best solution for the whole, not the part.
Think about the conversations that you have at work, especially the ones where everyone in the room is ‘representing‘ a specific department or unit. What is the intent that each of you bring to those conversations? Is it to do what is best for the whole organisation, or is it to defend, protect and/or promote what is best for your department or unit?
The root cause of the lack of dialogue in organisations is the lack of the practice of dialogue itself. Quite simply, well-educated and/or experienced people don’t know how to dialogue. The reverse is true. They know how to debate. It is little wonder that debate rules, but the overuse of debate lowers the overall quality of your conversations.
Debate is not bad. In fact a form of debate (known as ‘opposing’) is encouraged in the practice of dialogue. The issue with debating is that it is overused. Our conversations are out of balance. We require more use of dialogue to improve the quality of our conversations.
The solution is to learn dialogue together. The beauty of the learning process is that you can practice dialogue, while learning it, on real organisational issues.
In the foreword to William Isaacs’s book, ‘Dialogue and the art of thinking together‘, Peter Senge highlights that,
In almost every setting where practices of dialogue have become embedded and part of everyday routines, the ensuing changes have become irreversible, as near as I can tell.
The projects to which Senge was referring involved practical people such as line managers, executives and staff from mostly Fortune 500 companies. The improvements were clear. Improving the quality of work-place conversations improve performance.
The effort is worth it. Higher quality conversations lead to higher quality decisions which lead to higher quality actions and ultimately higher quality results and performance. Results and performance matter and so does improving the quality of conversations in your organisation.
What actions are you taking to improve the quality of conversations at your work-place?
The most recent Gallup research (conducted in the USA) on manager effectiveness has shown that seven out of ten managers are directly reducing rather than increasing employee motivation and engagement. If you are a manager, then this means that you have a 30 percent chance of being an effective manager, and a 70 percent chance that you are an ineffective one. Which one are you?
The report highlights that effective, engaging managers result in a, “48% increase in profitability, a 22% increase in productivity, a 30% increase in employee engagement scores, a 17% increase in customer engagement scores and a 19% decrease in turnover.” How do your numbers compare with these?
The evidence is overwhelming. Closing the gap between ineffective and effective management matters!
What is it that effective managers do that makes such a big difference?
Firstly, they are talented. Gallup defines talent as, “… the natural capacity for excellence. People can learn skills, develop knowledge and gain experience, but they can’t acquire talent — its innate. When individuals have the right talent for their role, they’re energized by their work, rarely thinking of it as “work” at all.”
The skills required for effective management and leadership are specific. They include being able to listen, to communicate effectively, to have foresight, to be able to find employee strengths, to be able to paint a picture of success and more. Identifying people with the talent to manage is just as important as identifying people with the right talent for any job.
Next, talent is grown and not promoted. Promoting people into roles beyond their competence is one of the greatest flaws that contribute to the generally poor performance of managers. Just because someone is good at their frontline role doesn’t mean they will make a great manager. Yet that is exactly the practice that exists today. How are people promoted into management roles in your organisation?
Gallup recommends that people be paid for their performance, not their job title. This means that an employee could be paid more than their manager. Place the right talent into the right roles and pay them for their value, not their title. For most companies, this will require a structural change to how they manage their pay scales. Are people paid for the value or their title in your organisation?
Manager’s themselves need to continually improve and to further develop their strengths. Too many managers have limited opportunity to improve their management skills once they become managers, which decreases their own engagement, the ripple effect of which is to further decrease the engagement of their direct reports. Lower engagement leads to lower productivity and lower profits. Clearly this is madness, yet this vicious cycle continues to thrive.
How can these issues be resolved? Fortunately, there is a solution.
Servant Leadership is a management and leadership style that addresses these issues. Cheryl Bachelder, CEO of Popeyes, shares in her book Dare To Serve the power of Servant Leadership and how it has driven the company’s turn-around since 2007 (it’s share price has risen from $12 to over $56 – how happy do you think its shareholders are about this improvement!). A clear and deliberate cultural shift to practice Servant Leadership, including changing systems and processes to make sure they are aligned with the principles and practices of Servant Leadership has driven their performance improvements.
The test for effective Servant Leadership focuses on the growth of the people you are serving. Gallup’s recent research identifies that growing talent is what matters. Servant Leaders take action to help the people they are serving grow. The results; increased engagement, productivity and profits!
Existing management practices are not working. Companies and organisations need to adopt a completely different approach to how management roles are executed. Servant Leadership is the answer. It results in more engaged employees and customers and increases profitability. Who doesn’t want those outcomes! Make the decision today to change your management practices for the better.
My eldest child Liam is a teenager and loves his Australian Rules Football and his cricket. He is on an Australian Football League (AFL) Pathway program and he played representative cricket last summer. While he loves both sports he has said that his personal goals are to be the best that he can be so that he can (at the very least) enjoy his sport at the local level.
He has come to realise that if he hadn’t been exposed to a higher standard he would have continued to think that his effort at his local team was at a high standard. He wants his local team-mates to raise their standard and is frustrated by the fact that he knows that they think that they are already training with a high level of effort. He doesn’t blame them for thinking that way because he used to think that way too. They simply don’t know anything different.
He has a dilemma. How can he help his team-mates to ‘see‘ the gap that he has seen without looking like a know-it-all!
Unbeknown to me he has executed a plan. You see, as part of his own development he has “run water” for the past two seasons with our local Under 19 team who play in the Victorian Amateur Football Association (VAFA). His perspective is that by being involved with the older boys he is continuing to be exposed to a higher standard of effort. His plan has been to continue to invite his team-mates to come and help him run water with the intention being that by doing so they will be exposed to the higher standard of effort and have the opportunity to see first-hand the gap with his underage team.
Last weekend, for the very first time, one of his team-mates took up the offer. At the end of the warm up his team-mate came over to Liam and said, “Wow, did you see the standard of their warm-up? This is what we should be doing too!”
Bam! Liam smiled and agreed.
His plan had worked and it only took exposing his team-mate to the Under 19 team’s warm-up before their game for the gap to be ‘seen’ for the first time.
This example is relevant well beyond junior football. If you have team members who are performing at a low standard, it may be that they have never seen what a high standard actually looks like. Finding ways to expose them to that higher standard is a leadership challenge. It can be a slow journey, but one by one you can change a standard and a culture by exposing people to a higher standard, having them ‘see‘ the gap and then challenging and coaching them to ‘bring‘ that standard to their normal work.
If you wish to be successful in your role there are two critical questions that you need answered:
- What is my role?
- How do I know that I am doing a good job?
Knowing the answer to the first question is not enough. You also need to know the answer to the second question. The performance of your role may be measured in many ways and if you aren’t addressing the measures that matter to your employer, you will be judged as a non-performer.
The reverse is also true. If you are a manager one of your roles is to make sure that your team members are clear about their role and are clear about how they will be judged for doing a good job. If your team members aren’t clear about the answers to both of these questions, chances are they will be doing unproductive work. And that reflects poorly on you.
How well do you understand your role and are you clear about what you need to do to be sure that you are doing a good job? If you are not clear about the answers to these questions go and find the answers now. Success in your role depends on it.
Dan Price, the Founder of Gravity Payments, gets it. Dee Hock, the founder of VISA International got it. Do you?
“Gets what?” you ask.
When Dee Hock founded VISA International in the early 1970s he created a rule that his pay could be no more than ten times the lowest paid employee in the company. “How could I possibly provide more than ten times the value of any other employee in the company?” was his perspective. This rule remained in place until Hock retired from VISA International in 1985.
Dan Price has just reduced his $1M salary so that he could provide a pay rise to his staff to ensure that the lowest paid staff members at Gravity Payments earn at least US$70k per annum. Why this number? Because it is the number that Price read in an article about happiness that indicated that if people are earning lower than this amount, then any extra money they receive up to US$70k makes a big difference in their lives. So he decided to do something about it. He wants his staff to be happy.
Dee Hock was an explicit practitioner of Servant Leadership. I don’t know whether Dan Price even knows about Servant Leadership, but his behaviour is certainly aligned with Servant Leadership principles. I’m not suggesting that CEOs should be paid the same as everyone else, after all Peter Drucker recommended that CEOs could reasonably earn up to 20 times that of their employees. But the current gap where many CEOs are earning thousands of times what their employees are earning is unbalanced.
Dan Price, kudos to you!
When you imagine your long-term future, dream big. Be as clear as possible about what the direction of your success will look like, without being too specific. Leave open a thousand possibilities to make your dreams become reality. Let your four step plans bring to life the specific things that you will achieve over the short to medium term.
When establishing your plans for success, you must be grounded in reality. The good, the bad and the ugly. If you miss this step and either gloss over your current situation or paint a picture that isn’t as bad as you make it out to be, your plan is doomed to fail. You can’t plan for the future if the starting point that you are using for your plan isn’t your real starting point. If your industry is suffering from a range of economic factors that have caused a slow down, then you need to accept your brutal reality. Your plans need to be grounded in the fact that you will need to address how you are going to first survive and then thrive throughout the economic downturn. Behaving as if nothing has changed is doomed to fail.
Recently the CEO of a Shire Council with whom I was working re-enforced the positive vision that the organisation he serves is striving to create. He also painted a very real picture of the challenges that his shire is facing and the strengths that his team have in addressing those challenges. Rather than place his head in the sand, he took ownership of what he and his team could control, and identified the issues that were out of their control. You’ve heard it before, control what you can control and be prepared to mitigate as much as possible what you can’t control.
He spoke about the role that innovation would play in enabling his team to move from their present situation toward their vision. He recognised that just talking about these issues wasn’t going to be enough. His staff had to make a decision. Did they accept their current situation and were they prepared to do what they could to continue to build on the great outcomes that had been achieved over the previous two decades?
So how do you plan under these circumstances? Here are four steps that work for any type of planning.
1. Clearly identify what success looks like. Use timeframes to take the direction of your vision and make it specific. As an example you may have a personal vision to own a healthy property portfolio by the time you retire. You may have a five year plan that you are using to focus your activities. Your goal in this plan may be to pay off your own mortgage and to have purchased your first investment property.
2. Honestly assess your current situation as it relates to the success that you wish to create. Your current situation needs to consider all relevant variables including both the positive and negative ones. Continuing with our example you may have a secure job and a combined gross income with your partner of $120k. You may be renting in a wealthy area and have both vehicles on higher purchase. You are regularly charged interest on your credit card. You may have set budgets with your partner in the past but not followed them. You may also have a strong superannuation balance given your age and the contributions that you and your partner have been making over the past five years.
3. Identify all the actions that you will need to take to move from your present situation toward your goals. One action will always involve research. You will need to investigate the possible options that are available to you so that you can take the most optimised actions that will help you to achieve your goals.
4. Once you have completed your research and tapped in to subject experts, your task is to prioritise your tasks. Which actions will give you the highest leverage? Do these ones first. Then re-assess your current situation because it will have shifted and complete step three again. Then do step four again. Keep this process going until you achieve your goals.
This four step planning process ensures that your plans remain both dynamic and grounded in reality, while also providing you with focus for your actions.
You’ve had enough. You can’t handle your job anymore and you want to quit.
Don’t do it. Not if you live in Australia and you haven’t secured a new job, that’s for sure.
On Monday 23rd February the ABC Four Corners program The Jobs Game revealed the true state of unemployment in Australia. I don’t know about you, but despite all my education and experience I have always struggled to make sense of the reported unemployment figures. On the 12th of February, The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) reported that Australia’s unemployment rate was 6.4 %, a rise of 0.1 percent since December 2014.
What I can tell you is that according to the ABS, 795,200 people are looking for work. The ABC Four Corners Program revealed that there are only 150,000 jobs available in Australia.
Ratios I can understand. This means that there are, on average 5.3 unemployed Australians looking for each available job. Why isn’t unemployment reported as a ratio of job seekers to jobs available?
Surely it is much easier for the average person to understand what that means, versus a figure such as 6.4%. I don’t know about you, but the figure 6.4% doesn’t represent the reality of the unemployment situation anywhere near as clearly as 5.3 people looking for each job. And that’s only an average. Clearly some jobs will have higher ratios.
Perspective matters. If more people understood the reality of the Australian unemployment situation then I believe that more people would be taking action to create more jobs, because clearly more jobs is what we need. In addition, more people will think twice about quitting their job.
If you are thinking about quitting your job, make sure that you have secured another job before you resign. Create a plan and treat your job hunting as a project. Above all else, don’t quit if you don’t have a job to go to. Not now. It just isn’t the smart thing to do.
A high performing team is one where the output or performance of the team at least equates to the output that you would expect from the collective talent of all the teams members. This statement is easy to say, but hard to achieve. In fact, 93% of my clients report that from a professional perspective they have never worked in a truly high performing team. They have worked in good teams, but not high performing ones.The Teams That Matter® model for creating high performing teams includes seven key elements. Most teams naturally do three or four of the seven elements. But it is the three or four that they aren’t doing that stops them from being a high performing team. The main reason for not doing three to four of the key elements is that they don’t know about them and they haven’t seen them modelled in the past.
If you intend to create a high performing team, then you must make a conscious decision to become one. Why? The three to four elements of the Teams That Matter® model that you haven’t completed in the past will require some getting used to. Your team members won’t be used to them either. Having a conversation as a team about what you would look like if you were a high performing team will help your team to clarify exactly what this statement means for them. It will then act as a catalyst for you to complete all the seven key elements of the Teams That Matter® model.
2. Purpose and Goals
Why does your team exist? The answer to this question highlights the purpose for your team. Your goals reflect the specific outcomes that you are striving to achieve. Your goals should reflect your ‘purpose in action’. Have you even been in a team where you have discussed your team’s purpose?
What if you discover that your team doesn’t have a purpose? Well, thank everybody and close the team down. Clearly time spent with this team would be a waste of time and who wants to do that in this time poor world that we live in.
3. Skills and Composition
Most teams have completed an assessment of the experience and skills of the members of their team. No doubt you have done that too.
I bet you haven’t taken steps to better understand the personality profiles of the members of your team. Or if you have, you haven’t done it in a way that has enabled you to use that information to improve communication on a daily basis among team members.
I use the What Makes People Tick tool, not because it is the most scientific, but because it is a tool that participants can use on a day to day basis beyond the introductory workshop. I find that other tools are too complex and require you to become an expert on the tool for it to be useful. Most people are too busy being experts in their own field of work to also have to become an expert on a personality profiling tool!
The benefit of understanding how each of your team members ‘tick’, is that you can modify how you communicate to ensure that your message is being delivered effectively. Effective communication is essential if you wish to become a high performing team.
4. Agreed Behaviours
Do high performing teams accept or reject unacceptable behaviour? I understand the answer to this question is a ‘no brainer!’. Yet, are you and your team members clear about what behaviours are acceptable or not for your team? Or do you assume that ‘everyone knows how to behave properly’? I’m telling you, they don’t know! Which is why you and your team need to make those behaviours explicit. Three questions is all it takes (I’ll share them in another post).
5. Plan and Measure
This is one of the elements that most team do. Although be careful with your measurements. Russell Ackoff, Professor Emeritus at the Wharton Business School said,
“It’s better to do the right thing wrong, than the wrong thing right. If you do the wrong thing right you just get wronger and wronger.”
Make sure that your measurements are measuring the ‘right’ things.
This means that you ‘do’ all seven elements in the model. It also means that you never, ever forget that if your team changes only by one person, it is a brand new team. You need to quickly review all seven elements and make any necessary adjustments. This is a critical lesson that most teams don’t know exists.
7. Monitor and Review
No doubt you monitor your progress toward your goals. Do you monitor your agreed behaviours? It’s hard to do if you haven’t made them explicit! This key element works hand in glove with the Agreed Behaviours and Plan and Measure elements.
In addition, when you complete a milestone or achieve a goal, the following four After Action Review questions are very powerful.
What did we plan?
What actually happened?
What did we learn?
What will we do next time?
Now you know how to create a high performing team. Give it a go!