KARIN ZASTROW

blogging about DIRECT LEADERSHIP

Posts Tagged ‘Education and Training

Leadership Deliverables and How to Cook an Omelet

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Yesterday I gave a webinar organized by Quidam Global in Mexico.

The topic was the correlation between the practice of Direct Leadership™ and Employee Performance. The webinar was my first occasion to speak about how the deliverables defined in my model of day-to-day leadership will directly translate into what we desire to achieve among our employees.

Afterwards I thought about how to best describe the difference between deliverables and the more commonly addressed topics of culture, competencies or personalities.

I believe the answer is to take our eyes away from the infinite variety of competencies, cultural differences, personalities that makes every workplace and every team a unique place. Instead, we need to get up into the helicopter, rise above the trees of the forest and look at the bigger picture.

Only when we do so can we see the deliverables as the manifestation of all those other ingredients.

In a way you could compare it to cooking an omelet.

To make let’s say a mushroom omelet, you need eggs, milk, butter, salt, pepper and mushrooms. However, neither looking at the separate ingredients, nor tasting each of them will give you the same experience as tasting the end result.

Eggs, milk, butter, salt, pepper and mushrooms are comparable to cultures, competencies, and personalities. The finished omelet is the deliverable.

Let me be clear, I do not suggest ignoring culture, competencies and personalities.

However, I do urge you to understand that these are only means to produce the deliverables. Exactly like eggs, milk, butter and mushrooms are essential to produce a mushroom omelet, but not equal to an omelet.

The Direct Leadership™ Model describes and allows you to measure those very deliverables when it comes to day-to-day leadership.

Realtime Team Building

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At times, people like me who grew up in Scandinavia, studied in Europe and spent most of my adult life working with people of shared backgrounds think that just telling people to collaborate in solving a given task will make it happen. And end up wondering why it didn’t.

When my grandniece, Felicia, was about four, she and her grandmother (my sister) came to visit. Felicia knew there was a beach and she could go bathing in the sea. As it turned out the weather was cold so nobody else wanted to go. But Felicia was insistent, and eventually my sister and I went along down to the beach and watched while the girl tiptoed into the ice-cold water. Come on “throw yourself into the water” shouted my sister (so that we could get it over with and go home). But then the girl turned round and asked, “How does one throw oneself …?”

This morning I took part in a meeting that turned out to contain an inspiring example of doing day-to-day team building among a group of Chinese employees. However, while my discussion partner’s story was particularly interesting from the viewpoint of Scandinavians maneuvering in a Chinese workplace it is also a generic example of the fact that team building is a day-to-day responsibility that requires a long-term perspective.

My discussion partner – let’s call him Jon – used to lead a small staff, whose members were all quite reluctant to collaborate. Instead they would hold their cards close to their vests and not share any information with each other. Not an uncommon situation in China, where competitiveness and personal ambition often lead employees to put more emphasis into doing exactly what the superior wants than to collaborate to achieve the best solution.

Anyway, Jon was determined to demonstrate to a group of three people that there was value to be gained in collaborating, so he took a series of steps. At first, he asked two people to produce individual proposals on how to solve a particular task. Upon receiving the two proposals he held a meeting with both and asked them to identify the good ideas from the other person’s proposal that would improve their own proposal if added to it. Then, he invited a third person to join the party. First by making his own proposal, then by having the former two look at it and look for potential improvements and vice versa (let the third person look at what the two had made and select the things he himself could use to improve his own work.

Only now, when he had demonstrated to each of the three that there was value to be gained from adding more brains to the task than just one did he ask them to create a joint proposal, and eventually, when they had created their team proposal, he asked them to jointly assess if their proposal would meet the clients needs, and if not to adjust it accordingly.

The result?  A well thought out proposal and a staff who had experienced the value of teamwork. Not in a training session, building things out of bricks and wood, but in real-time in the real world.

Sometimes a little girl of 4 needs to be shown how to “throw herself into the water”, sometimes people who are used to work alone need to be shown how to collaborate.

 

Innovation and everyday leadership

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This evening I will be co-delivering a lecture about Innovation and Leadership with a friend. While I was preparing it, an article trickled into my mailbox.

The article featured a new book about innovation and leadership. However, as in so many other articles on this topic, the focus was on the top leaders and some key change agents. The article talked about how innovation must be driven by ’heavyweight people’ from within an organisation, how clear goals are required, how the message must be ”sold”. No mention of the everyday leaders (the team leaders and middle managers). The people who ensure the implementation of the strategy. No such mention at all. 

This is not unique to this book about innovation. Most books about leadership address only the top executive perspective and either skip the middle managers completely or leave it up to them to pick what they can use from the other message and leave the rest. The same thing applies for leadership training. The vast majority of such programs either addresses the business champion perspective or takes the self-development lane.

I do not disagree that heavyweight staff must champion strategic change or that personal skills are important for any leaders. On the contrary.

However, I do advocate that we stop taking for granted that the leaders do not need any introduction to the everyday roles, responsibilities and leadership deliverables, for which they are responsible.

We must recognize that the stage upon which the leaders of the 21st century has changed from what it looked like in the past, and – consequently – we need to establish a new narrative. One that will allow each leader to navigate better. At the same time as it creates an infrastructure by which the change champions may implement an innovation strategy or any other strategic changes.

Implementing a new strategy is contingent on three things:

1)      Every leader understands that a new strategy must be seen as a new context, which he or she must allow to colour and shape the day-to-day interactions in the organisation

2)      Every leader knows his/her crucial role of delivering the day-to-day leadership deliverables. 

3)      Superior leaders know how to create a discourse which takes the everyday leadership deliverables into account

With these three elements in place, strategic change may happen and even exceed expectations and goals.

Without them, both implementation and outcomes are likely to be tepid and unenthusiastic.

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