Archives for posts with tag: Leadership

In my last post my 3 big things with workshops grouped conveniently – if a little artificially – into an ABC aide memoire. No such luck this time?

I’ve mentored staff in my marketing and sales teams, and I’ve also mentored early stage companies, which can often be a one-person company, over the last handful of years in a consulting capacity. Here’s what I’ve found to be best for those being mentored, again helpfully arranged in an A-B-C format.

Ask questions. As a mentor you’re a sounding board for the person being mentored. It’s a chance for them to talk through their rationale and approach with an experienced other party who is detached, impartial and objective. Probing with questions can allow you to drill into the detail and challenge, play devil’s advocate and ultimately help validate what they’re doing.

Build structure and process. The job of a mentor I think is to help the person being mentored see the next few steps towards their desired destination. Structure and process combine to give them some direction long after the mentor session finishes. Structure provides the framework to hang the various elements and process gives them an order for doing things.

Coach. I think our job is to coach, providing suggestions and approaches that we’ve seen work well before, rather than to tell them what to do. That seems to be the best way for them – and their businesses – to improve over time, as they grow in confidence and independence.

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I’ve done a few workshops over the years, and, as they say, I’m learning all the time. Each workshop is different and requires a unique preparation and approach, but when you’re repeating the same workshop content to a different group of attendees then you definitely improve as you go. Some things work well, and others less so.

Here’s my ABC of things that work well in workshops.

Advertise collaboration. OK, so the A is a bit forced, but ABC brings the post together nicely. They day is much more productive for attendees, and goes more quickly for everyone, when there’s plenty of interaction and discussion, so I always ask for is and encourage it. Otherwise it turns into a one-directional classroom arrangement which is tedious and no-one learns anything. We learn by doing and getting feedback from our peers as well as the workshop leader.

Build in Breaks. Secondly, make sure the day is punctuated by breaks, because attendees often have urgent things to attend to with their day job and also they get invaluable benefit from being able to network with other attendees. As long as you’re punctual with the punctuations, regular breaks work really well.

Behaviours. Here a bonus B. Workshops are often mini-change management exercises, and are simply a nicer word for training. If you’re looking to establish new behaviours, then you need to treat the workshop as one step in a process. I like to give pre-work to be done before the workshop, to get people to start thinking about what I want to cover, and I like to follow up after the workshop (anything from a week to 6 weeks after) to see how the new behaviours are bedding in and offer some corrections if required.

Challenge. It tends to be a benefit to the attendees if their assumptions, assertions or approach are challenged by the workshop leader or other attendees – constructively. If their approach is found to be robust enough to withstand criticism or questions, then great, that’s good validation. If not, then it will improve as a result of the additional viewpoints, input and recommendations.

 

 

 

Do as I say, not as I do. This is the standard coaching refrain. We expect the people we coach to put our instructions into practice. We demonstrate by our words not our actions. This can be for a number of reasons:

  • They’re better at it than we are
  • We can’t do it that way
  • We cant do it that way any more
  • We don’t do that way because we do it in an engrained way we can’t or won’t get out of
  • We do a short-cut version of it because we know it inside out but we need them to learn all the steps and how the steps relate to each other before they’re good enough to expedite the whole thing

This is a tough ask in coaching because we’re trying to lead by words, not by our actions which is the standard way to inspire people. At some point every coach will hit this if the people they’re coaching become better at it than they currently are. That’s what you want as a coach, at least a good one.

In business this is slightly different. We’re supposed to coach rather than manage, otherwise our direct reports don’t get a chance to learn it for themselves and grow into the role, eventually expanding beyond it. In business you can’t expect to instruct someone how to follow a process and then not follow the process yourself. Chances are they won’t follow the process you want them to and they won’t respect you either.

The answer, in sports as well as business, in fact in everything as well as business, is to come clean and be honest. ‘I don’t do this myself because [insert honest reason] but I’m advising you to do it this way because it is the best way, and you will get the best results from it.’ Then you have to let their actions, and their results, do the talking.

 

I used to work for a CEO who would give his considered feedback thus, ‘So Paul, just a few thoughts…’

I’ve expressed my dislike of the word ‘just’ before, but in this case it is well used. Coming from your CEO, ‘just a few thoughts’ could be translated into one of two ways. First, it’s ‘here are a few things you need to do to this version before I’m happy with it.’ The second is ‘here’s my feedback, your call on what you do to improve the document.’

How you interpret those few thoughts depends, of course, on you, your boss, and your working relationship. Do you have genuine autonomy, and work for someone who’s leadership style is the right blend of genuine delegation and guidance? Or do you work for someone who prefers to sign everything off and in effect has a more micro-managing style? If either is the case, what do you need to stop doing, start doing or continue doing to progress?

Over time we learn the style of the people we report into it and we become finely attuned to how they operate, what their values are, and what’s important to them. When we work successfully with them we’re effectively selling to them. I used to work with another CEO who would repeatedly say ‘yes’ at breaks in the flow while I was pitching an idea or a project to him. I used to call it the ‘yes that means no’. I knew that he was not with me and I needed to re-approach differently or pick another battle.

When you ask your CEO for feedback on a second version, and you get the ‘just a few more thoughts,’ well, then you’re probably running out of time…

This seemingly innocuous post is, as it turns out, a very important post for me, perhaps the most important in a long time. And I don’t mean for me in an ‘in my opinion’ sense; I mean for me personally.

I have a theory. It goes like this. There are leaders. They’re leaders in their field. We see them on screen, we hear about them or listen to them, we read about them. They might be sports people, musicians, business people, artists, inventors politicians, not-for-profit innovators, entrepreneurs. They might be the best at something that we do for leisure. They’re 1 in a 100, maybe more.

Then there are us. The rest of us. We’re the other 99, or 999, making up the overwhelmingly huge majority of the seething mass of humankind. We’re not the best at any one thing, so we don’t get watched, written about or listened to.

Yet almost all the external stimuli in the world come from the 1%, are about the 1%, intended for the consumption of the 99%. It lets us into the world of the 1% and encourages us to strive to join that elite club and leave the world of the also rans behind. More importantly, it’s our consumption of the 1%’s activities that provide the economics for the rich and famous to be rich and famous. The model doesn’t work otherwise.

What are we to do about this? Should we do anything?

This topic has preoccupied me for a long time. Actually, a very long time. For some of that very long time I’ve been turning my thoughts into a book which explores the topic in detail. But for now, I think it’s a fascinating conundrum.

In a previous post I talked about the 3 things a CEO needs to do really well. There are also 3 things that are equally important for the leader of the business not to do:

1) Interfere. You’ve hired the best people in the key roles – according to rule 3 of the previous post – so let them do their jobs

2) Push the HIPPO. The Highest Paid Person’s Opinion doesn’t count as much as much as the data and information coming into the business

3) Let them know who’s boss. They know you’re the boss, and modesty, humility and honesty are much more admirable traits in a leader

There are 3 things a CEO or Managing Director should be able to do really well:

1) Articulate the vision of the company, consistently and regularly

2) Ensure the financial welfare of the company. Secure the money in – accounts receivable and funding – watch the cash flow, keep to the budgets

3) Hire the best people possible in the key roles, either those with form or those who can grow into the role.

Master those 3 and you’re well on your way.