Turning Bad Leadership Around
A previous article highlighted some of the ways leaders can fall off the rails in their leadership practices. There are lots reasons why these things happen, from poor role models, different personal philosophies and toxic workplaces to name a few. The following are some thoughts on how to turn these practices around.
People need feedback. They need to hear from their leader what they are doing well and what they need to change or do better. Positive feedback reinforces the good things you want them to continue doing. Corrective or constructive feedback lets them know what needs to be changed, how they might change it and the consequences of not changing. Consider providing positive and corrective feedback separately so there is no mixed message.
How are people held to account? If employees fail to follow through, look to yourself first. Create clear goals and let them know how success will be measured. Be willing and available to coach underperformers. If they are still unable to achieve acceptable performance the leader needs to remove the individual for the good of the team.
Leaders need to understand how the vision, mission and goals of the organization work together. If you don’t know, ask the next person up the chain of command. When you know the plan you will be able to communicate with clarity and simplicity to those you lead. Everyone should be clear on their role and level of authority.
Understanding the strategic plan is also critical for priority setting. There are always multiple issues at play. To try and tackle all issues at the same time leads to confusion for both the leader and the team. Know the highest priority issue, deal with it and move on to the next highest priority. Communicate to employees what needs to be done and why. Leaders at the top need to stay focused on the strategic picture. This means delegation is part of the leader’s role. The leader needs to know what parts of the job can be effectively done by others and what parts only the leader can do.
Leadership comes from the top and leaders own everything that happens under their leadership. The leader sets a powerful example.
Fern Richardson MBA PHEc
Leadership and Poor Leaders
Thursday, October 11, 2018
What makes poor leaders? Ask this question of any group and there is no lack of stories about how a leader dropped the ball. And that is assuming they were even holding the ball in the first place!
One of the first things mentioned is leaders who fail to provide feedback on employees work. When no feedback is received, either positive or corrective, employees have no idea where they stand. No improvement is possible. I’m always surprised when people say they haven’t had a performance review in several years. This is a failure on the leader’s part to recognize the value of time spent with an employee. This is valuable one-on-one time to discuss the employee’s progress and help set performance and learning goals for the next year. Lack of reviews are a missed opportunity for the leader to share what’s happening in the organization, reinforce the organization’s strategic direction and also ask for feedback on their performance as a leader.
Another complaint is when leadership fails to hold others accountable for their performance. Perhaps consequences are not laid out in advance or the consequences are not applied. When substandard performance is accepted this creates a new, lower benchmark of performance for everyone. If some employees are allowed to escape the consequences of poor performance others must pick up the slack and team morale suffers.
Lack of clarity and ineffective communication from the leader is another concern expressed by employees. It’s hard to be accountable for your work if the goals and objectives of the task are shrouded in a haze of jargon. Leaders who don’t want to micromanage may fail to provide enough direction. Leading employees by sink or swim is not leadership.
Leaders who are unable to set priorities, are stretched too thin and lack time to connect with and support their staff. Employees are confused about what they should be doing as the leader requests constantly shifting work priorities. Leaders who have not learned to delegate, rob employees of a chance to expand their skills.
Leadership is not only a position but a responsibility.
Fern Richardson MBA PHEc
Leadership and Presenting Yourself
Monday, December 11, 2017
Leaders need to be able to present…present themselves, present ideas, present initiatives and the list goes on. Your verbal message must be on point. So to does the message sent through your physical presence and delivery. It’s not what you say but how you say it that gives your message extra impact.
Here is a checklist of considerations for the physical side of your presentation:
- Breathe slowly and deeply to centre yourself both before and during the presentation,
- Be sure to sit or stand straight with your shoulders back and your chest open. This should help relax both your shoulders and neck,
- Keep your chin up and level. Don’t overdo this or you might find yourself looking down your nose at your audience,
- Relax your throat muscles to lower your voice to its natural level,
- Own the presentation space and move around if you can. It helps engage your audience and energizes you,
- If you need to be stationary keep your feet grounded and avoid “ankle wrapping” if seated,
- Adopt open gestures when speaking to exude visible strength and warmth. Watch out for the dreaded “penguin arms”. When feeling anxious or powerless we often hold the upper arms from armpit to elbows close to the body and gesture from the lower half of our arms,
- If you are prone to collapsing your body inwards try props such as a hand on a chair or table to help you stretch out,
- If you realize you have made an error pull the shoulders back rather than collapsing your body inward,
- Use your allotted time well. Use a measured speaking pace and learn to be comfortable with pauses and silence. A mad dash through your message can make you seem fearful, insecure, and distracted.
A strong presentation is when your words and your body tell the same story.
Fern Richardson MBA CED PHEc
Leadership and Innovative Work Cultures
Tuesday, October 10, 2017
What supports a workplace culture that is creative and innovative? According to Ken Robinson, a leading thinker on creativity and innovation there are three aspects of the work culture that are critical.
Creative cultures are supple
Organizational structures and processes are supple and responsive. They have looser hierarchies. The focus is on new ideas. Where the idea comes from is less important than the idea itself. The leader’s role in creating a great culture is to drive and reinforce the culture. Leadership is about collaboration and team work rather than command and control. Robinson sees value in training a generalist group of leaders who learn and operate in collaborative teams and who can think across organizational silos. Important characteristics for today’s workforce include: being flexible toward change, confidence to continuously learn and a breadth of vision to understand the many influences at play. Openness toward different experiences and viewpoints is needed.
Creative cultures are inquiring
An inquiring workplace culture must be open to trial and error and keep the long term view in sight. Organizational creativity balances freedom and risk taking with the organization’s tolerance to risk. Leaders don’t need to be the smartest person in the room. They need to know how to delegate and tap into the capacity of others. They support and encourage colleagues rather than try to score points. Leaders in creative cultures provide a sense of direction. They work hard balancing directness and openness with a willingness to listen and consider other viewpoints positively.
Creative cultures need creative spaces
The physical environment of the workplace embodies its organizational culture. Traditional workplaces are designed around principles of productivity, maximum occupancy and uniformity. These environments are not conducive to imagination, creativity and innovation. Creative workplaces are more likely to allow staff to personalize their workspace in ways that support creative work. Shared collaborative spaces for meetings and workshops are made available.
Robinson believes that creative leadership invests in the creative powers of the people who form the organization. Organizations that make the most of their people find their people make the most of the organization.
Fern Richardson MBA CED PHEc
Leading Creativity and Innovation
Tuesday, January 3, 2017
A culture of creativity and innovation needs three related processes according to Sir Ken Robinson. They are: imagination- the ability to bring to mind events and ideas that are not present in our senses; creativity- the process of having original ideas that have value; and innovation- the process of putting original ideas into practice.
A creative organization starts with the top leadership and flows from there. This doesn’t mean leadership comes up with all the ideas but rather they create a culture where everyone can have and express new ideas. Creative leaders facilitate the relationship between the external and internal cultures of the organization.
Creative leaders understand that all member of the organization have creative potential. There are untapped talents and abilities everywhere in the organization. Challenging people to think more broadly and deeply is one way to reveal their untapped capability.
Talent management is a priority for organizations that want to foster creativity. To attract and retain this kind of talent, Robinson says senior management needs to answer the question, “Why would smart, energetic, ambitious people want to come and work for us rather than the organization next door?” The next question to ask is, “How are we going to recruit the talent and develop them?”
The richest opportunities for new ideas occur where differences cross-over. Creative leaders know that innovation thrives on diversity whether age, gender, ethnicity, work experience, education or expertise. It takes more effort to manage a diverse team but the benefits include increased flexibility and creativity. The savvy leader knows who to put on a team, what work to give them and when to move them on to a new challenge.
Collaborative processes are one way to support a diverse team. Creative impulses can be suffocated by negative criticism, cynical put-downs, and dismissive remarks. Two simple principles can help:
- accept every suggestion that is offered and build on them
- always make your work partners look good.
Effective collaborators support the creative process with flexibility and responsiveness to new opportunities.
How do you support creativity in your team?
Fern Richardson MBA CED PHEc
Leadership Management and Servant Leadership
Saturday, March 15, 2014
I recently read The Power of Servant Leadership by Robert Greenleaf. A former AT&T executive, Greenleaf’s writings on leadership have been foundational in developing our current perspectives on leadership. Peter Senge, Max DePree, John Carver, Warren Bennis, Jim Kouzes and Peter Drucker all cite Greenleaf’s work as influential to their thinking.
Some people find the combination of servant and leadership to be at odds. Greenleaf describes a call to servant leadership as follows:
“It begins with the natural feeling one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. The difference manifests itself in the care taken by the servant- first to make sure the other people’s highest priority needs are being served. The best test is: Do those served grow as persons; do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants.”
This style of leadership is more about others than self. The focus is to build people and encourage them to be the best they can be.
Greenleaf described ten characteristics of the servant leader including: listening, empathy, healing relationships, awareness, persuasion, conceptualization, foresight, stewardship or the holding of something in trust for another, commitment to the growth of people and building community. One can see how these characteristics have influenced the work of the leaders and researchers noted above.
I find the concept of servant leadership resonates deeply with me. It’s not easy to walk the path of a servant leader but the journey and those met along the way make it worth the effort.
Robert K. Greenleaf: The Power of Servant Leadership: The Greenleaf Centre for Servant Leadership, 1998
Leadership and Loneliness
Wednesday, August 8, 2012
I have noticed most books and articles on leadership discuss the joys, challenges and how-to’s of the leader’s role. Two recent experiences of mine started me reflecting on a seldom addressed area of leadership- the loneliness that can occasionally accompany a leadership position.
I see the leader as an integral part of the group with a few differences. Leadership requires us to build and foster a strong team to get the job done. It also requires making tough and sometimes unpopular decisions often for the long term good of the group. This is one of the differences as the leader must stand slightly apart from the group. Herein lays the potential for loneliness.
In one leadership position different group members came to me expressing a similar concern. Addressing the issue had the potential to be a hot button issue but if it was a concern for multiple people I felt it needed to be addressed. After much thought, I chose to address the situation directly with the group. I’m a big fan of the “teachable moment” and like to leverage discussion using real situations. So after careful planning and with knocking knees I brought the issue up with the group. This engendered a lively and I hope, productive debate as people aired their differences, considered the perspectives of others and moved to agreement on a solution.
What I found most intriguing is that no one who initially “owned” the concern provided me with feedback on the process used to address the issue or the resulting solution. Were they satisfied? Dissatisfied? Or perhaps even horrified that I addressed the issue in a public forum as opposed to simply making a leadership pronouncement from on high? Afterward a few other group members did share their comments about the situation for which I was grateful. At least I knew someone was out there!
I was thankful to have several colleagues with whom I could discuss the situation. It brought home that one excellent solution to the loneliness of leadership is having a network of supportive peers. Whether they offer insight, a listening ear or act as your cheerleader loneliness will not be an issue.