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Team Leadership

One of the most popular models of team leadership is John Adair’s Action Centred Leadership.

Three Circles

In this model, leadership expert, John Adair, identifies three overlapping circles of concern for a team leader: the team’s task, the team itself, and the individuals in the team.

It is a wonderfully simple model that encourages you to weigh the attention you give to each, against the needs of the situation.  Adair has much to say about your responsibilities in each category.

John Adair's Three Circles Diagram

More Circles

Like any model, part of its value comes from its simplicity.  The price of simplicity, however, comes from what the model misses, neglects or under-represents, in achieving a memorable elegance.

Here are three more circles (among many), that one could add to Adair’s model.

Organisational Context

There are a lot of reasons for team leaders to focus beyond their team and onto the wider organisational context within which their team sits.  Firstly, how does the team’s task set fit into the wider group of activities?  Team leaders need to know this to set the team’s tasks in context and therefore give them meaning – one of the most important motivators.

Under this heading, we can also consider the team’s relationships with a wide range of stakeholders, and the interest those stakeholders have in the team’s work.  Particular among those stakeholders are other teams.  The team leader needs to find ways to manage the interfaces and dependencies with other teams and work streams.

Finally, we have to acknowledge the role of politics.  Not what many of us sign up for in the world of work, but for team leaders, actively navigating their organisation’s political reefs is a necessary expedient.

The Leader’s Emotional State

Never under-estimate the impact of your emotional state on your team’ was arguably the best management advice your author ever got (thank you George Owen, if you ever get to hear of this blog).

Team members will look to you for all sorts of guidance and, unconsciously, will take their emotional cue from you.

Vision of the Future

Not only should you be looking beyond your team, as team leader, but look beyond the now of today’s tasks and today’s team and today’s individual.  What will your team need to do tomorrow, and next week, and next month, and next year?  And how do you need to evolve it to prepare the team and its individuals to deliver?

Show your team vision.  While some are motivated by pride in what they are doing today, others need to see what is in store.

Join the debate – what would you add?

Please do use the comments facility below to tell us what you would add to this model.

Management Pocketbooks you might enjoy

You can read about John Adair’s Action Centred Leadership in The Management Models Pocketbook.

The Management Models Pocketbook, by Mike Clayton

Other Management Pocketbooks you might like are:

The Leadership Pocketbook

The Teamworking Pocketbook

The People Manager’s Pocketbook

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Generation Y at work

Last week, I got side-tracked in my quest to learn how Generation Y (born between around 1980 and 2000) will handle the challenge of management in the workplace.  The oldest and most talented of them are stepping up to that challenge already and we can expect a significant cohort of new Generation Y managers in our workplaces over the next few years.

Back to that highly salient topic…

Continue reading Generation Y at work

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As simple as X, Y, Z: the complexities of Generational Theories

There are an awful lot of interesting things to do with yourself, and a new one came my way last week: I discovered my local Cafe Scientifique.  If you aren’t familiar with the concept, for the price of a tea or coffee, you can listen to some of the latest ideas in science and technology at a local cafe.  Mostly, they will be presented by a visiting scientist – sometimes eminent.  You can learn whether you have one nearby, or how to start one, here if you’re in Britain, or here if you’re not.

My first Cafe

My first experience was great (thanks to Paula Kennedy for organising it) and the speaker, Professor Averil Macdonald, was excellent.  Averil talked about Baby Boomers, Generation X and Generation Y.  What makes a good talk is not so much what is said, nor how it is presented.  A good talk sets you thinking…

Continue reading As simple as X, Y, Z: the complexities of Generational Theories

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Balance is everything

So much of western thinking divides the world into four.  You only have to look at management models to see this at its extremes: psychometric profiling, such as DISC®, personality types such as Merrill-Reid or Lifo®, and most common of all, the innumerable “four box models”.  These all have something valuable to tell us, but are all hampered by two features: they allow only four classes in an infinitely varying world and they have to go to great lengths to then assure users that  some admixture of classes is not only allowed, but encouraged.

This is South Korea’s national flag.  It too represents an ancient division of the world into four components; in this case, the four major tri-grams of the I Ching stand for (clockwise from top left): heaven, water, earth and fire.

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One model stands out by putting the balance to the forefront and making its four categories the secondary feature of the model.  This is Robert Kaplan and David Norton’s Balanced Scorecard.

Balanced Business Scorecard

In one of Harvard Business Review’s most read articles (it appears in their compilation of ten must-read articles), Kaplan and Norton set out how a business can achieve success by focusing on four different areas; not just on financial performance.

The principles at stake here are simple: if you build a great business, financial success will follow, focus only on the financial metrics and you cannot build a great long-term business, and if you are going to focus more widely, you need to develop measures of success that are as rugged as the well-established financial measured.

It takes me back to my old favourite adage: “what gets measured gets managed” – see the earlier pocketblog: “Are targets a waste of time?

Kaplan and Norton’s four Perspectives

The original article (Harvard Business Review Sept-Oct 1993) looked at a case study of engineering company, Rockwater, whose four perspectives were: financial, internal processes, innovation & learning, and customer.  These have become crystallised to the extent that many businesses take these categories off the shelf.

BalancedScorecard

However, whilst they are valuable for many businesses, the principle of selecting four perspectives that can dictate the future success of your enterprise is far more general than this.  Whether you run a business, a public service, a charity or a small group of people in any sphere of life, the fundamental methodology holds: find your key perspectives and develop the measures that you value most.

A Balanced Scorecard Methodology

Seven steps are all it takes… and a lot of careful thought and involvement of colleagues.  Skipping those tough parts, here it is in a nutshell.

  1. Make sure you have a clear vision and strategy
  2. Find the performance categories that best link your vision and strategy to success (Here are some different examples: service standards, thought leadership, marketing activity, performance management, internal morale)
  3. For each perspective, define a small number of objectives that support your vision and strategy
  4. Develop standards or ways to measure progress and build simple systems to monitor and communicate performance against each perspective
  5. Spread the word throughout your organisation that these measures will drive your reward and promotion mechanisms
  6. Monitor performance and compare it with your objectives
  7. Take action to bring performance in line with your objectives

Some Management Pocketbooks you might like

The balanced scorecard can be used at several levels from strategy to day-to-day operations.

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Another reason to offer great customer service

By Sean McManus, co-author of  The Customer Service Pocketbook

Just before Christmas, news came out that Google has updated the way its search engine works, so that it discriminates against companies that offer bad customer service.

Google counts a link to a website as being a vote in favour of it, and uses those votes (among other things) to decide how highly websites rank in its search results. The problem was that if the links appeared with complaints about the company, perhaps in a consumer rights forum, Google still gave companies credit for that link. Now that’s all changed, and Google says it now penalises companies apparently offering poor service.

The change responds to a claim in a US newspaper that one company deliberately offered bad customer service, just so that people would gripe about it online and give it lots of links that would boost its search engine ranking.

For online businesses, this means it’s never been more important to offer good service. If they don’t, they risk sliding down the search engine rankings, which can have a big impact on new customer acquisition and sales volume.

Google has always been committed to giving people the best web pages for their search queries, but this represents a subtle change. It means Google is now prioritising the reputation of the website operator too, including factors that are independent of the website itself.

imageGoogle holds a huge amount of data about customer behaviour that could also be factored in. Let’s not forget that Google knows how often people search for your company name together with ‘complaints department’.

It can even benchmark these figures across different companies, industries and countries, to identify companies that have significantly more complaints than their rivals.

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If Google is committed to good customer service, you should be too

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Find out how to improve customer service across your organisation in …

Never has there been a time when retaining your customers has been more important. The Customer Service Pocketbook, by Tony Newby and Sean McManus will give you lots of hints and tips about communicating with your customers, dealing with complaints and monitoring your performance.

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Bankers’ Bonuses and Brain Biology

Back in September 2010, we did a post about John Stacy Adams and Equity Theory.  Here are some edited highlights, as a primer:

Equity Theory in a Nutshell

Adams considered the comparisons we make between the outcomes we get (through reward such as pay) and the work we contribute:  the ratio O/W.

You unconsciously compare your own ratio (O/W) with my ratio, as you perceive it (O’/W’).  If you find that they are equal, you will be content.  If, however, my ratio is bigger than your ratio, you will be unhappy –you will perceive an ‘inequity’.

It is also the case that if you think you are over-rewarded, then you will probably feel a sense of guilt.  Our innate need for fairness is what drives Adams’ ‘Equity Theory’.  He argued that where we feel a sense of inequity, we respond in a way that will, in our minds, remove the inequities.

Why so Fair?

Is our sense of fairness a result of social or cultural pressures, or is it the way we are wired?  Four researchers at Caltech and Trinity College Dublin became the first to glean definitive evidence into this particular nature versus nurture debate.

What they found is that our brain’s reward centres respond more strongly when a poor person gets a financial reward than when a rich person receives the same reward.  What surprised them was that this is true for the brain of the rich person as well as for that of the poor person.

Image Credit: Elizabeth Tricomi/Rutgers University
Dr Tricomi was the principal author of the research paper

‘People who started out poor had a stronger brain reaction to things that gave them money, and essentially no reaction to money going to another person,’ Professor Colin Camerer says. ‘By itself, that wasn’t too surprising.’

What did surprise the team was that people who started out rich had a stronger reaction to other people getting money than to themselves getting money. ‘In other words’ said Camerer, ‘their brains liked it when others got money more than they liked it when they themselves got money.’

So what happened to good old self interest?

Clearly the results appear fly in the face of self interest, so how does the team explain them.  They think that it is about reducing discomfort – seeing a poor person getting a reward goes some way to allaying a little of our own guilt.

So will bankers give away their bonuses?

Maybe some will, but perhaps the guilt of discomfort has a value.  That’s something the experimenters did not measure, and until they do, we will never know what it takes to make a more equal society.

Which brings us back in a roundabout way to the vexed question of nature versus nurture.  We now know that something of our sense of equity is wired into the way our brains work.  What we don’t know is whether that wiring took place because of our genetics or our experiences.  So let’s speculate, based on two observations:

  1. There would seem to be real evolutionary advantage for a social creature living in small groups to develop a sense of fairness that guides its decisions
  2. There are plenty of opportunities in our present society for a sense of equity to be over-written by self-interest in our formative years, yet it seems to persist.

I say: chalk this one up to nature!

Learn More

You can read a far fuller summary of the research at the Caltech website, or, if you have a mind to, you can read the full paper that was published in the journal Nature (25 Feb 2010).

Some Management Pocketbooks you might enjoy

The Motivation Pocketbook

The Reward Pocketbook

The Management Models Pocketbook

The Thinker’s Pocketbook

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Elastic Management

SuperLewinKurt Lewin is something of a hero to me, not least as the originator of one of my all time favourite quotes:

‘There is nothing so practical as a good theory’

This appeared in my intro to The Management Models Pocketbook and a blog I posted on my birthday.

So why come back to it now?  I want to look at one of Lewin’s best known models from a slightly unconventional angle, but let’s start with the basics.

Force Field Analysis

Lewin’s language derives from the world of physics; he talks of equilibrium and forces.  His metaphor is not, however, strained and works very well for me.  In his model, we (individuals and groups – even organisations) will be in equilibrium, unless a force acts upon us.

By equilibrium, he means that there will be no change.

Let’s get real!

In the real world, there are always forces acting upon us, so there is always change.  Lewin identifies two fundamental types of force:

Driving forces, which promote change

Restraining forces, which – take a guess – restrain it

ForceField

To understand the nature of change and how it is happening in an individual or a group, we need to inventory all of the driving and restraining forces, understand them, and assess the net direction and strength of the resultant force.

Under Pressure

Many of us in the worlds of business and public service are finding ourselves under a lot of pressure at the moment, and if you manage people, you may be putting them under pressure.  What can Lewin teach us about what is going to happen?

As we apply a driving force to our colleagues in times of pressure, many will respond and you will achieve the changes you need.  People are able to suppress their reaction to unwelcome pressure and hence you may not sense the restraining forces.  But they are there.  When you release the drive, as the pressure reduces, the elasticity of the restraining forces will show itself.

Two Tactics

How can you deal with this elasticity.  If you need to maintain your new productivity levels over a long term, you have only two options:

  1. You can maintain the driving forces
    We see this pretty often in organisations.  ‘Autocratic’ or ‘follow-me-the-superhero’ styles of leadership maintain long term pressure that can turn into stress and burn-out.  If you suspect you are in danger of causing this, you need to deal with it – quickly.
  2. You can release the restraining forces
    This is by far the harder tactic.  You need to understand what the forces are that pull back against your drive and address them one at a time.  So, longer hours may be mostly a problem because of a parent’s evening routine; so can you offer flexible hours to allow them to leave early?  A greater workload may frustrate someone who is angered by the slow running of an aged computer; so can you upgrade their equipment?

Welcome to the club

If you are anticipating 2011 will be a tough year for you, then welcome to a large club.  But don’t just despair or let events drive you.  Analyse and understand your situation, and take active steps to manage it.

This quarter, Pocketblog will be offering a range of solutions from the Management Pocketbooks library, to help you through.

Some Management Pocketbooks you might find helpful

The Managing Change Pocketbook

The Stress Pocketbook

The Motivation Pocketbook

The People Manager’s Pocketbook

The Tackling Difficult Conversations Pocketbook

Under Pressure? – take a break

For Queen fans

For music fans who aren’t so keen on Queen

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Happiness – as simple as ABC?

AbnormalityA couple of years ago, I spotted something a bit special in an Oxfam bookshop; it was a kind of archaeological relic of a by-gone age.  The book was a basic psychology text called ‘Abnormality’.  Because I have no more than a passing interest in the subject and ever-diminishing shelf space, I elected to leave it behind.

However, this book marks the end of an era.

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A New Field in Psychology

Abnormality was published in 1997.  The following year, its principal author, Martin Seligman, was President of the American Psychological Association.  In 1998, Seligman officially launched Positive Psychology as a distinct branch of psychology, and lifted it from the level of pop psychology to a topic of serious scientific research.

Abnormality marked Seligman’s last book on the ‘old’ psychology of the damage we accumulate or do to one-another.  All his subsequent books have been about aspects of optimal human functioning.

Why this timing?  Was it just because Seligman had the opportunity that year?  I don’t think so.  In his 2003 book, Authentic Happiness, he says:

‘it took Barbara Frederickson … to convince my head that positive emotion has a profound purpose far beyond the delightful way it makes us feel.’

In 1998, Barbara Frederickson published a ground-breaking paper: ‘What good are Positive Emotions?’  In it, she suggests that positive emotions broaden and build our personal resources and help us to cope with the trials of life.  She won psychology’s most lucrative award, The Templeton Prize, in its first year, 2000.

But what if I’m stuck with negative emotions?

Martin SeligmanSeligman himself is a leading thinker in Positive Psychology; most closely associated with two aspects: strengths, and ‘Learned Optimism’.

His 1990 book (now in its third edition); ‘Learned Optimism’ pre-dates Positive Psychology as a field of study with a name, but it is an essential read for anyone interested in the field.

It shows how we can move from helplessness to optimism by changing the way we think, and it presents a very powerful model, developed by Albert Ellis.

Albert Ellis and Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy

Albert Ellis founded Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) – yes British readers: I have used the US spelling.  This is a fore-runner of the better known CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) and Ellis is known as the Grandfather of CBT.  He died in 2007.

In Learned Optimism, Seligman uses his ABCDE model as a tool for changing the way we think about adversity and and challenge.  You will also find this model in The Cognitive Behavioural Coaching (CBC) Pocketbook.

A B C D E

A: Activating event
… or Adversity, as Seligman describes it, is the objective event that causes us concern

B: Beliefs
The beliefs we have (rational or not) about the event that trigger our attitudes, fears and subsequent behaviours

C: Consequences
Ultimately, what consequences do those beliefs have for us in terms of what we do and how that changes our options and opportunities.

D: Dispute
Change comes when we confront our beliefs with real-world evidence and start to dispute our interpretation and beliefs.

E: Energization
This is the word Seligman uses, which seems more powerful than ‘Exchange’ used in the CBC Pocketbook. Here the new evidence and understanding we have exchanged for the old energises us to make changes, think differently, do things differently, and change our world.

Our Cognitive Behavioural Coaching Pocketbook has a whole chapter on the ABCDE model and how to use it.

Is Happiness as Simple as ABC?

Of course not, but what Seligman shows us is how a simple process can radically change our perspective from pessimism to optimism.

Some Management Pocketbooks you might enjoy

The Cognitive Behavioural Coaching Pocketbook

The Energy and Well-being Pocketbook

The Positive Mental Attitude Pocketbook

The Stress Pocketbook

The Emotional Intelligence Pocketbook

The Empowerment Pocketbook

You might also like our earlier blog: Socrates’ Questions, Pavlov’s Dogs and Skinner’s Box.

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Management New Year’s Resolutions

Welcome to 2011!  This blog is published on the first working day of the New Year, so we have culled five Management New Year’s Resolutions from our Management Pocketbook library.

Resolution 1: Evidence-Based Decision-Making

After all, what is the alternative to evidence-based decision-making? Decision-Based Evidence Making

FrancisLSullivan-as-JaggersOne of our favourite quotes comes from Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations, in which the lawyer, Jaggers, says:

`Take nothing on its looks; take everything on evidence. There’s no better rule.’

Image of Francis L Sullivan as Jaggers in the 1946 movie by David Lean – if you’ve never seen it, do so this year.

So, resolve never to make an important decision without first critically reviewing all of the evidence available to you.

Resolution 2: Reduce Reuse Recycle

For a manager, this year is likely to be one with resources at their tightest.  So use what you have well.  Think carefully about every commitment to reduce what you do; look for solutions that already work and make sure you put redundant resources to good use in a new context.

TimeTime will be your most valuable resource, and unlike the others, you cannot save it up, so use it really well.

Photo by i-am-marvin.

So, resolve not to squander anything of value.

Resolution 3: Make a Difference

How much did you achieve in 2010?  Seth Godin, in his blog, asks what did you ship (or get out of the door) in 2010 and he’s right: answering that question is an uncomfortable exercise if you are rigorous in excluding the near misses and outright failures to deliver.  Accept no excuses from yourself.

Now, resolve to make a real difference this year; face your demons and get things done.  And reading Seth’s blog will be a great stimulus.

Resolution 4: Treat your Customers like Kings and Queens

Management Pocketbooks has five excellent pocketbooks in its Customer Care category, but if you boil all the advice down to two words, it’s these: ‘just care’.

If you are in the business of serving people or creating products for them, this is what you have chosen, so, resolve to put up or shut up.  Treat every customer as you would wish to be treated when you are at you most demanding and unreasonable.

And, for the ultimate in customer care training, this column will be buying the Remastered DVD box-set of Fawlty Towers.

Resolution 5: Chill Out

RelaxRelax.  Get more done by stressing less.  Make time for more of what you enjoy and the people you really love.  Find ways to discharge the pressures and tensions of your working life and give yourself more energy in the process.

So, resolve to be more mellow and easier to be with.

Ten Management Pocketbooks you might enjoy this Year

Resolution 1
Resolution 2
Resolution 3
Resolution 4
Resolution 5
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