Archives for Relationship Conversations

Brokering peace in a bag of ferrets

Why is there so much destructive behaviour in this team?   One of my HR clients memorably described her role in her team as being like ‘brokering peace in a bag of ferrets’. Although the description was extreme, it’s certainly evocative of the tension, arguments and unmanageability of many of the Leadership Teams I come across. Indeed, our research suggests that a huge majority of those in leadership teams think their team doesn’t function effectively. And, if you ask those outside the team how well they think their top team functions, the answers are considerably less favourable! These tensions aren’t
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Are You Turning Down A Bonus?

When did you last see a project promising a 50% uplift in results?   I’m guessing it wasn’t recently. If you ever have. Imagine the focus, energy and action that would flow immediately into making that project happen. Even before any results flowed it would be a fantastically exciting and motivating prospect. If you’re the Director proposing it, that would be even better still. If you’re in HR, and seen as marginal to the top team, it would be even more amazing. Every Leadership Team has this opportunity. It’s a big assertion but when we asked leaders and members of
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Keeping your clevers happy

The importance, and challenge, of leading your ‘clevers’ In the last issue we explored the folly of much of the current thinking on individual leadership. We also explored the importance of ‘clevers’, the high value people with expertise, on whom most organisations are now highly dependent. These people are difficult to lead. They are often:  Unimpressed by hierarchy (they value cleverness more than position) Organisationally savvy (and don’t want to be led) Resistant to feedback (and won’t thank you for doing the right things, either) Hard to replace (and they know it) Bored easily (and ask difficult questions) They expect instant
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Do you have the ear lobes for leadership?

The problem with clever people I was lucky enough to see Rob Goffee speak recently. Rob is a professor at London Business School and became famous with the publication of his HBR article, and subsequent book, Why Should Anyone Be Led by You? He says that thinking about leadership has completely missed the point. I think he’s right. He points out that, in today’s knowledge economy, organisations depend on clever people with expertise (he calls them ‘clevers’) who are often: Unimpressed by hierarchy (they value cleverness more than position) Organisationally savvy (and don’t want to be led) Resistant to feedback (and won’t thank
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Pain Island to Pleasure Island

When doing my best wasn’t good enough I’ve been working with clients as an external consultant for 10 years. I’ve been helping people in a variety of other internal (and non-professional) capacities for much longer. One of the challenges of doing this is knowing how to respond when a client calls and is sure about what they need. ‘I need an awayday — can you give me a price?’ As I ask questions, it usually becomes clear quite quickly that what they are asking for is not going to solve their problem — or deliver the results that they are seeking. I always
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Look Behind You!

How can facing out into the organisation be a mistake for HR?    Happy New Year! I hope 2016 brings you success, enjoyment and learning in all that you do. “Look behind you!” I know pantomime season is all but over, but HR professionals would do well to heed the classic refrain. While you’re working incredibly hard to make your people initiatives work, you’ll know that you’re battling all sorts of problems and opposition to their success. Ironically though, the biggest barrier to success is much closer to home than you might think. There’s a paradox for anyone in an HR
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Doctor, heal thyself!

HR are the experts in developing teams, right? The role of HR is to get the most out of the human capital in any organisation. One of the many ways they do this is to help create high performing teams across the organisation. Developing these other teams is hard enough, but the really important team, the one that sets the tone and plays the biggest part in delivering success, is the one that sits around the board table. The first job of HR then is to unlock the human potential in the top team. Leadership Teams are different. Whilst some
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Gardening with a Chainsaw

When is a weed not a weed? Success in gardening is about getting the right plants in the right place. Experienced gardeners will tell you that there’s no such thing as a weed – only a plant in the wrong place. Most of us have done at least some gardening. We know that if we put a plant in a less than ideal spot then it will struggle. No matter how much water, fertilizer and love we lavish upon it, it will continue to be unhealthy and growth will be stunted. Sooner or later, we’ll have to move it or
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Teambuilding – the enemy of team development

I had a frustrating, but familiar, experience recently. The head of training of a large international client called me. She was planning an off-site day for the leadership team and wanted some help to design and facilitate it. As usual, I asked her a number of questions about their context, people and the purpose of the event. Alarm bells started ringing as her answers revealed that the objectives of the day were far from clear. The only thing she was clear about was some items from the HR agenda – and she had little idea what business benefits the CEO
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Are you and your people focussed on the right future?

  What does success look like? There’s a huge amount of psychological research which shows how humans perform better with a clear and compelling picture of what they are trying to achieve. In my experience, however, most leaders give far more attention to ‘clear’ and much less to ‘compelling’. Even worse, in their efforts to serve many different purposes, the terminology introduces complexity and confusion which actively reduce performance. Unravelling this is made more difficult by the fact that each organisation (and sometimes each person) use the many terms in different ways. In describing the terms below, therefore, my intention
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