Tag Archives: the boss

Just like most organisations

Consider this for a moment….

The UK College of Policing, commissioned by the Home Secretary, has just published a review of the police service.

The report finds that the service has insular attitudes, is resistant to change and that senior management fail to listen to officers.  There is a culture of heroic leadership led from the top and too many levels of management.

Now, where have you heard this before?  In many organisations?

The report recommends less hierarchy and a greater emphasis on teamwork.

The CEO of the College of Policing concludes with:  “Only by investing in and valuing the people who work in policing will we succeed.”

And isn’t this true of most organisations?

Words and phrases to enhance your leadership effectiveness

  1. Absolutely is a great motivational word. It shows complete, total and utter support for and agreement with the other person.  Best used when introducing a further challenge such as when your subordinate says:  “I am proud that my team cut costs in the building of the new store.”  You respond: “Absolutely!  And both the cost and the time have to be cut even further in the building of the next store.”  This builds on success and exhorts your staff to an even higher level performance.
  1. So far When carefully chosen, this phrase indicates, simultaneously, optimism and caution.  “Our results have been very good” is soft and fuzzy.  Contrast that with: “Our results have been very good – so far.”  First, you communicate pleasure and approval; then darkly hint at greater challenges to be overcome.  Beware, you are intimating to your underlings, vigilance and greater effort will be needed.
  1. Going forward speaks for itself. If you don’t go forward, you stand still.  And standing still means only one thing – going backwards.  It’s self-explanatory, really.  This phrase shows that you are firmly focused on the future.  It is best used, in the same way as “so far”, at the end of a sentence.  For example:  “The generation of sales leads must be made more efficient, going forward.”  People get the main idea of what you are saying and expect a full stop.  They relax.  But no!  There is a sting in the tail.  This phrase adds impetus and urgency, and looks to a bright new future.
  1. Criticism is more a concept than a word but is a vital tool in the toolkit of an efficient manager. It should not be confused with “feedback” which is indulgent and superficial.  Criticism shows others where they are wrong.  It also shows that you have high standards to which those around you should aspire.
  1. Speaks for itself is a fine phrase which avoids the irritation of explaining matters in detail, especially figures, and saves a lot of time. Your colleagues will not want to appear ignorant, so will nod vigorously in agreement with you and to each other.  This allows you then to issue orders – well, put forward your proposals – based on the figures.
  1. Counter intuitive is a phrase that makes people sit up and really take notice. What you have proposed may sound wrong, lacking reason, even stupid to your colleagues.  You may be wrong, lacking reason and stupid but others will feel you have mystical powers, in touch with an alternative reality (they might be right about that).  Another advantage of using this phrase is that you don’t have to explain your reasoning.  If others look dubious, follow up with “I know, it sounds paradoxical.”   That will really convince them.
  1. Paradigm also has mystical properties that the simple word “pattern” fails to convey. Further, if you propose something counter intuitive, you may well be launching a paradigm shift (“pattern shift” has not got the same resonance, has it?)  Use of this phrase will convert people, who may hitherto have been simple colleagues, into ardent devotees going forward.
  1. Maximise indicates a man in charge, forceful and successful. Profit: maximise.  Working capital: maximise.  Capacity: maximise.  To achieve this maximisation, the effort of staff should be maximised.

The perpetrator of maximisation is the Maximise Man.  The end result of this maximisation is maximising the return to shareholders, which is obviously good.  There may be a temporary immiseration of the workforce, indeed, possibly 95% of the world’s population.  But, once all the maximise men and shareholders have accumulated enough wealth, this will trickle down to the benefit of everyone.  Eventually.  Well, that is the theory.

Use these simple words and phrases and you’ll get ahead of the game.  Maybe, you will become a Maximise Man.

Why don’t team members speak up

Are you concerned that team members do not speak up during discussions?

As individuals, they are bright, forthcoming and have plenty to contribute.  At the coffee machine, discussion is animated and flows swiftly.  Yet, when you all troop into a meeting, the flow of dialogue immediately dries up and energy evaporates.

Then, as soon as the individuals get out of the door, they are reanimated and have plenty to say.  Why has lethargy supplanted vitality?  Here are four possible reasons:

  • the boss
  • perception of the expertise of others
  • lack of confidence
  • premature conformity.

1.  The boss

It feels natural for the boss to maintain their role of boss in a meeting – they call the meeting, chair it, sit in a prominent position, make decisions.

But, a boss-centric meeting encourages team members to think: “If you are the boss, then you must know all the answers.  Or, you think you do.  The easiest and safest thing is for me to keep quiet.  You decide, I will follow.”

The boss gets no feedback so cannot update their perception of the world.  Discussion is limited and no new ideas are floated.

This is a self-reinforcing situation, but you can break into the circle.

First, ensure that everyone understands what the meeting and each agenda item is aiming to achieve.  Second, have different people introduce and lead individual agenda items.  Third, instil an understanding that everyone is responsible for the success of the meeting – you can do this by going round the table to seek contributions.  .

And fourth, find an opportunity to give your boss some feedback.

2.  Perception of the expertise of others

The position of the expert, or the more experienced person, is a variation of the boss situation.

If people perceive one of the group to be an expert, they tend not to question that person’s expertise.  This means the expert gets a clear run and their assertions go unchallenged.

Of course there is a role for people’s expertise and experience – we want to know what they think.  But their contributions need to be evaluated as to their practicality, how they can effectively be applied, the same as any other idea.

An expert may be an expert in a narrow field and be less capable of seeing how their expertise will work in practice – this is where the other team members come in.

If contributions are rated by the experience of the contributor then it could be like driving a car by looking in the rear view mirror.  The same problems recur and basic issues are not resolved.  Again, discussion is limited and no new ideas are floated.

To overcome this, encourage the belief that everyone has something to contribute.  Second, evaluate ideas on merit.  Third, challenge defensive behaviour such as “We already tried that and didn’t work.”

3.  Lack of confidence

Newer members of a team are prepared to join vigorously in the dialogue over coffee but often less willing to contribute in front of the whole team.

But, when do new team members feel comfortable about contributing to a more formal meeting – after one week, one month, one year?  If they are not immediately encouraged to speak up, this sends out signals.  Signals such as:  new ideas are not welcome; contributions are evaluated on status, length of service and number of scars.

However, since the old hands have been around for longer, they are more likely to see issues in the same way as they always have done.

One way to manage this is actively to seek out the contribution of newcomers: “Is this something you experienced at your previous job?”  Another tactic is to support those who struggle to make an impact, give them airtime.

4.  Premature conformity

When the team makes a decision, we would like all the team members to agree to that decision.  Successful follow through of actions is increased if everyone is committed.

However, if the group enforces unanimity too early in a discussion, individuals will limit their feedback and withhold different ideas.  People will be more concerned with conformity than with digging into issues.  Not only will they keep quiet during discussion, but they will also have limited commitment afterwards.

As a result, criticism takes place after the decision has been made, rather than before.  The Bay of Pigs may have taken place over fifty years ago, but it still stands as one of the most famous examples of group think.

To avoid group think, make it clear at each stage of discussion what contributions are welcome:   creative ideas, evaluation or execution.

 

So, if you want your meetings to be dynamic and people to commit to the outcomes, you have to encourage a culture in which everybody’s contribution is welcomed and the issues are aired openly around the table.