Staying grounded is key to balancing life and leadership

Posted on December 7, 2015 by Aidan

Grounded LeadershipSuccessful leaders live complex and demanding lives. As the frequency of communication has intensified, the pace of business has increased.

Yet many of us have not learned how to deal with this. There is never enough time to do everything you want to do, because the world around you makes ever greater demands on your time. Nor will you be able to achieve a perfect balance between all aspects of your life – career, family, friends and community, and personal life. Inevitably, you will have to make trade-offs. How you do so will determine how fulfilling your life will be.

How to successfully navigate the sharing economy

Authentic leaders are aware of the importance of staying grounded. In doing so, they avoid getting too cocky during high points and forgetting who they are during low points. Spending time with family and close friends, getting physical exercise, having spiritual practices, doing community service, and returning to places where they grew up are all ways to stay grounded. This grounding is essential to their effectiveness as leaders because it enables them to preserve their authenticity.

To avoid letting professional commitments dominate their time, authentic leaders must give priority to their families and take care of themselves personally, in terms of their health, recreation, spirituality, and introspection. There is no silver-bullet solution to this issue, but neglecting to integrate the facets of life can derail you. To lead an integrated life, you need to bring together the major elements of your personal life and professional life, including work, family, community, and friends, so that you can be the same person in each environment. For authentic leaders, being true to themselves by being the same person at work that they are at home is a constant test, yet personal fulfilment is their ultimate reward. Doing so will make you a more effective leader in all aspects of your life.

Stay Grounded

To integrate your life, you must remain grounded in your authentic self, especially when the outside world is chaotic. Well-grounded leaders have a steady and confident presence. They do not show up as one person one day and another the next. Integration takes discipline, particularly during stressful times, when it is easy to become reactive and slip into bad habits.

Leading is high-stress work. There is no way to avoid stress when you are responsible for people, organizations, outcomes, and uncertainties of the environment. For global leaders, long overseas trips intensify the stress. The higher you go, the greater your freedom to control your destiny but also the higher the stress. The question is not whether you can avoid stress but how you can manage and relieve it to maintain your own sense of equilibrium.

When Medtronic’s Chris O’Connell gets stressed, he said:

“I feel myself slipping into a negative frame of mind. When I’m at my best, I’m very positive and feel I can accomplish anything, both at work and home. When I become negative, I lose effectiveness as a leader and become even less effective at home. Both positive and negative emotions carry over between work and home.”

Focus on What Matters

When Sheryl Sandberg worked as a McKinsey management consultant, her manager implored her to take more control over her career, telling her, “McKinsey will never stop making demands on our time, so it is our responsibility to draw the line … We need to determine how many hours we are willing to work and how many nights we travel.”

After the birth of her son, Sandberg adjusted her in-office hours at Google to 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., enabling her to nurse her son. To compensate, Sandberg got up in the early morning hours to check e-mails and worked at home after her son went to bed. She learned that by focusing her time, she did not need to spend 12 hours a day in the office.

“I focused on what really mattered and became more efficient, only attending meetings that were truly necessary. I was determined to maximize my output while away from home,” said Sandberg. “I also paid more attention to the working hours of those around me; cutting unnecessary meetings saved time for them as well.”

Stay true to your roots

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz goes back to Brooklyn from time to time, Intuit Chairman Bill Campbell stays in regular contact with his old friends in Homestead, Penn., which helps him keep perspective on life in Silicon Valley. To restore themselves and keep their sense of perspective, leaders may have a special place they can go with their families on weekends and vacations. Many renowned leaders found they can think more clearly when they escape: Thomas Jefferson had Poplar Forest and Winston Churchill had Chartwell. For decades, former U.S. secretary of state George Shultz and his wife went to an old family farm they own in Massachusetts.

“I once told the president, ‘This is my Camp David,’” said Shultz. “When I go there, I put on an old pair of pants and old shoes. I am so relaxed, I don’t worry about anything.”

Find time for yourself

To manage the stress of our leadership roles, we need personal time to reflect. Some people practise meditation or yoga to centre themselves and relieve anxiety. Others find solace in prayer. Some people find they can release tension by jogging. Others find relief through laughing with friends, listening to music, reading, or going to movies. It’s not important what you do, as long as you establish routines to relieve your stress and think clearly about life, work, and personal issues. It is critical not to abandon these routines when facing an especially busy period, because that is when you most need your stress reduction techniques.

From Discover Your True North, Expanded and Updated Edition by Bill George. Copyright (c) 2015 by Bill George. Bill George is a senior fellow at Harvard Business School and former chairman and CEO of Medtronic.

Emotional Intelligence and Teams

Posted on November 7, 2015 by Aidan

autonomy1For the past twenty years, important research has been done in organizations that backs up the claims made in the nineties relating to Emotional Intelligence and its importance by Goleman and many others. Research has shown that feelings and emotions have a direct impact on effectiveness, efficiency and ultimately the bottom line.

Emotional Intelligence has been shown to lead to better customer retention and long term customer relationships, and improved: Trust, Engagement, Influencing, Collaboration, Communication, Decision Making and Change Capability it also leads to Reduced Conflict.

Numerous studies explore the financial implication of emotional intelligence; particularly how higher EQ leaders produce more powerful business results. One such study tested 186 executives on EQ and compared their scores with their company’s profitability; leaders who scored higher in key aspects of emotional intelligence (including empathy and accurate self-awareness) were more likely to be highly profitable.  Leadership and Organization Development Journal 2009

Looking at the emotional intelligence of teams is important because most of the work in organizations today is done by teams. Leaders have a pressing need today to make teams work together better.

Modern businesses thrive when using teams to organize the work. Teams have more talent and experience, more diversity of resources, and greater operating flexibility than individual performers. Research in the last decade has proven the superiority of group decision-making over that of even the brightest individual in
the group. But the exception to this rule is when the group lacks harmony or the ability to cooperate. Then decision-making quality and speed suffer.

The important difference between effective teams and ineffective ones lies in the emotional intelligence of  the group. Teams have an emotional intelligence of their own. It is comprised of the emotional intelligence of individual members, plus a collective competency of the group. Everyone contributes to the overall level of emotional intelligence, and the leader has more influence. The good news is that teams can develop greater emotional intelligence and boost their performance.Teamwork performance improved by 25% in terms of goal achievement over standard functioning teams.

Most research has focused on identifying the tasks and processes that make teams successful. But just learning a script won’t make a good actor great; the actor has to be able to deliver the lines with real feeling. A piano student can learn the music of Bach, but she has to be able to play with heart to be really good. Successful teams can apply the principles of effective task processes, but they must also work together wholeheartedly.

Trust, Identity and Efficacy

In an article entitled “Building the Emotional Intelligence of groups,” Vanessa Urch Druskat and Steven B. Wolff (Harvard Business Review, March 2001) identify three conditions essential to a group’s effectiveness:

  • Trust among members
  • A sense of group identity
  • A sense of group efficacy

To be most effective, the team needs to create emotionally intelligent norms — the attitudes and behaviors that eventually become habits — that support behaviors for building trust, group identity and group efficacy. Group identity is described as a feeling among members that they belong to a unique and worthwhile group. A sense of group efficacy is the belief that the team can perform well and that group members are more effective working together than apart.

Group emotional intelligence is not a question of catching emotions as they bubble up and then suppressing them. It involves courageously bringing feelings out into the open and dialoging about how they affect the team’s work. If emotions are avoided, there is a false or superficial tone that “everything’s just fine.” Groups cannot work together without having personalities that butt up against each other. Admitting to this is the first step in clarifying and finding common ground upon which to move forward.

Group emotional intelligence is also about behaving in ways that build relationships both inside and outside the team. Building relationships strengthens the team’s ability to face challenges. In order to strengthen relationships, the group must feel safe to be able to explore, embrace and ultimately to rely on emotions in work. Emotions must be considered for the good of the group. Feelings count, but then there are the tasks at hand and the work that needs to be done. Team leaders must constantly balance harmony with productivity.

A team’s effectiveness can depend on how well it works together in harmony. A leader skilled in creating good feelings can keep cooperation high. Good team leaders know how to balance the focus on productivity with attention to member’s relationships and their ability to connect. There is even research that shows that humor at work can stimulate creativity, open lines of communications and enhance a sense of trust. Playful joking increases the likelihood of concessions during a negotiation. Emotionally intelligent team leaders know how to use humor and playfulness with their teams.

Creating good moods in employees may be even more important than previously thought. It is common sense to see that workers who feel upbeat will go the extra mile to please customers and therefore improve the bottom line. There is research to show that for every 1 percent improvement in the service climate, there’s a 2 percent increase in revenue. New research from a range of industries now reaffirms the link between leadership and climate and to business performance. According to Daniel Goleman in Primal Leadership (2002), how people feel about working at a company can account for 20 to 30 percent of business performance.

Part of understanding the emotional reality of a team is uncovering the particular habits ingrained in a team or organization that can drive behaviors. A prime example is the notion of “It’s just the way we do things here.” The team leader is effective when he or she looks for signs that reveal if such habits are working or not. It is the leader’s job to explore and expose unhealthy work habits in order to build more effective group norms.

In any group, people will eventually cross lines and confrontation becomes necessary. There must be a means for doing this that is firm yet not demeaning. The team leader sets the tone for this because of the position he or she is in. Caring confrontation is an art that can be learned and taught to both leaders and members. The use of humor can be very effective as a means for bringing errant members back into the group fold. The message is, “We want you as part of this group, your contributions are needed.”

These are the group norms that build trust and a sense of group identity for members: interpersonal understanding, perspective taking, confrontation and caring. They can be learned and developed wherever they don’t exist naturally. It may take some time and attention, but they are too important to be overlooked. Teams are at the very foundation of organizational effectiveness and they won’t work without mutual trust and common commitment to goals.

Building self-managing teams

One of the first tasks of a team leader is to build greater team awareness. This is the job of each individual member of the team, as well, but the leader’s job is to instill a sense of responsibility individuals for the well-being of the team. In order to do so, Cary Cherniss, chair of a well-known research group on emotional intelligence, puts forth ground rules for teams. Everyone on the team should take responsibility for:

  • Keeping us on track if we get off track
  • Facilitating group input
  • Raising questions about procedures, asking for clarification about where we are going and offering summaries of issues being discussed to make sure we have a shared understanding
  • Using good listening skills to build on the ongoing discussion or to clearly signal that we want to change the subject, and ask if that is okay

This is an example of how a leader can create a self-managing team. What is important for the leader, emphasizes Cherniss, is to remind the group of its collaborative norms by making them explicit. Everyone can practice them because they are upfront and repeated at each meeting.

Clearly the setting forth of core values and operating norms is important to ensure that a team works smoothly together. But like most things, they must be repeated again and again. When values and norms are clear, teams can go about their work even in the absence of the leader.
In self-aware self-managing teams, members hold each other accountable for sticking to norms. It takes a strong emotionally intelligent leader to hold the team to such responsibility. Many teams are not accustomed to proactively handling emotions and habits. And many leaders have difficulty stepping out of the role of director in order to let teams self-direct.

However, when the values and norms are clear, and self-management principles are explicit and practiced over time, teams become not only effective, but also self-reinforcing. Being on the team leads to positive emotions that energize and motivate people.

Every company faces specific performance challenges for which teams are the most practical and powerful vehicle. The critical challenge for senior managers is how to develop emotionally intelligent teams that can deliver maximum performance. Teams have a unique potential to deliver results, and executives must foster self-managing and emotionally intelligent teams that will be effective. In doing so, top management creates the kind of environment that enables teams as well as individuals to thrive. So the Organisation can thrive.

Amazon’s work culture raises interesting questions.

Posted on September 16, 2015 by Aidan

amazon-warehouseAmazon’s work practices, as detailed in the recent controversial NYT article generate interesting questions on Talent Management, Innovation and Culture.

Inside Amazon- Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace” in the New York Times made unsettling claims about Amazon through interviews of 100 former and current employees. Jeff Bezos, founder (1994) and CEO of Amazon (now a bigger retailer than Walmart at $250Billion) refuted those claims is a rather short and uninspiring memo which has led to criticism of his response and gives weight to the claims made in the article.

The article explores the culture of Amazon where it seems consistent and bruising conflict, tension and pressure are the norm. It claims that the company is conducting an experiment in how far it can push its white collar workers, who are encouraged to tear one another’s ideas apart in meetings, toil long and late (up to 80 hour weeks and emails arriving at midnight followed by texts querying why they are not answered).  They also have an internal system (they claim frequently misused) where people can do anonymous performance reports on their colleagues to their colleague’s bosses without their knowledge. Those who do not meet what Amazon call their “unreasonably high” performance standards are forced to leave or fired in annual cullings – called “purposeful Darwinism” by one former employee.

It would seem customer service and innovation is a major focus of and driver of the culture at Amazon. Amazon consistently drives to innovate and want to create opportunity to do so, for any employee with a good idea. Conflict is encouraged. However one interviewee reported his “enduring image was watching people weep in the office”. He continued “nearly every person I worked with, I saw cry at their desk”.  Some interviewees, however, said they liked the culture because it pushed them past what they thought they could achieve. In 1997 Bezos wrote to shareholders “you can work long, hard, or smart but at Amazon.com you can’t choose two out of three.”

Bezos open memo in response to the article is short. He says he does not recognise the Amazon described and that it is illogical. “I don’t think any company adopting the approach portrayed could survive, much less thrive, in today’s highly competitive tech hiring market”. He also linked one employee (of 18 months) who openly refuted the article.

This is an interesting article and response for a number of reasons. It raises questions about HR practices, talent attraction, talent retention, new world business cultures, monopolistic environments, conflict and innovation.

Is this the best way to attract and manage talent?

21st century organisations understand there is a “War” for talent. Talented people create competitive advantage for their organisations. This means attracting and retaining the best people. It has also been long recognised that most of the core competencies of an organisation reside in the heads of their people. This means we should treat our people well, create an environment for engagement, loyalty and collaboration to give the organisation the best chance to continue to be successful.

“Rank and Yank” policies which were fashionable in some companies with household names have been discontinued in many in recent times due to significant flaws. The idea is that the company continuously evolves by cutting the bottom 10% say, of their people. They ask managers to rank their teams and fire the bottom rankers. Sounds harsh? It is.

I worked with a management team last year whose company still did this. The upside they said was that “dead wood” was removed. The downside we agreed was that good people were also fired, that there was often unhealthy competition in teams leading to lack of collaboration, fear and lack of flexibility because the team members were too focused on the metrics which determined their fate. In the “rank and yank” philosophy, there can also be a lack of perceived fairness due to the subjectivity of the team managers who obviously can have favourites and were more likely to keep the politically savvy. Constant loss of team members also means there is constant grieving and probably unrecognised anger in the team. One might also mention the simple lack of humanity of this process.

Keeping people working too-long hours is counterproductive due to its unsustainability and diminishing returns. Henry Ford is reputed to have designed the 40 hour week for this reason and recent research has shown that after 40-50 hours work per week the work done becomes far less effective. It also shows that burnout occurs if renewal time is not included in the working week. There are specialists who make a career out of helping talented people return from burnout and breakdown an expensive fix in many ways. Practices like midnight emails and such interrupt the quality of the rest people are getting, damaging problem solving ability and creativity, and making burnout more likely and talent retention less likely.

Does Innovation require this much conflict?

Conflict is required to innovate but so is safety and agility. Discussion and argument must take place in a safe environment or people will not take risks. Innovation is as much about failure as it is about success. It is also well known that true creativity often requires white space and time, not pressure. Those who are under huge competitive pressure in an adversarial environment are watching their back, not what’s in front of them.

Companies who recently changed their environments from adversarial ones have seen team performance and collaboration rocket. Collaboration, sharing of ideas and innovation go hand in hand.

Where did this culture come from?

It was Richard Branson who said, “Look after employees and employees look after customers”. How does this align with the practices identified at Amazon? It is a well-known adage that customers will never think more of your company than the people that work for the company.

One wonders what sorts of people survive and thrive in this environment.   The theory of Darwinism has been used before, particularly in the 19th century, to justify the mistreatment of people for the “greater good”. Later far more dangerous ideologies used this work as a justification to judge and eliminate the “weak” also.

Measuring and treating people like machines is a hangover from industrial era thinking as is Social Darwinism. Darwinism used socially is a misappropriation of the ideas of survival of the fittest. It is a pseudoscience completely lacking in empathy and out of touch with any modern behavioural thinking. Smart Authentic Leadership gets power into the hands of the team – with leaders being servants of the team, empowering their success rather than being autocratic top down managers treating their people like automatons. That’s not good business.

Amazons culture is relatively new. Having been founded only in 1994 the culture developed from there. Cultures (how things are done around here) evolve over time. One wonders if Bezos background on Wall St and in financial data influenced the culture. Amazon admits it is driven by data and they took advantage of the capabilities of the internet to not only serve customers but to understand customers. Metrics, data and data analysis are the order of the day. Great when applied to marketing data, products, accounts, process and internet behaviour stats. Not so good for measuring and understanding and managing the complex interactions of employees perhaps?

It could be posited that Amazons massive first mover advantage and the competitive advantage it has developed over time does not allow the company to see in financial terms the reported negative impact of its culture and policies. It is recognised that big brand companies have pulling power for talent. However if Amazon had to wrestle with other similar sized companies in its niche for talent and ideas, it may have had to work harder to keep its talent. Talent bleeding out of the company and taking ideas and competencies to competitors who offer a work life balance may have forced them to address the issues a little earlier in their growth cycle, impacting how their company developed.

So what does it all mean?

Amazon was born in a fast moving, changing environment and wants, correctly, to stay ahead of the curve and the competition. They have been innovating and “improving” in order to do this. Perhaps they should also be focusing on staying ahead of the curve in terms of HR and talent management practices.

Bezos is correct in that the sort of culture described seems illogical. The culture does not best support the aims of innovation, talent attraction and retention or customer service.

As an outsider one cannot know how much of the article is subjective and painting a severe interpretation of how things are done at Amazon. One wonders, if it is true, how Amazon can survive with such a harsh inhuman culture. It does not seem to align that the people that thrive in such a culture truly seek to serve and empower others, a sine qua non of modern successful organisations.

Aidan Higgins

How to succeed as an Authentic Leader

Posted on June 30, 2015 by Aidan

10 do’s and don’ts for leadership success

by Arjen van BerkumLeadership: the never ending journey

Do you know who you are, what you believe and why you believe it? Are you able to be yourself in any given situation? Recently I read an article that contained a nice comparison for leaders that are facing their greatest challenge, namely integrating their personal and work lives:

Think of your life as a house. Can you knock down the walls between the rooms and be the same person in each of them?”

It takes a lot of courage to be a visionary, to walk your talk every step of the way. Especially when you still need to build your follower base. How can you find the inspiration to make an impact in the world as an authentic leader? Don’t strive to achieve success in tangible performances that are recognised in the external world. Strive for significance. Make a difference with your contribution: constantly build legacies by adding deep value to everyone you deal with. This is what makes good performers great leaders. Therefore self-awareness is a vital part of successful leadership.

Here are some principles that evolved from the values that I have ranked during my leadership journey.

  1. Never be afraid to lose your job.
    (Or don’t let your fear determine your next steps in business) First of all, if you are constantly scared to lose your job, you are not convinced of your own vision and capacities. In that case, leadership might not be the role that suits you to begin with. Second – if you put the safety of your own job first, you will never be successful as a leader. The choices you make should depend on what’s best for the business and for the people working in it.
  2. A good personal reputation is your most valuable possession. Keep it or fix it.
    Be self-confident and well organised, smile a lot, be friendly and remain professional in every circumstance. This will bring you a long way toward establishing strong working relationships. To manage this, communication skills and an innovative mind-set are indispensable in your toolbox.
  3. Being honest is better than being nice. Build trust.
    Leadership is not about being popular, but about building trust. As a leader with contradictive behaviour that regularly breaks promises, you will lose followers. People do not want to follow a leader they cannot trust to fulfil their guarantees. Once trust is lost, it is nearly impossible to gain back. So don’t play games and don’t work with hidden agendas. The benefits in the short run will cost you loyalty in the long run.
  4. You don’t know everything yourself. That’s okay. Manage your weaknesses.
    Acknowledge that you cannot be talented in all areas. So you need to build your support team and hire talents. Leaders never succeed on their own, they need other people that support and guide them with knowledge and experience.
  5. Be open for other people’s opinion, suggestions and vision.
    This is a prerequisite. Do you have a thick skin? There is no sugar coating in the business world. If you are offered feedback, accept criticism instead of denying the truths in it.
  6. Helping someone will never make things worse. Make an effort.
    Motivate the people around you. A person that believes in himself or herself, is more likely to work hard to live up to the hype you are creating. Be a mentor for those you see a lot of potential in, be a coach for the people who need to make things happen in the business and be a friend for peers.
  7. Don’t just strive for the success, but for the end goal.
    Success is temporarily. It is the significance of what you do that counts, not the success measured by the outside world’s parameters that you gained through a single ‘touchdown’.
  8. Sharing is the new gaining. Share something every day.
    Knowledge, results, positive feedback or even a ride. The smallest things can deliver a valuable experience to someone. This is a great way to establish relationships and collaboration.
  9. Talk to people not about people. Lead from the heart.
    Business is about people. If you have something to say, say it directly to the person involved. Don’t be afraid to show humanity and vulnerability. This will decrease the emotional distance between you and your (future) followers. There’s a big chance that scepticism will slowly change into belief.
  10. Give others the space they need.
    Give employees space to do their work, to develop or to test a strategy they believe in. Facilitate their professional needs. Empower them to peak in their performance and to lead in their area of expertise.

So I ask again, do you know the person you see in your mirror every day and his or her core believes? Believes are not something you decide on overnight or set your mind to. Authentic leadership requires a journey that writes your personal story. It started from the moment you decided you had a vision that you want to share with the world. Hopefully you realise that you will be on a never ending journey that is continuously steering and shaping your future leadership. Don’t be afraid to fail and don’t forget to enjoy it along the way! Discover not only what you believe, but – more important – why you believe it. Make a strong connection between your personal values and your behaviour. Together this will outline the principles you need to live by, so you can be a true leader to yourself and others. Always.

Original of this GREAT Article was written by Arjen van Berkum

Autonomy is an important element of good Leadership

Posted on June 2, 2015 by Aidan

autonomy1I was coaching a number of C-Suite Leaders from a large multi-national recently and part of our work included the topic of Autonomy and its importance to Leadership. Great discussions and feedback reminded me there are some assumptions and some blind spots with regard to autonomy.

Autonomy and Motivation

The level of autonomy is the degree to which an organisation or leader gives their people the discretion or independence to schedule their work and determine how it is to be done. It can also mean allowing them to determine which work to do, trusting them to select their solution to a problem using their understanding of organisational strategy in the context of the organisations vision and goals.

Autonomy is important to motivation, one of the top three people motivators in fact. It helps your people feel they have some say in what happens and that they can make a difference in the world.

Autonomy is a key part of empowerment and engagement so including it and using it as part of one’s Leadership style is very important.

In a bureaucratic or hierarchical organisation autonomy is limited. Not only is this de-motivational but it retards decision making, response times, service quality and people growth over time. The more decisions people can make the more they learn and grow. Sometimes people make mistakes.

People make less mistakes with experience, and when supported by training and communication and an understanding of the goals and objectives even less. Autonomy also allows the growth of your next stage of leaders who take over when decision makes leave or go missing.

 How much Autonomy is needed?

This is something to judge in context. There is a difference between delegation and abdication. Throwing someone in at the deep end can teach them to swim, but sometimes they drown.

A good leader will encourage autonomy in their people. They will make a decision about the level of risk suitable to the roles involved. They will look at risk and work to mitigate through mentoring and support. So it is a complex decision but in general there is not enough autonomy given.

Leaders who keep intervening to fix the problem are often well meaning but this is not the best solution in the long term. Serving your team is about putting in place that which is needed for the team to thrive.

Some leaders only give Autonomy to some of their people and often need to review how their perspective or opinion of some of their people (particularly those not being given autonomy) is influencing who gets autonomy and who does not. This can be a blind spot.

The Leaders own relationship with Autonomy

It is also a good exercise to examine one’s own relationship with autonomy. A Leader who has no autonomy is not a Leader.  He or she is a manager. In a bureaucratic organisation, a “leader” who is all about control and “the rules” cannot inspire or motivate or engage the people around him. If this person becomes about growing his or her people, about carving out autonomy and with resources, empowerment – then he or she becomes a leader.

On the other hand a leader who is overly focused on their own autonomy may have problems aligning with the organisations goals and objectives. This can become apparent when change happens and the organisation is forced to change direction. Sometimes these leaders become about their own power, whether this is used for their own ends or to protect their own team this can cause tensions in the organisation.

A key part of leadership growth is to become aware of their relationship with autonomy. Both their own and that of their people. Often we find that part of this relationship with autonomy is emotional and clarity can be obtained as part of mindfulness or awareness work.

Aidan Higgins

What is this Employee Engagement that is so critical to Organisational success?

Posted on March 11, 2015 by Aidan

IMG_1208The now well circulated Gallup Poll of 2013 on Employee Engagement found that on average up to 70% of employees were not engaged with their organisation effectively meaning 35% of spend on people was wasted. Further a large portion of these employees were actively working against the interests of their organisation. These numbers are scary. The estimated cost to the US economy is 500Bn (yes Billion) per annum. It also means that in an average 100 employee company it costs around 1.5 Million per annum – excluding the cost of negative activity.

Employee engagement is an enabler for the factors an organization needs to thrive – better customer satisfaction and retention, better employee retention, increased sales and increased productivity. Engaged employees excel at what they do.

So what is engagement?

Employee engagement is the emotional commitment the employee has to the organization and its goals.

To engage employees it is necessary to provide an environment and a culture, through Leadership and good management practice, that encourages alignment with the Organisations goals:

Employees are clear about what is expected of them at work. They also know their boundaries and limits. They can take a risk and know someone has their back.

Employees feel they are listened to and that their opinion counts and makes a difference.

Everybody feels they are moving forward, learning and growing. This is more than just experience, its learning new skills, adapting to new challenges and keeping up with changes.

The people who work in the company are given the materials and resources to do their job. They can focus on doing the job, not resourcing it.

Everyone understands the “why” of the organisation. What it is the Organisation is about.  This aligns with the individual’s purpose and values.

Employees get to be their best, work their best and reach their potential while doing their job. The Organisation does not get in the way of them doing their job – for example systems, paperwork, form filling etc. do not become the main activity.

People work in teams that are jointly committed to quality work, similar effort and which are led, or managed, to ensure strong relations, fairness and team as well as individual recognition.

Praise or feedback is received regularly (weekly) and is tied to evaluating and discussing  overall progress and upskilling. Personal development is encouraged and the “Boss” or “Manager” cares about the employee as a person.

The key to engagement is to create an environment and a culture which encourages Autonomy, Motivation, Empowerment and Positive Realism. It requires Authentic Leadership and a Service focus to encourage the fairness, trust and safety in which to grow the potential of your people and your Organisation.

Aidan Higgins

Emotional Intelligence improves ability to generate revenue

Posted on January 5, 2015 by Aidan

Emotional-Intelligence-value1At Work, Emotional Intelligence Pays

When it comes to achieving career success, emotional intelligence probably isn’t the first trait that jumps to mind. Particularly in Silicon Valley, where technical, intrapersonal skills are so celebrated that industry leaders are increasingly self-diagnosing themselves as autistic, the ability to decipher other peoples’ emotions is often dismissed as a fringe benefit.

But a new study published in The Journal of Organizational Behaviorsuggests the opposite: Emotional intelligence is a skill that, quite literally, pays. According to the paper, employees who are better at reading their coworkers’ emotions make more money than their less emotionally perceptive peers.

To gauge emotional intelligence, the researchers showed 142 study participants – all working adults, holding various level-positions in a broad range of jobs – a collection of images and voice recordings, and asked that they pinpoint the emotion being expressed in each case. “On average, the participants succeeded in 77 percent of the cases,” Gerhard Blickle, the study’s lead author, said in a press release. Participants who correctly identified 87 percent of cases were deemed good at recognizing emotions, while those that identified more than 90 percent were considered very good. Meanwhile, those that correctly identified less than 60 percent received low marks for emotional intelligence.

Next, the researchers asked one colleague along with one supervisor to rate each participant’s social astuteness on scale from 1 (strongly disagree) to 7 (strongly agree). Sample statements included: “She always seems to instinctively know the right things to say or do to influence others” and “People believe he is sincere in what he says and does.” Participants who received high marks on the emotions test were perceived as more socially skilled by their co-workers than those who registered lower scores, and even after controlling for factors such as gender, age, weekly working hours and hierarchical position, the researchers found that they also tended to make significantly more money.

In other words, emotional intelligence is a prerequisite for wielding social influence, a skill that, in turn, is important for successfully navigating work dynamics to achieve career success as well as a higher paycheck, says Yongmei Liu, a professor at Illinois State University and one of the study’s co-authors.

Interestingly, while emotional intelligence has a warm and fuzzy ring to it, the ability to easily and accurately decipher others’ emotions doesn’t necessarily make you more empathetic – it just makes you adroit at navigating the social playing field. Like any skill, says Liu “people can use it for good or evil.”

While the study did not examine various career contexts, it makes intuitive sense that emotional intelligence is more valuable in some jobs than it is in others. For example in positions that require a lot of social interaction and/or where there are fewer objective performance indicators, emotional intelligence is likely very important, says Liu.

In fact, the researchers conclude, more emphasis should be placed on emotional intelligence when selecting managers, a role that typically requires a large amount of interaction with employees. “Often we hear managers speak of understanding and esteem,” Blickle said, “but when we look at their management behavior, we realize that they have neither.”

Original Article by Laura Entis – entrepreneur.com

How to improve leadership skills with Emotional Intelligence

Posted on December 15, 2014 by Aidan

Esprit et amourLeadership and EI

When corporate leaders struggle with team relationships, it’s often a question of people taking the time to understand one another. In order to overcome this common leadership challenge, it’s often helpful to take a look at a leader’s “emotional intelligence.” While companies look for intelligent, capable individuals to promote into leadership positions, sometimes awareness of emotional factors can play a huge role in how effectively that person leads a team of people.

Emotional Intelligence ( EI ) is the capacity a leader has to effectively perceive, express, understand and manage emotions in an effective and appropriate manner. Research has proven that EI is a strong predictor of success in the workplace, more so than IQ, skill sets, personality and experience. In essence, EI equals interpersonal effectiveness, and the more effective a leader is with others, the more successful that leader will be.

Enhancing and developing greater awareness and application of EI will have a significant impact on all aspects of your life, including more self-awareness and improved relationships with co-workers, family, friends and others who are significant in your life. Leaders who improve their EI capabilities are able to decrease stress, personally and professionally, enhance interpersonal relationships, and demonstrate greater leadership and decision making skills. Even more important, raising EI has a direct and positive effect on your level of consciousness. When one raises their level of awareness, they raise their energy level and their consciousness.

Here are a few tips to improve leadership skills with greater Emotional Intelligence:

1. Begin by taking notice of how your thoughts affect your emotions, and how your emotions affect your actions. Self-awareness is the key to beginning to shift your energy and increase your EI. As you go through your day, be aware of how you react to situations, and what thoughts are going through your head as you do. If someone cuts you off on the road, and your thought is, “What an idiot!” your resulting emotion would be anger. If you think instead, “Wow, he must really be in a hurry to get someplace,” your emotion would most likely be very different. As you become more self-aware, you’ll be able to identify what triggers your emotions.

2. Keep a Leadership Journal or notebook about areas to improve your awareness and expression of your emotions. What is working, and what is not working for you? What relationships need improvement? This step helps one commit as well as shows a progression of that change.

3. Journal about ways to manage and control your emotions. What has been effective for you, and what has not? How do you want to respond and how can you do so?

4. Each day, set your intention to be more aware of your thoughts/feelings and how they might affect you and/or others.

5. When a leadership struggle or situation causes you to be angry or upset, give yourself 5-10 minutes alone, prior to taking action. Then ask yourself what would be the best way to address the situation. Think about the energy level at which you would like to respond. Taking a little break will help you respond as you would like, not just go with your ‘knee-jerk’ reaction.

6. Seek out others who will assist you (maybe a mentor), objectively, in providing observations of how they experience you expressing and /or managing/controlling your emotions within leadership situations. You might be surprised at how others view you.

7. Tell others you want to increase your understanding of their thoughts and feelings and “check-in” with them periodically – this will help you become more aware of your perceptions as a leader versus the reality of their feelings.

8. After getting buy-in, think about offering feedback to those around you about their emotional awareness, expression and management.

9. Practice incorporating new leadership skills and behaviors and being aware of how others respond to you.

10. Interview others who demonstrate high EI and effective leadership techniques, to learn some of their strategies for responding to stressful situations.

11. If necessary, hire a professional coach. Coaching is about an honest, trusting, open and committed partnership designed to help you reach your goals faster, more productively and you’ll achieve greater balance in your work and life.

I hope these tips will help you focus on your understanding and your ability to monitor your own and other people’s emotions and use this emotional information to guide your thinking, behavior and relations with others.

Original Article by Brad Parcells in peopledevelopmentmagazine.com

Leaders utilise Emotional Intelligence for success

Posted on November 5, 2014 by Aidan

Emotional-Intelligence-heart-in-headLeadership and Emotional Intelligence (EQ)

Emotional Intelligence is also referred to as our Emotional Intelligence Quotient or the degree to which our emotional intelligence is developed. For many years we have known about and used IQ (Intelligence Quotient) as a measure of our personal effectiveness and ability to deal with problems of varying degrees of complexity.

So what is emotional intelligence?

Freedman et al defines it as follows:

‘Emotional Intelligence is a way of recognising, understanding, and choosing how we think, feel, and act. It shapes our interactions with others and our understanding of ourselves. It defines how and what we learn; it allows us to set priorities; it determines the majority of our daily actions. Research suggests it is responsible for as much as 80% of the “success” in our lives.’

From ‘Handle with Care: Emotional Intelligence Activity Book’

David Caruso gives us a slightly different definition:

‘It is very important to understand that emotional intelligence is not the opposite of intelligence, it is not the triumph of heart over head — it is the unique intersection of both.’

From ‘Emotional What?’

If we combine these definitions we can infer that when we develop and utilise our capacity for Emotional Intelligence we increase our opportunity for success and integrate our heart and our head which enables us to deal with any given situation in a more comprehensive manner. It also encourages the integration of our conscious and unconscious minds which results in a more congruent and balanced approach to life.

In our experience of coaching and developing CEO’s, Directors and Senior Managers we often find that the key blockage to their sustainable success is their difficulty in achieving this integration. This can isolate parts of the workforce.

In addition like tends to attract like, so if there is a leader in the business who spends most of their time in their heads then they will tend to ‘attract’ similar people to them. The same applies to those leaders who come from their heart as they will also ‘attract’ similarly biased people.

For leaders a well developed degree of emotional intelligence is fundamental for success. Think about it:

‘Who is more likely to be successful, a leader who berates and shouts at the team when under stress, or a leader who remains in control, is calm and takes the time to review and understand a situation in a calm manner?’

To ensure that the maximum numbers of people are ‘attracted’ to you as a leader it is essential that you are able to integrate your mind and heart to project a balanced personality.

This then is the relationship between Emotional Intelligence (EQ) and Leadership. Those leaders with a more highly developed EQ will by definition appeal to a wider audience and as such will tend to be more effective as more followers will commit to and support them.

Emotional Intelligence was brought to a wider audience by Daniel Goleman who is an, an American psychologist and authored a bestselling book in 1995 which was titled ‘Emotional Intelligence’. He stated that there are five key aspects to Emotional Intelligence that underpin effective leadership.

These key aspects are as follows:

  1. Self-awareness.
  2. Self-regulation.
  3. Motivation.
  4. Empathy.
  5. Social skills.

The degree to which leaders manage these aspects will determine the level of their own emotional intelligence. So, let’s look at each element in more detail and examine how you can grow as a leader.

The more self-aware you are the more you will understand the impact your own emotions and actions will have on those around you. Those with a higher level of self awareness will be aware of their own strengths and weaknesses and will also behave with a degree of humility.

From self awareness comes the innate ability to regulate your behaviour and effectively get in front of your own instinctive responses. This will allow you to think before you act and thus have the head and heart to work together in a joined up and integrated manner. There are several techniques for achieving this.

This change in behaviour increases levels of self confidence and self assurance and as a result drives up self motivation. Leaders who are self motivated will work consistently towards their vision and will set themselves very high standards with regard to the quality of the work they produce.

The delivery of this work will often rely on other people, either within the immediate team or outside of it. In order for a leader to engage with others in an effective, productive and meaningful way demands that they work with empathy. An empathetic leader will be able to put themselves in another person’s position or situation. They will be able to deliver effective feedback as a result and will show up as a good listener.

In many ways the ability to empathise is about developing your social skills. Leaders who develop high levels of social skills are generally effective communicators. They will listen to good and bad news alike and will engage with their teams to enlist support and will raise response potential and create a real ‘buzz’ in the work place.

In this type of culture change is managed effectively and conflict is resolved in an adult manner. Emotionally intelligent leaders relish change and are not prepared to sit back and have everyone else do the work for them.

They lead by example and demonstrate industry, effective relationships and communication as well as encouraging and enthusing their direct reports.

To sum up, leaders must have a sound awareness of their emotions and how the way in which those emotions are enacted will affect their teams. Tuning into and growing your emotional intelligence will help you excel even more in the future.

Original article by Tony Wright  – peopledevelopmentmagazine.com

Great Teams feel and act differently

Posted on September 23, 2014 by Aidan

teamskip2High performance teams go beyond roles and goals. Anyone who has been part of a great team knows this. They know there is something intangible there. There is something at the root of it. Something which bonds the team together and empowers it.

Those who know sports teams, and those who play with these teams feel something in it greater than themselves, an us and them, an instinctual thing. There is something there worth making the sacrifice for, putting your physical well being at risk for. It’s tribal. It’s family. It’s engrained. It leads to the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. It means when someone makes a mistake, or a weaker member needs help, it’s there. Action is taken. WE succeed or WE do not succeed – together. These teams communicate, they adapt, they work together, they overcome obstacles together.

The best sports team leaders are those who would go through a brick wall for the team. Sometimes they do not speak or hardly at all they just do things. They inspire by being first to the danger, first to sacrifice, first to training. They are the sort of people you want in the trenches with you because you can trust them to cover you. To watch your back. Many times they are not the best player, but they are first on the team sheet. A first among equals. The guys you look to for inspiration when the going gets tough.

There is something else about these great teams and their leaders. They are serving something bigger, a vision, a history, a legacy. They are focused on something bigger then themselves. Maybe their community, their county, their country, their nation.

Someone once said there is no “I” in team and some smart-alec pointed out there is an “M E” … We can spot those who are part of the team but not of the teamwork. We know them. They stand apart. They can be driven by ego or selfish aims BUT they can also be driven apart when cliques form, when they don’t feel included in decisions or when they don’t feel empowered. Many teams assume they communicate enough, listen enough, provide enough autonomy to members but they often don’t. Disenfranchisement or disillusionment occurs.

In organisational teams we often do not generate these kinds of bonds, except perhaps over time. We should particularly for teams on longer projects with a significant budget. We know the roles and responsibilities but then so does a team numbered 1 to 15 or 1 to 11. What makes them effective is teamwork.

What make them great is a team identity, trust, communication, autonomy and alignment with the greater vision. Team Emotional Intelligence theory (Druskatt and Wolff) calls it Social Capital – which, when improved can effect a 25% improvement in performance – for teams who are already performing with average scores.

The team members know who they are, who they represent and what they are trying to achieve. They serve the higher purpose rather than their own purpose. Yes they know the goals, but they are also clear on the why of the goals. They work with their fellow team members, supporting the weaker ones and generating loyalty and engagement.

We can recognise from the talk within the team how successful they are likely to be. It’s not about being positive all the time but on understanding what outside control of the team, understanding that set-backs are temporary and specific. A famous study by Martin Seligman of American baseball teams monitored the language used after games in the media engagement to predict success. He suggested what he heard in these discussions could predict success. He also looked for more about a focus on WE rather than I and an ability to puts losses or problems in context. He then bet against the spread to prove his point. He won.

Great teams are driven by peer pressure to perform not their bosses. It’s about not letting down the other people on the team. At the end of that incredible movieBlack Hawk Down – one of the incredibly talented, effective and brave rangers turns to his buddy and says – When I go home people’ll ask me, “Hey Hoot, why do you do it man? What, you some kinda war junkie?” You know what I’ll say? I won’t say a goddamn word. Why? They won’t understand. They won’t understand why we do it. They won’t understand that it’s about the men next to you, and that’s it. That’s all it is.”

Indeed.