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Personal Values

The Importance of Understanding your Personal Values

For many individuals today, fulfillment in their work is a driving factor in their decision to take on a leadership role. The same is true of those in existing leadership positions. We often hear directors and hiring managers discuss a person being the ‘right fit’ for a role. What we hear discussed less often, is whether or not a role is the right fit for the individual. You may have the talent and capability to perform well in a leadership role however, when the company’s values do not align with your own, it can be difficult to engage with not only the work, but also your team.

Understanding your Personal Values

Getting clear about what your personal values are can help to provide guidance in what it is that you are looking for in a company that you want to work with. Our values indicate what is most important to us and what motivates us to achieve greatness. A personal values assessment helps to identify our most strongly held beliefs. This understanding will give you a greater insight into whether or not you would feel satisfied working for a particular company. When their values do not align with yours, you may face resistance in attempting to implement strategies. While the company you work for defines policies and certain rules, it is your own values and priorities that determine your personal leadership strategy and how it will be achieved. 

Better Working Relationships

People who share the same values as those they work with are much more successful in achieving results compared to those with conflicting values. Having shared values doesn’t necessarily mean that you will share the same opinions as others, but it does mean that you share similar goals and intentions. Discovering your team and personal leadership values helps to build more effective working relationships. Sharing connected values enables individuals to more easily relate to one another, communicate ideas more effectively, and overcome difficulties much faster.

More Committed Employees

When an individual’s personal values are aligned with those of the company, their motivation and engagement with the work increases. They know that their contributions are important to the overall success of the organisation, and so are more dedicated to performing at their highest potential. Senior leadership assessment can be a useful part of the hiring process to determine how an individual will support the company’s vision and values. The alignment of individual and company values leads to greater success for both parties because their priorities are each focused on achieving the same end result. 

 

Better Decision Making

Our values are what contribute most to the decisions we make. Developing leadership excellence teaches us that it is important to draw on our personal experiences and beliefs in order to lead more effectively. A clear understanding of our values allows us to make better decisions in the face of uncertainty. When faced with difficult choices, asking ourselves which option most aligns with our values and what we are striving to achieve can be a guide towards the choice with the greatest chance at success.

Leadership assessment tools are integral when training for leadership excellence. They afford us the opportunity to reflect on the things that matter most to us and how they affect the way we lead. For individuals, understanding your personal values lets you know that the decisions you make are in service of your goals. Organisations also need to have an understanding of the personal values of their employees to ensure that overall growth and success can occur. 

For more information about The Leadership Sphere and how we can help you unlock performance through leadership, by supporting your leaders at every level of the organisation with leadership development, executive coaching and high performance team programs please visit our website or call us on 1300 100 857.

 

The Importance of Understanding your Personal Values

Authority and Leadership

The Difference Between Authority and Leadership

The ability to successfully influence the behaviour of others is entirely dependent on the source. Influence via authority may at first appear to be an obvious example, the influence it yields may not have the desired outcome. Conversely, influence affected by inspirational and self-modeled leadership is far more likely to result in the desired action being taken. While there can be overlap of these two concepts, it is important to remember that they are not mutually inclusive. Confusing one for the other may have damaging effects on team performance.

 

Authority

In many workplaces, a person’s authority often stems from the title or position they hold within either their team or the organisation. This is often the case when there is a clear distinction between the person ‘in charge’ and the rest of the group. Managers and executives may use the power their title gives them to make and enforce decisions. While necessity sometimes calls for this, a manager who makes uncompromising demands of their team regularly may also find that performance diminishes or that there is high employee turnover.

 

Having authority over another group of people does not grant you dedication or respect from them on the basis of your title alone. Authority is merely the right to use the power your position allows you. It  can be a necessary tool in leadership and developing high performance. However, a reliance on authority over more influential leadership skills, will only alienate your team from their goals. Training for leadership excellence shows us how to overcome the mindset that authority is equal to leadership. 

 

Leadership

Where authority is bestowed upon a person in a certain position of a hierarchy, leadership is a characteristic that can be found in people regardless of their position. Those with strong leadership qualities are often able to motivate and inspire others simply by setting the example for them to follow. When this kind of person also happens to be a manager, the result is often high performance teams. A manager or executive who asks for the support of their subordinates to implement decisions will have a greater chance of meeting collective goals than those who order tasks to be completed.

Leading high performance teams requires some relinquishing of authority to ensure that achievements are reached through a collaborative process. Building and sustaining leadership excellence means that leaders understand how to have a more impactful influence on team behaviours because they take the care to engage on a more personal level. Important challenges are solved with peer consultation and individuals are empowered to put strategies into action. 

 

Finding a Balance

People often confuse the terms authority and leadership because we have historically considered authority as a defining trait of leadership. However, attempting to influence behaviour through authority alone can be met with resistance and changes take longer to accept. 

Gaining the respect and trust of colleagues is understood by great leaders to be a privilege. By forming a personal relationship with their teams, leaders earn the authority their position provides. High performance training programs aim to develop trusting relationships within teams that lead to increased productivity. Leaders who use their positional power to support, coach, and further develop their teams will gain followers who chose to be led. While it is true that authority is a necessary aspect of managing a team or running an organisation, it is not always the most important.

 

As a leader, how do you overcome the limitations of authority?

 

About the Author: The Leadership Sphere
The Leadership Sphere helps small and medium businesses and larger organisations in Australia, in creating value through leadership. The Leadership Sphere provides a humanistic approach to the way it delivers leadership, performance and coaching services. We work with leaders and senior teams who need to gain increased clarity, build capability and ensure contribution at every level in the organisation, and enable a safe, inclusive and  high trust organisation.

 

The Difference Between Authority and Leadership

leading excellence

Striving for Excellence

Organisations who achieve regular success have leaders who understand the importance of constant growth. They know that to reach their goals, they must rely on their direct reports to bring their purpose and vision into fruition. To do this, they establish strong personal relationships with their team and support them in their development. 

 

Purpose Clarity

Great leaders know that success begins with defining the purpose of the work you do. Understanding why it matters, and more specifically, why it matters to you. Leadership development programs help participants to understand themselves better both personally and professionally. Through the use of leadership assessment tools, their sense of purpose can make itself known. To achieve leadership excellence, you must be passionate about your purpose and able to communicate it with your team in ways that will inspire others in working towards the same purpose. 

 

Embrace Vulnerability

The scope of what leadership looks like has had a significant shift from being purely authoritative to now requiring the development of personal relationships. The research of Brenè Brown places vulnerability at the centre of daring leadership. The Dare to Lead™ Program, based on her work, encourages participants to embrace vulnerability in order to form stronger personal connections with others. When we lead with authenticity, we foster a culture of trust that results in better communication, collaboration, and success.

 

Empowering Leadership

Training for leadership excellence teaches participants to lead others through empowering them to reach higher levels of performance. Empowered employees have greater autonomy in their day-to-day tasks and have more creative problem-solving skills. In organisations where empowerment is common, company loyalty is also higher. This creates a sense of community where individuals are more willing to volunteer for additional assignments and assist one another. Both of which contribute greatly to improving overall performance. 

 

Ongoing Improvement 

Even the highest performing teams and organisations understand the benefits of reviewing their best results. Developing leadership excellence is an ongoing endeavour. There is value in revisiting past success in order to determine what worked well and how it might further be improved in the future. Providing access to leadership training programs ensures that you and your team are knowledgeable of the most recent trends in your field. This gives you a competitive edge and allows you to remain at the forefront of your industry. 

 

In the pursuit of leadership excellence it is important to first define your purpose and share your passion with your team. A leader’s success is often measured by the performance of their team, so empowering them to perform at their best will have significant benefits for you both. Leadership excellence is a continually moving target that requires you to have an invested interest in your own development and the growth of your team’s capabilities. 

In what ways to strive for excellence in your leadership?

 

About the Author: The Leadership Sphere
The Leadership Sphere helps small and medium businesses and larger organisations in Australia, in creating value through leadership. The Leadership Sphere provides a humanistic approach to the way it delivers leadership, performance and coaching services. We work with leaders and senior teams who need to gain increased clarity, build capability and ensure contribution at every level in the organisation, and enable a safe, inclusive and  high trust organisation.

 

Striving for Excellence

learning outcomes for leadership development

5 Steps to Improving Leadership Development

Traditional executive leadership training has placed a large focus on the development of the practical skills needed to manage teams. Increasingly, leadership development is shifting from this model to one that establishes soft skills that are key to decision making and performance. As the global business community continue to focus on diversity, inclusion and belonging, these secondary or softer skills are becoming primary drivers of leadership development programs. For leaders to get the most out of their development, there are several options that organisations have to ensure they are providing programs that offer a diverse approach to learning.

 

Understanding Values

When embarking leadership training for culture change, it is important to have a clear understanding of the values you wish to  instill in your employees and greater organisation. Developing this understanding of personal values and how you can build them into your day-to-day practices can play a significant role in establishing and sustaining workplace culture in the long term. This is a particular focus of the Dare to Lead™ program. Participants are encouraged to reflect on their personal beliefs and inspect the ways in which they practice their values in how they conduct their work.

 

Evaluation

It can be useful to run an assessment of a team or individual’s strengths prior to their participation in a leadership training course. Knowing what they already do well and in which areas they could improve, help to establish what kind of program they would receive the most benefit from. The 360º Feedback Report provides insight into how leaders are perceived by their teams and exposes key areas of success and growth. This can be a valuable tool for re-assessment and tracking the progress being made.

 

Be Vulnerable

Open and honest communication is key to establishing the interpersonal relationships that help sustain a positive workplace culture. It relies on leaders allowing themselves to show vulnerability to their teams as well as a willingness to listen to their feedback and concerns. Leadership development programs that teach participants how to embrace vulnerability and establish a culture of trust throughout the organization leads to improved performance and success. Vulnerability is not a skill that you download in one go, it is rather complex, but at it’s core is honesty and transparency, however, there are always elements of what to disclose and not to disclose. Transparency without thinking through what you disclose as a leader can be dangerous, as can more traditional leadership styles of armouring up and showing no signs of vulnerability in the process. It is the balance of both extremes that creates leadership that enables a high trust organisation.

 

Be Challenged

A strong measure of effective leadership comes when leaders are faced with uncertainty and challenges that push them towards innovation and creative problem solving. Leadership training programs that focus on developing creative thinking as well as practical skills, result in leaders who are better equipped to overcome unexpected challenges. As we have seen during times of challenge such as the COVID-19 global pandemic, leaders are required to respond to challenges over a longer term period of uncertainty and that requires new strengths in resilience and support and is a big part of leadership development programs to help organisations maintain organisational health through difficult times.

 

Establish Development Culture

Many leaders who profess a desire to improve their personal and professional development often put off doing so until they ‘have the time,’ without realising that the time to start is always now and that “some time” far too often becomes “no time”. Prioritising performance over development is to disregard the opportunity to get the greatest benefit out of both outlets. When learning and development are integrated into everyday practices, we establish ways of becoming better leaders in ways that enable us to improve overall performance. The evolution of leadership within an organisation is very much about a consistent loop of evaluation followed by a continued challenge of development where you need it most, and those who do it best are now building leadership development and high performance team programs with values and vulnerability at the core.

 

The development of leadership skills and practices is an integral part of both personal and organisational growth. Where performance is concerned, so too should leadership training be. The success of any organisation depends upon those who put in the effort each and every day to ensure it. Companies must provide support and opportunities for leadership and management training if they want to see performance exceeding that of their competitors.

For more information about The Leadership Sphere and how we can help you unlock performance through leadership, by supporting your leaders at every level of the organisation with leadership development, executive coaching and high performance team programs please visit our website or call us on 1300 100 857.

5 Steps to Improving Leadership Development

Executive Coaching

4 Ways that Executive Coaching will Help Your Business During Difficult Times

Executive coaching was once considered a last ditch effort for addressing toxic behaviour in the most senior level employees. Over time, the industry has evolved in such a way that now coaches are most often brought in to help leaders develop their skills and better perform their role. Companies have also found value in engaging executive coaching as a means of preventing the turnover of key employees, not just the ‘Executive’. As coaching continues to become more commonplace, old stigmas surrounding the practice will continue to dissipate and it will be sought after for its overwhelming benefits.

 

Develop High-Potential Talent

One of the key reasons that companies might decide to hire an executive coach is to develop their high-potential talent among middle management. When companies are faced with turbulent times, the risk of losing their top talent is something they may fear. To prevent this, they may instead choose to develop the skills of their high-potential employees. Usually, the individual is someone who is already making significant contributions to achieving results and will likely possess a sharp desire to learn and grow. Not only does this mean that employee turnover remains low, it shows the individual that their skills and talents are valued by top management and that they are committed to helping the individual to progress.

 

Creates Balance for Executives

When executive coaches are brought on board, it is usually to address a specific business problem or aid with transition to a new role. As time goes on and the coach comes to understand the client, they end up also addressing personal issues such as purpose and work-life balance. In a study conducted by the Harvard Business Review, they found that while only 3% of executive coaches are hired to address personal issues, that number jumps to 76% over the course of the coach’s relationship with the client. This suggests that the value of what a coach can provide goes far beyond what they are initially hired to do. During times of uncertainty, this aspect of executive coaching could not be more valuable as the added stress of confronting challenges can take a huge mental toll on the individual. By having another reliable source with whom they can discuss such issues, means that executives are given the opportunity to resolve them. This in turn allows them to have greater clarity and focus when problem-solving.

 

Choosing the Right Coach

Just as it is important that the individual be willing to undergo coaching, it is equally important that the coach is the right match for the person who is being coached. After all the coach-client relationship often spans a three to twelve month period. It would be a wasteful use of time and resources if the client does not gain any value from the relationship. Great coaches understand that much of their role is simply to be asking the right questions and allowing the individual to discover their own path. Such coaches will put the needs of their client first and not allow them to become dependent on their coach to make decisions. 

 

It is also important that executive coaches are able to help address personal issues, but there are boundaries, because after all a coach is generally not a health professional and it is not their role to play psychologist. This is not surprising considering how few coaches are hired to assist with personal matters, but interestingly, people often relate to problems at work in a way that by default helps them become better partners, parents and generally a better person in the process. There is some evidence to suggest that coaching those with unrecognised mental health problems can be counterproductive. Given the complexity and difficulty of identifying such issues without proper training it is worth organisations requiring that the coaches they hire have undergone some degree of mental health training.

 

Coaching for Future Leaders

As the coaching industry continues to expand and develop, we are beginning to see more and more executives turn to coaches to help them better understand their role and improve their skills. The constantly changing business environment means that the need for assistance in navigating it will only become greater. Executive coaches will become an essential part of the learning and development process for leaders across all levels of an organisation. The value and support that executive coaches provide to clients will be recognised as vital. One of the things that we have also found with coaching staff who attend leadership development programs and high performance team programs is that we can take a 3 x return on the development to sometimes as high as 10 x when underpinned by an effective coaching program to embed learning and apply it to business outcomes.

 

For more information about The Leadership Sphere and how we can help you unlock performance through leadership, by supporting your leaders at every level of the organisation with leadership development, executive coaching and high performance team programs please visit our website or call us on 1300 100 857.

 

4 Ways that Executive Coaching will Help Your Business During Difficult Times

Creating a high performance team

5 Ways to Create a High Performing Team During Difficult Times

When we face unpredictable challenges we need to be able to rely on our team to perform with excellence. To create and cultivate high performance teams, we also need to be constantly on the lookout to recruit newcomers who have proven to be the best in their fields. Unfortunately, there are some extreme challenges, such as a global pandemic, that have caused recruitment to become a low priority in many industries. This does not mean that it is then impossible to build a high performance team. On the contrary, this limitation actually affords us the opportunity to look for high potential and high performance individuals from within the current team.

Look Within

The perfect place to start when creating high performance teams under uncertain circumstances is to draw from the talent you already possess. Building your team from within not only allows individuals the opportunity to advance and develop their skills, but it means that leaders are getting to look closely at some high potential team members who might have otherwise gone unnoticed. The added benefits of selecting from your current team is that it saves time at the beginning when you are building strong interpersonal relationships, as they likely will have already collaborated well before. Meaning that the team as a whole can begin working towards their goals much sooner.

Providing Feedback

One of the best ways to actively build your team and improve performance is to provide clear and consistent feedback. After all, how can anyone get better if they are unaware of any performance gaps? Feedback should be given in a 180 or 360 degree manner that takes into account the goals of the business, the team, and how individuals can be supported to help achieve those goals. This method of motivation also works to encourage teams to do more of what they already are excelling in. It provides them with a clear understanding of what they need to do to achieve results. It is important that an organisation has a good 180 degree feedback process in place that strengthens the relationship between a staff and manager, and they can then move beyond this to apply 360 degree feedback and those results can be revisited regularly. This helps drive accountability not just for results but also for cultural aspects of a role, and encourages continuous development. 

 

Provide Inspiration

Considering that the day-to-day work of a high performance team is left largely to their own direction, it becomes the role of leadership to be able to continually provide inspiration rather than specific direction. These leaders know how to spark enthusiasm and passion in their teams for the work they are doing. When teams feel that their work has great value, they are better able to come up with creative or innovative solutions. Setting stretch goals creates an internal drive in the team to push themselves further and accomplish more than they thought themselves capable. There is then an increased sense of pride and engagement with the work. Also, in a world that is becoming more complex and with organisations looking for cultural change, the ability to provide inspiration and support a team during all types of business conditions has become even more important.

Trust in Leadership

Consistently, trust is identified as a key element of high performance teams. Not only do the individual members of these teams need to trust in one another, they also need to have trust in their leader. High performance teams are mostly self-sufficient and do not actually require a lot of supervision, but they will on occasion need to have a dedicated leader to help resolve conflict, inspire new action, set stretch goals, and communicate feedback. It is therefore important for the team to be able to trust in that person to make the best decision in service of the whole team’s ambitions.

 

Why Employers Need High Performance Teams

As the past year has proven, drastic shifts in workplace operations can occur with very little warning or time to prepare. When faced with this kind of disruption and uncertainty of the future, it becomes clear just how vital it is to ensure that teams are able to adapt to these changes. High performance teams are better positioned to overcome the challenges of uncertainty thanks to their experience with working closely under pressure. Investing in high performance teams can reduce staff turnover, achieve better results, and adapt quickly to achieve new goals.

For more information about The Leadership Sphere and how we can help you unlock performance through leadership, by supporting your leaders at every level of the organisation with leadership development, executive coaching and high performance team programs please visit our website or call us on 1300 100 857.

5 Ways to Create a High Performing Team During Difficult Times

executive coaching services

Coaching Trends to Support Your Leaders During Times of Uncertainty

When navigating uncertainty or change management, we rely heavily on our leaders to guide us through with minimal negative impact. It is important to remember that it is during such challenging times that we must also ensure that support is given to them as well. A great number of unprecedented challenges have been overcome in the past year as many industries were forced to revolutionise their operational practices. Leadership development and executive coaching has been no exception. As a result, several once emerging trends have proven their longevity. These are some of the most prevalent factors that clients are now looking for in a coach.

 

Authenticity

The added stress that individuals feel during times of crisis, means that their tolerance for platitudes and ‘corporate speak’ decreases significantly. The use of such jargon increases the level of distrust they have in management or the organisation. Leaders undergoing executive coaching while managing a crisis, want the same thing their staff want from them – clarity. The best way to provide clarity is by being authentic in your approach and delivery. How you speak matters just as much, if not more than what you are saying. Throughout her book, Dare to Lead™, Brene Brown explores how vulnerability is often a key component of brave leadership. The Dare to Lead™ program delves deeply into this idea of how vulnerability contributes to authenticity in leadership and how it is linked to bravery.

 

Not Just for C-level

As the name suggests, executive coaching has long been considered a luxury only available to senior leaders. This perception is changing as companies are recognising the need to support and develop both existing and high potential leaders across all levels. The impact of including leaders at even the directorial or managerial level in executive coaching programs is that it creates the opportunity for those who may otherwise be overlooked for promotion to stand out. It also allows for lower ranking leaders to develop the skills that will be necessary for them to have once they reach a more senior position.

 

Social Media

Circumstances being what they were in 2020 meant that we saw increased creation and interaction via social media than almost ever before. Many people turn to social media in search of inspiration and tips for finding solutions to their problems. The perceived authenticity of social media over more traditional marketing campaigns is what makes platforms like Facebook and Instagram so appealing to clients. Engaging with potential clients on these platforms provides them with insight into who you are as a person and as a coach before they even speak with you. 

 

Personalisation

With the prevalent practice of working remotely, the demand for similarly delivered executive coaching services is rising. Potential clients are becoming less interested in general or group programs and more concerned with finding a coach who can help them with their specific personal and professional goals. By choosing to work with a specialised coach, they are prioritising the needs specific to them, rather than spending time they may not have, participating in a full course that will not benefit them. For coaches, this means they will have a greater chance of working with new clients if they are able to provide services that are personalised and have a narrower focus. With so much white noise in our personal and professional lives, and the ongoing pressures of leading through change and times of uncertainty, having a coach by your side that understands you is one of the most valuable gifts we can give ourselves and others in our organisation. At The Leadership Sphere, we see organisations without coaching to support leadership development achieve a 3 x return on investment, whereas those who blend leadership development training with ongoing coaching and leadership development and support, receive 10 x return on investment. Greater spend in terms of money and time, however, the impact on the return is a continued topic of much interest!

 

Driven to Learn

With the rapid changes that are brought about by a crisis, leaders often find themselves underprepared for the new challenges they face. They can feel as though they are losing confidence in their own skills and effectiveness. Fortunately, this does allow the opportunity for leaders to reflect on their recent performance and assess where their development might be stalled. Uncertainty creates a drive to learn new skills to prepare ourselves as much as we can for any number of possible circumstances. Executive coaching programs offer this opportunity in a way that addresses the specific concerns of the individual. 

 

When faced with new and unpredictable circumstances, we expose both our strengths and our weaknesses. It is important for leaders that they can recognise each of them in order to continue in their ongoing development. We must expand our view of what executive coaching looks like, in terms of its delivery, content, and presence. As the world continues to shift further into digital spaces, the world of coaching must follow to provide value and support for those that need it. In fact, one might say that executive coaching is a critical part of uncovering where our risks and opportunities are when it comes to leadership development, and from that we can ensure learning is being directed at those areas that will maximise our results!

For more information about The Leadership Sphere and how we can help you unlock performance through leadership, by supporting your leaders at every level of the organisation with leadership development, executive coaching and high performance team programs please visit our website or call us on 1300 100 857.

 

Coaching Trends to Support Your Leaders During Times of Uncertainty

clear is kind unclear is unkind book

Great Leaders Understand – Clear is Kind and Unclear is Unkind

Great Leaders Understand – Clear is Kind and unclear is Unkind

The adage ‘Clear is Kind, Unclear is Unkind’ is a relatively new concept in the world of leadership development, but has fast become adopted by many thanks to the work of Brene Brown, pioneer and expert in vulnerable leadership. In her book, Dare to Lead™, Brown talks a great deal about the importance of communicating with clarity at all times but most especially when those conversations are difficult to have. What she found while conducting a 7 year study on bravery in leadership is that most of us tend to avoid clarity under the illusion that being indirect is kinder when actually, we’re being unkind and unfair.

Brene Brown explores this further in the following ways:

  • ‘Hinting’ at the issue or telling half-truths to make someone else feel better is unkind
  • Talking about people instead of to them is unkind
  • Not setting clear expectations for others, but blaming them for not reaching them is unkind
  • Saying ‘Got it, on it’ instead of having tough conversations and gaining clarity is unkind


In each of the above points, we can see that what they all have in common is that while employing these strategies may seem as though we are putting the other person’s feelings before our own, we’re not. Instead, we’re trying to minimise our own discomfort with confrontation. In business, this has the tendency to be extremely detrimental because rather than resolving an issue directly, it is being talked ‘around’ and may become exacerbated. By prioritising our own emotional distress, we’re being unkind to the other person – who isn’t being given the opportunity to grow or change their behaviour – or ourselves – who will continue to endure the ramifications.

Clear is Kind

To explore this idea further, let’s break down what each statement looks like in practice. Clear is Kind. What Brown is referring to in the first half of her thesis is the idea that clarity in how we communicate is the most effective means of delivering information. There is a significant amount of focus given to this idea throughout the Dare to Lead™ program that encourages us recognise the importance of honesty when it comes to discussing difficult topics or issues. When it comes to delegating projects or tasks, the best thing you can do as a leader is to do what Brene Brown refers to as ‘painting done.’ This is simple yet effective strategy for setting up expectations that only needs to take up a few minutes during your first briefing on the task. To paint done, is to be explicit in what you’re asking someone to accomplish. You’re providing them with an exact idea of what the final result of the project will look like. This not only saves you both time in the long run, but you’ve given a clear expectation of what needs to be done. 

Unclear is Unkind

The second piece of this statement, Unclear is Unkind, is the antithesis of Clear is Kind. Being unclear or indirect about expectations and information can have detrimental implications in the long run. In situations where we can see that a teammate has missed the mark or hasn’t performed their role to their best standard, it can be difficult to engage in a conversation about it. What tends to happen instead, is we speak ‘around’ the core of the issue or we ‘hint’ at the problem and hope that they will pick up on our disappointment. We think of ourselves as being kind in this moment because we’re trying to avoid hurting their feelings. But that isn’t necessarily the case. All we’ve really done is protect ourselves from feeling uncomfortable and it doesn’t help to resolve the situation. It’s unkind to them – they don’t know that there is an issue at all, or they don’t know the extent of it. It’s unkind to you – you will continue to be disappointed and frustrated. In the Dare to Lead™ Program, participants develop the ability to lean into what makes them uncomfortable in order to get to the heart of daring leadership.

Clarity in leadership is an integral piece of the Clarity + Capability + Contribution model that is central to The Leadership Sphere’s leadership development programs. Clarity comes first as it is foundational to both Capability and Contribution. We aim to help leaders create clarity for themselves and the people they support. It drives certainty of purpose and increases productivity. From there it is possible to develop leadership capability that enables a high trust organisation where leaders can contribute in ways that help others be the best they can be. But it starts with being clear and being kind. 

For more information about The Leadership Sphere and how we can help you unlock performance through leadership, by supporting your leaders at every level of the organisation with leadership development, executive coaching and high performance team programs please visit our website or call us on 1300 100 857.

Great Leaders Understand – Clear is Kind and Unclear is Unkind

leadership in 2021

What Does Leadership Look Like In 2021?

Businesses across every industry were forced to make dramatic changes to the ways in which they operate over the past year. Business leaders, managers and their teams have had to adapt rapidly to (in many cases) entirely new procedures. Our senior managers and HR leaders have been at the forefront of implementing these changes to ensure success at every level. How has this last 12 months changed our perception of leadership? How have our expectations of those in leadership changed as a result? The challenges that we faced and will continue to be around as a result of COVID-19 have forced us to take a closer look at what it means to be a great leader, especially during times of crisis, and its recovery. What lessons were learned? And of course, the big question on everyone’s list is what does leadership look like in 2021?

Trust

Leadership is about more than simply being given the role of ‘leader.’ It is an important quality within a person that inspires others to be at their best. Great leaders are able to do this by creating trusting and supportive environments wherein their team are empowered to develop skills and build confidence in themselves. With many businesses still restricting some of their in-person operations, it is even more important that managers are able to trust their employees to continue to perform their role to the same standards expected of them in the office or workplace. Likewise, those same employees must also be able to trust their leaders to provide the same level of support they would receive were they not working remotely. Trust is a big part of organisational performance and evidence suggests that during COVID-19 those high performance teams who already have well established trust, performed equal to pre-COVID-19 if not higher. Yet, those teams with lower trust experienced a decline in performance.

Communication

As with trust, remote operating procedures have highlighted the importance of having excellent communication within a team. It is a skill that we can not afford to overlook. For leaders this means being able to deliver ideas and feedback by being authentic. Authentic in the sense that the language used isn’t comprised of, nor do we hide behind a lot of complicated jargon; rather, it is your own authentic voice. This lets your team know that you are being yourself and not keeping information from them. In turn, this can help to build trust between you and your team. Interestingly at The Leadership Sphere we have seen an increase in businesses looking for high performance teams training, support with development around performance management, and coaching to help senior managers and leaders with giving and receiving feedback.

 

Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is an important skill for leaders. Just like trust and communication,it becomes even more important during times of crisis. By developing this skillset through leadership development programs, leaders are able to gain a deeper understanding of the concerns of their team. The key word here being leadership development programs, rather than one off courses, that is a program of ongoing workshops, coaching and reviews that enable self awareness, self reflection and 360 degree feedback along the way. In doing this, they are also better equipped to guide their teams through the challenges they face both day-to-day, as well as on the global scale experienced recently. We can look at the extreme challenges brought on by the pandemic as an opportunity to reflect on our understanding of our emotional intelligence and how this affects the ways we behave during difficult situations.

 

Flexibility

Change is an ever present part of any industry and must be met with flexibility. Great leaders not only must respond to change, but often be the driving force behind it. Having the ability to adapt quickly to unexpected or unfamiliar situations is a skill that allows for productivity to continue, even in times of transition or uncertainty. Leadership development programs can help leaders learn how to navigate change by giving them the tools needed to become more receptive of innovation. Being a flexible leader means you are able to embrace change and are open to new ideas. There have been increasing requests for support with performance management as part of The Leadership Sphere leadership development programs and high performance culture workshops, and these have been invested by organisations who are looking at change across their business and building more flexibility and resilience into their leaders and senior managers.

 

What does this mean for the future of leadership?

For leaders moving forward, it is imperative that we continue to embrace each new challenge that awaits us. Not to do so would be detrimental to the success and growth of any business. It is only by reflecting on the successful ways business and leadership styles have been forced to adapt, that we can recognise the path we must follow into the future. By engaging expertise from The Leadership Sphere and building out a leadership development framework and supporting leadership development and high performance development program, managers are able to strengthen their ability to lead with trust and the support of their team.

For more information about The Leadership Sphere and how we can help you unlock performance through leadership, by supporting your leaders at every level of the organisation with leadership development, executive coaching and high performance team programs please visit our website or call us on 1300 100 857.

What Does Leadership Look Like In 2021?

create vulnerability in leadership

Trust is the Key to Healthy and High Performing Teams

A lack of trust in a relationship can be distressing – in teams it can be devastating. It can take a huge personal toll and in teams it can light the fuse of self-destruction. Relationships fracture, shaming and blaming are prevalent, productivity goes out the window, reputations are soiled, and people leave. While not all teams suffer from these extremes of course, the consequences of low or patchy trust severely reduce the work a team should produce and also impacts our own sense of engagement and energy.

Conversely, high trust organisations experience 32x greater risk-taking, 11x more innovation, and 6x higher performance (Edelman Trust Barometer). And at a human level, treating each other with respect and forming good relationships feels like the right thing to do. 

In this article we’ll discuss why trust may be the most important element that needs to be present in a team. In Parts 1 and 2 of this series, we laid the foundation about why braver leadership and fostering more courageous cultures in our organisations matters. In Part 3, we explored vulnerability and in Part 4 we identified that values form the touchstone of who we are and how we show up. And sometimes, our values are all we have as we enter the arena. According to Brené Brown, brave leadership and courageous cultures require four kill sets: (1) Rumbling with Vulnerability; (2) Living into Our Values; (3) BRAVING Trust and (4) Learning to Rise. 

Why Saying ‘People Have to Earn My Trust’ is a Cop Out

Over the years I have heard repeatedly from leaders that people ‘have to earn my trust.’ The problem with this management credo is that it requires others to do the heavy lifting while the person who holds this belief sits back to assess whether they’re up to it. This isn’t how trust works except if we view trust in a transactional sense – you have a job to do or task to complete. Did you complete it successfully? If yes, transactional trust increases. If not, transactional trust goes down. If transactional trust is all you want, then go for it. But transactional trust is just that – it revolves around a task. Real trust, the type that propels a team’s performance, is much broader and deeper. Real trust requires vulnerability and vulnerability requires trust in a dynamic interplay. 

In this article, we will further explore trust – a topic that has been written about extensively, indicating its importance – and challenges. Trust is a big topic. Given that this series revolves around the work of Brené Brown and in particular her book Dare to Lead, we will focus on her framing of trust through the mnemonic BRAVING.

BRAVING Trust

BRAVING Trust is a mnemonic formulated by Brené Brown (Dare to Lead) and it stands for:

Boundaries: You respect my boundaries, and when you’re not clear about what’s okay and not okay, you ask. You’re willing to say no. Boundary management, as I like to call it, means that we establish our boundaries, communicate them, and then provide feedback if they’re not respected. An example for me is being clear about timeliness around meetings whether in a professional or personal context. For example, if I anticipate being any more than 1-2 minutes late for a dentist or hairdresser appointment, I will phone ahead to let them know. Sometimes they are surprised, but mostly they are grateful for the courtesy.

Reliability: You do what you say you’ll do. At work, this means staying aware of your competencies and limitations so you don’t overpromise and are able to deliver on commitments and balance competing priorities. This can sometimes be a challenge, but the question is ‘Do you deliver what you say you will deliver?’. Again, I see this as related to timeliness and keeping our promises and commitments. If you say the report will be done by Wednesday, to build your reliability muscle, it should be there on Wednesday before close of business.

Accountability: You own your mistakes, apologise, and make amends. In Part 4 (Values), several examples of value-destroying leadership were outlined or what I termed ‘Breakers’ (value-destruction) as opposed to ‘Builders’ (value-creation). All too often we hear and see ‘everyone was accountable and no-one was accountable’. We must strive for single points of accountability. This is different to responsibility, which is about who is actually performing the work. 

Vault: You don’t share information or experiences that are not yours to share. We need to know that my confidences are kept, and that you’re not sharing with me any information about other people that should be confidential. Brené Brown describes people who share information inappropriately as those who try to ‘hotwire connection’. It doesn’t work because people start to wonder what they might share about their conversations with you.

Integrity: You choose courage over comfort. You choose what is right over what is fun, fast, or easy. And you choose to practice your values rather than simply professing them. This is similar to ethical leadership in that we need to determine what is right. Brave leadership is actually doing it, even if its hard. So we can be either ‘in integrity’ with a stated value or ‘out of integrity’. It’s about our behaviours, not our intentions. Someone once said that we judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their actions.

Nonjudgment: I can ask for what I need, and you can ask for what you need. We can talk about how we feel without judgment. We can ask each other for help without judgment. Judgment is very easy and seductive. Our primitive brains, built to help us survive, are prone to judging others. We stereotype, put people in a box, or dismiss them based on our judgement. At the very least, it is likely our approach and behaviour will change around that person as result of our biases and judgment. usually in a negative way.

Generosity: You extend the most generous interpretation possible to the intentions, words, and actions of others. Generosity is closely related to judgment and is in fact the opposite. If we are able to hold a positive interpretation of other’s behaviour, we will open our minds to other alternate explanations to why someone did what they did. Being generous with others allows them to grow, flourish and perform better. It is important to note that being generous in this way doesn’t mean that we don’t hold people accountable. On the contrary, the research suggests that the people who are the most generous are also the clearest about their boundaries – in other words what is okay and not okay. When boundaries are loose or non-existent, then the interplay or dance between two people can become muddied. When boundaries are clear, it is immediately apparent if someone has acted within our boundaries or not.

I recommend that you focus on one element of BRAVING Trust for others and for yourself for 21 days, then shift the focus. In terms of others, you could practice Reliability by being exactly on time for everything (and if you’re not going to be let people know well ahead of time). We incorporate the building of habits such as these via our online Habit Builder application, which helps people track their progress as well as make journal entries to help their learning. In terms of Reliability for yourself, you might set one personal goal around exercise or something else that is just about you – and then stick to it. 

Phil is the Managing Director of The Leadership Sphere, a firm that focusses exclusively on strategy, leadership and performance. He is a Certified Dare to Lead Facilitator, conducting public and in-house Dare to Lead programs for teams and organisations.

Trust is the Key to Healthy and High Performing Teams

dare to lead program

The Results Are Life Changing When You Dare To Lead

In a constantly changing global business environment, it can be a challenge to create certainty for those we lead. While an admiral goal, absolution is not possible due to the inherent imperfections of the world we live in and as a result of human behaviour – we’re all prone to misreading situations and to making mistakes. What can unite us though, and help us lean into our own limitations is embracing the willingness to be vulnerable as leaders. This is exactly what participants are encouraged to do in our Dare to Lead Program. The Dare to Lead Program is based on the work of Brene Brown and focuses on being a more authentic version of ourselves and presents a refreshing way to look at the idea of vulnerability in leadership. A significant amount of time is spent, discussing and dissecting the importance of vulnerability and how closely tied it is to courage. Simply put, we reconnect with the vulnerability as a strength rather than a limitation. Though the course is designed for leadership development, there is a deeply personal aspect of each of the lessons that many find confronting. The biggest take away that participants have had is that they found they were challenged in unexpected ways. It has helped them become better leaders at work and a much better version of themselves on the home front. 

 

Be brave in ways you have never been before

It’s not often that we get the chance to explore what it means to be brave both as an individual and as a leader. Participants who undertake this opportunity in the Dare to Lead program gain a deeper understanding about harnessing brave leadership as a willingness to act during times of uncertainty. We can not lead bravely without the risk of falling short, because in order to do so we must be willing to do what is right over what is easy. In order to foster an environment of trust, leaders should allow themselves to be perceived as vulnerable. One of the ways this is explored is by thinking about what prevents us from being open and honest in front of others. We are given the tools to learn to recognise these moments when they occur and how to step back and prevent them from overcoming us.

 

Find courage when things get tough

One of the first exercises of the Dare to Lead program is Container Building where every participant comes together to discuss what behaviours will be required to create a safe environment for everyone to feel comfortable opening up with potential strangers. This encourages the building of courageous cultures that enable us and others around us to be brave. A large part of what it means to have courageous cultures is that it eases some of the difficulty of having tough conversations. In her book, Dare to Lead, Brown writes about the paradox of avoiding these tough conversations in an effort to be polite or kind – an idea that is wholeheartedly rejected. Instead, both she and the course teach us that “CLEAR IS KIND. UNCLEAR IS UNKIND.” All this means is that having the courage to be honest, even when telling hard truths, is ultimately a much kinder act than being ‘nice’ about it. As we reflect on the massive uptake in the Dare to Lead program we can see that the notion of “clear is kind” has always been a big part of leadership development programs and the development of high performing teams, however, said so simply and eloquently and enabling people to build stories around “clear is kind” and the opposite of ‘unclear is unkind” just makes it so much more powerful!

 

Integrate your unique values into day to day life

The Dare to Lead Program challenges participants to work on themselves and explore what is most important to them as a person as well as a leader.  Our values aren’t always something that we act on consciously in our everyday lives (though of course they can be). In fact, it is when we evaluate our behaviours that we find out that our values are. In doing this, we may realise that the beliefs we hold aren’t as frequently called upon as we thought. Such an exercise can be an eye opening experience for some, taken as an opportunity to refocus our ideals and begin to integrate those we wish to see more of.

Values based leadership is about living and leading with values that motivate others to do their best and that inspires everyone to contribute to the greater good. Some participants have followed the Dare to Lead Program with ongoing conversations via a ‘buddy system’ that is encouraged on the program, and others have taken on coaching from The Leadership Sphere expert coaches, in all cases the impacts have been even more significant, as the ongoing reflection allows the embedment of the core leadership development take aways from the program.

 

Re-establish trust with yourself and others

It takes quite a bit of due diligence to truly understand what causes us to feel angry or begin to shut down, as well as to understand the connection with feelings of worry, guilt, and shame. We may not always realise that when we react to certain situations with anger or dismissal, we may be experiencing something deeper (like fear or shame). By acknowledging this we can connect with what it takes to build an environment of trust where we can confidently rely on ourselves and others to do the right thing. 

 

Relearn the importance of self compassion and empathy

It is often much easier to extend compassion and empathy to others when they open up to us, but we don’t always extend these same courtesies to ourselves. What we view as bravery in others can feel like weakness in ourselves. This could not be further from reality. Dare to Lead teaches valuable techniques that help us to be more understanding of ourselves and others as we realise that everyone is doing the best they can. In an interview with certified Dare to Lead facilitator, Phillip Ralph, course alumnus Simone Wright put it another way: “hearing other people’s experiences, while they’re different, are similar.” 

 

Simone also said of her experience that “there’s an emotional journey in this course that is very strong” – a sentiment shared by many alumni of the course in a way that they found was unexpected. At the heart of the course is the coming together of the personal with the professional. It’s about humanising the workplace. Every person’s journey will be unique as it forces us to do a great deal of introspection about the things we value, feel, and experience. Not only have participants reported seeing a benefit in their leadership roles professionally, but personally as well. The Dare to Lead Program is designed to encourage participants to explore ideas in great detail and allow them to gain a deeper understanding of themselves.

For more information about The Leadership Sphere and how we can support your leaders with leadership development, executive coaching and high performance team programs please visit our website or call us on 1300 100 857.

The Results Are Life Changing When You Dare To Lead

executive leadership training services

Five Reasons Why Executive Coaching Is Critical During Turbulent Times

Executive coaching has been used as an important tool for leadership and business growth. Prior to COVID-19 lockdowns leadership coaching was seen as something important for those on the C-Level journey. However, with COVID-19 restrictions on many businesses, we have seen significant changes to working conditions, with working from home top of that list. With change becomes even more reason to deploy leadership coaching and support for senior executives and for management teams. With quarantine, isolation, and social distancing having significant impacts on daily operations it is unsurprising that we aren’t feeling as connected to each other as we once were. Interestingly, the sense of being ‘connected’ with others is an ongoing theme in coaching and mentoring conversations during business as usual settings, and it is no surprise that this is the number one reason why companies are reaching out to organisations such as The Leadership Sphere to provide structured and supportive coaching services as a way to help people better understand the change process and adapt to new ways of living and working. In this way, corporate coaching programs can have far reaching benefits for individuals and teams and let’s take a closer look at the five reason why executive coaching is critical during turbulent times.

 

Gain Greater Self-Awareness

Having self-awareness is often overlooked as being a skill because it seems fairly simple. However, we are all the main character of our own lives and the majority of us tend to overlook (or are simply unaware of) our faults or the deeper emotions behind our reactions to certain situations. Coaching programs for managers can help to develop a stronger emotional intelligence that will allow them to become better at understanding where their strengths lay and where there is room for growth.

 

Become More Empathetic

Learning to truly understand the emotions of other people will lead to stronger relationships with colleagues and teams. This builds trust between leaders and their teams. In particularly turbulent times, trust between leaders and teams could not be more important. When issues arise, they are likely to be solved sooner when an individual knows that their concerns will be met with kindness. There is no hesitation in bringing it to the manager’s attention. The Dare to Lead Program that is run by The Leadership Sphere helps leaders to connect with the mantra of ‘Clear Is Kind’ and provides good counsel around how to apply this to your own life and approach to leadership.

 

Improve Emotional Intelligence

While self-awareness and empathy are aspects of emotional intelligence, the importance of developing our overall emotional intelligence should not be forgotten. Self-regulation, motivation, and social interaction are also key pillars of a person’s emotional intelligence. It is important to have a strong understanding of each of them. In times of uncertainty they serve us well in terms of building relationships and connecting with each other. When we understand our limits, we know when to reach out for help. Knowing how we react to situations and recognizing our own feelings and being able to observe first before drawing conclusions are all skills that can be developed when provided with the right coach to prompt us to reflect and consider the world through the view of what others are experiencing, rather than simply the goals and objectives that we have in front of us. 

 

Increase Adaptability

Change is difficult. There’s no getting around that. But change is a necessary step towards fulfilling our potential. In some cases we have no choice but to dive in head first; executive coaching can help to prepare us for this by giving us the skills to adapt quickly. We may even already be capable of this, but don’t always realise it until forced to put it into action. When presented with the opportunity to adapt and grow, we must learn to turn away from the initial ‘stress response’ toward one of curiosity. As the rate of change increases, so too does our need to provide executive coaching services and support for our senior leaders and managers, not in isolation, but as part of a broader leadership development program that is focused on enabling clarity, capability and commitment at every level of an organisation.

 

Become a Better Leader

The most effective leaders are those who take the time to show their teams that they care about more than just the work itself. Great leaders display compassion and understanding towards those whom they lead. They have invested in themselves (and by extension their teams) by actively trying to develop and maintain trusting relationships with their team on individual levels. A coach plays an important role in challenging us to become a better leader, they ask questions to spark reflection and consider where we are strong and where we have limitations.

 

What coaching support do you have for your leaders and managers?

When facing times of uncertainty, it becomes more important than ever to ensure that our leaders and managers are well equipped in their understanding of themselves and their interpersonal relationships. In order to effectively lead through turbulent times, The Leadership Sphere places significant value on resolving crises, connecting, and building before returning to work in a new way. By providing leaders with the opportunity to undertake corporate coaching programs, you are giving them the skills they need to develop trust and become better leaders. 

For more information about The Leadership Sphere and how we can support your leaders with leadership development, executive coaching and high performance team programs please visit our website or call us on 1300 100 857.

Five Reasons Why Executive Coaching Is Critical During Turbulent Times

woman holding a hat made of armour

Why Values Work Better in the Arena than Armour

When we feel frightened, tired, alone, up against it or under pressure, it can be tempting to want to protect ourselves by putting on the armour when we walk into the field or play or arena. When we armour up however, we are much more likely to create the very outcomes we’re trying to avoid – disconnection, a lack of engagement, or trying to preserve our sense of identity – at least how we perceive it or want it to be perceived. This is a powerful paradox. The harder we try to prove that we’re capable, have it all together and are worthy of people’s trust and acceptance, the more likely we are to destroy it. Hustling for our worth is a zero-sum game. It destroys the very heart of leadership – value creation.

The arena is the metaphor used by Brené Brown in her book  Dare to Lead,, based on the speech given by Theodore Roosevelt in Paris in 1910. In this article, we’ll discuss why values might be all you have to take into the arena – and sometimes, all you should take into the arena. 

a sign with arrows pointing in opposite directions saying courage and fear In Parts 1 and 2 of this series, we laid the foundation about why braver leadership and fostering more courageous cultures in our organisations matters.  In Part 3, we got a better understanding of vulnerability. According to Brené Brown, brave leadership and courageous cultures require four kill sets: (1) Rumbling with Vulnerability; (2) Living into Our Values; (3) BRAVING Trust and (4) Learning to Rise.

The Arena

As Brené Brown says, “In those tough matches, when the critics are being extra loud and rowdy, it’s easy to start hustling—to try to prove, perfect, perform, and please.” In these moments, we forget why we are in the arena, which is particularly interesting given our values – our core beliefs – is what led us to the arena in the first place.

According to the research conducted by Brené and the team, the daring leaders who were interviewed were never empty-handed in the arena. In addition to rumble skills and tools, they always carried with them clarity of values. 

Let’s start by defining values, again through the lens of Dare to Lead. A value is a way of being or believing that we hold most important. Living into our values means that we do more than profess our values, we practice them. Values guide us, prompt us into action, and help us make the right decision.

Why We Need Better Leaders

The central role of leadership is value-creation, whether in our organisations, government, not-for-profit entities or our local school. And in order to create value – at least in the long term – we need to be able to practice effective leadership. I believe real leadership consists of two dimensions or pillars: ethical leadership, represented by asking is it the right thing to do and brave leadership, represented by actually doing the right thing, even if it’s hard.

 

VALUE-CREATING LEADERSHIP = ETHICAL LEADERSHIP + BRAVE LEADERSHIP

 

Ethical leadership is best served by firstly knowing our values and then living by them. Brave leadership is best served by taking off our self-protecting armour and leaning into the work with purpose, grit and courage. 

We have seen some very prominent examples recently where ethical decision making and actions were not present and it destroyed value – literally. In May, the mining giant Rio Tinto destroyed two rock shelters that demonstrated 46,000 years of continuous human occupation in the Juukan Gorge in the Pilbara (Western Australia). The aftermath was fascinating and disturbing. 

Rio Tinto’s own internal review concluded that “Everyone and no-one was accountable.” The company stripped around $7million in bonuses from three executives but it didn’t recommend anyone being stood down. 

Shareholders and various stakeholder groups were not happy, believing that the penalty didn’t fit the ‘crime’.  After enormous pressure, Rio Tinto boss Jean-Sebastien Jacques and two senior executives will be replaced after an investor revolt forced the mining giant’s board to escalate its response.

There are numerous examples of failures of leadership, evidenced by the number of royal commissions and inquiries we’ve had in the last few years (e.g. Aged care, Mental Health, use of police informants, Hotel quarantine around COVID-19 in Victoria, and currently Crown Casino and it’s links to Asian syndicates and money laundering).

And every day in our organisations, we still tolerate bad behaviour in the form of bullying, sexual harassment, or people being treated poorly. We must demand a higher standard of behaviour in organisations and society for that matter. We must demand braver leadership. 

The question for each and every one of us is, “Are you a builder or a breaker?” 

Breakers destroy value through their actions or lack of actions, including trying to prove they’re right, using shame and blame to manage themselves and others, leading through compliance and control, not having the difficult conversations, professing values rather than practicing values, leading reactively, resisting change, and getting stuck by failures, setbacks and disappointments. It’s what Brené Brown calls armoured leadership.a hand placing 6 timber blocks on a surface

Leaders and teams alike face serious problems showing up in a vulnerable way at work; instead, sabotaging themselves and others and killing real collaboration, trust, innovation and creativity. 

 

Value creators – or Builders – create value by living in accordance with their values and what is deemed to be ethically sound by basic human standards. Builders work to create high-trust, safe workplaces where people can truly show up and be their best. 

Living into our values means firstly knowing our values and then actually living by them. It means being able to foster more humanistic organisational cultures. To do this, we need to continue to develop our level of self-awareness and courage skills.  We need to confront our own cognitive biases, limitations and fears. 

We need to work harder to cultivate braver, values-based leaders.

The author is a Certified Dare to Lead Facilitator. You can find out more about our in-person and virtual Dare Lead Courses here.

Why Values Work Better in the Arena than Armour

leadership development

Time for a Leadership Development Detox?

Time for a Leadership Development Detox?

Detox is a word that is often talked about in health circles. In more recent times the idea of a detox has moved from ‘diets’ to other areas to support our mental health, such as a ‘digital detox’ to get us away from our devices and minimise the overload of white noise being thrown at us via the internet and social media. But have you ever stopped to think about a leadership development detox for yourself or your organisation?

What is the purpose of leadership development anyway? Are our leaders expected to know too much? What is the right leadership training for our situation? Do we have strategic objectives in place to hang our leadership competency framework off of? What leadership training do we give our executive leadership team versus other senior managers and line managers? Wow, a new best seller on leadership development, I had better read that one. It all becomes a minefield of questions really quickly.

Regardless of how capable our senior leaders are, there is always areas for improvement. That is why each year, thousands of resources are presented to us such as leadership development programs, online leadership assessment tools, online courses for leadership, books on leadership and many other resources that deal with self-help, leading self and leading teams. So much choice can create confusion about what problem we are trying to solve, so let’s press pause, get out a blank piece of paper and start a leadership development detox for our self (or our organisation).

What problem are we trying to solve?

Let’s acknowledge that leadership development is about helping leaders reach their full potential. Leadership development experts at The Leadership Sphere use a framework that considers three important areas that we can reflect on:

Clarity – are we being clear or unclear to our leaders, to our managers and to our teams? In other words, are our strategic objectives clear and are we communicating this in a way that resonates at every layer in our organisation?

Capability – have we the capability to do what we need to do, or is there skill gaps that we can work on with our people? Saying we have a leadership capability issue is a cop out… instead we need to consider where the capability gaps are and that can take us down the path of understanding the right leadership development for the right group of people. Of course, it is not a one size fits all approach to leadership training and coaching agenda is important.

Contribution – how are the contributions at every level of leader in our organisation and what can we be doing to better support them?

When we start asking these questions in the context of what is really going on in the workplace it becomes clear as to why so many leaders feel like they’re drowning in their responsibilities and expectations of them as a senior leader. Between managing the business, staying reasonably current in their functional skills, and trying to be a good manager of people, it can be hard to stay afloat. Often expectations are so high, and we are being asked to achieve more with less resources that people become overwhelmed, things become unclear, we doubt our capability and contribution diminishes. As a result, many leaders feel extremely unsatisfied in their role and it can lead to less than desirable performance and in some cases burnout and mental health issues. Think about it. We ask individuals in leadership positions to be highly emotionally intelligent and excellent team players in addition to being enterprise leaders, situational leaders, transformative leaders, servant leaders, collaborative leaders, virtual leaders, strategic leaders; it’s a pretty long list of areas to be an ‘expert in’. Starting to sound like a leadership development detox is on the menu?

If we are going to help leaders reach their leadership potential and to be satisfied in the process, we need to focus on what constitutes good leadership. Here is a list of questions that can get you started.

  1. Are we clear about our strategic objectives and what we are trying to achieve?
  2. Do we communicate these objectives clearly to our people?
  3. Does everyone understand (and live) our values?
  4. What is overperformance, full performance and underperformance and what are the impacts of each (to the organsiation and to our people)?
  5. Do we coach and give people feedback well?
  6. Do we collaboratively solve problems and make decisions?
  7. Do we delegate tasks and responsibilities effectively?
  8. Do we mediate and resolve conflicts and differences constructively?
  9. Do we spend enough time observing, listening, asking questions?
  10. Do our leaders maintain composure during times of adversity?
  11. How do we operate in an emergency?
  12. Are we encouraging people to cooperate as part of the broader team?
  13. Are we flexible in our approach (i.e. are we adaptable to meet the changing needs of our people and our clients)?
  14. Are you overwhelmed just by thinking of this long list of questions? Ok we will stop now!

A big part of your leadership development detox is to write down all the questions you can think of… think about clarity, capability and contribution in the process… think about it top down from strategy through to day to day tasks. Once you have done this brain storm, then for each question, simply answer two things, what effort would it take to get it right, what impact would that have on the results of our organisation. This is a simple effort versus impact exercise. Then of course, once you have done that we can apply the Pareto Principle and look to build a leadership development program that addresses the 20% of our questions that we believe will give us 80% of the result. You will find that your solution is not just about the next best leadership book, or leadership course on the market, but rather a longer term approach to building in a combination of leadership assessments, leadership workshops and coaching for leaders along the way.

At The Leadership Sphere one of our most popular programs is the Dare to Lead Program where we encourage leaders to consider a simple statement of ‘CLEAR IS KIND’… ‘UNCLEAR IS UNKIND’ which interestingly gets us thinking about the amount of time we waste in the world of unclear and what a difference it makes when we start to think about CLARITY first. We encourage you to think about all leadership development and executive coaching programs using this. That is, start by having the courage to focus on being clear and then take the next step into building a high performance leadership program.

For more information about The Leadership Sphere and how we can support your leaders with leadership development, executive coaching and high performance team programs please visit our website or call us on 1300 100 857.

Time for a Leadership Development Detox?

rumble with vulnerability

Rumbling with Vulnerability

Rumbling with Vulnerability

The title of this post, ‘Rumbling with vulnerability’ sounds like it’s from the south of the USA, and that’s because it is (or more accurately South Central).

Many readers will be familiar with the work of Brené Brown and her latest book, Dare to Lead. By her own admission and the way she told it to me last year in Texas as part of a cohort of soon-to-be Certified Dare to Lead Facilitators, a well-meaning person once laughed and said it was funny how a lot of the language you (Brené) use has something to do with rodeos and cattle and well….Texas. Apparently that was a big surprise to Brené. Most people can connect with the language, or at least it’s meaning. Regardless, vulnerability is at the core of leadership so deserves further exploration.

This article will discuss what vulnerability in leadership is and why we should be serious about what it has to offer us as leaders. In Part 1 of this series, it was mentioned that talking about ‘brave leadership’ sounds awkward and feels a little elusive. In Part 2, the focus was on brave leadership and courageous cultures and why it matters. True leadership, by its very nature, requires leaders who are prepared to be vulnerable.

You may recall from parts 1 and 2, that, according to Brené, brave leadership and courageous cultures require four skill sets: (1) Rumbling with Vulnerability; (2) Living into Our Values; (3) BRAVING Trust and (4) Learning to Rise.

What is Vulnerability?

Vulnerability is defined in Dare to Lead as: The emotion that we experience during times of uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure.  A rumble is defined as: a discussion, conversation, or meeting defined by a commitment to lean into vulnerability, to stay curious and generous, to stick with the messy middle of problem identification and solving, to take a break and circle back when necessary, to be fearless in owning our parts, and, to listen with the same passion with which we want to be heard.

Simply put, vulnerability is about having the courage to show up when you can’t control the outcome. Being able to rumble with vulnerability is the foundational skill of courage-building. Without this core skill, it is impossible to put the other three skill sets into practice. One of my favourite quotes from the book: 

Our ability to be daring leaders will never be greater than our capacity for vulnerability.”

Vulnerability is not about weakness, spilling your guts, fake vulnerability (e.g. asking for an open discussion with the team and then closing down hard questions), or managing the risk or uncertainty out of any situation with an app. 

Who Cares About Vulnerability Anyway?

Vulnerability in leadership is still poorly understood, particularly the link to its benefits. As previously mentioned in another post, my own experience in running hundreds of leadership development programs, and what prompted me to write this series, is that many remain sceptical. Perhaps because it won’t be perceived as cool or the right thing to say, but when we scratch the surface to examine people’s core beliefs about vulnerability, many don’t believe, or understand, the link between vulnerability and performance. And even if leaders do buy into the notion that vulnerability is good for business, then many struggle knowing how to be (appropriately) vulnerable.

Adding further weight to creating more humanistic organisations is in a recent article entitled Stop Overengineering People Management (Harvard Business Review, Sept-Oct 2020). The authors mount a strong case that scientific management – through the optimisation of labour – is pulling leaders and organisations away from four decades holding a belief in worker empowerment. In this model, labour is treated as a commodity and strives to cut it to a minimum by using automation and software. The potential is that this force will further remove connection, trust and innovation (the authors recommend finding the mix between optimisation and empowerment).

Here are my top five reasons why we should care about vulnerability in business:

Woman thinking with a cartoon drawing of different people

  1. Connection 

While technology has been incredibly valuable, it has also provided unintended disconnection. Dan Schawbel in his book Back to Human, says, “Technology has created the illusion that today’s workers are highly connected to one another when in reality most feel isolated from their colleagues.” Being vulnerable allows us to connect with others that then enables the building of deeper relationships. We know that deeper relationships at work have many benefits including increased job performance, loyalty and overall feelings of wellbeing.

  1. Trust

I wrote an article recently that outlined, among other things, why trust is important and how it can drive results. For example, high trust organisations experience 32x greater risk-taking, 11x more innovation, and 6x higher performance (Edelman Trust Barometer). And at a human level, treating each other with respect and forming good relationships feels like the right thing to do. As mentioned earlier in the article, you can’t actually develop high-trust relationships without vulnerability and people feeling comfortable around you. The two fit together and can’t be separated.

  1. Innovation

We know innovation is good for business, yet struggle to create nimble, agile and innovative cultures. Why? It is clear that creating a culture of innovation is no simple exercise, however, for many, there seems to be a belief that if enough agile processes are implemented, or they teach people how to brainstorm, or teach people how to use right-brain thinking, somehow magically the culture will change for the better. 

In a new book by Gary Hamel and Michele Zanini entitled, Humanocracy: creating organizations as amazing as the people inside them, the authors believe bureaucracies are ‘innovation-phobic’ and despite the proliferation of ‘innovation hubs’, little progress has been made. Their thesis and assertion, which I wholeheartedly support, is that we need more humanistic workplaces and I know no better way to do this than through being real, showing up and rumbling with vulnerability.

  1. To Partner is to Lead

If you want to create change in your organisation then you need to be more ‘leader’ than ‘manager’. And in order to create meaningful change, leaders need more partners than followers.

Yellow sneakers standing before the words Comfort ZoneSure, the notion of ‘follower’ is a convenient and somewhat quaint notion that there is a leader and then there are followers – but the world has moved on and so should you – if you haven’t already. What modern organisations need is a culture of partnership, collaboration and yes, even service. While I acknowledge that most teams have a formal head whose role it is to co-ordinate and guide the activities of team members, an effective leader will also understand the role they play and will be flexible in how that role comes to fruition.  

Authority can work okay as a platform when the work is of a technical nature (we know what to do and have the knowledge and skills to do it), but anything other than this type of work requires a different approach (for example in adaptive work where the solution may not be clear or follow a linear, predictable pathway – think almost any change!).

Self-aware leaders will share leadership, partner rather than tell, guide rather than direct. When was the last time you enjoyed ‘following’ someone who just told you what to do? Perhaps never. 

In order to partner effectively and not simply rely on the formal authority vested in your role, you must be able to connect, build trust and have meaningful relationships with people. In other words, we need a vulnerability and authenticity in order to partner successfully.

  1. Building Learning, Growth and Resilience

I remember in the 1990s there was a whole genre of university courses created to teach people how to teach others how to ‘recreate’ because in the future (e.g. the 2000s) the nature of work would have changed so much that we would have oodles of spare time on our hands. With so much spare time, how would we use it productively? We do need to learn how to ‘re-create’ and renew ourselves, but for very different reasons. Life seems to be getting busier and busier in an always-on, connected digital world.

One of our primary tasks as leaders is to grow and develop confident, capable and resilient people. We can only do this if we focus on these things. In my experience, these outcomes are subordinate to task achievement. We busily tick off our ever-expanding task list, often at the expense of growing and developing the very people who are doing the work. If we can be vulnerable and in turn promote those around us to be vulnerable, then we are far more likely to fast-track employee development. The opposite of this is a culture of hiding mistakes, always trying to appear like we’re on top of things, and managing an external persona that we think will make others thinks we’re worthy to be in the roles we occupy. Vulnerability is the key to you creating an amazing learning culture and workforce who will help your company outperform. 

Where to From Here?

Creating more humanistic organisations is not an easy undertaking. There is no magic wand or one way. Black and white photo of a knight in shining armour

However what is clear is that it will take a focussed effort on developing leaders who themselves are more vulnerable and real, who can ask hard questions, challenge the status quo, give and receive meaningful feedback, and create meaningful change.

By reducing the personal armour that we carry and step into humanistic, courageous leadership, we will take positive steps forward in creating organisations that are as smart, curious and creativity as their people.

Rumbling with Vulnerability

trust in leadership

Leading Through Trust Series: Relationships

How do we build strong, positive relationship? Did you know that having good friends in the workplace can boost your job satisfaction? How good are the relationships that you have with your colleagues?

According to the Gallup Organization, people who have a best friend at work are seven times more likely to be engaged in their jobs. And it doesn’t have to be a best friend: Gallup found that people who simply had a good friend in the workplace are more likely to be satisfied. In this article, we’re looking at how you can build strong, positive relationships at work. We’ll see why it’s important to have good working relationships, and we’ll look at how to strengthen your relationships with people that you don’t naturally get on with.

Human beings are naturally social creatures – we crave friendship and positive interactions, just as we do food and water. So, it makes sense that the better our relationships are at work, the happier and more productive we’re going to be. Good working relationships give us several other benefits: our work is more enjoyable when we have good relationships with those around us. Also, people are more likely to go along with changes that we want to implement, and we’re more innovative and creative. What’s more, good relationships give us freedom: instead of spending time and energy overcoming the problems associated with negative relationships, we can, instead, focus on opportunities.

This is the third article in a six part series on trust. You can read about how to be more transparent here.

Defining a Good Relationship

There are several characteristics that make up good, healthy working relationships:

Trust This is the foundation of every good relationship. When you trust your team and colleagues, you form a powerful bond that helps you to work and communicate more effectively. If you trust the people you work with, you can be open and honest in your thoughts and actions, and you don’t have to waste time and energy “watching your back.”

Mutual Respect – When you respect the people who you work with, you value their input and ideas, and they value yours. Working together, you can develop solutions based on your collective insight, wisdom and creativity.

Mindfulness – This means taking responsibility for your words and actions. Those who are mindful are careful and attend to what they say, and they don’t let their own negative emotions impact the people around them.

Diversity – People with good relationships not only accept diverse people and opinions, but they welcome them. For instance, when your friends and colleagues offer different opinions from yours, you take the time to consider what they have to say and factor their insights into your decision-making.

Open Communication – We communicate all day, whether we’re sending emails or meeting face to face. The better and more effectively you communicate with those around you, the richer your relationships will be. All good relationships depend on open, honest communication.

How to Build Good Relationships

Although we should try to build and maintain good working relationships with everyone, there are certain relationships that deserve extra attention. For instance, you’ll likely benefit from developing good relationships with not only your team members, but also key stakeholders in your organisation. These are the people who have a stake in your success or failure. Forming a bond with these people will help you to ensure that your projects and career, stay on track.

#1: Develop Your People Skills

Good relationships start with good people skills. But first, we each need to identify our own relationship needs. Do you know what you need from others? And do you know what they need from you? Understanding these needs can be instrumental in building better relationships.

#2: Schedule Time to Build Relationships 

I sometimes hear team leaders – or members of the team themselves – say that they haven’t caught up 1-on-1 for several weeks. In order to build trust, team leaders must devote sufficient time towards relationship building. So, how frequently you should catch up with team members? I don’t think there are any hard and fast rules, but what I recommend is weekly 15-minute conversations, with one of those per month being a longer meeting which is not about their to-do lists, tasks or projects.

Instead, it’s about them. Ask them how they’re doing, ask them what support they need, ask them about relationships in the team, and finally, ask them about their role and their level of engagement. This can also move to a broader career discussion. Ask ‘what else can I do to support you having a stimulating and enjoyable place in the team?’ It goes a long way, believe me.

Don’t forget the little moments that matter – for example by saying good morning to people, checking in regularly even just for 30 seconds. These little interactions help build the foundation of a good relationship, especially if they’re face-to-face.

#3: Focus on Your EI

Also, spend time developing your emotional intelligence (EI). Among other things, this is your ability to recognise your own emotions, and clearly understand what they’re telling you. High EI also helps you to understand the emotions and needs of others which is the focus of the next level – Understanding.

#4: Appreciate Others

Show your appreciation whenever someone helps you. Everyone, from your boss to the office cleaner, wants to feel that their work is appreciated. So, genuinely compliment the people around you when they do something well. This will open the door to great work relationships.

#5: Be Positive

Focus on being positive. Positivity is attractive and contagious, and it will help strengthen your relationships with your colleagues. No one wants to be around someone who’s negative all the time.

#6: Manage Your Boundaries

Make sure that you set and manage boundaries properly – all of us want to have friends at work, but, occasionally, a friendship can start to impact our jobs, especially when a friend or colleague begins to monopolize our time. If this happens, it’s important that you’re assertive about your boundaries, and that you know how much time you can devote during the work day for social interactions.

#7: Avoid Gossiping

Don’t gossip – office politics and “gossip” are major relationship killers at work. If you’re experiencing conflict with someone in your group, talk to them directly about the problem. Gossiping about the situation with other colleagues will only exacerbate the situation and will cause mistrust and animosity between you. You may have heard the terms ‘above the line’ and ‘below the line’. Above the line is about taking ownership, accountability and responsibility for things that happen, whereas below the line is when our behaviour can be damaging. It’s about blame, excuses and denial. It’s toxic. Gossiping or talking badly about people behind their back is below the line. As a leader, we must try really hard not to do this.

#8: Listen Actively

Practice active listening when you talk to your customers and colleagues. People respond to those who truly listen to what they have to say. Focus on listening more than you talk, and you’ll quickly become known as someone who can be trusted.

Difficult Relationships

Occasionally, you’ll have to work with someone you don’t like, or someone that you simply can’t relate to. But, for the sake of your work, it’s essential that you maintain a professional relationship with him. When this happens, make an effort to get to know the person. It’s likely that she knows full well that the two of you aren’t on the best terms, so make the first move to improve the relationship by engaging him in a genuine conversation, or by inviting him out to lunch. While you’re talking, try not to be too guarded. Ask him about his background, interests and past successes. Instead of putting energy into your differences, focus on finding things that you have in common. Just remember – not all relationships will be great; but you can make sure that they are, at least, workable!

Next time, we will talk about Understanding.

Leading Through Trust Series: Relationships

Vulnerability in Leadership

Vulnerability in Leadership: More than just a Buzzword? (Part 2)

In part 1 of this two-part article, “Vulnerability in Leadership: More than Just a Buzzword, I discussed vulnerability as a key leadership strength.  It’s an idea and principle that is increasingly referenced in leadership literature and in organisations. Despite this growing awareness, vulnerability is still usually associated with weakness. That’s unfortunate – because vulnerability is such a critical leadership quality that it deserves serious attention.

I also mentioned in part 1 that I, like many others, stand on the shoulders of giants like Dr Brown. I’m very excited to be heading to the US in November to complete the Dare to Lead accreditation program.  In it we will further explore concepts such as courage, vulnerability, shame, the gifts of imperfection, rising strong and brave, and deeper hearts and minds work. I look forward to sharing the learnings with clients here in Australia and abroad to develop effective leadership skills.

In part 1, we look at ‘what’ (what is vulnerability?) and ‘why’ (why we should care about vulnerability in leadership). In this article, we will focus on the ‘how’ – how to be a more effective leader by being more open, authentic and vulnerable.

Top Five Reasons We Should Care About Vulnerability

In summary, the business case for vulnerability is around five key benefits:

  1. Connection – In a technology-centric world, vulnerability allows us to connect with others, build stronger relationships and enhance job performance.
  2. Trust – Trust is an essential component of business effectiveness. High trust organisations experience 32x greater risk-taking, 11x more innovation, and 6x higher performance. (Edelman Trust Barometer)
  3. Innovation – You can’t have innovation without vulnerability. Most leaders know that innovation is good for business, but many still struggle to create nimble, agile and innovative cultures.
  4. To Partner is to Lead – If you want to create change in your organisation then you need to be more ‘leader’ than ‘manager’, and more ‘partner’ than leader. Learning to share power and leadership at the right times can release dormant potential within teams and organisations.
  5. Building Learning, Growth and Resilience – One of our primary tasks as leaders is to grow and develop confident, capable and resilient people into high-performance teams. Learning inherently requires vulnerability – taking ourselves outside our comfort zone.  If you’re not open and vulnerable, then you’re probably not learning.

The Being-Doing Paradox

Before we discuss how to be a more effective leader by being more open, authentic and vulnerable, it might be useful to explore being versus doing.

The Being-Doing Paradox is that to get more done (e.g. task accomplishment at work), we can often be trapped into believing that we must do more things. In our minds at least, we often seem to correlate doing with productivity. It’s what Michael Bungay Stainer calls ‘busy work’ rather than ‘good’ or ‘great work’. When we’re honest with ourselves though, we know that sometimes we are busy being busy with nothing much to show for it. Sound familiar?

The busy-ness epidemic has grown over the top of us like mould. It has kind of just crept up on us. The problem is that the ‘mould’ is now starting to block some of the sunlight. I have written about this before, but I continue to see people working harder and longer. I’m often left wondering when something will give. What will be the wake-up call for you and your organisation?

My belief is that if we want to be more productive, then we need to be less busy. We need to re-connect with being human rather than being busy.

There is a great article I often reference from James Galvin and Peter O’Donnell (Authentic Leadership: Balancing Doing and Being), that uses the metaphor of a tree. Unless we attend to the roots of the tree (i.e. Self, Framing, Character, and Alignment), then we will be weakened and severely buffeted by the strong winds of change (i.e. the branches and leaves). Ultimately, this will impact on our ability to effectively deploy our Self, our Skills, Practices, and Behaviours in a meaningful way (see diagram below).

 

Source: James Galvin and Peter O’Donnell (Authentic Leadership: Balancing Doing and Being), Systems Thinker, April 2005.

How Do We Nurture and Develop Vulnerability

An essential part of being able to benefit from vulnerability-based leadership is to be authentically vulnerable. While this may sound obvious, it’s worth re-stating.

To show genuine vulnerability, we have to be comfortable to be genuinely vulnerable – not put on a half-hearted show for the crowd. We must work on the roots of the tree for the trunk, branches, and leaves to be at their best.

Five Stages of Vulnerability: A Practical Guide to Brave Leadership

Based on our understanding of current thinking in the literature and our own experience coaching and consulting with leaders for more than two decades, we have formulated the Five Stages of Vulnerability.

The stages should be viewed more as ‘guides’ rather than empirically based development stages. They serve as a useful metaphor none-the-less.

 

Be Open

The first step in improving our capacity for vulnerability is to Be Open to the idea that we can always learn new things about ourselves (in particular) and about others. When working with leaders in our High-Performance Team Program, the biggest block in making progress is to think we have it all worked out.

Three things to improve openness:

  1. Feedback: Always look for opportunities to get real-time, meaningful feedback from trusted sources (as Brené Brown would say, not from people who like to occupy the ‘cheap seats’!).
  2. Assumptions: Assumptions hurt you and me. The only assumption we can safely make is that we don’t have all the information or data. It continues to amaze me how frequently people make a statement of ‘truth’, and because no-one responds or challenges them, they assume that everyone agrees!
  3. Curiosity: Curiosity didn’t kill the cat. If we want to learn about others, we must put ourselves out there. Be genuinely curious and actively find out about people’s stories. Ask questions and then listen, really listen.

Share More

The principle of Share More is linked to the first stage, Be Open. Sharing is caring. However, this is often one of the most misunderstood aspects of vulnerability. many people think it means lying on a couch and opening up about your childhood or life traumas. Share more of yourself – go beyond pleasantries and the expected. Lower your armour enough so you can show up authentically.

Three things to improve sharing more:

  1. Armour Down: This is the opposite of ‘armour up’. We need to drop the armour just enough for people to be able to see more of who we are. Let them in a bit more than you usually would. Admit you don’t know the answer to a business challenge, or that you too suffer from uncertainty from time to time.
  2. Be Honest: Being honest sounds like it is a given, but is it? When was the last time you withheld information at work (when you didn’t need to)? Or when did you tell a white lie to protect yourself or someone else? Speak the truth with authenticity and courage. As Brown would say, brave the wilderness.
  3. Generosity of Spirit: Being generous is like gift-giving for free – the other person gets the gift, but it doesn’t cost you anything. It’s a win-win. If we can give more and expect less, then we’ll each ultimately receive more anyway (kind of like the ‘circle of life’?).

Trust Others

Trust, by its very definition, means taking a risk. I’m not talking about risks where you put yourself and others in great danger. I’m talking about risks that you might ‘logically’ ordinarily reject. For example, I like the quote from the movie “We Bought a Zoo”, where Benjamin Mee (the Dad played by Matt Damon) says to his 14-year old son Dylan (played by Colin Ford), who was apprehensive about showing his true feelings for a girl says, “Sometimes you just need 20 seconds of insane courage”.

Three things to improve trusting others:

  1. Trust Others: We often talk about trusting others in our teams or other colleagues, but how much do we demonstrate it?(I write in more detail on this in my book Leadership Without Silver Bullets). Our inability to trust people as much as we could is a hangover from the industrial, mechanistic age where we discovered control as a management tool.Does control work? Yes. Are there better alternatives? Yes. Free people up from traditional organisational constraints to innovate and be their best. If they don’t do their job or don’t do it well, then it’s our job to guide, coach and develop them, so we can genuinely hold them accountable instead of blaming and shaming.
  2. Change Your Relationship to Failure: As much as we protest in organisations that we encourage innovative, agile practices which are more iterative than structured, I call BS on it. All organisations – or human systems – send double messages. Failure is a good example where the messaging is ‘failure is okay’ but when it happens, watch how the system reacts. As a leader, how do you come across when something goes wrong?
  3. Defy Logic: This requires us to over-ride the ‘caution circuit breaker’. What if it doesn’t work out and I’m embarrassed? Within reason, do it anyway. Put yourself out there by having a go. Most of the time, others will feed off your courage and come along for the ride.

Take Risks

Take Risks sounds like Trust Others (above), but it’s more than that. This is personal. It’ what David Maister talks about in his trust formula (Trust = Credibility + Reliability + Intimacy / Self-Orientation).

People trust others with whom they feel comfortable discussing difficult agendas. Business can be intensely personal – and human emotion is an integral part of just about everything we do. Establishing intimacy is about building and accepting mutually increasing levels of risk in a relationship.

Three things to improve taking risks:

  1. Risk a Little-Gain a Lot: Taking risks means that you will fail. You will fall. And you will end up with egg on your face. But isn’t that what ‘risk’ means?Sometimes the risk-reward relationship may not be so clear, not easily plotted on a graph, but do it anyway. Risk doesn’t mean putting others in harm’s way or abandoning them. They must feel like they’re still supported. My father-in-law talks about being ‘taught’ how to swim by being thrown into the deep end of the pool and having to struggle back to the edge – that’s not what we want to do to others.
  2. Set Boundaries: It is important to maintain boundaries when we’re taking more risks by being open, trusting more, and putting ourselves out there. This means setting boundaries for ourselves and others. How much autonomy will you give someone? How much will you share? How much of your personal story will I disclose?
  3. Be the First: Extend trust – first. The primitive part of our brain wants to protect us physically (will this lion eat me?) and psychologically (is it safe for me to….?). It is therefore very easy to wait for others to extend trust or right wrongs in the relationship.However, try going first. Don’t wait for others. Extend trust as often as possible, including in a fractured relationship. Have the conversation. Mend the rift. Move forward.

Stay On Track doesn’t mean stagnate. It means continually investing in understanding the impact we have on others. We need to be continually self-monitoring and seeking feedback from those around us. Like any relationship that we care about, we can’t ‘set and forget’ vulnerability. The moment we do that, the universe is likely to give us a nasty reminder that this stuff requires constant attention.

Importantly, we can only help others grow if we are also growing. We need to be humble enough to understand – and believe – that we can learn from anyone and everyone. I discovered more about myself raising three children than I did from 100 personal development courses!

Three ways to stay on track:

  1. Continue to Invest in Yourself: Do the work. Remain curious. Don’t buy into the BS that you ‘can’t teach a dog new tricks’. This is a convenient story that we tell ourselves to keep us in the cheap seats and out of the arena. It avoids confronting things we may not like about ourselves, and particularly things that others don’t find to be a positive quality or behaviour.
  2. Encourage & Support Others: Good leaders work hard to create the conditions for others to feel they can take ever-increasing risks. People watch your every move as a leader. They are taking their cues from you in terms of how they respond in the moment to someone who is being vulnerable. We must demonstrate that we have their back. If they cross a boundary, then point it out with skill and compassion.
  3. Psychological Safety: Consciously work to build an environment where people feel safe to voice their opinions, to say what they’re thinking and feeling, or to take reasonable risks. Your legacy as a leader shouldn’t be limited to how many projects you delivered or the results you achieved. Your true legacy as a leader is the culture you created and leave behind.

In this article, we briefly recapped the importance of vulnerability (discussed in detail in part 1 of this two-part paper “Vulnerability in Leadership: More than Just a Buzzword). In particular, its role in building connection, trust, innovation, partnership as leadership and growing and developing people.

We used the Being-Doing Paradox – the paradox that describes how our tendency to work on doing more, taking us away from being more, degrades our productivity.

With the groundwork in place, we introduced the five stages – or more accurately guideposts – to build and develop our capacity and capability to be a more effective vulnerability-based leader.

The five stages of Be Open; Share More; Trust Others; Take Risks and Stay on Track provide a framework to continue the lifelong journey of becoming the best version of ourselves. This builds our capability to make a difference in the lives of those around us – in our teams, organisations, schools, communities, and families.

Vulnerability in Leadership: More than just a Buzzword? (Part 2)

People standing together at sunset

Exploring Transparency

In Part One of this six-part series, we explored trust in the context of organisations and in society generally, and how hard it can fee; sometimes, this is despite trust being at the heart of every relationship, whether in our personal lives or at work. Perhaps alarmingly, 82% of people say they don’t trust their boss to tell the truth, and 45% of employees say lack of trust in leadership is the biggest issue impacting their work performance (Edelman Trust Barometer). In contrast, high trust organisations experience 32x greater risk-taking, 11x more innovation, and 6x higher performance. And at a human level, treating each other with respect and forming good relationships feels like the right thing to do.

Trust as a Multi-Dimensional Construct

In Part One, we also introduced a model based on the best available information, research and my own experience in terms of what actually works. This model isn’t the work of an academic, but it is based on solid evidence. Making even small improvements in one or more of the five elements can make a big difference in how trustworthy we are perceived as being.

Five Elements of Trust.

In Part Two, we are going to explore transparency, which at its core, it about being open and honest and demonstrating vulnerability.

Whenever I ask people what they look for in a leader, almost without exception, they say openness and honesty. Nothing destroys trust quicker than people thinking that you’re hiding information, being guarded, or if people think you’re in it for yourself. People want to know the truth.

How to be Transparent and Honest

This is where emotional intelligence really comes in to play. While there are lots of definitions to do with emotional intelligence (or EQ), the simplest is that means we can regulate and use our emotions intelligently. This isn’t a course about EQ, so we won’t go in too much detail here, but EQ is a topic that has been written about extensively.

Six Strategies to Become More Transparent

I want to now focus on what you can do to build the ‘Transparency muscle’ – that is, become more effective at this element of trust.

#1 – Be Honest: I know this sounds obvious, but I’m surprised how many times people feel conflicted around this. Yes, be honest, but with skill – be sensitive to the time and place as well as how the message is delivered. Sometimes people wear honesty as a badge and are therefore too direct to the point of being blunt with little consideration for the potential damage done to the person hearing the message. We don’t need to walk on rice paper, but we do need to be constructive.

#2 – Be Prepared: We have recently worked with a high profile organisation here in Australia that has been plagued by bullying and sexual harassment. One of the problems is people not being open, honest and transparent about how certain behaviours were affecting them. We worked with several small groups of senior leaders and provided some guidance on how they might ‘call’ inappropriate behaviour. We essentially armed them with a kit bag full of phrases that would be helpful in the moment. The phrases focused on getting the message across clearly but not in a way that was passive or hostile.

#3 – Give Feedback Regularly: Be transparent by giving constructive feedback and positive feedback often, so people understand where you’re coming from and what your expectations are. By doing this, people will understand what you’re thinking or feeling about a situation.

#4 – Admit Mistakes: You can also be transparent by admitting mistakes and being vulnerable with others. This shows that you’re not perfect either, and it’s a great way to show people that they can trust you. It’s not about sharing all your deepest, darkest fears or every mistake you’ve ever made, so be strategic about what and when you share your mistakes. If you make one in the moment / present day, speak up early and move on. By being an example for your team, they will learn to be more transparent with you and one another.

#5 – Express your opinions: This is one of the best ways to build trust with your team – simply say what’s on your mind – with skill. As I talked about earlier, we need to think about the what, when and how, but as a general principle, don’t be afraid to say what you’re thinking about a conversation or other situation. In our leadership programs, I call this a leadership superpower! Not just blurting out the first thing that comes into your mind but expressing a perspective that will help the team move forward. Sometimes this might feel like a hand-grenade thrown into the middle of the group – an intentional provocative statement or question to get them to think differently.

#6 – Practice Vulnerability: I have recently written an article on leadership and vulnerability, so I will provide a summary here. In my own leadership practice, it is hard to describe the immediate impact vulnerability has on a group of leaders or a team. Recently, I was working with a leadership team as part of our High-Performance Team program, where the impact of one person demonstrating vulnerability was immediate. In this particular team, the effect was profound. Vulnerability creates connection; trust; innovation; a platform for leadership; as well as learning, growth and resilience. Practising being vulnerable is about (1) Being open; (2) Sharing more of yourself; (3) Trusting others; (4) Taking (appropriate) risks and (5) Staying on track by focusing on yourself while at the same time creating the conditions for others also to practice vulnerability. This article (part two) will be published soon.

So, there you have it, my top six tips to build the element of Transparency in your team and with your colleagues. Being transparent requires focus and courage.

Exploring Transparency

astronaut in space

Vulnerability in Leadership: More than just a buzzword?

It’s hard to imagine vulnerability being spoken about quite as much – or in the same way – in the past as it is today. Thirty, twenty or even ten years ago, it was almost always referenced in the context of a weakness, or ‘exposing our underbelly’. Sadly today, despite what we might say, it usually still is associated with weakness, despite many leadership development programs claiming it to be different.

However, vulnerability is such an important leadership quality, it surely deserves attention. It would be hard to write an article on vulnerability without referencing the pioneering work of Brené Brown who has inspired a different and worthwhile discourse. Many writers stand on the shoulders of giants like Brown, including me. I’m excited to be joining Brené this year in the US to complete the Dare to Lead accreditation program which will no doubt challenge some of my own beliefs and practices. I look forward to sharing the learnings with clients here in Australia and abroad.

This article will discuss what vulnerability in leadership is and why we should be serious about what it has to offer us as leaders. In my next article, Part 2 will discuss the ‘how’ – a real-world guide to creating meaningful people and business results through vulnerability.

The Problem with Vulnerability

In the meantime however, vulnerability is at risk of going the way of many of the qualities and traits we expect of leaders that have lost some of their meaning, such as ‘authenticity’ and ‘strategic’. While many people want to believe in it, and aren’t afraid to espouse its virtues, vulnerability is at serious risk of becoming another over-used word we like to throw around in organisational life. But the more an idea or principle is talked about, and the less it is demonstrated, the more it becomes diluted.

Moments that Matter: Being Human

In my own leadership practice, it is hard to describe the immediate impact vulnerability has on a group of leaders, or a team. As recently as yesterday, I was working with a leadership team as part of our High Performance Team program, where the impact of one person demonstrating vulnerability was immediate. In this particular team, the effect was profound. The team opened up in a way they had never done before. Despite some of them working together for years, they learned something new and meaningful about every person in the team. People connected with each other’s stories that enabled them to understand why they ‘show up’ in a particular way. While people were raw, they looked after each other. It was as a display of pure humanness – humans ‘being’ rather than humans ‘doing’.

Having worked with 1,000’s of teams around the world in our High Performance Team program, there is one thing I know. There are very few high performing teams where its members don’t know each other well. Teams need to be able to move to a place that is different to the usual fast-paced cut and thrust operating rhythm that has become accepted as the norm in today’s organisations. Teams also need to move beyond transactional trust where we trust that you will deliver something of value to me. Trust of course, by default, requires vulnerability. It is impossible to build a high-trust relationship professionally or in our personal lives without it.

Vulnerability and Results

We shouldn’t have to make a business case for vulnerability, but we do. My own experience in running hundreds of leadership development programs, and what prompted me to write this article, is that many remain sceptical. Perhaps because it won’t be perceived as cool or the right thing to say, but when we scratch the surface to examine people’s core beliefs about vulnerability, many don’t believe, or understand, the link between vulnerability and performance. And even if leaders do buy in to the notion that vulnerability is good for business, then many struggle knowing how to be (appropriately) vulnerable.

Here are my top five reasons why we should care about vulnerability in business:

1. Connection

While technology has been incredibly valuable, it has also provided unintended disconnection. Dan Schawbel in his book Back to Human, says, “Technology has created the illusion that today’s workers are highly connected to one another, when in reality most feel isolated from their colleagues.” Being vulnerable allows us to connect with others that then enables the building of deeper relationships. We know that deeper relationships at work have many benefits including increased job performance, loyalty and overall feelings of wellbeing.

2. Trust

I wrote an article recently that outlined, among other things, why trust is important and how it can drive results. For example, high trust organisations experience 32x greater risk-taking, 11x more innovation, and 6x higher performance (Edelman Trust Barometer). And at a human level, treating each other with respect and forming good relationships feels like the right thing to do. As mentioned earlier in the article, you can’t actually develop high-trust relationships without vulnerability and people feeling comfortable around you. The two fit together and can’t be separated.

Why do we feel more comfortable around someone who is authentic and vulnerable?  According to Emma Seppälä, author of “The Happiness Track” and Co-Director of the Yale College Emotional Intelligence Project, because we are particularly sensitive to signs of trustworthiness in our leaders. Servant leadership, for example, which is characterised by authenticity and values-based leadership, yields more positive and constructive behaviour in employees and greater feelings of hope and trust in both the leader and the organization. In turn, trust in a leader improves employee performance.

3. Innovation

Innovation is another quality that many leaders know is good for business, yet struggle to create nimble, agile and innovative cultures. Why? It is clear that creating a culture of innovation is no simple exercise, however for many, there seems to be a belief that if enough agile processes are implemented, or they teach people how to brainstorm, or teach people how to use right-brain thinking, somehow magically the culture will change for the better.

While these initiatives will indeed help, they are insufficient. Like making your favourite meal or baking your favourite cake, there is usually one key ingredient that, if missing, is bit of a show stopper. It would be like not having chicken in a chicken schnitzel, or not having flour in your favourite muffin. Yes you guessed it, the primary ingredient required to create an innovative culture is vulnerability. Being innovative is courageous and risky. Why? If people don’t feel safe, they won’t offer up ideas, engage in ‘radical candour’ or put themselves out there by declaring something has to change.

There are many forces in organisations that are perfectly happy with the status quo, otherwise it wouldn’t be the status quo. Your organisation is perfectly aligned to get the results it is getting – for better or for worse.

“Your organisation is perfectly aligned to get the results it is getting – for better or for worse. “

4. To Partner is to Lead

If you want to create change in your organisation then you need to be more ‘leader’ than ‘manager’. And in order to create meaningful change, leaders need more partners than followers.

Sure, the notion of ‘follower’ is a convenient and somewhat quaint notion that there is a leader and then there are followers – but the world has moved on and so should you – if you haven’t already. What modern organisations need is a culture of partnership, collaboration and yes, even service. While I acknowledge that most teams have a formal head whose role it is to co-ordinate and guide the activities of team members, an effective leader will also understand the role they play and will be flexible in how that role comes to fruition.

Authority can work okay as a platform when the work is of a technical nature (we know what to do and have the knowledge and skills to do it), but anything other than this type of work requires a different approach (for example in adaptive work where the solution may not be clear or follow a linear, predicable pathway – think almost any change!).

Self-aware leaders will share leadership, partner rather than tell, guide rather than direct. When was the last time you enjoyed ‘following’ someone who just told you what to do? Perhaps never.

In order to partner effectively and not simply rely on the formal authority vested in your role, you must be able to connect, build trust and have meaningful relationships with people. In other words, we need a vulnerability and authenticity in order to partner successfully.

5. Building Learning, Growth and Resilience

I remember in the 1990s there was a whole genre of university courses created to teach people how to teach others how to ‘recreate’ because in the future (e.g. the 2000s) the nature of work would have changed so much that we would have oodles of spare time on our hands. With so much spare time, how would we use it productively? We do need to learn how to ‘re-create’ and renew ourselves, but for very different reasons. Life seems to be getting busier and busier in an always on, connected digital world.

One of our primary tasks as leaders is to grow and develop confident, capable and resilient people. We can only do this if we focus on these things. In my experience, these outcomes are subordinate to task achievement. We busily tick off our ever expanding task list, often at the expense of growing and developing the very people who are doing the work. If we can be vulnerable and in turn promote those around us to be vulnerable, then we are far more likely to fast-track employee development. The opposite of this is a culture of hiding mistakes, always trying to appear like we’re on top of things, and managing an external persona that we think will make others think we’re worthy to be in the roles we occupy. Vulnerability is the key to you creating an amazing learning culture and workforce who will help your company outperform.

In part 2, we will discuss how to be a more effective leader by being more open, authentic and vulnerable.

Vulnerability in Leadership: More than just a buzzword?