KARIN ZASTROW

blogging about DIRECT LEADERSHIP

Posts Tagged ‘Leadership

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.

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Don’t mention the War!

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At first I thought I had not heard him, but when he repeated, I realised my mind had simply not been able to grasp what he said.

It was just a few weeks ago, so the year was 2012 and not 1952. I was on a plane back from the wedding party of some friends living abroad, and the man next to me and I had struck up a conversation, first over the books we each were reading, then over what kind of work we were each doing.

And as it so often happens when I say that my business is ”everyday leadership” the conversation turned to how my co-traveller experienced leadership at the state-owned research institution where he was working.

And then he told me. ”At our organisation, we recently had this employee satisfaction survey. But it was made quite clear that if we were critical when replying to the questions about our leaders, our replies would only be taken into consideration if we abandoned the anonymity that applied for the rest of the survey.” And he continued: ” To me this tells that leaders are not appointed according to their competencies, but because they are friends of the existing leaders.”

That was when the words of the headline (made immortal by John Cleese in the BBC sitcom Faulty Towers) came to my mind.

We want to measure employee satisfaction – but do not mention your leaders for anything but their virtues!

As I said, at first I could not believe that I actually heard this.
Second thought: ”they must not have any professionals involved”, so I checked if I were right.
But the reply was: ”Oh definitely, a well-known consulting company specialised in employee satisfaction was involved!”

I rest my case…

 

(oh, to see that particular episode of Fawlty Towers, click here http://www.youtube.com/BBCComedyGreats )

Leadership and mushroom hunting

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Where I live the mushroom picking season has arrived. All the various edible mushrooms seem to shoot out of the ground when the humidity and temperature is right, grow ready to be picked in just a few days and then just as quickly decay and go to waste.

The other day after a successful mushroom hunt the resemblance between mushroom hunting and everyday leadership struck me.

Initially, you need to have an idea of the main species you are looking for (and which ones you want to avoid). And then the main thing is to BE THERE and get your eyes properly focused to see them, when they have emerged and are just ready to be picked.

Everyday Direct Leadership is no different. You have to know what you are looking for – i.e. the leadership roles/your main areas of responsibility in relation to your staff. And then you need to make your way to where the leadership opportunities come ”out of the ground”.

In both cases, you will not necessarily pick every emerging specimen. Some may be too small, others may be too old. You want the ones that are just right.

And once you have harvested, you need to quickly decide what kind of action to take.

When talking about mushrooms you must decide between drying for later usage and preparing at once.

When you have harvested or caught a leadership opportunity – a situation in which you want to make a leadership intervention – the choice is between the initiator-, coach- or referee approach. Do you want to install a change or a remedy of your own making, develop your staff’s own competencies or course correct by giving your assessment of the case before you?

Are you aware of what you want to catch? If so, I suggest you make time this week to put yourself in a place to notice the mushrooms.

Written by Karin Zastrow

September 4, 2011 at 22:27

Posted in Misc

Tagged with ,

Leaders and decision making

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This morning I became aware of a discussion taking place on Twitter – about leadership and decision-making. An inspiring and enthusiastic discussion, lead by Lisa Petrelli from C-Level Strategies in Chicago. I’m definitely going to keep an eye on this woman from now on. However, that’s not the point of this blog post.

The point I want to make today is that I am passionate about shouting out the message, that it is time to change the narrative about leaders and decisions.

WE NEED TO STOP FOCUSING ON HOW LEADERS MAKE DECISIONS!

Instead, we must turn the spotlight to focus on how employees make them and to whether their leaders are instrumental in ensuring high quality decisions and sound decision-making processes.

Focusing on the various ways of exercising authority (authoritarian, consultative, involving, consensus…) was essential in the afternoon of the industrial society.

Admittedly, in some industries and areas of the world, this societal model still prevails.

However, most leaders today carry out their duties in a context, which is on the increase all over the world:

– the staff are as well-educated as (or better educated than) their bosses

– things move so fast that the majority of everyday decision-making must be handled by the employees at their discretion

By themselves, most of the day-to-day decisions are not crucial to a team’s or company’s performance. However a few of them could be. And certainly added up they are.

Ask any leader: “Did you ever have to spend days or weeks on patching up the relationship with a major business partner to you (could also be another department), because a staff member in his/her endeavours to do the right thing happened to make a poor choice?”

Or ask him/her: “Can you imagine if none of your staff made a single discretionary decision for just one day?  Or even during the two hours you were caught up in a management meeting?”

In both cases, notice his or her eyes start rolling by the memory or by the sheer thought of what kind of work it would be if every single question was waiting on his/her desk.

Let me close by repeating:

We need to stop focusing on how leaders make decisions and get leaders to focus on how they may be instrumental to their staff to their decision-making!

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.

How many everyday leadership opportunities did you catch (or miss) since January 1st?

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As a leader, you must seize the leadership opportunities and act upon them.

You do so by making yourself aware of the primary leadership deliverables, so that your internal radar will notice when some piece of information or interaction among your staff requires your attention as particularly good, in need of your encouragement or course-correction.

You must not necessarily catch and take action on every leadership opportunity the very second it occurs.

However, an opportunity not caught is lost, and if you remain unconscious about the tens and hundreds of leadership opportunities, which you will encounter during a normal week or month – then you are losing not only those specific opportunities to contribute to your staff’s performance. You will be on the way to lose your leadership altogether. If you never or too rarely notice and intervene with direction, support or course-corrections, your staff will stop counting on you for leadership and only call for your assistance when all else has failed.

So take a moment, right now. Look back to when you came back after the New Year’s holidays and take stock: how many times have you already noticed some interaction, wondered if the people involved were on the right track? And how many times did you intervene?

None?

One?

2-4?

5-9?

10 or more?

Now, please write a note to yourself or share a comment on this blog about it.

You may also participate in the LinkedIn poll on the subject: http://linkd.in/f35EuH

By spending the minute, I suggest, you may course-correct yourself and set out to make 2011 the year, when your everyday leadership becomes conscious and visible.

Conscious effort is always the first step toward mastery – and awareness is the first step toward conscious effort!

My wish for 2011 is that all the men and women who have taken up the challenge of being exceptional everyday leaders will get the recognition they deserve!

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