Friday, March 30, 2012

Are they making 'efficiencies' in your organisation?

'Do more with less'. 
'Making efficiencies'. 
'Being more effective'. 
'More businesslike and professional'. 

Sound familiar?

This is the story in many many companies, organisations and services around the world. Certainly, in just about every organisation I step foot in at the moment I meet people who's work has 'streamlined' or 'rationalised'. The effect for most workers is that they have no 'spare' time. They are largely moving from one task to another, “back to back without the time,” as one employee told me this week “to even draw breath”. 

As ‘spare time’ is eased out of the working day in the name of efficiency so does the ability to stand back and see what is really happening, to take stock of what is working and what isn’t, to get creative and dream (yes dream) up new ideas and have new thoughts and find better ways of doing things. To notice which tasks are really a waste of time and innovate. The very things an organisation under pressure needs the most. Odd that.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The principle of reciprocity between managers

One of the principles I often bang on about in organisations or situations containing significant levels of ambiguity or uncertainty (see the earlier discussion about the difference between ambiguity and uncertainty) is the principle of reciprocity between managers.
The relationships and levels of communication between managers is critical if an organisation or team is going to successfully profit from an uncertain or ambiguous situation.

Fostering positive and professional working relationships between managers, looking for communication blockages and dealing with them and making sure there are active communications up and down the line are all part of this principle.

The number of times I go into an organisation which needs help to deal with an uncertain or ambiguous situation to find that the managers, whilst often well trained as individuals, are dysfunctional as a group and certainly aren't a close knit team in themselves. Petty infighting, managers going it alone, lack of trust and less than helpful relationships within the management team will often de-rail any efforts to get them to navigate and get creative with ambiguity. My team frequently have to get the managers aligned and communicating before we can really get to work. In fact quite a bit of the internal ambiguity and uncertainty is actually created by the management of the organisation in many cases. Too little emphasis is placed on this principle in organisations. More should be made of this in appraisals and competency frameworks where they exist, and it should certainly be a topic of conversation with managers of all grades. 

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The 6 + 2 Psychological Factors of a Good Leader

There are a number of closely correlating studies examining the psychological factors which contribute to a successful leader. I have just completed a short meta-analysis research review for a client. I thought I would share an outline of the findings of the factors which correlate across most of the studies with a couple of trends in more recent studies.

The 6 Psychological Factors of a Good Leader:

  1. Decisiveness. The ability to make frequent and consistant decisions. This includes the sub-factors of taking responsibility for their decisions, knowing and sticking to the principles and ethics driving their  decision making. Decisiveness is often seen as providing clarity in uncertain situations.
  2. Overall competence. Good leaders are all seen as competent, not just as leaders but also within the realm they making decisions in. They are not just managing any situation but have competence in dealing with such situations and are perceived as having that level of competence. 
  3. Integrity or honest intent. People follow and trust leaders who they believe have the best intent or purpose. Integrity and others trust are usually seen by people as part of the same factor. 
  4. Vision. Often trotted out as a core leadership activity, vision in this case is the ability of the leader to project / articulate a clear, coherent and comprehensible path towards a meaningful goal.
  5. Persistance. Not only are good leaders clear about their goals they keep going and don't give up. This does not mean that they keep on regardless and there is a sub-factor of adaptability especially if a better way is found or the context/situation changes.
  6. Modesty. This is an interesting and surprising factor. Leaders who blow their own trumpet / feel the need to tell others how good they are are frequently associated with being a bad leader. Good leaders are seen as those who praise the right people and give credit to the team rather than themselves.
Current emerging trends

Two additional emerging psychological factors which are cropping up more frequently in recent research are:

  1. Adaptability / agility. This is the ability to deal flexibly with rapidly changing situations and has the sub-factors of the ability to see change as it happens, the ability to hold competing perspectives and deal with ambiguity and rapid change.
  2. Autonomy. This is the ability to stand alone when needed and make their own mind up as opposed to following trends without critical appraisal.