During the week, I met with Abbot John and his management team at New Norcia to discuss interests in common and a way forward together that embraces the future.
New Norcia is an iconic town in Australia. It is our only monastic town, and as it turns out, is located within the local government district I currently administer.
New Norcia has this rich, amazing history. Apart from the fabulous historical buildings and the life of the monks themselves, the number of art works including some by the great masters is breath taking.
As we started our meeting, I explained my purpose was to understand New Norcia better and to “reset” relations between our two entities. Abbot John looked at me straight away across the table and put down his pen. He said: “Sean, I’m glad you said the word reset. For me it is a very important statement.”
In essence, what I had done with such a simple word was put the whole room at ease.
It put both institutions on the same page in an instant.
It was a win win scenario.
With that one word I had buried the politics, the angst and the resentment of the past.
It then allowed us to have a wide ranging discussion about current issues and the opportunities of the future.
Remember – Be Prepared
In burying the past, the hatchet as it were, we were able to comment how it is important to learn from the past, to acknowledge those things that happened, but not dwell on it. We spent no more than two or three minutes at the most on this issue.
When walking into any discussion, dialogue or negotiation, you need to know who you are dealing with. At the very least, you should have a solid inkling of who is going to be in the room.
This understanding helps you then to choose the right words or phrases the other party will be comfortable with.
By using these two principles and as a result, putting yourself in the other person’s shoes, it will help you quickly get to a win win outcome.
So, what helped me to understand who I was dealing with? The following gives you some idea:
- I understand the catholic faith very well and have spent a considerable amount of time in catholic institutions;
- I know the history of New Norcia and have been there many times. The Shire and the monastic town have a shared history going back over 150+ years;
- The Federal Court held hearings in the Shire’s main administrative centre a couple of weeks ago re New Norcia’s past;
- New Norcia is heading in a whole new strategic direction, which has had instant success;
- Innovation is a mind set I understand all too well.
What do you plan for to ensure a successful meeting outcome? Please comment.
How could I not resist posting this announcement!
Our eldest son said a few minutes ago: “George Jetson was born today.”
First airing in 1962 (just so you know, yes, this was before I was born), and lasting just one season, The Jetsons presented a fun packed view of the future. George and his family show us the difficulties and marvels we are yet to face such as George being constantly bored at work because of technology.
If you have ever watched The Jetsons, there is not one prediction that has not come to pass, except we are, perhaps a little behind regarding the use of robots, individual travel pods and space platforms, but they are certainly happening!
Interestingly enough, new episodes were produced in the mid 1980s for three years. George’s boss, Mr Spacely was someone I knew I didn’t want to be like and Rosie the robot maid was a true marvel.
Den of Geek tells us more about the life of George and his family’s experience of future marvels here
How lack of clarity by those who lead you affects the good work you do!
Have you ever wondered why the good work you do gets lost within your organisation, or never sees the light of day, or is just plainly misunderstood?
Those who have worked with me know there is one message I preach over and over again: “embrace the light.”
In essence it means to be open and transparent.
Through openness and transparency comes clarity, embracing different points of view, a clear path and much improved outcomes.
What happens when there is no sense of purpose?
Typically, many work places (and community organisations) suffer from the murkiness that exists within the upper echelons of the corporate body.
The greyness, the fogginess is caused by a lack of willingness by those who lead the organisation to embrace the agreed strategic direction. In otherwords not adhering to those very things you have been asked to take on board to deliver key outcomes.
Examples I have found during my leadership journey of what happens when the leadership fails to embrace a strategic direction include:
- The CEO doesn’t like the strategic plan, so we have never seen it!
- We work together, in spite of the disorganised leadership;
- I have never seen the CEO;
- I do not want to be part of that person’s team;
- Do you have a crystal ball handy?
- If we were a larger organisation we wouldn’t need to help each other out???
Make no bones about it – staff perception is stranger than fiction. Or, is it!!!
How work gets lost, even good team work
As decisions move up and down or through and around the organisational pyramid, they encounter the different leadership characteristics in play. Let’s look at what is going on…
At the team level, all is good – you have come up with the perfect solution. The team is happy.
The team leader knows the proposal is good, but can see trouble ahead. The manager is well known for “hedging their bets.”
The manager at the team leaders meeting receives the proposal, but then decides to sit on it. It would appear that parts of the proposal are not in line with the project parameters discussed during the last executive team meeting.
The executive team is unaware the proposal exists, even though it is waiting for something to happen in this regard. The CEO is also asking on an escalated basis for the proposal. The executive starts to make excuses including how the various managers and their team leaders fail to listen, work together or refuse to follow direction. The CEO nods in distracted frustration.
The board is asking the CEO why there is a delay in rolling out the much promised proposal. The CEO gets defensive and starts a campaign of distraction. Even simple proposals become difficult to negotiate with the board members. Corporate politics becomes the reality. The CEO is also frustrated because no one seems to appreciate the strategic direction required to both run the organisation and achieve key outputs.
In Part 2, we will look at what should have happened!
After 12 hour days this week, it was time to head to Jurien Bay and spend the next four days with the family. First though, some snaps through the week, this morning on the farm, where I am staying at the moment, and then at Jurien…
So, it’s an extra long weekend for me. I hope you get to enjoy some downtime too..
As some of you may know, I took over the administration of a local government as CEO this week. My appointment is temporary, but I have never been one to let the dust settle.
In my previous post I set out my plan of attack to hit the ground running. I can safely say that at the end of Week 1, I nailed it. How do I know this? Council commented that an air of confidence had returned. By the middle of the week, all staff were back to starting on time. Heads were raised, voices animated and collaboration going on.
A key focus for me throughout the week was the development of a message that would resonate, make staff think. At the “all in staff” meeting this week, which this organisation has not experienced previously, I stressed how I operate:
- I have a strategic mind set – my aim is to steer the organisation, not row;
- I do not use in-trays;
- I expect the number of emails to reduce significantly;
- I am open and transparent – what I know, you know;
- I like to have fun, won’t tolerate gossip and I don’t play favourites.
Now this organisation, like any good organisation, uses a range of information technology effectively. Collaborative apps and systems are used and documents can be booked in and out electronically (this system is clunky at the moment, but we will get there). However, there is still a vast array of documents that must be signed off manually.
Staff were used to putting said documents in various in-trays for the CEO to peruse, authorise and return.
Apart from this, there were piles of documents in the CEO’s office – it was worse than walking into the overcrowded lawyer’s office you see in TV shows.
So, the next day, as I’m walking through the main administration, and as expected, staff asked me where to put the documents they need me to review and approve, as there were no longer any in-trays.
I stopped, smiled and said: I will review and approve matters as we go. You bring the report, letter, payment authorisation or whatever else it is straight into my office and I will deal with it there and then. Side note: I’m also in the process of setting up executive support. Such support hasn’t been on-site for some time.
Then I was asked – “what we do when you are unavailable, at meetings, away on business?”
I responded quite simply: “you hang on to your piece of paper until I return. Then come in and talk to me about it.”
Now some of you may be very sceptical of this approach. However, I learnt a long time ago that managing paper and emails is essential. If you declutter your work environment you will move mountains very quickly. Staff will respond positively because their work is no longer consigned to the blackhole of “whatever happened to that report I gave you six months ago.”
Trust the records management system.
So, where did we end up at the end of Week 1? I let the administration staff go home half an hour early 😊
My life as a local government CEO recommenced on Thursday night. The decision was effective immediately. Suddenly, thoughts flashed through my mind: leadership, communication, collaboration, training and development…
The first step – leadership
My appointment is temporary, but until further notice. It’s something I said I would never do again. There’s a lot to be done.
That night, I hit the phone and contacted my executive team and other key players (a number of these work remotely). I received a warm welcome – I have worked with them before, in other places.
The second step – communication
On Friday, I prepared a notice to all staff – yes I prepared it myself. This had to be a personal communication from me. I then sent it through via my computer some 40 minutes before the work day commenced.
However, I had arranged for all staff to be advised by others as soon as they arrived, in person. I won’t be on site until Tuesday.
The third step – collaboration
I then hit the phone again at 7AM. I finally got off the phone at 6PM.
Many of the calls I made were to staff directly. I needed to reassure them that it was business as usual and I needed various updates around key matters and some minor ones.
I was more than happy I had covered off on everything. In short I had:
- Implemented with my PA the organisation’s new communication, meeting and feedback structure;
- Minimised risks through securing of the organisations records and IT;
- Identified the gaps regarding the administration of the organisation including internal resources and financial management;
- Confirmed the level of support required for community services to work effectively;
- Reviewed a number of key plans and capital projects within the works and services area;
- Evaluated the regulatory functions: building, planning and health; and
- Firmed up closing out the new strategic and corporate plans.
At day’s end I was able to issue an update to the council (in effect my board of directors). I affirmed with them my leadership and management approach, my thoughts on the gaps in the organisation and the status of the immediate strategic issues. My message was clear – I have no hidden agendas and I am a team player.
The fourth step – training and development
During my gap analysis on the Friday, a number of suggestions were made regarding how to address the lack of skills and knowledge in the customer service areas. These gaps are causing a broad level of frustration for community members.
Knowing how important the frontline is, I commenced preparations regarding closing these gaps straight away. As a result, I will be in a position next week to delegate the arrangements to the managers concerned so they can commence the required upskilling almost immediately.
For someone like me, taking over and reinvigorating an organisation is second nature. All that know how, suddenly reappeared.
The methodology I have used over the last few days is based on the advice I have shared on this blog many times now.
Of course, what happened on Thursday night and through Friday wasn’t everything, but it gives you some idea of the core issues I needed to address before walking through the door.
Days Like This
All through Friday, Van Morrison’s song “Days Like This” was running through my head. It sums up what I will strive for going forward:
When it’s not always raining there’ll be days like this
When there’s no one complaining there’ll be days like this
When everything falls into place like the flick of a switch
Well my mama told me there’ll be days like this
When you don’t need to worry there’ll be days like this
When no one’s in a hurry there’ll be days like this
When you don’t get betrayed by that old Judas kiss
Oh my mama told me there’ll be days like this
When you don’t need an answer there’ll be days like this
When you don’t meet a chancer there’ll be days like this
When all the parts of the puzzle start to look like they fit it
Then I must remember there’ll be days like this
There’ll be days like this
When everyone is up front and they’re not playing tricks
When you don’t have no freeloaders out to get their kicks
When it’s nobody’s business the way that you want to live
I just have to remember there’ll be days like this
When no one steps on my dreams there’ll be days like this
When people understand what I mean there’ll be days like this
When you ring out the changes of how everything is
Well my mama told me there’ll be days like this
Today is the day in Australia that we decide who will form government at the federal (national) level for the next three years.
Elections in Australia are compulsory. Personally, I think this is a good thing. Early voting has been at an all time high – 50% have already voted prior to today.
So, my family and I voted first thing this morning at a local primary school. We turned up with our masks on, followed COVID protocols and cast our vote ie Linda, our two sons and myself. We formed our own little voting block – which the election staff were amused by. My daughter had already voted during the week as she is away at the moment.
I learnt a long time ago – we are all a lot smarter than our political overlords think we are – but, they know emotion can still rule the day.
This election has had the worst campaign I can ever recall. So, not that interesting and old fashioned mocking of the leaders. But, here’s the thing: there are 24 close seats out of 151 and that makes watching the counting of the votes tonight interesting.
We happen to be in one of the most marginal of those marginal 24 seats and so, I know that my vote has counted. No blue ribbon or red ribbon advantage here.
I understand politics very well. Afterall, I’m still in that world, even though I have tried to walk away from it many times.
From my point of view, I know many of the politicians fighting for their political future. I have had the privilege to work alongside them and also lobby them for key resources for many different communities.
As my former politics tutor, Paddy O’Brien said many years ago – we are so lucky to live in a liberal democracy, not just a democracy, but a liberal one. Voting is compulsory, but we get the whole gamut of candidates to choose from – and I think that’s a wonderful thing 😊
Keeping Up With The Latest Leadership Trends – Three Questions Aspiring Leaders Need To Ask Themselves
In today’s world of the post information super highway, how does an aspiring leader, or an established leader for that matter, keep up with the latest leadership trends without getting lost in all the information that is available at their fingertips?
For aspiring leaders, discerning what to read, watch or listen to is just as important as the key decisions you make. To assist you work out the type of information delivery system that suits you, there are three questions you need to answer:
How Do I Learn?
A key to understanding ourselves is to work out how we learn
To learn is the process of how you take in information and then use it to build on the knowledge and skills you currently have. Is it through: classical conditioning by association (e.g. think Pavlov’s dog)? or is it by operant conditioning (positive reinforcement or punishment)? or perhaps it is through observation (something you have seen, heard or noticed)?
Apart from the classical methods of learning there is also social learning. Simply put: how we learn from and about other people (Frontiers for Young Minds, 2020)
Once you understand how you learn, you can then decide on the best way to receive leadership information and resources. For example, my primary method of learning is by observation. I am a voracious reader and can retain vast amounts of information. I also listen to the radio in the car: sports talk back, interviews, news items of interest. However, I’m not a big fan of podcasts, so I don’t listen to very many.
Taking my what I know about myself further, when I have something explained to me, I prefer a visual display. I cannot sit there for hours on end while someone describes what I need to know. I need to see context, for it to be interactive, and to the point. I realised early on that my success as a CEO rested on this very foundation.
Is It Important For Me To Keep Up With Leadership Trends?
The simple answer is: Yes. A good leader knows this!
A constant struggle is knowing what, or perhaps who, to keep up with. The shortest way to success with this question is to undertake the journey of “information self discovery.” In other words: do your research!
My suggestion for the aspiring leader is to “discover” four or five information sources that resonate very strongly with you based on the following delivery methods:
- Business Journals These are magazine style publications either online or in hard copy and are published weekly or monthly or even quarterly.
- Blogs There is a dearth of information within the 70 million or so blogs out there. However, a keyword search or hashtag will turn up what you are looking for.
- VBlog Some bloggers have also turned to video to impart their knowledge and wisdom. YouTube makes it easy to find who they are.
- Podcasts Recordings by industry gurus have been around for a little while now and of course they can be found on many different platforms, whether online or through a dedicated App.
- Interactive Apps This approach is very much a generational enigma. You will either get on board with what interactive apps are and how they work, or you won’t. If they are managed well by the participating team members, they are a very effective tool re information sharing and knowledge development. Think Monday.com.
- Learning Tools and Resources. There are a range of online sites that provide free resources (e.g. Businessballs) or you can have access through a paid subscription (e,g. Mindtools).
- TV Shows/Streaming Platforms Like all those cooking shows out there on a myriad of business programs for you to watch.
- Books by Business Authors Quite simply, the business leader who as a guru has published key insights in very long form or copy! Of course these days, you can get such books electronically. Although, every now and then I enjoy just browing through a bookshop to find what I am after.
My favourite sources of information based on the above list are: The Harvard Business Review (journal), MiddleMe by Kally (a blog) and key books that changed my understanding on organisational effectiveness: Ricardo Semler (Maverick), Peter M Senge (The Fifth Discipline) Karl Albrecht and Ron Zemke (Service America and its subsequent updates). Of course each author has also produced a vast ongoing series of work.
How Much Information Do I Need?
The trick is not to take on the latest fad of the week. It will drive your team nuts!
Despite how your leadership style evolves over time, there are key (core) traits you tend to keep. These are the foundation of what, or who, you are as a leader. In essence, the information, tools, skills and knowledge a leader needs should build on the foundation of their core self.
This means not trying out, on those you lead, every single suggestion you come across. If you do, you will drive them to despair, which is even more counterproductive than providing no leadership at all.
By way of explanation, many years ago, a head of department I worked alongside with was completing an MBA. Now this should have been cause for celebration. However, on those mornings when I popped over before work to visit this person’s teams, I would find them moaning and groaning. In particular, they would be complaining about how they were being subjected to the latest leadership technique covered at university the night before. It proved to be a big distraction and also demotivating.
Remember: less is more 😊
By way of contrast, my approach at that time was much more subtle. I picked out a couple of simple leadership techniques I had read about in the Havard Business Review: using thank you notes and team members holding up red cards when they wanted to speak during meetings.
Using the former example, I would stick a Post-it note in a prominent position on each team member’s desk or monitor after work on a Friday. This involved personalising each note regarding what I considered they had done well during the week.
What this meant was, by the time we got to the staff meeting on Monday morning, even the most demotivated team member was jumping out of their skin. In short, I discovered this approach had far more better results than any performance appraisal could deliver.
The challenge for you in today’s world is finding something that will work as effectively as a Post-it note did for me – then again you might just want to use them anyway – sometimes old school methods still work 😊
The Last Word
So, to conclude, once you have identified the four of five go-to leadership information sources you enjoy most, you can start looking forward to the updates they provide. Then you can begin to discover those topics that resonate very strongly with you and begin to absorb them without burning yourself out trying to read, try or watch everything that is out there…
In today’s post, I thought I would revisit and share with you Bruce Tuckman’s model regarding teams, however, this time from an approach of encouraging team members as leaders…
For those who don’t know, Bruce Tuckman (Smith, 2005) was an educational psychologist who came up with a model regarding small groups (teams) that I believe makes perfect sense when it comes to understanding what you need to do regarding better team leadership and how to resolve conflicts that may occur.
Alhough there is a wealth of information out there regarding team development. Tuckman’s model is, in my opinion, still the best. His model makes it easy to understand what is happening with your team, explaining to your team why this is happening and what to do with such a hurdle.
Tuckman’s Key Advantage – Keeping it Simple
One of the key advantages of Tuckman’s model is that as a leader, you can make it as complex or as simple as you like regarding your situation. For my mind, keeping it simple is key.
When pulling together your team for the first time, or even if you are trying to reinvigorate your team, help the team members develop a set of rules regarding the team’s purpose, how it will function and the outcomes required.
Teams generally get through this stage very quickly. However, what happens in the next stage is the tricky part. However, you have already instilled in some team members a key leadership skill for the future.
Usually, teams hit a roadblock or two early on in their development. In essence, this is about one or more team members “bucking” againt the rules. To help the team get past this stage, call them out together as a team and teach them the very basics of conflict resolution. Remember, keeping it simple is best, so use things like revisiting the team rules, stressing the importance of win win outcomes and what it means to work as a team (we embrace our differences).
Your aspiring leaders have now seen how to resolve conflict, effectively.
To achieve this stage, introducing the concept of shared leadership to the team is a must. Shared leadership is where team members influence each other and share responsibility for tasks, rather than the concept of a team being led by a specific leader (Fowler, 2019). In essence, you act as a coach to help team members develop some leadership skills so that they can in turn, lead the team through aspects (actions) of the task, project or service they have direct responsibility for.
More often than not, the norming stage is where teams settle. However, if you want to open the door on the team jumping out of its skin and achieving more outcomes on a consistent basis, then empower the team to use the peer approach (Nasif, 2021).
Peer leadership is really mentorship in action within your organisation. In essence, this is where team members are encouraged by you to turn and to connect with others outside the team who can share their knowledge and experiences regarding how to solve certain problems. However, note that peer leaders aren’t just a resource for addressing problems — they share tips and strategies for those looking to grow professionally as well.
Your role as leader then becomes more focussed on the strategic work ahead.
Tuckman about 12 years later added a fifth element to his model: adjournment. This is what happens when the team dynamic is disrupted due to the team losing one or more members. This is a topic for another time, but essentially, the team needs to regroup and start the team cycle all over again.
A Short Example
About five years ago, I was conducting a training program to 20 elected members (local government councillors or aldermen) from five local governments regarding their roles and responsibilities. During one of the sessions on meeting procedures and debating, I was asked a question by a number of councillors as to why there was conflict amongst their respective councils.
As this was a buring question, I stopped the training session and asked the group if they wanted to understand more about team dynamics. Of course, there was a unanimous response. So I quickly explained Tuckman’s model and asked each group where they saw their council in the team cycle. The majority quickly said “the storming phase.”
As a result, I was able to give suggestions on how to break out of the destructive pattern caused by going around in circles. This included the need for them to revisit and understand the rules in place for each council (how we do business), weathering the storm through active listening and how to “norm” their behaviour through applying greater levels of due diligence (making more of an effort to understand the reports before them when making key decisions).
Kelly Palmer and David Blake (2018). ‘How to Help Your Employees Learn from Each Other.’ Harvard Business Review.[https://hbr.org/2018/11/how-to-help-your-employees-learn-from-each-other. Retrieved: 13 April 2022]
Fowler, A. (2019). ‘Shared leadership: Fundamentals, benefits and implementation.’ [https://www.ckju.net/en/dossier/shared-leadership-fundamentals-benefits-and-implementation. Retrieved: 13 April 2022]
Nasif, N. (2021). ‘Want a more inclusive culture? Consider the power of peer leadership.’ Chief Learning Officer.[https://www.chieflearningofficer.com/2021/01/12/want-a-more-inclusive-culture-consider-the-power-of-peer-leadership/. Retrieved: 13 April 2022]
Pushfar. (2021). ‘Mentoring vs Coaching: The Key Differences and Benefits.’ [https://www.pushfar.com/article/mentoring-vs-coaching-the-key-differences-and-benefits/. Retrieved 20 April 2022]
Smith, M. K. (2005). ‘Bruce W. Tuckman – forming, storming, norming and performing in groups, the encyclopaedia of informal education.’ [http://infed.org/mobi/bruce-w-tuckman-forming-storming- norming-and-performing-in-groups/. Retrieved: 13 April 2022]