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Entries from May 2016

Building Sustainable Leadership

27th May 2016

Leadership sustainability


“It’s not the day you have to manage… but the moment. It’s not the dragon you have to slay, but the fear. And it’s not the path you have to know, but the destination.”

Mike Dooley

With so much going on in the world, work and life it’s easy to get lost and feel as though you are not moving forward or going around in circles. As you try to manage everything that’s coming at you and things appear to be continually changing you begin to wonder whether you are making progress.

Yet, this is the new normal.

As a leader of your life, team and/or organisation how do you sustain this? How can you continue to build your ability to move forward and take others with you?

I was struck by the above quote that, for me, put things into perspective. Based on this here are my three simple steps to practice and apply to help you to continue to build sustainability.

The Destination

Where are you heading? You can apply this at any level in your life:

  • What’s your goal in life?
  • What are your objectives for you and your team?
  • What is the vision for the organisation?

If you can’t answer these questions and don’t know where you’re going how will you know when you get there?

So the first step is to be clear about where you are heading. You don’t need to know how to get there, which is a mistake most people make. Trying to map out the steps with so much change going on today is impossible. The best you can do is to determine the next best step to take you forward. Steve Jobs once said “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.”

Managing Uncertainty

Leaders often minimise complexity and uncertainty by taking control and simplifying things to enable their teams to take action. As humans we like to ‘know’ what’s happening and be in control to minimise fear and stress.

In today’s world we have to learn to do the opposite of that and be comfortable with ambiguity, working with what I call ‘the grey’. There is no one right answer only many possibilities. As a leader you have to be comfortable with not knowing, and I know this can cause a level of unease.

This is where self -knowledge comes in.

  • Do you really understand how you operate?
  • Do you have a way of managing your own stress triggers and overcoming them?

Only when you know how to do this can you support the individuals in your team to do the same.

  • How open are you to new ideas?
  • Can you balance what may seem like conflicting priorities so you have a both/and mind set rather than an either/or mindset. For example: how can you be consistent, disciplined and pay attention to detail and at the same time experiment, take risks and learn from failures?

The only way to do this is to work in the moment and be truly present, while at the same time being clear of your destination. Here are just some questions you could ask yourself?

  • What is facing me right now?
  • What does this person really need from me right now?
  • How are people feeling right now and what does this require of me?
  • Do I need to apply discipline in this moment or experiment?

Managing this moment and yourself is the only thing you have control of!

Working collaboratively

Once you are clear about your destination and able to manage yourself it’s then about how you work with and connect with others.

  • Are able to appreciate the multiple and conflicting truths that are out there and held by others?
  • Are you able to partner with others to achieve a win/win? This may be a win about the short-term profits while at the same time developing new products, or maintaining operational efficiency while developing a new operating model that transforms the way you do things.
  • Do you know when to follow and when to lead?

A great leader has to be a great follower and both leadership and followship are required in partnership and collaboration.

How good are you at developing and working in partnership?

There is no ‘right’ place to start your journey other than where you are. What’s your next step?

“Only three things happen naturally in organizations: friction, confusion and underperformance. Everything else requires leadership.”

Peter Drucker




Never ending change – making it stick

13th May 2016
Never ending change

Never ending change

We all know change is the new normal. No longer can we rest on our laurels thinking the change process is complete. No sooner have we completed one piece of change when another is handed on to us or imposed. It is never ending…

How can you make change stick and continue to move forward?

The answer, in my view, is simple but it’s not easy… Engage people. By this I mean truly engage with your team. Don’t rely on the corporate blanket communications that go out. Take some time to follow up and find out what people really think and feel and support them in whatever way you can.

However, before you do any of this check in with yourself.

Start with you

Engagement as a leader starts with you and your own mindset. How do you feel about change?

  • Do you have an open mind?
  • Do you know where your own resistance lies?
  • Do you whole-heartedly accept responsibility for leading your own team through any change process?
  • Are you willing to listen and hear other people’s ideas?

If you are resistant or uncomfortable in any way your team and those around you will pick it up, so don’t try and hide it. Do be prepared to ask for help. That help might be from someone who can assist you in understanding the change more fully or in understanding your own resistance and how to overcome it.

Engage others

 I’ve already mentioned briefly the communication elements that need to be ongoing. If appropriate make it a regular agenda item in your team meetings or one to ones.

AND engagement goes beyond communication. It requires an investment of time to connect with others.

Where you can, involve a cross section of people in managing the change themselves, and by cross section I mean different levels with in the organisation. All too often I’ve seen change teams be lead by senior managers with no involvement from people lower down the organisation.

Involving a cross section and cross-functional mix of employees can generate a plethora of ideas and a team of fantastic ambassadors. They can also provide fabulous information on the current mood and questions being raised by their peers.

When I’ve done this in the past a much more dynamic change team has formed with great learning opportunities for all and a broader understanding of the opportunities and challenges. Confidentiality is rarely an issue.

Where appropriate involve others in generating ideas either through workshops or focus groups and remember to feedback to them after the event. Encourage everyone to take some personal responsibility for identifying possible solutions and taking action. People lower down the chain will very easily point out all the problems and when asked can often come up with ways of overcoming them.

 Identifying Opportunities

 The suggestions above are not meant to be exhaustive, just some ideas to get you thinking about your own area. Where might there be opportunities for greater involvement in your organisation? Where could you be a better change enabler yourself?

‘All employees have an innate desire to contribute to something bigger than themselves.”

Jag Randhawa

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