Tag Archives: leadership

Exploring personality tools to enhance the diversity within our teams


By Elisabeth Goodman, 17th May 2017

My RiverRhee Associate, Liz Mercer and I have been doing a fair amount of reading and reflection to support our new course on Transition to Leadership.

The March-April 2017 issue of Harvard Business Review (HBR) gave us plenty to think about, as it explored some of the personality tools available to us to understand the diversity of the people within our teams.

HBR Mar-Apr 2017

Exploring biological systems to help us understand personality traits

“If you understand how the brain works, you can reach anyone” (pp.60-62) is the record of a conversation between Alison Beard, one of HBR’s senior editors, and Helen Fisher, a biological anthropologist.  The latter has developed a personality questionnaire (on match.com and chemistry.com) based on her understanding of brain chemistry and others’ neurological research.  She also used brain functional MRI to validate the questionnaire.

Helen Fisher reminds us that personality is based on culture (nurture or upbringing) and temperament (nature or the influences of our genes, hormones and neurotransmitters).

She suggests that four biological systems are linked to personality traits:

  1. Dopamine and norepinephrine – which correlate with curiosity, creativity and risk-taking amongst other behaviours
  2. Serotonin – which correlates with greater adherence to social norms, and to tradition
  3. Testosterone – which correlates with tough-mindedness, directness and assertiveness
  4. Oestrogen and oxytocin – which correlate with intuition, imagination, empathy and trust (see previous blog on oxytocin and trust)

Helen Fisher suggests that some of the biological systems have analogies with and support some of the MBTI preferences.  So for instance the Thinking / Feeling preferences might equate to numbers 3 and 4 above.  And Judging / Perceiving might equate to 2 and 1.

She challenges some of the MBTI tenets in ways that MBTI practitioners would not agree with – for instance she suggests that Introverts cannot be “chatty”.  Whereas the MBTI definition actually includes the notion that Introverts can become quite talkative on topics that are important to them.  (See more about MBTI in one of my earlier blogs.)

Otherwise, Helen Fisher’s conclusions echo those for other personality tools:

  • You can benefit from collaborating with others whose strengths are complementary to your own
  • You can interact more effectively by adapting your style to match others’
  • If you have to act, on a long term basis, in a way that is different to your authentic style, it will be a strain
  • You can use your understanding of others’ strengths to build diversity into your team

The range of personality tools available to us

In “A brief history of personality tests” (p.63) Eben Harrell, another HBR senior editor, takes us quickly through MBTI, the five-factor model (or “big five”) and Strengthsfinder 2.0 (from Gallup).

[The article does not mention the wide range of other tools available to us such as Belbin Team Roles, Colours / Insights, NLP Representational Styles, Emergenetics and more…]

The five-factor model is apparently one that is “widely accepted by academics as the gold standard”.  It is based on a statistical study of words used to describe psychological characteristics across cultures and languages, with the following resultant list:

  • openness to experience
  • conscientiousness
  • extroversion
  • agreeableness
  • neuroticism

It may well be that I am mis-interpreting these words, but they seem to suggest that it would be a good thing if you demonstrated the first four behaviours.  Whilst it would ‘not be a good thing’ if you demonstrated the opposite of any of the first four, and also demonstrated the fifth!

However, if we choose to value the opposites that these terms suggest, as strengths, as other personality tools do, then they can also provide us with the basis for creating a richly diverse team.

Reading this issue of HBR was also very timely as it coincided with my reading of Claudio Feser’s new book on Inspirational Leadership, which also includes a section on the five-factor model.   The book explores, amongst other things, how an inspirational leader can adapt their influencing style to reflect the different personality types in this model or tool.

[There are a couple more articles in this issue of HBR that explore other personality tools, and how leaders are using them to enhance their understanding and how they can work more effectively with others.]

Closing thoughts

How we inspire others as leaders depends to a large extent on our ability to balance our emotional intelligence (EQ) with our intellectual intelligence (IQ).

Personality tools contribute to our EQ by helping us to better understand our own style of leadership and how we interact with others – our preferences and defaults.

That understanding will enable managers and leaders to clarify what strengths in others will most complement their own so that they can actively nurture diversity within their teams.

How will you enhance your understanding of personality types, or how have you done this already?  How will you / or have you applied this to enrich the diversity of your team?

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 use training, facilitation, coaching, mentoring and consulting in our work with our clients.)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 support supplier for One Nucleus and a CPD provider for CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals).

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 and of APM (Association for Project Management) where she is a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.

Why leadership training fails – some tips for what to do about it


Guest blog by Liz Mercer, 11th January 2017.

why-leadership-training-fails_hbr-oct16

Editor’s note

Delegates from RiverRhee’s training courses often come away with one or more new ways of working that they would like to influence when they get back to their place of work. We are glad that this is the case: it is an indication that we have helped them to reflect about their own and others’ approaches to work, and what could be done to improve things.

However, they can sometimes be frustrated by the difficulties associated with implementing these changes. So I was very interested to hear about this article that Liz Mercer had come across, and suggested that she write this blog as a guest author to tell us more about it.

RiverRhee logo

Click here for information on RiverRhee’s training, workshops and coaching for managers and teams

The organisational context needs to be right for learning and growth

As passionate proponents of all things Leadership Development, I was drawn to an article in Harvard Business Review’s October 2016 edition, entitled ‘Why leadership training fails – and what to do about it’.

It’s my own experience, and long held belief that there are four key elements that need to be in place before any leadership development activity can truly work:

These are:

  • The leader has a desire to learn and grow, and the timing is right
  • The leader has some self-awareness and is motivated to improve their emotional intelligence
  • Supportive mentors and managers provide the right playground for development to be a positive learning experience
  • The organisation creates the space and opportunity to experiment and grow

So, when the articles’ authors Michael Beer et al, proposed that “no matter how smart and motivated they (leaders) are” unless you have “a favourable context for learning and growth” brought about by “senior executives attending to organisational design”, my attention was turned to much broader and more wide ranging considerations.

More than that…” if the system does not change, it will not support and sustain individual behaviour change – indeed it will set it up to fail”.

They go on to say that organisations will continue to put millions of pounds, time and energy into leadership development, only to find when leaders try to embed the behaviour change that they are now so committed to, they simply hit brick walls, barriers and infertile ground: a somewhat depressing thought for so early in this new year.

HR’s role came up for closer inspection once again too. I am familiar with the need to align learning, training and development with organisation strategy and goals: to identify the right set of competencies to develop in the people who can deliver the strategy and make change happen.

The organisation as a ‘system’

And yet, I was reminded by the article that organisations are systems of interacting elements, including, but not limited to roles, responsibilities, relationships, organisation structures, processes, styles, cultures, back grounds – the list goes on. It’s an amalgamation of all these elements that drive organisation performance and behaviour, not just, and only, the leadership community.

In their research, the authors found that CEO’s and their leadership teams needed to be confronted with uncomfortable truths more frequently, in order that they can free up the organisation and its leaders to take it where they want it to go.   One CEO insisted on taking a step back before approving a programme of leader development. When managers were asked to say what barriers they experienced, it wasn’t a lack of training that was the issue, some old favourites emerged…

  • The senior team didn’t have a clear and articulated strategy with corporate values
  • Well-structured talent and development planning discussions were infrequent
  • Talent hoarding restricted movement and created higher turnover

I noted that in the end, once the systemic changes happen then this encourages – even requires – the desired behaviours that leaders embrace in leadership development programmes.

So, what can you do about it?

The authors identified six basic steps to real talent development and these are summarised here:

  1. The senior team clearly defines values and an inspiring strategic direction
  2. Identification of barriers to learning and strategy execution: this may result in the redesign of roles, responsibilities and relationships.
  3. Day to day coaching and process consultation to help improve effectiveness in this new ‘system’
  4. Training and development activity is embedded where needed
  5. New metrics for individual and organisational performance are developed.
  6. Systems for selecting, evaluating, developing, and promoting talent are adjusted to reflect and sustain changes in organisational behaviour.

And so, what I loved about this article was that it reminded me of the importance of the ‘system’ in leader development and organisation growth. To ignore the system runs the risk of the huge investments made in leadership development, simply not paying off.

What this means for me as a proponent of managerial, leadership and organisation development is an increased focus on diagnosing the systemic barriers to individual growth and organisational development: for these to be worked on at least in parallel to leader development, if not earlier than that.

Only in this way will leadership development efforts have a real chance of success and, thereby, make organisations unstoppable in what they can achieve!

HBR article authors:

Michael Beer is the Cahners-Rabb Professor of Business Administration, Emeritus, at Harvard Business School and a cofounder of TruePoint Partners, a research and consulting firm specialising in organisational transformation. Magnus Finnstrom and Derek Schrader are directors at TruePoint.

About the editor

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 use training, facilitation, coaching, mentoring and consulting in our work with our clients.)

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 support supplier for One Nucleus and a CPD provider for CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals).

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 and of APM (Association for Project Management) where she leads on Membership, Communications and Events for the Enabling Change SIG committee.

About the author

Liz Mercer is an Associate with RiverRhee Consulting.  She is a Human Resources professional, with 30 years experience, mainly in Pharmaceuticals and Biotech and understands the challenges of leadership, management and team development. 

Liz runs her own business, Perla Development, providing training, facilitation and coaching, for individuals and teams: with a particular interest in the challenges for virtual team leaders. She is an accomplished facilitator and development coach.

She has a Masters in Organisational Behaviour, is a member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and is accredited in the Myers Briggs Type Indicator.

 

 

 

Taking delegation a few steps further.


Guest blog by Janet Burton, 9th August 2016

Editorial note.  Janet Burton is a co-trainer on our RiverRhee Introduction to Management course.  I asked her if she would be willing to write a blog on one of the aspects that we cover, and she chose delegation, a topic that we explore on day 3 of the course.  What Janet has written takes the content from the course a few steps further…

Taking delegation a few steps further

When managers come on our Introduction to Management courses, we help them to handle their new responsibilities of allocating tasks and achieving their own and their team objectives. They need to delegate. This can be fairly straightforward, if they follow the guidelines and understand the benefits of the delegation process.  However, there can be circumstances where delegation is not straight forward.

delegation without authority

Delegating upwards and sideways can be challenging. Often bosses and colleagues will not be responsive to someone not in the direct line of command. Someone (you) who is expecting them to stop their own work and help!

One of our delegates found that no matter what approach he took to getting information from colleagues, they failed to respond. This happened time and time again, even though he was polite and patient. He explained to me that it was their job to supply him with information and that their tardiness held up his work and compromised his results.

Click here for information on RiverRhee's training courses for managers

Click here for information on

RiverRhee’s training

courses for managers

The delegation guide

So, it is isn’t easy delegating without authority but it can be done.

First, let’s look at the Delegation Guide

  1. Identify the Task
  2. Choose the right person for the job
  3. Explain the task, timings, and extent of the job
  4. Check understanding and commitment
  5. Agree deadlines and follow up
  6. Once completed, appreciate and communicate the results

making it mutually beneficial

Aim for a mutually beneficial start (Identify the task and choose the right person).

There are several ways to approach the right person with the task:

  • Sell them the concept and outcome
  • Ask for their help with their expertise and skill set
  • Assume they will cooperate because it is their job
  • Ask for a favour…not recommended!

planning for the best outcome

Plan for the best outcome (the task, timings, and extent of the job).

The secret is in the planning. You will be encroaching on the time that they might otherwise use to achieve their own objectives, so you need to sell the idea. Anticipate what they might say in response to your request so that you are ready with a mutually beneficial reason for their help.

You need to outline the job with the timescales and anticipated outcomes.   Negotiate the desired results, the timing and the benefits. Also, in the negotiation, there may be something you can do for them which, with your skill set, you could easily do.

checking for understanding

Negotiate (Check understanding and commitment).

When discussing the extent of the work, you need to check that they know exactly what you expect of them. There must be no confusion as confusion can lead to the job being left unattended. Don’t ask “Do you understand?” as the stock answer is likely to be “Yes” even if they don’t. Check understanding by asking questions such as “So when (this) happens, I would expect (that) to be the result, what do you think?” Ask, “What process will you adopt and how long do you think that will take?” These questions do not insult the colleague or superior’s intelligence but shows your understanding of what they must do and enables you to show your appreciation.

keeping in touch

Monitor (check progress).

When negotiating the deadline, appreciate their own workload, but be firm about your scheduled needs. Build monitoring devices into the timetable, for instance ask them to send you emails for any clarification needed or to supply you with information by such and such a time.  Schedule a meeting to assess progress and to check if more resources are needed.

Once delegation has occurred, there is a very firm and sensible rule to follow – never take the delegated task back again. If you have delegated correctly, you will not be tempted to say “OK leave it with me, I’ll do it myself”

showing your appreciation

Reward (appreciate their efforts).

Finally, the job is done and you are delivered of a successful project or task. Thank the person, don’t hold back. They have worked their butts off for you and you need to give them a big smile and a huge “Thank You”.

about the author

Janet Burton is an Associate with RiverRhee Consulting who uses her experience of training and management to help people develop their skills, enhance their confidence and change for the better.  Her unique style is an inspirational combination of laughter and learning.  Janet’s experience enables her to understand the challenges for organisations across varied industries and disciplines.  She has run her own sales and marketing business, has worked in the recruitment and stationery wholesaling industries, and has operated in sales and marketing for major food manufacturers.

ABOUT THE EDITOR

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 use training, facilitation, coaching, mentoring and consulting in our work with our clients.)

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 support supplier for One Nucleus, a quality assured training provider with Cogent Skills and a CPD provider for CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals).

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 and of APM (Association for Project Management) where she leads on Membership, Communications and Events for the Enabling Change SIG committee.

Calibrating the mind to lead teams. Five tips for being an effective team leader.


Guest blog by John Hicks, 26th July 2016

Five tips for being an effective team leader

Editorial note from Elisabeth Goodman:

Many of the managers that we work with are transitioning from a scientist to a manager role.  John Hicks has joined our RiverRhee team to support us with our training, and also to provide coaching for scientists making this transition.  So I’m pleased to share some of his perspectives on how to be an effective team leader.

Introduction

Having been a scientist and a senior manager, I have come to learn some important lessons about managing people.

Use the following five tips to help you to be a more effective team leader.

Tip 1 – Be motivated to be a manager more than a scientist

To make the transition into management effectively, we must understand what being a manager is.

A popular definition of being a manager is someone who is responsible for administering or controlling an organisation or group of staff.

As a manager you create a larger positive (or negative) impact on an organisation because you are empowering a group of individuals within a team to work more effectively rather than simply empowering yourself.

If you want to be a manager, I challenge you to explore your motives for that move.  If you want to make a positive impact through orchestrating a team of people then you will have a positive management career moving forward.

If you recognise this then you are well on the way to exploring Tip 2.

Click here for information on RiverRhee's training courses for managers

Click here for information on RiverRhee’s training courses for managers

Tip 2 – Get to know yourself more

Working with people often causes us to react in certain ways that are positive and negative emotionally.

Someone can easily say something that will trigger a memory of one of your previous experiences. This in turn might ‘colour’ the way you view, hear or feel about their comment and lead to an inappropriate reaction.

Allow yourself to create a distance between how you feel in the moment and what you need to do next to move the team forward.  Are there triggers that make you feel strongly enough to warp your thinking about what is important?  Then you need to understand what they are before you make the wrong decision based on strong emotions.

Being prepared in this way is important because you HAVE to listen to your team, otherwise you will fail at being a manager.

Tip 3 – listen to your team

There are three levels of listening to your team that will help you to make sound decisions on your way forward.

1) Listen to what your team members are telling you.

What words are you physically hearing and how useful are they to you for the decisions you need to make?  Don’t dismiss them out of hand as your team are your eyes and ears on processes currently taking place in the laboratory or the office.

2) Listen to and think about what is behind what your team members are telling you.

So you have been given some good information but something doesn’t feel right.  You need to dig deeper and understand what is behind what is being said to you.  Is someone struggling in their role and is their information to you compromised by a stressed perspective? What’s that stress about?

3) Listen to and observe what your team is feeling.

Have you ever walked into a room full of people and felt the excitement in the room?  No one is particularly doing anything ‘excitable’ but all the same, you can feel it.  Have you ever walked into a work place and felt that there is a grey cloud looming above it?  You can’t put your finger on what is wrong but you know that something is off?

This is an important skill for leading your team.  Being aware of those around you and how they feel enables you to come alongside your team and nurture them with what they need to be more successful. 

Tip 4 – Don’t get sabotaged by self-defeating beliefs

This is related to Tip 2, but deserves a mention on its own.

Have you ever given a presentation where you have felt nervous? Perhaps you are focusing on what could go wrong more than how positive your impact could be?

This is normal and is what is called a self-defeating belief or what I like to refer to as a saboteur thought.

They tend to happen when dealing with change or opportunity.

As a manager you need to spot these self-defeating beliefs and determine what is rational or not rational because you might be holding back your team.

Tip 5 – Be kind to yourself

This tip is easy to remember. 

Your next mistake might well be your next greatest discovery.  Don’t berate yourself for mistakes, this will mess up your thinking ability. Give yourself the chance to seize the next opportunity from your learning.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

John Hicks is an Associate of RiverRhee Consulting.  He spent the first ten years of his career in science within academic, contract research and environmental laboratories specialising in Chemistry. John then worked with two of the leading scientific instrumentation companies providing technical sales support to large Pharmaceuticals and Biotech companies across the UK before moving into a senior leadership position within a Cambridge based technology company.  John now runs his own training and coaching company delivering performance coaching to scientists that are new to or working towards a career in management.

about the editor

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 use training, facilitation, coaching, mentoring and consulting in our work with our clients.)

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 support supplier for One Nucleus, a quality assured training provider with Cogent Skills and a CPD provider for CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals).

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 and of APM (Association for Project Management) where she leads the Internal Collaboration theme of the Enabling Change SIG committee.

There will never be enough time!


Red Balloon

Last week, Janet Burton and I had the pleasure of working with several of the Coordinators and other staff from the Red Balloon at their headquarters in Cambridge.

These talented and caring individuals work with often deeply troubled young people at the Red Balloon’s centres around the UK who have experienced bullying and other traumas that have interfered with their education. In the words of Ruth Loshak, Consultant Coordinator with the group, the teachers and other staff help the students “to come to terms with what has happened to them, learn coping strategies, get back on an academic track and move on with ‘the rest of their lives’.”

RiverRhee Consulting’s Introduction to Management training

Janet’s and my task, and challenge, was to condense our three-day RiverRhee Consulting Introduction to Management course into an effective one-day session. Needless to say, we were very much aware that our delegates had as much if not more to teach us and each other as we might be able to teach them! We also knew, from previous experience, that they enjoy and benefit from opportunities to share what they know and how they go about things.

So we did two things: we planned a minimum of presentation, and a maximum of discussion and interactive exercises, and we solicited their input in advance to make sure that we focused the day around their areas of greatest challenge.

Managing performance and developing people

Many of the participants had had very little previous formal management training, and so it was no surprise that “Managing performance and developing people” was one of the two main areas of challenge to emerge. They are also very used to working in counselling mode with their students, and so they particularly liked the contrast with the GROW model of coaching for personal development, and enjoyed trying it out amongst themselves.

Managing time and priorities, and delegation

The second main area of challenge was “Managing time and priorities, and delegation”. The staff of Red Balloon are enormously committed to what they do. They love their work, care deeply about the well-being and development of the students, and seldom observe a strict 9-to-5, five day working week. And of course there is always admin and paperwork to do too.

One of the main advantages of taking a day out for training is having the opportunity to pause and reflect about what we are doing. So the delegates did just that. We shared Stephen R. Covey’s urgent vs. important matrix (from “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”), and the “five Ds” for time management from The Mind Gym’s “Give me time”.  (Do now, Defer, Delegate, Diminish, Delete).

We then had the delegates reflect about their own use of time with the help of these tools. Some of them also had a go at “Joe’s dilemma” – a case study based exercise about delegation.

A positive outcome

This is how one of our delegates described how she felt by the end of the day!

A ninja warrior!

“This is me after today’s management training.  Thanks to Janet and Elisabeth for giving us all the necessary tips.”                              (Illustration by Isabelle Spain.)

As The Mind Gym taught me many years ago: there will never be enough time. What matters is finding a way to be happy with how we are using our time. Hopefully Janet and I will have helped the Coordinators and staff at Red Balloon Learner Centre to do just that.

Notes

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, a consultancy that helps business teams and their managers to enhance their effectiveness for greater productivity and improved team morale. (We using coaching, training, mentoring and consulting in our work with our clients.)

Elisabeth has 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry where she has held line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and in Lean Sigma and is a member of CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals), APM (Association for Project Management) and is also registered as a Growth Coach and Leadership & Management trainer with the GrowthAccelerator.

Finding the leader within ourselves


Why yet another article about leadership?

I’ve had an unusually busy few weeks so the gap between my blogs has been greater than usual. However the magical combination, for me, of coming across an inspirational article, engaging with enthusiastic people, and listening to others’ ideas at a conference has finally triggered my own reflections!

So, this blog is about leadership.  As Julia Hordle, a speaker at this week’s Perfect Information 2014 (#PIC2014) conference, pointed out, there is already a lot of literature on this topic.  So, like Julia, I’m not making any claims to be an expert, nor am I going to try to cover the whole area.  These are just a few points that have struck me in what I heard from her and others this week.

Everyone in a team is a potential leader

I can’t remember who said this during the years that I was working at GlaxoSmithKline.  It may have been one of the values that informed our performance review discussions. The idea was that everyone within a team had a particular area of expertise and a particular strength, and by exercising leadership in those, could really add value to the work of the team.  (This was often referred to as ’empowerment’.)

It was whilst I was at GSK that I was also introduced to ‘Lessons from Geese‘, inspired by Milton Olson, and beautifully captured in the video by Breakthrough Global.  Amongst the several lessons is that of everyone taking a turn at doing things, rather than expecting the team leader to do it all.

Some of the lessons from geese for high performing teams

Some of the lessons from geese for high performing teams

Julia Hordle shared another video, Lord Digby Jones’ 5 tips to business where he encourages leaders to train their teams to do the simple things well so that, when they are faced by challenging tasks, their intuition can kick in and so, by implication, exercise leadership in what they do.

As my co-speaker, Steve Boronski, pointed out during our joint workshop at #PIC2014 on “Project Management through a knowledge and information management lens”, when everyone within a team is clear on what they are expected to do, and has the training to do it, then the team leader’s role is ‘simply’ that of managing by exception: providing the support and direction to deal with the unexpected.

Also on this point, the article that has inspired me to write this blog is the one on Blue Ocean Leadership, by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne, in the May 2014 issue of Harvard Business Review (pp.60-72), pointed out by my business colleague Sarah Hillman.  There are some terrific insights in the article on the behaviours of ‘to-be’ as opposed to ‘as-is’ leadership.  I particularly liked the concept of “inspiring people to give their all as opposed to holding people back”.

Leadership is about daring to do or say what others might not

A member of the audience during Julia Hordle’s presentation at #PIC2014 quoted some recent figures, one of those bold generalisations, to the effect that women will only consider taking on a new position when they are 80% sure of their capabilities to deliver it, whereas men will do so when they are 50% sure.  The delegate wondered whether this might have a bearing on the behaviour of leaders.  I, like many others, dislike such generalisations but they can also be food for thought.

Another member of the audience (a man) responded that there might be some truth in this because he does not hold back, as a leader, from voicing opinions that others might consider stupid.  The discussion continued along the lines that leaders, and indeed any team member, should be confident enough to air their views.  This will benefit the team in the long run and, although it may carry risks for the individual, being true to yourself does ultimately deliver benefits to you too.

Which brings me to the particularly enthusiastic people that have inspired me this week.  I spent a very enjoyable hour with some young entrepreneurs on the Peter Jones Enterprise Academy course at Cambridge Regional Centre.  We were exploring the topic of team make-up and leadership.  At a certain point I asked them to write out their personal strengths on individual post-it notes: the strengths that they might bring to a team.  About 60% of the notes carried the word ‘confidence’!  They certainly came across as a very confident set of people.  At least 3 of them had already set up their businesses, in such areas as luxury goods and organising musical events, and many of the rest were looking forward to doing so as they moved on to their business degrees.

And yet…

Leadership is also about communication and empathy

What made those young entrepreneurs so enjoyable to speak to was that not only were they very vocal and articulate, they were also clearly listening to and reflecting about what we were discussing.  Amongst the many post-it notes about confidence, there were also several with the words ’empathy’ and ‘listening’.

Julia Hordle and Lord Digby Jones had a lot to say about the importance of a leader’s communication skills (as listeners as well as conveyers of messages), and their ability to inspire trust.  A leader’s ability to empathise is something I’ve explored in a previous blog.

I came away from my interaction with the PJEA students feeling quite enthused about the qualities that many of them would bring to their future roles as leaders.

Notes

Elisabeth Goodman is the owner and Principal Consultant of RiverRhee Consulting and a trainer,  facilitator, one-to-one coach, speaker and writer, with a passion for and a proven track record in improving team performance and leading business change projects on a local or global basis. 

Elisabeth is an expert in knowledge management, and is accredited in change management, Lean Six Sigma and MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator).  She has a BSc in Biochemistry, an MSc in Information Science, is a full member of the Chartered Institute of Information and Library Professionals (CILIP) and of the Association for Project Management (APM) and is also registered as a Growth Coach and Leadership & Management trainer with the GrowthAccelerator.

Elisabeth has 25+ years’ Pharma R&D experience as a line manager and internal trainer / consultant, most recently at GSK and its legacy companies, and is now enjoying working with a number of SMEs and larger organisations around the Cambridge cluster as well as further afield in the UK and in Europe.

Empathy – the magical leadership ingredient?


Empathy can make a difference in every situation that we find ourselves in as leaders or managers

I recently read Geoff Crane‘s chapter 55 ‘Empathy in Project Management’ in the ‘Gower Handbook of People in Project Management‘. It’s a very large book, with a wealth of fascinating information, so I’m dipping into it a chapter at a time, and giving myself time to reflect on each one.

I really enjoyed Geoff’s chapter, and believe our ability to be empathetic can make a difference not only in Project Management, but in every leadership or people management role that we may have.

As Geoff explains in his chapter, empathy is different from sympathy in that the ‘listener’ not only acknowledges another person’s (the ‘speaker’s’) emotions but actually connects with them by ‘vicariously experiencing’ their feelings, seeing things through their eyes, or ‘getting into their shoes’.  Empathy requires active listening, picking up things that the other person may not even be saying.

Active listening?

Geoff shares a ‘behavioural change stairway model’ adapted from Vecchi et al.(1)  In it he shows that whilst active listening is a precursor of empathy, empathy in turn leads to rapport and so influence and the ability to effect behavioural change.

So, whilst empathy required us to emotionally connect with the other person, we still need to retain our own sense of self, and this is what enables us, as leaders, to then take some appropriate action to influence the ‘speaker’ to achieve a desired outcome.

This is what I have been reflecting about since I read Geoff’s chapter.

The role of empathy in project and line management

When we are responsible for a project, or for a team, should we be task or people focused?  The answer is both.  But whilst we can delegate aspects of the task management to members of our team, ultimately, the responsibility for the people within the team rests with the manager.  If we don’t recognise and respond to the needs of the individuals within the team, and to the dynamics between them, then we will never achieve a high performing team, or see each individual performing to their full potential.

Some people may think this is ‘too touchy feely’, and that we are all independent grown-ups without the need for ‘molly coddling’, but what is the reality of what happens in teams?  Aren’t the emotions visibly there (or thinly disguised) on a day-to-day basis? So as team leaders, wouldn’t we do better to acknowledge that and work with the emotions rather than ignore them?

(By the way the next chapter I read will probably be number 53, Deanne Earle’s on ‘Emotional Intelligence in Project Management’.  Geoff Crane has put up pictures of all us contributing authors and the themes of our chapters on his website – The Papercut Project Manager.  I also wrote a short blog referencing my chapter on Team Development.)

Empathy in change Management

Our APM Enabling Change SIG committee are currently working on a glossary of terms associated with Change Management.  We’re having a bit of a debate around the definition of ‘resistance’ in Change Management.  Is it a barrier to be overcome, as is commonly described by Change Management practitioners?  Or is it something that, in our role as leaders, we should be helping to surface and understand, so that we can respond to what we learn about the ‘speaker’ and use this not only to influence the ‘speaker’ but also to improve on our Change Management plans?  Isn’t that empathy truly at play?  I take the latter approach in my book ‘The Effective Team’s Change Management Workbook’.

A further thought: change agents recognise the importance of communicating the benefits of change, and of doing it in the context of WIIFM (What’s In It For Me).  There is surely an emotional context to that which requires change agents to empathise with – hence the value of asking such questions as: “If this change was successful for you, what would that look, feel or sound like?”

Empathy makes for better facilitation too!

A recent client very kindly said that he uses me as a facilitator because I understand his organisation and the people within it.  We know that the most effective facilitators disconnect from the content of workshops and discussions that we facilitate, and focus instead on providing the right tools and guiding the dynamics of what’s happening.  We need to tune into the emotions involved, and judge when and how to intervene to help the participants achieve their overall goals.

Empathy also helps us to be effective trainers, mentors and coaches

A friend of ours recently died from cancer.  For a short while he’d taught my daughter to improve her guitar playing.  At his funeral service another student talked about how special our friend had been in effectively being able to empathise with his students and help them to achieve whatever it was that they needed – and it wasn’t just about learning to play the instrument – it was about wider aspects of their lives.  I recognised what he was saying from how I’d seen and heard him work with my daughter.

Isn’t empathy what distinguishes a skillful trainer, mentor or coach from a mediocre one?  Which of your teachers do you remember best?  Was it empathy that distinguished them from the others?

(I wrote more broadly about the qualities of trainers, mentors and coaches, in my RiverRhee Newsletters on the ‘coaching continuum‘.)

With empathy we as leaders can give the people that we work with some of the most valuable gifts in life: the time, the space, and ultimately the skills, to achieve what will help them to be successful as ’empowered’ individuals and as members of our teams.  Doesn’t that make empathy a magical leadership ingredient?

Notes

  1. Vecchi, G.M., Van Hasselt, V.B. and Romano, S.J. (2005).  ‘Crisis (hostage) negotiation: Current strategies and issues in high-risk conflict resolution’, Aggression and Violent Behavior, 10, 533-51.

Elisabeth Goodman is the owner and Principal Consultant of RiverRhee Consulting and a trainer,  facilitator, one-to-one coach, speaker and writer, with a passion for and a proven track record in improving team performance and leading business change projects on a local or global basis. 

Elisabeth is an expert in knowledge management, and is accredited in change management, Lean Six Sigma and MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator).  She has a BSc in Biochemistry, an MSc in Information Science, is a full member of the Chartered Institute of Information and Library Professionals (CILIP) and of the Association for Project Management (APM) and is also a Growth Coach with the GrowthAccelerator.

Elisabeth has 25+ years’ Pharma R&D experience as a line manager and internal trainer / consultant, most recently at GSK and its legacy companies, and is now enjoying working with a number of SMEs and larger organisations around the Cambridge cluster as well as further afield in the UK and in Europe.