Tag: Management

Left and right brain thinking – leadership needs both.

Posted on 08/31/12 by admin

The teams and people with whom I work are always very interested in mindfulness and innovation and the relevance of  the differences between left and right brain thinking. We also work on understanding meditation and the benefits of being “present” – leading to awareness of our leadership style and its impact on the world around us. This twenty minute video presentation by a mostly left brain – academically trained – Scientist brilliantly illustrates the differences between the left and right hemispheres in terms of thinking. Her passion for her life changing event and discoveries shine through in a most human way and her conclusions are very interesting. See what you think…

Neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor had an opportunity few brain scientists would wish for: One morning, she realized she was having a massive stroke. As it happened — as she felt her brain functions slip away one by one, speech, movement, understanding — she studied and remembered every moment. This is a powerful story about how our brains define us and connect us to the world and to one another.

 

Employee Engagement needs Emotional Leadership

Posted on 05/24/12 by Aidan

It was just over five years ago I was talking to corporates about employee engagement and ways to engender it. Some interesting strategies on rewards and remuneration were around and some of the incentive or “points” reward systems were in place. In Ireland in particular, high employment meant getting and securing suitable employees was a challenge.  And keeping them was a high priority especially after training costs and the costs of actually employing them were taken into account. In high turnover industries like call centres – staff would move for the slightest increase in salary and often companies would find themselves hiring back employees who had left –one year later at a much higher hourly rate.

Things have changed. Unemployment is high, savings are low, property is where it is and there is an idea out there that people are happy to “have jobs” and can be treated less well.  Not true. I have noticed that key performers for the Sales and IT functions for example, are often hard to locate in Ireland currently. A number of businesses I work with find these positions hard to fill – with the right people.

While there have been a lot of cutbacks the retained staff in organisations have to do more, have a wider brief (requiring more training and key skills) and own more intellectual capital than heretofore. Assuming that those that are currently engaged are performers it is more critical than ever to keep them and their key skills. Not only is retention required but in this “New Economy” they need to be operating at their full potential in a way that is sustainable and positive. They need to be “Engaged”.

Employee engagement means employees  being involved in, and enthusiastic about their work, who consistently act in ways that further their company’s interests without reward or external motivational factors. Engagement is distinctively different from employee satisfaction, motivation and organisational culture and contributes directly to shareholder value (the bottom line folks!)

While Engagement is distinctively different, it is driven by satisfaction, motivation and culture – as well as a sense of belonging and being valued. It is about passion, for your job, your team, your brand and what the company is trying to achieve. And passion is more than a number. Passion is an emotion.

To engage employees and get them passionate one must use passion and communicate passion and act passionately. One must communicate on an emotional level with people – because to get them passionate you must connect emotionally. As a leader it’s a considerable advantage to be emotionally intelligent. To engender world class performance you must work with people on an intellectual level and an emotional level. I also think to be at its best there needs to be an instinctual or gut level connection.

The results of using the three levels and particularly the underdeveloped emotional level are been seen as having huge impact in organisations. Being emotionally Intelligent is not about being emotional, but of being able to understand your own and others emotions and act accordingly. Through understanding how you are, how others are, how empathy works and understanding how to communicate with this understanding.

Your key employees can resonate with positive emotions if you lead them in this way. This resonance passes through the organisation like ripples on a pond engaging other employees and customers too after all – they are never more enamoured with your company than your people are.

It starts with Leadership. They are the core. They can be the stones dropped into the still pond to send out ripples of energy, motivation and positivity impacting all your people and your results. To the spreadsheet lovers out there – that’s “leveraging your Human Capital to deliver bottom line results and shareholder value!”

Aidan Higgins

Leadership and Emotional Intelligence Development.

Posted on 01/25/12 by admin

In 2012 it is widely accepted that Emotional Intelligence gives an advantage in the achievement of “success” and is more important than IQ. This is especially true for Leadership and its importance improves the higher up the organisation an individual goes.

From Darwin to the present, most descriptions, definitions and conceptualizations of emotional intelligence have included one or more of the following components:
(a) The ability to recognize, understand and express emotions and feelings.
(b) The ability to understand how others feel and relate with them.
(c) The ability to manage and control emotions.
(d) The ability to manage change, adapt and solve problems of a personal and interpersonal nature.
(e) The ability to generate positive affect and be self-motivated.

Emotional Intelligence is broken down into competences which are categorised by Goleman into Dimensions: Self-Awareness, Self-Regulation, Motivation, Empathy and Social Skills.

All agree that Emotional Intelligence can be learned and improved. There is debate however, as to how much it can be improved.
Higgs and Dulewicz contend that only some competences can be improved and of these only some by training – the others by experience.
Goleman suggests a different type of training is required. Organizations need to make accessible a mode of learning that is appropriate to the emotional intelligence domain these abilities can be improved. I carried out Academic research on a significant statistical population in 2007 which concluded that Emotional Intelligence can be improved substantially using the correct approach.

As it’s a different part of the brain that needs to be retrained one can’t improve these abilities in the same way that you learn technical expertise. So the appropriate mode is a requirement of successful outcome. Adapting from Goleman, Bytazis & McKee (2002) one can derive a 5 step model:

  • Define who you want to be
  • Define who you are now
  • Define how you get to who you want to be.
  • Plan to make the changes stick.
  • Identify who can help and support you.

My own experience and research contends that Emotional Intelligence can be developed through innovative and specific one to one or group training. The learning is not however like academic learning and revolves around processes which change the way you look at yourself, feel about yourself and engage with the world around you. Aristotle once said “We are what we repeadly do, excellence then is not an act but a habit”. How true!

Aidan Higgins

Evolution time.

Posted on 09/30/11 by Aidan

Darwin is famously quoted as saying “It is not the biggest or strongest that survive but those most adaptable to change”.  In biological terms its the idea that the organism that best adapts to the environment will survive best and therefore pass on their genes to the next generation. This ideology has been used in most competitive organisations for many years and is an adage used to improve flexibility and innovation within the organisation. For this the general axioms are reduce bureaucracy and encourage change mechanisms within the organisation so that adaptation can occur. In a competitive market place this means change or go out of business.

Evolution is at its most powerful when a defined enviroment gets squeezed, forcing competition. When there is loads of food, space and resources then Evolution slows down but when the pressure comes on its evolve or die.

In the current recession most competitive environments are adapting by cutting overheads, changing processes, getting closer to the customers and such. Some businesses are being clever and taking advantage by defining their niche while the competition is weak and instead of focusing on quarterly results at any cost are getting closer to customers and understanding them and their needs better and improving their processes so that when the gloom lifts, as it always does, they will find themselves positioned at the top of the food chain and the number one in their space.

Others are in survival mode – taking any bit of business that comes along in order to survive. So they try to break out of their niche to areas where they may not have a competitive advantage. Or take the long road to product diversification requiring them while at their weakest to learn a new skillset and a new market. For some this is necessary and there is a natural tension in this and decisions need to be made.

What however is to be done with organisations who are slow to react with rigid bureaucracy, an inflexible workforce and a culture that resists change.  Those without a very strong position in the market will die.  I am watching this in some organisations in this country with awe. Organisations who need to move fast and adapt have either management who cannot change or a workforce, possibly unionised, who are all about “us and them” and never “we” who argue  while their more flexible competitors (abroad) are eating their dinner.

Most interesting is the Public Sector who seem like rabbits caught in headlights and seem to be able to do nothing but CUT things. People. Services. Budgets. What about performance inefficiencies? What about getting more done with less by reducing the amount that needs to be done? What about mapping processes across departments? What about putting real managers into the Health Service for example? From outside the crazy culture that exists? If you get more done with the same people everybody keeps their job and the customers get their services and “everybody goes home with a balloon”.

The question arises – does Evolutionary pressure come to bear on the Public Sector Organisations – if they don’t shape up will they go out of existence. Well – no – in reality it does not apply. On an organisational level.  This is why it is sometimes it is prudent to privatize these organisations to allow their new environment to apply pressures that their current environment does not allow.

But what about Ireland Inc? What about the economic status of Ireland as a whole. The Public Sector Organisations are just parts of a larger whole. And so long as they are as they are and they remain as they are Ireland will suffer. Ireland is in an Evolutionary squeeze. Other more competitive entities are putting their hands up to eat our dinner while we are distracted with political expedience. Ireland Inc is in danger of dying out perhaps? I wonder if those who are focused on their own little territories and those who block improvements at the local level think of what they are doing in these terms?

Perhaps they should.

Aidan Higgins

First Published May 2009

Re-engineering the Downturn

Posted on 02/09/11 by Aidan

Back in the early nineties I was working with Business Process Re-engineering which is still current today if as part of other systems. It laymans terms it was a way of looking at a process within a company – for example how an invoice is processed – and simplifying it so that it takes less time, includes technology where possible and removes steps from the chain. It leads to efficiencies and better value for money.

Difficulties in implementation include the difficulties in crossing departmental barriers, getting people on board and retraining.  However in competitive adaptable organisations with the will to do so it can be achieved with spectacular results from lower costs, improved adaptability, faster time to market and quicker response to customer demands.

Looking at the Public Sector organisations we have in this country – I wonder has it ever been done. The strong us and them culture that exists, the “change nothin” policy, the slow adaptation of technology, the resistance to all things new (without compensation!) and the lack of will (from the top down) to change the status quo.

With the Political Turmoil at the moment there are a lot of ideas and promises flying around. However loads of glib solutions abound. There are cultural problems as well as organisational problems to be addressed. Cutting jobs is not the whole answer although cutting some is part of the solution. Stretching front-line staff to breaking point by refusing to replace those who leave or are on maternity leave is an idiotic solution.

Culture is first and foremost. You have to win hearts and minds. I wrote before about the Monkeys in a Cage

Researchers started with 4 chimpanzees in a cage (all having a great time I presume screeching, scratching etc) which are left to their own devices to form a group. A bunch of Bananas is then put on the roof of the cage and the chimps, naturally, climb up the cage to get the bananas. After a while the researchers started to hose the cage (and Chimps hate being wet) with water everytime they went for the Bananas. Of course it did not take long for our hairy cousins to figure out that going for the Bananas was a no-no. Being researchers, they then introduced another Chimp who when he saw the bananas immendiately went to get them with the resultant hosing of him and his cellmates. So the next time he went for the Bananas his cellmates stopped him. And this became the norm – every time a new Chimp was added and he went for the bananas the others stopped him. After a while the researchers stopped the hosing and eventually they had a group of Chimps who had never been hosed. And yet still they refused to go for the bananas and stopped any new member going for them either.

Sean Lemass warned after he set up the semi-states that they needed to be monitored closesly lest they become more focused on the interests of their employees than those of the country. Some of our best people are swamped by the culture that pervades parts of our Public Sector. Trying new things and trying to improve the system is frowned upon. Vested interests and power centres block change and will continue to do so while there is so little else there to reward people. Cutting jobs is part of the solution but only part. Cutting inefficiencies is the trick. Leave the systems as the are and cutting a job only leaves another poor soul with twice as much paper in his or her in-tray.  And a bigger bottleneck in the system.

To do this needs a change in culture. A better reward system and a happier more motivated more flexible group of people. Lots of international organisations have achieved this – why not here in Ireland in our Semi-States and public sectors?  Because of the us and them mentality, because top management are often appointed for their political affiliation rather than their abilities, because nobody in power wants to change.  We need more like Willie Walsh at the top. We need to treat our people better, to train them better and to be able to remove them from their jobs (managers especially) if they cannot do their jobs –  nowadays we promote the problem! Legislation exists nowadays to protect people and to keep it fair. So job cutters, budget squeezers everywhere – aim for smarter work, better efficiencies and try to have a bit of imagination! Less of the broad stroke quick fix solutions! And the “us and them crew” try and think of the interests of the country eh?

I once got into an amicable conversation with a man over a pint and we were getting along well and he told me he was the union rep for his sector.  Immediately interested I asked him something like “what are the main problems you see with the restrictions forced on you by the systems and bureaucracy you are forced to operate with”… for which I got a suspicious look followed by “jeasuss – you sound like you one of dem fookin management”.

And so it goes on…

Aidan Higgins

Improve your Emotional Intelligence

Posted on 02/21/10 by Aidan

I am meeting a lot of people who feel helpless to do anything in this economic onslaught.  As I say to them – “there is always something you can do” – even small things that get you rolling again.

The benefits of high Emotional Intelligence have been well catalogued. Emotional Intelligence accounts for more than 85% of exceptional achievement. While technical skills can be necessary for productivity, these are insufficient to explain the differences between high and mediocre achievers. High performers show emotional intelligence as task complexity increases.

The best leaders have found effective ways to handle their own and others emotions. Understanding the powerful role emotions play in the workplace sets great leaders apart from the rest. Also leaders emotional resonance sets the tone in the group effecting the outlook of all those around him. Having and developing high emotional Intelligence is therefore also key in the area of leadership.

What about our current economic climate? We are seeing the need more and more for Transformational (charismatic, personable, lead from the front)  rather than Transactional (work for reward only) Leadership skills. As always occurs  when things are volatile. And guess what – our friend Emotional Intelligence is even more important and more impactful on Transformational Leadership because its personality led with people skills to the fore.

So what can you do about this? Well you can improve your EQ (Emotional Quotient) through training. You can improve your Organisations EQ through training also – improving their ability to achieve what they need to achieve.

Now thats something you can do.
Talk to these guys www.adeo.ie

Aidan Higgins

Ideas Ideas Ideas

Posted on 11/29/09 by admin

I lecture at the Kemmy Business School in Limerick in Business Consulting to the postgraduate students in Entrepeneurship. Its a great program that gives budding Entrepreneurs the skills to develop their ideas into profitable businesses with an emphasis on exporting.  The course specialises in providing the education and support needed to get the idea to the next phase and in the current economic climate it is even more important to put these forward thinking business ideas into action to help stimulate economic recovery. Of course these skills also translate into Intrapreneurial skills for large businesses and some of the feedback received from those graduating confirms the benefits these skills have for the bigger organisations.

I have over the last number of years taken part in the final project presentations as a “Dragon” for the MBS’s and MBA‘s and  this year the BBS group as well.  Working this year with Ulster Bank  , Enterprise Ireland  and guest Entrepeneurs we reviewed some absolutely brilliant ideas in terms of their potential and marketability with full presentations and a display and show afterwards where each competitor demonstrated their products. Some excellent marketing and ideas made it difficult to decide the prize winners and several of the ideas were definitely candidates for immediate product launch. Feedback from the other “Dragons” was very positive also and the quality was a credit to the staff at KBS and in particular the creativity/innovation coaching.

I have been reviewing projects of this sort for a number of years at a number of Universities and I have to say this year at UL was certainly the best. Its ideas and enthusiasm we need right now and these students have them in buckets. Courses like this add real value to our country’s prospects of making a full economic recovery. I keep reminding people that Barak Obama in his inaugural address speech said “…it has been the risk-takers, the  doers, the makers of things — some celebrated, but more often men and women  obscure in their labor — who have carried us up the long, rugged path toward  prosperity…”

Aidan Higgins

Decent Management?

Posted on 06/15/09 by Aidan

Some of the public sector management stories remind me of a something I came across about the battle of Balaclava in 1854. Famous for the charge of the light brigade and “the thin red line” it became a logistical nightmare. While the British soldiers were up to their waists in water and cholera in summer clothes during the Russian winter, eating their own horses and dying by the thousands, the supplies they needed to survive languished in their ships for months – just down the hill from the front line – because the paperwork had not been properly done.

Front line staff  in public sector organisations are in my experience mostly doing their best often with back end management unable to meet their needs – not because there are too few but because there are too many. And I am beginning to believe that most of these poor managers are not aware of their capabilities and how bad they are.  And their managers are not helping by filling in review forms (where reviews are done at all) in a manner which rewards mediocre performance.

Listening to people who work in some areas of the public sector there are stories of mind boggling bureaucracy and failures. Improvements are resisted by a culture where positional power is taken so seriously it becomes the target of management rather than customer service. This leads to interdepartmental barriers, territoriality and lack of joined up thinking. I often wonder how old the process are in these organisations – did they every go through the BPR’s of the 90’s and are we dealing with systems put in place over 50 years ago.

I was at a hospital clinic some time back and as often happens I and about 20 others were kept waiting in the outer area for the consultants to arrive. There was a young woman on the front desk who was constantly getting enquiries about how long people could expect to be waiting. Of course she could not help – willing as she was – because she had not been informed. So she sat there working on her computer while 20 pairs of eyes stared at her and as people got more and more annoyed due to the delay and lack of information. I could feel the stress in the room and I felt quite sorry for her. I happened to sit down beside her and I asked how often it was like this …

“Oh” she said “every clinic”.

I kindly suggested that she should get a privacy screen so she could do her work without all those eyes burning a hole in her head. She confirmed that she had in fact asked for one and it was coming.

“Really?” I asked “when did you order it”.

She replied “3 years ago….”

This is a complex problem overall and will have to be resolved because the inefficiences generated by this culture drain our countries tax revenues at a far greater rate than is recognised I believe.  A little compassion for those who work for you might be a good start.

Aidan Higgins

The All Black Principle

Posted on 12/10/08 by Aidan

All BlacksThe All Black (New Zealand) Rugby team just did a Tour of the Four Home Unions and once again demonstrated their superiority and why they are known as the best team in the world. I think they have a lesson for organisations.

They completely dominated the international Matches against strong opposition and as they often do they pulled away in the second half of the match. They have high levels of fitness, individual skill and motivation but so do the home union teams. So what is it that makes them so superior when all thing seem equal? How does a country of 4 million inhabitants consistently produce the best team in the world when countries like France, England, and Wales have much higher numbers?

I was at a meeting once where Ollie Campbell the Irish outhalf at the time was asked why the Lions had gone down to such a  crushing defeat in New Zealand back in the early 80’s – he talked about pace, fitness, strength, professionalism. I played against the All Blacks myself in 1989 when they were captained by Buck Shelford and that year they completely dominated the International Matches and again it was pace, fitness, strength and professionalism.

Rugby went professional in the 90’s and anyone watching the game now will see players that look less like bar room brawlers and more like comic book heros in shape and fitness. Pace and professionalism have also been added and yet the All Blacks continue to dominate (albeit not winning the world cup – but thats for another post) with a remarkable consistency without those marked advantages of the past. How?

Well my view is their understanding of the game, their ability to change their game plan quickly and their telepathic communication. I often see the other international teams being beaten in the first half and having a good coach who alters the game plan at half time after which they can often come out a different team and win the game. But they have to wait for the coach and if the game changes again they have no access to the coach until the end.

The All Blacks however have a complete understanding of the game and when they sense weakness in the opposition they exploit it there and then. they learn quicly what the opposition are doing, they adapt their game plan quickly and go for the jugular. They are empowered (not hampered) by their coaches, they communicate effectively from 1 to 15 to ensure they work together and they are free to adapt again if or when the opposition adjusts.

Organisations compete for everything, competition is key to success, market entry, exit etc. In the workplace are our people encouraged to learn and do the people in our teams understand the whole game plan? Do they communicate effectively and are they empowered by their managers and leaders to make the moves quickly that are required to succeed? In winning organisations they are.

Aidan Higgins