Tag: advice (page 2 of 2)

Gill Rider on leadership.

Gill Rider

Gill Rider is the Head of the Civil Service Capability Group, a part of the UK Cabinet Office. Rider has previously worked in the financial markets, healthcare and government industries. She also worked in the customer service area examining industry best practices.

The following is what I took away from watching the collection of her seven 4-minute videos on the 50 lessons website.

Competence and Confidence

Rider talks of a ‘virtuous’ circle of competence and confidence: if you feel competent than that leads to a feeling of confidence. People assume a lack of confidence means a lack of competence, meaning that you need to show and prove that you are competent through projecting confidence. Some people will misunderstand assertiveness and confidence as your being egocentric and arrogance.

Good leaders need to be good teachers

In order to be a good leader you also need to be a good teacher. You can foster this in others by getting them to teach topics outside their comfort zone. They will becoming engaged by this, enjoy the teaching, and will provide a good model for more junior members of the organization.

Rider talks of a ‘teachable point of view,’ an idea she gathered from a more well-known speaker (whose name I missed). This ‘teachable point of view’ consists of binding up ideas, knowledge and opinions to pass onto others. Junior members of the organization are ‘hungry to hear about experiences and stories.’ Leaders therefore need to confidence to go ‘out there’ and teach. Leaders who teach become fulfilled and become the most effective leaders. It improves the overall quality of work being produced and leads to a virtuous circle.

The importance of listening

Listening is a vital skill as it enables you to udnerstand what people are feeling and wanting. You can find out exactly what you want to know by careful listening. A combination of listening and asking questions is important in any dialogue; Rider quotes Mark Twain‘s advice that ‘you have two ears and one mouth – use them proportionally.’

In advance of meetings, ask people what the objectives of the meeting are and get them to formulate these into questions. It is easy to assume you know what’s going on in any situation, but it’s easy not to go beyond the superficial. Pick up signals from body language and ask questions that probe more deeply.

Don’t exclude minorities

Rider talks of her avoiding the ‘women question’ by just trying to get on with her own career and be as successful as possible. However, it struck her later in her career how little things had changed for the status of minorities at the top organizational levels.

It is difficult to appreciate, Rider says, how minorities feel when you are always part of the majority. Deliberately placing yourself in a minority situation helps you to understand how others may feel. Rider points to research that shows the more diverse an organization is, them more effective it is. Diversity is also important for perceptions of the organization in terms of being representative of communities.

The lack of ‘logic’ in Powerpoint

Rider dislikes Powerpoint as it takes the ‘energy’ out of presentations. People focus on getting the bullet points correct rather than on the overall ‘logic’ of the presentation. Rider herself gets employees to write White Papers that have argument and logic. Powerpoint doesn’t really allow for discussion and the ‘human element’ of going off at tangents.

The importance of trust

Trust is one of the most important things in the business world. Your ego and self-interest needs to be removed from the situation so you can hear where others are coming from. Trust is key to being successful in business world and comes from human beings connecting on personal as well as a professional level.

Matching behaviour to words

Rider tells an interesting story about the chairman of an organization stopping her one day when she was literally running to get to her next meeting. He explained how such behaviour would be interpreted by others and amplified as it went down the organizational hierarchy, eventually being interpreted as ‘panic’.

Rider has a nice phrase, ‘You can’t talk yourself out of what you behave your way in to.‘ Always look like you’re in control.

PS You can get access to the 50 Lessons website through the National College for School Leadership’s Leadership Library

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Colin Day on leadership.

Colin Day

Colin Day is Group Chief Financial Officer and Director of Reckitt Benckiser, ‘a global force in household, health and personal care.’ He has worked for a number of organizations, including British Gas (when it was the ‘Gas Corporation’) from which he draws experiences and lessons in leadership.

The following is what I learned from watching his seven videos on the 50 Lessons website:

Most people like being led

Day believes that most people want to be led and that very few want to lead themselves. This is mainly due to the necessity of making tough decisions as a leader.

Love/hate reactions

Leaders need to movtiave staff and inspire them, otherwise organizations can end up with dissatisfied staff. Inspiring a love/hate dichotomy regarding leadership style within an organization is not necessarily a bad thing.

Good leadership comes from confidence

Leaders need to be preapred to make decisions and lead by example. You need to be seen to be technically competent, which can be demonstrated through motivation, enthusiasm and commitment. Allied to this, however, has to be confidence. If staff see that you have their best interests at heart, that you will not let them down and that you will support them, then they will follow your lead.

‘Open door’ policy

It can be quite an intimidating experience to go an see your boss, which is why an open door policy always some fears. Leaders should be available day or night and tell staff that ‘there’s no excuse for not contacting me.’ People need to be put at ease by not treating them as if they’re slaves to you or in any way second-class citizens. Leaders need to be open with people – which is difficult to do consistently and honestly all the time.

Don’t judge books by their covers

It’s easy and part of human nature to rush into perceptions of people or organizations. Forming judgements from other people’s opinions and the media is easy to do. Leaders need to find out for themselves and be open-minded. Find out the facts so you can form an educated opinion. Ask relevant questions when recruiting and allow them to do due dilgence on you. Day provides prospective employees with a list of people whom they can talk to about his leadership style and what to expect if they work under him.

Autocracy is a necessity

Organizations and the people within them have to accept a certain measure of ‘autocratic’ style as it gets results. Consensus management doesn’t work, according to Day: someone needs to ‘call the shots’ as otherwise nothing gets done. The only leadership style that really works is one where you give very clear direction about what you want and then clear messages about how that should be achieved.

According to Day, it’s all about focus. If you say something and stick to it enough you will find people take onboard what you say. As a leader, you need to make sure that everyone shares your focus. Don’t lead initiatives until the last minute – plan well in advance and provide clear direction from the top so that ‘everyone marches to the same tune.’

Detail

Leaders need to know how much detail is required in various situations and how much to demand of their workforce. Analysis and statistics is not important if the bigger picture is being ignored. In Day’s experience, people hide behind detail for confidence purposes, producing endless charts tables to try and make a simple point.

As a leader, demand people focus on the larger issue. Use instinct and experience as much as data. Make documents short and to the point; they should be 4-5 pages long or take 4-5 minutes to present. If a point cannot be made in that amount of space or time then there’s something wrong.

No ‘job for life’

There are no ‘jobs for life’ any more: don’t encourage staff to think in that way. Instead, encourage them to talk about their career options, taking them out of their comfort zone, preparing them to take  risks and look outside of the organization. Career-seekers are more motivated than ‘company’ people. Those who stay in one job for a long time stagnate.

Self-confidence

It’s not enough for leaders to be intellectually brilliant or extremely technically competent. You also have to have the confidence to pull things off even when wrong-footed. Confidence also needs to be built and nurtured in your staff as well. Give them responsibilities to deliver on important projects. They will feel like they are part of the decision-making process even if not making the final decision.

Confidence can only be grown, not ‘taught’. Day talks of a ‘rock of granite’ within people that others can chip away at but will nevertheless remain solid. Look for this ‘rock’ when hiring people.

PS You can get access to the 50 Lessons website through the National College for School Leadership’s Leadership Library

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David Brandon on leadership.

david_brandon2

David Brandon is CEO of Domino’s Pizza. He’s one of the contributors to the 50 Lessons website. This website incorporates is a series of 4-minute videos from inspirational leaders of organizations. Brandon was a successful American Football player at college, an experience he looks back to often when thinking about leadership issues.

The following is what I took away from viewing his five videos on the 50 Lessons website:

Treat people the way they want to be treated

Leaders need to be able to adapt the way they deal with people to individual circumstances. The wrong approach is to take the same leadership style and apply it to all your dealings with staff in your organization. Find out the way people want to be treated and treat them that way. Brandon says this is the best piece of advice his father (who himself had no formal leadership experience) gave him early in his career.

Have a plan for ‘sudden change’

From an American football game between the Ten...
Image via Wikipedia

Looking back to his college American Football days, Brandon talks about how his coaches trained the team to recognise sudden change within a game and to respond to it in a positive way. Transferring this to organizations, it’s importance to instill the idea that ‘change is good’ whilst recognizing that many will approach it will trepidation and indeed may resist that change.

Brandon talks about when he was unveiled as CEO of Domino’s Pizza and kept his message simple. He contrasted ‘sitting around talking about the good old days’ with embracing change to make a good organization even better.

Things either get better or they get worse

An unfinished  miniature portrait of Oliver Cr...
Image via Wikipedia

Brandon’s comments on things ‘never staying the same’ reminded me of a saying I had on my wall in my old classroom, attributed to Oliver Cromwell. It read, ‘He who stops being better stops being good.’ It’s a phrase I saw every day and spurred me on.

Brandon believes that when things are going well  for an organization or team – sales are up, the team is winning every game, academic results are getting better every year – then it’s easy to fall into the mindset of ‘just turning up.’ To counter this, he says, coaches when he played American Football drummed into them the belief that ‘things either get better or they get worse, but things never stay the same.’ Fostering this mentality in your organization leads to constant striving towards improvement.

Don’t rely on internal benchmarks

It’s all very well hitting or even surpassing benchmarks and targets set internally within your organization. However, if no attention is paid to others in the field, then you can be left behind. Brandon talks about finding the best in the field and becoming as good or better than them.

With schools, this is less of an issue of competition and more one of keeping up with best practice, I believe. Of course, there’s local competition in terms of persuading parents to send their children to your school, but in the bigger picture it’s about raising standards across the board.

Deal with minor issues quickly

The time to deal with minor issues is as quickly as you can and when things are going well. Restructuring, procedural issues and suchlike are much better done at times of stability rather than when your organization is on ‘the edge of a cliff’. Making changes when things are going well means the organization is more resilient and can be more focused on those changes rather than on the survival of the organization.

Pivotal moments & decision-making

As a leader there will be ‘pivotal moments’ when going one way could lead to great rewards, whereas going the other way could lead to disastrous consequences. It’s the easiest thing in the world to make a decision when you and 100% of the people around you agree on what should be done. The tough decisions come when there is a 50/50 split.

When such a decision has to be made, make it and then act with ‘confidence, passion and a true sense of calm.’ Leaders, after all, must lead. Your actions after the decision has been taken are almost more important than the decision itself as you can energise the workforce into taking action for the organization to succeed. You need to explain your decisions and then stand by them.

PS You can get access to the 50 Lessons website through the National College for School Leadership’s Leadership Library

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Why we should adopt the OA5 system in education

My friend Paul Lewis, he of the infrequent blogging, very kindly let me have his Dilbert omnibus last year. I’ve been reading it again recently and it’s got me thinking about conformity and creativity. The omnibus brings together 3 Dilbert books into one volume. Joy! 😀

In The Dilbert Principle, Scott Adams outlines the ‘Out At Five’ business model. Enshrined within it are not only some comic gems, but some great pieces of advice. If we stuck to some of these in education, we’d go a long way to reforming the whole system.

He divides his principles into two subcategories:

Staying out of the way

  1. Scott Adams advocates letting the ’employees dress any way they want, decorate their work spaces any way they want, format memos any way they want’. This is because that there is no proof that any of these impact productivity. Instead, they create a message that conformity is valued above efficiency or creativity. Whilst I would still advocate some form of school uniform to prevent undue focus on students’ clothes, I do think schools in general could be a bit more laid-back about the ways both students and staff express themselves. I’m certainly not saying profanity, drugs and alcohol should be imported to create some type of dystopian educational system. Instead, I’m saying that we should value difference and (that abused word) diversity over conformity and standardization.
  2. Eliminate artificial processes. In businesses these are obvious, but in education they can still be seen. For example ‘Every Child Matters‘ and ‘Personalising Learning’ agendas. They’ve got titles no-one can disagree with, but lead to bureaucracy and a loss of focus on the actual students themselves. It’s my belief that every educator has, at their core, the well-being and interests of students in their charge. As Scott Adams puts it:

If you have a good e-mail system, a stable organization chart, and an unstressed workplace the good ideas will get to the right person without any help The main thing is to let people know that creativity is okay and get out of the way.

What does an OA5 manager do?

  1. Eliminate the assholes. Quite blunt, but you know exactly what he means. There’s people who put a downer on the whole enterprise of education. They’re quick to blame students rather than themselves, they’re more interested in internal politics than student wellbeing and achievement, they like being controversial for the sake of it. Let’s get rid of them. In fact, I’m all for moves to make it easier to remove teachers from their posts. Why should we get, in effect, ‘immediate tenure’?
  2. The second is my favourite: make sure employees (i.e. teachers) learn something new every day. As Scott Adams remarks:

    The more you know, the more connections form in your brain, and the easier every task becomes. Learning creates job satisfaction and suports and person’s ego and energy level.

    But more than that, as teachers, we should be good role-models as everday and curious learners! 🙂

  3. Cultivate all the little things that support curiosity and learning. Questions such as ‘What did you learn?’ when you make mistakes are more powerful than, ‘What the hell were you thinking?’
  4. Teach employees how to be efficient. Lead by example – keep meetings short, refuse to take part or go along with low-priority activities because it’s ‘polite’, and (my favourite) respectfully interrupt people who talk too long without getting to the point. I’d force everyone to read blogs such as Lifehacker, Zen Habits and Unclutterer every day. But that’s just me… 😉

What do YOU think? Besides the name (Out At 5) is there anything with which you’d disagree?

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