The big decision faced by the Scottish dominates the news at the moment; as the outcome of the impending referendum currently appears too close to call. The answer each individual has to give might just a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’, but the complexity of the decision making process makes it far from black and white.
The basis of any good decision is the depth and breadth of the information available. In this instance it is not for lack of relevant information and advice, but because of all of the unknowns. Politicians are scurrying around making firm ‘promises’ regarding Scotland’s future, but they can’t escape the key factor: the future is certainly unknown. Therefore making a decision seems risky.
Complex decision making, full of unknowns, is prevalent in the business world. It is accepted that often there is no ‘right’ answer. However, business leaders recognise that with uncertainty also comes opportunity and, for Scotland, whichever way the vote goes, change is now inevitable. The issues that are the most important to the electorate have been shaken to the surface and won’t be allowed to continue on in the same ‘old’ ways.
So that’s a good thing – surely?! To sweep away the old cobwebs and refresh; to identify the critical issues and review better or different ways to address them; to regularly adjust the direction.
We know that businesses that constantly review and adapt are more likely to succeed. Armed with rich information and strong diagnostics, a good leader will encourage flexible thinking and scenario planning throughout their business. This is all about seeing things differently, trying new ways, and looking at things from a different perspective. My360plus encourages businesses to challenge the ‘this is the way we’ve always done it’ mentality. The ability to acknowledge alternatives is a vital leadership skill, proven to increase performance, and that is why it is one of the key high performance behaviours that my360plus rates and coaches.
The Scottish people have been discussing the pros and cons of Independence or Union for the best part of 300 years. They are a well informed electorate. Whatever the result on 18th September, Scotland will move forward with a clearer, cleaner vision, with a more engaged population. This can only be positive.
A classic case of win-win. This morning, as I booked a courier online, I noticed the option to select ‘drop at post office’. Clever – I don’t have to wait in tomorrow for the collection, the parcel is on its way a day earlier, and the courier has one less pick up in his already busy day. Everyone is happy.
This is just one example of how win-win solutions are woven into our day to day lives: look around you! The branded sports players providing the clothing companies with marketing; BBQ food discounted at the supermarkets in the hot weather; contractors rewarded with a bonus if they complete a project on time – I am sure you can think of many more examples, which show how advantageous a truly beneficial supplier-customer/ business-business partnership can be.
One of Schroder’s High Performance Leadership Behaviours is ‘Influence’ and it can be very powerful, having a positive impact on individual, team or organisational performance.
So what is influencing?
- It is the art of developing ideas and solutions that are mutually beneficial.
- The ability to affect another’s attitudes, beliefs or behaviours.
- Persuading without using exertion or force of formal authority.
- Allowing the ‘influencee’ to believe that they are acting in their own best interests.
What are the benefits?
- Strategic alliances, joint goals and shared interests which foster a positive climate of co-operation rather than domination or imposition.
- It builds confidence and excitement for the project or goal
- The formation of alliances to ensure long-term buy in.
- Socialised power (as opposed to centralised around one or a few people).
How to Influence?
- Define the situation and identify the goal.
- Identify who needs to be influenced and determine what makes them tick. The High Performance Behaviour ‘Empathy’ plays a key part here as it is vital to find out what is really important to the other party.
- With this knowledge the next step is to work out the most appropriate way to get their buy-in, and to know which skills or behaviours are best to employ: reason, friendliness and bargaining are primary strategies. Back up strategies include assertiveness, higher authority, coalition or sanctions.
“Work today gets done in an environment where people don’t just ask “What should I do?” But “Why should I do it?” To answer this question effectively is to persuade.” Harvard Business Review
Empathy and Influencing are two of the behaviours that we rate and coach at my360plus. For some more information please contact us.
As a Greek philosopher in 550bc, I guess profound insight came with the job description. Heraclitus, Greek philosopher extraordinaire, is famous for his insistence on ever-present change in the universe and is credited with the oft used mantra of business people, “Change is the only constant”. Great oratory must have also have been in the job description, as Heraclitus said on this topic, “You cannot step twice into the same stream”.
Fast forward two thousand years and, as we absorb the daily business news, it seems that the challenges of business today means the streams are moving faster and faster, there are more streams with every step and occasionally they become torrents.
This rapid pace of change continues and is relentless. Business leaders, well the best ones anyway, recognise that with all the uncertainty also comes opportunity. They are two sides of the same coin.
In the late 20th century Professor Harry Schroder, in his ground breaking research (that also comes with the job description for a Princeton professor) and some of the biggest studies ever undertaken with leaders, demonstrated that a company’s ability to survive and thrive with change was almost entirely predictable and based upon the leader’s behaviour. Not only that, Schroder measured these behaviours and put them to practical use.
The Schroder behavioural framework, which every business and business leader needs to be aware of, describes these leadership “High Performance Behaviours”. They are absolutely critical to performance and are as relevant today as ever.
The Schroder framework recognises that in this competitive world, we need leaders with a compelling vision and innovative plans. The need to be prepared to take risks, inspire and motivate others and forge relationships and partnerships. Schroder identified that a successful leader has to be able to identify today’s trends and use them to predict and understand the environment of tomorrow and most importantly must develop their teams to do the same. This is why we at my360plus use this proven framework at the heart of our 360 degree feedback and ongoing development programmes.
At my360plus we have noticed that different sectors have adapted to change at different rates. Some sectors are ahead of the game while others are just beginning to adopt ideas and tools to support their leaders to survive and thrive change.
For example, most recent interest in my360plus has come from Law Firms, Utilities, Facilities Services, Environmental Services, Transportation and Retailers. This is a reflection that the leaders in these industries are now recognised as being critical to success and need to be aware and responsive to the onslaught of change created by industry consolidation, government intervention, increased client and customer demands and diverse competitive pressures. These sectors are also beginning to understand the impact of technology and the opportunities it represents for their own innovation and competitive advantage.
In the 21st century I am not sure what Heraclitus or Schroder would make of today’s world but I am sure they would recognise that in modern business, like in ancient Greece, as you step into your metaphorical stream, the same universal truth applies “Shift Happens”.
I was just listening to the radio as they were discussing with bemusement a costly £40.6m blunder by French train operator SNCF. They have discovered that 2000 shiny new trains are actually too wide for many station platforms and subsequently work is now underway to chip away at the platforms so the trains will fit. Ouch.
Costly mistakes are fortunately quite rare, but an article by the BBC today discusses this SNCF tale of woe as well as some other embarrassing stories where a little error proved very expensive, or even fatal…you can read the article here.
I think my favourite is the story about how a bridge was built between Germany and Switzerland, but both nationalities used different benchmarks with relation to mean sea levels. Germany, for its part, measures height in relation to the North Sea, while Switzerland opts for the Mediterranean Sea. As two halves of a new bridge grew closer to one another, it became clear that, instead of being at the same height “above sea level”, one side was 54cm higher than the other!
One of the high performance leadership behaviours that we rate and coach is ‘information search’. The essence is that your information should be “rich and broad”. It is vital to gather a rich variety of information from many different sources about events, issues and situations occurring internally and externally to your environment. The importance of this behaviour should be ingrained throughout your organisation so that you always have a broad set of data in a continuously changing environment.
With this rich data at your fingertips, red faces can, hopefully, be saved!
My daughter is revising for her ‘A’ levels at the moment and I was struck by this colourful essay that I saw on the kitchen table – she had carefully studied the exam board marking scheme and had marked up her essay against each of the marking criteria to ensure she would maximise her grade.
This is a simple example of measuring the right things to maximise performance. As a high performance leadership behaviour we would call it ‘Quality Measurement’, which is all about making your measures outcome focused. This often includes setting interconnected goals, targets or measures to improve performance. Wherever possible in an organisational context, the focus is on making things better for the customer, whether they be external or internal. It is one of the leadership behaviours rated and coached in every my360plus profile.
What do organisations tend to measure?
Companies tend to measure what is easy to measure or what has traditionally been measured, without really considering whether the measures are appropriate and will help them towards their goal. Often, organisations have far too many measures, where reports are produced every month, but no one really reads them and very little action results from the review of the data produced.
Questions to consider when developing Quality Measurement:
- What can you do to better monitor the current project or work you are doing? How can you make sure you are making progress?
- How can you improve the monitoring of your activities over the coming week, month and three months? What will success look like from this point over these time periods?
- How can you have a conversation with your key customers to understand how they really measure you? What can you change that will improve success against these measures?
- What are you measuring (because you always have) that doesn’t really add any value? How might you replace these with measures that really matter, especially to a customer?
The key to Quality Measurement is to set meaningful measures that have a significant impact on your performance.
Let’s hope my daughter has pinpointed the correct measures for her exam success!
We’ve been working with Professor Harry Schroder’s High Performance Behaviours (HPBs) for a long time now so it’s hardly surprising that we tend to ‘see’ examples of the behaviour regularly in every day life.
Yesterday, for example, Sir Terry Leahy, ex CEO of Tesco plc, was on Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs and his interview was littered with potential examples of HPBs. We say ‘potential’ examples because there wasn’t enough hard evidence in the interview to confirm that he’d used them (Kirsty Young isn’t an accredited HPB consultant, after all!). However, the success of Tesco under his leadership is undisputed, so there’s a high chance that he did use the behaviours consistently at a high level.
Here are the examples. The HPBs are in italics:
Discussing his leadership style:
Developing People: “I tried to coach people to get the best out of them.”
Building Confidence: “I always wanted to make people feel better about themselves to build their confidence.”
Proactivity: “I was relatively quiet, I think, as a leader. I didn’t use to send lots of memos around, or emails, and that was unsettling for some people. But they came to understand that I was trusting them to do their job.”
On the Tesco Clubcard:
Information Search:” Loyalty cards … allow you to understand more about a person so you can offer the products, services and information [to be] more useful to that person.”
Influence (continuing from the Information Search comment above): “In that way, if the person can see something useful, personal, helpful in some small way, it gradually builds loyalty.”
Presentation: “If you think about a doctor, they have to know something about the patient in order for them to do their best work. The more you know about a customer – how they shop, when they shop – you can do a better job for them.”
Influence: “You can either do good or bad [with customer knowledge]. What you have to do is be careful that you’re actually creating things that are beneficial to them, that you’re not manipulating the customer.”
Customer Action (When challenged that surely a company is there to ‘reward its shareholders and make money… having its shareholders’ interests at heart’): “The best organisations do put their customers at the heart and I think we were able to persuade our owners, our shareholders that the best way for them to get a return was by improving shopping for customers.”
We’ll be following Sir Terry’s next ventures with interest.