Re-building working relationships with emotional intelligence


By Elisabeth Goodman, 9th August 2019

Emotional intelligence - the basics

Emotional intelligence – the basics. Illustration by Robin Spain for RiverRhee

The Summer issue of APM’s (Association for Project Management) Project magazine has a couple of excellent articles on rebuilding relationships.

Susanne Madsen (p. 63) addresses how to strengthen your relationship with internal stakeholders who have become cynical and negative over the years.

Marion Thomas and Sarah Walton (pp. 65-67) have an amusing article about how to take on adversarial project team members. They suggest that team members fall into one of 5 types (the adjectives are my additions):

  • enthusiastic advocates
  • supportive allies
  • passive associates
  • problematic adversaries
  • unhelpful abdicators.

As the names imply, some types will be more harmful in their effects on your work than others.  People can also flip between categories depending on changing pressures on them, or even how you interact with them.

As all three authors point out, there is a lot that can be done to repair such damaged relationships in a very positive way.  These strategies rely on engaging your emotional intelligence.

Oh and never use email to do this – face-to-face is always best to pick up on body language as well as tone.  The telephone is a back-up option if face-to-face is not possible.

Here are a few tips, inspired by the articles and also with a few of my own elaborations.

 1. Assume positive intent.

It’s amazing how much of a difference the ‘going in’ attitude that you adopt in your interactions with others can make.  It’s very true that “behaviour begets behaviour” – and that others will very often reflect your behaviour.

As Susanne Madsen says – someone else will sense if you feel negative when you approach them and are likely to become hostile in return.  It’s an almost automatic emotional response.  Her advice? Present yourself as a friend rather than a foe.

2.  Try to see things from the other person’s perspective.

We have a tendency to think that someone is a difficult person, or being difficult, whereas what might be happening is that they are struggling to find the best way to deal with a difficult situation.

Marion Thomas and Sarah Walton take a similar stance:

When people are being difficult there is usually an underlying reason

Here is what Susanne Madsen suggests:

If you are in doubt about somebody, assume that their need is to feel listened to, accepted and appreciated.  That thought alone can transform your professional relationships.

We need to use our best observational, questioning and listening skills to understand another person’s perspective.

Then, if we can at least acknowledge the situation that they are dealing with, and maybe even help them with it, we will ultimately make our working relationship with them that much stronger.

3. Connect with the whole person – rather than with aspects of their behaviour. 

This is something that Marion Thomas and Sarah Walton explain very well.

They suggest that you aim to get to know something about the other person that enables you to connect with them at a personal level as well as at a professional one.  It might be something that they enjoy doing in their spare time, something about their home situation, a personal ambition.  You might be able to share something about yourself that might help them to connect with you too.

Connecting with someone as a person should make it easier to keep any ‘difficult’ occurrences in perspective, and also to open conversations about them.

4. Pick your battles

This is based on another point made by Marion Thomas and Sarah Walton.  They suggest that you assess the impact of any apparently negative or adversarial behaviour, and then match your action appropriately.

In some cases the ‘damage’ may be one of discomfort only, that can be safely ignored.

In other cases it might be more damaging for instance to team morale, or to the quality of service to customers, or to the outcome of a piece of work.  In these situations, you will need to take action.

Actions will include:

  • Engaging other people who are better positioned to influence them – perhaps because they have a good relationship with them
  • Speaking directly to the person concerned (see point 5. below)

5. Articulate your perception of a situation and seek a way to address it collaboratively.

Any interaction involving emotions is very easily influenced by assumptions and misunderstandings.

If:

  • assuming positive intent
  • trying to see things from the other’s perspective
  • connecting with them as a person
  • using the influence of others

have not somehow addressed a situation, then it’s time to articulate what you are observing.

As Thomas and Walton point out, it’s a good idea to prepare well for any discussion of this type by:

  • Thinking about the other person’s style of working and communicating and how you can approach them in a similar style
  • Looking for any positive aspect of their behaviour and/or work that you can speak about in terms of the value that they bring
  • Gathering evidence that you can use to illustrate the behaviour that you are observing and what a difference changing it would make

This is about trying to engage their emotional intelligence to understand the consequences of their actions.  The skill is to do this objectively, non-confrontationally, without implying blame.

A good tactic is to talk about the behaviour that you have observed, how you are feeling about it, and the different result that you would like to achieve.  If you can encourage and persuade them to find a better way forward, or if you can work collaboratively to find one, then you will get a  much more robust and longer lasting outcome.

Notes

There is more about using emotional intelligence to manage conflict in one of my earlier blogs: Conflict is the lifeblood of high performing organisations.

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting., a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We support our clients through courses, workshops and personal one-to-one coaching.)  Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  RiverRhee is a member-to-member training provider for One Nucleus. 

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner. She is a member of CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals) and of APM (Association for Project Management) in which she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.

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The soul of a start-up, nimble leadership, flexibility and control


By Elisabeth Goodman, 5th August 2019

Remember Gary Hamel’s article last November about how to retain employee engagement in growing and large organisations?

The latest issue of Harvard Business Review (July – August 2019) carries two articles that provide some stimulating and converging ideas about how to achieve employee engagement through a combination of control and flexibility.

It is good food for thought in the context of another article on employee engagement, from the 31st July Business Weekly, which I reference in the conclusion at the end of this blog.

The start-up “soul”

The first article is by Ranjay Gulati (a professor at Harvard Business School) which essentially shows us how to retain engagement in start-ups.  It all hinges around what he calls “the soul of a start-up” – discovering what this is for your organisation, and then putting in measures to retain it.

The soul of a start-up

Image inspired by Ranjay Gulati’s article: “The sould of a start-up”, HBR July-August 2019, pp. 84-91

Ranjay Gulati studied more than a dozen fast growing ventures, and interviewed 200-plus founders and executives to help him reach his conclusions.  Although the companies he spoke to are US-based, and did not include the kinds of Life Science SMEs we work with at RiverRhee , what he deduced certainly resonates with our experiences.

THe three dimensions of a start-up’s “soul”

Ranjay Gulati has identified three dimensions (“the spiritual trinity”) of a start-up’s “soul”:

1/ Business intent. Employees are energised in SMEs by being connected with what their organisation aspires to achieve – also referred to as the vision, mission, purpose, or meaning of their work.

2/ Customer connection. An intimate understanding of the perspectives and needs of their customers will enhance employees’ energy and creativity.

3/ Employee experience. This is described as giving employees “freedom with a framework”, “voice and choice”, or basically the autonomy to innovate and make decisions within the context of the company’s overarching purpose and general rules of engagement.

balancing control and flexibility

Ranjay Gulati’s experience is that start-ups will fail if they don’t introduce structure and discipline to support them as they grow.  But they do also need to be uncompromising about their original business intent, maintain strong customer connections and ensure that they retain the flexibility that will allow employees to be autonomous and passionate about their goal.

The author cites examples from Netflix and Warby Parker for how to do this.

At Netflix, the message to employees, once managers have made the context about the organisation and its operations clear, is: “We think you’re really good at what you do.  We’re not going to mandate how you do it, but we’re going to trust and empower you to do great work.”

At Warby Parker, they developed the “Warbles” program, where engineers are asked to suggest and advocate new technology initiatives, and to position them within the context of the organisation’s strategic intent. Although the ideas are voted on by senior management, individuals can also pursue any that they choose if they align with their priorities and can deliver “maximum value”.

“Nimble leadership”

Deborah Ancona, Elaine Backman and Kate Isaacs (all associated in some way with MIT), approach the subject of employee engagement from the perspective of retaining employees’ entrepreneurial spirit in mature organisations.

They use PARC and W.L.Gore as case studies in their article (Nimble Leadership, HBR July-August 2019, pp. 74-83) to describe three types of leadership, which, together with clear cultural norms, also result in a balance of flexibility and control.

THree types of leadership

Deborah Ancona et al’s three types of leaders and their characteristics are as follows:

1/ Entrepreneurial leaders who are very much in the frontline of the action in the two companies.  They “sense and seize” opportunities, or new initiatives, and influence their colleagues to join them, or provide resources to make them happen.

These entrepreneurial leaders are again well-tuned into the strategic goals of the organisation.  They have the self-confidence and energy that enable them to exercise autonomy.  They are also good at influencing and persuading others, whilst having the openness to listen to others’ views and the flexibility to change course if it makes sense to do so.

[These sound like they could be the senior scientists, or project leaders that we encounter in Life Science SMEs – but with a significantly different decision-making and resource allocation model.]

2/ Enabling leaders are generally more experienced than entrepreneurial leaders, and are there to coach, develop and connect the entrepreneurs to each other.  They also have a strong communicating role to ensure that everyone is kept abreast of the bigger picture:

  • What activities others are engaged in
  • The overall business context (which includes the vision, values and simple organisational rules – all key “guardrails” for decision-making)

[These sound like they could be the line managers we encounter in Life Science SMEs – but with a much more explicit remit for talent development and support.]

3/ Architecting leaders are essentially the senior leaders in an organisation who are paying attention to the bigger picture, and changing remit, culture and structure.  They initiate change, and will also respond to how the ‘bottom up’ initiatives may be a prompt for change.

Conclusion – some refreshing ideas for tackling employee engagement

These two articles have some very refreshing ideas for creating the combination of “flexibility and control” which seem to be key to achieving employee engagement.

Jennifer Leeder (Senior Associate at Birketts LLP) has some sobering data about the current state of employee engagement in the UK (“Taking steps to improve employee engagement”, Business Weekly, 31st July 2019, p. 14).

She quotes a 2017 Gallup analysis, State of the Global Workplace, revealing that only seven per cent of UK employees are actively engaged at work.  The data no doubt vary by sector but that is little consolation for this very low average.

I was interested to find three measures in Jennifer Leeder’s article that echo those in the HBR articles and would also create and support environments featuring flexibility and control:

  1. Define your culture. She mentions company values as a component of culture.
  2. Keep open and honest communication flowing between managers and employees.
  3. Develop your leaders and managers

How rigorously are you preserving the ‘soul’ of your organisation?  Are you making sure that everyone in your organisation is connected to your strategic intent, perfectly attuned to your customers’ perceptions and needs, and exercising autonomy within this well-defined framework of mission and values?

Are you keeping the communication flowing in all directions?  And are you developing your leaders and managers to sustain this way of working?

Notes

RiverRhee‘s offerings include team building workshops and leadership and management development. We can help you to articulate your vision, mission and values, as well as develop your team.  You can see further details and testimonials on our team building workshops and on our management development.

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting., a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We support our clients through courses, workshops and personal one-to-one coaching.)  Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  RiverRhee is a member-to-member training provider for One Nucleus. 

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner. She is a member of CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals) and of APM (Association for Project Management) in which she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.

Project Management – summer tips from project experts


By Elisabeth Goodman, 29th June 2019

I have been spending a pleasant few hours browsing through the APM’s summer issue (no.299) of their quarterly publication Project and have found it a rich mine of information for the subjects that RiverRhee covers in its courses for project and line managers.

Here then are some extracts from this summer’s issue of Project – with a focus on Project Management.

Waterfall and Agile techniques can be fruitfully combined for structure and creativity

Many of our clients work in small Life Science or Biotech companies.  Their projects can follow an established methodology, especially if they are providing CRO-style (Contract Research Organisation) services to external clients.  Often though, their projects are more exploratory.  They may be assessing whether a particular methodology might work, or may even be developing that methodology.  Or they may be finding out what kind of activity a specific chemical or biological entity might demonstrate.

Illustration from Emma De Vita’s article “Hybrid and Proud” in Project, Summer issue, 2019

Emma De Vita is editor of Project. Her article cites several examples of how project managers are combining the Waterfall methodology for the overall project structure, with the Agile methodology for the creative interactions within the team and with clients. This “hybrid” approach could also work very well for our Life Science clients.

These quotes from Jim Conroy of Project Objects are particularly apt:

“You can’t not do it [waterfall]. You…need to assess whether that [[project or idea] is a good strategic fit, whether you’ve got the cost for it and the right resources to make it happen. Then you do have to go through a process..[reviewing] deliverables, and tasks and workflows..that need to get done and validates.”

He says that Agile is about:

“waiting for the mess of creativity to manifest itself”.

Five top tips for brilliant projects

In another very helpful article, Emma de Vita shares her top tips for “getting your project to a flying start”.   Her tips resonate very well with what we tell our delegates:

Tip 1. Have the right people on your team and make the most of their ‘soft’ skills as well as their technical ones.

Project team members are often selected on the basis of their availability and, usually, on the basis of having the necessary technical skills.  Emma quotes Christine Unterhitzenberger (Lancaster University Management School’ who says: “It is important that you are not just given people because they are available, but get the people who can make the project a success.  They need to want to see it happen and speak up for it – get them on your side.”

Emma goes on to cite the importance of understanding the softer or behavioural skills that distinguishes each of your team members, so that you can really make the most of those skills, as well as their technical ones.  This is something that we help people explore through such personality tools as Belbin Team Roles and MBTI.

Tip 2. Build the team.

Emma quotes Nick Fewings (Ngagementworks): “as the project gets bigger, risks appear and stress occurs. If you get people who understand each other, they can mitigate that stress.”  Face-to-face kick off meetings, of fun-site meetings’ and electronic collaborative working spaces are all given as examples for how to do this.

Other approaches that we suggest include: encouraging people to work across the team in different combinations of twos and threes, and setting up regular one-to-one meetings to encourage open conversations about all aspects of the project, people- as well as task-related. However, as Nassar Majothi (WSP) suggests: “you only really become a team when you are in the thick of it”.

Tip 3. Clearly articulate your vision.

A clear vision is so important to get everyone on board, motivated, and working towards a common purpose.  It also helps people to get back on track when there is any change or uncertainty.  Emma’s quotes from Fewings and Unterhitzenberger corroborate this.  She also points out that you sometimes need external advice to help you clarify this vision – and, whilst our clients’ experiences are not necessarily the same as hers, they certainly often need constructive dialogue with their stakeholders to help them do that.

Tip 4. Set the (strong) culture and pace for the project.

Project leaders or managers should certainly take advantage of their role on a project to set the tone for what they want to achieve.  Emma quotes Majothi on this one:

“Invariably the team will take the personality of the leader.  Show that you are actually going to hold people to account from day one.  That sets the culture pretty quickly.”

There are so many ways that a leader can influence what happens on a team.  We put a lot of emphasis on these in our work with line and project managers. (See for example our blog on temperature checks or diagnostics for high performance teams.) Spending time clarifying expectations, roles and responsibilities, routes of communication, decision-making processes; all these things will help to set the culture and pace for the project.

Tip 5.  Build strong relationships with your stakeholders

Our Life Science and Biotech clients’ customers can be some of their most challenging stakeholders.  So it’s great to see stakeholders included in Emma de Vita’s top five tips.  Like us, she emphasizes the importance of putting in the time and the effort to understand things from their perspectives.

She also quotes Fewings’ suggestion that you find the people in your team who are really good at stakeholder management and make it one of their key roles.  It’s about keeping the communication lines constantly open so that stakeholders know what is happening on the project, and have the opportunity to influence it to make sure that it reflects their needs.  This approach brings us back to the opening item in this blog – adopting a hybrid approach to Project Management that will enable you to have a high level of interaction with your clients within the overall structure of your project.

conclusion

This summer issue of Project has been a particularly interesting read.  There are other articles with tips about productivity, and about addressing difficult relationships which I will be reflecting in one or two other blogs.

Notes

RiverRhee runs an Introduction to Project Management course (both in-house for clients, and as open courses).  Do get in touch if you would like to learn more about our approach.

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting., a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We support our clients through courses, workshops and personal one-to-one coaching.)  Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  RiverRhee is a member-to-member training provider for One Nucleus. 

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner. She is a member of CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals) and of APM (Association for Project Management) in which she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.

Recognising and responding to employees’ receptiveness to change


By Elisabeth Goodman, 19th June 2019

Victim, survivor and navigator mindsets in change – based on the work of Richard McKnight.  Illustrations by Nathaniel Spain in my book “The Effective Team’s Change Management Workbook”, RiverRhee Publishing, 2013

providing the conditions for navigators of change

One of the most repeated and, in my view, misleading tropes about change is that “people resist change”.

Certainly if people are not given enough information and involvement or control they are likely to demonstrate resistance characterised by being a ‘victim’ or ‘survivor’ of change.

However, if the opposite is true: if people at least understand what the change is about, and what it is for, then they may come to believe in and value it – and demonstrate the characteristics of ‘navigators’ of change.

(You can read more about the concepts of ‘victims, survivors and navigators’ of change in one of my blogs on navigating change.)

employees are more receptive to change than business leaders give them credit for

An article in the May-June issue of Harvard Business Review – “Your workforce is more adaptable than you think” – by Joseph B Fuller et al (pp. 118-126) reveals that employees can be more aware and receptive to change than their business leaders predict.

Joseph B. Fuller et al, Harvard Business Review, May-June 2019 pp. 118-126

In fact, these employees would like to have more support and development opportunities to better equip them to deal with change i.e. they want to be ‘navigators’, but need the tools to help them to be so.

This was a large multi-country study, including the UK, which compared the perceptions and attitudes towards trends or changes (‘forces of disruption’) in the workplace, between low to middle-skill workers and business leaders.

The forces of disruptive change

Joseph B Fuller and his co-authors explored a total of 17 aspects of change, under six broad headings:

  1. Accelerating technological change – resulting in a decrease, increase, or other form of change in the nature of people’s work
  2. Growing demand on skills – an increase in the skills or knowledge expected of people at work; and an increased demand for (new) people with the relevant skills
  3. Changing employee expectations – people wanting to work more flexible hours for a better work/life balance; people more motivated by purpose and autonomy
  4. Shifting demographics – the expectation and necessity of greater diversity in the workforce: age, gender, race etc.
  5. Transitioning work / business models – reflecting some of point 3. but also more complex ecosystems of collaborations and partnerships
  6. Evolving business environment – in terms of regulatory, economic and political changes..

What business leaders can do to nurture employees’ receptiveness to change

Joseph B. Fuller and his co-authors’ recommendations would seem to echo my earlier points about people being more receptive to change if they are given some level of information and control or involvement in change.

Here is what they recommend:

 1.  Instil a continuous learning culture – with resources to support it, on the job, and also by recruiting from within. (This echoes a point in another article in the same issue of HBR about recruitment.)

2.  Involve and engage employees in the ‘why’ and the ‘what’ of transition.  In one case study, the authors show how a company asked everyone to reapply for the smaller number of jobs resulting from their transition, and then provided support for those who were not successful to find new jobs.

3. Look to develop talent from within (a similar point to 1. above).  Be ambitious rather than assuming that you need to hire for the new skills.  Plan for what you need, and also for the skills that you will no longer need.

4. Collaborate with competitors and with academia to develop training and resources for new skills – especially in areas that are not currently being supported.  (This is something that companies in Cambridgeshire and in the Life Sciences are quite active in.  See for example this introductory Bioinformatics course from the Wellcome Sanger Institute.)

5. Find ways to manage the uncertainty within your organisation – for example by tracking emerging trends and giving people the opportunity to volunteer to be involved. They could for example work on projects outside their immediate area of work; another way to develop talent and skills.

Conclusion

Although business leaders might be tempted to ‘protect’ their employees from the changes that their organisations are subjected too, doing so can only backfire.

People cope better with change if they are kept informed and involved and, as this HBR article shows, will be better placed to take a proactive role in the associated challenges and opportunities.

NOTES

RiverRhee’s next course on Managing Change is on the 14th November.  Do get in touch if you would like to learn more about our approach.

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting., a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We support our clients through courses, workshops and personal one-to-one coaching.)  Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  RiverRhee is a member-to-member training provider for One Nucleus. 

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner. She is a member of CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals) and of APM (Association for Project Management) in which she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.

Revisiting the positive qualities of more traditional methods of recruitment


By Elisabeth Goodman, 27th May 2019

Illustration from: Your Approach to Hiring is all Wrong. Harvard Business Review, May-June 2019, pp. 49-58

Peter Cappelli, George W. Taylor Professor of Management at the Wharton School, and director of its Centre for Human Resources, has written a really helpful overview of how newer methods of hiring have lost some of the positive qualities of more traditional methods.

(See: Your Approach to Hiring is all Wrong. Harvard Business Review, May-June 2019, pp. 49-58.)

Here is a summary of his main points.

Comparing the features of the newer methods, with those of the more traditional ones, and the resultant impact.

More external sourcing vs. internal sourcing

The actual or potential impact:

  • Losing some of the benefits of internal promotion
  • Not developing or retaining internal staff
  • More time needed to shape new recruits to internal ways of working
  • Having to pay more to attract external staff

Seeking out “passive” vs. active applicants

Recruitment or head-hunting agencies will trawl LinkedIn and other sources for likely candidates, who may not actually be seeking to move jobs at this time.

The actual or potential impact:

  • “Passive” candidates who are not thinking about moving jobs may need to be paid more to encourage them to move
  • “Active” applicants may be better motivated to take on the new job, and for other reasons than money e.g. because they are seeking a greater challenge, or an area of work that is more suited to their interests.

Creating a large funnel of candidates vs. encouraging a smaller number of ‘better fit’ candidates

Recruitment agencies will strive to create a large number of candidates.  Companies are also being encouraged to post “phantom” jobs: ones that don’t actually exist, just to keep the number of applicants coming in.

However:

  • It will take a company more time and cost to whittle down a long list.  In addition, a long list is not necessarily a high quality one.

Some suggested good practices

The comparisons above raise some fairly obvious arguments in favour of more traditional methods.

Here are some other suggestions from Cappelli’s article – many of which are reflected in our RiverRhee courses on Recruitment and Interview Skills

Take time to clearly define the post that you wish to fill

This way, candidates will self-select to exclude themselves from the recruitment process, or to continue with it as appropriate.

Some organisations are creating online tests with visible scores, or gamification programmes.  These help candidates to better understand the nature of the work and the potential match with their interests and capabilities .

Understand the limits of internal referrals

Some companies encourage their staff to make internal referrals, and may even have some form of reward for doing so.  However there is a risk that this can result in a reduction in the diversity of the workforce, as people may refer people who are like them.

Suggestions that may help internal referrals be more effective:

  • Have the internal referrer help with on-boarding the new member(s) of staff
  • If you pay people for making referrals, do so about 6 months after the new person is in place

Measure the results of your recruitment / interview processes

Measurement of any process is good practice: it helps you to identify what is working well, and what could be improved.

Possible approaches include:

  • Monitoring turn-over and attendance level of those recruited through different routes
  • Looking at results from your Performance Review process
  • Getting qualitative feedback from the managers of new hires on their degree of satisfaction with their recruits

Enhance your interview skills

There is no doubt that competency-based questions are the most effective way to find out whether the interviewee has the experience, attitude and capability to match the job.

However, it takes time and skill to formulate these questions, and to ensure that all your interviewers are using the same questions consistently across all candidates.

As Cappelli says:

Just winging it and asking whatever comes to mind is next to useless.

It is important to ensure that those doing the interviewing have the skills to conduct effective interviews.

This is something that we could help you with through our RiverRhee courses on Recruitment and Interview Skills.

NOTES

If you found this article useful, you might also like to read:

Tips for hiring the best people in rapidly growing Biotech and Life Science companies by guest blogger and RiverRhee Associate Alison Proffitt.

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting., a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We support our clients through courses, workshops and personal one-to-one coaching.)  Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  RiverRhee is a member-to-member training provider for One Nucleus. 

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner. She is a member of CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals) and of APM (Association for Project Management) in which she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.

Working across silos – leadership in the matrix and in multi-functional projects


By Elisabeth Goodman, 14th May 2019

7 Seismic Shifts for Leadership. Based on Michael D Watkins. Material used in RiverRhee and PERLA’s course “Transition to Leadership”, delivered to members of One Nucleus working in the Life Sciences.

Working across silos – an enabler for developing leadership skills

I recently delivered one of RiverRhee‘s and PERLA‘s Transition to Leadership courses where we share, amongst other information, Michael D Watkins’ “7 seismic shifts” for new leaders.

An essential skill, when moving into a leadership role, is the ability to become familiar with the vocabulary, systems, structures and cultures that are unique to each area of the organisation.  Those working in specific technical fields – such as biology, chemistry, clinical, IT – will have their own ways of communicating and understanding each other, of working and of making decisions, which will be quite distinct from those working in HR or finance for example.

To be effective, a leader must be able to engage with people right across the organisation, and so shift from being a specialist in their field, to becoming a generalist across all areas.

Delegates at RIverRhee's Transition to Leadership course

Delegates discussing the “7 seismic shifts” at RiverRhee and PERLA’s recent Transition to Leadership  course.

Working across silos, in an organisation that may already have a matrix structure – where people are assigned to functional departments, but also work on multi-functional projects – is a great way to develop this broader awareness and understanding.

There are valuable tips on this whole topic in: “Cross-silo leadership.  How to create more value by connecting experts from inside and outside the organization”, by Tiziana Casciaro, Amy C. Edmondson and Sujin Jang, Harvard Business Review, May-June 2019, pp. 130-139.

Shifting the emphasis from vertical to horizontal collaboration

The authors of the HBR article share their findings from conversations with individuals in companies around the world.  They found that whilst people prioritise the vertical relationships (i.e. those that they report to, and who report to them) in their day-to-day work, it is the horizontal relationships, across functional groups in the organisation that will bring the greatest value to customers.

Horizontal relationships, across functions, is where there is the greatest scope for innovation and for the larger scale projects that will support integrated research, development and customer service.

As the authors say, these kinds of horizontal relationship can be the most challenging for people, as they need to learn about and relate to people who may have very different ways of thinking and learning.

As with all the best HBR articles, the author have some tips for helping leaders and those who work with them to operate horizontally, across the silos in an organisation.

Developing and making use of “cultural brokers”.

Some people are well-placed to bridge the gap between different parts of the organisation.  Examples of these, in the organisations that RiverRhee works with, are project managers and leaders on cross-functional projects.

The authors of the HBR article suggest that there are two types of “cultural brokers”: those who act as go-betweens, translating the language of the two domains in more one-off , or time-restricted collaborations; and those who take the time to facilitate collaborations in a way that will be longer-lasting and able to function without the “broker”.

Either type of “cultural broker” will need to develop the multi-functional and/or multi-cultural skills, enhanced with strong interpersonal skills, to enable them to facilitate this kind of rapport and collaboration between others.

Encouraging and developing skills in asking good questions

We all know that asking questions is a powerful adjunct to learning – it’s a technique that we teach in RiverRhee’s courses.

Instilling a climate of curiosity is a great way to foster collaboration and hence activities such as innovation and continuous improvement – as described in a previous blog (Curiosity, Continuous Improvement and Innovation).

The authors suggest that the best practices for asking good questions include:

  • Asking open questions – rather than those that just require ‘yes’ ‘no’ answers.  And what’s more, questions that contain as little of the questioner’s preconceptions as possible such as: “How are things going for you?” [This is also referred to as “clean” language.]
  • Transitioning to more specific questions as the collaboration develops – ones that will reveal and so allow sharing of greater depths of knowledge such as: “What can you tell me about x?”
  • Checking your understanding by playing back what you’ve heard and understood – saying something like: “Can you help me check that I have this right?  What have I missed?”
  • Checking in with the other contributor(s) on their perspective of how the collaboration is going – asking something like: “What can we do to work together more effectively?”

Getting people to see things from others’ perspectives

The HBR article gives some very interesting examples of organisations that have taken novel approaches to this.  The main thing is to recognise that most people that we interact with have different perspectives to our own, and this may be even more so if they are working in different parts of a company.

Apparently whilst most people have the skills to understand other people’s perspectives, they are not necessarily motivated to do so.  It is therefore a leadership responsibility to role-model and to encourage this form of behaviour to support a more collaborate approach across an organisation.

Building internal and external networks

This is another way that leaders can role-model and encourage others to develop skills and habits for working beyond their more immediate (vertical) work group:

  • Create cross-functional projects, meetings and agendas that encourage horizontal networks, conversations and collaborations
  • Encourage employees (give them the time and resources) to explore networks that go outside their areas of expertise.  The authors advocate crossing domains between art, science, technology, business etc. – as the basis for true innovation.

Conclusion

Working across silos will help leaders to develop essential skills which will enable them to be more effective.  This way of working already exists, at least in part, for those operating in a matrix organisation and/or working on large cross-functional projects.

It’s a way of working that offers greater potential for innovation, solving complex problems and meeting customer needs.

It requires encouragement, role modelling by leaders, training and support to enhance the take-up of this form of horizontal collaboration across all parts of an organisation.

notes

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting., a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We support our clients through courses, workshops and personal one-to-one coaching.)  Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  RiverRhee is a member-to-member training provider for One Nucleus. 

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner. She is a member of CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals) and of APM (Association for Project Management) in which she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.

Influencing skills for Project Management – lessons from the military


By Elisabeth Goodman, 27th April 2019

Photograph of Emma Dutton MBE by Louise Haywood-Schiefer for “How to win wars and influence people” in Project, Spring 2019 pp.22-27

Project is the APM’s (Association for Project Managment) regular publication for its members.  This spring’s issue carries a fascinating article by Ben Hargreaves, editor of Project, featuring Emma Dutton MBE.  The article describes how she has founded a consultancy, the Applied Influence Group, to apply what she has learnt from gathering intelligence for the British Armed forces in Afghanistan, to the world of Project Management.

Parallels between military influencing and influencing projects

The article highlights some of the points made by Emma Dutton in her talk to the APM’s recent National Conference for Women in Project Management.  The parallels between the two worlds of influence include:

Multiple, complex stakeholder relationships

Shifting loyalties and volatile environments

A [or some] very demanding client[s]

The first and last points are certainly ones that the Project Leaders / Managers in the Life Science companies that we work with at RiverRhee would echo:

  • They often have to work with a range of stakeholders within and outside their companies, with different cultural backgrounds and communication styles, and with high expectations of the project team.
  • Although the loyalties are perhaps more stable, and the environment not as volatile as those which Emma Dutton experienced, there is often a high degree of uncertainty as to the possible outcomes of the scientific work

Emotional intelligence at the heart of good influencing skills

Emma Dutton makes an interesting observation from her experience of working in Afghanistan that is quoted in the article:

Afghanistan is a country built on relationships.  Afghans’ interpersonal skills are much more developed than the average Western person’s.  That’s how they survive.

and:

The mission was to influence hearts and minds as much as it was to collect information.  You had to be genuinely empathetic.  We are all humans, and we know when people are being real.

Emotional intelligence is a strong component of RiverRhee’s training, workshops and coaching for project and operational leaders, managers and team members.  See www.riverrhee.com for details of our various courses, including those on influencing and communication skills.

This, together with what Emma Dutton describes as “emotional management” or regulation of ones emotions, is also described by Daniel Goleman* and others as emotional and social intelligence:

  • being aware of our own emotions, attitudes, behaviours and those of the people we are interacting with
  • making conscious choices about how we express or adapt these emotions, attitudes and behaviours in order to get positive outcomes for all parties

These are the qualities that will enable project managers and leaders to influence the diverse and challenging stakeholders that they interact with.

Emma Dutton’s advice seems very wise indeed:

[do] your work  before you get in the room. Understand the people you are talking to.

As Ben Hargreaves concludes in his article:

Understanding drivers, likes and dislikes, motivations, anxieties, interests, attitudes and beliefs is all-important for the influencer.

Notes

*Daniel Goleman et al are authors of a very helpful series of booklets “Building Blocks of Emotional Intelligence” that Elisabeth Goodman has reviewed in earlier blogs as listed here:

About the author

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting., a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We support our clients through courses, workshops and personal one-to-one coaching.)  Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  RiverRhee is a member-to-member training provider for One Nucleus. 

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner. She is a member of CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals) and of APM (Association for Project Management) in which she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.