Month: May 2014

Resilience is the new skill for managing when change is the norm

By Fleur Heazlewood 

Many of the people I coach and mentor are regularly overwhelmed by competing priorities, reactionary work requests, limited communication, reduced resources, prolonged stress and excessive work hours. For many, these working patterns started as the result of a temporary change at work – a staff member leaving and not being replaced, the merging of departments, a new client coming on board – which were absorbed at the time only to become the new norm months after the ‘temporary’ event has passed.

A recent UK study* has shown that organisations continuing to focus on headcount reduction as an ongoing cost reduction strategy experience intensifying managerial labour and created an environment in which managers increasingly feel the necessity to work harder, to work faster, to increase their volume of work, work longer hours with an erosion of control over how they do their jobs. As a result of the pace, scale and intensity of change and often overlapping waves of change, manager’s views of organisational change were overwhelmingly negative: 68% experienced reduced job security, 70% reduced morale, 64% reduced motivation and 53% experienced reduced wellbeing at work.

When embarking on organisational change, it is imperative for senior management to fully consider the impact on the volume and pace of work that those affected by the change will have to cope with. A successful, sustainable change plan must support employee transition and wellbeing in addition to any technical, process and structural change projects. Contact us for consultancy support in this area.

Resilience is emerging as a new core skill for managing in an environment when change is the norm. Resilience is simply defined as the quality that enables people to bounce back when life knocks them over. The good news is that all of us are born with resilience, and we all have the ability to increase our resilience. The major factor in determining how we deal with the obstacles in the road in front of us is our attitude.

As individual managers we can’t always control the obstacles or blocks in our path, but we can choose how we deal with them. Skills we can develop that will support our resilience and wellbeing include self-awareness, flexibility, focus, mindfulness, boundary setting and enforcing, accountability, self-care, confidence and creating effective support networks.

* UK Study: Worral, L and Cooper C.L, (2012) The quality of working like 2012: Managers’ wellbeing, motivation and productivity. The CMI/ Simplyhealth Quality of Working Life Survey. London. CMI


By Travis Kemp

It’s one of those complicated terms that is etched into our psyche at a very young age…


It’s usually referred to in relation to ‘elders’, the law, authority, ‘years of service’, ‘experience’, your parents (grand, uncles and aunts included) or your ‘boss’.

Of course, like most ‘simple values’, it’s actually infinitely more complex than that…

… and unfortunately, it’s often inaccurately defined as;

“You demonstrating the behaviour that makes my life easier and smoother by agreeing with me and doing what I’m telling you to do, when I tell you to do it, without asking me hard questions or pushing-back and making sure you meet my needs without me feeling confronted, hassled, incompetent or wrong”

Hence, many managers have a hard time making sense of this complexity… but a couple of clarifications might help…

No, politeness doesn’t mean respect… It provides the illusion of it…

No, compliance doesn’t mean respect… It hides the absence of it…

No, absence of conflict doesn’t mean respect… It suffocates authenticity and creativity

No, flattery and sycophancy  aren’t respect… These are the currency of a fear-driven culture

Actually, Respect is much like Trust in many ways… You can grant it and you can earn it…

When you grant it, and those to whom you’ve granted it to fail to honour it, it’s lost… and very difficult to find again…

On the other hand, when it’s earned, a single dis-respectful act can cause irreparable damage to it…

Mediocre Managers rely on the post-industrial economy’s structural solution to building respect; the organisational chart. 

With this tool in hand, Managers who were incapable, incompetent  or simply not interested in building and nurturing respect were protected by a safety net; The management hierarchy.

But in today’s connection economy, we’ve moved on from the reductionist and simplistic view of the organisation being a rigid structure.

Leaders understand that earning respect takes time… and that it’s demonstrated through their authentic behaviour over time… it’s built through engagement… by doing what you say you’re going to do, demonstrating integrity, courage, consistency, skill and knowledge, sound judgement and transparency…

Most importantly, it is only sustainable when it is reciprocal

Unlike the fear-driven Managers of old, great Leaders in the connection economy nurture generative conflict… they encourage their people to be outspoken; to challenge the hierarchy; to be irreverent and question what they don’t believe…

Anxious Leaders avoid this at all cost…

If you need to resort to pulling rank, shouting orders, disciplining your people and giving directives to gain respect, you lost it a long time ago…

…and here’s a tip… the behaviour you’re demonstrating is not (and was never) worthy of respect anyway…

If you’re a Manager who relies on your “title”, your “seniority” or your “years of service” to get it; you never had it and never will…

It takes courage, humility, fallibility, humbleness and wisdom, together with a strong commitment to take a long hard look at yourself every day, warts and all… to truly build respect…

If that’s too hard, it may be time for you to consider a career change…

Prioritising personal goals increases work engagement

by Fleur Heazlewood

Research continues to find positive links between employee engagement, advocacy, performance and intention to resign meaning that it is in employers’ interests to drive up levels of engagement amongst their workforce. Engagement is not about driving employees to work harder but about providing the conditions under which they will work more effectively. This is more likely to result from a healthy work life balance than from working long hours. Engagement is wholly consistent with an emphasis on employee wellbeing: arguably it is an essential element in contributing to that wellbeing.

Increased levels of engagement also have significant benefits for employees considering that engagement is positively associated with job satisfaction and flow experiences at work. We all want to go to work and know that the job we are doing is worthwhile and, on some level, inspires us to do our best.

Without taking time to reflect and take stock, it is difficult to choose purposeful goals that align our personal interests and strengths with our job requirements and organisational expectations. An important step that many of us skip when it comes to completing our annual performance and professional development plans is taking adequate time to ask and answer the following simple questions:

  • What have I done well?
  • What are my strengths?
  • What do I get most satisfaction from doing?
  • What would I like to do more of?
  • What skill, knowledge or experience would I like to try or learn?
  • What would I like to do less of?
  • What didn’t go as well as I hoped?
  • What would I do differently next time?
  • What were my blocks?
  • What stopped me from achieving what I wanted?
  • What could I try differently next time?

If you would like support in working out what you want to do, there are plenty of options: try buddying up with a friend or colleague; ask a mentor for their time and feedback; book a couple of coaching sessions; or join a career development workshop to help get you headed on the right track.

Performance Management Hurts

By Travis Kemp

Leaders have been persisting with Performance Management for a very long time now.

The result? Frustration at best and at worst; destruction, debilitation and destitution.

Aren’t you being a little emotive Trav? (I hear you say)

Absolutely. That’s the point. We humans are an emotional bunch.

But it’s the ground breaking work by Richard Boyatzis (Case Western University) and others that is illuminating the neurological, emotional and behavioural responses to performance feedback and is highlighting the fundamental flaw inherent in the performance management process; it hurts.

Any deficit-driven feedback, regardless of how “positively framed” or “improvement focussed” you make it, is received at a very deep and subtle level as an attack “me”.

When you attack me, it hurts and when I hurt, if I’m not in control of the hurt (which in performance management I’m not) I want the hurt to stop. (Remember, fear is inextricably linked to hurt).

To make it stop, I can either shy away from it and distance myself from it (avoidance, denial, justification, procrastination, absenteeism, disengagement) or attack it back (blame, anger, active and passive aggression).

The emergence and adoption of Applied Positive Psychology as a central tool for surfacing, nurturing and sustaining performance and engagement is a god send to leaders and their organisations.

There’s a resurgence of interest in Values-Based Leadership emerging right now and there’s a very good reason for this.  Humans are self-determining, self-managing and self-functioning organisms.

The majority of humans know roughly how they’re performing at any given point of time. When given the opportunity to reflect upon it and articulate it they do a pretty good job. The overwhelming majority don’t need to be told by you.  If anything, they know much more intimately than you as their leader could ever even hope to know.

Whether or not you are comfortable with that is, frankly, irrelevant.

The challenge therefore lies in aligning the individual’s deeply held (and defended) values and beliefs with theirstrengths, intentions, efforts and contributions.

Great Leaders know that humans do what they want to do, not what you want them to do.

Sure, in a redundant post-industrial hierarchy, people will comply with your directives and demands for a period, even a long period (many have mortgages to pay and kids in school so they genuinely need the pay cheque).  But will I see them grow, flourish and contribute what they are truly capable of creating? Don’t count on it.

Anxious leaders within these systems rely on compliance, conformity, harmony, solidarity, predictability, politeness and control to create an illusion of influence, accountability, impact and achieving results for those sitting higher in the hierarchy.

But with the emergence of the connection economy, organisations are becoming something very different.  The axiom of structure, consistency, certainty and solidity they provided in the past has been challenged and exposed as an elaborate hoax and a new operating structure for human enterprise is emerging.

Time for our courageous new leaders to flourish…

9 Steps to developing a culture of Accountability

By Fleur Heazlewood

Successful execution of your organisational strategy not only requires the right people in the right roles but also doing the right things at the right time. Across every organisation I work with, managers are venting their frustration about the lack of accountability in the workplace – missing deadlines, poor quality of work presented to clients, leaving work at 5pm without completing urgent work, not turning up to team meetings with their action items completed, continually presenting issues without suggested solutions. The list goes on.

Leaders often assume employees know what is expected of them. However, in today’s fast-paced work environment, employees are expected to perform a variety of tasks, wear multiple hats, do more with less, problem solve and think creatively. Leaders and managers are then surprised when the work doesn’t get done as planned and people look for scapegoats rather than find solutions.

It’s the responsibility of leaders to set up an environment which will enable their employees to succeed. To do this expectations need to be clearly defined, priorities communicated, measurements set and processes put in place to hold your employees accountable for those results.

9 steps to developing a culture of accountability:

  1. Be clear: Be clear on your strategy and what really matters.
  2. Prioritise: Decide what the organisation will do, but also what it won’t do, to enable performance.
  3. Ensure alignment: Communicate the vision, mission, values, strategies – continuously so that everyone understands what they are a part of.
  4. Transparency: Leaders and managers keep their commitments and model the behaviour they expect in their employees.
  5. Define expectations: Ensure strategic goals and KPIs are cascaded through to everyone in the organisation. Assign objectives and tasks to specific individual owners with due dates.
  6. Measure outcomes: Focus on energy and activities in the right areas.
  7. Review execution of strategy and outcomes monthly: At team level and with individuals.
  8. Align incentives to performance: Reward people for getting results, rather than getting things done.
  9. Enforce consequences for performance: Confront non-performance and reinforce positive achievement in real time.

So what does an accountable organisation look like? People clarify their requests and commitments; they ask for help and develop solutions for clearing their own roadblocks; they have the difficult conversations to ensure that contributors to their outcomes are meeting timeline expectations; they are supported in saying “no” when priorities are in conflict; and they are empowered to renegotiate or request resources when asked to do something they know they cannot complete.

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