Categories
Coaching Leadership

Find your Cheerleaders

When you are identifying your options to achieve your goals, it’s really powerful to understand who is going to cheerlead your success.

Who is going to support you, run ahead of you and broadcast your wins?

The initial effort to get the fly-wheel of change spinning by yourself can be overwhelming. If there are other people to push along with you, then it’ll start moving more quickly. You’ll be able to top-up that energy faster and build impetus at pace.

So, identify people that will supportive of the change you are attempting to bring about. How does the work align to your manager’s needs and desires? Are you solving a pain point that will benefit your peers, or other team members?

Maybe you are pushing forwards an initiative that’s stalled. Find the sponsor, figure out what help they need to get moving again at weave those actions into the next steps you are going to take.

If it’s a real and positive change, you will have supporters. Find them, enlist them in your cause and get them out there shouting about your success.

Categories
Leadership

Successful Collaboration

In the world of business, you are likely to have to collaborate with people from different teams, departments or organisations. Sometimes it’ll go really well, but sometimes it’ll fail to achieve the results you were aiming for.

One of the best ways to ensure a great collaboration is to make sure that the way different parties are being measured and incentivised aligns with the goals of the collaboration.

If one of the parties is measured on clients gained, but another is measured by profit made, then they will likely be pulling in different directions. If one considers themselves successful by solving a pressing tactical issue, but the other looks to a strategic resolution, then it will again be a source of tension in the collaboration.

This get even worse if the people involved are not clear what their end goals are. If everyone is seeming to pull towards one outcome, but one party has an unclear or hidden contradicting goal, then this will poison the collaboration from the start.

The simplest solution to this problem is to be crystal clear about your goals, and to secure that clarity from the other party. You can then look at where there is overlap, where there is difference and where there is contradiction.

If the goals are closely aligned, then you are more likely to have a great collaboration. If they are slightly different, then you may be able to agree a shared measure of success that suits all parties. You may be able to align on new clients who are profitable, rather than a total focus on one or the other.

If the goals are totally divergent, then you are better placed killing off the collaboration early. It’s better to put resources and effort towards initiatives with the best chance of success, rather than forcing something that’s likely to fail because some of the people involved are actively rewarded with its failure.

Once you’ve aligned, record the agreement and share it far and wide with any stakeholders in the outcome to the collaboration. The public commitment to the agreed outcomes ties all parties to the success of the initiative. You can confirm that every party will be measured on the success of the overall collaboration.

If everyone involved has the same definition of success, if they publicly agree on that definition and if they are measured and incentivised towards that outcome, you’ve got a great starting point and a high chance of a successful collaboration.

If you don’t have that agreement, you are doomed to fail.

Categories
Coaching Leadership

Coaching for Performance

This is a long overdue look at one of the fundamental texts of the coaching and leadership field, Coaching for Performance. It’s the book that introduces you to the GROW model, and builds the basic theory of coaching around this tool.

It takes you through a journey of understanding, starting with defining coaching and how taking a coaching approach will help create high performing teams and organisations.

Part two builds lays out the principles of coaching, taking you through Emotional Intelligence, coaching as a leader and how coaching builds partnership and collaboration.

Part three moves into the practices. It covers the vital skills of active listening and questioning. Then we dive deeply into GROW, with chapters dedicated to each step of the model. In part four, we look at specific applications, covering 1 to 1, team and other specific coaching areas.

Finally, we cover the potential of coaching, including measuring the return on investment, leadership qualities and effecting cultural change.

The appendices are great additional tools, a comprehensive glossary gives a short overview of every core coaching term covered in the book. The question toolkit give a wide range of powerful options and approaches to apply in many different stages of the coaching conversation.

This is a key read for anyone who wants to improve their coaching and step up to the next level. It’s approachable and well grounded, with each short chapter presenting powerful and actionable lessons. You can read it through from start to finish and then dip back in to specific sections to refresh and brush up on specifics.

It’s a book that should be read by everyone who calls themselves a coach or a leader.

Categories
Leadership

Communicating Change

When you are attempting to communicate with someone, you need to always hold on to the idea that “it’s not what you say, it’s what they hear”. Once you’ve internalised this, it gives you a chance to build the shared pool of meaning that’s required to communicate something effectively.

Communicating “change” is a whole level beyond this basic interaction. Change brings uncertainty. It will take time, and it will affect a number of people.

With these added complexities, you need to bring another skill to bear. You need to be consistent.

You will have to repeat your message many times, in many formats and to many people. A single broadcast in a single medium will not have the impact you hope for.

If you are communicating change, you will have had more time to get used to the idea, to see the benefits and to see the path forwards. Anyone new to the idea will not have this, so your first announcement will feel like a bolt from the blue.

People will react to this in different ways, excitement, shock, even anger. Be ready to refine your message and to share it in different contexts and mediums, but always hold your consistent points in the front of mind.

When you’re sick of saying it, people are starting to get it, so get your head down, craft your message and give it multiple times with consistent focus.

Categories
Coaching Leadership

Appeal to Rationality

In a difficult conversation, it’s easy to fall into the trap of appealing to rationality. When emotions are running high, especially on one side of the conversation., then you may try for a “let’s just be rational about this”.

It’s a very similar position to asking someone to “calm down”, and likely to have about the same effect. That’s ranging from nothing, to a full and final breakdown in communication.

We fall into this trap when we are less immediately impacted by the conversation. Maybe it’s one where you’ve had time to digest the contents, whereas the other party is hearing tough news for the first time.

Quite often it’ll be when the topic is incredibly important to the other party, but is less impactful to you. It’s extremely common when you confuse a lighthearted topic with one that’s truly important to the other person. That’s a difficult conversation which you didn’t realise would be difficult, which is just about the hardest kind.

Appealing to rationality, or attempting to be logical, will not work in an emotional situation (and all situations are somewhat emotional). There’s no independent arbiter doling out correct answers. No impartial judges validating your feelings over another’s. When you move to “rationality”, this external justification is exactly what you are seeking, to the detriment of the overall conversation.

When you are reaching for this conversational gambit, you may really be attempting to slow down the conversation, bringing it back to a shared pool of understanding.

If that’s the case, just go for it. Recognise the emotion, and ask to take a moment. “Can I take a second to gather my thoughts?”, “I can see that this is a really important topic for you, what else would you like to share right now?”. “I’m keen to understand more, I’m sorry I’m not there yet”.

All these are approaches to bring you towards a productive exchange of meaning, which you won’t get with a suddenly appeal to faceless authority.

Don’t waste time being rational, when you can build a lasting an powerful human connection instead.

Categories
Coaching Leadership

Space to Fail

When you are learning a new skill, or mastering a new endeavour, you must give yourself space to fail.

If a change is going to be meaningful, there will be risk of failure. However, you can reduce your overall chance of failure by giving yourself the opportunity to make small mistakes, and learn from them.

If you don’t embrace this, then you’ll turn the situation into a binary all-or-nothing. Success / Fail. Yes / No. Put in such stark terms, you may well just choose to do nothing, which is a painful way to miss out on reaching your true potential.

Rather than letting this risk become a big thing, make it small. Embrace an amount of failure as you learn. If it’s perfect first time, then you didn’t find enough to challenge yourself.

In the Build – Measure – Learn model of the Lean Startup, you find an approach that celebrates giving this space. It pushes you to iterate quickly thorough ideas, learn what works and what doesn’t, and to then refine the outcome.

You can apply this model to your own goals and the options you consider when attempting to reach them. Don’t phrase something as all or nothing. Think about the iterative steps you’ll use. How you’ll learn from things that didn’t go so well so you’ll improve the next time.

Once you’ve started, you can correct your course. Doing it little and often means that no one experience is catastrophic. You start of failing and learning, then you start to succeed and finally you are achieving at a high level.

Give yourself space to fail, and you’ll get to success far sooner.

Categories
Book Review Leadership

The Art of Leadership

Michael Lopp’s new book has just been released. The Art of Leadership, Small Things Done Well. I’ve had it on pre-order since December, so I was very excited to get it into my hands.

It’s a collection of thirty small things you can do as a leader to build trust and respect in a team. The book is structured around three stages of leadership in organisations, a Manager, Director and Executive.

Lopp takes you through the journey from Individual Contributor, to a Manager leading a team, a Director who is leading Managers, and an Executive who’s accountable for the direction of the company. Each of the small things is especially relevant to a leader at that specific level, but is still something to keep in your toolkit as you move on to greater spans of control.

It covers pitfalls (New Manager Death Spiral) and sometimes unexpected areas of focus (when recruiting, spend an hour per day per open role). Communication is a key theme, whether that’s how to hold effective 1-2-1s, to say the hard thing or how to communicate difficult change through a large org. It recognises that you’ll be bad at each of these roles for at least a few years until you master them, so embrace failures, learn from them and growth through the experience.

If you already follow Rands, then you’ll be familiar with a lot of this content from his excellent blog. The book takes this to a next level, grouping, ordering and curating a common set of advice that is important for all leaders.

It’s a powerful book, it’s easy to read and it’s something you’ll be excited to revisit and dip back in to for years to come.

Categories
Coaching Leadership

Interference

What is interfering with you reaching the pinnacle of your performance? Where is the noise coming from? What’s the one thing you can do right now to cut some of it out?

Interference is the heat and light that blinds you, stopping you achieving your full potential. This fundamental idea was shared by Timothy Gallwey, writer of the Inner Game, a classic text of modern coaching practice.

It’s a simple concept, your Performance is equal to your Potential minus the Interference.

You can take steps to increase your potential over time, by learning, choosing to reflect and grow rather than just do.

You can also perform better by cutting down on the interference. It might be your own self-doubt, or the nay-saying of those around you. Maybe it’s distractions in the environment, where too many options pull you in different directions. Possibly you don’t know what the end goal is, it’s too fuzzy and uncertain to progress.

Stop now and take five minutes. Where’s the interference right now? What can you do to reduce it, dialling down the background noise?

If you know where the interference is coming from, you can block it out and achieve your full potential, turning in to true high performance.

Categories
Coaching Leadership

Flywheel of Change

Flywheels store up mechanical energy, and let you use it in a different way. They are big and heavy, and hard to get going. Once up and spinning, they’ll keep going with only small and regular top-ups.

If you are attempting to drive change, either personal, organisational or societal, then much like a flywheel, starting will be the hardest thing.

A great and tumultuous effort might just be enough to nudge the wheel forwards a tiny bit, but if left there it will quickly settle down to stillness once more.

One large effort is not enough. Nor will sporadic and unplanned pushes, too much will go into getting the turning started, rather then speeding it up.

The large push will be exhausting, but sometimes that’s worth doing to get going. To then drive the change to completion, use a strategy that builds momentum.

Find the repeatable efforts that you can maintain over the long run. Engage daily or weekly, make it a routine part of your schedule. Get to the point where it’s something you miss if you don’t do it. Setup some larger efforts, with time to plan before and recover after.

Change is hard, so be smart about building up that energy, and use it for good!

Categories
Coaching Leadership

Technology is a Creative Endeavour

I work with a large number of technologists, I build a lead teams working at significant global scale, solving problems with technology.

If you are outside of this world, it’s easy to get lost. Why is it so hard? What’s going on? Why does it take so long?

The exciting thing about technologists, and about software, is that they are constantly involved in a creative endeavour. It’s a cross between science and art, with a whole load of emotional and personal considerations thrown into the mix.

Think about how hard it can be to build a house. A dozen trades, maybe more. They follow a plan, but flex from it when difficulties arise. It’s creating something from nothing, but you’re probably following a pretty standard path. You know houses, you can see them. They’ll be used by a well known number of people, in a standard way. It’s pretty predictable, but there are still difficulties, overruns and variations from the plan.

When we’re building software, we have some of that certainty, but not the majority. We may not be sure what the problem is we’re solving. Will it be used by ten people or ten million? Who’s going to try and break it, and what if we get half-way done and decide to do something else?

If you are leading a tech team for the first team, part of a digital transformation or an agile experiment, it can be bewildering. Engineers, computers and logic suggest predictability, certainty and rigid planning.

Instead, stop and reflect. If it’s worth creating a new technologic solution, then it’s novel, unique and new. You can’t plan to the day, but you must let the creative process occur. Set goals, go after outcomes. Figure out ways to launch early to learn, then course correct.

Don’t look for perfect. No art is perfect. It’s done, and it’s out in the world, changing people and bringing joy.

Set expectations like this, and you’ll be an exceptional technical leader. You’ll empower people, bring real change to the world and never waste time search for misplaced certainty.