Archive for February, 2018

The Power Of Being A Connector

February 26th, 2018

‘Connect, create meaning, make a difference, matter, be missed’ – Seth Godin

There is something quite magical about meeting or knowing a ‘connector’. Those unique people who always seem to know how to help, or if they can’t, know someone who can and who quickly and freely put you in touch with them. More often than not they are the ones that make you feel at ease almost immediately, seem to understand situations even before you describe them and ooze warmth, energy and genuine interest in what it is that you do.

Somehow they seem to be able to make things happen quickly. Whilst they don’t profess to know everything, often they know how to make almost anything happen. They are able to tap into well-known networks to help expedite information flow, access to resources and the expansion of ideas and opportunities. Connectors build bridges between ideas and actions by knowing who to ask to help get things done.

Malcolm Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point and who coined the term ‘Connectors’ describes them as those handful of people with a truly extraordinary knack of making friends and acquaintances. They are able to span many different worlds, subcultures and niches’. Traits common to connectors are energy, insatiable curiosity and a willingness to take chances – as well as an absolute insistence that connecting is not the same as networking. Where as networking is often viewed as a means to an end, connecting is driven by a genuine interest in people and purposeful engagement to better support and assist others.

As our world becomes more interconnected and our businesses move to flatter more matrixed structures our ability to not just connect but facilitate connection is critical to our success. Adam Grant, Wharton Business leader and author of Give and Take explores how our success has become increasingly dependent on the interactions we have with others rather than on the individual drivers of success such as commitment, hard work and passion. Rather it is our ability to actively and purposefully engage with new people or reconnect with what he terms ‘dormant ties’ that will most likely be the source of new ideas, ways of thinking and new networks that will contribute to our success. In essence the ROI on becoming a connector is much higher.

I would encourage you to consider the following 5 tips to help you become a connector:

  1. Quality Connections Not Quantity: Focus your energy and efforts on building a limited number of quality relationships rather than just a million social followers. To be able to purposefully connect with others in a way that offers real value, you need to engage: get to know them, what they do, how they like to operate and what their thoughts and ideas are .
  2. Manage Your Time: Given that we all have only a limited amount of time we need to ensure that we are investing it in the right way. Spend time with your top relationships and stakeholders – maintaining and deepening them. Take off the transactional networker hat and put on your ‘connector’ hat.
  3. Get Curious: Ask lots of questions. Great connectors know the value of quality questions. They recognise the power of asking the right ones to unlock new ideas, build rapport, offer new perspectives and introduce new networks.
  4. Give First: As a connector you are often well positioned to give first, which removes what is so often a genuine fear with networking: appearing disingenuous or being considered a ‘taker’. As a connector, who has invested both time and efforts in building quality relationships, your ability to share knowledge, ideas and connections with genuine purpose and value is greatly enhanced. Subsequently so too is their own personal influence.
  5. Step Out: Connectors are willing to step out of their comfort zone and reach out to people they don’t know. All too often we miss opportunities because we go to the same type of events, sit with the same people at meetings and have the same old conversations. Or worse still we bury ourselves in our phones and laptops so as to avoid the uncomfortable feeling of having to step out and start a conversation with someone we don’t know. Stepping out brings ideas, opportunities and new networks.

We all know that people are the conduit to success – or failure. How we build and leverage our connections, ultimately determines our ability to influence successfully. Influence our careers, influence our teams and influence our results. What can you do today to build your power as a connector?

As always I would love to hear your thoughts.


Why Inspiration Matters

February 20th, 2018

“We rise by lifting others” – Robert Ingersoll

In 2009 Simon Sinek gave a TED talk called How Great Leaders Inspire Action that has now been viewed more than 37 million times making it the third most popular TED talk ever.  The premise of his talk was based on the fact that inspired workers make for both stronger companies and stronger economies; and when people become more inspired at work it creates a positive ripple effect on those around them.  The sheer volume of unique viewers would suggest that his message clearly resonated and that many of us are looking for inspiration in what we do and who we work for.

In a culture that often seems obsessed with measuring things, the power of inspiration is often overlooked. Yet inspiration is not only one of the most powerful intrinsic motivators, it is also a springboard for creativity, innovation and growth. Despite it’s elusive nature its influence is far reaching for individuals, teams and organisations and results in very tangible outcomes.

There are many reasons why it could be overlooked: for some, ‘being inspired’ smacks of day dreamy, passive behaviour that requires an almost divine presence before work can be commenced; whilst for others it is often confused with positivity or charisma. Whilst inspiration can result in greater positive outcomes, mindsets and behaviours it is something that is deeply based in trust and requires action to create. Unfortunately for many though their examples of leadership be-it within their political, community or business circles fail to inspire them or others to think and act differently.

Author John Maxwell writes that too often the ranks of leadership are inhabited by a host of mirages: people who look impressive from a distance but up close end up being disappointments leaving those who work for them dry and thirsty for opportunity and development. After being fooled by a few mirages, followers all too often become mistrusting and jaded.

In a world that all too often looks and sounds ‘beige’, inspirational leadership has never been more wanted and craved. It does however require today’s leader to stand out, speak up and take action often in scenarios when many others remain quiet or committed to doing things in the same old familiar ways. However when employees are genuinely inspired, their trust and confidence is not only restored (or established) but they want to do more, contribute more and be more.

So how do great leaders inspire action? I would encourage you to consider the following 6 attributes and consider how evident they are in your own leadership style:

  • Communicate the ‘Why’: When people understand ‘why’ they do what they do they are more engaged, productive, influential and innovative. Inspiring leaders know this and work to ensure that individuals are committed to understanding their personal why and the ‘why’ behind what is required from them in their role and organisation.
  • Magnify Strengths: Tom Rath & Barrie Conchie, authors of Strength Based Leadership: Great Leaders, Teams and Why People Follow – conducted studies that revealed engagement increased eightfold when leaders focused on their employee’s strengths as well as their own increasing from 9% to 73%.
  • Pay Attention: To quote the old adage ‘people don’t care about how much you know until they know how much you care’. People who inspire know the ambitions, desires and motivations of those who work with them and how that impacts their engagement and productivity.
  • Be Available: Leaders who inspire, commit to investing time in those that they lead. This does not mean that they are available 24-7 but rather plan for ways to spend time that is purposeful, high impact and focused on developing individual contribution to support both personal and organizational success.
  • Empower Others: Inspirational leaders know who and how to trust others with what needs to be done. They provide opportunity; equip people with the right knowledge and tools; and work to remove the blockers that get in the way of success.
  • Challenge the Status Quo: Inspirational leaders are committed to creating excellence. They work hard to overcome apathy and look for new ways of thinking, doing and being that continually leverage opportunity, skillsets and mindsets.

Great leaders not only motivate, they inspire people to want to act. How are you inspiring action today?

As always I would love to hear your thoughts below.


Stronger Together: The Art of Inclusive Leadership 

February 14th, 2018

‘Tell me and I’ll forget; show me and I’ll remember; involve me and I’ll understand”
– Chinese Proverb

There is no doubt that the role of the leader is changing. With greater diversity than ever before in our workforces, in the markets we operate and in the way we work, you could be forgiven for feeling a little daunted by understanding what it will take in five, ten, fifteen years to successfully lead.

In a world that is often characterized by VUCA (high levels of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity) how do you plan, make decisions and influence for the future? How do you help people feel comfortable, confident and purposeful in the unknown? The trick is in helping them see that they are not navigating it on their own – that they are a part of something greater than themselves and that their ideas and contributions are not just valid but expected and welcomed.

The recent Deloitte report Fast Forward: Leading in a brave new world of diversity noted that there is an increasing need for leaders to be highly inclusive if they are to successfully lead and leverage the opportunities presented by a diverse workforce. When leaders do learn to become truly inclusive they capture a competitive advantage not just for themselves, but also for their teams and organisations. The reality is diversity itself is not enough – it’s how we capture the potential that is presented by it. If diversity is the glue, then inclusion is in knowing how to use the glue so that the right knowledge, skills, ideas and networks stick. Essentially we need to cultivate an inclusive culture and way of working in order to experience the benefits of diversity.

When we fail to act inclusively the result can be both polarizing and compromising. Failing to consult with a diverse representation of the business or with only a select few often sees the ‘exclusive’ and political mindset emerge. As a result people feel cut out of the loop and unable to see where their contribution is valued. Power plays start to emerge where people withhold information, ideas and networks and silo thinking becomes all too apparent. Disinterest and disengagement then become the real risk with highly talented people leaving and those that are unmotivated and resistant staying.

It is no secret that inclusive environments are strongly correlated with increased performance with a higher return on productivity and investment. If we feel a part of something that allows us to create and contribute meaning and value we are more actively engaged and motivated. We are also more likely to step out of our comfort zone and take on new challenges – to proactively face change rather than fear it. Inclusion is also associated with increased levels of well being and feelings of mutual respect and value. As a result consistency of performance and employee retention is maximised.

So what are the key traits of inclusive leadership? The research and subsequent report produced by Deloitte identified six signature traits of inclusive leaders in terms of what they think about and do. I would encourage you to consider how you can develop and include them in your own leadership toolkit:

  • Commitment: Inclusion requires us to actively commit to being open to learning and embracing new ways of thinking, doing and behaving.
  • Courage: To speak up, challenge and question the status quo of ourselves, others and the systems and processes we have within our businesses requires courage as it often means talking about imperfections.
  • Cognisance: Inclusive leaders are very self-aware and act with this in mind. They acknowledge that despite the best intentions they and their organisations are at risk of unconscious bias and actively seek to put in place policies and frameworks to prevent them from acting on them.
  • Curiosity: Highly inclusive leaders are constantly curious about different ideas and experiences that enable growth. They actively seek out new people, knowledge and ideas to propel themselves and their business forward.
  • Cultural Intelligence: In recognizing that not everyone sees the world through the same cultural frame we need to understand how our own culture, assumptions and stereotypes influence others and their behaviours.
  • Collaboration: No individual is greater than the team around them. Organisations that embrace and prioritise collaboration develop greater momentum and are twice as likely to outgrow their competitors.

As always I would love to hear your thoughts.


Why Great Leaders Are Amplifiers

February 6th, 2018

‘Amplifiers are the rare and extraordinary leaders who amplify the best in themselves and others. They amplify the messages that matter, amplify the positive mood in a culture and amplify the results achieved.’

– Matt Church

In a world that seems to feed off of negativity, drama and hype our ability to amplify the positive stories, opportunities and results around us has never been so important. Unfortunately for many, living and working in environments that predominately focus and feed on the failures and barriers that get in the way of success is all too familiar. The reality though is that there are many extraordinary events happening, results being produced and opportunities arising every day. We just need help in seeing and hearing about them – especially with the pace and diversity at which we have now become accustomed to operating in.

Great leaders know this. Not only do they recognize their occurrence but they proactively seek to highlight them and in doing so have a significant impact on those around them and their outcomes. Great leaders are like amplifiers who know how to effectively increase the volume and quality of sound whilst minimizing distortion and unwanted feedback.  They amplify the highest of qualities and eliminate the distractions and unwanted noise.

Leaders who can help others recognize this, be it for themselves, their teams or their customers and clients are invaluable. People feel more energized by their presence and more confident that success can be achieved with the right focus. They are driven to put their best foot forward and be a part of the ‘extraordinary’. Just as success creates success so to does the habit of belief that extraordinary results are possible.

To build high performance, we as leaders we need to ensure that our focus is on amplifying the individual strengths, extraordinary results and constructive behaviours that contribute to ongoing success. To do this we need to make sure we are attracting and employing the right people for our organisations and teams; that we are creating workplace cultures that recognise individual contributions and reward healthy positive behaviours (and importantly remove that are not); and that we give people the freedom to operate from a place of strength.

However as Jon Stewart so aptly notes ‘if we amplify everything, we hear nothing’. As such we need to learn to be discerning about what constitutes the ‘extraordinary and successful’. We also need to be brave enough to address the results and behaviours that detract us from achieving what we set out to do. Failing to do so results in a culture of ‘anything goes’ where the lines between success and status quo or healthy and unhealthy prevail.

As leaders I would encourage you to reflect on how you amplify the following 5 areas in order to build individual, team and organisational success:

  • Strengths: Tom Rath & Barrie Conchie, authors of Strength Based Leadership: Great Leaders, Teams and Why People Follow – conducted studies that revealed engagement increased eightfold when leaders focused on their employee’s strengths as well as their own increasing from 9% to 73%.
  • Behaviours: How we act and behave in our workplace is fundamental to success our individual and overall success. Invariably they are the ‘linchpin’ not only in our abilities to deliver but in the timeliness and quality the results produced.
  • Results: Recognising and applauding results – both incrementally and at the point of final delivery – is important in helping to define what ‘great’ looks like. Amplifying great results also helps drive engagement, energy and productivity.
  • Contributions: Often success is the ‘sum or parts’ where a number of individuals have played a role in supporting the overall delivery. Learning to acknowledge the contributions of others is fundamental to elevating healthy workplace performance.
  • Learning: Not everything we undertake is considered a success. How we embrace failure, recognise it and learn from it is fundamentally important to creating healthy environments that encourage us to step out of our comfort zone. It also supports our efforts to create new ways of working, innovate and problem solve.

As always I would love to hear your thoughts.


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