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THIS IS THE TIME

The events that are unfolding are facing us all with new challenges. Staying positive in a demanding scenario and taking it as a learning experience rather than a difficulty is also a matter of aware processing, and putting matters in a favorable perspective. Working at home is a well known concept, but doing it for the first time, in a non-accustomed way, in an uncertainty laden emotional environment, is something very different. What is more, communication needs to be way more effective at distance than face to face. Therefore, it is not only about available technological devices, it is about having the adequate awareness of what is necessary to make the telling / listening dynamics work effectively.


This is the time when a professional realizes that she is not a role, a hierarchy, a powerful title, but a human being. The professional still is a human being in its different dimensions, and not only the economic one. When professionals realize that nothing has prepared them for sustained uncertainty how do they feel?

This is the time where we will have the opportunity to connect with our character as human beings. The time when we connect with what we stand for, what makes our heart beat, our life be worthwhile and our contribution significant to the coming world’s balance.

This is the time when we can heartfully connect with who we are. We can understand, once and for all, that we are not our job titles, our fame, our achievements, our homes, fancy goods, or our lifestyle. We are what we cannot loose in a shipwreck. And that what we have inside, what drives us, what gives meaning to our existence, which makes us assume the responsibilities of being alive, is what these times are about:

  • Times of Companies to show what they stand for; to show if employees are considered Humans or just Resources.
  • Times for Leaders to stand up to this expression and help their teams to live through this crisis, which is, as never before, full of opportunities.
  • Times to see the glass half full, because those who do, will emerge from this circumstances having designed their own future.

The world will not be the same. Work will have changed forever. Life will be lived in a different way. As we recover our human connection, we will be unavoidably more digitally minded than earlier, and this transformation will be unpredictably fast.

We are very fortunate. We have been helping global executives with our pioneering  Digital Executive Coaching approach for more than ten years now. Therefore, we are experts in bringing human connection and warmth to the digital world of at distance relations. We have been walking the talk with them through their growth paths, achievements, promotions and their companies directly related benefits. We have been with them in the ups and lows of the corporate and business roller coaster. Sometimes it is about professional challenges, sometimes it is about personal ones. However, we have always known that “good” work performance is not possible if there is not a caring and aware human being behind the role.


It would be a pleasure to bring our experience in remote effectiveness assistance to you today, during these times to help your people. We can help them through their fears, their loneliness and through their doubts & confusions. We want to help them to see this as the opportunity ahead. When looking at how the past can transform into an unforeseen positive future, we take the drivers seat and start designing the future, with what we have available. We want to help leaders to apply the necessary leadership for this times. They can help teams to replace their fears about their jobs for the love of a common and inspiring perspective of positive change.

It is not about business targets. It is about inspiration, about turning mindsets, fine tuning perspectives and having something for which to stand up in the morning with best energy. We want to be active contributors to your people’s well being and psycho-emotional balance in this challenging situation. Let us do this together.

The balance, and implicit disciplines of spending work time and personal / family time, while at home is also something that may place relational issues which need to be worked out. Dealing with the news, the emerging fears, handling worries and emotional states, is something which we are very experienced in helping at through coaching. Thus, get in touch with us or tell us when to get in touch with you. It is the right time to do it.  It is the right action to launch. We look forward to hearing from you.

With our best regards and wishes of good health,
Your CoachReady

The Change Leader, according to Peter Drucker

We must accept that change is like “death and taxes” – it should be postponed as long as possible and no change would be vastly preferable, outlines Drucker.

Certainly, it’s painful and risky, and above all requires a lot of hard work. Unless an organization sees that its task is to lead change – whether a business, a university or a hospital, etc. – it will not survive.  In a period of rapid structural change the only organizations that survive are the change leaders, Drucker concludes.

To this author, a change leader sees change as an opportunity, seeks and knows how to find successful changes and how to make the most of them both inside and outside the organization.  This requires the following strategies:

  • Policies to create change.
  • Systematic methods to look for and to anticipate change.
  • Know the right way to introduce change inside and outside the organization.
  • Policies to balance change and continuity.

Listed below we summarize some aspects Drucker proposes for each one of these factors:

1. Policies to create change

Achieving openness to innovation in an organization is far from enough to become a change Leader. It can even be distracting,  because in order to be a change leader you need the will and the ability, to both alter what is already underway as well as doing new and different things.

The first policy – and the foundation to all other – is the need to abandon yesterday, a planned abandonment. The first requirement is to free resources from being committed to maintaining what no longer contributes to performance, and no longer produces results. It is not possible to create tomorrow unless one first sloughs off yesterday. However,  doing things differently always clashes with unexpected problems. For this reason, leadership must be exercised by people with great and proven capacity.

A change leader makes each product, each service, each project, each procedure,  “stand trial” and sentence them to life or death. And this should be done on a regular basis,  based on the following question: “If we were not doing this already, knowing what we know now, would we get into it now?”. If the answer is no, the reaction can’t be “let’s have another assessment”, but “What do we do now?”.

In these three cases, the right action is always outright abandonment, according to Drucker:

If a product, service, market or process “still has a few good years of life”. These dying products, services, or processes always demand the greatest care and the greatest efforts. They tie down the most productive and ablest people. But equally, a product, service or process should be abandoned if the only argument for keeping it is “It is fully written off.” The question should not be “How much have they cost?” but ” How much will they yield?”.

The third case where abandonment is the right policy – and the most important one-  is the one where, for the sake of maintaining the “old” or declining product, service, market or process the “new” and growing product, service or process is being stunted or neglected.

Abandonment may come in many forms. The right solution may be doing more of the same, but doing so in a different way.

That is why, after defining “what must be abandoned.”, the second question the change leader must ask is  “how to do it?”. Therefore he must ask himself the following question in reference to each product, service or process: “If we were to launch into this now, knowing what we know,  would we do so in the same way as we are currently doing it?”.

According to Drucker, this is a question the change leader needs to ask in relation to each successful product, service or process with the same seriousness and consistency as with unsuccessful products, services or processes.

This applies to all areas of the enterprise. But it applies with particular force to an area that many enterprises tend to neglect: distributors and distribution channels. In a time of rapid change distributors and distribution channels tend to change faster than anything else. And it is also on distributors and distribution channels that the “information revolution” is likely to have the greatest impact, as Drucker points out. The most obvious example is the impact of the e-commerce incursion on commercialization and marketing approaches and practices. Some data to illustrate this took place in the U.S. by the late 90s, more than half the purchases in the automotive industry were made over the Internet, relegating dealers to mere sale points.

The following policy for a change leader is what Drucker calls planned innovation, what Japanese know as “Kaizen”. This implies that whatever an enterprise does internally and externally needs to be improved systematically and continuously: products, services, processes, marketing, technology, training and development of people, use of information. Such improvements must be carried out at a preset annual rate: In most areas, as the Japanese have shown, an annual improvement rate of 3 percent is realistic and achievable.

However, continuous improvement requires an important decision.  What is “performance” in a given aspect? If we seek to improve performance – and this is naturally the goal of continuous improvement – we then need to define the meaning of “performance”. The essence here is to start from what is most valuable for customers, not limited to the quality of the product, but also considering services, speed, post-sale services, guarantee and others.

The other policy that a change leader must establish is the so-called exploitation of success. Drucker criticizes the “monthly reports” that most organizations perform and focus on highlighting problems, arguing that “problems can’t be ignored, and critical ones must be tackled. To be a change leader, companies have to focus on opportunities. They must starve problems and feed opportunities.”

In this regard, Drucker suggests a small but fundamental procedural change, an additional “first page” in the monthly report that should focus on results that are better than expected, whether in terms of sales, revenue, profits or volume.  Organizations that succeed as change leaders dedicate a whole morning or a full day to opportunities, and after that, they dedicate a second morning to problems.

Enterprises that succeed in being change leaders make sure they staff opportunities, they focus on the ablest most performing people, acknowledge them and assign them tasks that constitute the best opportunities. According to Drucker, this means that the first opportunity for successful change is making the most out of one’s own success and build on it.

The best example is the Japanese company Sony, it has built itself into one of the world’s leaders in a number of major businesses by systematically exploiting one success after the other. All Sony’s electronic products are based on a product that was not invented by Sony:  the magnetic tape recorder, making the most out of success they took the opportunity to improve the design into their following product and another after that, all based on the first products success and so on.

 

2. Systematic methods to look for and to anticipate change (Creating change)

Drucker holds that without the abandonment, improvement and success exploitation policies, no organization can expect to be a successful innovator. However, to be a successful change leader you must have a systematic innovation policy,  this promotes creating a company mindset towards becoming change leaders. This makes the entire organization to deem change as an opportunity.

In view of the above the company needs a systematic policy to find, every six or twelve months, changes that can result in opportunities within the aspects the specialist considers ” windows of opportunity”,  and point out the following:

The organizations own unexpected successes and unexpected failures, as well as competitors’ successes and failures. Incongruities in the process, whether productivity or distribution or customer’s behavior.

  • Process needs
  • Changes in the market and industry structure
  • Changes in demographics
  • New Knowledge

A change in any one of these areas raises the question:  “Is this an opportunity for us to innovate, that is,  to develop different products, services, processes? Does it indicate new and different markets and/or customers? New and different technologies? New and different distribution channels: Innovation can never be risk-free. But if innovations based on exploiting what has already happened it is far less risky than not to innovate by exploiting these opportunities.

Innovation is not a “flash of genius” It is hard work. And this work should be organized as a regular part of every unit within the enterprise, and of every level of management, Drucker makes clear.

What not to do? There are three traps to avoid, into which change leaders fall again and again.

The first trap is an innovation opportunity that is not in tune within certain realities discussed, this means, any identified opportunity must correspond to the trends in the company’s environment, in technological, economic, demographic, social and political aspects.

The second trap is to confuse “novelty” with “innovation.” The test of an innovation is that it creates value. A novelty only creates amusement. Yet, again and again, managements decide to innovate for no other reason than that they are bored doing the same thing or making the same product day in and day out. The question to consider on innovation-  besides the “quality” test- is not: “Do we like it?” It’s: “Do customers want it and will they pay for it?”

The third trap is confusing motion with action. Typically when a product, service or process no longer produces results and should be abandoned or changed radically, management “reorganizes.” Reorganization is often needed. But it comes after the action, that is, after the “what” and the “how” have been faced up to. By itself, reorganization is just “motion” and no substitute for action.

These three traps are so attractive that every change leader can expect to fall into one of them. There is only one way to avoid them, or to extricate oneself if one has stumbled into them: to organize the introduction of change, that is, to PILOT,  according to Drucker.

 

3. The right way to introduce change both inside and outside the organization (Piloting)

Enterprises increasingly use all kinds of market research and customer research to limit, if not eliminate, the risks of change. But one cannot market research the truly new. But also nothing new is right the first time. Invariably, problems that nobody even thought of crop up. It is almost a “law of nature” that anything that is truly new, whether product or service or technology, finds its major market and its major application not where the innovator and entrepreneur expected, and not for the use for which they designed the product, service or technology. And that, no market or customer research can possibly discover, states Drucker.

Neither studies, nor market research, nor computer modeling are substitutes for the test of reality. Everything improved or new needs therefore first to be tested on a small scale, that is, it needs to be piloted. The way to do this is to find somebody within the enterprise who really wants the new. Everything new needs a champion. It needs somebody who says: “I am going to make this succeed”, and who then goes to work on it. This person needs to be someone the organization respects. This need not even be somebody within, it could be a customer.

If the pilot test is successful – it finds the problems nobody anticipated but also finds the opportunities that nobody anticipated, whether in terms of design, of market, of service – the risk of change is usually quite small. And, it is usually also quite clear where to introduce the change, and how to introduce it, that is, what entrepreneurial strategy to employ.

Finally, successful change leadership requires appropriate accounting and budget policies.  It requires TWO separate budgets, Drucker makes clear. In most enterprises, there is only one budget, and it is adjusted to the business cycle.  In good times expenditures are increased across the board, In bad times expenditures are cut across the board. This, however practically guarantees missing out on the future.

The change leader’s firs budget is an operating budget that shows the expenditures to maintain the present business. This is normally 80 to 90 percent or so of all expenditures. The budget should always be approached with the question: “What is the minimum we need to spend to keep operations going?” And in poor times it should, indeed, be adjusted downward (though in good times most of it, probably, should not be adjusted upward, and certainly no more than volume and/or revenues increase).

And then the change leader has a second, separate budget for the future”. This budget remains stable throughout good times and bad times. It rarely amounts to more than 10-12% of an enterprise’s total expenditures. Very few of the expenditures for the future produce results unless maintained at a stable level over substantial periods. This goes for work on new products, new services, and new technologies; for the development of markets and customers and distribution channels, and above all, for the development of people.

The “future budget” should be approached with the question: “What is the maximum this activity can absorb to produce optimal results?” The amount should be maintained in good times or bad- unless times are so catastrophic that maintaining expenditures threatens the survival of the enterprise, suggests Drucker.

Now, the author alerts, the future budget also should include expenditures to exploit success. The most common, but also the most damaging, practice is to cut back on expenditures for successes, especially in poor times, so as to maintain expenditures for ongoing operations, and especially expenditures to maintain the past. The argument is always: “This product, service or technology is a success anyhow; it doesn’t need to have more money put into it.” But the right argument is: “This is a success, and therefore should be supported to the maximum possible.”  And it should be supported, especially in bad times, when competitors are likely to cut spending and therefore likely to create an opening.

 

4. Policies to balance change and continuity

The traditional institution is designed for continuity. It also explains why existing institutions face resistance to change. For traditional institutions, this is a contradiction in terms. Change leaders are, however, “designed” for change. And yet they still require continuity. People need to know where they stand. They need to know what they can expect. They do not function if the environment is not predictable, not known. But continuity is equally needed outside the enterprise. The enterprise also has to have a “personality” that identifies it among its customers and in its markets.

Therefore Drucker states, change and continuity are thus poles rather than opposites. The more an institution is organized to be a change leader, the more it will need to establish continuity internally and externally, the more it will need to balance rapid change and continuity. This balance will predictably be one of the major concerns of tomorrow’s management. But we do know already a good deal about how to create it. Some institutions are already change leaders and have tackled the problem, though not always solved it.

One way is to embrace the idea of partnerships in change as the grounds for continuing relationships. This is what the Japanese have done regarding the relationship between supplier and manufacturer, and what is now adopted fast in American business through “Economic-Chain Accounting” and is facilitated due to computer network interconnections. 

But relationships within the enterprise are also increasingly going to be partnerships – with employees of the organization, with people who work for an outsourcing firm but who are actually members of the enterprises own working teams. Balancing change and continuity requires continuous work on information. Nothing disrupts continuity and corrupts relationships more than poor or unreliable information. It has become routine for any enterprise to ask in the face of change, even the most minor one: “Who needs to be informed of this”?

It has to be a firm rule in any enterprise that wants to be successful as a change leader, that there are no surprises. Above all, there is a need for continuity in respect to the fundamentals of the enterprise: its mission, its values, its definitions of performance and results.

Finally, the balance between change and continuity has to be built in compensation, recognition and rewards. We long ago learned that an organization will not innovate unless innovators are properly rewarded. Similarly, we will have to learn, that an organization will have to reward continuity by considering, for instance, people who deliver continuing improvement are highly valuable to the organization, and as deserving of recognition and reward as the genuine innovator.

10 suggestions designed to boost motivation

It might seem obvious to say that motivation influences the efficiency of our day to day performance. What is harder to explain is why companies allocate limited resources to improving a factor that is obviously so important to their results.

An entrepreneur invited his employees to a fraternity meal. When it was time for dessert, he rose to deliver a speech.  During his speech he told a joke that caused great laughter among all participants but one. Later the entrepreneur asked, surprised at his seriousness: – Didn’t you find my joke funny? – I found it just as funny as all my colleagues, but I’m retiring tomorrow.

It’s evident to say that the motivation a person experiences, within the organization where they work, has great influence on the effectiveness and the efficiency of their daily performance. What is no longer easy to explain is why companies dedicate limited resources and simple (ineffective) strategies to improve an issue that seems evidently important to the results they obtain.

The focus set on motivation and the lack of actions in consequence, is probably the greatest paradox of all times, this contradiction seems largely due to the unclear or even lack of definitions of the term itself. The concept of motivation is as overused as it lacks proper significance, for example, when it is used represented by a circle to explain almost any behavior or the absence of it:

When someone is not working energetically it’s due to a “lack of motivation”, and we know this person is not feeling motivated because we observe he/she puts no energy in his work.

This seems more as a rhetorical explanation than a scientifically reasonable one. To try and shed some light on a more practical and measurable concept of motivation, we would like to share specific ideas that can be introduced in the organization from a professional coaching perspective, so every member can learn and develop them.

1. Motivation can be a cause but also a consequence

Sometimes, we need to trust motivation will come sooner or later. The people that work in the company, including those with managerial responsibilities, inevitably go through activity and mood peaks and spurs. We can also promote and maintain motivation by understanding it is a cyclical factor. In moments of “lower motivation” it can be useful to avoid putting pressure on employees, but it is a good time to promote planning and scheduling future tasks.  In other words, when the time is not right for creative work, it can be the right time to analyze and set new goals and polish methodologies.

Taking the time to plan when feeling discouraged is possibly the best way to motivate for the near future.

2. You can move to action without motivation

As a manager it is important to accept that neither you nor your employees will be highly motivated at all times. It is important to generate a work and collaboration context that depends on plans rather than on the prevailing mood. In other words, however the team is feeling the important issue is to do what must be done, what has already been planned.

When we demand motivation to get things done we are putting a lot of pressure on ourselves. When we are actively working, with or without the expected will, passion and interest may emerge from the activity itself. Inactivity only generates more inactivity. And it is contagious.

3. Motivation is not about being in the mood but having motives

Motivation does not depend on what we think or what we feel. We tend to overestimate the influence that our emotions and our thoughts have over our motivation and our actions. A great deal of people are not happy going to work every morning and withstand negative thoughts and emotions in this regard, but nevertheless they go to work and even work in a good mood On the other hand,  some people stay back home and avoid going to work, and then turn out  feeling discouraged for not attending their jobs.

Many people are discouraged at first when doing something,  but have good reasons for doing so,  and end up doing it for most of their lives. This is because mood and motivation are two very different things

If you think or feel you are not enthusiastic about work, may be if you start working you will soon feel like doing so.

The employer should not focus directly on employees emotions, to avoid emotional manipulation or instrumentalization. He should only try to give his employees reasons to come to work and to want to do so. 

4. Motivation depends on the context

People do not feel “motivated at all times”, our motivation is contextual, temporal and specific, it is related to an activity in a certain time and place.  The way in which we apply our skills  varies according to the context and the situation in stake. Talent comes to light or not depending on the motivation in each different context.

A person with great commercial skills can seem incompetent when dealing with administrative tasks and vice versa.  Other people can be very efficient in their individual performance but can be inefficient when it comes to team work.

Most people know what they have to do, the problem is that they do not do so, or at least not in every situation.

Telework can be a great solution to increase performance and satisfaction for workers within certain profiles and tasks; on the other hand others need a more conventional work scenario. Context can educate habits and routine habits provide power to the context, mainly professional contexts.

5. Motivation is based on setting goals

A person that does not set professional goals and aims, by definition, is a person that lacks motivation, and is often discouraged. Usually these kind of persons enjoy and feel further involved, as for example in their jobs, if they are asked to set their own daily and/or weekly goals.

When there’s a will there’s a way: more and better planning results in more and better motivation.

Your motivation will improve if you set achievable and concrete goals, and will also spring up if you enjoy independence and confidence.

6. Motivation is not what you would do, it is what you actually do

In social contexts such as work, there are higher chances that what we say we intend to do is not aligned with our real motivation.  As in the tale of the host and the pianist.

Don’t seek for motivation based on conditional grounds, ” If I had a better boss I am sure….; don’t spend time in what you would do if… You will easily find your interests inquiring on what you currently do on a daily basis. Do you want to be more motivated? Then maybe you’ll be interested in this idea:

Discover what you like to do based on what you are already doing and dedicate more time to it.

Don’t waste your professional life in the hope motivation will someday grow out of nowhere, organize your life based on what you are passionate about, even if its slowly,  work to make it grow. Don’t assume your current roles at work are necessarily the final ones. Even the company might not be the final one.

7. Motivation must never become an obsession

Why is it people are so concerned about motivation? Motivation is something you either have or don’t. If you are not motivated, why worry? If you are not motivated it must be because you are nor concerned enough so as to do something about it. So, if you are not motivated to act, why worry? It’s preferable to accept who you are and move on, than to feel troubled about it.

Too many people are constantly thinking they need to turn their lives around, especially concerning work-related issues, fantasizing about dramatic changes. This attitude generally prevents them from enjoying the benefits of their current jobs and relationships, and doesn’t let them focus on small everyday passions and interests that could gradually result in real changes. We could even say that when you wish for uncertain things you may lose those that are certain.

If you are not happy with your professional life but are not willing to do anything to change matters, you probably aren’t as unhappy as you thought.

Stop worrying about what you should be doing, especially when you don’t have the time or the will to do them, and focus on what you are already doing.

8. Motivation comes form “within” but arises from “outside”

Is  motivation intrinsic or extrinsic? Motivation works like those little boats we see inside bottles,  they look natural but you don’t really know how they actually got there, the procedure, experience, time and effort required to get them there. Managers timeworn debate on internal or intrinsic motivation and external or extrinsic motivation seems pointless.

Employers say they prefer motivated workers that already come from home wearing a smile. But they surely acquired that work motivation that seems to flow so naturally, from some previous professional or personal experience within another company or workplace.

But you can’t expect anyone to unleash their “internal motivation” if they don’t have it. They never acquired it. Organizations and educational centers seek to create conditions in which they may generate motivation, hoping this trait can be internalized as an idiosyncratic characteristic.

We can all change our motivation, and find the way to gradually put whichever little boat we wish inside the bottle. How? It is a simple task that involves time, planning and effort. As all good things. If you want to feel motivated to do things or achieve the goals you have set, organize your life and your habits in order to increase possibilities, especially in the context of work.

9. Motivation is idiosyncratic: A criticism of the “theories of motivation in human resources”

Is there really enough scientific knowledge to endorse all the bragging on how motivation really works?

Let’s be consistent with humanistic principles and accept that motivation is idiosyncratic and unique, it depend mostly on each individuals previous experiences that are also the ones that shaped his/her interests and motivators, his/her needs and current situation.

Those who wish to find explanatory models of motivation and quote this or that theory, are seeking for a cheap way to encourage their human resources department and prove the worthiness of a commercial and scalable concept of production applied equally to all.

A motivation for all people does not exist, motivation is for each particular person at a determined time and place.

The true purpose of a human resources professional is to understand the motivational bias of each of its interim clients in the field that may concern the organization.

The “personnel department” only makes sense if they focus on motivation as a unique trait regarding each person.

10. Motivation as a challenge

One of the usual activities in coaching processes is encouraging the client to set or find challenging goals, that are true  achievable motivators. This is a conversation that took place in a mill at the end of the day, shortly before the night shift arrived:

How is it possible that a man of your skills can’t get this mill to achieve its real yield? asked Schwab, the factory’s manager.    – I don’t know, I have asked the workers to work harder, I have set the example, I have threatened to fire them, but nothing works.   – Schwab asked for a piece of chalk Turning to the nearest worker he asked: – How many heats did your shift make today?

Without another word,  Schwab chalked a big number 6 on the floor and walked away. As the night shift arrived they saw the 6 and asked what it meant, and they were explained. When the day shift arrived on the following morning they saw the number 6 had been replaced by a huge number 7. Soon this mill, which had been lagging way behind in production results, began to yield more than any other mill in the plant ( How to win friends and influence people, Dale Carnegie, p228.)

The way to get things done is to stimulate competition,  the desire to outdo oneself.

Loneliness in Leadership

Being the boss is fine… or probably not so. As a general rule, you earn more money, make the decisions you want and do not depend on others. But, at the other end of the scale- the exercise of power, generally, carries the heavy burden of loneliness. What can you do to avoid it?

If you are not ready to come to terms with loneliness, then you better get another job, in which other people make decisions for you. When you take on the challenge of creating or directing a company, you know perfectly well what the position entails,” states Mª Angeles Tejada, CEO at Select Group, a temporary employment company.

In her opinion, that ‘loneliness in power’ is very much related to the responsibility undertaken: “Ultimately, managing means making decisions. People are afraid of making mistakes, failing or being rejected; everything is fine as long as you are not committed to something, but as soon as you express your opinion you are a prisoner of your own words. This is the main reason why young people have a hard time calling the shots and taking risks.

“Loneliness in Leadership”  is a fact,  so you rather tackle it sooner than later. And it becomes present in many different scenarios and situations, some  are  memorable –  and can be overcome with more or less difficulty –  others can become mayor problems if they are not handled with great skill and in due time. How many leaders can say they have not felt ousted or ignored when approaching, for example, the coffee machine, and subordinates lower the tone of their voice or change the topic of their conversation? Or when making decisions that may affect employees, hasn’t felt they were carrying a huge burden on their backs? Or has felt compelled to put personal concerns aside, avoid revealing potential weaknesses that makes one look vulnerable in the eyes of others. Or when questioning whether it is convenient or not to have friends within the team they lead. Or when…These are only some of the many assumptions we analyze throughout this article. And with the cooperation of several experts consulted, we suggest how to avoid and address situations in order to mitigate or suppress permanently any concern on loneliness.

1. Distrust

A good leader must inspire confidence, but also needs to know when to keep proper distance. Therefore, one of the main symptoms in leader’s loneliness is the mistrust it may generate in some employees. Miguel Bonet, advisor at Select, explains this with an anecdote: “One of my friends that worked in a furniture company would tell me, ever since he had been promoted to manager, no one ever asked him to join them for a smoking break.

Suggestion: Jose Manuel Casado, Talent & Organization Performance and Partner at Accenture, believes there are many privileges in being a leader, and many responsibilities as well. One of them is the need to earn the trust of those working for you. “This is essential in order to accomplish a real commitment towards what your employees do”. However, Bonet aims at a sometimes insurmountable barrier:  the widespread belief that “a boss is never in a position of equality towards others; the subordinates always set distance with the decision maker.

For example, we unconsciously believe we can’t become close to whom decides on our salary or income. This is inevitable, but we must avoid an excessive distance between the leader and the employees.” What’s the answer to this? According to Tejada, if in spite everything you cannot transmit an acceptable level of confidence, you can compensate for this loneliness with a rich emotional and personal life.

 2. Isolation

This is one of the other core symptoms of loneliness in leadership. Many easily recognizable situations arise on a day to day basis. For example, when you summon a meeting and the participating employees sit at a distance or avoid sitting next to you. Yo may also notice this attitude or sensation when running into your employees, for example, at the coffee machine or other common areas, and as you go by they become silent or swap the topic of there conversation, or you are even left aside.

Suggestion: Miquel Bonet advises managers to try not to isolate from their employees and, mainly, from their close working team: “If you do so, you will prevent them from getting to know you, and no one enthusiastically endorses someone they do not know”.

Anyway, Jose Manuel Casado highlights the fact that many leaders might feel isolated on several occasions, but points out that this only applies to bad leaders: “Those who on a daily basis like to underscore the fact that THEY are the authority within the company or correspond.

José Manuel Casado wishes to remind this type of leaders a quote from the Italian Niccolo Machiavelli: “You do not need to be a genius to accomplish great things. You must not be above men but among them”.

3. Friendless

Some friendships are broken when someone is promoted and turns into his friends’ boss. Other times, when someone becomes a close friend of the boss. Is it convenient to have friends within the company? Some experts state that leaders usually do not have friends. Sometimes, getting along too well with an employee leads to misconceptions.

Suggestion: Some experts argue that the company is not a place to make friends, but also agree that not getting on with the boss serves no purpose. Tejada explains: “You must know your employees and interest in their lives and not expect them to approach you”. According to Casado, leaders as all human beings, need and must have friends, feel loved and appreciated.

“However, it is preferable they are not within the company. Making decisions is generally an emotional process, but proves to be more rational when there are no feelings involved”.

This expert states there is a positive side in getting along with people within the company, but hesitates when it comes to friendship,  ” unless they are colleagues or at peers”.

4. The dilemma of decision-making

When changes affect people, there is no doubt that decisions are harder to take Bonet remembers when a top executive and businessman once confessed that nothing ever made him feel as lonely as the time when he had to fire someone who had worked for him for a number of years. “Even if you are right, you feel miserable, a kind of executioner”. According to Bonet this is the authentic loneliness

Suggestion: If all decisions managers take need too be thoughtful, those affecting people should be even more thoughtful. According to Tejada, values are a person’s most important assets. For this reason, “Your actions must reflect your values”. I recommend you make a daily mental assessment of the decisions you have made. Casado also advises, before deciding; gather sufficient information to guarantee you decide on the best alternative”.

 5. Resistance to change

Uncertainty in the face of changes makes most people rather keep things just as they are at all times. For this reason, most managers find themselves lonely when they need to introduce structural, organizational or any other kind of business changes.

Suggestion: Most people don’t like changes, because we get used to situations where we feel in relative comfort It’s necessary to listen to everyone, as Tejada advises, and explain the need and the benefits resulting from change, even though the last word on the decision is the sole responsibility of the leader. Casado explains that resistance to change is inherent to mankind: “In the face of changes, even if they are positive changes, there is always a certain degree of resistance generated by a feeling of insecurity”.

 6. I need to get it of my chest and I can’t

We need to vent every now and then. For example, when professional life collides with personal life or when we are overwhelmed by problems that need to be resolved (some colleagues believe leaders don’t have personal issues) Some leaders find it difficult to show their outrage or the burden they carry, because they are concerned about exposing their weaknesses and vulnerabilities.

Suggestion: Tejada considers we should not be prisoners of rage, weakness or frailties. He advises “Do not complain, especially not in front of your subordinates”. In addition, he advises you surround  with ‘positive’ people and participate in circles of people that hold similar responsibilities, in order to understand how they face their problems and feel stimulated by their stories.

Casado ensures we all need a safe haven, the higher the pressure the more we need it. Each leader must find some kind of entertainment that allows him to forget, from time to time, his concerns. “This exercise is necessary for an adequate mental health. Each person must find their own”

 7. The leader who knew too much

The impossibility to share certain information with other employees may be understood, to some extent,  as a lack of understanding, and therefore leads to loneliness. Often enough the members of the board of directors ask themselves why the president made a certain decision when all the reports and opinions indicated otherwise. Possibly, the president had access to information the other members had no knowledge of. Sometimes, the boss is compelled to adopt a decision based on information that only he or a few others have access to.

Suggestion: In these cases, Tejada advises that before accepting suggestions from your employees, it is best to know the answer to certain problems that they might introduce. On the other hand, Casado highly recommends leaders to flee from what we know as “paralysis by analysis”: “Trying to have all, absolutely all the information, is not only inefficient but impossible”. In his opinion, understating the decision making process is a matter that would benefit all leaders.

 8. Leaders are always criticized

Some times for having taken certain decisions, others for not adopting them and others due to the consequences of their decisions. According to experts, when one takes the right decision, or just gets things done the right way, “being acknowledged by your employees is rare. If yo get things done the right way, its how it had to be done and it’s usually considered the teams accomplishment. And if it turns out wrong, its your problem, because the rest of the team was following your orders”.

Suggestion: According to Casado, leaders should pay attention to objective critiques, because only these can lead to improvement. “Many leaders, believing in their own divinity, mistakenly consider they own the one and only truth and do not accept any other interpretation of the facts”. This expert emphasizes that many leaders are obsessed in trying to control everything that surrounds them, “and seem to be the only ones who know the truth, their truth. And when a co-worker offers his contribution or dares to correct them, they do not hear what they are being told, but what they want to hear”.

On the other hand, Tejada advises leaders not to isolate when facing criticisms. “It is important to keep in mind that leaders are often criticized”, so they need to come to terms with certain situations and not give them more significance than necessary.

 9. Sense of risk

Leadership is achieved, fundamentally, with attitude and learning from experience. However, experience comes from making mistakes. If you never make mistakes, it’s because you are not taking risks. But sometimes, one feels very lonely when taking too many risks.

Suggestion: According to Bonet, it is easy to say mistakes are part of success, because they inspire innovation, create opportunities and provide opportunities to learn. “But the responsibility you feel when taking decisions or the sense of guilt, concerns only the bearer”. For this reason, leaders must know how to get along with loneliness. Tejada states ” if you are not willing to take risks, you are not worthy of being a leader”.

In order to minimize mistakes, experts advise that “when making difficult decisions, try to sleep well the night before, and to solve any problem, observe from a distance and do so alone”. Casado claims that taking controlled risks is an essential task for any executive. “Only by risking a little can you innovate and change things. Conservative decisions, as its names suggests, conserves, and those that are a little more risky, transform and change the status quo”.

10. Stimulate initiative

Creativity and initiative are not always available at our convenience. When something unexpected happens, something that is not within regular procedures, “you notice that everyone looks at you and no one speaks out, no one offers ideas, unless you ask someone directly”. This lack of initiative is usually because everyone always expects the boss to provide ideas and make decisions.

Suggestion: Tejada suggests we surround ourselves at work by an autonomous and independent team. In this way, they will have a greater ability to act and take leading roles. On the other hand, Casado suggests that “if we want our collaborators to take initiatives, we must encourage them to participate, seek for forums and create procedures that promote they come up with ideas of their own, and more importantly, tolerate mistakes”.

This expert assures that “if you do it this way and establish an acknowledgment system, this problem will not exist”.

How affected are you by the opinion of others?

“We are as exposed to criticism as we are to the flu”

Friedrich Dürrenmatt

We are all under the magnifying glass. People constantly judge our actions, thoughts and feelings, and we evaluate theirs. Sooner or later we all face criticism: your boss gives you feedback on your performance, your teacher underlines your mistakes in the paper you delivered,  your girlfriend makes you see how impolite you were at dinner with her family. So, you have no control over the appreciation people have of you. But you do have control on your response to their appraisal.

Some persons have learned how to deal with criticism and others are more sensitive. Highly sensitive people over react, shout, cry or get defensive. Why? They over-react because disapproval generates core insecurities and painful memories of stressful experiences, such as regrets and severe punishments from their childhood. They cry because they do not know how to deal with the unexpected. They get defensive because their hurt ego responds with outrage: “How can you say I am explosive, when I am calm at all times?”.

At some degree we are all sensitive to what others think of us. And there is no reason to feel ashamed. However, if you wish to, you can develop the ability to make the most out the judgments you are subject to. Below you will find some ideas on how to overcome  being susceptible to other peoples judgments.

All opinions are valid. It is normal for others to form an opinion about you, your work and how you think and act. Some may like your style and others may not, some like you and other consider you unfriendly. It’s impossible to please everyone. And you know this very well.

“The positive reviews are the worst. They are misleading because all they do is boost your ego. Then, all you want is more”

Chazz Palminteri

It’s easier to accept positive opinions, when someone says you are good looking, generous or that they consider you a good partner or an exceptional employee. You generally listen and accept these ideas gladly, because they usually match your own appreciation.

But, why don’t we welcome those opinions that differ from our own? The problem is that we assess opinions as good or bad. We easily accept positive ones and are reluctant to accept the negative ones,  so we miss out a great deal of the feedback we are given. The key is to remove both good and bad labels, listen in a neutral manner, assimilate the information and see what we can learn from them. The following is a Chinese story that, precisely, refers to our trend to constantly evaluate our experiences.

A farmers happiness depended basically on two things: what happened to his horse and to his son. One day, when he woke up, he discovered his horse had ru0n away. “This is bad”, he said and became depressed. However, when he woke up on the following day, the horse was back, so the farmer said, “good”, and was very happy. A day later, whilst riding his horse, his son fell off and broke his leg. Once again, the farmer said, “This is bad” and sank in his sorrow. But the next day, the army marched into the village and enlisted all  healthy young men to fight in the war. And, of course, the farmers son was let off due to his broken leg. Then, the farmer said, “good”, and was filled with joy.

Sometimes, what at first sight appears as a setback is a blessing in disguise. And what seems good at first glance is actually harmful. The farmer was on an emotional roller coaster based on the good and bad labels he attributed to each event.

“To show resentment at a reproach is to acknowledge that one may have deserved it”

Tacitus

If you find it difficult to accept comments from others, or your emotional reaction is out of proportion, perhaps there is some truth in what you hear.  Give critiques the benefit of doubt: perhaps  you do act recklessly  when drinking alcohol; maybe  you do behave a little obsessive regarding house order;  you possibly are arriving a little late to work meetings. Admitting that there is some truth in what you are told can be  painful, but it is also a good opportunity to make changes on a personal level.

But, in many occasions, what makes it painful is not what they say but how they say it. If this is the case,  it would be appropriate to admit the opinion was spot on and request they say it in a more polite manner. Generally, It’s possible to do so at work, at school, with friend or with our partner.

These are ways in which criticism can be used in your favor. The less sensitive you are to others judgments, the stronger you will be to cope with difficult situations.

Fear of not achieving goals

Many executives in commanding positions are faced with the reality of fear, uncertainty or doubt in achieving the goals they have been assigned. Read this article so you can learn why this happens and how to develop healthier ways to handle these situations.

Fear, as from an emotional point of view, intends to protect us from a threat. If you are warned that your office is on fire, fear moves you both physically and mentally to run and save your life.

But there are also fears that are psychological. These are generated when there is no real threat in your environment, but you feel threatened when you are assigned a goal you must achieve and you fear you may fail, you fear not being able to achieve it, or be seen as incompetent and lose your value as a person and as a worker.

At first, the purpose of this fear is to protect yourself from all these experiences, but unfortunately you will also paralyze, you’ll avoid taking risks, and might feel insecure when making decisions, seem inhibited, you fear being exposed in the eyes of your team and  this will affect your power and influence as a leader.

As a result: It will be even harder to achieve the goals you were set at work.      

The core issue is the lack of self confidence, low self-esteem. Doubting your skills and resources to successfully achieve goals, or those expected from you, notwithstanding how good intentions one might have.

For this reason, your main focus should be to strengthen your self-concept, the image you have of yourself, emphasize your talents and virtues in your own eyes and specifically work reinforcing the need to build a solid foundation within yourself.

These are some actions that will help you:

1. Prepare an inventory of your qualities and talents.

Read this inventory every day and seek to deepen on one quality each day.

Let’s say for example you are warm-hearted. Look up in the dictionary the meaning of warm-hearted. Today you will decide three ways to project this quality. At the end of the day, remember how you put into practice projecting this virtue, and fill yourself with pride in it.

Then, go through the same procedure with your next quality. The goal of this exercise is to strengthen your talents in your own eyes.

2. Keep a diary with your success stories.

If possible, write something down every day, all those small and big things that made you feel stronger and successful throughout the day. After a week, read all you have written and evoke in your mind how you felt at the time.

The purpose of this exercise is for you to realize you have the potential for achievement within yourself. If you could do this once, it means you can do it twice.

3. Meet with successful executives or with those you admire.

Ask them what goes through their mind when they are assigned a new goal or challenge they must accomplish. Ask them for recommendations or tips on how to meet the challenge with a wining attitude. You will learn a lot from them!

4. Performs visualizations.                       

Imagine fulfilling your goal to 100%, what you will hear and feel when you achieve your goal. If you have trouble visualizing, then write down on a sheet of paper as if it had already materialized, include visual, auditory and emotional elements.

Read through your story or narrative consistently and enjoy the process. Preferably in a relaxed place, upon awakening or before sleeping.

The purpose of this exercise is to program your mind for success. When one is afraid, the first things that come to your mind are dramatic scenes, the worst scenario, so the problem is further exacerbated. For this reason, we have to train our mind to think positive, directing it towards what it wants, not what it doesn’t want.

Be tenacious. The brain has a great capacity to learn new ways of reacting to the environment, but perseverance will allow you to conquer the sweetness of victory.

So the strength of your leadership will not come from outside, but from within yourself, you will feel greater power and dominion of your circumstances, thus reflecting a strong and decided leadership, you will have much more influence within your work-team. Results will just work out for themselves

Who says you can’t?

Why does Leadership Development fail?

the forest of leadership development

I was curious about the many ways people who I interact with, refer to Leadership in the most different situations and contexts. How has this term come to define so many different things while trying to have them all synthesized under one term? How did that expectation influence what organizations are anticipating to receive when hiring Leadership Development Consultants or programs? Let us enter this forest of Leadership Development..

Keywords: Leadership Development | Reading time: 10 min

Using any search engine to look up Leadership Development will result in discovering millions of entries around the subject. Curious about the results those programs deliver, I was still more surprised by many articles referring to the limited efficacy or plain failure in relation to what was expected.

Leadership as a concept has been around for a sufficiently long time as to be pretty clear about what it involves, right? Well, if that is so, where is the gap between what is expected and what is achieved given the myriad of Leadership Development programs offered around the world? It is such a wide and deep subject, when explored, that it allows for many diverse interpretations and understandings at both sides of the Leadership Development Contracting Relation.

Leadership has become the all involving term for quite different development purposes. From the clients view, what is the definition of Leadership to be developed, and what are the programs offered to support that development? Is there enough time devoted for researching and understanding what kind of leadership the client hopes to promote and multiply among its executive ranks? How clear, actually, is the distinction between Management and Leadership in the effectiveness assumptions of those who use the service?

Even further, how relevant or not is the distinction if what is actually expected is an improved version of ” Bossing”?

Several years ago, possibly together with the emergence of what is called the Knowledge Society, a trend of new requirements to deal with social change emerged as well. Suddenly it seemed that Management was not enough to run business anymore. It needed to upgrade itself to Leadership through acquisition of a new palette of behavioral skills. So businesses started requiring executives to become leaders in order to achieve results. Employees started referring to their bosses as “my leader”. People managing a new project would be named Project Leader, and many functional behaviors previously called Management turned into Leadership. Linguistic and meaning confusion helped its part, and Management Training pretended to evolve into Leadership Development. It boomed as a service and the search for providers of this services as well.

Yet, in my own experience, after several years of listening to thousands of strategic executives at every hierarchical level and range complain about the lack of leadership of their superiors, we can only ask ourselves what happened with the billions already invested in Leadership development programs all over the world. It seems these programs do either not work, or they simply do not create sustainable leadership capacities in the persons who enter those programs.

 

Leadership development programs may fail because of three central reasons:

 

  1. They do not approach the heart of the matter in their content.
  2. They do not generate and deliver the content in the right context or dynamics
  3. Both of the above simultaneously.

How come and why? I will not pretend to give a unique answer to such a complex matter but I will propose mine here, and let us explore further. Gregory Bateson said that most of the problems we face as a species arise from the difference between how nature works and how we humans think. Thus, our rational assumptions of what makes leadership work are mostly wrong.

We may be forgetting our human nature when creating Behavioral Change Programs with just performance results in mind as an objective.

We may fall into different thought traps, mostly through distorted semantics, or “new words for old meanings” (e.g.: way too often we hear “Human Capital” and “Headcount” in the same phrase).

We may think that pointing the benefits of modifying attitudes or behaviors, people will immediately be willing to change for their own good. Yet, unfortunately, that does not happen.

We may think that if we learn the behavioral techniques that make us act, appear and be looked at in a certain way, we will impact in others so as to make them behave differently than previously. Unfortunately, this is not the way it works.

When you look at most of the usual Leadership Development Programs, you can detect quite fast, that the content approaches a functional perspective. They do so in order to TRAIN managers to improve their leadership behaviors, instead of INSPIRING the discovery and surfacing the of the genuine human leadership connection in those executives with a vocation for it.

The very core question and reflection is what for you are doing what you do.

Are you looking at what you do from a receiving perspective (what do I get from this) or are you doing it from a contributing perspective (what benefit do the others get from this)? This defines and changes it all, regardless if you are the HR executive, the coach or consultant, the participant in the leadership program.

As an HR executive, are you deeply willing to give each individual the opportunity to find his unique leadership assets, or do you want to fulfill the leadership development objectives agreed in the yearly plans agreed with your colleagues?

As a coach, do you really want to help every single participant to connect with her or his own nature and discover the ways in which they naturally influence and impact in their teams and life stakeholders, or do you want to deliver what the contracting proposal required by the client established in order to keep the commercial relation fluent?

As a participant of a leadership program, do yo want to really unfold your nature in order to give the best of yourself in connection to what each of your team members needs to work in a more meaningful and committed way, or do you want to apply learned techniques in order to get them to deliver the planned business results?

If you tend to relate more to the first option in each question, there is nothing right or wrong with it. But please become aware of it. Strategies do not fail because they are wrong. They fail because they are inconsistent, declaring one thing but intimately expecting or doing another. If you expect stronger Management, that is great. But do not call it a Leadership Development Program. Call it a Management Training program. The differences are subtle but powerful. Just check the skills worked on in usual leadership programs.

Listening skills? Trust Building skills? Strategic Vision-promoting Abilities? Communication skills? Resources administration? Conflict solving? Every soft and thought skill available? Yes and yes – yes to all !

Now, what is the underlying purpose of that development? What for do we want to listen better? What for do we want to create a shared vision and for whose intimate benefit? Would we listen in order to see what drives that worker so as to get the best out of him for the companies interest, or would we like participants to really empathize with someone else as a person?

Do we want to promote the strategic vision the board has defined, thus complying with our superiors directives, or do we want to create a shared team vision that has everybody getting out of bed in the morning knowing and wanting to do what everyone around is willing to achieve?

Do we want to learn how to inform more and better down the ranks, (something most bosses claim as done when faced with a new climate survey that shows communication in the last places) or do we really want to open a two or multiple way of real communication, so that everyone feels listened to?

Do we want to manage resources by reducing staff and getting everybody to cut Capex on a steady ongoing basis, or do we want to create new sources and streams of benefit by fostering creativity and innovative thinking?

In short, do we want to lead in order to receive quick returns or to give long term improvement? The receiving or contributing perspective changes it all. The getting perspective will unavoidably turn into an executives functional improvement approach. They will learn skills and techniques. The contributing perspective will most probably deliver an executives transformational and evolutionary journey that allows to understand what unique personal virtues are inspiring and liked by followers.

Please think about this for a moment: The paradoxical failure of Leadership Development Programs is that they focus too much on The Leader, and too little on what makes human professionals choose to become followers

Leadership is not about GETTING leaders attributes and practicing behaviors.

Leadership is not about learning a set of attitudes, a set of new behaviors, a set of new techniques.

Leadership is not about Training in order to get other peoples response to our needs.

Real Leadership is not something you train. It is something you help discover, or re-discover within, and give out to influence and inspire others, who will freely choose to become followers.

It is about GIVING what each individual holds for good, regardless of the fact that two leaders may have opposing views of this, the central point being the underlying honest belief and authenticity with which they practice their views.

It is about sharing driving values and understanding how differing values may bring diversity in the teams cooperative attitudes, and promoting that each one gets into his or her natural path of contribution.

It is about clarifying ethics understood as the shared ways and rules of interaction.

It is about promoting respect for others, for their doubts and fears, in such a way that the leader can help in generating the courage in others for acting despite fear.

It is giving one’s own knowledge to propose a vision and an understanding from which the team or company members may disagree or not, and keeping on evolving that vision until it is agreed and shared.

Leadership is about contributing ones own self to a creative and transforming purpose, and in its deep, true honesty promote an energy which becomes inspiring for others.

Leadership is about trust, straightforwardness and transparency. It requires the intellectual honesty that unfolds credibility

Leadership is about connecting with what makes us human. Connecting with others by knowing the basic needs of relation, appreciation, recognition.

It is about being able to understand the human condition. To knowing that effective commitment to ultimate shared purposes is a matter of generosity, compassion and love.

Purpose is all about meaning, and meaning is about care of others. Care of what is important to them.

 

Is there a solution for approaching Leadership Development in a sustainable way?

 

Of course. Mostly everything has a solution. First thing is being clear of what you are really hoping for. Look for the right questions rather than the quick answers.

Fast or rhythmically? Better direction or increased influence? Management or Leadership? Economic results or cultural transformation? Professional effectiveness or personal growth? Now, how do you create the spaces of time and discovery for those aspects to seed, nourish and flourish in a world ruled by quarterly earnings reports?

It is important to make up ones own mind regarding real possibilities. Do you have the time and economic resources? Then go for a well tailor-made program for an, at least, mid term one-to-one transformational leadership program. Some cost way less than you might expect and are way more effective. Should you need quick behavioral attitudes that make better bosses, go for a management education or training program. Management programs can be well delivered and deployed in shorter time spaces.

Are you ready to receive challenges to your perspectives in order to get to the real transforming needs, or do you prefer to have “polite box-tickers” as ideal suppliers? Look for fundamentals. Choose the suppliers who fit what they promise, and can explain, not only from their own experience as managers and leaders, but also from strong and sound theoretical perspectives, why what they propose will work. Pay attention to the fact that empathy, trust, meaning, compassionate realism, ethics, courage, fear, love, are all fundamental aspects of what it means to be human, and requires to be addressed with according care. Quite too often those who only explain the dynamics that tick the boxes are chosen and the results give origin to what I deal with in this article.

Pay special attention to what the suppliers are asking themselves. Are they just politely taking notes and agreeing to everything or are they mostly concerned with the mid to long term sustainability of what they will be helping to transform?

I would be more than happy to exchange with you and reflect on this thoughts. If you feel like it please let me know at tkottner@coachready.com [Thomas Köttner – Managing Partner and Coaching Program Strategy Director at CoachReady]