I am often asked what I believe are the key traits that underpin an effective change leader. Having been involved in change in the capacities of a people leader, a leader of change and a contributor to change, I've come to believe that there are three key elements that underpin the success of a change leader.
Strategic and Tactical Ambidexterity. The ability to work simultaneously in a strategic and tactical capacity will bode you well in leading change, or as a leader in general. The ability to keep an eye on the true north of the project whilst managing the day to day politics and project needs is a skill that not everyone possesses. However the best leaders have this desirable ability and it's what underpins their performance. Make time each day to reflect on the strategic elements of the project, whilst ensuring that factors like the administrative elements of the project are managed in the context of the project scope. Don't be blind to the politics of the project, and at the same time don't engage in games to do with the politics. In that one sentence you have a golden key to relationships success in the change project.
Don't Be a People Pleaser. Things will go wrong. You will make mistakes. You will make people mad, and they will let you know it. This is a reality of change management and leading people through times of transition, evolution and change. If you have a drive to please others, then you have a choice. The upside of this is that if you know you have a tendency toward being a people pleaser, you are probably able to tune in to the feel of the room, and connect with how people are feeling. Leverage this strength as it is one of the best ways to ensure people feel heard and connected with throughout change. But you need to regulate this desire and not slip into being a rescuer and spreading yourself so thin when it comes to making sure everyone is ok. When we slip into rescuer mode we discount the ability of others to deal with change which is the opposite of what we need to be doing. You won't be able to make sure everyone is ok, and in the end you will burn out. If this is you, and you are unable to keep this in check, then either get out now, or look to strengthen this aspect of yourself.
Rest and Reflect. When I look at the leaders who have inspired me, and when I look back at my own approach, I see that the ability to rest and reflect is a key attribute of a leader, especially when driving change. When leading change you need all the energy you can get, simply because you are investing a bit more energy into coordinating, directing, communicating and supporting your people. So find ways to take genuine time out reflect on the day that was, and to explore in your mind what tomorrow may be like. Take time to chill. Take your mind away from the reality of the day. We often forget that when leading people our primary tool is our brain. So give it some time out, rest it, and allow it to be at its best so that you can role model with ease and energy the new behaviours every day.
So there you have it, my key traits that underpin effective leaders of change. Of course there are many other traits as well however these are the qualities I see time and again in the more successful leaders of change.
Author: David Morley
David is a developer of global-minded leaders, teams and organisations.
Dialogue. For many people, let alone leaders, this is a scary concept. However for a leader, dialogue is often the single most important activity that can establish your credibility, solve issues, pre-empt issues before they need solving, and bring a team closer together. In a team that is already close, regular dialogue is a key contributor to maintaining high trust and engagement.
In the wider organisational context, dialogue can do all of the above and more, especially when deployed throughout significant change events.
As a leader, consultant and facilitator I have been using the power of healthy dialogue as the key medium for helping:
Outside of anything I've done, there are countless examples of really good leadership where dialogue has been the main tool. One example that comes to mind was that of a regional CEO of a global pharmaceutical company who turned his poor performing executive team and business around through the use of effective dialogue. He learned very early that his regional executive team were not connected; they were not a team. Silo's were present in his team, and this was reflected down through the organisation with poor collaboration and communication. One of his first team leadership tasks was to have the executive team meet for one hour...everyday. The purpose of the meeting was simply to talk. Sometimes there were specific topics, but mostly it was about the connection that comes with mature dialogue. In a short space of time his team went from begrudging the daily hour, to looking forward to it. This was simply due to the natural sharing, personal and professional, that occurred...everyday. Soon the silo's started to disappear, collaboration increased and natural solutions to problems started to occur. Best of all, the team started to build a rapport and momentum that was reflected down through the organisation.
So let's take a brief look at what I mean by dialogue, and some tips based on my own experiences for how you can use dialogue as an enabler of growth.
If you want to facilitate a conversation with your team that is more exploratory in nature, like solving an issue in the team, brainstorming, teaming etc... the following guidelines are critical.
My final thought with regards to dialogue relates to you; the leader. To use dialogue constructively you have to trust yourself as much as your team. Why? Because the agenda is unknown, and driven by the group. This can be seen as giving up the 'power' that comes with being a leader. The only thing you are controlling is the flow of conversation, and working with the energy in the room.
The risk with using this approach is potentially high, simply because it isn't what people are used to, and everyone is invited to be 'present' to the conversation in a largely non-traditional and non-structured way. And as mentioned above, the leader or facilitator, takes a slightly different approach to leading the meeting.
Having said that, the risks may be high, but so are the rewards.
Author: David Morley
David is a developer of global-minded leaders, teams and companies.
One of the single biggest contributors to successful matrix leadership is conduit management. Yet, despite the positive impact of conduit management, it tends only to be a way of working that is taken for granted by those for whom it comes naturally. For most matrix leaders, conduit management tends to be an afterthought or not thought of at all!
So what is conduit management?
In simple terms, it is being able to anticipate, collate and decode information from many sources (eg; their managers, key stakeholders etc…) and then pass a single message on to their team that is balanced, accurate, authentic and respects the integrity of all involved.
To understand the role of conduit management, lets consider a recent scenario we observed in a large manufacturing firm. The national head of Operations was preparing for an ERP roll out across the country, including four large manufacturing sites. The single biggest issue he faced was the conflicting opinions held by his two managers:
This is a big example; yet it is the sort of scenario we see played out on many levels. The fact remained though, that irrespective of whether the two managers could find common ground, the roll out would still occur. The other more difficult reality was that if his direct reports or the wider manufacturing workforce caught on that there was a difference of opinion at senior levels of the organisation, this could add greater complexity to an already arduous roll out that had involved internal politics and a long tiresome process of ERP selection.
If we look at this type of situation through a conduit management lens, what sort of actions can help to decongest the pipeline and assist the matrix leader with providing a single and focussed message to the workforce?
The first step is to seek alignment, or a common position between your managers. Ideally this is done face to face, or at worst, in a single conversation over the phone or online. It allows for a dialogue on the topic and for your managers to hear your perspective. Don’t be surprised if you find that there has been little to no dialogue between your managers on the topic!
If your managers can’t find common ground, then seek to establish an agreement for moving forward. This is a simple facilitated meeting that results in a contract between you and your managers, that explicitly states the following:
If you can achieve either of the above outcomes, you’ve gone a long way towards setting up an easier to manage conduit between those above you, and the people who look to you for key messages. Importantly, it also reduces the impact and instances of gossip that tend to blossom in the chasm of differing opinions.
Conduit management is also about how you lead in a matrix on a daily basis. Naturally it comes to the foreground in times of change, however effective conduit management can contribute to the development of your leadership tool kit in other ways:
It helps develop critical thinking and decision-making skills. You will receive many pieces of information from those above and around you – deciding what is important to pass on, and who should receive it isn’t always easy. Sometimes it seems easier to push it to one side and hope that it takes care of itself! However good conduit management is about learning how to synthesise information that may contain different opinions (sometimes from the same person!) and interpret what’s really being said when making a decision on what you will pass on, and how.
It creates opportunities for communication and strengthens relationships. The beating heart of a matrix organisation is relationships. Relationships with your team are equally as important as those in your network and those with your own manager/s. An effective conduit manager is on the front foot with relationships, because they understand that there is greater clarity through dialogue and free-flowing communication.
By leveraging your network, you can anticipate where conflicting messages come from and make your own evaluation on whether they are grounded in reality or just gossip. This will inform the way you manage the expectations of your team; the ability to nip something in the bud by debunking an issue as idle gossip can save a lot of time down the track when the gossip may take on a life of its own!
Maintaining regular one on one’s with each of your up line managers (and as often as practical - three way conversations), will also ensure you are in the best position to anticipate, interpret and explore issues and topics with your managers in a controlled and proactive way, rather than finding yourself in the same situation as the manufacturing head in the above example; trapped and reacting.
Finally, conduit management is an understated and often unknown, leadership essential in complex organisations. In some respects it is the bundling of a range of leadership skills and attributes that we already know, and applying them in a specific context. Conduit management can be learned, and the ability to apply conduit management principles is often the difference between surviving and succeeding as matrix leader.
Tradespeople fix things. Your tap is leaking, call a plumber. The electricity cuts out, you call an electrician. They fix things. They make us feel safe. They help us get on with our lives.
Your people are struggling with change and come to you for help? Do we fix them? Some managers feel like they need to have a fix. And if the fix is supplying an update on some information then great, there's your fix.
But our people are human, and they are dealing with the internal machinations of change. So when they land on our doorstep in a state of uncertainty or fear of the unknown we cannot be tradespeople. If we think we need to have a fix then we will both fail in this situation. We will place unnecessary pressure on our own shoulders to have an answer for something we can't completely understand (who really knows what's going on in the head of someone else?) and most likely we will become a rescuer...we will discount the ability of our people to autonomously and successfully work through change with us being their supporter, encourager and leader.
And that's the difference. Our fix, if we feel we need to have one, is to lead with empathy. Our tools include being aware of our own biases and concerns that may prevent us from supporting our people through change, and listening to what's really being said so we can respond appropriately; they may just need to vent or share the load.
We are not in the job of fixing people, or having all the answers in all situations that can help our people move through change. But we are in the job of being there for our people, keeping our eye on the bigger picture, leading compassionately and with empathy and guiding the team as best we can.
You want to, or have to, lead a change initiative in your organisation. It maybe because of a new software integration, a restructure or the implementation of a new process. Or it could be a plan for returning to the office and adopting your strategy for the 'new-normal'.
It doesn’t matter what the catalyst for change, our reality is that a system of work is only as effective as the people who use it; and a change plan is only as effective as the people leading it and responding to it. The key to leading effective change is adopting a nurturing approach, one where you create an environment that supports the required change, and provides your people with the best opportunity to understand, buy in to, and adopt the required change. So, do we want our people to feel as though they are being forced to change, or do we create the conditions where, as much as practical, people will feel like they want to change, or at the least, are open to the idea of change? The answer is obvious, and there are four key steps that are critical for ensuring your change event has the best chance of immediate uptake by the majority, and sustainable success; Alignment, Exposure, Saving Face and Benefits.
Ensure the relevance of your change event by aligning it against your strategy. If it's a company-wide change, then it needs to align with the organisational strategy, down to a team change being aligned with your team or functional plan. Ensure it adds value to the achievement of strategy and objectives. Change for the sake of change is wasted energy and will kill personal and organisational credibility quickly. The other axis of alignment is that of the leadership team. As the leader you will be watched very closely; does your behaviour match what you are asking your team or workforce to do? If not you are undermining the initiative from the outset. Your thinking, feeling and behaviour in respect to the new way of being has to be absolutely aligned; as too your leadership group if it is a group wide change event. Finally, the leadership team themselves have to find a place of alignment between each other. Individual leader commitment in their own division, branch or team is good; however it is equally important for the leadership team to embody the change together, and know implicitly as well as explicitly what they each have to do to contribute to this new way of being. If this isn't happening then you can think of the leadership team as being like an airliner with one out of the four engines facing the wrong way. It will hamper your efforts.
So some questions to ask yourself…
Think of anytime you’ve changed your mind in respect to something; whether you’ve quit smoking, switched brands of smart phone or decided to leave a company after a long time. You get the idea. The simple fact is that you had some help in making the switch…you were exposed to a new set of information. This information may have come from formal learning, but as we all know, most learning in life comes from our experiences in day to day life. So when thinking of change in an organisation, it is no different. We can ask someone to do something new, and if we force them from a behavioural perspective, then we will likely get a short term win. The new behaviour will be shown whilst the manager is around, however when left to their own devices chances are that the preferred behaviour will kick in. That’s simply because the thinking didn’t shift to match the behaviour, and lip service was paid to the new to way of working.
Now let’s not create any false illusions here; I’m not suggesting that we can shift the thinking of all employees, and there will be times where a change is absolutely necessary for productive work to continue - and so there is no choice but for change to occur. However the aim of any sustainable change event is to target the goal state of people 'wanting' to change. So your change event needs to be structured to do this…in other words we want to give everyone the opportunity to decide that the new way of being is something that they ‘want’ to do…not something they feel they ‘have’ to do.
To help you think about this with regards to your own change event here are some tips:
We can’t force someone to change their way of thinking. However we can create the opportunity, as we have started to explore in the above section on Exposure. However for some people moving to the new way of operating this may be a really big deal; especially if they have been doing the ‘old’ way for a long time, or if there is a safety element at play - whether this is psychological or physical safety. In today's climate of working out whether we should be transitioning back to the office environment, you can see how this would have both the psychological and physical safety aspects to be considered.
Allowing people to save face is more about the overall demeanour, or style, of the change initiative. If the starting position is ‘change or else’ resistance will be the order of the day. If the starting position is ‘ let’s do this together’ then we are starting to get somewhere. Remember that even if your intent is the latter, but you don't address the Exposure stage (no or poor communication or exposure to why etc) then you will be perceived as driving a 'change or else' mentality.
This is an unconditional approach, that is backed by a strong air of protection…the communication, and leadership actions supporting the change demonstrate that it is ok to try it, and to make mistakes, and to give it another go.
At the same time though, this is tempered with the provision of boundaries; the rules attached to the change event. As mentioned above, often change is not optional. So our efforts need to be addressing more than the obvious levels of change, and the dynamics. We also need to address the supporting factors, the frame that surrounds the change event. Factors such as the amendment of job descriptions or adjusting the organisation design so that it reflects the new way of working. Whilst taking an unconditional approach will get you results quicker, it is also important for employees to know clearly what is expected of them, and that performance management underpins the inability to move to the new way of operating. Most importantly, for the most stubborn of employees, the new job description may create their opportunity to save face. In other words, “I’m doing this because it’s in my job description, not because you want me to do this”. Some people need to start their journey of change from this point - and that's ok too. We are all different.
The key points to consider for saving face are:
People want to know that there is something in this for them. What are the benefits for the new way of being? The simple fact is that some of your workforce will not believe there are benefits until they see them. Therefore your actions in the Alignment and Exposure categories should reflect the benefits in a personal way and realistically.
But as a leader of change, you do not have the luxury of having a 'wait and see' approach. Your job is to believe it before you see it! Seek out other people or organisations who have already done what you are about to do; see the results for yourself, listen to their stories and create a picture in your mind as to what you can expect to achieve in your organisation.
At the outset, when creating your communications plan, clearly understand the benefits for the employees and not just the organisation. Weave these benefits through your messaging and exposure strategy.
Always remember…we change our way of being the easiest when we perceive that there is a clear benefit. This is because we aren’t focusing so much on what we are losing, we are more focussed on the future gain.
The final word?
Which of these steps is more important is debatable; but one thing is certain - they are interdependent. For example, thinking about the Exposure stage often takes care of the Save Face and Benefits aspects. At the same time though, if your leadership team, or you as the leader, are not personally aligned with the changes then you have a great deal of work to do in the other stages to compensate for this. There will be times when you don't agree with the change, but do agree with the need for change. In these cases you will have to find a way to be authentic and honest, without compromising your integrity, the integrity of your people or the integrity of the change initiative.
Change does not need to be difficult. It certainly isn’t easy; but then where’s the growth for us personally and professionally if it was always easy? These steps will help you lead a change event in a more efficient manner and can underpin, enhance or integrate with most corporate change strategies.
So remember, Align, Expose, Save Face and Benefits.
Author: David Morley
David is a developer of global-minded leaders, teams and organisations.
How often do we look at the most engaging and inspiring leaders of the world and ask ourselves, "why can’t I have a bit of that?"
Let’s face it, there are leaders out there who are engaging, effective, and carry with them a potency that seems to almost create a class system in terms of leaders. But what is it about their potency that places them at the top of the leadership pecking order (if such a thing existed!)?
There are three characteristics consistently seen in those I regard as potent leaders. They:
1. are natural
2. can relate with ease
3. own the role of a leader
Let's explore these ideas in brief.
Potent Leaders are Natural
A potent leader comes across as natural; there is a higher degree of authenticity with what they do and how they do it. This is because for them the debate on just how much we allow ‘who’ we are to influence our work isn’t a consideration. I often hear leaders express concern over how they work hard to keep their personal and professional lives separate, or put effort into managing the balance. Little do they realise that people engage as much with who we are as much as they do the other factors such as remuneration, rewards and the aesthetics of the workplace. Years of global engagement surveys highlight this fact; but the chances are your people aren’t reading employee engagement surveys, but they are reading you every day.
Being natural is about having a strong sense of self; being aware of your boundaries and being comfortable with what you are prepared to share, and the extent to which you are prepared to allow ‘who’ you are to colour your professional life and leadership style. Accompanying this is a healthy level of self-esteem and knowing that a little bit of vulnerability and openness is demonstrating that you are human; you are real!
So how can you be more natural in your leadership approach? The easy answer is to have the confidence to be yourself. If this isn’t a strong point, then question the self-talk that undermines and eats away at your confidence to allow more of yourself into the role. Chances are the self-talk is based on messages we have picked up throughout life (many that we have brought from childhood into adult life) that are irrational and probably not relevant to who you are today. So anything you can do to raise your levels of self-awareness and learn more about what makes you tick, will go a long way. Working with a coach who can help you connect with your values, reading or working with a mentor who is acknowledged as a natural and effective leader are all ways to help develop your style.
Potent Leaders Relate with Ease
The more natural we can be within our role, the more likely it is that we will be able to relate to others in an engaging style. After all, people will know ‘who’ it is that they are interacting with, which makes it easier for the communication flow and for the other person to also relax and bring more of who they are into the dialogue. When you are more relaxed with yourself, it also means you can increase your focus on the other person. Because you aren’t so worried (consciously or unconsciously) about what the other person may be thinking of you, this means you have more energy to invest in them. Observing their body language, looking for small cues that let you understand what they are really saying. You are signalling that you are interested in them; in ‘who’ they are. Leaders who relate with ease are really quite unconditional in their approach. To relate with ease is almost always about putting who you are, and your needs, to one side and really listening.
The impact for global leaders in this regard is significant. The ability to read small cues and be awake to what is really being said is critical to bridging the cultural gap. It is how we identify the cultural rituals and understand the differences that exist between us; allowing us to engage and relate with greater meaning. More importantly though, building any relationship, intercultural or otherwise, is an extremely unconditional process, and one that requires an acknowledgement that no matter which nationalities we may be interacting with we all share the some process for how we develop relationships. That is; we all need to go through a process of building rapport (seeking to understand ‘who’ the other person is, what their rituals are, and what is important to them), as a precursor to enjoying the natural momentum and engagement that comes with a ell developed relationship.
To improve the way you relate with ease, one of the most powerful things you can do is one of the simplest. Invest time at the beginning of the relationship to understand who it is you are dealing with. Ask questions and be inquisitive. Be interested, not interesting.
You will soon realise that the idea of relating with ease has less to do with you, but more to do with how you enable the other person to relate to you with ease.
Potent Leaders Own the Role of a Leader
Allowing more of yourself into the role, and relating with ease can help you grow into the role of a leader and evolve as a leader. Underpinning this is your ability to acknowledge that you are a leader, in a leadership role. Your decisions and behaviours impact the careers and lives of those in your team directly and indirectly and in obvious and not so obvious ways. From decisions on performance review and pay increases and decisions to hire or fire, through to making off hand or throw away comments that may be in jest or only half thought through…but if taken out of context by an employee can impact their thinking and behaviours.
If you don’t understand this, then it doesn’t matter how natural a leader you are, or the extent to which you can relate with ease. You are missing the point that you have signed up for management and everything that comes with it. This means making the difficult decisions and having the hard conversations as well as ensuring you celebrate the successes.
The key message is that the potent leaders don’t shy away from the fact that they are a manager. They understand that there is an inherent power that accompanies the authority of their role that can be used to inspire, motivate and help lift performance. This inherent power is a natural accompaniment to leadership. You can’t have one without the other; which means that those leaders who find it difficult to own the fact that they are a leader probably don’t realise that by doing nothing in their role, they are still influencing behaviour. But not in the way they would like.
The Final Word?
No matter who you are, your role, or level of leadership; you can start developing your potency whenever you want; it’s not something that requires permission from anyone else. You own your potency.
Be pragmatic and look for ways to practice and experiment with new ways of engaging and track the responses and results. Read books on the subject, take tests that allow you to learn more about your values and what’s important to you, be coached or mentored, and above all value the integrity of your relationships.
Author: David Morley
David is a developer of global-minded and engaging leaders, teams and organisations.
Resilience is a must for leaders in matrix and complex environments, and in this video we explore some key ideas that can help you lead with resilience in these organisational settings.
Watch time: 13m:00
A clip taken from our "3 Things" Webinar Series exploring the importance of Proactive Leadership in a matrix organisation, along with some practical tips for how to get started on this track with a focus on collaboration.
Watch time: 20mins
Learn more about enhancing the quality of matrix leadership in your organisation, and how you can deliver our programs in your organisation.
Updated from the original post in 2014
At its heart, good teaming is about creating the space for a bunch of different people to build rapport – to get to know each other; their likes, dislikes, where they’ve worked before, what excites them, their personality. All of these factors, if explored will provide your team with a level of connection that will build rapport and contribute to more effective team work. After all, building rapport is about establishing sameness, and reducing differences. If you can achieve this, then you will go some way to having a connected team; but you won’t have a team that has achieved a level of closeness required to perform above and beyond expectations – both for themselves and for each other.
Effective teaming goes beyond this and allows the group to connect on a values level around their reason for being. If you can create the opportunity for this to occur then you are setting both the team, and the team members up for long-term success.
So how do you do this, especially in an era of remote working when the opportunities for coming together are limited? Well, here's the key.
It's not about 'what' you do. Reframe the idea of teaming to be 'what's our intent?' Then be open to the possibilities for how the intent can be achieved.
Whilst ever we are fixed on 'what' we should be doing, we are limited to our past experiences of teaming and fixed on activities. In fact, the best way to think of teaming in a remote context is as a 'process' of teaming. It's not going to be one single event or activity. In a remote environment it will be a process that reflects the nature of the team, the constraints of the team and the starting energy of the team. On that last point. If the team is buzzing and full of energy - leverage it. Which is a different starting place than if it was a new team, or one with multiple cultures in different countries where the energy will usually be more reserved.
It's the 'intent' behind what you do that counts; and if your intent can address these three key elements you will be working on a journey towards a connected team:
1. Get clarity on the team's reason for being
2. Create a common language
3. The teaming process never ends
Get clarity on the Team’s Reason for Being
I’ve worked with many teams and groups struggling to be effective in all sorts of situations; in matrix organisations, joint ventures, projects, leadership groups and teams spread across many countries. And the one thing they often have in common is a lack of alignment on their purpose - their reason for being.
What they hadn’t done when forming the team, was that critical piece of work that ultimately sets the team up for success. They hadn’t taken the time to ask themselves the questions that help define purpose… "why are we here – what is the specific purpose of our team?" This question is an opportunity for the team to be fully aligned around what this group has been brought together to achieve, and to be clear on the expectations that may exist of their team from other groups, such as the leadership levels above or other stakeholder groups. More importantly, when working remotely if you ensure your team has a crystal clear understanding of their collective purpose, and how their roles contribute to achieving the team purpose, then you are providing some of the most fundamental aspects of employee engagement. Clear direction. Role clarity. Sense of Purpose. In a face to face environment these are important. In a remote environment they are critical.
Create a Common Language
Language is symbolic, and it helps to define who we are. When different people come together to a team, they bring with them their own language defined by who they are. This can be defined by factors such as their race, gender, their life experiences, their knowledge and their skills. When you bring two groups together, like a joint venture, or multiple groups in a project consortium then the variables are increased and the issue of common language extends far beyond their mother tongue or the use of technical or organisational jargon – that is merely the tip of the iceberg.
One of the greatest inhibitors to sustainable teaming are the beliefs held by individuals that they have to hold on to who they are and what defines them. We see this more often in matrix structures, joint ventures and consortiums where more energy is invested in defending their patch rather than relaxing the boundaries and collaborating. Creating a common language is about defining how the group can work and succeed together without having to give up who they are. This means your process needs to provide a safe way of exploring this despite the virtual environment; and this will come back to how you frame the process up front, and the demeanour and style of the process facilitator. My suggestion is that as the leader of the team about to undertake a process of virtual teaming, that you connect with your team individually to share the intent, and your desire that they contribute as fully as they feel comfortable. Also encourage questions on the process, the intent or the content on your team sharing platform so that there is a level of transparency and demonstrated safety that it's ok to be curious and contribute without retribution. This of course means that you as the leader also need to be up for a bit of vulnerability and openness.
An extension of this in the 'new normal' is agreeing the best platforms that will support effective communication. In the past it was assumed that we could just come together or have spontaneous water cooler chats. Thought needs to go into a group commitment around the best platforms to enable their new commitment to each other.
The Teaming Process Never Ends
A team is made up of people, and people are constantly changing as is the environment in which the team exists as we've witnessed this last year. So, what’s the plan for continuing to bring the group together and check in on the commitments made during the teaming process? Think medium to long term when you pull your teaming process together and look for ways to integrate the outcomes of the teaming process into your everyday operations. Importantly, if there is a seismic shift in the environment, such as a restructure, or a major change to the make up of a team or its purpose, then it makes sense that you revisit the teaming process, even if it’s an abridged version, to ensure you are still on track, and capable of delivering as a team.
These are three core tenets of building a connected team. It doesn’t mean you can’t relax socially throughout the process or have some fun and games; but these become complimentary or a more intentional means to an end. The point I will leave you with is simple, but far-reaching.
Good business results require really good teams who are engaged not only with each other, but also with the reason their team exists. It therefore makes a whole lot of sense that investing a little more in your team at the beginning will yield longer-term success. And as we make sense of the 'new normal' it's almost a non-negotiable that this needs to happen if you are serious about setting your virtual team up for success.
Out of the many drivers of employee engagement, the one that has the greatest impact is leadership. Leaders influence engagement within an organisation both horizontally and vertically, and as identified in many research reports over the last ten years, engaging leadership is a non-negotiable when it comes to shifting culture and engagement.
And as if it wasn't already important, with the introduction of COVID-19, and a 'new normal' that has disrupted the way we work, it seems that now could be the time to rethink the way leadership development occurs from an engagement perspective. And there is a very good reason for this that doesn't need research - it's something we all know. Ask most leaders and they will be able to tell you ‘why’ employee engagement is important. They will most likely be able to tell you ‘what’ they should be doing as well; after all most leaders have at some point completed some form of management or leadership training that has provided some great ideas on what to do. But, as we also know, it's often the 'how' that lets a good leader down.
The secret to really good leadership engagement lies in ‘how’ we choose to deploy the skills and tools learned in the courses that teach 'what' to do, and in this respect the answer has been in front of us for a number of decades without realising it. Eric Berne, in his work with Transactional Analysis, identified a series of hungers that drive our behaviours, and they are integral to employee engagement:
In the simplest of terms - hit these markers in your leadership approach and you are building engagement for your people. If your personal cup is at a healthy level or overflowing, then you are most likely also engaged!
For over 25 years now, I have often found myself working with actively disengaged employees and teams. In this time I've worked with many underpinning causes of disengagement, such as, lack of challenge in the role, no vision for the future of the employee, lack of trust, psychological safety. inability to connect and integrate with new teams. The reality is that they are all related either directly, or indirectly, to each of the hungers mentioned above. Or rather, they are related to a lack of fulfilment of these hungers.
'How' we choose to create engagement as leaders should therefore look to address these basic hungers:
With the large-scale and sudden introduction of remote working, each of these factors play a much more important role when you consider the constraints of isolation. Despite this you can easily construct a personal leadership engagement approach around these three pillars despite distance, and in fact it's because of the basic hunger aspect of these elements that we need to address them more than before.
However being remote does make it harder to create stimulation, to provide recognition and to feel connected in the same way as we do in an office environment. So your challenge is to find ways to help your people feel involved; they may be geographically distant, but they don't need to be psychologically distant. So the key here is frequency of connection points, and then the quality of how you connect when you do come together. On the simplest of levels you can:
The engine room of engagement is often perceived as a complex beast; but it doesn’t have to be this way; and it probably never has had to be this way. If you can keep it simple and focus on the above three elements, then you are making it easier to lead in a naturally engaging and potent manner.
You are leading to engage.
Author: David Morley
David is a developer of global-minded and engaging leaders.