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Feb 022010
 
3D Team Leadership Arrow Concept

Image by lumaxart via Flickr

There’s a general perception in business that a tough, no-nonsense, target driven approach is the key to effective leadership through tough economic times. But new research from the UK challenges that long-held assumption, and suggests instead that it’s leaders who concentrate on building effective relationships with their teams who really stand out when the going gets tough

According to UK workplace think-tank The Work Foundation, effective leaders put people and relationships front-and-centre as they strive to tackle the challenges of the recession. Based on over 250 in-depth qualitative interviews, the two-year study, "Exceeding Expectation: the principles of outstanding leadership", proves that highly people-centred leaders, rather than their target-obsessed, autocratic counterparts that consistently deliver outstanding performance in organisations.

The findings could have profound implications for how organisations assess and measure the performance of their leaders; for the criteria used to select potential leaders, and the training and development techniques used to foster effective leadership; and on the way individuals approach their own personal development at work.

"The evidence from our research indicates there needs to be a paradigm shift for all leaders who remain fixated on numbers and targets," explained lead author Penny Tamkin. "Outstanding leaders focus on people, attitudes and engagement, co-creating vision and strategy. Instead of one-to-one meetings centred on tasks, they seek to understand people and their motives. Instead of developing others through training and advice, they do this through challenge and support. They manage performance holistically, attending to the mood and behaviour of their people as well as organisational objectives. And instead of seeing people as one of many priorities, they put the emphasis on people issues first."

Six high-profile UK organisations took part in the study, including EDF Energy, Guardian Media Group, Tesco and Unilever. One of the most striking elements to emerge from the research was the stark contrast between the behaviour of merely "good" and truly "outstanding" leaders. Until all the interviews were completed and analysed, researchers were unaware of whether the leaders participating in the study were deemed "outstanding" or "good" in terms of their achievements and how they were perceived by those reporting directly to them.

"Outstanding leaders are focussed on performance but they see people as the means of achieving great performance and themselves as enablers," added author Gemma Pearson. "They don’t seek out the limelight for themselves but challenge, stretch and champion others, giving them the space and support to excel."

The report reveals three key principles that were common to outstanding leaders in the study group:

  • They think and act systemically, seeing the whole picture rather than compartmentalising
  • They see people as the sole route to performance and are deeply people and relationship centred rather than just people oriented
  • They are self-confident without being arrogant; they are aware of their strengths and their position of influence, yet use these for the benefit of their organisation and its people.

"Our findings strongly suggest that an approach which connects leaders to people and people to purpose defines outstanding leadership. Leadership that focuses on mutuality and respect is not only good for people but good for organisations too," said Tamkin.

The full report "Exceeding Expectation: the principles of outstanding leadership" is available for download from www.theworkfoundation.com.

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Jan 282010
 
E-mail in notes

Image by dampeebe via Flickr

While it may seem that e-mail’s pre-eminence as a digital communications medium is waning as other, more "sexy" Internet applications grab the limelight, the truth is that e-mail is still the stalwart of business communication, and it’s likely to remain so for the foreseeable future.

E-mail’s near instant delivery, the ability to send messages to groups of recipients simultaneously, and the ability to seamlessly attach business documents, files and photos has resulted in a highly flexible, incredibly valuable business tool. There are now, arguably, more effective ways to do all of those things — but when you consider the way that e-mail combines them into a single application that is practically ubiquitous throughout the business world, and you begin to see that it will be some time before real time collaboration and social media usurpers topple the king of business communication from its throne.

While e-mail is, undeniably, a great asset to business, keeping your corporate inbox under control can be a challenge, and dealing with incoming e-mail inefficiently can be an enormous time waster.

A survey of global members by the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) revealed that people generally believe that they receive too much e-mail, send too much e-mail and that the time they spend dealing with unimportant e-mail every day has a detrimental affect on their productivity.

Over 80% of respondents admitted that they constantly monitor their incoming e-mail throughout the working day, 40% indicated they spent at least two hours in a typical working day responding to e-mail , and over a third said they spend 3 hours or more doing so.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of constantly monitoring, sorting and replying to a never-ending stream of e-mail, and unless you take control of your electronic inbox, before long you’ll realist that it’s actually controlling you.

Take control of your inbox

  • Make a positive start: try and avoid checking your e-mail as soon as you arrive at your desk in the morning. Pick something more productive to work on first — achieve something tangible before firing up your e-mail client. Making a productive start to the day will help you to maintain your focus throughout the day.
  • A time and a place: constant monitoring: of e-mail is a major distraction. Instead of listening for the "ding-dong" tone of a new message landing in your inbox, try checking it three or four times a day at prescribed times. Set aside designated periods for dealing with e-mail, and stick to them. Not only will you be less distracted, you’ll find that when you do deal with your incoming mail you do so in a more focussed and productive manner.
  • Use your tools: most e-mail software comes with a series built in filters that can automatically block unwanted mail and sort the mail you do want into specific folders for you. Most of your regular e-mail can be auto-magically sorted in this way, leaving your inbox less cluttered (if you’re not sure about using filters ask your IT department or a tech-savvy colleague for help).
  • Only answer if necessary: before hitting reply, consider whether a response is really necessary. Will your message contribute something positive, or simply clog up someone else’s inbox, probably prompting another unnecessary reply in return?
  • Reply to the right people: if you absolutely must reply to an e-mail, steer clear of the "Reply to All" option, which will copy your response to every recipient of the original e-mail . Unless that’s absolutely necessary, simply send your reply to the sender, and spare everyone elses inbox an unnecessary message.
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Dec 212009
 
More Bad News ...

Image via Wikipedia

You can view Communicating bad news at work – Part 1 here.

(Inspired by an entry in Lynn Gaertner-Johnston’s excellent Better Writing At Work newsletter)

Chances are you’ve read or heard more bad news on the jobs front over the last week. There’s no getting around it, things are tough out there for employers and employees alike, and are likely to remain so for the short term.

Sooner or later in your working life your going to encounter bad news, and, if you’re progressing in your career, and are responsible for a team of people, the job of communicating that bad news to others is going to fall on your shoulders. This week we continue with our tips to help make passing on bad news at work a little less painful for everyone involved.

  • Speed and consistency are paramount: when you’re communicating bad news you can’t rely on the trickle-down approach to spread the word — have a plan for getting a consistent, coherent message to all relevant people in the organisation as soon as possible once the news breaks. The last thing you want is delays feeding rumour and speculation.
  • A little compassion goes a long way: you’re probably sorry to be the bearer of bad news, and genuinely regret the circumstances that make it necessary. But the pressure of passing on the bad news can easily mask that. Don’t let it. Showing that you empathise with people, and telling them that you’re sorry about a situation isn’t an admission of guilt or liability. It simply shows that you care.

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Dec 092009
 
Bad News Bad Drawing

Image by Orin Zebest via Flickr

(Inspired by an entry in Lynn Gaertner-Johnston’s excellent Better Writing At Work newsletter)

Bad news is rife in the world of business and employment today. It’s a fact of life as companies struggle to get to grips with the subdued economy. If you’re managing or supervising staff, there’s a fair chance you’ll find yourself delivering bad news to your team at one point or another, and how you choose to communicate that news can make a huge difference.

"No one ever wants to receive bad news, and no one wants to communicate it either," says business communications specialist Lynn Gaertner-Johnston. "Delivering bad news is a huge communication challenge. It requires great care, especially if the news is upsetting rather than merely inconvenient."

Breaking bad news can be a nerve racking and difficult experience for even the most seasoned business communicator, but if you find yourself passing on bad tidings at work consider following some of these tips to help ease the pain:

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