leadership and management

December 8, 2010

Leadership Lessons of ‘The West Wing’

Many of you will remember that I’m steadily working my way through the 7 seasons of ‘The West Wing’ boxed set. And so far, it’s not difficult to appreciate why so many Americans (and others) would readily take Jed Bartlett as their President.

There are many aspects of Bartlett that are agreeable and none more so than his tremendous leadership of others.

In an example I watched just the other night, one of his senior team takes an incredibly brave step to ask Bartlett personal details of his relationship with his father. Whilst this might seem a step too far in his relationship with ‘Mr President’, Toby Ziegler is performing an ideal, if rather intimate service to his boss.

Initially, Bartlett is rather incensed at Ziegler’s impertinence and then, in the next couple of episodes, we see the true leadership come through, where he responds to the raw edge that Ziegler has exposed. Bartlett sees past his own bruised ego and ‘gets’ the point of Ziegler’s intervention.

In his own way, Bartlett shows Ziegler how much he values the man’s courage to speak up in such a sensitive area – and, incidentally, an area that Bartlett really does need to investigate.

In too many cases, leaders are so engrossed in their own ego that they fail to appreciate that giving feedback to your boss is a tough thing to do.

Bosses very often intimidate, whether they mean to or not.

To have the courage to give feedback is a rare thing in an employee. Even when they do get brave enough, the handling of this feedback has to be very careful indeed, or valuable relationships will stutter and the most likely outcome is that no more feedback will ever be forthcoming.

(Hint – never start to argue or justify your side of it, just thank them and accept the feedback very graciously and ponder on it honestly).

Great leaders – like the fictional character Bartlett that Martin Sheen plays so effectively – value both the very feedback they are given by acting on it constructively, as well as respecting the generosity and courage shown by the employee who has the kindness to offer it.

We see feedback as a one-way street – often interpreted by employees as ‘criticism’ (and negatively as a consequence) – where we dole it out downwards when we lead others (often more for our benefit than theirs).

Where we graciously accept feedback given that is intended to help us ourselves evolve, we make best use of the gift for our own benefits and also show our people that it adds value and is to be appreciated, which, in turn, makes it much more likely for them to value too when they are on the receiving end.

When we accept and look into feedback that seems hard to take, we are being provided with a perception of us that sometimes – often indeed – is just where our blind spot is.

And that’s such a valuable steer for someone to take the time and trouble to share with us.

Filed under Blog, Building the Future, Developing Your People, Management Basics, Managing Me by Martin

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October 27, 2010

Losing Your Best Employees

Working with a client this week, I came across one of those situations where a manager’s emotions can get confused.

I recall a training video where the manager concerned feels that if he develops his people enough, then they might be good enough to, well, get promoted and then they would leave him. And his misguided concern is that they will leave him to struggle!

The situation this week was similar. It was time for the manager’s trainee to move to a new deputy role, in a different arm of the business.

The manager was noticeably glad for the trainee, yet I could also sense a hint of sadness that he was losing a valuable member of the team – one who he’d nurtured himself to an enhanced level of performance.

In fact, losing people to new challenges – especially when they have developed to their potential – is pretty much always a good thing.

Managers who deliver great team members who are capable of moving onwards and upwards can celebrate with them – in more ways than one.

Firstly, that they (the manager) have done a great job. One where they have used their people skills to draw from that individual all the possibilities that they had within them.

Secondly, that the individual will be moving on to better personal opportunities for their own future (not least they often get a pay hike too!).

Thirdly, that they will learn more somewhere else – after all, one manager simply cannot provide all the growth for an individual.

Finally (and I’m aware there might be even more positives that others might be able to provide here), there’s another upside that all managers can draw from good people moving on.

There will be another new trainee right along soon. And there’s nothing like a new challenge to keep a manager sharp, engaged and able to reflect on how they themselves can evolve, as they start along the path to create new excellence from another raw recruit.

Filed under Blog, Developing Your People, Management Basics, Managing Me by Martin

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September 19, 2010

What Do You Believe?

As many of us find out during the course of our management career, we can’t do it all.

Yet there are times when we find the workload that we have is such that there is no-one else but ourselves who can do those parts of the work that are left to do.

As managers, we know that the buck stops with us and as such we plough on with the work we are not able to give to others.

It’s easy to be overwhelmed. It’s easy to do more, take longer and spend more of our lives at work, rather than getting a fair balance between work and everything else.

Yet we feel unable to give more away, because we reckon that we don’t have people who can do more. We don’t have people who have the capabilities to deliver.

And you would be wrong.

It’s hard to accept and evidence will show that the more you support and encourage your people to take on new challenges and grow, not only will you develop them, you will motivate them and they will enjoy their work more.

What’s stopping them?

The tricky answer for you to accept is that more than likely, you are.

Managers know best. Managers are the experts. Managers are the ‘tough at the top’ people who can’t show they can’t – in anything.

Sometimes, we need to get down off the high horse and accept the following:

1. We don’t know everything.
2. We aren’t the best at everything.
3. There are others who know better
4. Our people have talents that we don’t yet appreciate.

Exploring just how much each of your people are able to contribute, often above and way beyond what you might have expected, is a leap of faith; a critical point in your management career.

So test it out.

Find out just what your people have within them, when you ask, support and challenge them.

Suspending what you believe right now and stepping aside of it might well be the evolutionary step that takes your management to the next level.

Filed under Blog, Developing Your People, Management Basics by Martin

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August 24, 2010

Keeping Your Team Members Happy

A manager’s role is to build successful teams that deliver the business. We aim to seek for higher and higher performances from those we encourage, cajole and develop.  How do we keep them all happy?

We strive to create refined, capable people to inhabit our teams. The results we seek cannot be delivered by us alone, because simply we cannot do it by ourselves.

Like the soccer coach – the results come from those who cross that white line for us. All the plays the team practice during the week, are for nothing if they don’t deliver ‘when Saturday comes’ – as they say!

As managers we have to hone their skills, tactics and flair for then.

Yet what happens to our people when we’re done developing them. When they can grow no more in the circumstances that we are in a position to offer them?

Indeed is it possible that they can grow no more with us at their helm? Could that be possible?

The simple answer is – of course they can reach a peak in the team we have them in; with the support and challenge we help them with.

And sometimes, when they achieve that zenith, we have to make the more courageous decision to let them fly off and seek a new level of opportunity, to make the next leap.

Successful management is not simply about building a team that serves us well. It’s much bigger than that.

When we help create fulfilled employees, the bigger picture is where we have to be brave and let them go. We have to celebrate the success they achieve with us and – where this is what they want – prepare them for a bigger stage to explore and reach for the next level, with our support and enthusiasm.

In soccer, managers of smaller teams strive to create better and better players for the good of the team and then, whilst it may be a sad time, encourage them on to bigger teams; new arenas and bigger opportunities.

That’s where the bigger managers stand out – loving the growth they see and then accepting – no, encouraging – their people to be the most they can – even when that means moving on.

Filed under Blog, Developing Your People, Management Basics, Management Development Tips, Managing Me by Martin

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March 10, 2009

Quick Thinking Required!

I’m fascinated by productivity. Making things actually happen, instead of pondering endlkessly is a huge step forward for any manager.

When I was in Australia recently, I met up with Dr Ken Hudson, from The Speed Thinking Zone. Ken’s premise is that things take way too long and there is a better way.

Hudson’s Law of Meetings

February 27, 2009

In 1955, Cyril Northcote Parkinson suggested, in a tongue in cheek way, what has since become known as Parkinsons Law. It states:

Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.

I would like to suggest that this be updated for meetings in what i have called Hudson’s Law of Meetings:

Meetings expand to the time set for the meeting.

Think about it. Have you ever been at a meeting when someone says, well we have the meeting room booked for the next hour why don’t we stay till then. Why should you? If the meeting is over the meeting is over.

Why do most of us feel guilty about having a shorter meeting or one that finishes early? In a recent workshop we covered all we had to do and i suggested that we finish early. One person started to complain about this.

Why I asked?

Why don’t you use the extra time to go to the gym or see your kids or go to a movie?

If Hudson’s rule is valid then we should think seriously about the amount of time we spend in meetings. Why are all our meetings at least one hour? Why aren’t these half an hour?

Imagine how much time you could free up and how more productive and enjoyable your life could be.

Ken Hudson

Ken’s thinking is fast paced, as you might expect. I like his stuff and I want to know more, despite Australia being quite a hike from where I am.

I think you might like to check it out too, right here at The Speed Thinking Zone

Filed under Blog by Martin

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November 14, 2008

Manager or Leader – What’s The Difference?

Two absolutely necessary things needed for the survival of any organization are leadership and management.

While leadership is the ‘quality’, which determines how far a company will go and how successful it will be in the long run, management is the ‘quantity’ that deals with the daily workings and the implementation of current plans that will help in the immediate health of the organization.

Maybe! Truth is, both are pretty important.

Although we might try to distinguish between them and aim to get them into a neat little descriptive package, it can be quite a challenge.

Maybe the way to separate the two is that a leader deals with the longer term aspirations and opportunities, whilst a manager will be more focused in managing the resources, including people, to achieve shorter-term goals for the ongoing health of the organization.

Then again, managers need to be leaders sometime…

Filed under Building the Future, Developing Your People, Management Basics by Martin

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