Leadership Fundamentals – Understand Your Team and Your Customers

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This follows on from an early post entitled  ” Your First 90 days “.

A short cut to success in your leadership role is having complete clarity on who your key stakeholders are, ensuring you know what they expect from you and building solid effective two way relationships with them all.

So, where do you start?

Firstly, set out with the intention of building a thorough understanding of all your team members, regardless of their experience level, seniority, area of responsibility, personality and attitude. Approach this project with an attitude of curiosity to build a complete pen picture for each member of your team. Do it in a way that makes sense to you however insure you consider what makes them tick, what their aims and ambitions are short and long term even if its just to keep doing what they already are that is fine at least you know. What challenges do they face, what do they love doing, are their any people they are struggling with. Capture all the this information per person and design a process whereby you are continually building and refreshing this knowledge of each team member so that over the next few months you know them inside out! Use your regular 1-1’s, times when you are working alongside individuals on specific pieces of work and social interactions to gleam further insights. Cultivating this attitude of interest and curiosity will enable you to adjust your leadership style accordingly and look out for opportunities where you can put the right work their way and design appropriate development interventions to help each person grow under your leadership tenure.

In parallel to building an in depth understanding of your team you need to take a similar approach with all your customers internal and external. Try and put yourself in their shoes and anticipate what they need from you and your team for them each to be successful. Armed with your thoughts check this out with each person at the earliest opportunity to ensure you haven’t missed anything and to identify the priority expectations and requirements of your role from their perspective as customers. Often we are busy doing work that we think is critically important which our customers don’t value in the same way.

For both your team and internal/external customers ask yourself “how healthy and enjoyable is the working relationship between the two of you?” Score each relationship between 1 and 10, 1 being very broken and hard work to 10 being extremely productive and enjoyable in fact it doesn’t really seem like work! Identify the most important stakeholders that have the lowest quality rating 1-10 and then think about what you need to do to make improvements.

Take a similar approach with your peer group and your manager so you can establish what each needs from you and how effective the working relationship currently is.

Its worth repeating this type of exercise annually as people change roles a lot and also business expectations change as strategy changes.

Sandra works as an executive coach for businesses and also has a private coaching practice for career/life and business coaching. More information can be found at http://www.sandrawebbercoaching.com. She is also author of Own It – regain control and live life on your terms available from Amazon Check book out here and a recently launched series of Own It Podcasts which gives inspiration and tips for professional and personal life Own It Podcasts

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Flexible Working in Practice

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When 4 Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris 4 hour work week book  came out I wrongly concluded from the title that it was going to be about working in such a smart way you only had to ever work for four hours a week. I must admit before reading it I did think even for a mega organised person like myself getting my work week down to four hours and still being able to find my lifestyle as I chose did seem to be a big stretch goal.

When I eventually read the book however it wasn’t exactly how I had interpreted it from the title and Tim was suggesting a more creative approach to flexible working that had instant appeal. It was more about designing your work life so that you were able to take extended periods of time away from work so that in a whole year it averaged out at a four hour work week.

 So I read Tim’s book a few years ago now however the concept he suggested must have resonated in the background. I also listened to a few podcasts and read about other people who had decided to take time away from their work and travel in order to re energise themselves especially if they had been in the work place for many years and had never had more than the annual leave off for holidays.

 It suddenly dawned on me that I had never taken more than 2 weeks away from the workplace and indeed the last two week break I took was over twenty years ago. In recent years especially when initially starting the business the most holiday time I had taken was 10 days, opting normally for 3 breaks a year of about a week plus a couple of long weekends. It wasn’t until I sat back and reflected on this that I realised the short breaks that had become my norm. On the surface this wasn’t causing me a problem I enjoyed the pattern however starting with Tim’s book the seed of an idea began to sprout about taking a period of extended time away from the normal working week pattern.

 As many of my friends began to embark on early retirement patterns and travel or take the gap years they didn’t do back in the day I began to consider a less extreme option and some what of a halfway house solution to test some of the concepts in Tim’s book. This idea formulated into a plan to work based abroad for 4-8 weeks a year initially. In my work as a coach I have helped many entrepreneurs create businesses working remotely from many countries it was about time I actually role modelled this myself and at the time of writing I am halfway through the first month totally based in Palma Mallorca and guess what it is working fine thanks largely to technology.

  

Sandra works as a coach for business and private clients. She is also the author of Own It regain control and live life on your terms available here  Own It book link Amazon 

 

Flexible Working Mindset

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As I was lucky enough to work for a very forward thinking multinational American based organisation in my early career I have always been a fan of flexible working. Even back in the 1980’s and 1990’s working for this company my performance was always measured on the results I achieved not the hours I spent in the office.

When I started a family, I was one of the first senior leaders to return to my role on a part time basis and another couple of my then colleagues were part of a pilot plan to prove a senior leadership role in the Marketing Function could be successfully be carried out on a job share basis (which they did prove!) Flexible working in many forms were supported and actively encouraged as a way of keeping high performers working for the organisation as their personal circumstances changed and recruiting replacements would have been time consuming and expensive.

Since leaving this organisation and having had the privilege of working with many more across a huge variety of industries also supporting SME’s and startups I still work with the ethos of encouraging leaders to do whatever they can to consider individual requests for flexible working/ part time contracts if a few things are carefully considered by both parties.

Firstly, the individual must have clearly defined role, specific areas of responsibility and a plan needs to be in place to cover the times when the individual is not available for work as per the agreed schedule. This is where job sharing can be of great benefit providing the necessary co-cover for each other. If job sharing isn’t an option, then there may be a developmental opportunity for another member of the same organisation to learn skills and provide cover. This ensures continuity of role especially important in client facing roles.

The second thing to consider is that the role needs to be manageable from both a business and a personal perspective using the flexible or reduced hours model. With increased technology this makes life a lot easier with remote access and cloud-based applications the norm now. There wasn’t this luxury back in those early years however we still made it work.

The mindset should however still be the same all these years on – if someone requests a flexible or reduced hour schedule and they have already proven they can do the job well it should simply be “what can we do to make this work from both a business case and a personal standpoint”

 

Sandra works as a coach for both businesses and private clients primarily based in Bristol UK however throughout the year also works in London and Palma Mallorca. More information can be found at www.sandrawebbercoaching.com.

 

Young Minds

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I have just finished watching a programme on TV where a group of celebrities undertook an experiment where they tried to reduce their physical and mental ages over a period of three weeks 100 years younger in 21 days

It was fascinating to see how the aging process was affecting them all very differently due to either current habits or prior lifestyle bad habits having taken their toll. Throughout the three-week period some individuals needed to focus on their mental capacity while others had more health and physical challenges.

The physical challenges where they were encouraged to exercise more and eat better weren’t surprising as most of us know what we should and shouldn’t eat and that we need to keep moving. What I learnt most were the changes that occurred that radically improved some of the participants mental health scores in such a short period of time.

There were dramatic improvements in mental ageing in fact reversing the effect resulting in three key activities the celebrities were made aware of

  1. Meditation
  2. Learning new skills
  3. The sense of belonging that came from being part of a group

If we take each I turn there were just a few take home messages that I think are useful to us all.

Meditation doesn’t appeal to everyone and certainly in the programme the person that benefited the most initially demonstrated a lot of resistance to even the idea let alone the practice of it. It took another person in the group who had personally benefited themselves from the practice to buddy up with the individual and persist gently through the initial reservations and difficulties to the point where it started to become an enjoyable habit with huge quick positive effects that reinforced the new habit further. The correlation between the habit of regular meditation and improved sleep quality was amazing and without question a good reason to continue.

When it came to learning new skills, the key point was it doesn’t have to be a particular type of skill. Initially the group were introduced to learning a new language however if anyone struggled with this challenge then other more practical rather than cerebral activities were suggested to get a similar result. The key message here aww keep the brain active by exposing it to new challenges.

The final factor was the sense of belonging and the obvious communication involved from being part of a group or team was evident. The mutual support they gave each other at various stages of the process especially when an individual was finding part of the regime tough was an equally important bi product of the process.

  • So, are you continually learning?
  • Do you actively engage in a community/group that provides support and encouragement?
  • Have you explored a meditation practice? maybe just try for 5 mins a day for a couple of weeks see if you find it beneficial

 

Sandra works as a coach for both businesses and private clients. She is also author of the book Own It – regain control and live life on your terms. More info can be found at www.sandrawebbercoaching.com

 

Personal Wellbeing – Two Critical Lists

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In the last post I mentioned meeting a lot of people recently who were running on empty, in danger of becoming ill and being stopped in their tracks.

I am much more aware of recognising key signs in both others and myself now than I was in my earlier years ; this is as a result of both personal experience and watching when others have been stopped in their tracks, forced to take corrective action and start looking after themselves better.

Sometimes it is at exactly this point that potential clients pick up the phone and come and see me for the initial coaching conversation when they realise they need to do things differently and make some changes in their lives either professionally, personally or sometimes both.

There are two books that I have read that I totally recommend on this subject when it comes to either recovering from burn out  or ideally preventing from happening in the first place

  • Adrenal Fatigue – James L Wilson
  • The Body doesn’t Lie – Vicky Vlachanis

Both of these take a completely holistic view and encourage us to take care of ourselves mentally and physically on an on going basis along with recognising when we are going off course as early as possible.

A practical exercise I get clients to do and I also practice myself is to generate two simple lists that we can regularly look at to ensure we are following the right one

  1. List one – things that make me feel good
  2. List two – things that make me feel bad

These are obviously going to be very unique to the individual and could contain things like activities that make you feel good or bad, places that make you feel good or bad, food that makes you feel fantastic or rubbish, people that make you feel downbeat and negative or make your laugh and bring your energy up.

You can start making these lists immediately however what happens is that when you get used to using them you find yourself adding things to both lists on an on going basis as you discover new people, new ways of eating,  new activities, new places and to reflect changes you make in your life.

How you use these lists practically is in partnership with the signs and signals you identified in the last post so for example if you find yourself going down the low energy, no patience with anything, not thriving route you look at the “things that make me feel good list” and schedule time for these things. Also take a look at the “things that make me feel bad list” and make a note of anything that you have been doing too much of on this list and stop doing it to reverse the trend.

If you feel you are heading down the “burnt out” route then check out the books above and start creating your lists based on the holistic approach , add to both lists at least monthly for the first couple of months. Keep them to hand in case you need then.

If you are feeling good at the moment create the lists anyway as a preventative measure and out of interest it should reflect the reason you are feeling good is that you are doing stuff list number one – keep doing what you are doing.

 

Sandra provides coaching for both Businesses and Private Clients. More information about coaching can be found at http://www.sandrawebbercoaching.com

 

 

 

 

Spot The Signs

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Over the past few months I have been struck by the number of people I have met who are running on empty! When meeting these people, they are physically exhausted and mentally drained

From my own experience I have been in such a similar position about twice in my life and both times have been fantastic learning opportunities to add tools to my own kit bag that will hopefully prevent returning to that territory. It’s a place where if you find yourself entering you need to quickly act before the feeling of exhaustion becomes your norm and then if left for long enough often results in the body saying enough is enough and stopping you in your tracks with a serious enough illness where you need to take time off to recover.

Some possible signs to watch out for in either yourself or team members are

  • Do you wake up and feel tired routinely?
  • Are you living off endless cups of coffee, sugary snacks or processed convenience food?
  • Loosing or putting on weight we all react differently some people emotionally eat more when feeling stressed while others forget to eat under pressure
  • Are you thinking about work all the time even during leisure hours?
  • Would you struggle to be away from your phone or email for a few hours or the weekend?
  • Are frequent colds or headaches now your norm?
  • Is it difficult to concentrate?
  • Have you given up any hobbies or exercise routine you previously enjoyed
  • Are you forgetting or missing deadlines?
  • Are you making mistakes?
  • Do you have little time or patience for those around you?
  • Do you feel guilty about taking time out for yourself?
  • Are the people who know you well worried about you or making comments that you look tired or unwell?

We will look at what corrective and preventative action you might consider in the next blog post.

Hopefully you won’t be experiencing all of these at once and you will know yourself well enough to know what  your normal state of wellbeing is. It is important to recognise what do you feel like when you are thriving and completely aligned with what you are doing and what you feel like when you are moving in an unhealthy direction in need of corrective action. Learn to recognise your own personal signals.

 

Sandra works as a professional coach for both Businesses and Private Clients. More about coaching can be found at http://www.sandrawebbercoaching.com . She is also author of the book Own It – regain control and live life on your terms which is available from Amazon http://bit.ly/1JhAkst

 

Use Your Natural Strengths More

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The next technique to learn is to ask yourself what strengths do I naturally have that I can use to solve any problem or challenge that comes my way and move towards a solution orientation? Do you know your natural strengths?

You may have received some 360-degree feedback over the years in various forms formally or informally so this is a good source of information especially in identifying what other people think you are good at.

To add to any existing feedback in your possession and to give a fresh perspective there is a very useful free resource online that could be help, go to  www.viacharacter.org and click on the survey tab where you go and take a free test that identifies your top natural strengths. The report looks at strengths very differently and has more of a value internal perspective. When I did the test my top one is “love of learning” and this is so true and linked to my top motivational factor.

Either use the test above to identify what you naturally do well or use your own self-awareness to ask “how can I use my natural strengths to solve this problem?”

If I use myself as an example I am a resource investigator (I found this out using Belbin team types diagnostic tool many years ago in my corporate career). What this means is I can normally find someone to help either myself or anyone else and I don’t mind asking people to help share their expertise. When faced with a tricky problem I can’t solve myself I would pull on this skill to look at my existing network to access expertise or experience of similar problems to help me explore possible options for the problem in front of me.

It might be worth listing down a summary list of “ What I am naturally good at and love to do” so that when faced with a challenging situation you can look at this list and it might spark off an action or approach that will help you move forwards and because it is capitalizing on natural strength then the action wont feel too hard it will come to you easily.

 

Sandra works as a professional coach for both Businesses and Private Clients, More information can be found at www.sandrawebbercoaching.com