Archive for the ‘Blog’ Category

The Key to Leadership Vitality

November 6th, 2019

“Managing energy, not time, is the fundamental currency of high performance. Performance is grounded in the skilful management of energy”
– Tony Schwartz

Have you ever noticed how exceptional leaders who consistently deliver exceptional results personify the same traits? They tend to lead by example in the truest sense of this phrase. They not only seem to continue giving and delivering but they do it in a style that personifies confidence, fulfilment and passion.

With the holiday season on the very near horizon, a perfect opportunity presents itself to pause and take stock of both our own energy and vitality, and the effect – positive, negative or neutral – that it has on our teams and colleagues.

The lead up to the end of the calendar year is often one of the busiest, which means it is crucial to preserve energy, and to ensure that precious vitality isn’t swallowed up by the intensity of pre-holiday deadlines. With a new year on the horizon, maintaining your vitality and energy now is also a key step in preparing for a successful start to the new year.

We can begin this process of self-reflection by thinking of the leaders you have worked with who represent what it means to be ‘fully alive’ and brimming with vitality. How did they influence you, inspire you, or make you feel? No doubt you just felt better for being around them – more confident, capable and energetic.

These are the leaders who tend to inspire you and have a way of breathing life and vitality into both people and projects. Conversely if you have ever worked with people who are constantly tired, stressed or drained of energy and enthusiasm they invariably leave you feeling like you’ve had the life sucked right out of you. You walk out of meetings feeling deflated, directionless and unmotivated. One group radiates vitality and the other drains it.

The reality is when an organisation’s leaders and people are running on empty tanks, everything suffers. It is the loss of personal vitality that has a definable cost to the business and heavily impacts on both productivity and profitability. If we want to build and/or lead businesses rich in these things we need to start paying attention to the health and vitality of ourselves as leaders so that we can positively impact our people and our clients and customers.

Business vitality is often referred to as the degree to which an organisation is successful in the eyes of their customers, employees and shareholders. Measures of vitality will include client and employee retention, stock price, profits, revenue growth and operating costs.

Often referred to as the ‘soft measures’ things such as public trust, innovation, collaboration, employee well-being and employee engagement are also critical. More and more organisations though are realising that these so-called ‘soft measures’ are better viewed as the critical measures. For it is these critical measures that determine and drive the hard measures.

As the speed at which we do business continues to accelerate and the market volatility and rate of change remains a constant, vitality is fast becoming recognised as a ‘must have’ leadership trait. This trait become even more pronounced in times of high intensity within organisations – and at this time of year in particular. In a climate where we as leaders are constantly being asked to do ‘more with less’ ­– less resources, less money and less people – we need to ensure that we know how to effectively manage our energy levels and not fall into the all too common trap of responding by simply working longer hours. ‘If I just do more, work harder things will improve and I will get through it’. When we don’t simply ‘get through it’ we start to question our capability, purpose and impact. And our people notice it. It can all too easily become a viscous cycle that if we aren’t careful robs us; our people; and our businesses of vitality, essence and spirit.

Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz, authors of The Power of Full Engagement, argue that managing energy and not time is the key to personal and business vitality. They detail how mobilizing our key sources of energy, balancing how we spend it with how renew it and the energy habits we create, is critical to our success. Their recommended practices below for renewing the four sources of energy with the aim of becoming more vital are well worth examining.

Leadership vitality is about developing a critical life force that builds sustainable productivity and profitability. It starts with you. As the year draws to a close, I would encourage you consider how you can preserve your energy tanks to build vitality credits and how you can also begin to renew your sense of vitality over the break. You and your business will thank you for it.

Do you feel you are generating vitality as a leader? What do you notice when you feel your most energised within your business?

As always, I would love to hear your thoughts.

The Value of Global Experience

October 7th, 2019

“Success is when I add value to myself. Significance is when I add value to others” – John Maxwell

A new report was recently released in Australia about the struggle that expats have in both navigating the employment market and in leveraging their knowledge and skill set upon their return.

Through my work in career management, and in particular global careers, there have many been calls, coffees and emails – which are growing in number since the release of this report – where people have shared their experiences of frustration, pain and exhaustion in navigating their re-entry into the local job market. Australian expats are struggling to understand how to cut through the dire statistics, that clearly shows international experience is undervalued by recruiters in Australia.

The report found that 85% of returning Australians struggle to find work and 83% of recruiters are cautious about hiring returned expats. Additionally, “A third (34%) of returned expats aren’t even landing an interview for a potential role where their skills precisely match the job requirements. A quarter of returned expats (24%) are landing multiple interviews for various roles, and yet miss out on being offered the job,” the report adds.

There is no doubt that the Australian market is tough to navigate – and in particular for those who have been out of it for some time.

It’s comparatively small, is often regarded as lagging in up to date innovative thinking and diversity and can feel very narrow and at times apathetic in it’s operating practice. Recruiters and corporate Australia appear more often that not, closed to anything that looks or sounds different to the ‘average Joe’.

Overlay the fact that the market is highly networked and our culture is underpinned by the good old tall poppy syndrome, it comes as no surprise that many people are simply overwhelmed and highly frustrated by the challenges faced.

Given that we are all essentially hardwired to want to show up and make a valued contribution, not being able to see how or where to do this – or worse still feeling rejected or undervalued – is both infuriating and demoralizing.

However, global experience is a highly valuable commodity in the Australian market, even though it is difficult for recruiters to understand, and for repatriates to articulate.

The report revealed a positive sentiment among recruiters, where more than half (57%) agree that recruiting returned Australians has a longer-term strategic benefit. The report also went further to suggest that “expats returning home are key to unlocking corporate Australia’s competitive edge.” A recent story that appeared in the Australian Financial Review also highlighted that 80% of CEOs in the country have worked overseas at some stage during their career.

Creating value – and demand for that value – in what we do is challenging when we have been living and working outside of that market for an extended period of time. Just like a financial plan our career plan requires an investment strategy – and ideally one with compounding interest. Additionally,  it also requires a marketing plan if we are to overcome or mitigate the risk of feeling ‘out of sight, out of mind’.

The need for strategic career planning has never been more essential in the returning expat’s toolkit. However, many will only address this in a reactionary manner, starting the planning process only when the need arises.

Three widely known key attributes of wealth are utility, scarcity and marketability. In thinking about our careers, these attributes are similar. Clarity, demand and transferability are three career attributes that will build value and drive your career forward.

How can we use these three attributes to demonstrate genuine career value?

  1. Build Clarity: In what you can do – your core skills, knowledge and experience; what you want to do (motivations and values) and where you think you best fit (culture and environment). Remember, if you can’t clearly articulate it, others can’t see it or refer to it with any real confidence.
  2. Build Demand: If you can’t demonstrate relevance to the current market others won’t buy it – regardless of how much you think your expertise sets you apart from others. Creating demand for what you do and how you do it requires you to nail your value proposition in a manner that engenders confidence and makes you relevant for both today and tomorrow’s market in a cost effective and competitive manner. Engaging others to help you research, understand and link your expertise to current challenges and/or opportunities will help you build your positioning with influence and give people a reason to want to engage with you.
  3. Build Transferability: Re-entering a market where you have little to no local validation can be difficult. People often like to play it safe and make decisions or appoint through trusted advisors and/or when they can see that you have a support system that will support your transition. To demonstrate your nimbleness and resilience invest in your network, your learning and the industry you are a part of or are seeking to be a part of.

Navigating international transitions are difficult, but with the right road map, support and networks around you, the path can be made easier.

Whether you’re looking for counsel on your career plan and how to translate your international skills into the local market, or connect with other globally minded individuals, I offer programs and connections designed to make your return journey an enjoyable and successful one. I also offer this as a service for organisations designed to enhance the retention, engagement and productivity of international workforces.

As always, I would love to hear from you.

The Power of Knowledge and Action

September 4th, 2019

“Knowledge is not power … it is only potential power. It becomes power only when, and if, it is organised into definite plans of action and directed to a definite end.”  (Napoleon Hill) 

When we have momentum, we feel as though anything is possible and we can confidently take on new challenges. Other times, momentum can seem elusive and a struggle to develop.

It’s often hard to describe and yet it is nearly always our secret magic weapon to achieving success. At its best, momentum helps us remain focused, clear minded and forward thinking rather than stagnating.

One of the key roadblocks to momentum, for leaders in particular, often manifests in being caught up with the tactical execution of work, rather than focusing on the strategic and organisational management work that is needed to drive growth and leverage opportunities as and when they arise.

Businesses and their leaders know what they need to do but find themselves unable to do it because they don’t have people in the right place, or people with the right capabilities, which results in stalled momentum time and again.

The key to breaking out of this cycle is turning this knowledge – of what needs to be done – into action, which is often easier said than done.

The reality is knowledge is only useful if we do something with it. Whilst it is very important to develop a strategy, build intellectual capital and remain up to date and aware of new developments, we need to actually do something.

Whether it’s about implementing a new way of working, recruiting new skills for our team, getting fitter, saving more money or simply slowing down, too many businesses and individuals are finding themselves caught in the gap between knowing what they should do and doing what is actually required.

So how can we build a culture of action within our businesses?

Commit to taking action: Many of us have fallen into the pattern of researching, planning and refining our strategy as a way of telling ourselves we are busy ‘doing’ when really we are just playing safe. Essentially all we are doing is walking on a treadmill – yes we are moving but it is not actually taking us anywhere.

Lose the perfectionist tag: Perfectionism is the equivalent of paralysis. Not only does it prohibit us from taking the first step towards action, it also creates unwarranted stress, crushes creativity, prevents productivity and ultimately limits profitability.

Simplify: Leaders and organisations that use simple straightforward language, concepts and structures are better at closing the knowing-doing gap. Simplicity removes ambiguity, blame and confusion. It increases productivity, efficiency and creativity. Quite simply it is the fast track to creating action.

Invest in learning: Closing the gap on knowing and doing requires an investment in training and learning be-it for our organisations or ourselves. Developing expert skill-sets, efficiency and confidence requires commercial tolerance, time and a learning based culture or outlook. Recognising that as learners we need space to explore new ideas, make mistakes and embed new knowledge is critical to maximising the ROI on the learning investment.

Face the fear: Fear is one of the greatest enemies of success and progress. To close the knowing-doing gap we need to face it – both at an individual and organisational level. To take action we need to know that there will be no punishment for taking risks, making mistakes and exploring new ideas without a guarantee of success. If we fear for our jobs, our future opportunities or even for our own self-worth we are less likely to move beyond the safe confines of what we know and have done before which ultimately prohibits any form of growth.
Measure the right things: To encourage action we need to ensure that we are measuring the right things. Pouring all of our energies and metrics into scrutinising hours worked rather than levels of customer satisfaction is not going to drive future results. We need to demonstrate and see the value in what we are measuring and how it relates to what we do our future direction and our success.

Do you feel your business is effectively turning knowledge into action? What opportunities would you be able to tap into, if less time was spent in execution?

As always, I would love to hear your thoughts.

Unlocking Organisational Productivity

August 5th, 2019

“Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning and focussed effort” – Paul J Meyer

Productivity is never an accident. As business leaders today, we are constantly challenged to increase both productivity and profitability whilst being asked to conserve resources and do ‘more with less’.

As the quote above suggests, to do this requires an unwavering commitment to excellence, intelligent planning and highly focused effort. There is however one additional area I believe we need to build an unwavering commitment to developing: Trust.

Trust, which is widely regarded as the glue to any healthy and productive relationship, appears to be on the rise in some sectors of work, placing a greater emphasis building trust between the employee-employer relationship than ever before.

According to The 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer, trust has changed profoundly in the past year. In 17 markets including Australia, the research revealed that “people have shifted their trust to the relationships within their control, most notably their employers.”

The research showed that 77% of respondents in Australia trust “my employer”, which was considerably more than NGOs (56%), business (52%) and government (52%).

The correlation between greater organisational productivity was also strong, where employers that work to build trust will be rewarded; Australian employees who have trust in their employer demonstrate greater advocacy (80%), loyalty (71%), engagement (69%) and commitment (87%).

It comes as no surprise, then, that a lack of trust can not only mean a leadership crisis, but also a productivity crisis. When we don’t believe or trust those around us it not only sets in motion a tidal wave of negative attitudes and emotions, it actually significantly impacts our ways of thinking and behaving. So much so that it can all too easily become the biggest blocker to personal, team and organisational productivity.

Patrick Lencioni who is widely regarded for his work in team development and organisational performance identifies trust as the most basic requirement to building high performance. His pyramid The Five Dysfunctions of A Team defines the core problems of unproductive teams and subsequently by default the requirements for a high functioning and productive team:

 

Patrick Lancioni: The Five Dysfunctions Of A Team

Failing to build trust can affect each level of the pyramid, crippling the potential of a productive team if not established on a strong, trust-based foundation. Only people with high trust between each other will take risks, engage in healthy robust debate, seek solutions, commit to a vision, hold each other accountable and focus on delivering measurable results.

Stephen Covey’s analogy of trust as a tax or a dividend is particularly apt: When there is a lack of trust in a relationship or organisation, it is like a hidden tax that is placed on every transaction, piece of communication, decision and strategy, which brings speed down and sends costs up. By contrast, individuals and companies that operate with high levels of trust reap the benefits of a dividend that enables them to succeed by multiplying performance, productivity and capability.

Lack of trust therefore has the capacity to dramatically increase the cost of doing business and triple the delivery timeframes; where as high trust has the capacity to not only significantly save time, money and angst but also deepen relationships, build greater collaboration, career fulfillment and success for all involved.

So how do the most successful leaders build trust?

  • Establish purpose and commitment: from individuals and between individuals
  • Communicate honestly and transparently: by talking straight and keeping it real!
  • Ensure actions match words: removing ambiguity and taking the guess work out of situations
  • Deliver results: that offer lasting and meaningful value
  • Listen and observe: Not just to those that shout the loudest but to all members of a team
  • Demonstrate consistency: If you do what you say and say what you do, people will trust you
  • Remove the ‘landmines’: the hidden agendas, the vagueness and doubt
  • Clarify expectations, purpose and commitment: contributions, behaviours and attitudes
  • Value accountability: both for themselves and the team’s that they lead
  • Remain engaged: with individuals, objectives, processes and outcomes
  • Acknowledge and give credit where credit is due: both individually and publicly

For leaders, trust is two fold. There is a very real need to engender it and you need to be able to give it. Without both, productivity is almost always compromised. The most successful leaders recognise this and focus on creating it as a core objective.

Trust is not just a nice-to-have. It is a critical component of personal, team and organizational performance. It is a clear enabler of productivity and one that underpins your leadership skill set and true capability.

The logic is simple: if people trust you and that trust is reciprocated, they will give you their all. If people give you their all they are more willing to go the extra mile, more likely to perform at remarkably high levels and apply extraordinarily levels of discretionary effort. Productivity therefore becomes the natural outcome.

Do you feel your organisation’s leadership engenders trust? Where could there be opportunities to build trust within your business? As always I would love to hear your thoughts.

 

 

The Danger of Disconnection

July 3rd, 2019

“Conflict lives in people not knowing who they are – disconnected from their experience, living out of their heads, not their hearts” – Julio De Laffitte

Recently I met a senior executive whose energy and enthusiasm for what he did seemed to seep from every pore of his being. Not in annoying ‘Pollyanna’ sort of way but in a truly genuine and understated manner that made it seem so ridiculous that he would settle for anything less. In reflecting upon his career it was apparent that he hadn’t simply skipped along a gold paved path of career dreams, but rather travelled along plenty of ‘bumpy dirt roads’ with lots of tough life lessons, disappointments and hard work. There had been redundancies, restructures, great bosses, not so great bosses and several overseas assignments that saw him encounter great highs and presented some of the greatest challenges least of all navigating the journey ‘home’ only to find people and places that didn’t always feel quite so familiar any more.

Yet it was quite obvious that he loved what he did, enjoyed the interactions that came from the people he worked with and was challenged by interesting work that offered him great learning and rewards stretching far beyond the monthly paycheck. As a highly regarded senior executive who is seen by many as being at the top of the game, I asked him what he attributed his success and sense of career fulfillment to. His answer was one word: Connection. Being connected to who he truly was, doing what he knew he was good at, in places that valued it and being connected personally and professionally with people that truly mattered to him.

Much is written about workplace disengagement and what it costs us in terms of lost productivity not to mention opportunity or fulfillment. Recent statistics suggest that as little as 20% of Australian employees are actively engaged. That leaves a whole lot of people who are either stuck in the ‘beige-ness’ of work or who actively dislike what they are doing. Whilst disengagement and disconnection are two different things they often go hand in hand and I would also argue that it is very hard to maximise engagement without a strong sense of personal connection.

When you disconnect you shut down, switch off and disengage. Conversely when you are connected to what you do, you bring high degrees of determination, energy and dedication. You are able to leverage a strong sense of internal motivation, conviction and belief about the role you play and the value you deliver. When you combine this with an engaged workforce and environment around you the combination is powerful.

Whilst all managers and leaders play an integral role in building strong engaged teams, some of the responsibility also has to lie with us as individuals. I know that there are many times that I’ve worked in situations that were less than ideal, navigated challenging people and projects, but my sense of belief in what I was doing and care for how it was done, saw me remain connected and committed to delivering the outcomes agreed to. Whilst the environment and how we are led is extremely important so to is our personal connection to what we do.

In thinking about how you create a strong sense of career connection, I would encourage you to consider the following four tips:

Connection is personal: Understanding what it is that motivates, inspires and challenges you is unique to you. Getting clear on the business of you is critical if you are to identify the right workplace culture you wish to connect to.

Connection is a choice: You ultimately have a choice to connect or disconnect from what it is that you do, where you do it and who you do it with. Every choice brings a series of consequences so getting clear on what they look like is important if you are to make informed decisions and manage the outcomes from a place of confidence and control.

Connection requires honesty: You can’t fake connection – you either have it or you don’t. Learning to recognize what it is that builds that strong sense of purpose and connectedness requires you to be honest with yourself and those around you.

Connection is about accountability: Building and maintaining connection requires you to take responsibility for it. Often it requires an investment of time, effort and money to grow your own personal development and the opportunities required to seek out the right people and environments for you.

As always I would love to hear your thoughts.

Why Great Leaders Are Amplifiers

May 8th, 2019

‘”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.

Building high performance is greatly enhanced when we focus 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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