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3 minutes | Jan 27, 2023
Episode 171 - We Are Made to Care for Others
Summary In this episode we explore the numerous benefits of building a culture of care at work. Transcript Welcome to episode 171 of the Leadership Today podcast where each week we bring research to life in your leadership. This week we explore how to build a culture of care at work. Psychology demonstrates that we benefit not just from being cared for, but we’re also wired to care for others. Organisations can benefit from meeting this basic human need through a culture that fosters belonging, connections and care. This helps to build trust, effective communication, meaning and purpose. All of this contributes to productivity and effectiveness. So how do we build a culture of care at work? Here are a few ideas: Role-model the importance of care by actively caring for others. There’s no point expecting others to demonstrate care if it doesn’t start with us. Recognise that care doesn’t have to be soft - it can be very practical. It can include demonstrating a genuine interest in the work of others, or offering to help somewhen when they are under pressure. Show appreciation. Genuine thanks for the contributions of others helps to show you care. Appreciation can often focus on outcomes, but it’s also worth recognising efforts even when they don’t produce the anticipated results. Recognise and reward efforts to care for others. Celebrate the times when people have gone out of their way to care for others. Look for opportunities to care for others outside your organisation. That might include extending care to your customers and in to the communities where you operate through charities. This helps provide additional meaning and purpose to the work we conduct. Caring isn’t just good for the people we care for, it’s good for us as well. Why not grab one of these points and apply it this week. If this was of interest, you’re going to really like our upcoming Leadership Today On-Demand conference on the theme “Belong”.
3 minutes | Jan 20, 2023
Episode 170 - Sleep Helps Positive Emotions
Summary This week we explore research into why sleep matters so much for our emotional state, and tips for better sleep. Transcript Welcome to episode 170 of the Leadership Today podcast where each week we bring research to life in your leadership. This week we explore research into why sleep matters so much for our emotional state, and tips for better sleep. We all know that sleep matters for our general health and wellbeing. Getting 7 to 8 hours of high quality sleep a night makes a big difference in our ability to concentrate, be resilient, and relate well with others. REM sleep, characterised by rapid eye movements and dreaming, is thought to be particularly beneficial for memory consolidation and emotional processing. Recent research suggests that REM sleep assists with the consolidation of positive emotions associated with safety, while suppressing the influence of negative emotions associated with danger. It’s thought this process helps people to maintain a healthy balance in their focus on safety and danger. A lack of REM sleep can tip this balance too much toward a focus on danger, and a range of anxiety-related disorders can result. Having an appropriate emotional balance will help greatly in the daily stresses of leadership. Given sleep is so important, how do we make sure we’re getting enough? Here are seven tips: Maintain a consistent sleep schedule. It’s tempting to vary when we go to bed and wake up across the week, but sticking to the same schedule helps. Set your bed room up for sleep. Make sure the room is dark, quiet and cool. Don’t get in the habit of watching TV in your bedroom. Avoid screens at night. The blue light from screens, particularly from phones, laptops and tablets, messes with your sleep cycle and hormones such as melatonin. Avoid caffeine and alcohol in the hours before sleep. Both can negatively impact your ability to get to sleep and stay asleep. Wind down before sleep. Most smart phones allow you to set sleep reminders which can prompt you to have a relaxing routine before bed. This might include taking a bath, reading, or undertaking relaxation techniques. Have an exercise routine. Exerting yourself physically during the day will help you to fall asleep. If you wake during the night and are struggling to fall back to sleep, get up and do something relaxing until you feel tired again. This can help your body and brain to reset for more sleep. Getting enough sleep is an important element of effective leadership. The better you rest and restore, the better prepared you are to lead others. Have a great week. Reference Mattia Aime, Niccolò Calcini, Micaela Borsa, Tiago Campelo, Thomas Rusterholz, Andrea Sattin, Tommaso Fellin, Antoine Adamantidis. Paradoxical somatodendritic decoupling supports cortical plasticity during REM sleep. Science, 2022; 376 (6594): 724
3 minutes | Jan 13, 2023
Episode 169 - Flexible Hours Beats Working at Home
Summary Much of the discussion around flexible work has focused on the ‘where’ of work. It turns out the ‘when’, ‘what’ and ‘why’ of work matter even more. Transcript Welcome to episode 169 of the Leadership Today podcast where each week we bring research to life in your leadership. This week we explore how the discussions around flexible work are often the wrong way around. Instead of starting with the ‘where’, we should begin with the ‘why’. A lot of discussion about flexible work has focused on the ‘where’ of work. Can I work at home instead of the office? If so, how many days a week? Are you going to force me to come in particular days? Interestingly, a recent survey of 10,000 knowledge workers in the US found the ability to set their own hours was even more important than working from home. While 78% of workers wanted flexibility for where they worked, 95% wanted flexibility over when they worked. While people are focused on the ‘where’ and ‘when’ of their jobs, the ‘what’ and the ‘why’ of work provide even greater opportunities to engage and motivate people. Clarifying the ‘why’ of the work involves identifying why this work matters, the broader purpose people are contributing to, and how this role contributes to that purpose. This sense of purpose helps with motivation - people are more motivated when they feel like they are contributing to something meaningful and important. And it also ensures people are working in the same direction. When things are unclear, they can refer back to this broader purpose to guide their decision making and efforts. This is what I describe as aligned motivation - people are motivated and heading in the same direction. But it’s possible to be aligned and not motivated, so what else can we do to motivate others? Deci and Ryan’s work shows motivation is about providing autonomy, building capability and confidence, and fostering a sense of belonging through meaningful connections. If you’re interested in how leaders practically do this you can take a look at our Leadership Practices in the Leadership Today app for a free assessment and tips. When you’re seeking to engage your people, it’s easy to become drawn into a discussion about the ‘where’ and ‘when’ of work. Instead, make sure you begin with the ‘why’ and ‘what’ of work before moving on to the ‘when’ and ‘where’. Reference Katherine Bindley and Chip Cutter. Workers Care More About Flexible Hours Than Remote Work , Wall Street Journal. https://www.wsj.com/articles/workers-care-more-about-lexible-hours-than-remote-work-11643112004
4 minutes | Jan 6, 2023
Episode 168 - When Deadlines Backfire
Summary Are deadlines always a good thing? And when might they backfire? This week we explore research focused on exactly these questions. Transcript Welcome to episode 168 of the Leadership Today podcast where each week we bring research to life in your leadership. This week we explore when setting a deadline might backfire, leading to a reduced chance of delivering. If you want someone to complete a simple task for you, are you better off setting a one week deadline, a one month deadline, or no deadline at all? A team of researchers explored just this question. They randomly selected New Zealand participants and offered a $10 donation to charity in return for completing a 5 minute survey. Their findings showed that a shorter deadline of one week resulted in a greater response rate than a one month deadline. 6.6% completed the voluntary survey with the shorter deadline, versus 5.5% for the longer deadline. The researchers believed the one month deadline provided the greatest opportunity to procrastinate, and it also saw the lowest number of completions of early responses. So a shorter deadline is definitely better. Interestingly, providing no deadline to complete the survey actually worked best, with 8.3% of people voluntarily completing the survey. Like the one week deadline, not providing a deadline at all led to a higher number of early responses to the survey than a long deadline. So how do we apply this research in our leadership? The most direct application is in surveys. When I was heavily involved in employee surveys we used to apply a combination approach. Our initial survey requests typically didn’t include a deadline. After two weeks, we would then provide a one week deadline to those who hadn’t completed the survey. And we would always keep the survey open a week after the deadline. For whatever reason there is always a small number of people who don’t start things until the deadline has passed. This combination produced better results than just providing a two or three week deadline up front. When we want people to voluntarily complete a short task, we’re best to initially not provide a deadline. If we are asked for a deadline, we’re better off specifying something short like one or two weeks, rather than a longer deadline of a month. This approach helps to provide people with freedom to manage their time. Not setting a deadline provides that freedom while avoiding the risk of procrastination for simple tasks. It’s like we all operate with a range of vision for deadlines. In a firm I worked for there was a running joke. If anyone ever said something would be ready in six weeks, it was taken to mean that it would never be done. Six weeks was long enough into the future that it was beyond most people’s planning and attention. For smaller tasks, why not experiment with shorter deadlines and not having deadlines at all. You will likely find things will be completed more reliably and faster than if you set a one month deadline. Reference Knowles, S., Servátka, M., Sullivan, T. & Genç, M. (2022) Procrastination and the non-monotonic effect of deadlines on task completion. Economic Inquiry, 60( 2), 706– 720.
4 minutes | Dec 16, 2022
Episode 167 - Agreeableness, Work Investment and Teamwork
Summary This week we explore how agreeableness as a personality trait has a positive impact on work investment and teamwork. Transcript Welcome to episode 167 of the Leadership Today podcast where each week we bring research to life in your leadership. This week we explore how agreeableness as a personality trait has a positive impact on work investment and teamwork. Since the 1950s, and particularly from the 1980’s, personality research has focused primarily on the big 5 personality traits - Openness-to-Experience, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism. Taken together these 5 traits account for the majority of differences in personality between individuals while also having predictive ability across a range of positive and negative outcomes in workplace settings. They provide our best understanding of personality across a range of settings and individuals. A recent study focused on the agreeableness trait. As a personality trait this describes people who are cooperative, polite, friendly and kind. Agreeableness is associated with an interest in others and in building positive relationships. The study by Wilmot and Ones is of the most comprehensive analyses of agreeableness undertaken, bringing together 1.9 million participants across more than 3,900 research studies. Their research highlighted a broad range of positive outcomes associated with agreeableness in a workplace context. The benefits for individuals and teams included: Focus on growth and concern for others Contentment with current circumstance Investment in building and maintaining relationships with others Team working including cooperating with others and working towards shared goals Work investment and commitment Tendency to place less emphasis on results, and being more lenient in rating others’ performance Ability to adjust to new contexts Greater likelihood of respecting social norms and rules In summary, those with agreeableness as a personality trait are likely to invest more effort into their work, primarily in a corporative and team-building way. Here are some tips for building agreeableness: Take a genuine interest in others. Empathy is a cornerstone of agreeableness. It’s easier to get along with people that we understand and can relate to. Invest time in building relationships. Agreeableness is often about quantity time. Relationships require investment. Consider shared goals, not just individual goals. Agreeableness is interested in collective outcomes and team wins. Maintain connections during moments of disagreement and conflict. Relationships are usually more important than winning an argument. It’s also worth nothing that, as a leader, you can assess and select for agreeableness and other personality traits that may be important for work performance. This requires personality instruments that are specifically designed for a selection context, but is worth exploring if you want to build effective teams. References Wilmot, M. P., & Ones, D. S. (2022). Agreeableness and Its Consequences: A Quantitative Review of Meta-Analytic Findings. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 26(3), 242–280.
3 minutes | Dec 9, 2022
Episode 166 - Is it Better to be Pessimistic, Realistic or Optimistic?
Summary Is optimism always better for happiness and well-being? This week we explore which is best for mental well-being - being pessimistic, realistic or optimistic. Transcript Welcome to episode 166 of the Leadership Today podcast where each week we bring research to life in your leadership. This week we explore which is best for mental well-being - being pessimistic, realistic or optimistic. The benefits of optimism have been widely promoted over the past few years. However, as we have discussed before, unrealistic optimism can lead to negative outcomes. Pessimism often has a range of even worse outcomes. The classical view in psychology is that mental health requires accurate self-perception. So are we better off just being realistic? A recent study tackled the question of pessimism, optimism and well-being in a clever way. They tracked the financial expectations and actual outcome of 1,600 people over an 18 year period. The researchers identified those with unrealistic optimism - where they consistently overestimated the likelihood of positive financial outcomes - as having a 14% reduction in long-term mental well-being, and 12% increased level of distress. Constantly falling short of expectations is clearly damaging. But those who were unrealistically pessimistic were even worse off, showing a 22% reduction in long-term well-being and 37% higher psychological distress than those with realistic and accurate expectations. So what can we take away from this research? Here are four ideas to improve our mental well-being: Learn from the surprise wins and the tough times. It’s striking how these patterns of unrealistic optimism and pessimism were sustained by participants over nearly two decades. Let’s aim for learning and improvement, converting these wins and losses into personal development and growth. Gather information to confirm or refute your perspective. When things are uncertain our natural tendency can be to avoid information. Instead, we should actively seek out alternative perspectives. Speak to others and gain their perspectives. Good advice and feedback are priceless. We often underestimate how important it is to learn from others. Aim for accurate self-perception. The more we can see ourselves and events as they really are, the greater our mental well-being. Reference de Meza, D., & Dawson, C. (2021). Neither an Optimist Nor a Pessimist Be: Mistaken Expectations Lower Well-Being. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 47(4), 540–550.
3 minutes | Nov 25, 2022
Episode 165 - Expecting to be Bored is Boring
Summary If we expect something to be boring, it ends up being even more boring. Transcript Welcome to episode 165 of the Leadership Today podcast where each week we bring research to life in your leadership. This week we explore how expecting something to be boring makes it even more boring. Let’s face it, we all get a little bored at times. Sometimes we even expect something to be boring in advance. Universities are a great place to research boredom. Lectures can be amazing, but they can also be a little tedious. One of the best psychology lectures I ever went to was on human perception. Our amazing and rather elderly professor put glow in the dark dots on his torso and limbs, then turned out the lights in the lecture theatre. He walked around in front of a hundred or so students demonstrating how just a few dots allow us to clearly see the human form. Unfortunately he then tripped over, and the dots all ended up being in a pile on the floor. Fortunately he was fine, but the lesson always stuck with me. But for every lecture like that, there were many others that didn’t quite reach the same heights. Researchers have shown that our expectations about a lecture can impact the way we feel about the lecture. If we expect a lecture to be boring, we actually end up feeling even more bored than we would have otherwise felt. Expecting something to be boring makes it even more boring. So what can we do about this? Here are four ideas. Remain curious. Even the most boring topic, presentation or meeting will have some interesting elements if we just look out for them. Remind yourself of why you’re there in the first place. Positioning the potentially boring even in the context of a broader purpose can make that time more meaningful. Try a little daydreaming. Letting your mind wander during a boring event might just help you to come up with that breakthrough idea you have been chasing. Cut your losses. If something is truly boring and doesn’t add any value, you can always walk out. Have a great, and not boring, week. Reference https://www.bps.org.uk/research-digest/if-you-expect-lecture-be-boring-youll-probably-end-feeling-more-bored
3 minutes | Nov 18, 2022
Episode 164 - How Biased People Become More Biased
Summary Research demonstrates the process by which biased people become more biased. Here’s what to do about it. Transcript Welcome to episode 164 of the Leadership Today podcast where each week we bring research to life in your leadership. This week we explore how biased people become even more biased. We are living in particularly polarised times. On so many issues across society and politics we see people becoming more entrenched in their thinking and less open to alternate perspectives. Clearly this isn’t great for us individually and collectively. I’m sure, like me, you would love people to be open to changing their mind. A key driver of what we’re seeing around us is selective exposure bias. Research demonstrates that people will actually walk away from the opportunity to make money if it allows them to avoid reading an alternative view of issues like same-sex marriage or gun control. A recent piece of research showed so-called “pro-diversity” thinkers are less susceptible to this bias. Someone who is pro-diversity in their approach is more comfortable interacting with new ideas and people who don’t share their perspective. They don’t necessarily just agree with others, but they’re happy to listen to different perspectives. This presents a challenge though. If people who aren’t open to diversity in the first place also actively avoid information that might change their perspective, aren’t we doomed to just become more polarised? The authors of the study believe part of the answer is in making cross-group interactions inevitable. If we can, in our organisations and in society at large, cause people of differing views to come together. How do we do become more pro-diversity and less prone to selective exposure? Read widely. Don’t limit yourself to one news publisher. Actively expose yourself to new ideas and different perspectives. Engage someone who you know has different views to you. There’s just one rule here though - you’re only allowed to ask questions. Don’t argue back, just seek to understand. Agree to disagree, but be open to changing your mind. Saying we agree to disagree is a bit of a cop out - it closes down further discussion. Instead, be open to changing your mind. Adam Grant’s book Think Again is a great read if you want to extend on these ideas. Reference https://www.bps.org.uk/research-digest/cognitive-bias-can-push-people-more-extreme-ideological-positions
4 minutes | Nov 11, 2022
Episode 163 - The Key to Building Professional Connections
Summary The mindset we bring impacts our ability to build professional connections. Transcript Welcome to episode 163 of the Leadership Today podcast where each week we bring research to life in your leadership. This week we explore how the mindset we bring impacts our ability to build professional connections. One of the challenges and opportunities in any career is building and maintaining professional connections. For some of us, even hearing the word “networking” gets our heart racing - and not in a good way.. Our success in building and keeping these connections is often about the expectations we bring into the relationship. Attachment theory describes three main sets of mindsets and expectations with which we approach building new connections. The first attachment type is “Secure”. With this mindset we expect that people want to connect. We also see ourselves as worthy of those connections. Furthermore, someone with a secure attachment type believes that people can generally be trusted. Having a secure attachment type allows us to establish and maintain connections well. This is what we’re aiming for.The two other attachment types we will consider today are less effective, and can be actively detrimental to building professional connections. The “Anxious” attachment type assumes that there’s always a risk of losing a connection - that people will just leave one day. As a result, they work overly hard at making connections, and then cling on to people once the connection is made. Ironically this approach makes others more likely to leave, so it becomes a self—fulfilling prophecy. The third attachment type is “Avoidant”. People with this approach to relationships are also worried about people leaving or letting them down, but instead of clinging on to people, they keep them at a distance. As a result, they form fewer close connections in an effort to protect themselves from someone leaving. These attachment types are formed through our experiences. If significant people have let us down or left us early in life, it’s probably no surprise that we make an effort to protect ourselves in the future. And the attachment style we use may vary over time and with different circumstances. You might have a secure attachment type outside of work, but be more avoidant at work. Being aware of the primary attachment styles we demonstrate can help us to actively try new things. If we know we tend to cling on to people, we might focus instead on building a broader network of connections. If we know we tend to avoid making new connections, we might set ourselves a goal to build up the connections we have at work. All of this requires us to step out of our comfort zone, but that is where all growth happens. So reflect on the attachment styles you tend towards and use this knowledge to build up your professional connections. Further reading: https://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2022/08/making-keeping-friends-attachment-theory-styles/671222/
4 minutes | Nov 4, 2022
Episode 162 - Cross-Cultural Leadership
Summary This week we consider the challenges of cross-cultural leadership. Transcript Welcome to episode 162 of the Leadership Today podcast where each week we bring research to life in your leadership. This week we consider the challenges of cross-cultural leadership. How have you found working across different cultures? Perhaps you’ve travelled to other parts of the world, or maybe the business you work in has a broad cultural representation. Sometimes it can be challenging to figure out what’s a personality difference and what’s a cultural difference. I’ve been fortunate enough to work across a wide range of cultures, yet I’m still surprised by cultural differences. Given the global audience for the work we do, I’m always conscious of cultural assumptions that might creep in to the way we think about leadership development. It can be challenging working across cultures. There are core assumptions in our cultural world view that we may not even recognise. Researchers have built various frameworks to try to understand how cultures differ. One of the better know frameworks is the Lewis Model of Cultural Types. As someone who had travelled the world and spoke 10 languages, Richard Lewis realised he was in a good position to explore cultural differences. His book “When Cultures Collide”, first released in 1996, brought together a framework to understand how cultures can differ. His model is based on a triangle, with the points of the triangle being linear-active, multi-active, and reactive. Lewis then plots countries at each of these points and along the edges of the triangle. Linear-active cultures are about doing one thing at a time. He saw linear-active cultures such as those in Germany and Switzerland as cool, factual, decisive planners. The UK and US are also close to this cultural type. Multi-active is about trying to do multiple things at once. Multi-active countries such as Brazil, Argentina and Mexico have cultures that are warm, emotional and impulsive. Parts of Europe including Italy and Greece, and sub-saharan Africa are also near this cultural type. Reactive cultures are about responding to others. Reactive cultures like Vietnam were described by Lewis as courteous, accommodating, compromising and polite. China and Japan are also near this cultural type. It’s clear how these cultural types can create conflict and confusion when we bring them together. So how do we tackle these cultural differences. Here are six ideas: Be aware cultural differences exist. Keeping this in mind as you work across cultures will help you be prepared. Don’t fall back on to stereotypes. This is a risk in Lewis’ work - that we end up stereotyping millions of people just based on where they live. In any cultural group there can be a very broad range of expressions and approaches. Be actively curious about other cultures and people. Questions are always a great place to start. Be actively curious about people and their cultural background. Talk about culture. If your team works across cultures, help them to step back to reflect on effectiveness. Clarify expectations. Cultural differences and conflict can be amplified when there are unclear expectations. Discuss how we can best work together. This is a great levelling questions that allows everyone to contribute. Next time you’re working across cultures or in a culturally diverse team, take a few moments to review these points and apply them. Have a great week.
4 minutes | Oct 28, 2022
Episode 161 - Letting Go and Moving On
Summary This week we explore goal setting, and the importance of letting go and moving on. Transcript Welcome to episode 161 of the Leadership Today podcast where each week we bring research to life in your leadership. This week we are exploring letting go and moving on. Striving for goals is generally a good thing. Self-control helps us to move towards our goals, delaying other potentially tempting distractions in the hope for a better return for our efforts. Hope-filled people are great at varying their plans towards goals when they hit obstacles. But what happens when the goal we are chasing after becomes unachievable for reasons outside our control? What’s the best way to respond to having our plans thwarted? The Covid pandemic provided an opportunity to study this in detail. Many of us found our goals upended by the impact of Covid restrictions. We all know people who were unable to see family members for extended periods, whose holiday plans were thrown into chaos, or whose goals at work needed to be jettisoned altogether. Some people seemed to handle this more effectively, disengaging from their old goals and setting new goals. They seemed able to let go and move on. However, others seemed stuck and unable to move on from the dead end goal they had set. Researchers are clear to distinguish between goal disengagement and goal reengagement. Goal disengagement is letting go of a previous goal. Goal reengagement is the ability of a person to move on to a new goal. People can be good at goal disengagement but not good at reengagement and vice versa. Researchers have found that goal reengagement is particularly important to satisfaction. For example, in people with life changing acquired brain injuries, researchers found that goal disengagement had little impact on quality of life and satisfaction, while goal reengagement had a markedly positive impact. In these cases, the ability to set and chase after new goals seemed far more important than investing energy into letting go of goals that had become unachievable. This research suggests that rather than focusing on the loss associated with thwarted goals, we are better investing our energy into setting new goals. This optimistic, future-focused and flexible approach is something we can build in ourselves and others. If there are goals that have become completely unrealistic, it’s important to note this and then help the team to establish new goals. Picking over the disappointments associated with the old goal is less helpful than establishing an inspiring future. Letting go matters, but moving on is even more important. References https://www.bps.org.uk/research-digest/good-self-control-can-both-help-and-hinder-attempts-move-after-failure https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09602011.2019.1608265?journalCode=pnrh20
48 minutes | Oct 24, 2022
Bonus Episode - Don Schmincke - What Leaders can Learn from Samurai, Mountaineers and Entrepreneurs
Don Schmincke is a best-selling author, researcher with MIT and Johns Hopkins and adviser to CEOs across a broad range of industries. You only have to read one of Don’s books or see him in action to recognise Don is not your typical leadership thinker. We discuss leadership failures and fads, why our approaches to leadership development often fall short, and what we should do about that. We also explore themes from Don's books including what leaders can learn from 9th-century samurai, the experiences of mountaineers, and his latest focus on entrepreneurs. Learn more about Don and his work - Saga Leadership
3 minutes | Oct 21, 2022
Episode 160 - Clearing the Way
Summary This week we explore how delegating isn’t just great for results, it also helps people to develop. Transcript Welcome to episode 160 of the Leadership Today podcast where each week we bring research to life in your leadership. This is the last in our series focusing on Leadership Practices - the skills leaders apply day to day that allow them to effectively respond to the challenges they face. I believe this leadership practice is one of the most overlooked and important activities a leader can undertake to maintain the motivation and commitment of their people. Clearing is about identifying frustrations and reducing their impact. Frustrations are disastrous for engagement and well-being. This is particularly true when people really want to deliver results but are held back, whether that’s by excessive red tape, clunky processes or uncooperative colleagues. The role of a leader is to help people investigate the cause and impact of frustrations. Sometime we can’t fix a problem at the root cause, but we can often reduce the negative impact the frustration has on people at the point of impact. Sometimes we want to avoid discussing frustrations because it feels too negative. However if the focus is on improvement of processes and outcomes then frustrations can become the key to increased productivity and performance. Clearing makes sense with a capable team that is trying to deliver, but frustrations are holding them back. When productivity and performance need to improve, it’s important to involve the team. They’re often closest to the issues that are holding performance back. Our research has shown a strong relationship between reducing frustrations leading to greater satisfaction, productivity, engagement and well-being. Clearing the way is great for your people and great for your organisation. Just a reminder to complete our brand new Leadership Practices Assessment. It’s completely free, and you will find a link to it in the show notes. Have a great week. Access the Leadership Practices Assessment - https://leadership.today/lpa
3 minutes | Oct 14, 2022
Episode 159 - Delegating for Development
Summary This week we explore how delegating isn’t just great for results, it also helps people to develop. Transcript Welcome to episode 159 of the Leadership Today podcast where each week we bring research to life in your leadership. Over the past few episodes we have been focusing on leadership practices - sets of skills that leaders apply to suit needs of people and the situation. This week we’re looking at Delegating. As we have explored before, people often struggle with delegation. Delegating takes time and effort. It is often faster in the short term to just do things ourselves. But it is over the longer-term that delegating has a major benefit. If there is something that takes you an hour per week to do, how much time would you be prepared to invest in training someone else up store take that task on? Let’s say it takes 8 hours to train them up. You will earn that time back six times over within the first 12 months. So from a personal efficiency perspective, delegation is great. But also think back over your career and when you have learned the most. Typically it’s when someone has delegating something meaningful to you that your learning was fast tracked. The risk we often fall into is delegating a task rather than an accountability. The problem with delegating a task is that I need to re-delegate it every time the need comes up. Delegating an accountability allows the person to take the responsibility and run with it. It also allows them to complete the task in their own way, which often leads to even better performance. Delegating works best once we’ve laid the groundwork through reflecting, inspiring, developing and connecting. People are then in a position to take on broader responsibilities, knowing the context they’re working in and the support available. Delegating makes sense with capable people who have potential to deliver even more. But delegation isn’t always the right approach. We should be careful delegating a task with high risk to people who are brand new. Equally, there are tasks such as performance management and financial approvals that only the leader can undertake. But the work of leader isn’t over once we’ve delegated, and that leads us on to the final leadership practice - clearing. We will cover that next week. Just a reminder to complete our brand new Leadership Practices Assessment. It’s completely free, and you will find a link to it in the show notes. Have a great week. Access the Leadership Practices Assessment - https://leadership.today/lpa
3 minutes | Oct 7, 2022
Episode 158 - Connecting - Collaboration and Support
Summary People have a basic need to be connected and belong. There is much leaders can do to increase collaboration and support. Transcript Welcome to episode 158 of the Leadership Today podcast where each week we bring research to life in your leadership. This is the fifth instalment in our focus on leadership practices. This time around we are exploring Connecting. People want to belong - it’s a basic human need. And when people work together effectively, the whole is always more than the sum of its parts. The Connecting leadership practice is focused on building teamwork locally, and also connections across the organisation. This leadership practice strengthens the organisation by encouraging greater collaboration. It all starts by connecting people with others who can provide support. As the leader you don’t need to be the only source of support and encouragement. We can broaden the support network that is available, providing a richer sense of belonging for the individual. Helping people to build connections across the organisation strengthens the organisation. We naturally work in silos - Connecting is like the conduit that allows people to work across these silos. This often leads to more creative ideas and better outcomes. Connecting doesn’t leave teamwork to chance, instead the leader invests time, effort and resources into developing teamwork. The leader also provides direct support and encouragement to those around them. They demonstrate practical care for people. Cooperation and collaboration help in most situations. Connecting as a leadership practice should therefore be common and frequently used. But some tasks are independent and don’t require collaboration. Therefore it’s important to not force connections and collaboration for activities where they aren’t needed. Over the next few weeks we will explore the final two effective leadership practices. It’s a great time to complete our brand new Leadership Practices Assessment. It’s completely free, and you will find a link to it in the show notes. Have a great week. Access the Leadership Practices Assessment - https://leadership.today/lpa
3 minutes | Sep 30, 2022
Episode 157 - Developing - Building Capability and Capacity
Summary Developing people builds their capability, but also increases the capacity of our teams. Transcript Welcome to episode 157 of the Leadership Today podcast where each week we bring research to life in your leadership. We are continuing our look at the leadership practices that help us to achieve results through people. We’ve explored the less effective practices of Directing and Avoiding, along with Reflecting and Inspiring. This time around we are focusing on the leadership practice of Developing. We want to feel competent at work, and be learning new things that matter to us. Effective leaders recognise this and invest time and effort into developing their people. Not only does this help individuals, it also builds the capacity of the team to deliver even more. People can then contribute at higher levels in their existing role, and can also progress in their career. Developing as a leadership practice involves identifying and developing required skills by providing challenges and coaching aligned to others’ interests. The last part - development being aligned to others’ interests - is fundamentally important. So leaders begin by discussing the skills and capabilities people want and need to develop. Developing often requires coaching rather than telling. Great leaders provide opportunities for people to challenge themselves, together with the coaching and support required to figure out their own way forward. They don’t just tell people what to do. This allows people greater freedom and autonomy in how they approach their work, and this helps to increase motivation. Leaders using this practice invest time, effort and resources into developing people. Developing is never a short-term fix - it is always a longer-term investment. Developing as a leadership practice makes sense where there are capable people with potential for more. It’s not necessarily the right approach with someone who is a peak performer and not interested in further development - however that’s quite rare. Over the next few weeks we will explore three other effective leadership practices. It’s a great time to complete our brand new Leadership Practices Assessment. It’s completely free, and you will find a link to it in the show notes. Have a great week. Access the Leadership Practices Assessment - https://leadership.today/lpa
3 minutes | Sep 23, 2022
Episode 156 - Inspiring - Aligning Motivation
Summary Motivation is great, but only if people are motivated in the same direction. That’s where Inspiring comes in. Transcript Welcome to episode 156 of the Leadership Today podcast where each week we bring research to life in your leadership. Today we are continuing our series on essential leadership practices. Last time around we looked at Reflecting. This time we’re focusing on the leadership practice of Inspiring. A leader’s role is to achieve results through people. The mechanism for doing this is aligned motivation. Importantly, there’s no point having one without the other. Aligned people who aren’t motivated are clear about where we are headed, but just don’t care or can’t be bothered getting there. Motivated people who aren’t aligned might be keen and active, but are often working in different directions and cross purposes. What we need is both - for people to be aligned and motivated. Inspiring is about taking our vision and plans, and translating them into what matters to people. The focus of Inspiring is on others’ needs and interests, and not on ourselves. To do that we need to know what interests and motivates our people. The best way to find this out is through conversation. Get to know people - not just who they are at work, but who they are as a whole human being. That allows us to communicate the vision behind the work we do - why what we do matters in the content of their needs and interests. This helps us to align people to that vision around their interests and motivations. We can ensure that roles that are defined in the context of the vision - that there is a clear link back to the vision in all of the work that we do. Inspiring as a leadership practice is particularly helpful when we have a new vision to communicate. It’s also useful when there have been failures and setbacks that have negatively impacted motivation. Change and uncertainty can result in people becoming mis-aligned with the broader purpose and vision, so Inspiring can be helpful here as well. As a leadership practice, Inspiring is not needed as much when things are stable, and the team is performing well - they’re already aligned and motivated. Over the next few weeks we will explore four other effective leadership practices. It’s a great time to complete our brand new Leadership Practices Assessment. It’s completely free, and you will find a link to it in the show notes. Have a great week. Access the Leadership Practices Assessment - https://leadership.today/lpa
4 minutes | Sep 16, 2022
Episode 155 - Reflecting - Where it All Begins
Summary Leadership begins with reflecting - taking a step back to examine broader trends to then plan for the future. Transcript Welcome to episode 155 of the Leadership Today podcast where each week we bring research to life in your leadership. Today we are continuing our series on essential leadership practices. Last time around we looked at the two most common leadership mistakes - Directing and Avoiding. This week we explore where leadership all begins with the practice of Reflecting. Leadership starts with you. The leadership practice of Reflecting involves assessing the environment you’re operating in to determine a compelling vision, together with clear goals, objectives and plans. Reflecting is about two key leadership questions - where are we going and how are we getting there. It’s about developing a vision for the future. Reflecting starts by examining the environment. We naturally tend to focus on short-term threats. These grab our attention, meaning we often miss opportunities that are right in front of us. We also fail to focus on longer-term threats and opportunities. This context is central to then developing a compelling vision for the work we undertake. Purpose and meaning matter. They guide people when things are unclear. So to dial up the Reflecting leadership practice, take time to identify immediate and long-term opportunities and threats. Scan the environment. Speak to others. Explore economic, social and market trends. You then want to develop a compelling vision for the work you undertake. The key word here is compelling. A compelling vision should draw people in. We can then focus on clear goals and objectives. Goals are like a flag on a hill - where we are headed. Finally, we develop and share a plan to achieve goals - how we are going to get there. While leadership starts with you, you can involve the team in the practice of Reflecting. However you should be careful with “what do you think we should be doing” as that can freak people out. They might rightly assume you should have some idea of where the team is headed. It makes sense to use Reflecting with a new team where we are basically setting things up from scratch. It can also be a great approach in a changing environment and context - keeping an eye on the horizon to see what might unfold. Or perhaps there is a new organisational vision you need to translate into your area to make clear what it means for your people. Reflecting can also be helpful when you’re noticing misalignment and unclear priorities. Of course, Reflecting assumes you know what you’re doing. Be cautious of Reflecting when you lack the required experience and knowledge. If you’re new into the industry or location, spend lots of time listening first before setting goals or changing too much. Over the next few weeks we will explore five other effective leadership practices. The Leadership Practices Assessment is completely free, and you will find a link to it in the show notes. Have a great week. Access the Leadership Practices Assessment - https://leadership.today/lpa
4 minutes | Sep 9, 2022
Episode 154 - The Two Most Common Leadership Mistakes
Summary There are two common mistakes that leaders often make - either over-leading or under-leading. Transcript Welcome to episode 154 of the Leadership Today podcast where each week we bring research to life in your leadership. This week we discuss two common mistakes leaders make. Leadership is tough and it can be hard to know where to start. I think it’s helpful to explore what effective leaders actually do day-to-day. I call these leadership practices - sets of leadership behaviours that people apply. Over the next few weeks we are going to explore these leadership practices in more detail. Today we’re going to focus on two common mistakes leaders can make - relying on Directing or Avoiding. But first a reminder - leadership is about achieving results through people. A common mistake is when our leadership focuses too much on achieving results, and forgets there are human beings involved. Directing as a leadership practice is driven a desire for control and compliance. The leader uses close direction, monitoring and instruction. This includes telling people how to do things, not just what to do. It’s effectively “do it this way” but without an explanation of why. The Directing practice also relies on negative consequences, such as fear of losing your job, or missing out on a promotion. The leader is watching and monitoring - excessively checking in around compliance rather than supporting people. That feels a lot like micromanagement. And what’s the impact of this approach? People are clear about tasks, but just may not care. This fear driven compliance reduces motivation and innovation over time. Eventually this approach actually reduces compliance. People leave or just give up. They become passive. Some times Directing makes sense. That could include really simple tasks with little scope for variation. Or perhaps there are inexperienced people and high risk associated with non-compliance. Directing may make sense in emergency situations, or as a last resort for under-performer. However, it is unlikely to be regularly required. The Avoiding leadership practice is at the opposite end of the scale. Avoiding focuses on my own role at the expense of leadership. I just do things myself. I see delegation as a risk - reducing the quality of work and taking longer, therefore not worth trying. The Avoiding leader tends to suck responsibility up, putting their job first before leading others. The end result for others is confusion, misdirected efforts, isolation, and reduced motivation. Sometimes people end up in a leadership position when they didn’t want to become a leader in the first place. Or they avoid leading because they just don’t know how to lead effectively. Directing and Avoiding are like over-leading and under-leading. What people need instead is right-leading. Over the next few weeks we will explore six leadership practices that are far more effective. It’s the perfect time to complete our brand new Leadership Practices Assessment. This assessment covers all eight leadership practices, and provides you with a tailored 13 page report showing which leadership practices you tend to rely on, which ones you don’t use as often, along with implications for you and your people. The Leadership Practices Assessment is completely free, and you will find a link to it in the show notes. Have a great week. Access the Leadership Practices Assessment - https://leadership.today/lpa
7 minutes | Sep 2, 2022
Episode 153 - Working Out How to Work
Summary The workplace has changed forever. This is how teams and organisations can work out how to work. Transcript Welcome to episode 153 of the Leadership Today podcast where each week we bring research to life in your leadership. This week we explore working out how to work with your team. Chances are your team and organisation are struggling to figure out how best to work. Are we in the office? If so, how many days a week? Who gets to decide which days? Can’t I just work from home all the time? Leaders are thoroughly confused about the best way forward. So often this conversation happens in exactly the wrong order - we start with the location first, rather than focusing on the work that’s being completed. This leads to seemingly arbitrary decisions, such as forcing people into the office three days a week, or allowing people to never come in to the office, or not allowing people to work from home on Mondays and Fridays. Those forcing people in often focus on the importance of things like water cooler conversations, ad hoc innovation, or the need to bring energy back in to the office. Those encouraging completely remote argue that we did just fine working from home during the pandemic. With such a diverse range of opinions, it feels like there’s no way to avoid letting people down. The first thing to accept is that you can’t figure this out alone - this is not a challenge that can be solved while locked away in a boardroom. And you can’t figure it out for all time - even if you do come up with an approach that works for now, you will probably need to change it again in the future. Some key principles here are that we need to work with the team to figure this out and to increase acceptance. We also need to bring an experimental mindset where we can try new approaches out and measure their effectiveness. If you can’t measure productivity and performance, then you need to figure out how to really quickly. The central challenge here is trying to decide whether work should be conducted centrally or remote. When I use the term “central”, I’m really talking about a location where people can come together. That might be your office or it may be an off-site venue. There is a core principle that I think helps to clarify this discussion - that we need to focus on what’s best to achieve organisational objectives while offering maximum autonomy. We need to start with organisational objectives first. Jobs don’t exist to give people autonomy - jobs exist to achieve organisational objectives. But we also need to accept that autonomy is incredibly important to engagement and results - people thrive when they have freedom and autonomy. However it has to start with the organisational objectives first. Delivering results increases engagement and wellbeing. Great places to work balance challenge and support - they focus on achieving results through people. When working out how to work, we therefore need to start with the work itself, rather than where that work is completed. Here are three key questions we need to work with our team to answer. Question One: Interdependent or Independent. If the work being conducted is interdependent, it suggests I need others to complete this work - I can’t do it by myself. We can then head on to the next two questions. However, if the work is independent then we should allow that work to be completed remotely, unless some central resource is needed, or being available centrally is important for some other function. There are very few situations where a truly independent task or responsibility needs to be completed in a central location, but we force this to happen all the time. For example, providing an update to a group of people is effectively independent - the people attending the meeting aren’t required to respond. Bringing people together centrally for a one-way communication just doesn’t make sense. Question Two: Synchronous or Asynchronous Asynchronous work, where we don’t have to be working on something at the same time, should be remote. If something is truly asynchronous, completing it in a central location adds no value. Again, there may be an exception where that central location houses equipment or resources that are required for the task. As more and more work becomes asynchronous, it has implications for the systems we use. For example, people are likely to need the ability to edit documents simultaneously. Also, we shouldn’t be relying on email to get things done asynchronously - there are many other systems that work much more effectively when managing asynchronous work than email. The key here, again, is to experiment. Try new systems and approaches out and measure productivity and performance. Importantly, even synchronous work can often be remote. For me the key tests are the extent to which emotion, body language, gestures and shared resources are important. If these things are important, that suggests bringing people together centrally for that task or activity. Question Three: Central or Remote Our choice of central or remote is largely driven by our answers to the first two questions. If the work is interdependent and synchronous, assess the level of emotion, body language, gestures and shared resources required. If the task or activity is something you undertake regularly, you might want to try both centrally and remote and gather feedback about the effectiveness of each. In a previous episode I unpacked five reasons to bring people together that aren’t just about the work - focusing on community, collaboration, culture, climate, capability. You might want to go back and review that episode. Also, I’ve recently recorded a webinar on Working Out How to Work where we go into more detail. You can find that at Leadership Today On-Demand. Best wishes, and have a great week.
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