Posts Tagged ‘accountability’

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.

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.

Mastering the Art of Delegation

October 24th, 2018

“The best leaders are the ones have enough sense to pick good men to do what they want done and self restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.” – Theodore Roosevelt

We all know that our success is greater than us as individuals. However when it comes to letting go, entrusting others and delegating it can be easier said than done.  Building teams and surrounding ourselves with those who are not only willing and able, but who also value quality and pursue excellence is what we as leaders all aspire to do. But are we our greatest challenge? Are we limiting our success by not mastering the art of delegation?

Make no mistake, you can make or break your leadership success by the way you delegate… or in your failure to delegate. Great delegation not only saves time, money and frustration, it also provides you with an opportunity to build capability and capacity in your people. It is a balancing act that not only requires you to understand how to delegate but what level of delegation to adopt.

Recognising how and why you delegate (or not) is quite possibly the key to working out how to do it properly. For most people, they simply don’t do it because it takes a lot of effort up-front. When you are capable of carrying out the task or project in your sleep and it is relatively straightforward for you to complete, it is very tempting to adopt the mindset of “It’s just quicker and easier if I do it myself’. The big question though is ‘Would it be a good use of my time?’ If you do this for all the little things that you are more than capable of, you will very quickly find yourself not only operating at a lower level but also missing opportunities for yourself and your team because you are too busy to see them.

The second reason that many people fail to delegate is that they find it difficult to relinquish control. How often have you felt the wave of disappointment with the results of what you have delegated? The results don’t match what you had expected or aren’t in line with the way in which you would have done it. Sometimes this is due to the person carrying out the task but sometimes it is also the fault of the person giving the task or project. Understanding what level of delegation is appropriate for the project and to what person is key.

At the heart of effective delegation is communication and clarity. As leaders, you firstly need to be very clear about what you must do versus what you entrust to others. Gaining buy-in or desire from others to want to support and be involved is the next critical step to ensuring quality outcomes are achieved. People are much more engaged and committed to delivering on a responsibility when they have been bought through a process of agreeing to it. By investing in time to explain, discuss and agree the critical outcomes, responsibilities and timeframes you are creating robust frameworks for success.

Understanding who to delegate what to and the extent of freedom to deliver is possibly one of the hardest aspects to mastering the art of delegation. It is also a fundamental driver of organizational effectiveness and the growth of your people, as well as your own success.

To do this effectively you need to understand the capability of your people and what you require in order to remain ultimately accountable as the manager. I would encourage you to think about the 6 levels of delegation below and where they may best apply to you, your current team and projects. Each level progressively offers more autonomy and ownership for the person(s) involved.

  1. Instruction: ‘I need you to do exactly this…A,B,C’
  2. Investigation: ‘Can you please gather me information on XYZ and come back to me for a decision’
  3. Investigation and Decision Making: ‘Once you have all of the information, let’s sit down together to discuss and decide next steps’. A higher level of this could include the additional step of being advised what help is required from you as a leader.
  4. Analysis and Recommendation: ‘What is your view of the situation and recommendation for proceeding?’
  5. Recommendation and Sign Off: ‘Let me know your decision and why before checking back in with me to proceed’
  6. Manage and Inform: ‘Happy for you to do what you think is best, just keep me in the loop or report back to me by X time’

Underpinning the success of all levels is the communication and support frameworks that surround them. Open, transparent and timely communication is critical if people are to feel empowered and supported in what they need to do. Opportunities to ask questions, collaborate and discuss outcomes at any point will not only empower individuals but also motivate and drive commitment to the project and the results.  Without these frameworks in place you run the risk of ‘upward delegation’, which occurs when people run into trouble and they shift their responsibility back to you.

As leaders we all have an obligation to not just deliver on our core responsibilities but to maximise results and opportunities for our business and our people. For those who learn to master the art of delegation, they learn to do this not just for others but also for themselves.

What are some of the biggest challenges you find when delegating? As always, I would love to hear your thoughts.

Turning Knowledge Into Action

October 10th, 2018

“The greatest gap in the world is the gap between knowing and doing” – John Maxwell

These days we seem to know a lot. Not only is there an extraordinary amount of up to date relevant information available on almost any topic we can think of, our access to it has never been easier. Books, blogs, podcasts, training programs, knowledge management systems and devices are everywhere and yet one of the biggest questions for both businesses and individuals alike is ‘Why can’t we get anything done?’

For many of us we simply seem to be drowning in a sea of good intentions. Whether its 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.

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. This means tackling the hard work, rolling up our sleeves and getting stuck in. As leaders, this doesn’t mean that you have to do everything but you have to actively engage and play your part. Failing to do so sees us risk both business and career success.

Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert Sutton, authors of the book The Knowing-Doing Gap: How Smart Companies Turn Knowledge Into Action argue that one of the main barriers to turning knowledge into action is the tendency to equate talking about something with actually doing something. As they note, all too often talk is valued because the quantity and ‘quality’ of it can be easily assessed immediately where as the ability to get things done requires a greater timeframe. The risk therefore is that our impressions of others are based on sounding smart rather than on how they perform.

No doubt many of us have borne witness to this in our own workplaces – Individuals who are able to speak the talk but not walk the walk. The long-term damage is enormous and does nothing than more than erode trust, confidence, engagement and action. The bottom line is no results or benefits are ever achieved or enjoyed simply by talking about something – or by just making a decision to do something. It still needs to be followed with effort to implement.

So how do we build a culture of action for our businesses, teams and ourselves?

Understand the why before the how: As managers and leaders all too often we want to quickly learn the ‘how’ – what do I need to I immediately do/adopt rather than understanding the ‘why’ in terms of drivers and goals. The real danger is when we expect our teams to also adopt this framework of thinking as it can easily create an overly dependent culture that is devoid of learning, independent thinking and ownership.

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.

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 paralysers 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.

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.

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.

The real challenge for us is to make knowing and doing the same thing. It is only when we do that we will drive a culture of action for ourselves and the businesses that we lead. As we head into the last quarter of the year I would encourage you to think what it is that you want and need to do to close the year out successfully.

As always I would love to hear your thoughts.

Creating Career Choice

August 30th, 2017

“You are free to choose, but you are not free from the consequence of your choice.” 

It is said that the average working person makes approximately 15 decisions before 9am. For some of us the first decision can be something as minor as how many times can I hit the snooze button before getting up! Every day though we face thousands of decisions. Some are relatively small such as what will I wear; whilst others are much more significant. Some have short-term effects and others more long term effects. However, regardless of what our decisions are – action or no action – there is no escaping the fact that we all live with the consequences of our choices.

Creating career choice is one of the greatest challenges we all face – especially as we progress through the ranks of experience and seniority. Given the fast moving and ever changing nature of the world today, we as individuals and leaders need to have a passion for personal growth and development. Having a solid road map for that growth and development is essential if we are to continually expand both our capabilities and our degree of choice.

No doubt each of us will have a friend or colleague who always seems to be surrounded by several career choices that are the perfect fit for them. What is it about those people that somehow catches the eye of others; or when they put their hand up for a change there seems to be not one but several choices for them to consider? I believe it is due to several factors:

  1. Clarity about what they want
  2. Confidence in pursuing their ambitions
  3. Relevance to their organisation and market place

As readers of this blog you will know that I believe that the three keys to creating career success are clarity, confidence and choice.

Omitting or disregarding the factor of choice is like electing to sit on a two-legged stool. Whilst you can balance for a while, in time it becomes unstable and down right dangerous. Unstable and dangerous because you are at risk of losing control over your own career pathway and your level of fulfillment.

Take a moment to reflect on a time in your career when you have felt as though you were left with no choice but to adopt a certain decision, accept a certain job or follow a certain path. Invariably you will have felt caged in, disempowered and frustrated. Conversely when you feel as though you have had a choice on how to act or where to invest time, money or effort, you will have felt empowered, confident and in control.

With stagnation – and not failure – being the real risk to our career, we need to ensure that we are investing our time and efforts in building personal capability and relevance to the organisations we work for and the markets we work in. Failing to do so will see our career choices dramatically diminished.

So what actions can you take to create career choice?

  1. Evaluate: Get clear about what you want! This requires you to fully understand your own skills, behaviours, motivations and preferences.

If you are to create genuine growth and or change in your career you also need to evaluate what steps are required to elevate your capability, career currency and relevance to either your current employer or the market place. What can you do to build and leverage your experience and showcase it?

Without this degree of clarity you risk not identifying the choices before you.

  1. Prepare: Once you have clarity about what you want, you can prepare a strategy or road map for getting there.

For some, understanding that the best thing they can do right now is excel in the opportunity they currently have will provide renewed focus and energy for their role at hand. Additionally it will allow them to implement a long-term strategy of career leverage with confidence and purpose.

For those who are actively exploring the market, preparing a personal business and marketing plan will be critical to their effectiveness in engaging with potential organisations and people of influence.

  1. Act: Engage: with your team, your business, your market and your network. Listen to what you hear from both sought and unsought sources. Validate what you hear. Does it apply and if so, how?

 Understanding that we need to continually act, adapt and in many cases unlearn and relearn is what will build and sustain relevance to our business and market.

Life is full of choices and there is a natural give and take in every resulting decision. Even choosing not to act is still a choice. To make wise, well-informed and educated choices you must weigh up the risks against the potential rewards.

When it comes to career decisions rarely will they ever be black and white, all good or all bad, completely right or completely wrong. They are multi dimensional and require you to look at the opportunity(s) with your own unique lens that is reflective of your own personal ambitions.

Understanding though that our long-term growth and success is the result of conscious choices and deliberate effort is critical if we are to create real momentum and fulfillment. Learning how to recognise and create choice is what will set us apart.

As always I would love to hear your thoughts below.

 

Margot BLACK Signature

 

Leading With Generosity

August 21st, 2017

All too often when we think of generosity we think of financial giving or involvement in charitable work. 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 & 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 fulfilment 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 fulfilment 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 as 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’.

As always I would love to hear your thoughts below.

Margot Andersen

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