leadership

Authentic leadership when it counts

In her final show as guest host of Radio Nation Life Matters, Angela Catterns convenes an excellent program about leadership.

Using the recent example of Queensland Premier Anna Bligh’s performance during the Queensland catastrophes as a springboard for discussion, Angela is joined by studio guests Rosemary Howard Director of AGSM Executive Programs and  Catherine Harris from UNSW.  The session includes an interview with former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser, and thoughful talkback comments. Covering social, political and business leadership, the discussion summarises a number of the themes and challenges for authentic leadership. Definitely worth a listen.

Podcast and transcript
http://www.abc.net.au/rn/lifematters/stories/2011/3146774.htm
Facebook
http://www.facebook.com/RNLifeMatters?ref=ts&v=wall#!/RNLifeMatters

Anna Bligh’s authentic leadership during the January crises set a benchmark for authentic communication. IABCNSW is hosting a professional development lunch  on Crisis Communication with guest speaker Brisbane City Councillor David McLachlan on 30 March.  Details here: http://www.iabcnsw.com/calendar/15/41-Crisis-Communication-in-the-digital-age.html

Is instruction or direction better for engagement?

Do you return from holidays full of direction or full of instructions? One is better for engagement.

Direction or Instruction

Where are you going?

A leader I knew used the summer holiday as his ‘blue sky’ period. He would return from his trip refreshed and with a full to do list. His team had come to dread the return, as it frequently marked a change of strategy. In some cases this meant new efforts, change of direction, or even substantial reorganisation.

For his team, there was an important step missing. While he had given himself the time to think through his ideas, to internalise them and to create a to-do list at the end, his team would be frozen, waiting for the action plan. Four weeks of iterative thinking would be downloaded in an hour. In the months leading up to the break, they would shut down their thinking on new ideas or directions, knowing that there was little certainty of priorities on their return. And once the action plan was presented, there was a feeling that even if they agreed with the solution, they didn’t feel a sense of ownership as their input was missing from the actions now dictated.

The leader had come to believe that it was important that he take this time to make sure he provided clear instruction. But by doing all the thinking for them, he was missing an important opportunity to engage them in the problem and the solution. While there is great strength in aligning people behind a target, there is even greater motivation when people have context, information and an understanding of the problem or situation that they are seeking to solve.

What could he have done differently?

  • Balance destination, direction and detail. When it comes to implementation, people work with details. But before you get there, use the big picture to set the destination and establish direction. Your people might know a better route!
  • Provide clear context. Why is the number one thing, the number one thing?Customer, competitor, political, technological, social. What are the factors that informed your thinking?
  • Build the capability. Creating an environment that supports shared problem-solving, open communication, an outcome focus and clear decision-making takes time at first, but becomes a habit and can be done very effectively over time.

By giving up some control, and creating an environment with open communication, clear context, and strong sense of purpose, leaders can help their teams achieve results they may not have imagined on their own. There are times, such as during a crisis, when instruction will still be important. There is substantial evidence that during these times an engaged workforce goes beyond simply complying with instructions and commits to the outcomes.

Leader’s authenticity devalued by undercover formula

It has been interesting looking at Undercover Boss Australia to see what, if any, lessons can be taken and applied to leadership, communication and results.

In previous weeks, I have been able to take away a tip, a strategy or a flaw and use that to look at a broader area of organisational communication or strategy. This week’s episode has frustrated me.  Toga Hospitality CEO, Rachel Argaman took on a number of roles from housekeeping to kitchen hand to concierge in hotels and apartments within the Toga group.

There were certainly moving stories from employees who had experienced difficulties or significant life events. There were issues in the business with evidence that social programs, training and development opportunities were not consistently communicated or applied within some of the establishments. Plenty of fodder for discussion. But not providing a standout theme. Something just didn’t feel right.

What was missing? The CEO. Rachel was certainly present for the people she was working alongside. Her manner was open and inquisitive. One of the factors that makes Undercover Boss compelling (at its best) is understanding the journey of the leader as they discover challenges within the business.  Unfortunately, this element was absent from Argaman’s quest: she wasn’t really present for us, the viewer. What did she learn? What were her insights? What did she reflect on as a result.

Leadership Skills Australia undertook a review of readings on authentic leadership and distilled 5 common themes that consistently featured in the literature:

  • Commit to the truth
  • Know yourself well
  • Show self discipline
  • Show compassion
  • Be genuine

Argaman, a CEO with a strong reputation for her vision and team approach for the organisation, is an articulate believer in the power of authentic leadership, as she has demonstrated elsewhere in local news and older interviews.

Unfortunately in this episode, we were not given a sense of Argaman’s self-knowledge and awareness. It is a shame this aspect of her experience was not more apparent in the production.

http://apps.v2.movideo.com/player/flash/movideo_player.swf

Induction, undercover: lessons from Undercover Boss Australia Pt 4

For Ray Schliebs, the new CEO of Big4 Holiday Park, taking part in Undercover Boss Australia during his first week at the company was a chance to be inducted into all aspects of the business.

Undercover Boss Australia

Twitter suggests next series of Undercover Boss

Affable Schliebs comes to his first day the role with extensive experience in travel, tourism and hospitality. He is at ease with the employees at all levels and demonstrates an open rapport. Years of experience at the front line of travel has equipped him to be a good listener and to relate to a diverse range of people.

The first three months for an executive is a critical time. In that period, new leaders need to understand the organisation and set about achieving early success that will enable their subsequent agenda. Michael Watkins, author of The First 90 Days, recommends that new executives need to accelerate their learning. By going to a range of parks, Schliebs get to hear from the owners about what is working and what keeps them awake at night, important inputs to the strategic direction of the park.

How can leaders capitalise on being the new kid?

  • Introduce yourself. Managers and employees will interpret your comments, behaviours and decisions from the outset.
  • Get out and about. Starting in the company is a fantastic reason to see the operations. Start the way you mean to continue.
  • Ask open questions. What are you working on? How does that work? What has been working? What would you change? How can I help?
  • Listen. Then listen more.

As my mother would say, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”

The human face of organ transplant
Australia has one of the highest rates of success for organ transplant operations in the world, yet a transplant rate that is up to 50% lower than other countries. This episode of Undercover Boss included the story of Quentin, a Queensland park franchisee who has been able to continue a life with his family as a result of a successful transplant. For more information on organ donation, visit http://www.donatelife.gov.au/. Ticking the box is not enough, and Donate Life includes resources for you to discuss your wishes with your family.

Disclosure: I have previously provided volunteer communication services for Transplant Australia and currently for ShareLife Australia.