Executive team performance: get these 5 things right

Get these five things right for optimal executive team performance

At our recent round-table event in Edinburgh, High performance top teams – fact or fiction? we discussed a framework for creating an optimal top team, in performance terms.

Developed after years of working in and on executive teams, our framework is borne out of first-hand experience, not simply theoretical study. And it’s as simple as five things…

Composition

Firstly – and most obviously – you need to have the right people round the table. But to get to the answer on who should get a seat needs work on defining what the team exists to do and how you want people to behave.

Once you have absolute clarity of purpose, required capabilities and leadership style you need to set aside any egos and conventions about reporting lines and be brave enough to pick the right people, regardless of where they sit in your organisation. Too many under-performing teams are slaves to the tradition of team composition, to the detriment of the team’s performance and potential.

Alignment

It should go without saying, but if it was that simple it wouldn’t need a mention here – in order to perform, any team, but especially an executive one, needs alignment on purpose, priorities and strategic direction.

Small chinks in alignment at this level look like great gaping chasms when viewed from below, so this is about real and tangible alignment with behaviour which supports that, not just nodding in the right places.

Interaction

The next critical part, how a team interacts, is another significant factor in its ability to perform. How do you want these relationships to be? How can you know which interactions may create tension and which will be most productive?

The individuals in the team need to be aligned to the task – the whole reason why the team exists. and critically to each other. Developing a good understanding of each other’s working styles and strengths in service of improving strategy execution is a well-made investment that will pay back many times over.

But it’s also critical to recognise that no one person can cover all the bases, so within the team people need to work with others who complement them, covering each another’s blind spots. Sharing leadership across the team in this way is essential.

Finally, the relationships within the team and between the team and other stakeholders – internal or external – also need careful consideration. Which relationships are most pivotal to the success of the team? For example, a CEO and a Chair or a CEO and a CFO, or perhaps two Functional or Business Directors who need to collaborate effectively.

Execution

Research reveals that tweaking the balance, so a team focuses simultaneously on interaction and execution (the how and the what) meant their work programmes were nearly twice as successful as those run by teams focused on teamwork alone and nearly three times as successful as those that focused on performance alone. So, having considered how a team will work, it’s also critical to focus on how to get work done. – the task strategies. This is a lynch-pin which holds together the strands of success.

To be greater than the sum of its parts, a team must operate optimally. That means getting absolute clarity on what strategies will be used to deliver. Who works with who? Who sponsors particular projects? How will the group make decisions, for example? A lack of emphasis on task strategies is a major factor holding teams back.

Learning

If your team is always in performance mode, there is no reflection and refinement, inevitably meaning its performance will deteriorate over time.

We talk about taking a step back in order to go forward, which means building in pauses at the right time to make sure that everything is on course and to identify any fine-tuning opportunities.

It’s critical to evaluate what strengths you will take forward with you and what might need some attention to be even better.

Research by McKinsey reveals that when senior leaders role-model the behaviour changes they’re asking employees to make, transformations are 5.3 times more likely to be successful. With most organisations in a constant state of flux, can you afford not to get this right?

If you’re interested in finding out more about our team performance framework, please email Triumpha and we’ll schedule a time to talk.

Five things to take your top team from average to outstanding

Five things to take your top team from average to outstanding

It’s a bold claim. Only five things to transform an average team into a high-performing one. But they are so absolutely critical you’ll find it easy to see why.

1.Relationships built in service of the organisation’s goals

The trend for “team building” has not waned since the emergence of whole businesses built on providing cocktail mixing workshops and raft-building days which were meant to transform a disparate bunch of individuals into a super-effective team.

But activities designed as vehicles for relationship-building miss the point entirely. At board level, you don’t have to like one another, you just have to create strong relationships which enable you to co-operate and deliver for the organisation. Members of the top team must be open to being influenced by others and genuinely able to listen to their points of view.

It’s not about getting to a stage where you all happily go for after-work drinks, but forging relationships that will withstand disagreement, challenge and tough times, all while enabling each other to continue to drive organisational performance.

2. Absolute clarity on team composition

Too many teams are convened without sufficient understanding of what they have been created to do. For top teams, it’s imperative that the CEO has crystalised their thinking on two key things, which can then be refined with the team:

  • what is the purpose of the group and what critical things will they do when together?
  • what are the behavioural standards and norms for the group?

The stronger the base, the higher the peak applies here. It’s about creating an enduring framework for the board or executive team which guides what and how, but also why they come together.

This clarity must be combined with a careful assessment of who should be on the team, the skill and will needed to get the results, regardless of reporting lines. Getting this right from the start will reap its own rewards.

3. Optimising team performance

If you always do what you’ve always done, said Ghandi, you will always get what you always got.

Many teams will have done work on themselves as a unit, but few will have addressed the strategies they use to get work done. This is about task work as well as team work and is about looking carefully at what and how work gets done. Task work can be as simple as defining how decisions will be made and how problems will be solved together, but it’s the critical factor which is often overlooked.

It’s also about helping successful leaders get even better by adapting their leadership style and behaviour. In the words of Marshall Goldsmith, ‘what got you here won’t get you there.’ Leader’s get stuck in patterns of behaviour that are no longer helpful and need to acknowledge where they can optimise their own leadership style.

Most importantly leaders need to be willing to make changes to habitual ways of working that are no longer effective. Reaching the top table is not the end of the leadership development journey.

4. Don’t assume alignment

It’s absolutely critical that members of your top team have a common understanding of the organisation’s goals and the strategies to be used to achieve them. Even small divergences in understanding about purpose, priorities and strategic direction at this level can become gaping chasms when viewed from below.

If there is a lack of alignment, you won’t execute on strategy as quickly and in all probability will fail to adapt quickly enough to either keep pace or outpace the market.

Finding effective ways to check that the top team are genuinely aligned is a make-or-break success factor.

5. Slow down to speed up

Research (and common sense) tell us that individuals and teams cannot continue to perform at their best in perpetuity.

Periodically and purposefully coming out of performance mode to reflect on what’s going well and what might need tweaking is the best way to qualify that you are progressing at speed in the right direction.

But taking this deliberate stop also allows the literal pause for breath that is needed to replenish energy and stamina ready for the next phase. We call this slowing down to speed up.

It sounds really simple to say that just five things will take your top team from average to outstanding, and of course, if it was that simple, everyone would have solved the problem. To find out more about truly effective strategies for top team performance for your organisation, please email us at reception@triumpha.com

Top Team Effectiveness: a 21st Century Imperative

In pursuit of top team effectiveness

Historically top team effectiveness has been measured by the influence the CEO has on business results. But in an ever-changing 21st century business environment, it takes more than a single heroic chief executive to deliver results.

When the single most important non-financial factor for investors is the top team and the quality of their leadership, it’s concerning to think that the vast majority of organisations are still wrangling with the perfect solution for this critical driver of business success.

Executive teams and Boards are perpetually characterised by repeating frustrations – lack of productivity or progress in meetings, the same issues appearing time and again, getting down into the detail of issues which could be better dealt with outside of the top team, and too much (or not enough) conflict derailing the decision-making process. There’s so much energy spent on so little results. As a board member or Senior Executive, I’ll wager the symptoms will be as familiar as the cures are elusive.

It’s no wonder that top teams rank in the top 10 most covered topics in Harvard Business Review over the last 40 years.

So, what are the missing pieces which will help top teams – already made up of the best-of-the-best a company has – become the high-performing units they need to be? How can you make sure your top team is focused on the right things in order to drive the right results?

Missing pieces

With the new imperatives presented by the 21st century – a more dynamic and unstable business environment than ever, fast-paced technological changes, and distinct shifts in the attitudes of the workforce – drawing on leadership, talent and capability is the only way to get ahead.

Yet despite decades of significant investment in team development we’re still not seeing universal improvements in top team – and therefore business – performance.

At our roundtable we’ll talk through the three major reasons for this lack of traction:

  1. The focus has been on developing the wrong things. Team work is prioritised over task work, but like yin and yang, both need to be in balance to reap results
  2. When the focus is on the right things, it’s often at the wrong time
  3. Leaders get stuck in behavioural patterns which limit individual and team performance

At the heart of it all is one concept – shared leadership.

Marshall Goldsmith said: “No one leader can be good at everything. Shared leadership across a team of leaders will be the way in which excellent companies do business in the future.”

The real power for dealing with rapid change and hyper-competition lies in shared leadership within and across the senior executive team and Board. So, if the age of a single CEO doing most of the heavy lifting is over, how can you fine-tune your executive team and Board to deliver the performance the business deserves?

A new focus

It’s true that an effective team can become more than the sum of its parts, but what does it take to turn that group of great people into a high performance board which can truly deliver for an organisation?

How can you create shared leadership and harness that to enhance results?

At its core, a top team must build strong relationships in service of the organisation, because that’s what it takes to operate effectively. You don’t have to like one another, just figure out a way of communicating and collaborating that drives outcomes.

Research tells us that there are three key aspects of board or top team interactions that will really drive improved performance outcomes:

  1. Influencing the effort that team members put into their contribution to the team’s work
  2. The performance strategies adopted to achieve progress
  3. The knowledge and skills people have

Here we briefly explore what each of these means for your board or senior executive team development.

Influencing effort

Performance strategies – why you need them

Many boards and senior executive teams spend a large amount of time setting the what and where of strategic direction. The really effective ones also agree on the how, defining performance strategies that will ensure delivery of the work that only they can do, resulting in the organisation delivering against its targets.

If you’re using the wrong strategies, how can you expect to deliver the right results?

Knowledge and skills – the power of team

Learning and personal development must not stop because someone reaches the board. And a very real danger is that some of the skills that have supported a rise to board level will work against you, particularly in arresting learning in a misguided belief that those who reach the board are fully-formed and able to take on the challenge without further personal development.

Critical to team performance is not only personal development, but the skills mix the team possesses and how this can be put to optimum use. Do you even have the right people on the team to deliver?

Of course, if it was as simple as cracking these three things then we wouldn’t need an executive roundtable to go into more detail about how to get top teams to perform!

If you’re joining us for one of our upcoming roundtables we’re looking forward to hearing your experiences and views on whether high-performing top teams only really exist in mythology or whether it’s possible to create one in your organisation.

Taking the right first step to future proof your organisation

At our recent invitation-only round table event, Future proof your organisation with 21st century leadership, we discussed many aspects of the current business environment and the challenge it poses. Some of the key points included:

  1. No one person has all of the answers. Adaptive and shared leadership is the only sustainable way forward
  2. Developing a culture which supports enterprise contribution will result in exponentially improved performance
  3. VUCA environments are a threat, but can become an opportunity if you have the skills and techniques to overcome them
  4. Creating the right level of attachment in your culture will set every one of your employees free to thrive and perform at their best, which in turn improves organisational performance
  5. If you’re a leader, change and culture start with you

But if you are leading an organisation which needs to transform, what is the single most important thing for you to do now to future proof your organisation?

A new perspective on the failure of change programmes

The failure of change programmes is usually attributed to poor execution, but based on a four-year study of 62 corporate transformations, an article in the Harvard Business Review, What Everyone Gets Wrong About Change Management, says something different.

The research team cites what might sound like an obvious, but previously overlooked, cause – organisations often pursue the wrong changes. They advocate that, before worrying about how to change, executive teams need to figure out what to change and in particular, what to change first.

What vs how

For decades senior leadership teams have worried about how to undertake change programmes. Various techniques have been in vogue at different points, and many hours have been spent debating one approach versus another at board tables around the world.

But this analysis paralysis took focus away from the most important aspect of change – what exactly is it that needs to be changed? What changes will have the biggest impact on the organisation’s success? And, crucially, what changes will have the biggest benefit to its stakeholders – both its customers and its team?

Understanding your organisation’s answer to what to change first requires a detailed and thoughtful look at a multitude of factors and metrics. An outside perspective is often helpful in uncovering key insight which can guide successful change programmes.

Transformation done poorly can be very painful. All transformation requires some form of disruption, but negative disruption can have disastrous effects on your business. It can, and often does, lead to confusion, wasted energy, time, effort, and money.

However, transformation can also be, well, for lack of a better term, transformational. Done right, it can position your company to take advantage of the challenges it faces, turning what were once challenges into opportunities.

So, what will your next step be? And how do you know it will be the right one?

What does 21st century leadership look like and why does it matter?

They say the only constant is change, consequently, 21st century leadership has never been more relevant than in today’s dynamic business environment.

We’re not yet a quarter of the way into the 21st century, but the difference between 20th and 21st century organisations is already marked by those which are thriving, and those which are merely surviving.

Many organisations are still using the leadership styles and management processes developed for the Industrial Revolution, when the imperatives were about streamlining to create maximum efficiency.

But nearly 200 years later, efficiency doesn’t win the match, it merely buys you a ticket into the game.

Does leadership really matter?

Leaders create the culture for success: 50-70% of the variance in organisation culture can be explained by differences in leadership style.

And according to research by Dave Ulrich, around 30% of the judgments investors make about the intangible value of an organisation rely on their views about the quality of its leadership.

Even if you place no other significance on great leadership (and if you don’t, we really need to talk!), when its quality can directly impact an organisation’s financial value, there’s no escaping its critical role in success.

What is 21st century leadership?

If it isn’t about creating a more efficient organisation, exactly what is 21st century leadership about?

We’ve run 10 round table events on this topic, as well as working with more than 170 organisations to make transformation smoother and more successful. For us, the key to successful 21st century leadership comes down to a fundamental shift.

Leaders can no longer have all of the answers.

The environment is too complex. The challenges are too extensive. The people you are leading are more diverse than ever.

So while individual leaders cannot have all of the answers, collectively your people do. Adaptive leadership – where you set direction and ground rules, but then allow your team to dictate how to reach the end point – allows problem solving at the pace you need. That agility is no longer a luxury, but a necessity. Leaders need to be facilitators, not commanders.

As we say in our manifesto: Leadership is not a set of characteristics. Leadership is a responsibility.

We explore these concepts and many more at our round-table events. We look forward to meeting you and hearing your perspective on 21st century leadership.

 

What Great Leaders Know About Rest

Productivity is critical to organisational performance, but for decades we’ve missed focusing on the one thing which can have a tremendous impact on it. Our blog reveals what’s missing, why we need it, and how the latest scientific research should fundamentally shift our thinking on productivity.

Even for the most experienced leaders, it gets tough at the top.  For all the dynamic thinking and inspirational leadership, it’s a pressured and challenging environment that demands long hours and huge commitment.  So, it’s no surprise that with increasing levels of awareness around mental health and the impacts of stress and well-being at work, the lens is now shifting to whether this is actually the optimum way to get the most out of business’s best minds.

It’s particularly pertinent at this time of year when many of the workforce will have already packed up the family and set off for their summer holiday.  Behind closed doors, even at the more junior levels, it’s likely there has been at least one ‘discussion’ about taking a work mobile phone or laptop.  This inability to truly switch off, or be perceived as unavailable, speaks volumes about today’s workplace culture and mentality.

A commitment to life, not just work

We accept with gusto that with a 10,000-hour investment we can become a master at our chosen subject yet many leaders struggle to give anything like that kind of commitment to their own wellbeing.  The pendulum has swung so far towards work that the phrase work/life balance has become lost as leaders strive to do it all.

So, what is the answer?  There’s a new school of thought that believes it’s rest and relaxation, and that as leaders, we’re just not taking it seriously enough.

A recent Harvard study has looked at how successful CEOs spend their time, breaking it down into 15-minute slots.  There were some interesting findings that should begin to challenge the perceptions leaders have. The work hard, play hard culture is still evident, with the working week still demandingly high at over 62 hours, but the down-time is better protected, more focused and importantly, more meaningful.

For example, almost seven hours are spent sleeping.  Quality, restful sleep where the brain has time to consolidate memories and skills. The remaining six hours are almost equally split between the fulfilment of family and personal time.

What is striking is that these CEOs are as deliberate and planned about their rest as they are about their work, seeing rest and work as two essential and complementary parts of an integrated healthy whole.

The science behind the theory

There are a number of new books that go on to challenge the norm of a working day by questioning the value of a 9am – 5pm daily structure, instead arguing that the brain is at its most effective in much shorter bursts.  The idea of working less to achieve more isn’t new – take a look at Tim Ferriss’ 4-Hour Work Week, published in 2007 and a New York Times best-seller for an early proponent of this theory.

But the focus on rest, not just work, is a relatively new thing. Author Alex Pang, in his book Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less, explores the strategies used by some of history’s most successful leaders to practice deliberate rest, sustain their energy, boost their creativity, and lengthen their careers.

Two Awesome Hours, by Josh Davis, follows this with science-based thinking around productivity.  He believes in the principle of planning for two hours of peak performance each day which stems from aligning the brain and biological systems and then actively planning in ‘recovery time’.

But rest doesn’t mean our brain isn’t being useful. If you know you have your best ideas while walking the dog, or often wake in the middle of the night to a flash of inspiration, you’ll realise that our subconscious is using rest as its time for problem-solving. What these new ideas are telling us is that we have to get the balance right between focused effort and time to think – the yin and yang of work and rest – in order to make the biggest difference to our performance.

A totally new way of working

Despite the obvious appeal of working less and relaxing more, we’ve seen that even moving in this direction is culturally and practically difficult. For example, there are few truly flexible and agile employers, not only because of technology challenges but also the HR and cultural perceptions that go with being physically at work.

If we accept that our wiring means that we can only be at our best for somewhere between four and six hours each day, then when we work productivity really matters, and this means we have to organise our work so we can truly focus.

In reality we can only focus for circa 90-120 minutes at a time before needing some time and space to recover, so in theory we have two to three cycles in any given day depending on our energy. Optimising our use of these cycles becomes critical, planning mini-recovery in between where we can do other less taxing things and go again.

This is a totally new way of working to most of us, but the evidence is racking up that it’s a strategy we should take seriously if we want to be our most productive selves. If we truly want to effect change, we have to start treating rest with respect.

If you would like to discuss how to take your performance and productivity to the next level please schedule a complimentary consultation at your convenience.

 

13 Mindblowing Organisational Transformation Stats

No doubt many of us have heard the oft-quoted statistic that 70% of all organisational transformation and change initiatives fail. But how many of us can recall some of the lesser known (and yet equally eye-opening!) facts and figures that paint a picture of the true impact of transformation, whether at an individual, team or organisational level?Leading Transformation

So hold on to your hats because we’ve got 13 awe-inspiring statistics on organisational transformation listed below. Feel free to add your own in the comments section!

  1. Company-wide change efforts are 12.4 times more likely to be successful when senior managers communicate continually. (McKinsey)
  2. 92 percent of change practitioners name top management sponsorship as the most important factor for successful change. (IBM)
  3. Nearly 60 percent of projects aimed at achieving business change do not fully meet their objectives. (IBM)
  4. When senior leaders role model the behaviour changes they’re asking employees to make, transformations are 5.3 times more likely to be successful. (McKinsey)
  5. Leaders create the climate for success – 50-70% of variance in organisational climate can be explained by differences in leadership styles. (Hay Group)
  6. Up to 30% of variance in financial results (profits and revenue) can be explained by differences in organisational climate. (Hay Group)
  7. 86% of C suite executives and 84% of all managers and employees say culture is critical to their organisations’ success. 60% see it as a bigger success factor than either their strategy or their operating model. (PWC)
  8. Less than 10% of leaders have the right capabilities and experiences required to successfully lead transformations. (PWC)
  9. Frontline employees taking the initiative to drive change elevates the success of transformations to a whopping 71%. (McKinsey)
  10. 12% of people don’t believe their companies are keeping up with the changing landscape of business (Mitch Joel, Ctrl Alt Delete)
  11. 31% of CEOs are fired for not managing organisational change well enough. (Forbes)
  12. 25% of change management initiatives are successful over the long term (Towers Watson)
  13. 95% of leaders using stakeholder centred coaching improved their effectiveness (Marshall Goldsmith)

So there you have it: the good, the bad and the ugly! All business change requires some form of disruption from the norm, which, as you can see from some of the above stats, means that transformation done poorly can be very painful. However, it’s not all bad news – transformation can also be, well, for lack of a better term, transformational. Done right, it can position you, your team and your company to take advantage of challenges, turning what were once issues into opportunities.

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How to build a high performance team you can be proud of

You’ve heard it before, ‘a team is more than the sum of it’s parts’. So in what circumstances is the following true:

1+1+1+1+1+1 = 6

1+1+1+1+1+1 = 2

1+1+1+1+1+1 = 12

Creating the conditions for high performance teamwork, where 1 x 6 really does equal 12, is the holy grail of team development. In this paper we discuss the five disciplines of high performance teams that should underpin any team coaching approach, the characteristics of high performance teams and the most effective methods for turning your team into a high performance team.

If you would like to discuss how to take your team to the next level please schedule a complimentary consultation at your convenience.

Even when you have highly talented individuals on your team, team performance levels may reach only what each of your team members could have achieved working on their own. Or individual performance levels may even reduce, such is the negative impact of the team process at times.

In this 4 minute video, Professor Peter Hawkins, Professor of Leadership, Henley Business School shares his thoughts on the 5 disciplines for high performance teams.

Professor Hawkins’ leadership team coaching approach resonates with us here at Triumpha. We like it because it goes beyond how your team connects together through relationships and considers how to create a team that can transform your business.

We believe that accelerating the alignment, development and effectiveness of board and executive leadership teams is one of the most powerful routes for increasing organisation performance and growth. Leadership team high performance is not an optional nice to but an organisational necessity. But don’t take our word for it:

 

“Not finance. Not Strategy. Not Technology. It is teamwork that remains the ultimate competitive advantage, both because it is so powerful and so rare.”

Patrick Lencioni (2002)

High Performance Team Characteristics

High performance teams have the following:

  1. Shared Purpose: team members define a shared purpose which inspires & mobilises them to drive for results
  2. Focus on Results: team members create shared clarity on what you must collectively deliver
  3. Healthy conflict: team members honour differences and engage in passionate debate.
  4. Wholehearted Commitment: team members wholeheartedly commit to decisions and action plans
  5. Mutual Accountability: team members hold each other accountable for meeting team objectives
  6. Trust: team members are open about mistakes and weaknesses and willing to ask each other for help.
  7. Team Sense: team members behave in the best interests of the team when they are together and when they are apart.

These characteristics reflect common sense. The theory is simple whilst also being extremely difficult to put into practice day after day. It requires uncommon levels of courage, discipline and humility from you and your team over a sustained period of time to deliver sustainable team high performance.

In our experience these levels of discipline and persistence don’t happen by chance and occur only when two conditions are met:

A. YOUR TEAM MUST WANT TO CHANGE

Generating motivational energy around a shared purpose and goals that matter deeply to your team members will fuel your journey to team high performance.

 

 “Be enthusiastic as a leader you can’t light a fire with a wet match.”

Anonymous

 

B. YOUR TEAM INVESTS TIME & ENERGY IN A TEAM COACHING PROCESS

Great teamwork doesn’t happen by chance. It takes some heavy lifting. Your team will need to commit to a team coaching process that:

“Will help them both improve their collective performance and how they work together, and also how they develop their collective leadership to more effectively engage with all their key stakeholder groups to jointly transform the wider business.”

Professor Peter Hawkins

High Performance Team Development Options

 There are a variety of interventions that you can use to increase your team’s performance and effectiveness:

  • Strategic planning meetings: focus on your strategic challenges, opportunities and plans without distraction for 1-2 days (preferably offsite)
  • Team development events: bespoke sessions to help your team improve for example, decision making, problem solving, conflict management, team communication and cohesion
  • Leadership retreats: time to prepare for leading transformation and change
  • Team meeting observation & feedback: team coaches observe your team in action, provide feedback on what they see and coach your team ‘real time’ to increase their efficiency and effectiveness.
  • Individual leadership coaching: for positive sustainable behavioural change
  • Meetings with stakeholders: clarifying expectations, enabling collaboration and partnership working
  • Succession Planning: plan for the replacement of key leaders and increase the readiness of succession candidates.
  • Defining a leadership standard: what great leadership looks like in your business

Used in isolation each of these interventions will be helpful up to a point. If we compare team coaching to working with a personal trainer to lose weight and get fitter. A one-time trip to the gym or a week of eating the right food moves you in the right direction but doesn’t deliver the results you want. For sustainable results you need to commit to get fit.

In this example your trainer facilitates a structured process informed by expertise in nutrition, exercise and wellbeing but you have to do the heavy lifting. If you don’t put the miles in or follow the eating plans you are unlikely to make progress towards your goals.

High performance teamwork isn’t different. Just as with the fitness example, when the disciplines for high performance are internalised you don’t need a trainer any more. At this point you have embedded a way of working that supports the continued growth, development and high performance of your team.

 

Think about the 2-3 biggest challenges for your organisation over the next 12-24 months:

  • Is your leadership team ready to meet these challenges?
  • How does your individual and collective leadership need to evolve and develop?

If you would like to discuss how to take your team to the next level please schedule a complimentary consultation at your convenience.

 

Organisational Culture and the importance of feelings

Think of organisations you’ve worked for. Which one is your favourite?

 

What do you remember about it? Your colleagues, the building, the work?

 

Or was it the way it made you feel: proud, challenged, energised, hopeful or perhaps even ‘at home’?’

 

What about your favourite leader? Do you remember how they dressed, what they said or do you remember how you felt when they spoke to you?

 

Or was it simply the bragging rights from being part of a high performance team, doing things that mattered…how good did it feel to say you worked for ‘X’ the very first time?

 

We join organisations for community. We give our best and we stay because of how we feel.

 

As a leader in your organisation, it is your job to make sure that the emotional experience people have when they engage with your organisational culture is intentional and memorable.

 

Research by Daniel Siegel, Executive Director of the Mindsight Institute offers insights on how to do this. We derive our sense of identity not just from who we are, but what we are part of. Our brains produce a ‘we’ map which shows our part in the bigger whole. Leaders who get this connect individuals to a bigger purpose, honour individual differences and proactively build connections between individuals, teams and across the organisation.

 

This style of leadership fits with our basic human nature to be part of a ‘we’, rather than a solitary ‘I’. It creates an organisational culture where people thrive and engage. Not because they have to but because the organisation has become part of who they are.

 

Ask yourself how you want your people to feel when they come to work and then ask your people the same question. See if the answers align. If they do you are doing a wonderful job creating your desired organisational culture. If not then you’ve got work to do because people don’t always remember what you achieved, but they always remember how you made them feel.

New Leadership through the Lens of Emotions

Emotions and specifically emotional intelligence are synonymous with effective leadership in today’s organisations. How leaders manage their emotions, mange their relationships and make changes to their emotional style have been topics of conversation for some time. Recent studies about the benefits from positive emotions offer new insights.

Daniel Goleman’s pioneering work tells us that whilst IQ is the best predictor of what kind of job you will be able to hold. It typically takes an IQ of 115 or above to handle the cognitive complexity, facing a professional or top executive. The paradox is, once you’re in a high IQ position, intellect loses its power to determine who will become the most productive and effective leader. How you manage yourself and your relationships – your emotional intelligence matters more.

In a high IQ job pool, Goleman says that soft skills like discipline, drive and empathy mark those who emerge as outstanding. EQ (emotional quotient) typically accounts for 80% of this leadership success. This finding holds as true for CEO and board level leaders as it does for any other leader, according to research from Mullwood Partnership.

Given the critical role emotional intelligence plays in leadership success, surely mastery of how we manage ourselves, manage our relationships and adapt our leadership style to increase effectiveness must be at the heart of every leader’s development?

Negative Emotions: Narrow Choice and Develop Specific Action Tendencies

Most readers of this blog will have had some leadership coaching on how to manage their own emotions and the emotions of others in the workplace. The mantras, ‘take the heat out’, ‘keep a cool head’ and ‘don’t let your emotions interfere with business’ are probably familiar to you.

The problem with this advice is that it only helps us to manage negative emotions. For our ancestors, negative emotions helped them to narrow in on a specific set of actions, saving their skin in the moment. (Often, in life and death situations.) Whilst our operating environment has changed, we still rely on this ancestral script. For example, if we are fearful, we want to escape, if we are angry we want to attack, if we are sad we want to withdraw and if we feel shame we want to disappear.

Leaders learn early on that letting rip with the full power of our negative emotions isn’t required, except in emergencies, and it doesn’t necessarily produce the best results in the workplace. Through self-management we learn to constrain our negative emotional spectrum and help others to do the same. We become masters in the art of emotional neutrality, able to block out our hard-wired action tendencies and do what is required in the moment to take the heat out and keep a cool head.

Emotional management is an important skill. When you need to have difficult conversations, make tough decisions, close facilities or make people redundant, ‘keeping your powder dry’ is essential. However, being able to manage negative emotions won’t make you an emotionally intelligent leader. For that you also need to understand positive emotions and how extraordinary performance requires focus on both negative and positive psychology in the workplace.

Positive Emotions: Broaden and Build

Professor Barbara Fredrickson from the University of North Carolina one of the world’s leading scholars in emotion science says that positive emotions open us up. They broaden our momentary thought-action repertoires and widen the array of thoughts and actions that come to mind.

For example the experience of joy creates the urge to play, to push the limits and be creative. Interest creates an urge to explore, take in new information and new experience, pride encourages us to dream big and achieve more and inspiration aspires us to excellence. This broadening builds enduring personal resources such as creativity, learning and change agility, resilience and the capacity to get out of the weeds and see the big picture. These resources function as reserves that can be drawn upon when you need them.

Our day to day experiences of positive emotions function like a daily diet, which can be rich in all kinds of nutrients like eating five or ten fruits and vegetables a day. We need a variety of positive emotions and a steady diet to keep us learning and growing and becoming the best versions of ourselves over time. It’s not the case that eating one piece of broccoli this year is going to make you healthy! You and those who work with you need a steady diet of positive emotions, day in and day out.

In the Future of Management, Gary Hamel says that for organisations to be fit for the future they need to be fit for human beings. He identifies the biggest challenges facing organisations today as:

    • Accelerated change: Building a company that can change as fast as change itself.
    • Hyper-competition: Building a company where innovation is the work of everybody, everyday.
    • Creating new knowledge: Building a company where people are willing to bring the ‘gifts’ of their initiative, creativity & passion.

To meet these challenges we need leaders who can unleash and mobilise the full potential, imagination, initiative and passion of every employee, every day. If you want to inspire, engage, even elevate people and produce extraordinary performance in the process you need to become a positive ‘climate engineer’. The tiny engine that will power your leadership climate is positive emotion.