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 always on display, but they are always there. A strong CEO can often keep them in check in the boardroom at least. Even in those cases, the problems will, however, leak out to conversations at the water cooler or behind the closed doors of individual’s offices. Worse still, frustrations can be shared with members of their own team – setting a bad example and producing similar tensions between functions further
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Categories: Changing Your Team, Learning Conversations, Relationship Conversations, Stories and Case Studies, Tools and Techniques, and Why Leadership Teams Matter.

From ‘meh’ to mission

Teenagers in the boardroom? A few years ago my daughters reached their mid-teens.  Amongst many challenging things I had to learn was a new vocabulary.  It’s tricky, you see, to communicate when it’s too much effort to use more than one syllable! One of the most used expressions was ‘meh’.  After considerable deduction, I decided that the closest translation was a shrug of the shoulders.  It means something like ‘so what’ or ‘I don’t care’ and dismisses anything that’s not of immediate and personal relevance to the teenager in question. To my surprise, I’ve gone on to find this sentiment in abundance in the boardroom.  I haven’t yet heard the word used, but most discussions in most top teams provoke exactly the same disinterested, disengaged and dismissive responses from a proportion of the team. Do they really not care? Board members wouldn’t work as hard as they do without an inner fire. Every leader I’ve ever met is there because they passionately believe things can be better, and because they
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Categories: Ambition Conversations, Learning Conversations, Stories and Case Studies, and Why Leadership Teams Matter.

Never Reorganise Again!

Hmmm… Reorganisations, we all bear the scars… I remember my first experience of ‘reorganisation’. It seemed an ordinary day until word got round that people were being called in and made redundant. We waited all morning for the tell-tale single ring on our phone which could mean the end of our time at the company. I survived, and so got to see the months of disruption with staggered departures, reallocation of work, leaving parties and collective resentment. The relationship between us and the company changed that day. It was never quite the same again. Since that time I’ve had far too much experience of imposing reorganisations. There were always good reasons. We always agonised about how to minimise the impact – on the company and on individuals. Every one significantly dented the performance of the organisation in the short term and damaged the relationship with its people for much longer. Very few made a positive difference to performance. Even the cost savings were elusive – with people being moved rather
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Categories: Changing Your Team, Stories and Case Studies, and Why Leadership Teams Matter.

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 role. The harder you try to make your HR projects deliver, the less attention you’re likely to be paying to the single biggest determinant of their success of failure. For people interventions to make the change that’s needed, you need the active (and aligned) support of the most senior leaders in the organisation. In short, an ineffective top team is the key barrier to delivering a meaningful people agenda, so
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Categories: Changing Your Team, Delivery Conversations, Learning Conversations, Making the Value Case, Relationship Conversations, Stories and Case Studies, and Why Leadership Teams Matter.

Leadership lessons in lycra

Why so much pain? It’s July 2011 and my breath is coming in huge rasping gasps.  It’s my first ride with a club and we’ve been cycling close to 20mph for what seems like forever. I am exhausted. My legs are burning. My back is aching. My lungs are ready to burst. It’s been like this for over an hour. Around me are a dozen or so other riders. They seem to be doing much better than me. There are a couple of conspicuous clues to why this might be. The first is that they are all skeletal in comparison to my more portly form. This is made more obvious by the fact that they are all sleekly attired in lycra. I am in a tee shirt, shorts and an ancient helmet. To their amusement, I’m riding in trainers instead of proper shoes clipped into the pedals. I really want to stop – but I can’t bring myself to say so. There don’t seem to be many alternatives. If I take
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Categories: Ambition Conversations, Changing Your Team, Learning Conversations, and Stories and Case Studies.

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 is not to give a definitive meaning to each but rather is to explain the differences and problems that can arise.   So many terms… Budgets These are the probably the simplest, and certainly the most common, but are also the most overused. Every organisation needs budget figures to define the minimum acceptable level of performance – particularly for helping to communicate likely outcomes to financial stakeholders (owners, shareholders etc).
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Categories: Ambition Conversations, Changing Your Team, Learning Conversations, Priority Conversations, Relationship Conversations, Stories and Case Studies, and Why Leadership Teams Matter.