Leadership and Staff Engagement

Sound leadership and staff engagement must involve encouraging accountability and this means unlearning old rules and culture and learning the new rules of trust.

A Suggestion Scheme – is this really about Staff Engagement?

The MD of a client manufacturing company was concerned that the new Staff Suggestions Scheme did not appear to be generating any ideas from staff as to improving the processes.

‘It’s as if they are not interested…’ the MD complained. He was right. Most staff suggestion schemes falter in the early stages.

The reasons usually centre on staff scepticism as to whether any suggestions will be acted upon. Equally important is that employee groups are rarely involved in developing and implementing improvement ideas.

So what should he do? Let me unfold the story of what we did, starting with trust, training and accountability.

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Mindset shifts

Introduction

I came across this illustration on LinkedIn a few days ago. It claims to offer a fresh recipe for the mindset shifts required to transform organisations.  It stimulated much thought and reflection about the practicalities of the ideas it imparted.  While the best ideas are often simple, is this too simplistic?  Does it ignore the realities of organisational and wider societal life? This is morphing at warp speed under the impact of Covid-19. What the end state will, no one is really sure.

Without doubt, change needs to occur. Are the alternatives so firmly locked at the opposite ends of the five linear scales?  In other words, rather than “Yes, but…”, don’t we need a “Yes, and” approach?  Walt Disney was alleged to answer questions by saying, “Yes, what if we did this…?”. By doing so, he responds positively to the principle of the idea while “reviewing and refining” it. This remains an organisation habit across the entertainment conglomerate.

Is the optimal case for organisational leaders to cultivate the cultural flexibility to display aspects of all the attributes of the labels?  The article does not need to be read in one go.  Consider each of the five “shifts” separately over their own mug of tea or coffee. 

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Knowing me, knowing you (part 2)

In part 1 of this blog, I raised some questions about the need to change our approach to leadership during and beyond this coronavirus crisis to nurture and sustain the quality of organisations’ climates. In so doing, I revisited some of organisational psychology’s foundational theories, notably the work of Kurt Lewin. In this second part, focusing on Lewin’s seminal environment formula that avers behaviour to be a function of personality and situation, I explore why understanding one’s own and your employees’ personality is so important to creating a healthy climate.

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Leadership Interview: Susan Hunter my Leadership Transition Coaching Journey

Susan Hunter from APM Terminals Bahrain shares her leadership transition experience and the role that coaching played.

A leadership transition may at first seem like an onerous prospect. Especially if it involves a complete change of role, a relocation – or both. However in reality, with the right planning and coaching support, it can turn into an extremely rewarding and satisfying experience.

Over recent years the majority of my one-to-one work has been coaching for leadership transition. In 2018/19 I had the privilege of working with Susan Hunter. I was supporting her in her transition from Senior Global Director Operational Excellence to Managing Director at APM Terminals Bahrain. From a senior job at the centre of the business to a key P&L leadership role in the Khalifa Bin Salman Port in Bahrain. Quite a transformation in many ways. Most of our coaching sessions were conduction via Skype. The exception being an initial face-to-face session in London and my visit to Bahrain to meet Susan’s senior leadership team.

In this article I ask Susan to share her leadership transition coaching experience. I am most grateful to Susan for the taking the time in her busy schedule to answer my interview questions.

This is the third article in the series. Last year I wrote similar articles about Peter Drake’s and James Wroe’s leadership transition experiences, and the role that coaching played. In his article Active Leadership Onboarding James shared the six key factors that ensure a new colleague’s successful leadership transition.

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Knowing me, knowing you (part 1)

Are you relying on the “scientific evidence”?

Social media displays countless articles about managing teams dislocated from their normal, intact work location to working from home. Many offer novel suggestions to deal with the novel virus. However, do they fall into one of three less effective categories of “science” (or research), namely popularist, puerile or pedantic, see Figure (1) below[1].

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Adventures with the Marmoset of Mischief

An extroverts guide to surviving COVID-19.

As a card-carrying member of the extrovert club, I’m not really loving the lockdown.

I’m not suggesting that many of us are but I’m guessing that my more introverted colleagues are having a little less of a challenge coming to terms with the new normal…

When this began there was distraction in the challenge of decamping a function to a multitude of homes, ensuring the tech worked and overcoming all the initial problems COVID19 was throwing at us.

This very quickly gave way to an overindulgence in Doritos – apparently, they aren’t one of my five a day – and a propensity for a little too much alcohol despite the mantra/justification of “well it’s five o’clock somewhere”.

By about week three my motivation was all over the place, as were my moods, and I wasn’t breaking any productivity records either. I’d put on weight, so the self-loathing had begun, and we were facing the prospect of another two months of virus inflicted groundhog days. I can’t say I fancied my chances…

So, what to do? Well, there’s an old Buddhist maxim that “the path to true enlightenment begins by returning to the place you never left”. So, that’s what I did. I sat, with me, and tried to figure out what I needed to get through this and how that might look.

Here’s what I found when I got there…

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COVID-19: the sequel

The curse of the virus

“May you live in interesting times,” states the Chinese curse.  Courtesy of a global pandemic that arose in Wuhan in the Chinese province of Hubei, we certainly are.  (Conspiracy theorists may counter that America introduced the virus covertly into China, see https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/12/conspiracy-theory-that-coronavirus-originated-in-us-gaining-traction-in-china.)  The world is in lockdown.  Even President Trump has had to backtrack from saying it was a non-event and all would be sorted by Easter to saying things are going to get far worse.  The picture of the huge US navy hospital ship, USNS Comfort, entering New York harbour is deeply dispiriting.

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Making Coaching Stick

As business leaders, Learning and Development professionals, coach trainers and educators, what can we do to help make coaching training really stick?

The case for sticky coaching

Many businesses expect to increase their spending on coaching in the coming years, both on external coaches and on developing their own internal coaches. It’s no surprise then to find that conversations are increasingly turning to how we can make sure that coach training, whether as a formal, ‘pre-contracted’ activity or as a more ad hoc approach to unlocking potential and improving performance, ‘sticks’. At NG Bailey we’re no different. Over recent years we’ve taken four steps that are starting to make a real difference in our quest for sticky coaching; I’d like to share them with you.

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Listening Leadership: Getting Down on the Shop Floor

Leaders – get down on the shop floor. Walk and talk and listen. You’ll be surprised what everyone can learn.

There seems to be no shortage of books, articles, advice and wisdom on leadership styles and the characteristics of good leaders. Yet it seems that one small, but valuable, behaviour is often missing – or at best limited in practise. Particularly during organisational change and development. Getting down on the shop floor.

In using an analogy : when our son was small he often demanded that at playtime we, his family, ‘get down on the floor’ and join him on the family-room carpet in whatever he was playing with at that moment: making castles from wooden bricks, building Lego or Brio trains or simply drawing… 

Of course a small child’s world operates at that level and that we, as grown-ups, in encouraging play, fun and learning engaged with our son in his world, at his level.

Is there a parallel to ‘getting down on the floor’ with staff in the workplace? From experiences over the years it seems there is. Its getting down on the shop floor!

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An ABC of Leadership and Management (part 3)

This is the third and final look at the ABC of Leadership and Management.

T is for training

Does training (or L&D) activity add value?  Is there a return on the investment, if, indeed, the C-suite regards it as such rather than an expensive, preferably avoidable cost?  An article entitled “The Great Training Robbery”, published by Harvard Business School, merits reading during the festive season, see https://www.hbs.edu/faculty/Publication%20Files/16-121_bc0f03ce-27de-4479-a90e-9d78b8da7b67.pdf.  It says US firms spend something like $165 BILLION on “development” of which 90% generates NO performance uplift within 12 months. 

The new vogue of e-training commoditises learning into read this, watch this, listen to this, do this tick-box exercises. This may satisfy compliance but the learning cycle of acquisition, assimilation and application of new knowledge does not complete a full cycle.  The old practice of discussing expectations of performance uplift before undertaking any training, reviewing and committing to them immediately afterwards then subsequently tracking progress appears to be a redundant managerial practice.  Is it all too humdrum?

Might that have something to do with the job descriptions including leading the team and growing its capability as the last in the list of objectives – see my previous blog (letter S)?

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