Leadership

Leadership is an essential life skill, not just a work skill. No matter who we are or what we do, each one of us is required to lead in some situation or the other; personal or professional.

Do not allow this seemingly heavy word to confuse you. One way to keep things really simple is to remember that leadership is about helping people around you (personal and professional) learn and grow, so that they feel encouraged and empowered to function independently and resiliently.

This is much easier to accomplish if you retain the right balance – that is, you ensure you have distributed your time and energy into developing yourself (Thought Leadership), building strong, learning relationships (in which both you and the other person learn and grow, ie. People Leadership) and developing critical skills that enable you to meet organizational AND personal goals (Results Leadership).

You will probably agree that managing people (or even maintaining healthy, functional relationships with people even if you are not a team leader) is a highly complex tasks involving many things; developing trust, motivating, influencing, engaging people, managing conflicts, managing your emotions when dealing with diverse people to name a few.

If you do not invest enough time and effort in this, you will find there is a cap on how far you can advance professionally. Remember, the higher you go up the corporate food chain, the more critical your people skills become.

People Leadership is what allows you to engage your team members, build trust and collaboration and deliver results that only high performing teams can deliver.  They are also critical to helping you attract, develop, utilize and retain quality talent and prepare an effective succession plan for yourself and the organisation.

The short answer is that you may as well keep your resume handy at all times then, since organisations pay us to deliver specific results... J

Demonstrating results communicates that we have mastered the art of converting our competence, skills and confidence into performance. This is what gets us the requisite appreciation and career advancement we may desire. And even if are one of the content types and do not seek promotion, please remember that delivering results gets you appreciation and acknowledgment. And of course, usually a bigger bonus and / or pay hike – those most of us seldom say no to…J

Leadership is an essential life skill, not just a work skill. No matter who we are or what we do, each one of us is required to lead in some situation or the other; personal or professional.

Do not allow this seemingly heavy word to confuse you. One way to keep things really simple is to remember that leadership is about helping people around you (personal and professional) learn and grow, so that they feel encouraged and empowered to function independently and resiliently.

This is much easier to accomplish if you retain the right balance – that is, you ensure you have distributed your time and energy into developing yourself (Thought Leadership), building strong, learning relationships (in which both you and the other person learn and grow, ie. People Leadership) and developing critical skills that enable you to meet organizational AND personal goals (Results Leadership).

The simplest, surest and fast way to develop your decision-making skills is to become aware of the PROCESS you are using to make decision. Most of us make decisions so swiftly and intuitively that we may not realise it, but the process usually involves a few clear steps. Most processes would involve:

  1. Identifying the problem that we need to solve, and thus what specifically is the decision we need to make to do so.
  2. Looking at the relevant data required to make that decision.
  3. Analyzing the data to generate / review the options available to us.
  4. Looking at the pros, cons and ease or difficulty of these options to prioritse them
  5. Predict possible outcomes and assess the consequences
  6. Assess risk factors to determine certainty vs uncertainty of decisions made
  7. Picking the one we believe would best serve us

This process comes into play for ALL decisions, big and small. However, obviously the time we spend of each step would be determined by the gravity of the decision we seek to make and its attendant consequences. For example, you may spend much less time of WHETHER to marry as compared to WHOM to marry. Right?

And yes, using a mindful process not only gets you sounder decisions, it also enables you to SELL your decisions to other stakeholders, if / where required.

So firstly, become aware of your process and secondly, practice it mindfully as often as you can, for decisions big and small.

Thirdly, consult others to seek the advantage of different perspectives. And lastly, remember that is good to place a timeline on your decision and be prepared with alternative plans.

This is a fairly common occurrence. There are many reasons for this, one of the most important ones being low team psychological safety or trust in the team. Here the individual may not wish to offer any ideas or suggestions because they fear they will be judged or because they have not been given opportunities or encouragement to do so by their superiors, many of whom might believe it is easier to tell people what to do, in the interest of time.

Remember that telling people what to do is ok in situations where time or special considerations come into play. However, whenever you tell someone what to do, you are not giving them the opportunity to develop their thinking and they will usually not demonstrate the desired level of ownership (buying into the solution).

So the best way to offer suggestions or ideas is to phrase them as questions. For example, Have you considered trying this… Or what do you think will happen if we did this… or what if we did this…

The simplest, surest and fast way to develop your decision-making skills is to become aware of the PROCESS you are using to make decision. Most of us make decisions so swiftly and intuitively that we may not realise it, but the process usually involves a few clear steps. Most processes would involve:

  1. Identifying the problem that we need to solve, and thus what specifically is the decision we need to make to do so.
  2. Looking at the relevant data required to make that decision.
  3. Analyzing the data to generate / review the options available to us.
  4. Looking at the pros, cons and ease or difficulty of these options to prioritse them
  5. Predict possible outcomes and assess the consequences
  6. Assess risk factors to determine certainty vs uncertainty of decisions made
  7. Picking the one we believe would best serve us

This process comes into play for ALL decisions, big and small. However, obviously the time we spend of each step would be determined by the gravity of the decision we seek to make and its attendant consequences. For example, you may spend much less time of WHETHER to marry as compared to WHOM to marry. Right?

And yes, using a mindful process not only gets you sounder decisions, it also enables you to SELL your decisions to other stakeholders, if / where required.

So firstly, become aware of your process and secondly, practice it mindfully as often as you can, for decisions big and small.

Thirdly, consult others to seek the advantage of different perspectives. And lastly, remember that is good to place a timeline on your decision and be prepared with alternative plans.

Leadership is an essential life skill, not just a work skill. No matter who we are or what we do, each one of us is required to lead in some situation or the other; personal or professional.

Do not allow this seemingly heavy word to confuse you. One way to keep things really simple is to remember that leadership is about helping people around you (personal and professional) learn and grow, so that they feel encouraged and empowered to function independently and resiliently.

This is much easier to accomplish if you retain the right balance – that is, you ensure you have distributed your time and energy into developing yourself (Thought Leadership), building strong, learning relationships (in which both you and the other person learn and grow, ie. People Leadership) and developing critical skills that enable you to meet organizational AND personal goals (Results Leadership).

Influence

Transformation

Coaching

There are many differences in this. Without getting too technical about it, let us say, that for every leader needs to do both – depending on the person and situation.

Mentoring is the sharing of experiences and expertise. This is great for ensuring that institutional knowledge and the benefit of past learnings (good and bad) do not get lost. It prevents mistakes not recurring and allows us to build on what has worked well. However, do also note that too much mentoring will inhibit innovation, since there will be the temptation / pressure to stay with the tried and tested.

Coaching on the other hand is about developing capability and enhancing success attitude. It is about using simple questions that provide clarity to the person being coached. It is very empowering when we are able to help someone realise that they already had all the answers that they needed.

BTW it is good to remember that of the 5 roles that every leader is required to perform (leader, manager, mentor, trainer and coach), the coach role is the only one that believes that the information and knowledge to do something is already within the person they are coaching. The other 4 roles deliver this knowledge to the person.

Whenever it is a time critical or ultra-sensitive task, it may not be the best time to coach. This is also true in case of certain people you believe are resistant to coaching.

We would urge you not to over-think this issue – instead of asking yourself this question, it may serve you better to look for TEACHABLE MOMENTS in every conversation.

Remember that is what coaching is all about – helping people to think for themselves, helping them realise that the solution to most problems they face lie within them, or that they have solved similar problems in other situations, personal or professional.

This approach will always allow you to swing between specific guidance required to meet organizational goals, and teachable moments to empower your team members.

This is a very good question and something that bothers a lot of leaders, new and veteran. The simple trick is to ensure that you should NOT try to take out additional time to coach people. Instead, you should ensure that whenever possible convert regular conversations and discussions into a coaching conversation. To do this you only need to do THREE things:

  1. Ensure that at the start of any discussion, you help them to clearly articulate what they wish to get clarity on. Remember that clarity generally results in any action plan becoming obvious. And one can help them find this clarity by taking step 2.
  2. Ask simple questions that help them to breakdown the problem into smaller bits so that they can tackle all or at least some of them. Even if you help them to evolve a plan to meet part of the problem they are facing, it will leave them empowered and energized.
  3. Try to end all conversations and discussions by checking that they have the desired clarity and / or an action plan. This will ensure people get value when they communicate with you and see you as a source of inspiration.

One important thing that needs to be highlighted here is that a structured coaching conversation usually takes LESS TIME than a meandering one where the bulk of the time is spent of discussing the problem rather than developing possible solutions. 

A structured conversation is also usually more engaging and valuable for both the leader and the team member being coached.

This is a very good question and something that bothers a lot of leaders, new and veteran. The simple trick is to ensure that you should NOT try to take out additional time to coach people. Instead, you should ensure that whenever possible convert usually conversations and discussions into a coaching conversation. To do this you only need to do THREE things:

  1. Ensure that at the start of any discussion, you help them to clearly articulate what they wish to get clarity on. Remember that clarity generally results in an action plan becoming obvious. One can help them find this clarity by taking step 2.
  2. Ask simple questions that help them to breakdown the problem into smaller bits so that they can tackle all or at least some of them. Even if you help them to evolve a plan to meet part of the problem they are facing, it will leave them empowered and energized.
  3. Try to end all conversations and discussions by checking that they have the desired clarity and / or an action plan.

One important thing that needs to be highlighted here is that a structured coaching conversation usually takes LESS time than a meandering one where usually the bulk of the time is spent of discussing the problem rather than developing possible solutions.  Not only that, but a structured conversation is also usually more engaging and valuable for both the leader and the team member being coached.

Yes, this happens, far more often that one would like it to. You will often notice that a team member is not responding to coaching and / or offering excuses as to way they cannot take a particular action OR why such and such thing is not possible.

In such cases, a simple way forward is to pull back (instead of showing why that particular thing is easy or possible) – and ask – Are you satisfied with the current situation OR what is the smallest change you wish to see – hence – what is the smallest action you can take to make this happen?

While it is true that everyone does not respond to coaching, it is equally true that you can convert all conversations into coaching style conversation by giving them a simple structure. Begin by identifying what the conversation or discussion is about. Next, help breakdown the problem into smaller ones. Then discuss what are the options available to solve whatever the problem is, and in the end check whether they have the required clarity to solve at least a part of the problem.

This is a fairly common occurrence. There are many reasons for this, one of the most important ones being low team psychological safety or trust in the team. Here the individual may not wish to offer any ideas or suggestions because they fear they will be judged or because they have not been given opportunities or encouragement to do so by their superiors, many of whom might believe it is easier to tell people what to do, in the interest of time.

Remember that telling people what to do is ok in situations where time or special considerations come into play. However, whenever you tell someone what to do, you are not giving them the opportunity to develop their thinking and they will usually not demonstrate the desired level of ownership (buying into the solution).

So the best way to offer suggestions or ideas is to phrase them as questions. For example, Have you considered trying this… Or what do you think will happen if we did this… or what if we did this…

The beauty is that you do not need to learn any coaching tool or methodology. Please remember that most useful conversations already have a very systematic approach and this is generally what it looks like:

  1. They begin with identifying the topic – what is going to be discussed and why
  2. This clarity ensures the conversation focuses on that issue and discusses either how to stop something from recurring, solve it and leverage it to seize an opportunity (whatever is applicable in a given situation)
  3. This discussion would in turn yield possibilities and options, which can be evaluated to decide which would be most useful for that situation
  4. Finally, this would inevitably result in either clarity (on what else we need to find out) or an action plan.

Most coaching methodologies have given this a structure; for example, GROW Model. So essentially all you need to do, to coach effectively is to ensure that you keep all your conversations targeted and moving from one step to the other.

In brief, every conversation that follows a structure and stays focused IS a coaching conversation; it begins with a purpose and ends with clarity or clarity and an action plan.

And also remember that most leaders who use this coaching approach have very useful and inspiring conversations, and earn the respect of their colleagues, not just team members.

Personal Development & Succession Planning

No, not really. If you are firm about it neither your organisation nor your boss will insist that you have one. Of course, they will ensure you learn the skills required to do your job adequately.

However, remember that your PDP is about you, not them. Experience and logic tells us that when we stop learning and growing we are likely to get disengaged and not enjoy our work anymore.

A PDP not only allows you to plan your development, gives you control over it, it also ensures that your effort is correctly allocated between your job and your career.

Even if you are not someone who hankers for promotion, or is more ambitious about life rather than work, that does not mean you don’t want to learn and grow.

So having a PDP is a good idea. Reviewing it periodically, at least once a quarter, if not more and making your boss aware of it and getting their support for it is an even better idea.

Everyone has a lot going on in their lives. That is why, it is only logical that one (or sometimes, even more) of your direct reports might not have the bandwidth to focus on their development at the moment. This is perfectly understandable.

You do not need to insist on them making a PDP, however, do offer them the opportunity to do so, and should they decline, check in with them after a few months to see if things have changed. As the team leader you are responsible to ensure that you offer this opportunity to everyone in your team. And not just helping them prepare their plan but also offer to review it with them periodically and support them in making it happen to the best of your ability.

Remember that the more your team members learn and grow, the more likely they will be able to function independently. This will ensure you’re not fighting fires all the time.

This is the reason why most forward-looking growth-oriented leaders and organisations ensure that everyone reporting to them has a development plan.