Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

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

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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.

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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

Follow The Leader…

June 26, 2013

I was asked a question by a client this week – “Why don’t my staff just do as they are told?” He had had a frustrating day, been away for a week and it had all gone wrong.  No member of his staff has taken responsibility for getting things done.  So why is it that his staff will not do as they are told?

This is a common question that many managers ask themselves and invariably the answers are similar; staff are lazy, they do not have the knowledge or skills, they are unmotivated, they just don’t care, they have a poor attitude.

Can you see the problem with these answers?  All of the answers indicate that the problem is with the other person (the ‘staff’ in this case).  It’s their fault, and you now have plenty of reasons why; however this does not resolve the problem and their behaviour will continue.  After all, you have abdicated responsibility back to them!

How would it be if instead, you asked yourself up to 3 different questions?

  • “Why should anyone be led by me?”

Notice the different answers – because they feel inspired, motivated, valued, trusted and respected.

  • “What have I done to ensure my staff feel inspired, motivated, valued, trusted and respected?”
  • “What else can I do to make my staff feel inspired, motivated, valued, trusted and respected?”

Notice the difference emphasis in the answers. Your focus is now on what you can do, not relying on others. You are taking responsibility for action. That’s what good leaders do. Do you get wrapped up in reasons and excuses, or do you focus on what you can do to make it happen?

Steve_Shave

www.blue-sky.co.uk

Steve@Bluesky

Show Trust to Build Trust

November 21, 2012

“The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.” Ernest Hemingway.

What does it take for you to trust me? You probably have to be able to rely on me, and to know that I will do what I say I will do. Building trust requires telling the truth and being transparent. What is the benefit of trust? When we have trust in the relationship we can work together effectively and combine both of our resources to create something bigger than we could do by ourselves. So what happens when there is no trust in a relationship? You could say that without it, little or no relationship is possible. It’s almost impossible to work effectively together without mutual respect. Much time and energy is wasted in second guessing, and speculating on the other person’s motives and intentions.

Building trust is a process that begins when one party is willing to risk being the first to ante up, being the first to show vulnerability, and being the first to let go of control. If you are a leader, the first to trust has to be you. If you, as a leader, show a willingness to trust others, your team members will be more likely to trust you. To build trust in your organisation:

  • Share information about you, who you are and what you believe in
  • Admit mistakes, none of us are perfect and people will forgive you if they see you trying to aspire to the high standards you set. We are only human and showing you are fallible will show your human face
  • Acknowledge the need for personal development
  • Seek feedback, and treat it as a gift
  • Take feedback to the source, avoid ‘corridor conversations’
  • Listen carefully to what others have to say and sometimes not saying
  • Invite interested parties to important meetings
  • Share information that is useful
  • Celebrate other people’s successes, make sure the team or individuals get the recognition for their work…don’t take credit for other people’s good work or when things go wrong, don’t let them take the fall
  • Encourage people to contribute
  • Show you are willing to change your mind when others have a good idea
  • Avoid talking negatively about others
  • Say ”we trust them” and mean it

Trustworthiness is in the eye of the beholder. To build trust your team must see that you have their best interests at heart. It means that you don’t want to see them get hurt, be embarrassed, feel harassed or suffer. You want them to be happy, fulfil their potential and succeed. This may seem like a risk….but it is one worth taking.

Some handy tips:

  • Be authentic. If there is something you are not saying and covering up, there is a good chance the other person will know you are doing that – it will leak out in your body language and tone of voice. They might not be able to put their finger on it or explain exactly why they don’t believe you are being truthful, but they will have an instinctive, intuitive feeling that they cannot trust you.
  • Don’t gossip or speculate on someone else’s motivations and intentions.  Don’t have the conversation with someone else, have the conversation with the person…take it back to the source. Show openness and consistency in your behaviour, and demonstrate a strong moral ethic.
  • If trust has been broken it can be recovered. You need to apologise for your side of where the trust got lost, be open and honest and sincerely regretful for the part you played in the relationship break down. Then explain that you are committed to this not happening again and what you will personally do in the future to avoid the situation happening again.
  • Write down a list of all your key relationships at work. Rate on a scale of 1-10 what the level of trust is like. This will help you identify which relationships you could work on.
  • Spend some time with people you might not as readily trust. Get to know them a little. Disclose some information about yourself, open up a little. This is a good way to show someone that you trust them.

To be trusted is a greater compliment than being loved.George MacDonald.

Sean@Bluesky

 

 

 

 

 

 

www.blue-sky.co.uk

Sing while you work

October 8, 2012

Have you been watching ‘The Choir: Sing While You Work’ with Gareth Malone, the guy that worked with the army wives? He’s currently travelling around the country, gathering people from large and diverse organisations to audition for and be part of a choir that will represent their organisation in a televised singing competition. This is a fantastic example of bringing people together at all levels that would otherwise never have met, giving them a chance to interact as people and a common purpose.

Enjoy - Sing while you work - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

There are some great clips on Youtube, such as an employee from the Royal Mail talking about ‘management being people’ that demonstrate the power the choir is having in breaking down barriers – be they physical (e.g. landside versus airside at Manchester Airport) or hierarchical (e.g. a surgeon singing alongside a porter at Lewisham Hospital). True engagement is about having intent, process and heart and it doesn’t get much better than this!

Laura@Bluesky

Laura Crawford - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

www.blue-sky.co.uk

Blue Sky Performance Improvement

There is no ‘I’ in team, but there is a ‘me’

September 11, 2012

Success is a great thing. We all want it, because it’s the undisputed champion in measuring our selves. We know it’s hard to get, and that’s what makes it all the more satisfying. We cherish it, because we know what it’s like to fail (because we all do). So, when it happens, when you achieve success…. there’s the part of us that feels like the cat that got the cream.  I did it! How about that! God, I’m good. Why not celebrate your success? It feels good when you get all of that praise and recognition. The praise often flies in your direction and it’s so easy to slip into ‘I know, I did a great job…thank you’.

But there’s a catch to this if you are a leader on the road to greatness. Should we take all the credit?

Probably not, as most successes are achieved as part of a team. You may have “shown them the way” (the definition of a leader), and they got there. They deserve the credit.  Yes, you played a major role.  Yes, if you weren’t involved it might not have happened at all. But they still DID it.

Inspire - Teddy Roosevelt - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

It takes a lot of humility to step aside when the accolades come, and deflect them elsewhere. A selflessness that puts aside a certain fear – the one that thinks that unless you strut your stuff out there, it won’t be noticed by your bosses when bonus or promotion time comes.

I succumbed to that fear a few times earlier in my life. I remember a time that I really felt I was being under appreciated, deserved more recognition and probably a promotion…I was sitting in a project review meeting where we had just implemented a new IT system and found myself spouting phrases like…

 “I did that, I found that I achieved that, my system……, I solved this…… I, I, I, I, I, I …..”

I had neglected the fact that this was a huge team effort and in that moment, I wanted to bask in the glory and selfishly grab the limelight. I am sure you can imagine the impact this had on the project team. Luckily I learned, it has taken time, several great mentors, some personal reflection and painful feedback.

The other thing that convinced me once and for all that I shouldn’t take the credit was scientific fact. Jim Collins figured it all out in one of my favorite business books, Good to Great. The leaders of all the “Great” companies all had this humility – they gave the credit to someone else.  And it was researched, and documented, many times over. Because they didn’t DO it.  They just showed the way.  Collins calls them “Level 5 Leaders” – they’ve taken leadership up another very important notch.

As Teddy Roosevelt said in his famous speech at the Sorbonne in 1910:

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause”

Greatness will await you, for your team will respond to your selflessness with an even greater desire to make you proud, and start the credit cycle all over again. What will you do differently? Listen to the number of times you use the word ‘I’ in conversations this week…….

Sean@Bluesky

Sean Spugin - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

www.blue-sky.co.uk

Blue Sky Performance Improvement

Could 50 Shades of Grey help your learning stick?

July 31, 2012

It was the conversation over a coffee with friends that made me brave my local bookshop and buy the hottest book of the moment – 50 Shades of Grey.

Even my husband when he saw it in the bedroom (I’d hidden it under a copy of Infinite Jest, another novel I’m trying to get through) cried out “not you as well?!” Yes, it seems that everyone on his commuter train and beyond are mesmerized.

So it made me think ‘wouldn’t it be great if we could design and launch a learning programme that would have the same impact as 50 Shades of Grey?’ A programme that employees would clamour to sign up to and evangelize with their colleagues about the content and learning.

Perform - Handcuffs - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

I am not advocating that learning interventions should involve porn, bondage or domination, just the sentiment that we need to keep designing creative and exciting content to capture employee’s imagination to make learning stick.

And so the Blue Sky 50 Shades of Learning was born by asking our staff to email their lighthearted take on the book and the world of learning. Here are our top 10 for you to enjoy and we want to find the 40 best others from out there in the learning community to make up the 50. If you’d like to send in your contribution, please email hello@blue-sky.co.uk and the top three winners will receive a bottle of Jo Malone perfume or cologne (no handcuffs or gimmicks are involved in this offer!)

The Blue Sky Top 10 Shades of Learning

“Make me cry like I’ve never cried before!” he screamed. “Alright” I said and made him read the entire works of Tom Peters.

“I am your master and you will perform everything I say” …it was then I knew it was time to leave the CIPD.

“I’m curious” he whispered. Never had she felt so deeply probed. She felt exposed from all angles; naked, yet strangely liberated and safe. “So” she said silently to herself, “this is how 360 degree feedback works.”

Wearing my seductive skimpy schoolgirl outfit, I gazed around the room. How was I to know that that was not what they meant by classroom learning?

Once I knew his seven habits…I was disgusted.

He felt his net promoter score rise as she whispered down the phone “thank you, that’s the best customer service I’ve ever experienced”.

My heartbeat raced as I heard him suggest his embedded learning methodology would be different to anything I’d ever experienced before…

He brought a new meaning to the phrase “yes, we can plug the leak in your sales pipeline…”

His PowerPoint presentation was the longest I had ever seen. Slide after slide after slide after slide of animated ecstasy. I died a thousand deaths before I fell into a deep untroubled sleep.

She lay back, disappointed. It was all over so quickly. “Oh” she said, “that’s what you meant by accelerated learning!”

Briege@Bluesky

Briege Kearney - Director - Client Development - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

www.blue-sky.co.uk

Blue Sky Performance Improvement

Why are toilets with a cleaning checklist on the wall always dirty?

July 20, 2012

Have you noticed that the more dirty public toilets are, the more likely you are to find a cleaning checklist detailing how often the toilets should be checked and cleaned, requiring the signature of the person to be publicly responsible for having done that?

Deliver - Toilet - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

Why does this phenomenon exist?

Management = designing an efficient process, i.e. a cleaning checklist, and putting it up on a wall and expecting to get results.  When you are not there the cleaning doesn’t take place and you feel frustrated because you have people that are not up to the job.

Leadership = caring about the individual and what they want and need, inspiring them to do it either because they like you so much they want to do things for you, or you make them believe in something greater than both of you.  Like for example, their work means that every person who comes to their toilet finds it in a beautiful condition, that it slightly lifts their day. This combined with many other slight lifts in the day means they are happier. This means they are kinder to other people. This means the world is more human. Toilets get cleaned without you being there.

James@Bluesky

James Hodgkinson - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

www.blue-sky.co.uk

Blue Sky Performance Improvement