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Today we are sharing with you 5 of the lessons we often help new managers to deal with, through a combination of their own skills and our training techniques.
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We take it for granted that leaders have good communication skills, can motivate people and get results. This article explores seven advanced competencies that set truly great leaders apart.
It seems to me as though organisations seem to be polarising in to those that follow a traditional "people are resources" model, and those that describe that "people are humans first and foremost".
“I can't imagine a much more challenging situation than supporting bereaved staff & you have my absolute respect for doing something like that (not sure it's something I could do)”
I got this message from a friend of mine recently, which got me thinking.
How well do you know the people who you work with? Who work for you? Who buy from you?
You may feel that you have built up good relationships with the people around you, but too often managers work with a very superficial level of understanding. We often pat ourselves on the back if we manage to remember the names of our colleague’s partner and children, or that they like to go skiing on their holidays.
A prospective client recently approached me using her private email because, she told me, “I don’t want my employer to know that I need coaching because it would be seen as a weakness.”
This is sadly an all too common reaction amongst certain business leaders. It is as though coaching is a kind of remedial class. It is like getting extra help when you are falling behind.
In business, much is made of networking. And yet many of us dread going to networking events because of the pressure of finding new people to talk to, or because we never quite know what to say in our “elevator pitch”.
Networking can be a particular chore if you, like me, are an introvert and hate socialising. Other people make networking into a competition to see who can get the most business cards, or plug their own business at every opportunity.
In this article, I'm going to offer you a different way of looking at networking that can turn a challenge or a chore into a productive and above all enjoyable activity.
Did you know that on any given day, at least 1 in 10 of the workforce is experience a bereavement.
We recently conducted some research into the impact of bereavement and grief on productivity. The results were fascinating...
Confidence is an essential commodity for leaders and managers, and yet many of us seem to lack it in key areas. Even those who outwardly appear enormously confident, will often secretly experience feelings of self-doubt or nervousness.
Would it surprise you to know that confidence is really an illusion?
One of my flagship programmes is called "Grief at Work" designed to help employers understand how grief affects their workforce, and how they can best support bereaved colleagues.
When I tell people this, they often start off by thinking it is something morbid, or doubting that this is even necessary.
However, very quickly, they find a private moment to talk to me about their own losses. Sometimes very raw and recent. Sometimes in the distant past. Always, they tell me how hard it was when they returned to work after their bereavement. Often, they themselves are still grieving and need someone to talk to.
Let's talk about feelings - sometimes managers shy away from discussing feelings, because it makes them, well, feel uncomfortable.
And yet feelings drive us at work just as much as elsewhere:
"Soft Skills" - I don't really like that term, because it gives the impression that these skills are somehow weak, easier or less important than "hard" skills. But that is far from the case.
Soft skills, such as communicating, influencing, or coaching are in fact easy to learn but hard to master. And the benefits of mastering them are enormous.
Our focus at Allen Training Associates has evolved over the years, so I thought New Year's Day would be a good time to set out what we're about.
Our motto is "Soft Skills with Hard Benefits".
What we do: we deliver tailor-made in-house soft-skills training for managers and leaders in your organisation.
It's a common problem for managers - when there's too much to do, or some activities are overwhelming or unappetising, we all have a tendency to procrastinate. There is no single sure-fire way to overcome procrastination, because it depends so much on what is at the root of your issue. Start by working out what is causing you the problem.
In this article I'll show you 4 of the most common causes of procrastination so you can work out which one applies to you. For each one I offer you a tried and trusted procrastination-busting tip.
How often have you asserted something "without a doubt"? But stop and think for a moment; to be truly without a doubt, one of two conditions must be trued:
A real leader knows that doubt is inevitable, and in fact necessary. It is doubt that will drive a real leader to explore alternatives and counter-arguments, and to be respect them. It is doubt that will impel the real leader to step into other people's shoes and to see things from multiple perspectives. It is self-doubt that guards against hubris, and ensures a life-long quest for personal improvement.
Let our leaders have a little more doubt, please.
Collective dreaming is an opportunity for a group of people to construct a vision of their future. With its roots in positive psychology, and appreciative enquiry, it shifts the focus away from problems to be solved, and on to doing what works, and doing more of what is already working. Recently, I was working with a team who had been through a tough time lately. A great deal of organisational change, a couple of formal complaints and high staff turnover risked making this team of exceptional people become disillusioned. They were ready for some positive thinking.
Through a guided visualisation, I had the team envision a point in time one year on, and to think themselves into it, as if it were now. They explored questions like what the environment looks like and sounds like; how it feels to work in this team; how they are behaving towards one another and towards their customers; what they are saying to one another; what a fly on the wall would notice about the team; what skills and capabilities they are drawing on to be successful; what new opportunities are arising to further develop their skills; what the team’s core values are; and how their own personal values are being met by being part of the team.
I asked them each to come up with a metaphor for the team in a year’s time, when it is operating just as brilliantly as they want it to be. The results were richly varied. One person chose a German automobile company as their metaphor, identifying characteristics such as efficiency, innovation, expertise in each unique component part, brought together skilfully to make a high-performing result. Another chose a beaver, because it is industrious, works together with others to maximise resources, collaborates, is organised and at the same time a cohesive social unit. Another chose Brains from the Thunderbirds, because he is the communication hub, with his finger on the pulse, accessing and utilising all the other members of the team to get the best results. The picture above was one person's tree metaphor.
The team needed no further guidance to start to extract the common themes from their wide-ranging metaphors, to create their shared vision of the future. Further thinking created an inventory of resources within the team to generate the planning and momentum needed for the immediate actions. Stimulated by one person choosing Google as their metaphor, they realised that the staff turnover could be re-framed as a positive thing – the natural consequence of being a team of intelligent, talented, young, ambitious professionals. Inevitably such people would be highly employable and much in demand; and the loss of one team member would give the opportunity for the others to step up to the plate, learn new skills and extend their experience.
The day ended with the team buzzing with excitement and a palpable increase in their self-worth. Collective Dreaming may sound like an intangible concept, but it can deliver absolutely tangible results.
Many organisations use psychometric profiling to explore the personality types of their leaders, managers and staff. A popular and well-respected tool often used is the Myers Briggs Type Indicator or MBTI. Each personality type is accorded a four-letter code, such as ENTJ, or ISFP which summarises the profile on each of four key dimensions. The fourth of these letters indicates whether you are a Judger or a Perceiver, and this code is often much misunderstood, and yet it is very useful to understand how someone makes decisions.
The Judger/Perceiver dimension is sometimes entitled “Structure” – In dealing with the outside world, do you prefer to get things decided (This is called Judging) or do you prefer to stay open to new information and options (This is called Perceiving)? Judging and Perceiving behaviours are often visible in how a person organises their time. Judgers tend to like to know what’s happening. They may have ordered and regular habits, an efficient schedule and be good at planning and organising their time. Perceivers tend to like to keep room for the unexpected. They may have a flexible schedule, with spontaneous changes, and to be good at living in the moment, or going with the flow.
Broadly, the Judger filters towards decisions, whereas the Perceiver filters towards information. A judger will choose a course of action and the reward is the decision. A perceiver will explore all the alternatives, and the reward is the process of exploring the information. Metaphorically, a judger enjoys the destination; a perceiver enjoys the journey, detours and all.
If you are trying to determine someone else’s preference, you can often spot this when they are different from you. If you are a perceiver, you may find judgers too rigid, inflexible and unwilling to be spontaneous. If you are a judger, you may find perceivers to be chaotic, unpredictable and unreliable. On the other hand, you may value the benefits that the opposite profile has for you. Perceivers value judgers for their ability to organise and deliver on promises, to remember deadlines and to make firm decisions. Judgers value perceivers for their ability to think outside the box, to explore different avenues and to see all different sides to a situation.
Remember also, that this filter describes only what you can see on the outside – a Judger may have a very free-flowing and open-ended curiosity in their inner life, whilst presenting a judging exterior, focusing on pinning down decisions. A Perceiver may be very ordered and structured inside their heads, whilst presenting a flexible and spontaneous exterior, focusing on exploring all the options.
Myers Briggs profiles are based on four dimensions: Extravert/Introvert, Sensor/Intuitor, Thinker/Feeler, Judger Perceiver For more information, visit http://www.myersbriggs.org/
Leadership skills: 7 Key attributes for exceptional leaders
We take it for granted that leaders have good communication skills, can motivate people and get results. This article explores seven advanced competencies that set truly great leaders apart.
1 – Courage
A true leader is prepared to go out on a limb to get results. Be prepared to face difficult or risky situations with resolution, self-possession and confidence. Motivate others to follow in such situations. Go for it.
2 – Vision
Have a clear purpose and be able to paint a picture of your vision to others. Mediaeval leaders used symbols on their shields and banners representing their cause, which acted as a rallying point for their followers. What is on your banner?
3 – Inspiring Followership
Why should I follow you? What makes it worth my while? Identify what motivates your followers and capitalise on it. Take notice of their level of willingness to follow you, and adjust your behaviour, communication and example-setting to build their willingness.
4 – Serving
“I lead by serving, I serve by leading”. Serving in a leadership context is a two way street. The leader serves a higher purpose, whether it is a corporation, a deity or an ideal. The leader also serves their people. When you give to those around you as much as you expect them to give to you, you will be rewarded by respect and trust from motivated and inspired followers.
5 – Advocacy.
Present compelling arguments in favour of your cause, idea or policy. Actively demonstrate support for the issue. Be ready to speak fluently and passionately about your cause. Great leaders are inspirational when talking about or debating their cause.
6 – Decision-Making
Sometimes it’s tough; sometimes it feels like any decision you make is full of pitfalls, but as a leader you have to make decisions. So make your decisions with conviction, display confidence in your decisions, take ownership of them and follow them through to implementation.
7 – Entrepreneurship
Entrepreneurs show agility, speed of response and independence of thinking, driven by the awareness of threat from competition or market conditions. An entrepreneurial leader harnesses this sense of urgency to get results. Leaders with this attribute dream big dreams and achieve big goals.
The Importance of R&R
Today is a Bank Holiday where I live, and yet many people that I know will be working. From small business owners and entrepreneurs to multi-national conglomerates, the tradition of taking a day off on a Bank Holiday seems to have eroded. At the same time, parents are in debate with schools about the appropriateness of taking their children out of school for a family holiday during term time. As a result businesses struggle with the demands of all parents wanting to take their holidays in the same period. Families find that holiday prices soar over the school summer holidays. Overall finding time to take time off becomes harder and harder.
The days when whole towns closed down for a week's mass exodus to the coast or to the countryside are long gone. Some areas retain the vestiges of these traditions, such as Glasgow Fair week, but no longer do whole factories close down on Fair Friday for the workers to travel on mass to the Ayrshire coast.
And what else have we lost in the passing of these traditions? it seems as though the structured and societal observance of shared holidays gave us shared experiences, a connection to our communities as well as well-deserved rest and relaxation from the demands of our work.
Current pressures to perform often result in workers putting in extra hours and working on weekends and holidays in order to meet targets, or simply to impress and earn recognition - even when there's no overtime payment involved. But the times of rest are important to recharge the batteries, to stimulate other areas of the brain through engaging in non-work activities, and to reinforce social and familial bonds.
The old saying "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" is just as true today as it has ever been. Periods of play help us to perform better at work. Rest gives us more energy. Relaxation makes us more alert. And what is all this work for, if not to be able to enjoy other areas of our life?
So if you're working today, stop and think for a moment about when else you can take time off instead. Enjoy planning how you'll use that time, whether you take a family day out to a country park, or sit on the sofa catching up with your favourite boxed set, knowing that you'll be refreshed and back at your peak afterwards.
Me? Yes, I'm working today. And I'm taking tomorrow off to go to the beach.
In the last few years, the use of YouTube, webinars and podcasts has created a very credible rival to class-room based training. For a long time, many people engaged in soft-skills training (communication, leadership, management skills etc.) fought a defensive battle arguing that these skills could only really be delivered face-to-face, since they are, at the core, skills to do with people interacting with one another.
However, as we work more with distributed teams and use these technologies to communicate, lead and manage, then surely our training environments can, and should, adapt in line with these new methods of communication? I look at my own team, which includes a network of many associates, none of whom are co-located with me. We rarely meet up in person, doing the vast majority of our interactions through a mixture of media and communication channels including Skype, telephone, email, webinars, teleconferences, video-conferences, Facebook etc.
There is a place for both face-to-face training AND the use of new media to deliver soft-skills training. I personally took some persuasion. As a self-confessed Luddite I have long resisted the use of YouTube as a learning vehicle. However, increasing evidence of its importance to those around me convinced me that if I am to appeal to all learning styles effectively, then it was time to stop my ostrich impression and start to embrace the possibilities that are constantly emerging.
In our recent programme, From Crisis To Clarity, designed for professionals facing a career change, we created a fully-blended environment, involving:
- live interactive webinars including both teaching new material and live coaching of participants.
- recordings of the webinars made available to listen to offline.
- discussion forums to allow participants to interact with each other.
- confidential real-time messaging to allow participants to discuss their personal progress in private with the tutors.
- face-to-face meet-ups to allow participants to work together in person.
- a variety of video recordings of interviews with relevant experts.
- audio recordings of coaching exercises so that participants could listen and work through the exercises at their own pace and in their own time.
- written material available on-demand to support the learning process.
For a technophobe, I've certainly come a long way! What new ways of learning and communicating have you integrated into your own leadership and management? I'd love to hear about your experiences.
In our Presentation Skills training, we normally advise presenters to be wary of using slides. Even large and professional organisations too often use their slides simply as a place to writeeverything that the presenter is going to say. The audience is left peering at impossibly-small text and unable to really listen to or appreciate the presenter. We teach ways to present without slides at all, or to design slides that are punchy, visually appealing, and add to (rather than detract from) the presenter.
We also enjoy keeping up with innovations in presentation styles which depart from this thinking, in a really exciting way. Have you heard of PechaKucha, for example?
PechaKucha (which means "the sound of conversation" in Japanese) is a simple presentation format where you show precisely 20 images, each for exactly 20 seconds. The images advance automatically and you talk along to the images.
What's so interesting about this technique is that it compels the presenter to think about their slides and their talk as two completely different but wholly integrated elements of their presentation. To be effective, the images must be visually punchy - the audience has to get the relevance of the image within 20 seconds, so there's no room for reams of text. Metaphorical imagery works well, as does visual humour. The voice-over must be incisive and to the point, and well-rehearsed to deliver the key messages precisely in time with the slides.
We often give exercises to our leadership and communication skills delegates using this format. For example, create a presentation summing up your values and vision using the PechaKucha format. 20 slides times 20 seconds gives you precisely 6 minutes and 40 seconds to deliver your message. This constraint concentrates the mind wonderfully, and encourages presenters to be ruthless about streamlining their message to the key points in a way that really engages with their audience.
Our top tips for a flawless PechaKucha presentation include:
A client recently showed me a list of top 10 tips she'd been given for delivering presentations. Number one on the list was "keep hold of the lectern". This got me thinking that I don't ever recall seeing a charismatic or effective public speaker who was holding on to the lectern. Effective speakers move around, make gestures and even abandon a lectern altogether.
So why was she (and others) being given this advice?
It turned out that the advice was being provided by a specialist Audio-Visual company, and from their point of view, holding on to the lectern makes for a successful presentation. Why? Because that way they know where to focus the lighting for maximum effect, and they can control the acoustics through the microphones and amplification. And indeed, it is important for any speaker to know what sound and lighting arrangements are in place to make sure that they can be seen and heard.
However, these requirements shouldn't constrain you in the way that you present. Imagine your favourite actor giving a speech whilst keeping their hands and feet absolutely still. Or a singer not being able to move to the music whilst performing. A huge percentage of the their impact is lost. It's the same for a presenter or public speaker. The way you look, the way you move, the way you use gesture all contribute to how much of the audience's attention you command.
And if you are using AV equipment, rather than be tied down by it, work with the specialists to find ways to free you from those constraints, and to be your expressive, mobile, charismatic self.
For training in powerful presentations and public speaking skills, why not contact us? http://www.allentraining.co.uk/inhouse-detail.php?course=121
In a recent post on LinkedIn, Daniel Goleman offered up advice for dealing with untrustworthy people. The premise of the article was that untrustworthy people habitually lie to you or let you down, and that it is possible to develop strategies to work with them whether they are subordinates, colleagues or your boss. So far, so good.
The comments to this article included many personal testaments of having to work alongside untrustworthy people. What struck me was the completely unspoken but consistent assumption that "being untrustworthy" is a permanent and irreversible condition, on a par with having blue eyes, or being colour-blind.
Is that necessarily so? I'd like to offer some defence of untrustworthy people.
So what is it that compels us to label someone as "untrustworthy"? Because to be untrustworthy is not a condition that we are born with, nor should it be a permanent label.
Let us think of the impact of using a similar label with children. If a teacher tells a child "you are a bully", then this is creating a label for that child's whole identity, which leaves no room for all the other good and valuable things about their identity. What happens to "you are kind", "you are smart", "you are funny", when you've just been told "you are a bully"? And when you've just been told "you are untrustworthy" what happens to "you are loyal", "you are hard-working", "you are talented" or simply, "you are human"?
Typically, a number of examples of a certain behaviour type that can be labelled as untrustworthy have been generalised by the observer into being the defining characteristic of the whole person. This then deletes all the other observable behaviours which of course will include the normal human range of helpful, neutral and unhelpful behaviours. But the person labelled "untrustworthy" is then only seen through the blinkers that filter out anything else that is true about them and about their other behaviours.
A second, and even more damaging issue when labelling someone as being "untrustworthy" lies in the complete absence of any consideration given to the reasons which underlie the behaviour. If most of us are completely honest, we can think of examples when we might have appeared to be untrustworthy. I know it's true of me.
For example we might be guilty of forgetting a commitment; misleading someone; not doing something we had promised; failing to pass on a piece of information. In each case we know the reason behind it. Maybe we were stressed or overworked at the time. Maybe a matter of a higher priority (to us) arose which took precedence. Maybe we made a promise in order to please someone even though we knew we lacked the skills or resources to deliver. Maybe we felt backed into a corner. Maybe we simply forgot. Who knows?
So before we are quick to judge someone as being untrustworthy, we should take a moment to consider. Firstly, it is not the whole person, but the behaviour that we should be examining. And secondly, what might be true for that person to behave that way with a good, dare I say trustworthy, intention?
Perhaps we should remind ourselves of the wisdom of Plato. "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."
We find that the greatest leaders are able to demonstrate both resilience and courage, which is why we recommend this article. Regular time for oneself, including the support of an executive coach can be a great way to help to build resilience, as well as of obtaining support during the difficult times.
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A miscellany of articles and opinions on communication, leadership and management topics.