Converting knowledge to wisdom

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“What use is it to have a bellyful of meat if one can not digest it? If it cannot transform us, if it cannot improve us and fortify us?”

Wrote Michel de Montaigne back in the 16th century in one of his many rants against a French school system that “requires you to just parrot back everything you are told”.

So how do we actually convert knowledge into leadership wisdom?

The key word here is experience, experience not as in breathtaking customer experience, but learning from experience.

Because we all agree that we learn from our experiences, or do we?

If you have ever made the same mistake twice, you will have to agree that we do not consistently learn from our experiences.

When then do you learn from your experiences?

Elementary my dear Watson: Whenever you take the time to reflect on your experiences, you make deeper learning possible.

Reflection can be a personal reflection, or it can tackle the form of a team reflection.

Our reflection can be a surface reflection:

  • What happened?
  • Which actions were taken?
  • What were the consequences that we observed?

Or we can choose to do a deep reflection:

  • What did I learn about myself through this experience?
  • What are we learning about how this team functions and handles conflict through this experience?
  • What broader issue can we see arising from this experience?

Surface reflection helps us understand past actions and behaviours. Deep reflection helps us examine underlying beliefs and assumptions.

Both are important. But even more important is to start developing a practice of reflection. Make a habit of having a regular end of day/week or month reflection session with your team. Develop a personal particle of reflection. The best way to do that is to start a journal and spend just 10-15 minutes a day nothing dow your answers to:

  • What has been my focus today?
  • What have I observed?
  • What am I learning?
  • What will I focus on tomorrow?

Now your are on track to convert knowledge into wisdom.


BestThis blog post is the second in a series of blog posts where Mike is exploring: Why is it important to develop not just yourself but also the people around you?

Building capacity is at the heart of the Service Profit Chain. If you are not familiar with the intricacies of the Service Profit chain, we have a special treat for you:

For this month only, you can download Mike’s book Best! No need to be cheap if … for FREE using this coupon JLXW8P9QSE. It is only available for the first 50 people so first come first serve.

Download the book here!

Why my fear of roller coasters does not keep me out of amusement parks

Helix - Liseberg - Gothenburg
Helix – Liseberg – Gothenburg

They scare the living daylight out of me those roller coasters.

Intellectually I understand that they are safe, probably safer that taking a taxi to the airport, statistically… but still. It’s always been like that, so maybe in a previous life I was traumatised by a roller coaster gone wild. Anyway that is not the point of this final blog post of the year. The reason I mention it is because paradoxically this year I have seen more incredible roller coasters and heard more delighted shrieks from thrilled crowds than at any time previously in my life. More on that in just a minute.

Yes I am in a reflective mood.

You see, technically, this week is just like all the other weeks, but somehow in our mind it’s quite special. It marks an ending and a new beginning and we all get in this mood of yearly review and even more importantly setting new bold goals for the coming year.

All my lovely blogging colleagues are probably bombarding you with: The ten best books you should have read, the eight new trends that you must understand or (flavour of the year) the twelve point action plan that will make this your best year ever!

So why the roller coasters?

Well believe it or not, this was the year that I got to spend considerable time in amusements parks!

Seriously!

As always I have been doing work with my loyal gang of regular hotel clients, but I also got to spend time at Efteling in Holland introducing the Service Profit Chain for IAAPA. In Copenhagen, we introduced a new approach to leadership development at Tivoli gardens and I had the honour for 16 weeks to take a group of seriously enthusiastic managers from Liseberg in Gothenburg through the GROW leadership program.

So what am I learning?

I think my key takeaway this year has been confirmation that at the end of the day, being a great manager is deceptively simple on the surface, and incredibly hard to do well in practice. It’s like juggling. You see the guy rotating 5 oranges in the air and you think: “That’s neat. I can do that.” You pick up the oranges and you understand that there is a gap between knowing and doing.

The 5 oranges of management that you need to juggle have been elegantly formulated by the Gallup organisation based on their extensive research of hundreds of business and managers.

Great managers have these talents/skills/abilities:

  • They motivate every single employee to take action and engage them with a compelling mission and vision.
  • They have the assertiveness to drive outcomes and the ability to overcome adversity and resistance.
  • They create a culture of clear accountability.
  • They build relationships that create trust, open dialogue, and full transparency.
  • They make decisions that are based on productivity, not politics.

That’s it! But again this is just more information, and I am sure you don’t need more information.

What you need is probably execution, the HOW part.

So that brings me to next year. Early 2017, we will be launching the Team Leader’s Toolbox – a training program aimed at helping busy mangers learn quickly how they juggle their ‘oranges’. Leave me a note here if you would like to be notified when we launch that program.

We have been exploring this theme of Leadership and Management over the year on the blog as well and if you missed some of the posts you can download a compilation in the form of ebook HERE.

Thank you for reading my blog. If there is anything you would like to see more (or less) of next year, don’t hesitate to drop me a line. I love hearing from my readers.

Merry Christmas and my best wishes for the coming year!

team-leaders-toolbox2Enter your email address below and we will notify you when we launch the Team Leader’s Toolbox!

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This post is one of a series where we are exploring the notion of leadership and how this is different from management. Our starting point is the Service Profit Chain and the understating that the management part of our job will only take us so far. If we really want to create an organisation that is capable of delivering outstanding customer experiences, we need to develop an organisation that delivers outstanding employee experiences – and that requires leadership. You can check out other articles of the series below:

  1. Are you an inspiring leader to work for?
  2. What does it require to be an inspirational leader?
  3. The something for something system is at the heart of the uninspiring workplace.
  4. How is team management different from team leadership and why should I worry?
  5. Teams are organic systems, and therefore, by definition unstable.
  6. How you can help you team manage their states
  7. Do you understand the stages that your team goes through?
  8. What the h… went wrong?
  9. Who gets the last chef?
  10. Progress drives engagement – So how do you focus on progress?

Progress drives engagement – So how do you focus on progress?

Progress

Of all the things that can boost emotions, motivation, and perceptions during a workday, the single most important is making progress in meaningful work. And the more frequently people experience that sense of progress, the more likely they are to be creatively productive in the long run. Whether they are trying to solve a major scientific mystery or simply produce a high quality product or service, everyday progress, even a small win, can make all difference in how they feel and perform.

The Progress Principle

This quote which makes so much sense to me brings us to another aspect of not just why we need to focus on developing the people around us, but also how we can do it.

Focus on progress

In order to progress, we need a baseline to progress from. Once we have a baseline, we can start thinking about what we need to learn or practice in order to get better.

For learning actually to happen, there must be a gap between your current capability and the results that you desire.

So in order for our people actually to learn they need to:

  • Have an awareness of the gap
  • Be willing to declare their incompetence (I don’t know how to do that.)
  • Commit to learning

(I have written about this in a previous post some time ago.)

So if I sneak into your business and tap any one of your team members on the shoulder and ask them: “What are you working on at the moment in order to get better?”, or I ask them: “In what ways does your boss feel you have made progress last month?”, do they know?

Or is progress something that is randomly observed and then celebrated: “Oh look isn’t this nice!”?

Focusing on progress is an important part of your leadership role. And your most important tool for this is not a dashboard in excel but conversations, one-on-one conversations (According to Gallup research, team members who have no or very few one-to-one sessions with their direct supervisor are 67% more likely to be disengaged at work. I mention this just in case you have the notion that one-on-one is a waste of time and it is easier to tell them all at once.)

If you happen to be a manager of managers, this is even more import – you are the role model. If you are not having one-to-one conversations (about progress) with your direct reports, there is little chance that they are having them with their team members. In fact, if you are not talking to them about how they are progressing with their approach to manage progress with their team, I am pretty sure it is not happening at all.

How to structure an engaging conversation

What would be a good way to structure these conversations?

Establish the gap. Once we have a gap, we can establish a goal. Moving toward our goal is what progress would look like. Then we can have a chat about so what is going on now compared to that goal. Once we agree on how what is going on is different from the goal, then we can talk about what options there could be in order to make progress towards the goal. Finally, we pick an action and commit to doing that.

The following conversation will be a follow up / feedback on how this is going. If you are familiar with coaching, you will have recognised that what I have described here as a framework is in fact the GROW coaching model – you can check it out in more details HERE.

In any case, in my upcoming course The Team Leaders’ Toolbox, we will be exploring this model more in details. If you would like to be notified when we launch that, sign up with the link below!

team-leader-toolbox-1Enter your email address below and we will notify you when we launch the Team Leader’s Toolbox!

__________________________________________________________________

This post is one of a series where we are exploring the notion of leadership and how this is different from management. Our starting point is the Service Profit Chain and the understating that the management part of our job will only take us so far. If we really want to create an organisation that is capable of delivering outstanding customer experiences, we need to develop an organisation that delivers outstanding employee experiences – and that requires leadership. You can check out other articles of the series below:

  1. Are you an inspiring leader to work for?
  2. What does it require to be an inspirational leader?
  3. The something for something system is at the heart of the uninspiring workplace.
  4. How is team management different from team leadership and why should I worry?
  5. Teams are organic systems, and therefore, by definition unstable.
  6. How you can help you team manage their states
  7. Do you understand the stages that your team goes through?
  8. What the h… went wrong?
  9. Who gets the last chef?

Do you understand the stages that your team goes through?

Team

Last week, we took a deeper dive into understanding how the mental states of each team member has an influence on the whole team – and that the team leader probably has more influence on this than anybody else. If you did not read that post, you might want to start there first.

The mental state that team members are in also produces a certain collective behaviour, especially as there are states that are typical for each stage of the life cycle of a team.

When we put a bunch of people together in a team, they typically go though certain stages. This was first described by Psychologist Bruce Tuckman who came up with the memorable phrase “forming, storming, norming, and performing” in his 1965 article, “Developmental Sequence in Small Groups.”

 

team-phases-pic-001

So this is not new. On the contrary, it is well established framework and many of you have probably heard the expression “forming, storming, norming and performing” before. The words that describe the basic stages that small groups experience. In theory, this is a linear process that starts with forming and then goes step by step through all four stages. But the challenge in this is that most teams do not naturally follow this path – they need some help or else they get stuck.

What stage is your team at?

So what is important is for the team leader to recognise the stages as they unfold in the team and to act skilfully in helping the team through each stage. Part of this team leader’s awareness also means understanding that the team is basically an unstable system, and that from time to time it will regress from the current stage and take a step or even two steps back to previous stages. And it requires skillful action on the part of the team leader to get the team back on track.

Less experienced team leaders often have an aversion to conflict. They feel it is all important that we all get along and have a nice time. So when the initial phase, the forming stage, is coming to an end and the first signs of friction become apparent, the typical reaction is to reorganise the team in order to stop the conflict from escalating. The deep fear is that this could get really ugly.

The quick fix is to shuffle positions or tasks, maybe even transferring one or more team members away from the team to other teams or whatever. The shuffle causes the team process to reset and a new period of forming starts. And it creates the illusion that the conflict or problem is solved.

During the forming stage, everyone is doing their best to fit in and not rock the boat too much. They are also trying their best to adapt to everyone else. But after a while, the friction invariably starts again. It happens because after a while, each of the team members have had enough, they are tired of not voicing their need and constantly trying to bend over backwards to keep everyone happy and they start to voice their dissatisfaction.

Conflict is just a symptom.

Friction is not a bad thing as such; it is just a symptom that we need to align whatever we are doing better with each other.

The way we do that is that we start a number of conversations about how the team is functioning and what we need to do in order for everything to work better for all. This may mean some heated meetings and possible disharmony, but eventually the skillful team leader will help the team come to an understanding that enables them to move forward – typically by establishing some rules of engagement or a team manifesto. As they do, the team moves out of the storming into the norming stage and after a while it becomes (high) performing.

You need to work on the fluffy stuff.

As the team leader, it is important for you to understand that it is hard to get to any level of (high) performance without investing time and energy in what is often seen as the fluffy stuff. You need to have the necessary conversations; conversations that aim on developing better relations and not just on task accomplishments. Handling this in a helpful way that keeps everyone on the bus and heading in the same direction is not something we are born with – it is learned skill.

In my next online training, the Team Leader’s Toolbox, I will go into much more detail on how to actually do this in practical terms. Because it is not rocket science, it just requires you to be aware of some basic principles about human behaviour and the importance of relationships.

team-leader-toolbox-1Enter your email address below and we will notify you when we launch the Team Leader’s Toolbox!

___________________________________________________________

This post is one of a series where we are exploring the notion of leadership and how this is different from management. Our starting point is the Service Profit Chain and the understating that the management part of our job will only take us so far. If we really want to create an organisation that is capable of delivering outstanding customer experiences, we need to develop an organisation that delivers outstanding employee experiences – and that requires leadership. You can check out other articles of the series below:

  1. Are you an inspiring leader to work for?
  2. What does it require to be an inspirational leader?
  3. The something for something system is at the heart of the uninspiring workplace.
  4. How is team management different from team leadership and why should I worry?
  5. Teams are organic systems, and therefore, by definition unstable.
  6. How you can help you team manage their states

 

 

How you can help you team manage their states

Manage your states

Last week, we looked at how teams are organic systems and as such by definition unstable (If you did not see that post, it might be helpful to read that first HERE).

The lack of stability shows up as a result of the shifting states of each team member, and that in return obviously has repercussion on the state of the whole team.

So what do we mean by states?

States are temporary conditions that constantly transitioning into new states. You are tired, refreshed, lethargic, energetic. Those are all different forms of physical states. Or you are happy, sad, exuberant, angry or whatever. These are emotional states. The two play an ever ongoing interdependent dance with each other. When I have slept well, I feel happier than when I just had two hours restless sleep on a plane.

The state that we are in at any given time influences our performance quite dramatically. Just think of yourself and what a difference it makes to your own performance when you are feeling energetic and happy – or the opposite.

But it is more complex than that. Humans are a social species and we influence on each other. There have been made all sorts of experiments to prove this. You take a deeply depressed person and ask them so sit in a train compartment with 6-8 other people for 15-20 minutes. Just sitting there, not saying a word. And then you interview the other passengers about how they feel afterwards and you can register a clear dominance of more negative, pessimistic state in everyone in that compartment. Alternatively, you ask a guy who just won the lottery, became father for the first time or some other major happy events to also make a journey in a train compartment. Again, just sitting there, not saying a word. When you interview the other passengers, you will find a significant level of positive states and optimism in the whole group.

The rule of thumb here is that the person in the group with the strongest emotion tends to affect the rest of the group positively or negatively as the case may be.

Think about that the next time you turn up for work in a bad mood and with the attitude that it only concerns yourself and they should just get on with their work. You have just lowered the productivity level in your team by anything from 10% to 50% depending on how foul your mood happens to be.

So the first lesson here is that I need to manage my own states. That is a whole subject in itself and I will dedicate a full module to that in my upcoming Team Leaders’ Toolbox training.

For now, let’s just assume that you already understand that and are fully aware of how to manage your own states and what the consequences are for your surroundings when you don’t.

Next, we need to look at, that apart from your basics state, you can also be more or less helpfully in affecting your team members states – both positively and negatively.

What causes us to shift or change our state?

At a very basic level, it is about stimulus and response. Something happens and you react (as per reflex) or you respond. When we respond, there is the notion that we actually make a conscious choice. People who are good at managing their states respond.

Many of your team members will just react. And their reactions follow a very simple pattern.

When something happens that is within the range of what they expected, there is no reaction. Their state is unchanged. When something happens that is better than they had expected, they have a positive reaction and that shifts their emotional state to a more positive mood (and of course that has repercussion on their physical energy levels as well). But if something happens that is worse than they expected, they will react negatively and experience a shift in state to something that is more negative with a corresponding drop in physical energy levels as well.

This pattern has an added complication. Our brain is not very good at differentiating between what is actually going on and what we think is going on, or maybe will be going on in the future. So when we have a feeling that this is going to be great – or terrible, we react accordingly even if whatever it is has not yet occurred.

Shift your focus and you shift your state

That is why paying attention to what we are focusing on is another important part of managing our states. When I focus on what I want, what I would like to create, I have positive thoughts/emotions. When I focus on what I don’t want or what I would like to avoid, I have negative thoughts/emotions.

In the same category but slightly different is the sensation of lack of control. Most of us go into seriously negative states when we feel that we have no control of what is currently happening or about to happen. We have this to different degrees. Some people handle a lack of control better than others. But take away all control from someone and you basically have a torture situation.

A good dentist understands this, and explains very carefully what she is going to do next, etc. In that way, she is actively managing your experience and trying to avoid you going into unnecessarily negative states (Because it is bad for business, you won’t come back, and you will tell your friends bad things about the experience).

Also in this category is any notion of fear. You do not want any of your team members to experience any form of fear. Because it obviously triggers very unhelpful mental and physical states. This sounds so obvious, but think of your own career, how many times a week you had that feeling of fear in your belly? How often was it caused by someone in a senior position, their behaviour or words? Causing any form of anxiety in your team is very unhelpful.

So in summary, you can help you team members manage their states by:

  • Skilfully managing your own states
  • Avoiding unpleasant surprises whenever you can (Being clear about what is going to happen and what your expectations are)
  • Being clear about what needs to be done, but leaving the control of how to do it up to them.
  • Helping them stay focused on what we are trying to create or achieve as opposed to focusing on what is not working or that we want to avoid

team-leaders-toolbox-3Enter your email address below and we will notify you when we launch the Team Leader’s Toolbox!

___________________________________________________________

This post is one of a series where we are exploring the notion of leadership and how this is different from management. Our starting point is the Service Profit Chain and the understating that the management part of our job will only take us so far. If we really want to create an organisation that is capable of delivering outstanding customer experiences, we need to develop an organisation that delivers outstanding employee experiences – and that requires leadership. You can check out other articles of the series below:

  1. Are you an inspiring leader to work for?
  2. What does it require to be an inspirational leader?
  3. The something for something system is at the heart of the uninspiring workplace.
  4. How is team management different from team leadership and why should I worry?
  5. Teams are organic systems, and therefore, by definition unstable.

You won’t get results by pussyfooting around the issues!

Feedback

I’ve been reading a fascinating book by Ed Catmull called Creativity Inc. Now you may not be familiar with the name Ed Catmull, but if I tell you that he was one of the three original founders of Pixar film then you’ll probably have an idea of who I’m talking about.

In the book is a chapter where Catmull describes the process behind making a successful animation movie. Catmull writes “Early on all our movies suck!”. This makes sense when you think about it. But when we see that fabulous animation, we often forget how that represents three years of hard work from an awful lot of people. And of course that rough idea was not born a box office hit. It was worked, reworked and polished endlessly until it became that work of art.

One thing is being a lone genius, a Picasso or a Rodin – tirelessly and self critically continuing until you get it right. But how does that work when you are 60, 70 or even 200+ people?

According to Catmull, one of the secrets to Pixar’s success is that they have this culture of candour. A feedback culture that is open, straightforward and honest – and maybe most importantly, never compromising.

So once a month, the management team sit down with the team working on a given animation project for the monthly review. Imagine this is meeting #24 i.e. 24 months into the project. Probably still another 12 or 18 months to go. The team that has been working on the project has been working long and hard on it, and they are probably relatively proud of what they have come to see as their baby.

“Success Is Going from Failure to Failure Without Losing Your Enthusiasm” – Sir Winston Churchill

But there is still work to do. So the challenge for the management team is, to give the ‘creatives’ the necessary feedback without them losing motivation and enthusiasm. So each management team member voices their opinion but in a very precise format. They explain what they feel worked well for them and they state very clearly what did not work well for them. “If the scene at 37 minutes, was supposed to make me laugh, I didn’t find it funny.” The management team makes a point of not suggesting what needs to be fixed or what they felt was wrong. They only communicate very clearly: Is this working for me or is it not working for me?

And so it goes on and on, iteration after iteration, and gradually the rough sketches and crazy ideas are honed into one smooth and fabulous animation movie. Management gives straightforward no nonsense feedback – but the project managers are always left with their ownership for the project intact. They must come up with a new solution or improvement.

It’s not personal, it’s a challenge

Note also that this type of feedback is not personal. This is not feedback that says you are a bad animator. It just says we need to try something different. It’s a challenge, not a criticism.

But now think of your own team and how you are conducting team reviews, feedback sessions, evaluations of past performance?  Do you have a culture of straight talk?

Do you as the boss fall into the trap of telling them what was wrong and what they need to do in order to fix it?

No feedback, no progress.

Feedback is crucial to our progress, without it we would not see improvements in anything we do. But the wrong kind of feedback, the criticisms, the ironic comments, sarcasm and lukewarm endorsements, just kills motivation and engagement.

What is needed is a culture of candour.

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This is the tenth article in a series on how to lead as a first time manger. If you would like to know more, check out other articles of the first time manager series:

  1. How are you supporting your first time managers?
  2. The big leap… from team member to team leader
  3. First time manager – The challenges
  4. Direction, Alignment & Commitment in 4 easy steps
  5. How your relations affect your results
  6. Powerful or powerless, what do you prefer?
  7. Behaviour
  8. Conversations, not small talk
  9. Take charge of your energy levels!
  10. You won’t get results by pussyfooting around the issues!
  11. What drives a fabulous employee experience?

We will be exploring more of Team Leadership in our upcoming webinars. It is free and you can sign up here. There will also be a Q&A session where I can answer any specific question you might have.

Manager's Toolbox 2