Posts Tagged ‘engagement’

Does Curiosity Really Kill The Cat?

March 8th, 2020

“I have no special talents. I am just passionately curious.” – Albert Einstein

The age-old adage, “curiosity killed the cat” seems to suggest that inquisitiveness is a dangerous thing; that it leads us down a path of danger, that it is fraught with hurdles and is an unnecessary use of time.

Curiosity, however, is an essential ingredient to great leadership and all too often, we fall into a pattern of accepting things at face value, perhaps because sometimes it seems easier or more convenient to continue as we do, particularly when nothing in particular may need fixing.

Science fiction author C. J. Cherryh famously said, “ignorance killed the cat; curiosity was framed!” Her statement could not be more accurate. A lack of awareness can mean we begin to accept things as they are and can quickly become stuck in our ways of working and doing business. Momentum is stalled and the ideas and innovation that can help to drive businesses stagnate.

So, it should come as no surprise that truly great leaders are also curious leaders.

They seem to be in possession of an extraordinary curiosity for exploring ‘the new’; for learning and discovery; for the possibility of what could be and not merely what is. They are motivated by the desire to improve and better their own lives, careers and the organisations that they lead. They are not satisfied with maintaining the status quo.

Being curious does not mean being distracted. In our hyper-connected world it is a challenge not to become overwhelmed and distracted with the world of information that is available at your fingertips. The ability to effectively channel your curiosity to the things that matter is what defines a ‘healthy curiosity’ and sets the truly successful people apart.

So why is curiosity important? Many articles highlight the value it brings, including helping us to overcome our fears, to building a greater sense of self-awareness and an ongoing cycle of learning. In thinking with curiosity, doing so also acts as a great source of influence, inspiration and motivation and leads to greater agility, innovation and creativity.  Additionally, it helps us to maintain and gain clarity, relevance and purpose in what we do.

Curiosity showcases your personal brilliance: Asking why or how helps us clarify situations and issues. It encourages us to adopt a proactive solution-oriented style of thinking rather than a reactive problematic view of the world.

With that in mind, how can we actively build curiosity in our own lives each day? What follows are five key actions you can take to help cultivate a greater sense of curiosity.

Commit to an open mind: Not only do we need to commit to learning and embracing the new, but also to unlearning and relearning. Our ability to change our view on the way that things have always been done and embrace new ways can be a continual challenge, however a curious mindset will actively support the embracing not only of new ideas but also new ways to approach things.

Ask questions – lots of them: Your outcomes and direction are greatly determined by the quality of the questions you ask yourself and those around you. Seeking understanding and not merely responses will help create and open up new opportunities, solutions and pathways.

Don’t accept the status quo: Challenge the norm – ask why? How many times have we heard the response ‘because that’s the way we’ve always done it’ or ‘that’s just the way we do things around here’ only to discover that the blind acceptance of the status quo is what is holding us back from achieving great things. Creating a safe environment that encourages exploration of the ‘why’ is a key part of developing critical thinking and action-oriented outcomes.

Adopt a healthy regard for learning: Successful individuals and great leaders are never satisfied with what they know. They advocate the need for lifelong learning and recognise that learning does not stop with the acquisition of a certain role or title. Seeing learning as fun and a source of motivation and knowledge will make you naturally want to dig deeper.

Collaborate: None of us have all the answers. Seeking out new relationships and engaging with those around you will ensure that the ‘ideas bank’ remains a rich resource to tap into. Not only does it make what we do more rewarding, but it also provides you with fresh thinking and different perspectives.

We all need to encourage and celebrate curiosity. We need it for both our own careers and the businesses that we lead. We need to see our organisations filled with people who know how to ask questions and who are experienced in finding answers and creating solutions; people who aren’t’ afraid to fall or fail for they know that they have the ability and confidence to stand and continue seeking out the best possible path forward. People who don’t want to settle for ‘what is’ but want to explore the ‘what if’ moments both for themselves and the organisations they work for.

Seeking out the world of possibility and not just accepting the world of ‘what is’ brings so many rich rewards and much fulfillment. Can you think of a recent situation in which your curiosity made a difference, or made a positive impact on your work?

 

Leading With Generosity & Gratitude

December 4th, 2019

“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give”

– Winston Churchill

In the giving spirit of the festive season, December is a particularly poignant time of year time to reflect on how we as leaders can demonstrate generosity, not only now, but all year round.

Leading with generosity goes hand in hand with generous leadership principles, and recently, David DeSteno, a professor of psychology at Northeastern University and a visiting fellow at Harvard’s Center for Public Leadership wrote an article that appeared in The New York Times on the positive effect of gratitude during Thanksgiving. His premise could be applied to our life and work all year round, however. While holidays such as Christmas prompt and instill a sense of gratitude he says: “Yet on the other 364 days of the year — the ones when you might feel lonely, stressed at work, tempted to dishonesty or stinginess — pausing to cultivate a sense of gratitude can make a big difference. Gratitude may not be needed on Thanksgiving, but giving thanks on other days can help ensure that in the future, you’ll have many things to be grateful for.

When we think of generosity, we often think of financial giving or involvement in charitable work. It may be exercised regularly through corporate social responsibility initiatives, and your businesses core values. However, we don’t naturally think of it in terms of business dealings or in what we do in our day-to-day jobs. Typically it is equated with what we do outside of business hours rather than what we do in them. What charities, community projects or family and friend endeavours we choose to give to financially or with our time.

Make no mistake, these endeavours are all noble and worthy acts of generosity and ones that we should seek out. However, overlooking the ways we can give generously through what we do and how we lead is not only a missed opportunity to leave our world in a better place but can be self-limiting to our own levels of fulfillment and future growth as well as to those in our teams.

Whilst true generosity is ultimately an altruistic act we more often than not receive things in return – and often abundantly. As leaders, this could transpire in the form of increased cooperation and collaboration, enjoyment in what we do, sheer goodwill and/or the fulfillment of seeing others succeed. Not to mention increased productivity and profitability.

If you were to take a moment to reflect on the colleagues and leaders who have left a positive mark on you and your career there would invariably be a common trait: Generosity of spirit. They are the people who gave freely of their time, knowledge and trust and who helped facilitate opportunities for you.

Adam Grant, author of the best selling book Give and Take looks at how and why our success today is increasingly dependent on the interactions we have with others. In essence, he flips the notion that it is successful people that tend to give generously, to the idea that it is those with a generous spirit who become successful. He believes that in a work environment there are three ways people generally operate: taking, matching or giving. Whilst takers seek to get as much as possible form others and matchers focus on trading evenly, givers are those rare people who genuinely contribute without expectation of receiving anything in return. His research shows that whilst some givers do occasionally burn out they are the group that are most likely to achieve extraordinary results regardless of what field they operate in.

Successful leaders are generous: they give freely and unreservedly and often. In reflecting upon some of the amazing leaders that I have either worked for or with there are some other common acts of generosity. They all:

  1. Give Opportunity: Opportunities to engage in meaningful challenging work and not just a list of tasks. Opportunities that extend and open up new thinking & learning, new networks and offer lasting impact.
  2. Give A Strong Sense of Belonging: They create environments that are safe and supportive, allowing us to bring our whole sense of self to the office and not just our work mask. They help you see the value in what you do and feel an intrinsic part of the team and organisation’s success.
  3. Give Guidance: Generous leaders seek to guide and not control. They offer constructive feedback rather than criticism and empower you to make decisions with strong frameworks of support.
  4. Give Space: Space to explore, create, grow, fail and make mistakes and most importantly to get back up confidently and go again.
  5. Give Information, Knowledge & Experience: Not only do generous leaders offer their insights they encourage others to do so as well. They understand that increased leverage and success comes with purposeful collaboration and open, willing minds not but holding tightly onto things.
  6. Give Credit: By recognising and appreciating the efforts of others the generous leader helps to create a sense of shared success. They understand the power of ‘We’ is much more powerful than ‘I’.
  7. Give Encouragement: Generous leaders encourage you to step out and try different things, take risks and push the boundaries of what you think you are capable of. They offer faith in you and push you to be the best you can be.
  8. Give Trust: Generous leaders understand that high performing cultures are rich in trust. Trust amongst each other, in each other’s talents, capabilities and values.
  9. Give Time and Energy: Generous leaders understand the importance of really listening and engaging. They offer their time, their total attention and interest in you, what you are doing and the outcomes you seek.
  10. Give Time Back To Themselves: The generous leader works hard to ensure that their batteries remain charged so as to enable them to give on an ongoing basis. They invest in time and energy in what reinvigorates them in mind, body and spirit.

Giving generously tends to inspire others to do the same. It also helps us create a lasting legacy for what we do, the people we work with and the businesses we have or work for. I would encourage you to explore how you can give generously through your leadership and inspire others to continue to ‘pay it forward’, not only as we race towards the end of the year but into 2020 and beyond.

Can you think of some ways you can integrate greater generosity and gratitude into your day-to-day leadership? As always I would love to hear your thoughts.

Completing the People Puzzle

November 7th, 2018

“It’s always the small pieces that make the big picture” – Author Unknown

It is no secret that business leaders and organisations are under enormous pressure to become more nimble and agile in how they do business if they are to grow their position in tomorrow’s global marketplace. As they face increased market volatility, changing workforce demographics, increased demands for flexibility and a constant demand to do more with less, understanding how to best leverage their ‘people capability’ in a timely and efficient manner will be critical.

Whilst we’ve often heard it said that the key to effective workforce planning is in ensuring that the right people are in the right place at the right time, doing so in a rapidly changing environment is often far more difficult and complex than anticipated. With many change processes taking lengthy times to deliver, it is not unusual for new business needs to emerge midway that require organisations and individuals to pivot or change direction. Doing so seamlessly though is the challenge!

According to the 2016 Hay Group report, Delivering Strategy Through People, direct people costs make up 40% of organisational costs. With almost half the workforce in complex, knowledge intensive roles that are key to the organisation’s success and profitability, the cost of getting the ‘people puzzle’ wrong is high. Whilst the phrase ‘right people, right place, right time’ certainly isn’t redundant, there is a view that it needs to be expanded to ensure that it remains relevant and impactful.

No longer are the ‘right people’ necessarily part of our organisational headcount. With access to the right talent and skills – and a growing self-employed and contract led workforce – accessing external talent pools for one off requirements and interim projects is often a very real and viable option. How we identify and engage the right people with these relevant skills in a timely manner is key and will require strong partnerships and relationships not only with our internal people but also those in the external market.

Where once the term ‘right place’ tended to refer to a geographical location, it is now more appropriate to consider what role or area within the organisation the skills are required. As we continue to move away from more traditional, hierarchical organisational structures to flatter more matrixed team based models, how we enable our people to move with agility and confidence into the ‘right place’ as required will be critical.

As businesses continue to navigate unprecedented amounts of change they will be required to make quick decisions around how they (re) deploy the skills and talents of their people if they are to capitalise on emerging opportunities or mitigate risk against market changes. To do this, they need an agile and resilient workforce that can nimbly move and respond at the ‘right time’ and are not change adverse.
There is no doubt that the optimal workforce lies at the intersection of all three areas. Failing to do so will leave you as a business leader and the organisation feeling like they are sitting on a two-legged stool unable to find balance and stability. When you are out of balance it is all too easy to end up with too many people ‘sitting on the bench’, no longer aligned to the organisational strategy and where engagement and productivity is risked.

What follows are my four key tips to completing the ‘people puzzle’:

Know where your skills are: Both within your organisation and in the external marketplace.

Foster agility: Help your people develop agile mindsets to support changing workplace structures.

Make it easy for people to adapt: Consider the systems and processes that support changing roles, teams and locations.

Communicate, communicate, communicate: Ensure transparency and timely communication is delivered to support engagement and productivity.

As always, I would love to hear your thoughts. Reach out to me below, or directly through LinkedIn.

Building Career Relevance

September 26th, 2018

‘Don’t count the days, make the days count.’ – Mohammed Ali

Over the last decade we have seen an unprecedented number of businesses pay the price of failing to remain relevant. Industries have been shaken up by creative disruption like never before; there is an increasing global competition for talent; a move towards flatter structures and the traditional concept of job security has almost entirely disappeared.

Failing to adapt is costly. The stories behind organisations such as Kodak, Dell and Blockbuster should serve as a timely reminder on the importance of relevance. Just as these businesses paid the ultimate price of losing not only market position but also their place in it, we too can face the same situation with our own careers if we fail to remain relevant with our own knowledge and skills and our teams, organization and industry.

With the majority of professionals working harder and smarter, as well as being more broadly skilled than at any other point in their professions it would be fair to assume that we are more strongly positioned to manage our careers than ever before. However with ever-increasing volatility on nearly all fronts – politically economically and in business – and technology advances occurring almost daily, individuals can face enormous challenges to remain relevant to the world around them. But these challenges can also provide enormous opportunity if we learn how to navigate them.

In their book The Start Up of You, Hoffman & Casnocha suggest that if we are to build long-term career success, individuals need to consider themselves as entrepreneurs and their careers as a start up business. As they note, ‘the skills that start-ups require are the very skills that professionals need in order to advance their careers: nimbleness, personal investment, strong networks and intelligent risk taking.”

It takes effort and energy to be relevant. Effort to invest in and apply the knowledge and skills required to do the job; and energy to connect and engage with others – to ask the right questions to find out what their thinking, understand their needs and offer meaningful support. As leaders, not only do we need to ensure that we remain relevant with our own careers but we need to support others do so as well. We need to genuinely connect with the needs of our people and help them align their careers with the ambitions of the organisation and industry they operate in.

So how do we best equip ourselves for career success and build relevance in what we do today and for the future? I would encourage you to consider the following six points:

Be ready for change: Change is here to stay! According to the Future Works Skills 2020 Report nearly one third of the workforce will be employed on a casual basis. Global connectivity, ‘smart machines’ – which will see a higher degree of automation in some roles and the complete redundancy of others – and new media are just some of the drivers that are reshaping the way think about work, what constitutes it and the skills we will require to be productive contributors to the future.

Understand your value: Understand what you need to ensure that you can act and react with nimbleness and agility. Ask yourself the following questions:
• Who uses my work and what they need most?
• What business outcomes drive my work?
• What is the cost of my work?
• What impacts the way I do my work and how has that recently changed?
• What are the opportunities to grow and scale what I do?
• How can I better help others in their role?

Become the expert: Invest in honing your knowledge and skills. Investigate key industry trends and challenges; recent business success stories and know who the key influencers and thought leaders are and why. Individuals who manage their own learning and development in partnership with their organisation are much more attractive to future employers and strongly positioned to remain in control of their own career and future opportunities.

Build a strategic network: Evaluate the strength of your current network and understand what support they offer Have you got the right people to support where you want to go or are you surrounded by people who are distracting you from your path. Invest in strengthening your professional support through the building of relevant alliances and ensuring that there is a diverse mix.

Challenge yourself: For many of us some of our richest experiences and greatest achievements have come from stepping outside our comfort zone. Pushing the boundaries and taking ‘intelligent risks’ brings new knowledge, new networks, new opportunities and lessons that sustain us well after the experience has ended. It also invariably generates energy and engagement in what we do.

Engage: Clarity comes through engagement. We need to take action to drive our career forward and engage through those around us so that we understand what ideas, projects and businesses are being discussed, celebrated and challenged.

As always I would love to hear your thoughts.

The Acknowledgement Factor

April 16th, 2018

‘Those who drink the water must remember those who dug the well’ – Chinese Proverb

Acknowledgement is one of those things that you often don’t miss until it’s not given. Be it in the acknowledgement of someone as they walk into a room, an email received, a mistake made, the contribution of others or great work delivered, failing to acknowledge can be frustrating, demotivating and at times simply rude. Most of us don’t need to think too hard or long about a situation that could have been transformed if we had simply been acknowledged.

Yet acknowledgement is something that is so easy to give. It doesn’t cost us anything, is not time consuming and the benefits yielded for both the recipient and the person making the acknowledgement can be far reaching. For most of us learning the act of acknowledgement was an integral part of our upbringing – learning to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, greeting others in a genuine and interested manner and showing respect to others by acknowledging them and their efforts. Unfortunately however whilst it is still taught it no longer seems to be a ‘norm’ in many of today’s organisational cultures.

With many organisations formally implementing reward and recognition programs there is no doubt that at some level, acknowledgment is valued. However this formal process should not and cannot replace the personal responsibility we have to acknowledge those around us and their contributions in our everyday actions. As leaders it is one of our greatest tools for building motivated, engaged and connected individuals and teams. Leaders with the greatest following are the ones who personally acknowledge others, appreciate their work and guide them to leverage their contributions. This act of personal acknowledgement not only helps to forge stronger relationships by building loyalty and trust with the individuals who work with us, but also helps to enable more productive and timely results.

So considering all the benefits why does the act of acknowledgement seem to be disappearing? Judy Umlas, author of The Power of Acknowledgement believes it is a new set of habits that need to be developed and cultivated for today’s way of working. All too often we fail or forget to acknowledge others, not because we are thoughtless or unkind, but simply because we can’t always see what warrants it and our more traditional ways of recognising it no longer apply. As such we no longer acknowledge it. Bob Nelson, a leading engagement expert argues that the habit of acknowledgement is simply disappearing from our culture. We have become so use to not giving or receiving it that we no longer look for ways to give it.

There is no doubt that the fast paced and often frenetic ways that we now work require us to learn to ‘see’ what is happening around us in a different way. Coupled with the impact of technology, flexible and remote work environments and the ways we communicate, the way in which we observe each other’s contribution and the way we acknowledge has certainly changed enormously. However despite all these changes we still need to be acknowledged for what we have done. We need to feel connected to what we do, who we do it with and how we offer value to the team and organisational purpose.

So how do you cultivate the habit of acknowledgement? I would encourage you to consider the following seven steps:

  • Commit To Looking For Opportunities: To identify them you need to firstly commit to looking for them. Reflect on each of your team members and stakeholders and consider what they are currently working on, what they have delivered and where their high value contribution is.
  • Audit Your Daily Routine: Often there are numerous opportunities to acknowledge others in our every day routines. The people you walk past on your way to your desk each morning, the commencement of meetings, the incidental tasks that others just naturally assume responsibility for, your regular client and supplier conversations.
  • Be Genuine: As with all communication, the benefits of acknowledging of others lies in the sincerity and purpose in which it is given. Be considered with you are acknowledging and how.
  • Be Timely: Don’t wait! Like feedback, acknowledgement is best given as close to the result is delivered or event occurs. The timeliness reinforces the value of the contribution to the here and now and often serves as a motivator for further effort.
  • Don’t Delegate It: Personal acknowledgement is just that – personal! It can’t be delivered with as much impact if delivered by your assistant or colleagues. You need to take ownership of your appreciation.
  • Consider How: To deliver meaningful acknowledgement you need to consider both who you are delivering it too and what the most appropriate format is for that person. If they hate public acknowledgement, think of something that will hold real meaning for them. Sometimes the value of a hand written card can’t be under-estimated!

Like all habits that need developing, we need to prioritise and practice the act of acknowledging others. However when we do, the benefits are enormous, both for us as individuals and for the people who we lead.

As always I would love to hear your thoughts.

Margot

 

Unlocking Potential

December 6th, 2017

There is no man living who isn’t capable of doing more than he things he can do

– Henry Ford

Barely a day seems to go by where we don’t hear about the volatility and uncertainty of the business landscape, the economy and the employment market.

Businesses say they are struggling to find the right people to help them navigate this ever changing landscape; whilst individuals say they are struggling to find the right roles and/or organisations that allow them to showcase their talents and have real influence and impact.

PWC’s recent global survey found that 63% or CEO’s and business leaders don’t believe they have the talent needed to support their future growth. Further studies indicate that almost the same percentage of employees don’t believe that their managers and leaders understand their real capability or future career ambitions.

There is no doubt that this misalignment is hurting individual careers and impeding business growth. In a landscape characterized by what is now being commonly referred to as VUCA – Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity – we all need to rethink how we develop both our own careers and those of the people that we lead. If we don’t we will find ourselves unable to navigate what is currently in play or what lies ahead.

The bottom line is individual’s need to get better at showcasing their potential; and organisations need to get better at identifying it.

With research suggesting that the top 10% of employees are more than 2.5 times productive and efficient than their counterparts, there is no doubt that showcasing and spotting real potential is critical to future proofing our success.

So how do we spot it and what are it’s key indicators? I particularly like Claudio Fernandez-Araoz’s (from global search firm Egon Zender) identification of the following 5 key elements.

As you read through them I would encourage you to take a moment to think about how you showcase each element. For those of you who are responsible for growing business capability and talent pipelines consider them as a guide to spotting potential in your team and organisation.

  1. Motivation: Inpossession of a fierce commitment to excel in the pursuit of unselfish goals. Individuals with high potential are ambitious big picture thinkers who are driven to leave their mark by continually improving on what and how they deliver. They are not driven by selfish motives but rather are keen to contribute for the greater good of their team and organisation.
  2. Curiosity: A thirst for exploring ‘the new’; for learning and discovery; for the possibility of what could be and not merely what is. Individuals are motivated by the desire to improve and better their own lives, careers and the organisations that they lead. They are not satisfied with merely maintaining the status quo.
  3. Insight: The ability to collect, interpret and apply new information that invariably brings with it new possibilities. People with high potential know how to navigate change and make sense of emerging trends, technologies and practices.
  4. Engagement: A nack for using emotion and logic to communicate a persuasive vision and connect with people. Individuals possess the capability to harness capability, motivations to drive collective outcomes and results.
  5. Determination: A dogged persistence and wherewithal to pursue difficult goals despite the challenges and roadblocks that may lie ahead. People with high determination also know how to ‘bounce back’ and recover from frustration, disappointment, failure and adversity.

It is worth noting that there is a significant difference between high potential and high performance. Mistaking the difference can be costly for all involved. No doubt we have all worked with or heard of the top sales rep or technical lead who is promoted to manager and in the process struggles to transition from being the best in their field to helping others become their best. The results are often sliding performance and heightened frustrations for all involved, which ultimately hurt morale and drive turnover.

Converting high potential to high performance is always going to be the key to maximizing growth and opportunity – be it business or personal. To do this we need to start considering and offering development opportunities that push us out of our comfort zones. For it is when we operate outside of our comfort zone and stretch ourselves that the five elements of potential can be adopted and showcased…. And where the real magic happens.

As always I would love to hear your thoughts below.

Margot

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