Leading and managing in complex organisations, such a matrix or a large global organisation, can be frustrating at the best of times. And now we throw in a new dimension, Covid-19. As if working in a matrix didn’t have its challenges before, the addition of forced isolation and remote working does not make things easier.
We know that in a matrix teams are typically spread out in any case; managers leading teams in different countries or sites, single teams dispersed over multiple sites or countries and teams that need to be collaborating despite distance. So there is already a measure of tolerance that exists for life in a remote working environment. But here’s the thing. Life pre-Covid-19 meant that we could still come together when we needed to discuss, explore and expedite decisions. Much of what we achieve in a matrix is done through personal interactions, influencing and optimising our connections and network.
But in our new reality, we can’t do that as easily. Nor in the foreseeable future.
So, what can you do to be an effective contributor or leader in a matrix organisation during these time? Well, the truth is, you should be doing what you were doing all along!
The elements that help us be successful in a matrix organisation are mostly the same for everyone who is now required to work remotely. A couple of years back we published the top five things that go into being a successful leader in a matrix. Today we've revisited these points and added a Covid-19 footnote, because whilst each element is still relevant, for all of them there is heightened sense of relevance and importance for making the matrix work in today's circumstances, and we believe, in the post-Covid-19 era.
Adapt to the Structure
What we said then: Traditional hierarchical structure thinking and behaviours (command and control) just don’t work in a matrix, and successful matrix leaders get this. They may not fully grasp the structure that surrounds them, especially if they are new to the business. However they still find a way of building an informal network that will support them and their team in achieving their goals until they get their head around the formal structure.
C-19: Apply the same principles in how you transition to remote working. And do not underestimate the necessity and comfort that a network can bring in these times. Also know that your team will be leaning a little more on you to know how they should be adapting and working in a remote structure. So even if you are finding it a bit challenging possibly one of the best things you can do is create an open dialogue in the team about how you adapt together.
Create a Support Network
What we said then: Leading on from the previous point, those who achieve success don’t do it alone! They identify very early the value of an informal network of internal coaches, mentors and friends from different parts of the organisation. It’s not unusual for these people to be recognised when they walk through the shop floor or when they head to the finance department. Their relationships are reciprocal and based on more than just, ‘can you tell me’. You may think that it looks like a benign coffee that the ‘connected leader’ is taking with that guy who works in the accounts payable department; but you can be assured that she now knows more about what it takes to get one of her suppliers invoices paid quickly, as well as having a colleague who is more than just another stranger in the elevator each morning.
C-19: Do the same…except it’s a virtual coffee/connection. You can’t physically walk to another department, but you can reach out virtually – touch base – and in these times bring a human touch to reducing the psychological distance, whilst building or maintaining a valuable connection.
Ask Questions and Seek to Understand (Not to be understood)
What we said then: Successful matrix leaders and employees remove as much ambiguity as they can by seeking to understand why things are the way they are, and aim to remove the shroud of mystery. They know that the first step towards success is not to try and force your way of thinking on to others, rather, they listen, and seek to create a shared solution. Chances are that if you listen well, you’ll be asked to share your thoughts in return. Role model the type of interaction you would like to receive. A great bi-product of this is that a strong rapport is built that reduces the impact or presence of silo’s.
C-19: This is of equal importance in a forced remote working situation. In fact, your ability to listen, and listen well, is critical right now. You need to be honing your skills that help you read between the lines, and to hear the things that aren’t said to get the full message.
Don’t Assume that Your Dual Reporting Lines are Aligned
What we said then: If you have two or more upward reporting lines, don’t be afraid to organise a regular catch up on the topic of alignment. Successful matrix leaders make the issue of alignment explicit and get the objectives of each reporting line on the table. Every time I’ve facilitated this occurrence, either for myself or others, it is a real value creator. Importantly though, a 30 minute conversation on the topic of alignment can prevent the many hours of frustration that comes with trying to balance competing interests. Simply put; you are one person. Where and how you invest your energy is critical and if those above you aren’t aligned in what they want from you, then it makes sense that your performance will be diluted accordingly.
C-19: If you weren’t doing the above point before then perhaps you should start now. The tyranny of distance can make it easy for mis-alignment to grow unnecessarily, and you can’t be relying on your two upline managers to be talking and ensuring your priorities are aligned (it would be nice to think this was happening – but it probably isn’t). Ensuring this alignment is in place is as important for you as it is for your direct reports – it’s hard for you to give a clear direction with confidence if you don’t possess either for yourself.
They Don’t Become a Politician…But they are Aware of the Politics
What we said then: By taking care of the above point, you can reduce the impact of politics; however the larger and more complex the organisation, the more prevalent the politics. Those who have genuine success in complex environments don’t necessarily buy into the politics. That’s not to say they will completely avoid getting stuck in a political game every now and then, the reality is that this is likely to occur from time to time. But they are able to see the politics for what it is, and ‘work the sideline’. This means that they are almost like the political journalist who can see what’s happening, try to make sense of why it’s happening and is able to report on it from the sideline. In an organisational context you can also work the sideline. Observe the politicking; remembering you don’t have to choose sides. If you observe closely what is being played out you can make a more informed decision around how you choose to connect with those stuck in the games rather than feel as though you are being helplessly sucked into the political vortex!
C-19: There’s not too much to add here, except to remember that this continues whether you are in a face to face or remote environment. Don’t assume that because there is distance there are no politics. Groups will still split. People will still have agendas. They are just played out a little bit differently.
This closing paragraph was written in the original article, and it is truer today, than it was when it was written:
There’s one other thing about successful matrix leaders; and that’s their level of resilience. I’ve discussed this previously, and can’t highlight enough the importance of being flexible in your approach whilst at the same time being continually mindful of your situation and being prepared to adapt at short notice.
David is developer of global-minded leaders, teams and businesses.
Is it really possible for every leader to be as vulnerable and authentic as we think they need to be to create a safe space for us to work and play in? And will our people always naturally respond to the efforts of leaders in encouraging 'authenticity' at work?
The short answer is no. If you have managers or employees who are having challenges being as open and ‘real’ as we’d like them to be then in some respects that’s being vulnerable as well. They are letting us know that they either don’t know how to be more authentic, aren't ready for it or that they are unwilling.
As leaders we have a role to play in making it ok for people to relax and engage with what they are doing on a daily basis and who they are doing it with. This article explores how we as leaders can start to shift our approach in making this happen.
Being vulnerable happens differently for all of us...there is no cookie cutter approach
Not knowing ‘how’ to be vulnerable can be remedied through learning and experience. We know that coaching, mentoring and specialist courses in this area can certainly help. However, the unwilling aspect is a bit different. If they are unwilling does it mean we give up on them? No; but the workplace is not a therapists couch, so we can’t dive into the role of counsellor. Yet the reality is, people show up for work each day who are not so open (or completely closed) to the idea of vulnerability. Have they had a bad experience playing with this idea at work before? They opened themselves up and were ridiculed or it was used against them? Or is it their belief system learned from a very young age? Another reason related to this is related to national culture…in some cultures being more emotionally restrained is considered appropriate, whilst in more collectivist cultures (eg; Asian, eastern European, Middle East) sharing occurs over time as a relationship genuinely develops, because for these groups the door to trust is opened based on ‘who’ you are and not ‘what’ you do. And then there is organisational culture. Is your culture open and supportive of this way of being? There is a whole different article on that alone waiting to be written; but for now we will stick with who we are as leaders and what we can be doing.
Enabling vulnerability means acknowledging and using your potency
As leaders this means that our role is to be thinking about how we create the opportunity for vulnerability to grow. And the solution evolves around psychological safety, which applies to all aspects of work life around the world.
Leaders have a certain potency that comes with their role that can be overlooked. That is, our ability to create a safe place where people feel ok to bring ‘who’ they are into the role and the workplace. I remember when I started my working life, this was an optional and largely unknown aspect of leadership, and if you had a leader who did this then you really had landed on your feet! Today is different. We know more about human development and motivation, and the links between performance, culture, engagement and happiness at work. We also know more about the role that we play as leaders in making it ok for our people to bring as much of themselves to work as possible, and not just a persona shackled by a strong defensive boundary.
How do we make it ok? It’s simple to understand in one respect and the same time, depending on our own frame of reference, can be difficult to do. We lead by example in making the environment inclusive and non-judgemental. We give people time to colour their role with ‘who’ they are, and we don’t enforce a time limit on the development of trust and engagement. In fact, by expecting that trust or engagement should be occurring by a certain time could be saying more about our personal needs as a leader than it does about the people we are leading.
Unconditional Leadership - The key to vulnerability
Really, the key to this is about being unconditional in your style. Accepting that as a leader you may be creating the opportunity for rapport to build, but it may not be reciprocated, or it could take time before others start to relax and share. Others may be ready for it and it happens quickly and naturally.
But being unconditional in your style is a central pillar to building a psychologically safe and enjoyable place to work. It's easy to understand...not necessarily easy to do...but highly rewarding. For everyone.
In the western world we never believe we ever have enough time; we squeeze as much into our day as possible, we want to get to work, maybe grab a coffee and just get on with things. Yes, there are of course those who are cultural outliers and have a more longer-term relationship with time and a more relaxed approach to how things are done (because there is plenty of time!), but for most of us it’s about just getting on with the task at hand.
Which happens to be one of the biggest detractors from building healthy and engaging relationships at work!
To build engagement amongst peers, or between the leader and their team you need to know ‘who’ you are working with. To know ‘who’ you are working with takes time and effort…the time to build rapport and a depth of safety in the relationship that makes it easier to really relax with each other.
Let’s face it, we don’t drop our personal boundaries and defence mechanisms and let just anyone in; nor do we naturally do it quickly. So when we come to work and just get on with things we are preventing the development of rapport and resilience in our relationships.
If you are a leader, then this is one of the most effective and simplest things you can be doing to develop more engaging relationships in your team. Simply put:
If you’d like to know more about the ways in which you can build a more engaging leadership style, view our Engaging Leadership resources, or enquire about our Lead2Engage program.
When it comes to fostering engagement, the role of a leader is central, and for leaders themselves, it can seem quite overwhelming. We know that the level of engagement is the result of a number of factors, two of which are leader-critical. They are the ability of your leaders to understand and articulate your:
Let’s explore these ideas in brief.
Whether you are a first time supervisor or a seasoned leader, your ability to make sense of where the company is headed and wrap your head around the strategy and objectives as they relate to your level of leadership is a pivotal activity when it comes to building engagement in your teams. The reason for this is simple. People like to know where they are going and what they are investing their energy in. Sure, there are some people who are just happy to turn up each day, do what they have to do and then go home. But for a majority of your people, they like to know why they are turning up each day and just how their role is contributing to the achievement of the bigger picture. Part of this is psychological, as we all have deep hungers for being informed and acknowledged. At its very core, sharing what you know of how your team’s objectives contribute to the function or company strategy will feed those hungers and prevent your people from making their own sense of where the ship is headed. So, if you know where the ship is headed, share it.
This one can seem a bit harder than sharing on direction as culture can seem like such a big and impermeable beast. But the reality is that as leaders we are custodians and champions of our organisations culture. If you’ve not gone down the path of capturing and optimising your organisational culture, you can still nail this one. What are the company values? These are usually derived from processes that distil what we believe are the important ways to think and act around here. If you don’t have clearly stated values, what is the vision? This is another way of getting in touch with the culture of an organisation. It’s certainly not the whole picture, especially if you find yourself in a situation where the stated vision or values are not demonstrated by the leadership of the business. Between your vision and values, you have some important guide posts for ‘how’ you should be leading. Whether they be values such as ‘passion’, ‘entrepreneurial’ or ‘customer-focused’, find a way to bring these to life in the way you lead. Talk with your team about what they mean for how your team does what it does on a daily basis. From first time manager to experienced leader…this one can be easy to do as well. From a psychological standpoint, by having this conversation your people feel involved in the business. And when you walk the talk, and carry out your role in the spirit of the vision or values you let your people see what good looks like. Some people need to see it to make sense of it whilst others will just get it.
These are a couple of small actions that any leader can deploy that will start to have a positive impact on engagement. Seriously, they are not time-consuming nor do they need to suck energy…rather they will most likely generate energy…and we know that when we feel energised we also start to feel engaged.
The problem with team building is that it usually doesn’t result in sustainable levels of teaming, nor does it position the team for success. There’s a really good reason for this too, because what usually passes for a teaming event is more often a social engagement rather than an authentic connection of hearts and minds around achieving a task. The other common mistake is using an activity that requires teams for the event to occur, but doesn’t actually build teams - like paintball or ten pin bowling.
So what does help to create sustainable teams? At its core, 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 (individually) 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? Well, there a number of factors, and in this article I’ll explore three that contribute to a more effective team building process and support a more sustainable outcomes.
1. Be clear on the team's reason for being
2. Create a common language
3. The teaming process never ends
Be Clear on the Team’s Reason for Being
I’ve worked with many struggling matrix structures, joint ventures, leadership groups and business teams across many countries, and this first factor was missing on nearly all occasions.
When I ask these groups the primary purpose of their team, responses are usually lacking of clarity and many times the mission of the organisation is used in place of the purpose of their team.
What they hadn’t done was that very 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?" When asking these questions, of course it will be relative to, and in context of the overall mission of the project, the joint venture or the company. That’s what helps to ensure added relevance and meaning for the team from the outset. However the question is also an opportunity for the leadership of the team/s 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.
It is this step that also provides the focus and direction for the way in which you choose to construct your teaming event including who needs to be involved and the type and experience of facilitator.
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, 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 exist, together without having to give up who they are. It is in effect an unconditional approach that allows for conditional behaviour and results. This can be done through the creation of team charters, like the On TRACC process, that acknowledge not only the reason for being, but also creates a shared and agreed way of operating on a values level.
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. This means that when you are planning your teaming approach you aren’t just thinking about the traditional ‘main event’ that occurs at the beginning. What’s the plan for continuing to bring the group together and check in on the commitments made during the teaming activity? Think medium to long term when you pull your teaming activity 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 effective team building. 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.
For some time now, we’ve seen many organisations encouraging their managers to learn the art of coaching as a key approach in their suite of management tools. I’ve witnessed first hand many situations where the ‘manager as coach’ approach has helped lift members of a team, or even whole teams and positively enhanced the performance of the managers themselves.
But is a ‘manager as coach’ style enough to lift a team and provide longer-term sustainable performance? I’m not so sure. I think that the ‘manager as coach’ strategy stops short of helping a team reach the heights of performance that are possible, simply because coaching remains a conditional approach that is driven by immediate outcomes. Coaching is task oriented and the main focus is on tangible issues such as giving effective feedback, thinking strategically or how to provide better customer service. For this reason, coaching has a shorter-term focus with the emphasis being on how to perform more effectively today.
A good manager understands when to use coaching for good effect; in fact we could say that coaching is a situational tool; just as the ability to have hard conversations or use the right tools at the right time are situational decisions.
The key to helping your team enhance their performance is to move beyond the conditional aspects of your relationship and adopt more of a mentoring style. In my own experience as both a leader and a team member, I know that the times I have seen sustained peak performance are the times when relationships move beyond the conditional ‘something for something’ stage and towards a level of professional intimacy.
Mentoring in itself is about relationships and unconditional. This is a big shift for those managers who are attached to more traditional leadership styles, as it tends to offer up a level of vulnerability that puts the manager on the same level as their people. Managers who understand this provide a level of safety in their team that makes it ok for their employees to share issues that may be affecting their professional and personal performance; which may lead to some coaching, training or something else to help address the gap. The reality is though, that a mentoring approach relies on sharing who you are and not just what you know. A leader who is able to integrate mentoring into their style will likely learn that the root of many performance issues lies in self-esteem, work/life balance or other personal issues that don’t lie that far beneath the surface. This raises the question; how often has coaching, training or even dismissal been incorrectly used to deal with issues that may simply have needed an ear or required a simple word of acknowledgement for them at least start to be addressed?
When used together, both mentoring and coaching combine to be a holistic leadership approach that provide a focus on both the long and short term. An example of this is shown below with a situation that is becoming increasingly common – career development:
1. The mentoring leader is able to learn what the employee really wants to do, and where they see themselves in five or ten years.
(long term focus)
2. The manager as coach is able to help them address any gaps required to help them on their way; or if those possibilities aren't available in the organisation, (short term focus)
3. The mentoring manager will put them in touch with someone in their network who can give them more information on how to achieve their career goals. (long & short term focus)
If the opportunities for growth aren’t available, is it likely you would lose this employee? Perhaps. That’s the reality every manager and organisation faces everyday. However the other reality is that this is a typical Gen Y issue. I’ve never experienced a generation of employees who are more concerned about where they will be tomorrow, in five or ten years. This is an increasingly important values driven issue for many of the Gen Y’s I’ve managed or worked with, and an issue that does impact on performance. And whilst there’s nothing wrong with this outlook, if misunderstood it can and does lead to misinterpretation of intent, and therefore poor performance management decisions.
Staying with the above example, as simple as it may appear, by being genuinely interested in what motivates your people you have established a level of trust, especially if you’ve been prepared to share what motivates you as well. Having the conversation around your differences in motivations can build levels of trust and engagement in a short space of time that could otherwise take months or years to build.
So back to my question…would you lose this person if their desire doesn’t match the organisational reality? If you did that wouldn’t be such a bad thing, and by having applied a mentoring approach you are still looking after the future, as well as impacting on today:
Integrating a mentoring style doesn’t require extra time in your day as a manager, nor does it mean you have to give up other styles or tools. It just means that you are able to use them more strategically and for greater impact. It also requires that you take the opportunities to build relationships with your people and seek to understand who they really are. Out of all of this though, it’s possible that the hardest thing will be for you to have the courage to make the first step and offer up a little bit about who you really are!
Every team has an abundance of energy ready to invest in positive ways. Unfortunately it is often stifled as a result of team members not knowing where and how they can play, and what they can be doing to help elevate the team and themselves.
How can you reverse this? Well, it’s not as complicated as you may think, and it only involves a couple of simple steps:
Ensure everyone is on the same page as to why we are here. Not having a singular and well understood 'reason for being' is one of the most common errors made by companies and their management teams. I have often asked leadership groups what their mandate is only to get a variety of responses (that are usually reflective of the two or three different clashing or confused cultures displayed by the workforce!). Understanding our 'reason for being' is critical; without this we are headed down a road to nowhere.
Articulate where we are headed (the vision)…so people know the direction within which to invest their creative and productive energies. If you don’t have a vision at team level, adopt the company vision. If that doesn’t exist then you have a perfectly good excuse to sit down and think about what the direction is for your team and where you’d like them to be in, say, 12 months. If there are any boundaries, let the team know so that they know how far they can stray with their creativity and investment of energy towards the common goal.
Everyone knows what they need to do (role clarity). We may know why we are here and what the vision is, but if the team doesn’t know how their individual roles are expected to contribute, then creativity will be replaced with confusion over who is responsible for what. The results of this is something we often see; either team members defending their patch and protecting their boundaries rather than collaborating and working together; or the opposite when we see team members over compensating and getting involved with everything and anything simply because how roles are expected to contribute (and therefore collaborate) isn’t clear.
My experience is that if we know why we are here, what we are here to do, and how we are expected to contribute then the scene is set for a motivated and engaged workforce. More importantly, as a leader, you become an enabler, rather than a blocker to team success.
There are plenty of times at work (and in life) when we want to gain the cooperation, buy in or consensus of those around us; whether they be a manager, colleagues or an employee. So what’s the easy answer? Well, in my experience there is no easy or perfect answer; but I have encountered a couple of methods that tend to bear fruit.
Is it me or is it you?
If you are continually struggling to build a relationship or gain the collaboration you are looking for, perhaps it’s time to take a step back and do a simple 'is it me or is it you' analysis that will provide you with enough information to decide a way forward.
However, if they insist that they are ok with what you are proposing then perhaps it’s an issue of capability...do they have the skills or experience to do what you’ve asked them to do? Are they out of their depth? This can impact on desire as well. Engage them in a conversation on the topic, ask technical questions and involve them so that you can determine the level of knowledge they have on the topic. It’s easy to presume that others have the skills and knowledge required...and hard when everyone realises too late that they don’t. If it is skills then it's easy to organise opportunities for development or experience; whether it be training, coaching or shadowing on the job.
If the person you are looking to get buy in or collaboration from is openly resistant that’s a great start...after all if they are passively aggressive you usually don’t know it until it’s too late that they aren’t happy or really don’t buy in to what you are promoting. But if they are acting out with energy then you know what their position is, and you can do something about it. With these people I find that a more effective strategy is to channel the energy...something you can’t do with more passive behaviours. Involve them in the discussion regarding a solution, remember that the acting out is a defense mechanism. This is usually a result of lower self-esteem, or event/s that may have impacted on their sense of self worth over time. This is your chance to embrace them and channel their energy toward a solution rather than do what everyone else does and push them away or disagree with their position (which reinforces, and in their mind justifies, their rebellious behaviour).
And finally… consider the ‘save face’ factor
These are just a few ideas for increasing your chances of collaboration or buy-in that have worked for me over the years. However the most important element that underpins all of these suggestions is very simple. When looking to gain the support or cooperation of others, approach them in a way that you would like to be approached. With respect, and where possible, in a way that allows them to save face. After all, sometimes it’s hard to change our way of thinking over night, and some behaviours are deeply ingrained and gained from years of being the accepted way of doing something. The more you allow the opportunity for buy-in to your message in a way that protects sense of self, the more you improve your chances of collaboration or buy-in.
Life, including work, can be complicated. The most effective leaders I have worked with understand this, and practice the art of making it ‘easy’ for people to do their job.
They do this by keeping things simple and sharing as much as practical. It’s that simple.
So how can you do this?
See yourself as an enabler. You are there to help your people get the job done in the best way possible. The best leaders I’ve worked with do this by sharing strategy, plans and key information up front. They seek to understand what will help their people get their job done in the most efficient way. They also know that a big part of their job is guiding energy and activity…not blocking it.
Make it easy for people to know who you are and what you stand for as their leader. Don’t play ‘mind games’, manipulate or take the grandiose route. Be real…be yourself. Let people see the direct line of sight from your values to your behaviour.
Don’t over complicate situations. Sometimes a complicated situation doesn’t need a large-scale plan that has many moving parts. Take a step back, look at the situation from all angles and see if there is just one part of the problem that needs addressing. An easy example is the situation we encounter when a team isn’t performing well due to the behaviour of one or two team members. Why decide to pull a whole team away from the job for one or two days of team building when a couple of conversations with the employees in question would likely address the issue?
Talk ‘with’ your people. For your work as a leader to be considered valuable, it is important for your people to understand where they are headed, what they will be doing, and why it is occurring in the way that it is. Involve them in decisions that affect them; or share key information with them as early as possible. Remember the previous article where I spoke about information being like oxygen?
Finally, keeping it simple doesn’t mean that you are simple, or that you are dumbing things down for your team. It is in fact the opposite; keeping things simple isn’t always easy, especially when there is so much activity to dilute into a simple message or, more importantly, when our pride gets in the way. Many people associate leadership with power. Yet the greatest respect you can show your people is that you are willing to drop the power and acknowledge the potency that comes with your role. And the most potent leaders are those who don’t see themselves as being anymore powerful than their people; rather they acknowledge that without their people being at their most potent, they are not succeeding as a leader.
Whether you are a leader of people, a leader of change, or just leading yourself through a period of personal change, there is one ability that will most likely underpin your success as much, if not more than, most others. It also happens to compliment the attributes of successful change leaders that I spoke about last time.
In a way it goes without saying; when you lead people, change or yourself there are many moments you will encounter that leave you questioning what it is you are doing, why you are doing it and should you keep doing it? In fact sometimes it is just plain difficult and it may seem as though there is no light at the end of the tunnel. These are the times when it's important to be absolutely clear on the reason why you are engaging in an activity. This will become your true north. It is your reason for doing and being. Irrespective of whether it is leading others, change or yourself, being clear on 'why' is especially important in two key areas; Personally and with regards to the activity you are engaging in.
Personally; what is your own personal reason for leading this project, team or yourself through this process of change. Things will get tough. In fact it's rare that everything goes smoothly in a period of change! So being clear about 'why' you are doing what you are doing is critical, because some days, or even weeks, this may be the only incentive for continuing! Importantly, when you are clear on this, you will find it easier to connect with, and to inspire, other people on a more personal level in relation to your leadership or the change event. Being clear personally opens the door to engaging leadership. You can think of this component as your internal compass...and if you have ever been hiking in a group, you will notice that people are usually most interested in the person with the compass...and they follow the lead of the person with the compass.
The Activity; what is the reason for the activity you are leading? In his book, Structure and Dynamics of Organisations and Groups, Eric Berne talks about the need for being clear about the primary task of an activity so that you can in turn be clear about the type and nature of roles required to achieve the task. This then means that you can be clearer about how to structure other aspects such as communication and process requirements. Over the last 10 years it has become my practice to continually ask myself, and not just the groups I work with, 'what is the reason for doing this...the primary task'. If the above point is considered your compass, then being clear on the primary task is your map. You may be motivated personally, and have your internal compass aligned as described above; but without the map you can still be going around in circles and never reach what you set out to achieve. I once worked with a leadership group who were experiencing less than optimal results; and so I asked a simple question...'what is the primary task of this team'. I received six different responses from a team of eight people. Each of the team members were motivated...but for most of them the map was different. Once they had a shared map, there was never any doubt of the success that they went on to achieve.
These are two simple measures that can underpin your personal success and the success of your activity. They are easy to keep top of mind; and if they aren't, change that today. I think you know why.