Posted on

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

Share this:
Posted on

Employees first: Customers second

Vineet Nayar has been on the radio a lot recently. He is the CEO of HCL Technologies and has, on the face of it, an odd philosophy for how he does business: Employees First: Customer Second.

.

.

.

.

.

New Wisdom

This flies in the face of the conventional ‘customers first’ wisdom.  But it is not quite as counter-intuitive as it may seem.  You just need to follow the logic of the process.  Who looks after your customers?

Vineet Nayar’s Four Fundamental Questions

  1. Q: What is the core business we are in?
    A:  Creating value for our customers
  2. Q: Where is that value created?
    A:  At the interface between our employees and our customers
  3. Q: Who creates value?
    A:  Our employees
  4. Q: What is the business of managers and management?
    A:  Enthusing, encouraging and enabling employees to create value

When you invest the time and resources to ensure that your staff are committed and happy in their work, they will be naturally motivated to make your business succeed.  When you select the right people to put into the front-line and deal directly with your customers, then inevitably, they will take care of them.

The Secret of Customer Care

After all, there is no great secret to customer care: it simply requires that you care about your customer.  When you care about someone, you instinctively take care of them.

Corporate Kinetics

About twelve years ago, I participated in some research that ultimately led to what its authors hoped would be a ground breaking book: ‘The Power of Corporate Kinetics: Self-adapting, Self-renewing, Instant-action Enterprise’.  The thesis was simple; that the agility that companies would need to adapt and thrive in the third millennium could best be achieved when the people doing the work were given the authority to change how they do their work, to optimise efficiency, effectiveness and customer service.  It was illustrated with case studies drawn from the clients of my employer, Deloitte.

I don’t think it changed the world, nor even the way that many organisations go about improving themselves.  It should have, but I think two apparently contradictory things got in the way:

  1. first was a sense of ‘so what?’ The ideas did not seem surprising: they were perhaps, a little obvious.  Of course the people who do the work have the clearest view of what needs to change.
  2. second was a sense of ‘oh but…’ Giving real authority to the bottom of an organisational tree appears to rob everyone above of a big part of their role and, subconsciously, of their self esteem.

Empowerment is a hard discipline.  But it is certainly what Vineet Nayar is talking about.  And it also gives us another reason (see last week’s Pocketblog) why management is hard:  because, if you start to accept the logic of some of these ideas, you need to find a new model of management.

So here’s the Deal: A New Model of Management

In this new model, managers would act much more like facilitators than traditional instigators.  They would lend their commitment and authority to anyone coming forward with a good idea.  They would need to be able to encourage people to do so and to suppress a portion of their ‘I know best’ reflex so that they could balance a proper critical evaluation and a fair assessment of the opportunities.

Some Management Pocketbooks you might enjoy

Post Script

Coincidentally, a few days before this blog was scheduled to be posted, Strategy & Business, the magazine published an interview with Vineet Nayar, here.

Share this:
Posted on

Why Modern Management is so Hard

Modern managers have it hard.  In ‘the good old days’ managers could expect to simply dictate targets, set tasks and instruct their staff.  What a wonderful world that must have been for managers!

Leadership and Politics

The New Machiavelli, by Jonathan Powell Jonathan Powell has recently added the fourth corner of pyramid of books about Tony Blair’s administration, following those of Blair himself, Mandelson and Campbell.  It received less coverage than the others but what struck me was that he has used Machiavelli’s ‘The Prince’ as his framework.  So that’s the one I’ll be hoping for come the overflowing half-price offers at Christmas.  I’ve been fascinated by the Florentine since seeing him in a walk-on part in Marlowe’s ‘The Jew of Malta’ at the RSC.  (John Carlisle played him and Alun Armstrong the Jew, Barabus.  What a fabulous year that was at the RSC!)

The Prince

ThePrince It sent me scurrying to my well-thumbed Penguin edition which, even when I bought it over ten years ago was three times as expensive at a charity shop than the cover price; which appears to make scrappy paperbacks a good investment. (Scrappy now: not when it was published, I have to add, as Pearson are also publishing two of my books later this year!)

Three passages caught my attention.  Firstly, it seems that written leadership theory goes back not to Machiavelli at all, as I would have said yesterday, but to the Bible and Moses, which Signor M cites in discussing the role of fortune.

Second – and make of it what your political leanings will – Machiavelli takes sides on the current economic debate in the UK, saying that the Prince should inflict all injuries in one go, and confer benefits steadily. So, at last we see where George Osborne’s playbook comes from.

Okay Mike, stop digressing

Third, and most relevant, Machiavelli draws clear distinctions between leaders and managers that resonate through the modern leadership thinkers who influence business training and management schools today.

I don’t have the space to recount my favourite leadership models, but suffice to say; most of them emphasise that the role of a leader is not to manage: it is to lead.

Leaders Lead: Managers Manage

A smart leader lets their managers get on with the day-to-day running of the business, and that creates an easy division which is often represented in tables like this:

Managers_vs_Leaders

I am sure many trainers reading this blog have facilitated sessions that have ended up with very similar flip charts!  This comparison between leaders and managers was first made by Warren Bennis, in response to an HBR article by Abraham Zaleznik in 1977.

So why do Managers have it so hard?

If a smart leader lets their managers manage, then they only have one job to do: leadership.  But modern managers are constantly – and rightly – being reminded that our society demands leadership at every level.

Blame Douglas McGregor if you will.  His same Theory Y encouraged both managers to stop their easy command and control behaviours (of which Machiavelli would heartily have approved) and encouraged leadership thinkers like Bert Nanus and Warren Bennis to articulate a truly modern theory of leadership.

Leadership at every level and bringing the best out of every employee goes beyond indulging uppity managers in calling themselves leaders; it demands that all managers are leaders.

So here’s the deal

So there we have it:  Leaders lead but managers manage and lead.  No wonder so many people would rather be a leader than a manager – it’s any easier job!

Management Pocketbooks you might enjoy

If you are just a leader, you’ll want:

The Leadership PocketbookThe Leadership Pocketbook

The Motivation Pocketbook

The Empowerment Pocketbook

.

.

If you are a manger, you may also want:

The Manager's PocketbookThe Manager’s Pocketbook

The People Manager’s Pocketbook

The Management Models Pocketbook
(which contains two of the very best models of leadership)

Share this:
Posted on

Aubrey and Maturin, Arthur and Merlin

I have just finished a ten year endeavour – reading all twenty of Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey – Maturin novels, two a year.  These are set in the time of Napoleon, among characters of Britain’s Royal Navy.  Here, ‘Lucky’ Jack Aubrey is one of Nelson’s Band of Brothers – a fighting Captain sailing a fine frigate with a well-trained crew around the world, fighting for England.  Stephen Maturin is his friend, his ship’s surgeon, a skilled naturalist and an intelligence officer for the Admiralty.

Captain Jack Aubrey (left, played by Russell Crowe) and Dr Stephen Maturin (right, played by Paul Bettany) in the Twentieth Century Fox film ‘Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World ’.

.

That’s enough of the ‘fan stuff’.  If you are a fan, you know all of this – if you aren’t, you either don’t care, or will one day pick up the first book in the series, ‘Master and Commander’, and become hopelessly hooked.

By the way, the movie ‘Master and Commander’ was subtitled ‘The Far Side Of The World’ because it was most closely based on the tenth novel of that name.

Back to Management…  and Leadership

There are too many models of leadership to name, but one of the commonest approaches is to consider how to combine and apply different leadership styles to a situation.  These are sometimes called ‘contingency models’ or ‘situational models’.  Whilst the best known are the trademarked and copyrighted models of situational leadership promoted by Paul Hersey and Kenneth Blanchard, they all track back to the earliest and possibly the best; that of Tannenbaum and Schmidt.

Attention to task and Attention to the person

All of these (and we could throw around names like Mouton & Blake, and Fiedler too) combine how much attention we give to getting the job done, focusing on facts and data; and how much we attend to the people concerned and our relationship with them.  My worry is that these do not account for the extraordinary leadership O’Brian’s two characters show throughout over 6,000 pages of historically detailed and compelling novels.

Did Patrick O’Brian get it wrong?

This is a fair question, but I think we have to conclude not.  Not only do the characters ring true to thousands (maybe millions) of readers, but Jack Aubrey at least is based closely on a real person, Lord Thomas Cochrane.  Maybe, then, these models of leadership are missing something.

Arthur and Merlin, Watson and Holmes, Kirk and Spock

Captain Kirk is a fearless warrior, prepared to take on any odds in fighting for what he believes in.  So are King Arthur, Dr Watson and Captain Aubrey.  They mobilise their resources and use whatever skills, knowledge and power they have to protect what they value.  Great leader are fighters, prepared to rally their followers and inspire them with their courage, persistence and, ultimately, sacrifice.

Sherlock Holmes, whilst equally fearless, stands for something creative, insightful and even mystical, in his mastery of the finest detail of his science.  So too with Merlin, Mr Spock and Dr Maturin.  People follow them, not because of their desire to fight, but because of the sacrifice they have made in mastering their science or their art.  They are visionary and knowledgeable to a degree that inspires others to follow them.

Where are the task focused and
people focused leaders in fiction?

They are there, in the background, getting the job done and looking after the walk-on characters.  Dr McCoy, Mrs Hudson, Guinevere, Killick, Pullings, Lancelot, Scotty, Lestrade.  Often they are important characters in bringing balance, but they are not the ones who compel our attention.  They are heroes in their own right, but are loved for their contribution to the whole story and their support of those who dominate.

So here’s the deal

Leadership has many dimensions: fighting for what you believe in, a passionate commitment to a body of knowledge or skills, a deep concern for people, a resolute determination to see a job through, and many more.  Your model of leadership must focus on the style of leader you choose to be.  Don’t accept someone else’s model uncritically – it may not work for you.

But also know that to really lead, you need a supporting cast of other heroes to support you or, from another point of view, you can lead without being a star, in a supporting role that brings balance and wholeness.

… and, if you haven’t already done so, go order a copy of ‘Master and Commander’, read it, become hopelessly hooked, and learn new ways to think about management and leadership.

Management Pocketbooks you might enjoy

The Leadership Pocketbook
– looks at a range of leadership styles

The Management Models Pocketbook
– describes Tannenbaum and Schmidt’s Leadership Continuum, and also John Adair’s Action Centred Leadership

The Motivation Pocketbook
– lots of ways a leader can motivate their followers

The Teambuilding Activities Pocketbook
– activities like sailing a 28 gun frigate into battle, exploring space in a starship, solving a brutal murder, and questing for the holy grail
… are strangely missing from an otherwise excellent selection!

Share this:
Posted on

What can Pocketbooks Teach our Politicians?

Thursday is polling day in the UK and on Friday, we’ll get a new Government. It may be a new version of the same one, a combination of the same and something different or some flavour of different perspectives.

Whatever happens, the world won’t change overnight – even for those of us in the UK.  I say this because one of my earliest memories is the terror my parents expressed at the implications of a change of Government when I was a small child.  Yet the next day, everything seemed just the same to me.

What’s new this time?

The big change in this election is the increase in focus on party leaders at the expense of a forensic analysis of their parties and of their parties’ policies.  Like it or loathe it, this change is probably with us to stay.

So we’ve been trawling through our collection of Pocketbooks, looking for wisdom and advice for the party leaders who will compete in the UK’s next General Election (which will be any time between summer 2010 and spring 2015).

Advice for the Leaders from Management Pocketbooks

The Leadership Pocketbook tells us that leaders need:

  1. Enthusiasm – show genuine interest
  2. Energy – be lively
  3. Engagement – make it interesting

The Presentations Pocketbook tells us there are three ways to deflect an unwanted question:

  1. Ask the audience for their views
  2. Pass it to a colleague who is an expert
  3. Ask the questioner their opinion before answering

The Influencing Pocketbook tells us that people will say yes when your ideas meet their view of life in one of three areas:

  1. Principle and values
  2. Beliefs and opinions
  3. Needs and wants

And finally, if our politicians end up having to do deals in a balanced Parliament, The Resolving Conflict Pocketbook tells us three steps towards principled negotiation:

  1. Don’t take a position – it will only lead to an argument, so hear people out and look for a joint solution
  2. Separate the people from the problem – personal style is not the substance of the matter and attacks on it are fruitless
  3. Focus on interests – ‘what do you want to achieve?’, rather than ‘what are your ideological roots?’

… and we have to apologise to one leader for the failure of the Pocketblog to provide all the help he needed.  When, on 13 April, we advised:

  1. Beware clip-on radio microphones
    Turn them off when someone comes to the front at the break, to ask you a private question
  2. Beware clip-on radio microphones
    Turn them off before you head out of the room, walking right in front of a speaker
  3. Beware clip-on radio microphones
    Please turn them off before you take a comfort break

… we should perhaps have added:

….4.   Beware clip-on radio microphones
.…..….Always

So here’s the deal

The real test of how effectively you can communicate your message is: ‘would a small child understand it?’  Politicians have been busy simplifying their message.  You may admire or deprecate this trend.  We’ll see the outcome soon!

And …  Why not share your own favourite advice from one of the Management Pocketbooks in the comments space below.  Feel free to contribute, whether you are a reader or an author.  Finally, any takers for a new PPC – prospective pocketbook candidate? The Politician’s Pocketbook.  Now there’s an idea!

Share this: