What kind of leader are you? How would your team describe you? Do you even consider yourself a leader at all?
These are all important questions to answer, when you are put in charge of people and expected to provide them with direction. However, there are lots more, such as:
- How are my team doing?
- Do my team know what they are meant to be doing?
- Am I communicating effectively with colleagues?
- Am I measuring our performance?
- What am I doing to help our performance
- How can I support my team better?
- Have I asked my team what they think?
- What actually needs to happen, for us to all achieve results?
- What are the personalities in my team and how can I work best with them?
Every single one of these is a leadership question. Many of them are also management questions. And, as a matter of fact, not one of them imposes the “I’m your Boss” mindset of the cover image.
Whose line is it anyway?
When considering what kind of leader you are, perhaps it’s best to start with the kind of leader you need to be. And actually, you don’t get to define that. That definition is most definitely sourced in your colleagues, your team and, to some extent at least, your organisational values.
Imagine being a nurturing manager that didn’t drive for results, in a fast-moving manufacturing firm with clear targets. That’s not going to go down any better than a results-obsessed manager pushing their team harder and harsher, in a company that has its staff wellbeing as a brand identity. Some big brands have fallen spectacularly foul of that in recent years.
What are the options?
Well, you could be an autocratic leader, who enforces the “my way or the highway” mantra. Very 1970s. Outdated and out of touch. Nevertheless, they’re handy when there needs to be a hard decision taken. Great for clarity, if not staff wellbeing.
On the other hand, you could be a consultative leader, always asking “what do YOU think?”. Great for engagement, but probably rubbish at actually making a firm decision based on their own principles and expertise. This kind often seem to manage the frustrated perfectionists I coach; they bemoan the lack of direction and clear vision.
On the other hand again, you could be an chummy leader, trying to be everyone’s mate. This can lead to accusations of favouritism, bias and also indecision. I have worked for these in my time. Although fun on occasions, it descended into agonising farce as factions build up around them and you saw the “leader” failing to lead anyone, including themselves.
There is another way
To be specific, there is another range of ways. And that may sound as woolly as the consultative or chummy leaders above, but it isn’t. As a matter of fact, a successful leader needs to have a range of behaviours in their toolkit, which they can deploy as the need arises.
- A successful leader needs to be agile. By this I mean prepared to experiment and take calculated risks, as well as being metaphorically fleet of foot.
- They also need to be able vary their style according to the situation. There’s still a lot of good to be gleaned from Situational Leadership all these years on.
- In addition, the successful leader needs to be humble, prepared to allow others to take the credit they deserve.
- That leader also needs to be a strong communicator, able to convey ideas succinctly but also with inspiration to motivate and entice colleagues to achieve results.
- They need to be a collaborator, prepared to ignore their own ego and build shared plans and visions for the greater good.
I could go on.
So when you are thinking what kind of leader you are, or you want to be, there’s actually a whole lot of things to consider. If you are new to leadership (or about to set out on that journey) you might well benefit from finding local networks of like-minded people. On the South Coast of the UK we run Future Leaders Breakfasts® – FLBs – specifically for that purpose. If you don’t have an FLB near you, you could always get in touch to see if we can open one up with your company. If you are further along that leadership path and want it work better for you and your colleague, you might want to get in touch. That’s precisely the kind of challenge my clients deal with all day, which means I deal with it all day too. You may well find that coaching will help you find the leader you can be and that your team deserve.
Image courtesy of Unsplash.
From even a cursory glance at my website and social posts, you could gather that I “do” leadership. However, the thing that is really important to me is that clients master management THEN leadership. This applies to the Future Leaders that I support with networking events. This also applies to seasoned senior leaders and even Board members, who never quite got taught the management bit.
Management is not sexy. It is often seen as all spreadsheets, tick-boxes and highlight reports like the one in the cover image. I am old enough to remember when Management By Objective came in as a business efficiency technique (note: efficiency NOT effectiveness – that’s another blog but Covey is entertaining on the subject). It was a measurement-of-everything nightmare!
And that’s the point. It was efficiency. We all measured what we thought was important and that way the important stuff got done, hence “what’s measured gets done” and other paraphrases of Peter Drucker. Unfortunately, that was all wrong. Businesspeople failed to learn the first key lesson – knowing WHAT to measure is relative to the situation, and UNDERSTANDING the data is fundamental to being able to lead.
Knowing what to do with the data
Many managers I know, honestly live in fear of the data experts in their organisations. They are afraid of being bamboozled, being shown up for not having a detailed grasp of the minutiae, of not having done their homework. For some, this school analogy is powerful. It gives rise to a difficult Parent/Child relationship (in Transactional Analysis terms – another blog too but the basics are here) resulting in workplace tensions. There’s a simple solution to this: talk! On the one hand, managers need to be clear and probably quite specific about the data that they want. On the other, the data experts need to focus their reports on the potential impact or outcome that the data suggests will result.
OK so this is a caricature of “managers” as all Big Picture and results-focused and “data experts” being all detail. Nevertheless, fear of being caught out is very real for many clients of mine. And that is based on an inescapable truth: they may be seeking to lead without first being able to manage.
You can only lead if people are willing to be led by you. Therefore, the “led” need to be confident you know what you’re up to. It’s a short-odds bet that your team’s confidence in you will grow if you are clearly across your brief.
Knowing your Brief
What does this mean in day-to-day practical terms? Simply put, you know who’s doing what, why, for how much and to what end. You don’t need to know everyone’s blood group (although having a handy list of folks’ birthdays is never a bad thing if you remember them and wish them well on their big day). Just know what you need to know and know it enough to discuss it.
What you do need to know is what your people are doing. You also need to know why they’re doing it (and make sure they know too). Furthermore, you need to know how well they do what they’re doing and, where possible, acknowledge a job well done. It really IS that simple.
Being an effective manager means you know what you need to know, to ensure that your team – or even whole organisation – succeeds and thrives. And THAT is why I argue for management THEN leadership.
Management, then Leadership – maybe
I have argued briefly here that I believe every leader should be an effective manager and that “management” is a crucial skill. To rephrase, I believe that good management is vital to any successful organisation and that people denigrate “management” at their peril. No organisation can succeed without effective management. No organisation can succeed without effective leadership either. The two cannot be mutually exclusive. Indeed, I would argue that both are crucial keys to success.
Any effective leader will honour the debt they owe to the managers in their organisation. The people who keep the show on the road. I would argue that any effective leader understands this debt because they have worked that role in the past, in some way.
Let’s be clear, however. I am not saying that leaders can only be leaders when they have somehow “served their time”. I am simply saying that effective leaders value management and the best leaders are also competent managers, so they understand the data when they need to. Effective leaders are the ones that know what to do in response to information. They are the ones that horizon-scan. Additionally, they use information from their organisation (and beyond, if they are wise) to sense-check new ideas, craft ambitious new plans and understand their organisation’s place in the world.
Try doing any of this without understanding the key parts of the data and what that means. Not only would you make yourself a hostage to others’ interpretation (we’re back to being shown up again), but you would also lack a decent grasp of what’s happening across your organisation.
This is why I am so committed to empowering and supporting effective managers at all levels in the organisations I support. I work with leaders and their teams to create clarity, focus and a drive for success. I also enable them to feel comfortable valuing their managers.
If my arguments have struck a chord, or perhaps even irritated, please let me know. You can leave a comment or contact me. Let’s have a conversation and see how I can help.
It’s the age-old marketing conundrum, where people confuse Visibility Vs Perception. What does this mean? It means a wealth of different things for my clients, depending on what is going on in their organisations. However, it boils down to their perception is not always that of others, nomatter how visible they are in their workplace. Actually, it’s a coaching basic, and one that a lot of us work with clients to address, every day.
Although I am familiar with this in my work, the tricky bit is that this is currently an issue WITH my work. Recently, I have been focusing on relaunching a part of my business put on hold by Covid. This was the Future Leaders Breakfast® (FLB®s) networking events. Starting these up safely, and at breakfast-time, has been a challenge. It’s been tough enticing people out to networking events for 08:00 in the morning. Nevertheless, I am lucky to have fantastic collaboration partners who have helped me find ideal venues. They also support the FLB idea of providing networking that combines building contacts AND leadership skills for entrepreneurs and young professionals. It’s unique, and it works. Despite this, getting it going again, in new areas, where people are still cautious about coming out to in-person events, is proving HARD.
This is where the Visibility bit comes in.
I have been plastering adverts for the new events, in Portsmouth and the New Forest on the South Coast of the UK, all over business social media. I have promoted them at networking events and online calls. One particular low was during a Spring rainstorm, when I dashed up and down New Forest high streets, for a leaflet drop to local firms promote these events. It is starting to work, with small but varied and interesting groups of leaders coming together monthly to discuss topics that work for them in their workplace.
Actually, my plastering has been so effective that people have approached me on the basis of FLBs. On the one hand, they check that I am still running my coaching and change consultancy. On the other, they want general training as they assume that the FLBs are all I do. So, there is most definitely a Perception issue here.
Perception Vs Reality
In fact, my company still provides the following:
- Executive coaching (1:1 and Board level teams)
- Team turnaround consultancy
- Leadership mentoring
- Business consultancy (the “people bit” of running your own show)
- Presentations and workshops
- Facilitation of meetings and events
- Maverick leadership blogs for The Maverick Paradox online magazine
By comparison, however, I simply haven’t been shouting about all of this very much. As a result, because I have been shouting about FLBs a lot, they have come to be my visibility focus AND my perceived career change!
Visibility Vs Perception – the self-coaching approach
So, using a bit of “physician heal thyself”, what would I say to a client in this pickle?
Well, first I would ask them what they WANT to be known for.
My answer? “All of it, of course!”
In that case, is that what is happening right now?
This time, I would have to answer, “No”. I am clouding my message because I am focussing too much on only one bit of my offering.
Next, I would ask a client “What does that tell you, about what you need to do next?”
And I would have to answer “It tells me I need to do smarter marketing that explains what I do WHILE publicising FLBs”
Evidently, I need to take some action. So, here it is! A blog which explains what I do AND mentions FLBs. It may not set the literary world on fire, but at least it lets you know that I am focusing on getting FLBs launched. And the reason? Because I believe in them. I believe that new leaders need and deserve to have the best ethical grounding for their careers, so they can build futures which serve them as well as their employers. I believe that making strong business connections based on shared experiences makes for a stronger local economy. And I also believe that sharing learning experiences, even while networking over a bacon bap, can create bonds that form the basis of lasting business relationships of quality.
Of course, I also believe in supporting leaders to find the leader within themselves that their teams deserve. In addition, I believe firmly that helping teams manage themselves and aim for high performance is something every organisation needs. Add to this my love of profiling and enabling people to work better together, and you have a strong portfolio of services. I just need to shout about them all a bit more and explain the links between them!
Accordingly, if you would like to know more about any of the topics I have listed here, please get in touch and I would be delighted to explain precisely how and what I do.
“Discretion” is also described as “circumspection” or “the act of being discreet”. As clear as mud to most of us. Nevertheless, I am using this old saying and changing it slightly, to make a point in this article.
Much of my work is carried out in secret. 100% discretion guaranteed. Now, I am no MI5 agent. Nor do I encourage my clients to engage in underhand practices in any way. What I mean is that lots of my clients do not feel able to admit they are working with an executive coach. Many of my clients are lawyers and accountants – people to whom others turn for definitive advice. As I have noted in one of my earlier blogs, there is a widespread misconception “out there” that being coached means you NEED to be coached. Or, put another way, that you need to be fixed in some way. It’s a deficit model.
No-one can know
What this means in practise is that I often work under “NDAs” – Non-Disclosure Agreements. As I write, I have two in place covering my work with a financial organisation and an international charity.
This also means that, when I operate my leadership development networking product, the Future Leaders’ Breakfast® club, I am discreet. Unless our attendees are happy to be part of the LinkedIn and Facebook groups, or they choose to say they attend, I tend not to tell anyone they do. It’s not because they have asked me to keep it quiet. It is simply because I think it is nobody’s business if they do, as the song said.
What does discretion guaranteed actually mean?
It’s simple. The target market for Future Leaders Breakfast® club (FLB®s) is young people who are new to management positions.
Who actually attends? Lots of young people often trainees or newly-qualified professionals who are starting to have responsibility for other colleagues.
Who else actually attends? Managers, Associates, Partners, Directors. We’ve even had Equity Partners and a Chief Executive. People from public, private and voluntary sectors. People who all want to network in a fun new way. Probably, those same people all want to pick up some leadership hints and tips that they had not previously been taught.
And this is the point. How many people are actually taught how to manage and then to lead, as well as being taught how to be successful lawyers / bankers / surveyors / accountants? Very few. This is why we run the FLB®s. We provide a service which most business leaders daren’t admit they need!
What could this mean for YOU?
If you are already leading a team, but not 100% sure that you know what you’re doing, leadership-wise, FLB®s could be for you. Who’s going to know if you are actually learning something at the same time?
No one will know that you are actually learning things you didn’t already know, when you come along. Like I say, discretion guaranteed. So, FLB®s are a brilliant way to learn how to be an even better manager, and a better leader – discreetly. The beauty is that the networking acts as a smokescreen, keeping your lack of management knowledge tightly under wraps.
So, it would be really easy for you to come along to our networking events and pick up lots of handy hints. This would help you manage and lead your team for success … and no one will know you’re not just there for the networking. You win all ways.
Our FLB® mailing list is the best way to find out more. You’ll be first to know about our events as we open back up as the pandemic subsides. Come and join us to build your handy local connections … and make sure you are the best manager and leader you can be.
People have coined a lot of phrases as a result of Covid. “The Great Resignation” is the latest, but perhaps one of the most telling.
There appears to be a pattern of disenchanted employees leaving their jobs as a result of their lockdown experience (good or bad). This seems to be widespread across business in the Global North countries.
Some people have left their jobs because lockdown made them realise they could be happier and more productive working for themselves. Other people have left their jobs because they wanted a whole new way of life, having worked from home for so long. And then there are the people who would have happily stayed, had their boss not been such a problem. This last group are the ones on whom I am focusing in this article.
People leave bad bosses
This is a truism, yes. However, that grain of truth in the saying is a real problem when businesses are seeking to recover the global pandemic and its economic impact. There are simply too many bosses doing a bad job of managing and leading. This is actually driving talent out of businesses that haven’t spotted the problem, into the arms of more innovative, forward-thinking and self-aware organisations.
Organisations don’t become innovative and self-aware by themselves. Someone in a leadership role decides that is the way forward. In fact, it is often decided by someone with a real drive for excellence and success. That person will probably inspire, but they will definitely set a clear new vision and path, which others really want to follow.
This is massively important to me – it’s what my company does, coach and mentor leaders to introduce sustainable change for good. In addition, however, it is important to me as an individual. That’s why I set up the Future Leaders Breakfast® (FLB®) club back in 2017.
The club was formed specifically because I could see local businesses run by well-intentioned people who simply couldn’t manage properly, let alone lead. In fact, these people were often set up to fail, because they were trained to be superbly successful fee earners in their chosen profession … but no one had ever shown them how to manage a business.
Consequently, everything was about the fees and the income, instead of the major asset – the people who worked in the business. I saw poor communication around organisations, messaging to staff that really didn’t motivate, and poor acknowledgement of staff contributions and successes. Indeed, I even noticed a lack of basic “Hello”, “Please” and “Thank you”.
How FLB®s break the cycle
The aim of FLB®s is to create a fun way for more junior staff in organisations to learn how to break that cycle. We welcome businesses, charities, public sector. Essentially, anyone who is new to management is welcome. Actually, they don’t have to be junior, just self-aware enough to know they don’t know enough to do a good job as a leader. We have welcomed a range of senior leaders who were new in the role and wanted a way to network – and learn discreetly.
The club offers learning about the essentials of leadership and management, based on using me as the case study for each session, the “lab rat”. I refer to myself as “the lab rat” because the people who attend the FLB®s can test their learning on me as much as they like! Primarily, FLB®s are networking events. That’s why people come to them at the start. Then, they start to make new contacts. By coming back each month, those contacts get stronger. At the same time, their learning gets deeper and richer, as they acquire new skills and swap experiences with their fellow club members.
In addition to having a “lab rat” with a 30-year career to pick through, regulars at FLB®s will build a sound library of leadership theory. They will have a chance to explore a whole range of topics.
Here are a few we discuss:
- task-focused leadership
- situational leadership
- popular theories on leadership behaviour such as Covey and Maxwell
- motivational theories
- performance development
- time management and prioritisation
- successful management of hybrid teams
I could go on.
Despite what I think is a fascinating list of things to explore, FLB® attendees mostly come for the networking. They come for the peer group support and shared cohort experience. In truth, they come for laughs, checking in with peers and even brokering deals.
FLB®s offer all that. They bring together a great mix of people and business backgrounds. We encourage people to have 1:1s outside of FLB®s, to build their network. We’ve even seen business done at the networking tables, which was a nice bonus! Above all, they’re fun. The atmosphere is light-hearted, aiming to get people’s days off to the best start possible. We offer a simple breakfast as a starter too, as an additional reward for getting up and out early.
The Great Resignation didn’t start with us!
And the added benefit of attending FLB®s is that people learn how to be better leaders than some of their current employers. That can help them to progress up their firms to leadership positions where they can introduce real, positive change. It can also help them to realise that they are in the wrong organisation, the wrong discipline or even in the wrong industry completely! Luckily, for the big majority of our regulars, it’s led to promotions and clear communications with their line management.
While we won’t actively encourage anyone to be part of The Great Resignation, we will offer club members the chance to see leadership from an ethical angle, and to build their confidence to give it a try. Who knows where that could take them? Who knows where that could take YOU?
FLB®s are affordable, fun and easy to join. Please get in touch and give them a try. You’ll be so pleased you did … and so will your team.
Image: courtesy of tapanakorn via Canva