England v Algeria – A lesson in leadership and coaching

Watching the England v. Algeria game in the World Cup has brought to mind a number of questions about the role of a manager. Arguably, England is the better team populated with A-players, all stars in their own right. But as a team, so far we’ve seen a rather lack-luster performance. They have not been able to execute on their game strategy with any degree of success. So the question comes to mind …. why? Why are a group of enormously talented individuals failing to deliver on a promise?

In a similar, but opposite vein, watching the USA v Slovenia game today was almost inspirational. Two – nil down at the half. It was all but over, yet they came out for the second half and within minutes scored a goal and then proceeded to score two more (ok, one was dis-allowed in a somewhat questionable call). What did their manager say or do to change the game so dramatically?

And here’s where the role of a manager becomes so important. When I ask employees to describe the best managers they’ve ever worked for the top responses are usually something like this:
1.They know my strengths and how to get the best from me
2.They trust me and clear the way so I can do my job
3.They inspire me and value me.
4.They take time to develop me and find ways to help me succeed
5.They respect me and the organisation we work in
6.They listen and are honest and open
7.They are consistent and communicate frequently so that I know what is expected of me (and they get out of the way and let me do it)

Now, I’m no football expert (though you might assume otherwise if you listened to me during the World Cup!), but I wonder how many of these things ring true for the England and American teams.

Interestingly, many of the things mentioned above are held as true by executive coaches as well. We work with our clients to help them achieve their potential. But we let them do it for themselves. We trust them to know what to do, we value them for being themselves, we are open, honest and sometimes very direct, but most importantly we listen.

So what am I trying to say? Simply this, Managers are Coaches, they have to be if they want to get the best from their teams – sport or business, it’s all the same. Mr. Capello, are you listening??


Posted in coaching, england, football, leadership, management, world cup | Leave a comment

Should I focus only on strengths when managing my team?

There are a lot of debates on whether focusing on strengths or focusing on weaknesses is the best way to manage employees. And on either side of the debate are solid arguments. From my experience, you have to do both. But it also depends on the individual and the context. Focusing on one to the exclusion of the other can be career limiting to your employees. I once coached an individual who had become difficult to manage, was not a team player, only did what was necessary and was disruptive to the rest of the team. They were sent to me to “fix” or they were “out”. After doing a bit of background on the individual, it became clear that they had once been a good performer, not outstanding, but a safe pair of hands. They had been contributing well and were well-respected. What changed? Looking at their past 360 evaluations, it was evident that the performance issues had been around from the beginning, however they had never been communicated to the employee. The employee only ever received excellent feedback about their strengths. Weaknesses were washed over. When it came time for remuneration and promotion the employee was overlooked. As a result and over time, their behaviour on the job deteriorated, they felt cheated and betrayed and they started focusing on the weaknesses of others to justify their own behaviours. When we finally sat down and had an honest discussion, the person was almost relieved to have the feedback. It was difficult for them to accept initially and we spent a fair amount of time rebuilding their confidence and trust in their manager and the organization, but we managed it. In the end their behavior and, most of all, their performance improved and they were supporting the team. It was then I turned my attention to the manager(s) …..

At the end of the day it is about balance. Focusing on strengths is a great way to build relationships and trust in your teams. It helps people build confidence and enables a manager to deliver difficult messages more effectively because the messages are perceived as constructive not personal. It is also a good way to help people focus on how they can leverage what they’re good at to do even more. Equally, helping employees to identify and recognise weak areas gives them the information they need to make changes. You can’t fix it if you don’t know it’s broke. In many cases, strengths can compensate for weak areas and in many cases, it is an overused strength that has become a weakness e.g. confidence has become arrogance. As always it’s about finding balance.

Thanks for reading!!

Posted in evaluation, motivate, performance management, personal strengths, team building, weaknesses | Leave a comment

How do I motivate my team?

It’s a question I am asked frequently when working with managers. The research into motivation runs far and deep and every business school, journal and magazine has focused on it. So, needless to say, theories aren’t in short supply. From my own experience, motivation is not something you can “train” into people. It’s not a skill or a competency. Motivation is an internal process, driven by our intrinsic values and beliefs – the things we hold most dear. When you begin to understand those values and beliefs, you then begin to understand what you can do to motivate your people.

One way is by incorporating motivating behaviours into your management style. The managers I’ve met that are good at this are not only good managers, but good leaders as well.

So what does this mean? Here are a few simple questions to ask yourself.

  1. Be a manager your people can trust and respect – This seems like an obvious one, but it takes time to build and can be lost in an instant. Trust and respect are earned through your actions. How consistent are you? Do you follow through on the promises you make? Do you avoid making promises you can’t keep? Do you stand up for your people? Are you part of the team or do you stand apart? Do you give your team credit for their achievements?
  2. Know your team – This is about how well you know your people. What do they like? Dislike? What do they value? Not value? What hidden talents might they have that you can tap into and recognize? The best managers I’ve worked with have figured this out. They really understand what makes their people tick. They make time to get to know them whether it’s over a cup of coffee, or at the pub after work. And they use their knowledge to get the best performance out of their people while at the same time meeting their people’s needs.
  3. Challenge your team – Give them the opportunity to do work that is interesting and challenging. Smart and ambitious people like stimulating work and having a say in what or how things get done. How often do you engage your people in decisions? How good are you at delegating work. Do you dump work or micromanage it? Do you give them projects that will stretch them and help them learn? Do you support them as they learn?
  4. Be honest with your feedback – Employees want feedback, even feedback that is uncomfortable. How often do you provide feedback (outside of performance reviews)? Do you sugar-coat messages? Do you focus on the limiting behaviours and praise the person? Do you coach your people? Honest feedback especially when there are performance problems is difficult, but if done well, can be a powerful motivator. A corollary here is, how often do ask for feedback from your people?
  5. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate – Communication is one of your most powerful motivating tools, especially true during times of change. How well do your people understand the bigger picture – the goals, the strategy? How well do they understand how they fit into it? How can you help them understand their fit? Don’t assume if you’ve said it once, the message was heard. People hear through the “lens” of their values and beliefs. Use multiple modes of communication, and again, don’t forget actions do speak louder than words.

Motivating behaviours won’t guarantee a motivated team, and sometimes there are organizational challenges that fall outside of a mangers control. But focusing on the things you can control (and influencing the things you can’t) can go a long way in building motivation, loyalty and productivity in your people.

So come on all your fabulous managers, how do you motivate your teams?! Share your knowledge!

Thanks for reading!

Posted in coaching, communicate, communication, leadership, manager, managers, motivate, motivation, team, teams | Leave a comment

It’s strange times we’re living in …. re-thinking your career choices

“It’s strange times we’re living in” a colleague recently said to me. Strange indeed. But in the midst of all the “strangeness”, I’ve seen a great deal of hope. It’s no surprise, given the current economic climate, that quite a lot of the coaching I have been involved in lately has revolved around people re-thinking their careers and planning their career strategies. Interestingly, it’s not only people who have lost their jobs, but executives transitioning into bigger or indeed new roles, graduates coming into one of the toughest job markets in recent history and all sorts of people in between.

What has struck me has been the common thread in all of them. It has revolved around their values and what makes them tick. What of themselves will they take with them to work and how will that influence their successes and failures. How do their values align to those of their organisation, what happens when they don’t, how to identify them in themselves and so on.

Again, it is not surprising that values have such an impact on us. They form the cornerstone of our lives and act as the filters for they way we behave, interpret, evaluate, choose, live and so on. Our values stay with us for most, if not all of our lives and they are one of the most consistent aspects of us. Our best friends tend to be people who share our values and our beliefs. We feel most appreciated ( and consequently motivated) when our values are appreciated. We feel most conflicted when our values are stepped on.

So I would suggest when thinking about your career, think about what your values are. And then think about your job or intended career path and ask yourself, how they fit together. Are you bringing your values to work with you, or are you keeping them tucked away somewhere, when you are happiest, what are you doing? Who are the people you align with most? With least? How do these relationships impact your potential for success?

Losing your job can be one of the biggest life changing events that people face sitting alongside, marriage, birth, death and moving house. And it is no surprise that people who do lose their jobs go through a typical grieving cycle of shock, anger, denial, acceptance and moving forward.

It is also one of the best opportunities to hit the pause button, reflect on what is really important to us, then move forward with new purpose. I won’t pretend and say it’s as simple as that, it will take work and focus, but you may be pleasantly surprised by what you discover!

Posted in career strategy, career transition, values | Leave a comment

How well do you use your networks?

I attended a networking event at a global investment bank recently. I usually hate these things with a passion and have to force myself to attend. This one was actualy quite good and I found myself nodding in agreement with the speakers. So I thought I’d share some of those things. When it comes to networking,

  1. It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you. Great, you know the boss, maybe you met him in the hallway, or saw her picture on the intranet. But does she know you? Does he know what you do? How well you do it? How you add value to the company? If not, then what are you going to do about it?
  2. Treat your career like a business. If you don’t manage it, no one else will. And if they do, they might be managing it in a way you don’t want. Think about what you want from your career and plan accordingly. If you’re not sure, then ask someone to help you think about it. School counselors, friends, professional career coaches can help.
  3. Don’t be afraid to ask. You have a network, so use it. Most people are more than willing to help, you just need to ask. Be as specific as possible and be realistic in your request. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at what happens.
  4. Networking isn’t just about asking for favours. It’s about building long term relationships that eventually lead where you want to get. When you’re networking, don’t necessarily do it with the end goal in mind. It may be that two years down the road, the relationship you cultivate now will pay off.
  5. Where networking happens. Yes, it might happen at a networking event, but more likely it’s happening at the school parent’s evening, the pilates class, queuing for tickets at the cinema, waiting to check-in at the airport and so forth. Networking happens where ever there are people.
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  6. What do people think of you?If you’ve done work for someone, find out what they think. Testimonials can go a long way in building your personal brand. If you belong to online networks like Linked In, you can use the recommend feature.
  7. Develop a “favour bank”. Networking isn’t just about receiving, it’s about giving and sharing as well. How can you help the people in your network? Can you link up people? Provide them with information? Recommend them? The more you do for others, the more favours you “bank” and when the time comes, you’ll find yourself rich in return favours. One caveat, beware of the favour leeches, they’ll take your favours and never return them.
  8. Know what you want to get out of networking. If you do go to networking events, most likely it’s not just to socialise. Know what it is that you’re trying to achieve. Find out who is on the guest list, do a little research. Set yourself goals, “I will make three new contact and learn one interesting fact about each of them”. And don’t forget to follow-up, send an email, make a phone call, drop them a note. Help them to remember you.
  9. Oh yeah and the elevator pitch. Practice it. Get it down to 60 seconds or less. What do you do? One of the best pitches I heard went something like this. The reply to what do you do, “I make women beautful” from a man who worked in the fashion industry. Short, to the point and it prompted further questions. That’s what you want, you want them to ask you for more information. Think of it as your sixty second television advert, think Cadbury’s Gorilla or Dancing eyebrows adverts.
  10. And remember, for most people networking isn’t easy. It takes practice and a little planning. But the more you do it, the easier it will get. It may never feel natural, it may never be comfortable. But it will help you succeed in the long run.

Just have fun and be yourself!

Posted in how to, how to network, networking, networks, tips, use your network, where to network | Leave a comment