Why I focus on new and emerging leaders

How often do we see managers promoted into positions because they’re technical experts, only to realise they don’t have the people management skills to lead a team… yet.

I love seeing organisations supporting vulnerable green shoots into loyal managers who know you care enough about them to invest in their future. To provide them with some of the basic navigation tools to best position them (and the organisation) for success.

I respect those companies who foster and grow talent from within, building and nurturing a culture of learning, growth and development. Giving confidence where it’s found the least and means the most.

Why focus all our efforts on high performers who are already doing great things and are more likely to walk out your door at any given moment (we’ll have that debate another day). By focusing on new and emerging leaders, you’re accelerating a connected, positive crew of devoted organisational champions. In turn setting an example of how you want your company culture defined and practised.

This is a powerful tool because this group of individuals, supervisors, team leaders, etc, usually has direct contact with a large portion of your workforce – like operations or customer service teams. A powerful position to be in when you think of company culture as “the way we actually do things around here” … not the words written in your induction manuals or intranet.

I love working with green shoots, those who show real promise of great leadership if only given the opportunity – because their potential is off the charts!  In my experience they’re open to and absorb learning and development at a great rate because they don’t have to hide their vulnerability – in fact, it’s pretty much expected.  And they welcome, no – thrive on building their tool-box of knowledge, tips and tricks.

Wouldn’t you rather define your organisation’s culture through design, rather than default?

Engagement (or any) surveying is not enough

Asking someone a bunch of pre-determined questions on one particular day, of one particular week, in one particular month in their career journey with your organisation is a standard way of ‘measuring’ employee engagement. But how do you know you have all the right puzzle pieces?

I can think of many times in my career that a survey was administered in a time of turbulence for me or my team. It may have been the shitty time of budget cutting; or maybe a new project was just launched; or the team was disrupted in a multitude of other ways. But I knew (or at least hoped) that the survey results weren’t a true reflection of their engagement overall.

Without a deep dive, or even just a focus group ‘sanity check’, how do you know the true value of the feedback you’ve collected? If it’s been a crappy day/week/month for someone, does that reflect on their survey answers? In my experience, hell yes! You may still need to address the issues front and centre, but you definitely should check the validity of the engagement data before making any decisions about long-term action planning.

The best way to find the root cause of disengagement or even that tipping point between fully connected and just doing ok, is discussion. Using insight-encouraging questions to gain clarity, a deeper understanding of your employee’s engagement levels, is critical if you want to turn meh into good, or good into lets-smash-this-out-of-the-park.

If you’re serious about employee engagement, focus groups and deep-dives are important. Use them, or better yet – get an unbiased perspective (like me!) to run them for you.

Put the spoon down

Helping others develop and grow is an important part of being an effective leader. The type of support and direction individuals’ need will vary depending on the situation.

One thing that won’t change … let them do the thinking (and the talking) … don’t spoon-feed them.

Insights or ‘ahha’ moments tend to occur when we’re not thinking about the problem directly. Doing something repetitive (like driving), or that we are good at or enjoy (like cooking), frees up our cognitive resources to find answers to things that have been puzzling us. It also quietens our brain so we actually notice these new connections and combines existing data in new ways.

So insights are really very useful, they:

  • Are required to progress or solve complex problems.
  • Are more memorable than linear solutions (at the moment of insight, feel-good neurochemicals are released that help embed this new connection).
  • Generate a deep sense of engagement and ownership (we become very attached to our new way of thinking).

Therefore it’s important to facilitate insights, try not to always give answers.

At any opportunity, ask questions that bring about reflection, create self-awareness and generate a greater sense of responsibility. These are HOW questions, not WHY questions with a deliberate focus on solutions rather than problems.

To increase the chances of facilitating insight:

  • Provide quiet moments, don’t expect your team to go at 100km an hour all the time, staring off into space can be very productive.
  • Encourage your team to look inward, pause and reflect.
  • Limit threat and create positive emotion (think of their SCARF drivers/triggers).
  • Reduce conscious attempts to solve the problem, don’t sit in front of the whiteboard, marker poised until the answer presents itself – because it probably won’t.

Can you recall a time when someone has facilitated an insight for you? Asked you particular questions or just gave you the space needed to think outside the proverbial square? There’s nothing quite like that rush you get when you can finally grasp that elusive ‘AHHA!’. It can be a powerful motivator and spike productivity too.

Top 3 reasons people leave

While pondering over 3 of the top reasons people leave a job or organisation, it’s easy for me to draw on my own experiences. It reinforces just how powerful connection and interaction with people in our work-life really is.

1.     Manager – I’ve left 2 jobs because of “creative differences” with my manager/leadership team. It’s important to note that one of these jobs provided a great salary package and benefits.

2.     Co-workers – I’ve desperately wanted to leave 2 positions because of “differing opinions” with colleagues. My productivity was low, absenteeism at an all time high, and my energy was zapped by those difficult interactions – leaving me tired and anxious even at home.  

3.     Purpose – out of the 5 organisations I’ve been employed by, the one I connected with the most was the one I knew, with crystal clarity, what their purpose was and how my job directly aligned with that purpose. I knew why I was going to work and what we were achieving together. A very powerful (and successful) combination.

The first two points above have nothing to do with my actual job/tasks/position and everything to do with connection (or rather disconnection) with those around me. The third point, while it may not seem like it at first, actually has everything to do with the person steering the ship.  

Contact me if you’d like to talk more about the real reasons your people are walking out the door.