Author Archive

Why leadership programmes fail

January 16, 2014

Have you seen this latest piece of research from McKinsey on why leadership programmes fail? If not, click here, it is definitely worth a read.  The key messages are:

  1. Decide on the essential skills of your leaders and develop them (don’t drown them)
  2. Understand the science of how change actually happens – don’t get sucked in to programmes that look great on paper or have a great badge of honour but don’t actually get your leaders doing something different
  3. Understand how essential the right leadership mindset is to behavioural change and pay proper attention to it in your programme
  4. Measure the results to ensure the learning is taken really seriously in your business

Personally, I agree and I am loving the research because our Conscious Leadership approach addresses all of these pointers head on. I would of course love to tell you about it if you would like to know more, but in the meantime take 10 minutes and have a read – it is good!

Elke Edwards - Blue Sky Performance Improvement Elke@bluesky

www.blue-sky.co.uk

The great trust gap

October 8, 2013

2013 has been a terrible year for organisational trust.

The Jimmy Savile inquiry highlighted a worrying lack of accountability within the BBC and even the police. Edward Snowden’s data-privacy whistleblowing suggested the governments not only don’t trust us, but we shouldn’t trust them. And the new Governor designate of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, declared that trust “screeched out of the parking lot” in 2008 and banks need to undergo deep cultural change to restore public confidence.

Frankly, these scandals of mistrust come as no surprise to most of us, whether you’re the waitress in a bakery or the CEO of a bank. The CIPD’s quarterly report found that only 36% of employees trust senior leaders and 58% had adopted a ‘not bothered’ attitude for work. The symptoms of mistrust – hostile gossip, fruitless meetings and incompetent leaders – are daily realities for many in the workplace.

Yet high trust is a key characteristic of profitable and sustainable businesses. Trust not only provokes customers to buy, it encourages employees to stay loyal and turns process-clogged organisations into lean, mean collaborative machines.

It’s time we spoke up about the lack of trust in our organisations and took responsibility for change. Here are the three steps we take at Blue Sky when turning rhetoric into reality.

1.    Take the trust blinkers off

Start noticing the unquestioned low trust behaviours that happen within your business every day. Examples to look out for include leaders talking the talk but not demonstrating the competence or the character to live up to their senior role; widespread grumbling behind the backs of colleagues; a reluctance to make decisions; not owning up to mistakes and making self-serving decisions.

Click here to read more »

2.    Break trust down into its elements

Steven M.R Covey brilliant book The Speed of Trust emphasises that trust is a behaviour rather than a trait. By breaking trust into 13 characteristics, including talking straight, righting wrongs, confronting reality, clarifying expectations and practicing accountability, he demonstrates that trust is under our control, and that it can be rebuilt, step by step – if we can find a way to commit to it.

Click here to read more »

3.    Get buy-in from within

Finally, trust has to become a priority truly embraced and evangelised by people at all levels of an organisation to ensure cultural change. Naming the behaviours you identified in step one, and citing the evidence that show the impact of trust on the bottom line (for example, people are 87% less likely to leave an organisation with high trust) will help win over cynics. With senior leaders as your champions, you then need to ensure that trust coaching spreads through the ranks. As role models begin to emerge, the groundswell of trust will begin to grow.

Click here to read more »

You can share your own stories on twitter #DoTrust or through our LinkedIn page and of course your own blogs and social presences.

Elke Edwards - Blue Sky Performance ImprovementElke Edwards

I am Director of Learning at Blue Sky, so am firmly placed to share with you our approach to performance improvement at every level from your contact centre staff to your CEO. I know that for businesses to achieve major success, their people need to work towards organisational objectives, not individual or departmental ones. I love the work I personally deliver for senior teams that are positioned to support this behaviour from the top down.

Do you know what trust looks like?

September 25, 2013

Part Two in a series of four articles on rebuilding organisational trust and driving employee engagement

Last week, I looked at building your awareness about the low trust behaviours that surround you every day. We’ve had some fantastic conversations starting to build around the topic, so head over to our Twitter page and look for the #DoTrust hashtag or our LinkedIn page to benefit from the stories and tips shared so far!

Please contribute to the conversation as we move onto the next stage in the trust process – breaking trust into manageable chunks.

What do we actually mean by trust?

Trust-Tuesday-email-two-blog-imageWe use the word trust all the time, but it never loses its emotional punch. If someone says they don’t trust you, it hurts. A lot.

I’m a big fan of the Stephen M.R Covey book The Speed of Trust. In it, he discusses how we continually and subconsciously make decisions based on the confidence we have in a person or an organisation. This confidence is made up of character (a person [or organisation’s] intent and integrity) and competence (their capability, skills and track record).

Have a go at the following exercise:

Relax and take a moment to think about somebody you don’t trust. Imagine them in front of you (really try to imagine them; their clothes, their posture, their expression).
Now, think about why you don’t trust this person. Let me ask you four questions:

  • Is it their intent? Do you believe they’re always out for themselves? Or do they play for the bigger team? What motivates their actions? Is it good?
  • Are they straight? Do they do what they say they’re going to do? Do they say one thing to you and another to somebody else? Do they have integrity?
  • Do they have the knowledge and expertise required for their job? The technical, leadership and people skills? Can they make the right decisions?
  • Do they have relevant experience to bring into their current role? Will they be able to tackle unknown problems? Do they have a track record of success?

So what did you discover in going through that process? Is it their character or their competence that results in a lack of trust? Is it both?

We all have people in our lives that we don’t trust – the key question is whether you want to rebuild trust with them. Many of us hate giving those who have hurt us a second chance, but sometimes second chances can have magical results.

If you want a more trustworthy organisation with more engaged employees, you have to behave in a more trustworthy way. You have to commit to building trust on an individual level before you can expect it to scale. And trust is based on our experiences, so common sense tells us that for trust to be changed, behaviours must be changed first. We don’t need to buy sophisticated computer systems. We need to change what we do.

This is both scary and exciting, because it means we’re in control. And the first step in changing behaviour is naming behaviour, which takes a lot of guts.

Stephen M.R Covey talks about the 13 behaviours that build or destroy trust. Let’s highlight a few:

  • Talk straight – and demonstrate respect to your employees and customers alike. Many businesses are afraid of transparency, but it can have an amazing effect. Admitting that you’re in the middle of a change programme and you don’t know what the end’s going to be, or that the CEO is on his way out but you’re recruiting carefully, actually creates more trust and stability, not less.
  • Right wrongs – admit mistakes. Apologise. Demonstrate how you will change. It’s as simple as that. A reclaimed customer is more loyal than one who never had a bad experience in the first place, so it’s not just the right thing to do – it works.
  • Get better – when coaching the board of a very successful company, our team was recently told “whatever you do, don’t tell anyone you’re coaches. Don’t even tell reception.” Why? “Because we can’t let anyone know our exec board are being coached.” Why not? Is getting better wrong? Or is it reassuring and inspiring?
  • Confront reality – does your CEO get to hear the bad news? Does he want to? We recently did a diagnostic on a leadership team and were told to “take out a lot of the bad comments – he won’t be able to take it.” That’s a scary prospect.
  • Clarify expectations – spend time to let people know what is really needed from them. All too often, people come unstuck for the lack of a proper briefing.
  • Practice accountability – consider Jimmy Savile. What about all those people who knew what he was doing and didn’t speak up? Bad people are simply a fact of life, so it’s up to those around them to stand up for what is right.
  • Extend trust – recently, an ex-senior director of AOL let slip that 75% of AOL customers were paying for dial up broadband service, even though AOL offer it for free. They had signed up years ago, when it wasn’t, and nobody had called to explain. This charge accounts for 80% of their profitability. Trust isn’t passive – it has to be earned. Are you proactive in whistleblowing untrustworthiness?

Trust is behaviour. Behaviour is under our control. But do you want to act?

For me it is [as my 10 year old would say] a no-brainer! I remember my Girl Guide motto “It’s your world – change it.” But once you’ve identified what you need to do, how do you make sure it will really work?

Next week, I’ll look at the practical things you can do to rebuild trust in your organisation. Until then, let me know the least and most trustworthy behaviours you see occurring around you every day…

You can share your own stories on twitter #DoTrust or through our LinkedIn page Blue Sky Performance Improvement and of course your own blogs and social presences.

Elke Edwards - Blue Sky Performance ImprovementElke@bluesky

Getting honest about trust

September 17, 2013

I recently had lunch with one of our clients, the chairman of a large global bank. He told me a story about a call he recently took from a head hunter, who wanted some advice on his list of potential candidates for the CEO role at a competitor bank.

The client, being a generous man, spent an hour and a half on the phone giving his opinion on the 30 or so candidates. He didn’t personally know all of them, but, in a tight-knit industry, he immediately knew who was an instant write-off and who would be a better fit. What on earth, I asked, could he have conveyed about these top-level execs for this incredibly important role in just a couple of minutes?

 “Well,” he replied, “I basically said whether I trusted them to do the job or not.”

For me, that conversation was a powerful reminder of how many important events in our life occur because of stuff people say about us when we’re not in the room.

Imagine you’re applying for a job in a different part of your organisation. You send an email to your potential new boss. What’s the first thing your potential new boss does? Asks your current boss for their opinion. They’ll probably take more than a couple of minutes, but in that brief conversation they will say whether or not they think you’re right for that job. No matter what comes after, that one initial exchange will have been a key decider in your future career.

The single most important emotion in these conversations and decisions is trust.

The degree of trust people place in us – to get a job done, to support them in a crisis, to show up to lunch on time – influences our lives in ways that are often completely out of our control. Most trust judgements occur without us having any consciousness of them, but they have a profound impact on where we end up.

If you don’t trust your partner, however great your relationship may be on the surface, it will eventually fall apart. If you do trust your friend, you’ll let them get away with an awful lot, because you know they’ll come good in the end. This is just as important in business as it is among friends or family. If you trust your leader, you’ll give them your all, because you know the effort will be reciprocated. If you don’t, you’ll always be trying to protect yourself, afraid that your work will go to waste. And these attitudes directly impact on the performance of the organisation as a whole.

Over the past few years we’ve been inundated with scandals in the press featuring people in senior positions making untrustworthy decisions. This year’s Edelman Global Trust Survey interviewed 31,000 business people across 26 different markets and found that banks and financial services are the least trusted organisations of all. The same negative feedback has been found for leadership; only 38% of people trust what a CEO is saying about their own organisation.

Lack of trust is obviously a huge organisational issue; in fact, I think it is the most important challenge we currently face. So the big question becomes: what can we do about it?

In the meantime I’ll be sharing my own thoughts in three articles, kicking off with what I see as the first essential step, removing your trust blinkers.

Start noticing the unquestioned low trust behaviours that happen within our businesses every day. Immerse yourself, become a trust detective. Begin by spotting how common, and commonly accepted, low trust behaviours are. Here are my suggestions for some good places to look:

  • Corridor conversations – It’s amazing how often there’s silent consensus ‘in the room’, followed by long and angry dissections outside the room with zero accountability or action.
  • Gossiping – We all hate the thought of people whispering behind our back. But be honest: How many times have you heard or participated in a good gossip?
  • Self-serving decisions – People may claim that their decision is the best thing for the company, but their true motives are crystal clear.
  • Do as I say, not as I do – My personal bugbear! Leaders talking the talk but failing to walk the walk are all too common. This is a trait of many organisations that score ‘superficial’ on the trust barometer, where leadership is a title, not a behaviour.
  • Incompetent leaders – How many of today’s leaders lack either the technical competence or the people skills to do what is expected of them? If you have a culture of high trust with continual feedback and development, it’s not such a problem. But in low trust organisations people work around their incompetence in a miasma of fear
  • Meeting mania – Low trust manifests in general ineffectiveness. Too many people are involved in decisions for fear of ‘leaving someone out’. Decisions are constantly deferred in case they are wrong. Everyone fights their own corner. Inertia ensues.
  • Low accountability – Blaming others, not owning up to mistakes, not holding poor performance to account, silos, inter-department warring…you know the drill.

So, now you’re seeing the trust issues clearly, what can you do?

Look out for the second article in our trust series, coming next week. In the meantime, I look forward to hearing your own thoughts on how to spot the trust underbelly in your organisation…

You can share your own stories on twitter #DoTrust or through our LinkedIn group Blue Sky Performance Improvement and of course your own blogs and social presences.

Elke Edwards - Blue Sky Performance Improvement Elke@BlueSky

Can people management skills be taught?

September 14, 2011

Many of you reading this will have been taught how to become a better leader or manager. Coaching of individuals in this way is commonplace, yet coaching senior teams to become more effective is less so. This is a paradox, since organisations are facing increasingly numerous and complicated challenges which require answers well beyond the power and capability of any one individual to provide. The need to harness the power of effective teamwork to drive business performance has therefore never been greater.

Sadly, many senior teams operating ineffectively – although aware of some of their limitations – are unaware of what the real opportunity is that exists. Awareness is of course a pre-requisite to understanding how to put things right. Without it, there can be no surprise that so many teams operate to a low standard. We can all think of examples of team effectiveness – the top sports team in which individuals sacrifice personal glory for the sake of silverware – but we find it harder to translate these notions of what good looks like back to our own teams at work.

In today’s business environment, however, it is essential that we try. After all, it has been highly effective teamwork, rather than an individual moment of genius, that has led us in recent years to enjoy breakthrough inventions such as Google and the Apple range of iMacs, iPods and iPhones. Awareness must begin with a frank and open admission, from the leader downwards, that he or she may not actually know fully what a good team really looks and feels like. Teams need to admit their current limitations in order to progress to a higher level of effectiveness.

Change - Key - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

Once this admission has been made, a central step to any effective team lies in the attitude or mindset of its individuals. Many of us consider ourselves to be ‘good team players’. We are undoubtedly well-intentioned, yet mentally we may arrive at a meeting as individuals (ie as the director of a department) and work on the basis of trying to ensure the best for our area. Team members need to ask themselves (and each other) whether they are truly putting the collective purpose of the team ahead of their narrower territorial interests.

Truly effective teams are not – and never have been – simply about individuals getting on with each other

When it has been recognised that a team is not working as effectively as it could be, many leaders move to overcome this hurdle through developing good ‘relationships’ within the team. Teams that don’t work well together may resort to an expensive team awayday or even an attempt to ‘bond’ down at the pub. However, truly effective teams are not – and never have been – simply about individuals getting on with each other. Good chemistry certainly helps, but is only a small part of a much bigger picture.

The rock upon which true team effectiveness is built is to understand and buy into the collective endeavour of that team – why is the team there in the first place, as opposed to a group of individuals? And what is it that it can only achieve as a team? Whether the purpose is to double the size of the business or create culture change, the team’s core purpose must come ahead of individual or departmental interests in order to get the job done.

There are of course many other challenges to overcome in operating an effective team – the clarity with which team goals are pursued, the appropriate composition of the team, the way its members talk to each other, the yardsticks by which they assess themselves and the connections they have with stakeholders, to name but a few. Yet only when teams take the first steps in becoming more aware of current limitations, adopting collective rather than individual attitudes and developing a commonsense purpose of what the team is there to do, can they tackle these latter challenges with a genuine sense of confidence.

Elke@Bluesky

Elke Anderson - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

www.blue-sky.co.uk

Blue Sky Performance Improvement