Why Leaders Need to Embrace Their Role As Best Performers

Standard

Do your company’s top leaders need to be just like everyone else? Or should they publicly strive to achieve the highest levels of performance? Does it make a difference?

I recently advised a client: “Why don’t you try to run your meetings more efficiently?”

The manager viewed me suspiciously, then laughed. “How effective do you think Bob’s are?” (His CEO was infamous for poorly managed meetings.)
He continued: “And you want mine to be better than his?”

In three decades of work with executives, I have noticed leaders being ambivalent about their place at the center of attention.

Some are narcissistic, and revel in the limelight. Competitive extroverts, they prefer to be included in everything. To make sure they remain the primary focus of others, they push themselves into every available leadership position.

Others are reluctant. They are shy, avoid attention and fear the repercussions of a long fall from the top. They insist on equal treatment to other people and resist perks and benefits usually associated with their position of authority.
Neither of these extremes provides people with the one thing they crave: an obvious example of how they should act.

It’s a shame because our local employees routinely grant executives extra-special powers. Compared with their counterparts in Trinidad and the US, books like Why Workers Won’t Work make the difference clear. Jamaican employees greatly prefer the clarity of strong authority. In their minds, the big man (or woman) plays a role which cannot be abdicated, even if he is a next-door neighbour and also sits beside them in church.

Unfortunately, most leaders squander this unique opportunity. If you happen to be a manager, here are three ways to make the most of your leadership role. Each of them happens to bring out the best in you, your colleagues and your company.

1. Having The Clearest Vision
Many executives are weak at the skill of defining an inspiring future for others to step into. Even though they came of age at a time when Michael Manley provided a powerful example of how to do so, they mistakenly assume that it’s a capacity someone must be born with.

As a result, a local company which lacks a visionary at the top tends to drift into a vacuum: no-one else steps up to provide the necessary direction.

In part, it’s due to a lack of awareness. The truth is that visionary skills can be learned from companies like Landmark Education and others. In their workshops, leaders learn to be open, sharing their grandest aspirations for all concerned, while staying grounded in their daily experience.

2. Being The Most Productive
Many top leaders believe they have earned the privilege of operating beyond the level of the average employee. They don’t need to be punctual or reply to email. They are allowed to indulge in the worst multi-tasking behaviors. When their position dissuades challenges, they persist.
They fail to realise that they are, at all times, setting an example which others not only remember but repeat as gossip.
In this sense, their personal habits, practices and rituals are highly contagious, and so is their standard of productivity. They shouldn’t expect their employees to attain a higher level.
3. Being The Most Transformed
While employees may find the need for continuous, inside-out improvement exhausting, it’s the leader’s job to generate the required energy. The best ones also share their journey with others, including its ups and downs. They highlight the latter so colleagues can appreciate the difficulty of pursuing individual excellence.

In addition, they empower themselves by looking for their contribution to specific failures. For them, the discovery of a personal cause leads them to understand what can be changed to turn things around.

By contrast, the weakest leaders only focus on the changes required by others. As “expert” diagnosticians, they examine their colleagues’ faults in detail, thereby misunderstanding their role. Their ability to pick apart other people’s improvement needs is only a small part of their success. By comparison, their skill at clarifying their own personal transformation is huge.

The sad fact is that staff who are on the receiving end of a leader’s constant, punishing criticism only learn how to avoid blame and pick apart other people’s faults. On the other hand, the employee who witnesses the top leader identify a problem, search for his role in creating it, craft interventions and measure the difference, learns how to effectively deal with a wide range of issues.

Leaders who appreciate and honor the opportunity to be at the center of attention empower others to be their best. They offer their behavior as an inspiration… not just their words. It takes effort and training to become that kind of person, but it’s exactly what Jamaican companies need to make progress.

Francis Wade is the author of Perfect Time-Based Productivity, a keynote speaker and a management consultant. Missed a column? To receive a free download with articles from 2010-2016, send email to columns@fwconsulting.com.

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/business/20170730/francis-wade-why-leaders-need-embrace-their-role-best-performers

 

How to Get IT and HR to Cooperate on Change Initiatives

Standard

Many top executives find themselves in a tricky spot. Human beings and technology, two essential ingredients for a company to thrive, don’t naturally work well together. Here is one way to tackle the issue, using the case of Business Process Management (BPM).

A recent McKinsey Journal article described the advent of a new role: a “Chief Transformation Officer.” Operating with the trust of the board, this change-agent operates like an extension of the CEO, holding top managers to account.

As a CTO, your mandate would be simple: cause the organization to change itself, even as it continues to do business. With excellent emotional quotient and technology skills, you would be able to join the expertise of two organizations which usually avoid each other: Human Resources (HR) and Information Technology (IT).

In most Jamaican companies, these functions operate in silos. As a result, HR is slow to adopt (let alone envision) new technologies, while IT is ill-equipped to implement the human side of digital solutions.

Case in point: the introduction of email in the mid-1990’s. This happened to be the single biggest culture changing intervention since the advent of personal computing over a decade earlier. Unfortunately, HR never saw it coming and was often the last department to be trained in its use. It’s counterpart, IT, still has a hard time predicting and managing the behavior changes ensuing from newly introduced technology. The smartphone is a ubiquitous example.

More recently, CEO’s are demanding that executives implement another change: enterprise-wide Business Process transformation. They want to see the benefit of continuous improvement on a massive scale, in preparation for disruptive innovations which are just around the corner. At the same time, they understand that new technology cannot simply be bolted onto old methods of doing business.

Plus, BPM projects don’t take place on the sidelines: they affect core operations and, with them, the bottom line. Local companies have responded to this imperative in two ways.

 

The Human Resources Leadership Option

When HR is placed in charge of a firm’s BPM program there’s an immediate credibility problem. Usually, HR business partners are lacking critical technology depth and just haven’t studied the combined impact of inventions such as cloud computing, mobility and security.

Furthermore, they often lack the engineering skills to lead such an effort. Most HR professionals have no exposure to process baselining, measurement, analysis, improvement and automation. By contrast, these are skills taught in most IT programs, albeit at an abstract level.

The Information Technology Leadership Option

Based on this realization, it might be obvious that IT should take the lead. However, even though professionals in this unit have all the technical skills needed, they are often short of interpersonal, political and change management capacity.

To worsen matters, most local companies have manual processes which have never been baselined. Therefore, incumbent staff must be appropriately engaged in order to continue daily operations which they, and only they, understand.

Their lack of experience on BPM projects drives up resistance, forcing IT professionals to start by launching trust-building exercises, an unfamiliar tactic for them. Furthermore, the first round of changes only requires common sense, not newfangled robotics. When this fact is discovered, the business case for fancy automation is often found to be inflated, due to poor, improper information.

 

Lastly, the IT professional who ends up in charge of implementing behavior changes which don’t require new technology is likely to struggle: it’s just not his/her cup of tea.

 

Given the shortcomings of both these approaches, McKinsey’s ideas offer a third way.

 

How to Install a Chief Transformation Officer

A CTO is not simply another functional role in the usual lineup of corporate officers. Instead, if you were in the job, you would be the driver of behavior change, the one who makes a difference in the practices, habits and tools used to do daily work. Pulling on all resources, you would need the trust of other executives to share their people’s expertise. As you form cross business unit teams, you would help them implement process changes across silos.

You would be the advocate of the customer’s journey – the moments of truth the customer faces as they interact with different touchpoints.  Spanning the enterprise, you would be one to see where revenue generation and service levels are being thwarted by organizational gaps.

In BPM efforts, it’s critical that HR and IT continue to play their roles but don’t make the mistake of saddling them with responsibilities they aren’t capable of implementing. It sets them up for failure, minimizes their impact and reduces their role to enablers of small improvements.

 

When a company needs to be prepared to make big changes, only a CTO-like function can succeed. Combining human and technological expertise, it’s the only way to drive practical, large-scale change.

 

Francis Wade is the author of Perfect Time-Based Productivity, a keynote speaker and a management consultant. Missed a column? To receive a free download with articles from 2010-2016, send email to columns@fwconsulting.com.

 

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/business/20170716/francis-wade-getting-it-and-hr-cooperate-change

Why a huge email inbox means low productivity, not high popularity

Standard

How many items of email do you have sitting in your inbox? Are there 20 messages? 20,000? What difference does it make?

Perhaps you are already suspicious of others who oversee a permanent pile of unprocessed email. Remember that recent message you sent them? They don’t remember seeing it. It annoys you because it included a critical question. Now, you stand next to them, forced to repeat the request in person while they complain about “people who send them too much stuff.”

In their minds they are too popular, or too important.  To them, it’s not their fault. They cannot be expected to get back to all the people who ask for an answer.

If you suspect that something else is afoot, you aren’t crazy. Their inability to reply to your message reveals a lack of productivity. The other explanations are excuses.

 

The fact is, most people dislike email management with good cause. It takes up to 20% of the average employee’s work day, partly because the techniques they use are self-taught. Their lack of sophistication is more than a curiosity – it’s a drag on your organization. How do you make sure you don’t become just like them? Start by understanding the problems an unsorted email inbox causes you and others.

 

Confusion that Keeps You Paralyzed

If you fail to completely empty your inbox for several weeks (or even years), the messages held within fall into three categories:

  1. Usually, there are some messages you have not read at all. They contain demands on your time, including emergencies, requests from other people, warnings of trouble, useful information you need to use plus other potential dangers. Lurking in the shadows like duppies, they nag you all day with quiet but distracting reminders
  2. Inevitably, you glance at a few messages which indicate tasks to do later. Often, you mark them as unread: a signal that you must return to attend to them. Unfortunately, this tactic makes these old messages look just like new ones, which leads to them becoming lost. Now you have a mountain of stuff you know is important, but you can’t quite remember what or where it is in your stack of messages.
  3. Most of the messages remaining are ones you glanced at but decided to leave until later. Why didn’t you get rid of them? You didn’t immediately know what to do so rather than make a decision, you took the path of least resistance and left the message right where you found it.

 

If you receive a tiny number of messages each day, these tactics may actually work. However, they just don’t scale for the average person. Instead, if your inbox contains more than 20 items, you are really attempting to use your memory to track too many ill-defined commitments. The end result is a mental avalanche of confusion.

 

Commitments which overwhelm your calendar

These unprocessed messages have a cumulative effect: they make you feel as if you don’t have enough time. Each one requires a few moments to re-read and decide what to do next. Altogether they lead you to feel extremely busy, even overwhelmed. Each time you glance at your inbox you experience a sense of dread… it’s no wonder why, according to one study, 33% of people would rather clean a toilet than clear out their email inbox.

The truth would be: “I’m not really busy, just disorganized” but no-one ever admits to this fact. Instead, they complain about not having 25 hours in each day.

 

Adverse impact on your reputation

Even here in 2017, email management is seen by some as an exotic skill which a person is either born with or not. It’s accompanied by the myth that it has something do with your age. It’s almost never viewed as a result of poor habits which can be unlearned.

This mistake leaves individuals to flounder, even as their colleagues exclude them from the best teams. After all, they can’t manage their email messages, let alone a high-priority assignment.

Companies shouldn’t allow employees to ruin their professional reputations because of ineffective email habits. Instead, they should teach them best practices such as limiting their visits to their inboxes to the times of day when they can empty them completely. Studies show when everyone agrees to this habit, productivity soars.

This training should start on the first day of employment. It’s the only way to prevent a mess.

 

Even if the implementation is clumsy at first, this approach is the only way to cope with the increased message-volume we can all expect in the future. For the sake of your organization, time spent processing email must be minimized by modifying employees’ unproductive behavior.

 

Francis Wade is the author of Perfect Time-Based Productivity, a keynote speaker and a management consultant. Missed a column? To receive a free download with articles from 2010-2016, send email to columns@fwconsulting.com.

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/business/20170702/francis-wade-overfull-inbox-means-low-productivity-not-high-popularity