Posts Tagged ‘Management’

How accountable are you?

March 17, 2014

The Accountability Ladder is a tool we use a lot at Blue Sky; it’s part of the company lexicon and used to help us understand why we’re not achieving everything we’d like to at work and at home. So, how does it work? Well, a recent conversation with my nine year old nephew explains it rather well:

“Hey Vincent, is everything ok, you’re looking a bit worried?”
“I’ve got a bit of a problem, I’ve not done my school project”
“So how come you haven’t done it?”
“Well, I didn’t know it needed doing.”
“Hmmm, but if you didn’t know it needed doing, how come you’re telling me about it?”
“Well, I guess I did know that it needed doing…”

In this short exchange, young Vincent is already on the shifting sands of perspective. So how does the tale fit with the tool?

Well, the Accountability Ladder describes the eight levels of accountability that allow us to step back, evaluate and really look at the choices we make and how we handle different situations. The top four rungs describe accountable behaviours (things that happen because of you) and the bottom four describe victim behaviours (things that happen to you). The more time you can spend towards the top of the ladder, the more opportunities you can open up for yourself and your team and the more attainable your goals will be. 

So, although I wouldn’t want to say that a young nine year old is a victim or displaying victim behaviours, in the sense of the model, Vincent was just not taking accountability. What he was trying to do was hold on to being right about being wrong; his own very good reason not to change. Indeed, in his own mind, an entirely adequate reason for his lack of effort or his lack of success. Our conversation didn’t stop there:

“When you said you didn’t know, but you did know, what’s the real reason you haven’t done it?” I asked.
“Well, I never really had it explained to me, the teacher didn’t make it clear,” so he moved to a place of blaming someone else.
“Ok, what didn’t the teacher make clear?”
“Well, she didn’t make it clear… well, actually she did make it clear”.

Even at this point, Vincent’s fertile imagination continued to justify his inaction:
“We’ve just been so busy this holiday” (still at the bottom of the ladder…. someone else’s fault for taking him out and showing him a good time).
He then moved up the ladder to excuses.
“Well I can’t do it now because there’s only three days left so it’s pointless, it’s not worth me doing it”.

So here he’s kind of saying there’s maybe something I could have done, but at this point I’m still right in not having to do it, if it was my fault before, I’m still ok because there’s no time left.

He then went on to say: “Well, with a bit of luck, some of the other kids won’t have done it either.”

So Vincent is now on the wait and hope rung and what he’s really doing is saying: “These are all the reasons I haven’t done it: I didn’t know about it, other people should have explained it to me, I can’t do it now because I don’t have time and with a bit of luck, other people won’t have done it either.”

In a work context, we’ve all sent a wait and hope email; the kind where our response is non-committal or pushes the responsibility away… the kind where you press send, sit back, sigh in relief and cross fingers that it won’t come back.

So when we choose the “I didn’t know” and “blame others” excuses, or “I can’t” and “wait and hope”, the chances are we’re stuck. So next time you find yourself thinking “I can’t talk to that person because they’re just so aggressive” (blame others) or “I haven’t got the time” (excuse) or “well at some point they are bound to realise what they are doing wrong” (wait and hope), the chances are that you’re on one of those bottom rungs of the ladder.

So when Vincent said: “My dad will kill me if I don’t do it”, he was acknowledging reality and in doing so, he moved up the ladder. He realised that actually, if he was the only child in that room that hadn’t done the project, the teacher was going to hold him to account. He then moved into owning it.

In fact, he was like the cat who got the cream when he turned round and said:
“Do you know what? I bet in three days I could make it look as if I’ve worked on it all holiday”.

He had started to find a solution and make a plan, “I could use google maps”, “can I borrow your camera, Uncle Guy? You could drive me around and I could take some photos around the local area”. And then he moved into making it happen.

The Accountability Ladder doesn’t necessarily mean you get the output that you want, or that you’re able to solve things. What it does mean is that irrespective of whether or not things turn out in your favour, you can hand on heart, look anyone in the eye and say “I was accountable for my decision”.

If you think of a relationship with any one person where it’s not as good as it should be and you want to change it, then you need to own it, become the solution and make it happen. At Blue Sky we talk about Conscious Choice, which is about making the decision to actually act from the top of the ladder.

Where do you sit?

Guy Bloom - Blue Sky Performance Improvement  Guy@bluesky

  http://www.blue-sky.co.uk

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

Quiet Please!

March 5, 2013

When a colleague recommended Susan Cain’s ‘Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking’ I was intrigued. The introvert/extrovert spectrum is a topic I have long been interested in and I had no idea that such a book exploring this existed.

Built on the premise that Western culture has increasingly adopted an ‘extrovert ideal,’ and that culturally, we need a much better balance between extroversion and introversion, both in the workplace and in the classroom, Cain proclaims that in this day and age, the bolder, louder extrovert is valued over and above the more reserved, quieter introvert. In a world where introverts are increasingly pushed aside, she shines a spotlight on them, not to criticise extroverts, but to celebrate their opposite, arguing that they, too, have an important role to play in today’s society. A greater willingness to listen to others, heightened sensitivity, risk aversion and potentially a heightened moral sense are just some of the traits she believes are linked to introversion that can prove invaluable in the workplace, and adds weight to the idea that success is not just the domain of the extrovert!

It may surprise you to know that between one third to a half of the population are introverts, and by introvert, we are not talking about shyness (which is a fear of social judgment), but actually about the way one responds to levels of stimulation, including stimulation of social situations. By design, extroverts crave large amounts of stimulation, for example loud parties, group chat, thinking aloud, while introverts feel at their most comfortable when experiencing lower levels of stimulation i.e. spending time in their own company, enjoying quieter environments or reading a book.

Needless to say, the book now has pride of place on my bookshelf as not only was it factual, rigorously researched and engaging, but it has left me feeling empowered, with a real boost to my self-esteem. Drawing upon many years of extensive psychological and neurobiological research, this book has shed some real insight into how aspects of my personality, such as not enjoying school, avoiding small talk, feeling uncomfortable in large group situations and thoroughly enjoying quiet evenings by myself or with one or two close friends, are actually all related to my introversion.

Not only do I recommend it to any introvert, partner or parent of an introvert, but to extroverts looking to understand a large proportion of the population a little better… If you are considering it, but still not convinced, follow this link to watch Susan passionately bringing it to life.

Kat@Bluesky

Katherine Marsh - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

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

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

Getting Your Hair Cut Is Like Being A Manager Of People

May 14, 2012

I’ve had a few less than perfect haircuts recently, nothing you as an observer would probably notice, but it affects my confidence.  I have come out of these situations feeling a bit angry with the person responsible for cutting my hair and disappointed in how they have performed.

So there I am, in the hair dressers chair again, and I am reflecting on how I could take responsibility for what had been going wrong, and get the kind of outcome I want; a great haircut.  Perhaps I have had some part to play in a poor outcome.  The first point of self-awareness comes when I realise that I am not always 100% straight and clear about what I want when I am describing how I want the hair cut.

This is because I realise that the truth is I am nervous that other men in the barbers shop will hear what I am saying and secretly laugh at me inside their heads, as surely no proper masculine man worth his salt would really care that much about the way that they look? And have the nerve to talk about it so openly in front of a bunch of men? I understand that actually I am not having the courage to describe clearly and in detail exactly what it is I am looking for in the hair cut, being precise about the exact outcome I am expecting and painting a vivid picture in detail, and then checking back that my understanding is the same as theirs.

I am not having the confidence to say what I want and be clear about it; I am worried about what people might think and what kind of person that makes me.  As I am sat there I am reminded of the conversations I have with managers and sometimes their own fear of being clear in what they want from their teams.  I think they are worried about setting out very clearly what they want and what they expect, and this is what I observe when I see them with their teams.

Confidence - Haircut - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

“I’d like it to really go out at the top of the head on the sides”, I say, “to make a sort of a triangle shape; I think it suits the shape of my face better” I say.   No one in the shop laughs at me.  Actually, I feel very pleased with myself. I feel sort of bigger and stronger.  In fact, I have become so concerned about getting this to be clear, I say it twice.  The girl is great at her job.  She repeats back what it is I am saying and I know she has understood what it is I want. I am delighted inside, I know she has heard and listened and this is the first step. This is all going rather well.

She starts to cut my hair and I am relaxed.  At least, I think I am relaxed until I notice that my hands are clasped incredibly tightly together and they become a little sore as I unclench them and the pressure in my knuckles is released.  I have been clasping them very tightly due to my nervousness of how my hair cut will turn out.   It turns out I haven’t been relaxed at all.  In fact I have been very anxious about how it will turn out and the prospect of more weeks of misery as I wait for my hair to grow back.

I realise that this isn’t helping the situation; I am not helping the situation.  I think at some level if I am tense and anxious she will pick up on this and it will affect her performance.   If I am tense she will be distracted about my reactions, and will not focus so clearly on the task.  So I decide to trust. To let go of the idea that I have much control now over the outcome.   I realise I don’t have much control now anyway in truth. What I can focus on now is deciding to trust her in the task in hand.  She is a professional after all.   I make sure that I don’t look at my hair in the mirror at any stage to give her the message that I am confident about what she is doing.  This is something productive that I can focus on rather than my worry.

“Are you out for lunch?” she says. I am wearing a suit. “Yes” I say happily. It’s a good exchange of pleasantries.  But suddenly things take a turn for the worse, I am aware she seems to be cutting my hair quite fast. This makes me nervous. Why is she doing that? I think. Oh no, this could be going wrong, I think.  Suddenly I understand the reason why.  “She wants to cut it quickly so I can get back to the office quickly” I realise.  I don’t mind about this I think loudly and urgently inside my head, I would rather you cut carefully and it was a good cut I think. But am I going to do? What can I do? I might be making an assumption and embarrass her and make myself look silly if I say anything. I am racking my brains.

I know I am making assumptions but I am worried about the performance I am getting.  Suddenly as she is looking closely at my hair as she cuts I hit up on the answer. “I love the way you are really paying attention to the detail in the cut” I say.  And I make sure I look her in the eye as I say it – so that she knows I mean it.  This seems to have hugely dramatic and positive effect.  I kid you not.  She then spends perhaps the next 30 minutes, an inordinate amount of time it seems, on the tiniest movements and motions. I can’t believe the amount of detail she is going into; I am delighted.  She uses at least seven different tools to do various little jobs around my head and I am thrilled.  It seems that positively affirming what I really like in her behaviour really does produce her to do more of the same.

It’s a great cut, and I am very pleased.  As I go I tell her that, with real feeling.  It’s been an emotional experience for me. And I think she is pleased too.

Of course, I might have been over estimating the impact that I think had on the cut. She might have just been brilliant at her job. But it did make me think about some of the challenges of managing people:

  • Having the courage to be clear about what you want can be hard.  It doesn’t make you a bad person. People like to do well and knowing what well is, is important
  • Letting go of control can be hard. But holding the reins tightly won’t make them perform better.  The more you trust, the more responsibility people tend to take.  Trust implies confidence. Confidence drives performance.
  • Acknowledge and affirm the behaviour you want to see more of. People like to be told they are doing something well.

James@Bluesky

James Hodgkinson - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

www.blue-sky.co.uk

Blue Sky Performance Improvement

The human face of (your) leadership

November 3, 2011

The recent MacLeod report on Engagement found that leadership and management were the key drivers of engagement. Research from Accenture finds that 80% of the variation in engagement is attributable to leadership, and Professor Beverly Alimo-Metcalfe’s research reports that the attitudes and behaviours of senior managers were ‘formidable blocks’ to engagement.

As leaders, we know that engagement drives performance but are we as aware that it’s our leadership behaviours that drive engagement? And that it’s not the quality of our strategy or our spreadsheets that engages our people but the way that we connect with them as human beings, moment by moment…

Engage - Human Face - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

Taken directly from our current work with clients, here are examples of what leaders are doing to demonstrate the human face of their leadership:

  • Know the names of your team’s partners and children (and make sure they know yours).  You’d be surprised by how many of us don’t know this about our teams
  • Share something of who you are with your people. We often ask our teams about their weekends but don’t reciprocate. Sharing something about your own weekend or your own personal circumstances, for example, will build trust and deepen the relationship
  • Speak to 5 people before you switch on your computer.  This piece of advice is from Tim Smit of the Eden project who suggests you talk to 20 people…but you may prefer to start with five to begin with!
  • Phone one of your team when there’s no ‘real’ reason to do so. So often we call to check on a deadline, or to relay some client information. This time just call to have a chat and see how they’re doing. Make your relationship with that person the real reason for the call.
  • Give people your undivided attention. How often are we in a meeting and checking texts when someone is speaking?  Or glancing over someone’s shoulder as we’re talking at something else that’s going on in the office? We know how good it feels when we are truly listened to and we need to provide our own people with that same feeling.

Focus on the human aspects of your leadership…and see what difference it makes to you and your people.

Helena@Bluesky

Helena Clayton - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

Download The Changing Leadership Landscape Whitepaper

www.blue-sky.co.uk

Blue Sky Performance Improvement