Episode Focus

Looking at several leadership articles from around the world including topics such as:

  • Why successful people love bad news
  • How to give your boss bad news and keep your credibility
  • Old school leadership is out
  • How to make your new employee’s first day a huge success
  • Is your leadership falling short?
  • How abusive leadership infects the entire team
  • Defining vision
  • Reasons for delegating tasks that you might actually like

I’m also hosting a contest – listen/read to the end of the podcast for details!

VOCL Resources and Articles

This week – a random review of 6 articles on different aspects of leadership, plus two of my own articles.

Why Successful People Love Bad News by Bernard Marr at LinkedIn on 10 February 2014.

A good news article that bad news can actually be good news…  As leaders, it can be tough to deal with bad news.  Most of your followers will love to give you good news but might cringe at the thought of delivering bad news (fear of “shooting the messenger”, don’t want to disappoint the leader, etc.)  Worse yet, your followers may choose to not tell you about the bad news, solving nothing and likely creating a bigger problem down the road.  If something is going wrong, you need to deal with it NOW!

The author provides three tips for dealing with bad news:

    1. Work on creating a positive personal reaction to the bad news (no screaming or shouting…)
    2. Creating a culture that encourages bad news being brought forward.
    3. Celebrate success stories of where bad news was identified and immediate positive steps were taken to mitigate or even solve the problem.

Not everything will go your way.  In leading a culture where bad news can be dealt with positively and promptly, you help minimize the downside.

(Original article has been deleted)

How to Give Your Boss Bad News and Keep Your Credibility by Karin Hurt at Seapoint Centre for Collaborative Leadership on 14 April 2014.

This article is perfectly aligned for middle managers on how to give your boss bad news.  You have people reporting to you; you are their leader.  You are reporting to your boss – you are his/her follower.  As the “middleman,” you are sometimes placed in a difficult position of taking bad news from your followers and conveying it to your boss.

This article provides four tips on how to effectively give your boss bad news, using the word “DARN” as an acronym:

    • Disclosure – get the bad news out there – hiding it rarely makes it better.
    • Accountability – own the mistake.  Do not fall prey to the victim mentality!
    • Response – offer your thoughts on how you can potentially solve the problem.
    • Next Steps – create an action plan to solve the problem, including how others can help.

Interestingly enough, I’ve seen two different versions of this post – the one that I am featuring here, plus the one on the author’s own blog that was published two days prior.  The author’s original article is short and to the point, whereas the guest post goes into further depth.

As VOCL readers/listeners, which do you prefer?

How to Give Your Boss Bad News and Keep Your Credibility

Old school leadership is out by Roy Osing at The Globe and Mail on 12 November 2013.

An article that provides an interesting twist on the concept of “Management By Walking Around (MBWA)”.  The author highlights that this is the wrong approach because it places the responsibility on the leader to try to observe what is going wrong or what could be improved.  What would work better is a new term, “Leadership By Serving Around (LBSA).”

Instead of looking for problems, the leader simply asks “How can I help?”  This immediately empowers your followers since you are now seeking their advice. By encouraging them to voice their concerns and getting them to offer their thoughts on how to solve issues, your followers will likely become much more engaged – “someone is listening to me!”

In order to make this technique effective, the author highlights that it must be done on a weekly basis, with demonstrable follow-up, and not simply be a one-shot deal.  The author also cautions that leaders must avoid talking too much and should instead do a lot of listening.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/careers/leadership-lab/old-school-leadership-is-out/article15398192/

How To Make Your New Employee’s First Day A Huge Success by Avery Augustine at The Muse on 10 March 2014.

The day that you bring someone new into your team is a critical time – you want to set them up for success (otherwise, why bring them in…)  You want the new person to be excited about the process, not dreading coming to work or the new non-profit cause.  As a leader, you are responsible for making the “first-day” experience a positive one, even though you are busy with other things (perhaps one of the reasons why you’ve brought someone else into the team in the first place)!

The author provides three key tips on making the first day a positive experience for the new person AND the team:

    1. Make introductions. Not just mentioning names, but actually creating links between people by highlighting how they will be working together and what their complementary strengths are.  Although the author doesn’t mention the following, it also shows that you, the leader, are publicly acknowledging the strengths of your team members!
    2. Prepare your team. Very few people like surprises.  If you’re going to have a new person “shadow” someone, that person should be told in advance so they have time to prepare!  To put this in perspective – would YOU want to be ready if someone was brought to you?
    3. Have a plan.  The author sums it perfectly with the following:  “… taking the time to plan out a variety of assignments or training tasks for the new hire — ideally, for at least the first week on the job — will not only help him get up to speed quicker but assure him that you’re truly invested in his success. Meaning: He’ll be much likelier to show up on day two confident that he’s in the right place.”  This applies to non-profits as well.

Take a look at your welcoming/onboarding practices – is there anything that you can do to improve the “new person’s” first day and set them (and the team) up for immediate and future success?

https://www.themuse.com/advice/how-to-make-your-new-employees-first-day-a-huge-success/

Is your leadership falling short? by Becky Blalock at The Globe and Mail on 6 November 2013.

Are you the boss that you would want to have for yourself?  This is the fundamental question that this article, an extract from the author’s book ‘Dare: Straight Talk on Confidence, Courage and Career’, asks.  In order to answer the question, you need to look at three things:

    1. What qualities would your perfect boss have (long list)?
    2. Which of these do you do (likely shorter list)?
    3. For the shortfalls, come up with a written action plan on how you will incorporate these into your leadership.

The article also highlights other aspects such as improving your communication.  Where I think it falls short, however, is the first question.  It is a good start, yet the question needs to be shifted to place the emphasis on your followers.  What qualities would THEY want in a perfect boss?  Although the questions are close, and there may even be significant overlap in the answers, your leadership needs to be focused on your followers.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/careers/careers-leadership/is-your-leadership-is-falling-short/article15135422/

Abusive leadership infects entire team by Crystal Farh and Andy Henion at MSU Today on 20 August 2014.

This article highlights the extent of the damage that can be done by an abusive leader, but perhaps the most troubling aspect is that the team can become abusive to one another.

Even if you’re not an abusive leader, you may need to repair the damage if you’re coming in behind someone who was abusive.  Not only will people need to have their self-esteem restored, but you will also need to look at the team as a whole.  Trust will have been eroded within the team, and you will have to be extra focused and vigilant to make sure that steps are taken to form positive bonds.

http://msutoday.msu.edu/news/2014/abusive-leadership-infects-entire-team/

Defining vision by Chris Hache

Vision – A desired end-state that focuses your actions and provides guidance to others (even in your absence).

The above is the VOCL definition of vision, which is broken down into three different aspects:

    • Leader vision – this is your own vision for yourself
    • Follower vision – this is the vision that an individual (other than the leader) has for herself or himself
    • Group vision – this is the vision of the group (a combination of leader and followers)

(There is another aspect of vision, that of outside stakeholder vision, which can influence the successes or potentially cause failures for your team, but I will save this for another post.)

These aspects of vision are seen by the following Venn diagram:

Simple vision Venn diagram showing overlap between leader, follower, and group vision

Simple vision Venn diagram showing overlap between leader, follower, and group vision

 

In order to place some context to the above, let’s use the creation of a social group for your five-year-old daughter in your neighbourhood.  There are none now, so you want to start one.

Leader vision

This is the reason, the WHY, you have decided to create a social group.  If you have no vision, then you can’t effectively lead others.  Maybe you want her to have friends, trying to fulfil a social aspect of growing up.  Maybe YOU want to have friends while your daughter is playing.  Maybe you have just moved into the neighbourhood and want to get to know your neighbours.  Whatever the cause, this is the reason that you are trying to bring others into your vision.  This is the reason that you are trying to assume a leadership role – someone has to get the idea started!

Follower vision

This is the reason that they would accept being a follower.  During the initial stages, they may not even know you, especially if you’ve just moved into the neighbourhood.  So why would they follow you?  In order to be interested, there has to be some idea that ties into their vision, even if they haven’t had a chance to think of it yet.  For example, if a person has no kids, then they are unlikely to become a follower, no matter how compelling your vision may be to you.  If they have a twelve-year-old daughter, then they may become interested.  Not for the playdate, but for the potential at babysitting/supervising the playgroup.  You’ll notice that both you and the follower may be interested in the concept, but for different reasons.  This aspect may lead to negotiations and can bring about an entirely different dynamic or vision.  Finally, if the follower has a five-year-old daughter, they may think “finally, a group for my child”.  In this last situation, your vision and that of your follower are closely aligned.

Group vision

This is where the leader’s vision and the follower’s vision intersect, and this is where leadership is very important.  We’ve already looked at three simplified relationships between the leader and the follower: no common ground, potentially interested yet unaligned, and aligned.  You can try to get someone who has no common ground to buy into your vision, but you’re going to be fighting an uphill battle for potentially little gain.  It’ll be easiest to work with someone who wants the same thing for the same reason – you have so much common ground!  Probably your most challenging task will be to lead the group that is interested yet unaligned.  I’ll be discussing some alignment strategies in a future post.

Vision Venn - Unaligned

Vision Venn – Unaligned

 

The group vision is the most exciting of the three because that is where the ideas come to life.  You get t carry out your vision.  You get to carry out the vision of your followers.  The greatest advantage, however, is that you get to create something as a group.  In the process of discussing your vision with your followers and them discussing their vision with you, you may discover ideas and benefits that you had not previously thought about.  For example, this community play social group can lead to a closer community that looks out for one another, increasing the security for all.  It may lead to helping others in time of need, such as the shovelling of a driveway of a single parent who has a young child, etc.

More closely aligned vision between leader and follower

More closely aligned vision between leader and follower

 

The group vision, however, becomes increasingly challenging once the group gets larger.  You can see that the above diagrams have been a simple representation of one leader and one follower – this is rarely the case.  When you have more followers, the process is the same but you have more individual visions to keep in mind, and trying to find the common ground can be more difficult.  Having said that, the potential benefits grow with each additional follower.

A Venn diagram depicting how a larger group becomes more complex

A Venn diagram depicting how a larger group becomes more complex

Summary

I have provided an insight into the vision categories of leader, follower and group in the context of a community, but they are equally valid in business, non-profit, government, etc.  As an individual, you need to have your own vision.  You need to understand that your followers have their own vision.  As a leader, you need to be able to blend these together – the better that you can do this, the better the result.  Just imagine what you and your team can accomplish together!

Diagnosing Desirable Delegation by Chris Hache

Delegating Purpose

I recently came across a blog post titled, “How to Delegate Purpose in Your Organization” by Tanveer Nasseer.  I think Tanveer is a brilliant writer and leader; his interview on the Voices of Canadian Leadership podcast can be found here.  Many articles speak to leaders having to delegate, but I like Tanveer’s twist in delegating purpose.  In case you haven’t read Tanveer’s blog post, the main themes are summarized below:

    1. Discuss with your employee what it is you want to delegate and why (Anyone can delegate a task (“here – do this”), but a leader helps people understand the ‘why’ of the delegation – it makes the task pertinent and personal)
    2. Create a roadmap for how this work will be delegated over time (unless it’s a very simple task, you can’t simply tell a person to ‘just do it’.  You need to show and discuss how the person will be set up for success in taking over the task).
    3. Remind employees of the added value they now bring to your organization (not only does this increase motivation but this could spark other initiatives).

As the article highlights, one of the main reasons people delegate tasks is that they don’t like to do something – fair enough.  For me, leaders still need to look at delegation, however, even if they like a task!

Follower development

In this case, you see potential in your follower.  As such, you want to give her a task that will expand her knowledge of the organization AND will expand her personal horizons.  The task should be somewhat challenging, but still attainable – a ‘stretch’ task.  Please make sure that you are ready to give assistance should it be required; after all, you are delegating the task because you want the person to succeed now and in the future.  Set them up for success!  I’ve used this aspect in getting people to write concept papers.  Although initially overwhelming, I offer guidance and a structure to help people shape their thought process.  Once they get going, it’s amazing to see how much their problem-solving abilities improve.

When delegating tasks, #leaders make sure that they set up their followers for success!

Optimal skill employment – your lack of skill

In this case, you are not the best person for the task because you don’t have the right skill set.  I could try writing computer code, but I don’t have that knowledge now (although I will date myself by stating that I had done a science fair project about writing a program in Basic over 30 years ago).  It would take me so much time to learn to become even moderately proficient that I would not be able to do my primary job!  I’m sure that I would have fun learning, but it is not efficient.

Optimal skill employment – someone else is better

In this case, you are not the best person for the task because someone else is better at the task than you are.  Even though I may enjoy doing the task, I know that it could be done better / cheaper / quicker / at a higher quality if it was done by someone else.  For me, that would be website design – I enjoy doing it (and I’m pretty decent), but I’ll gladly task that out to an expert when it becomes time to expand.  A leader does not need to be the best at something, but a leader needs to be able to bring out the best in everyone.

Optimal skill employment – you can’t do everything! (nor should you)

Yes, you could conceivably be the best at the task.  This is a hard thing for some leaders, especially if you were formerly in the position of the person that you are now delegating the task to.  You hate to let go of your old responsibilities, but it’s time for you to move on – you have other tasks to accomplish.  Your time is better spent on being a leader, and not the technician that you used to be.

Summary

Remember, there’s more to the team than just you. Make sure that you understand your followers, that you give them purposeful tasks to grow and develop, and that you use your own time wisely. With everyone improving their “A” game, just imagine the possibilities…  By the way – leaders – please note that although you can delegate tasks and purpose, you never delegate ultimate accountability – that remains with you.

VOCL Listener Feedback

  • I’ve received many “likes” and views on the Diagnosing Desirable Delegation article via LinkedIn – a big thank you to all of you whoprovide feedback!
    • Tanveer Naseer – Hi Chris Hache, thanks for the kind mention; appreciate it and your take on how leaders can be more effective in how they delegate.
    • Alan Reed – This is a great reminder for all managers and leaders.

VOCL Closing Thoughts / Future Episodes / Call to Action

What’s been happening

  • 15 Feb – I think I’ve had more snow as of now than I have had in any other year – good thing for my snow blower!  Had to go out several times that day, plus a few times on the 16th to re-clear the end of my driveway. 

Takeaways and introspection

  • Two articles focused on bad news.  What is your reaction to bad news?  Even though it’s bad, do you deal with it in a positive manner?  How do you go about communicating the bad news?
  • Many past articles focused on leading your existing followers, but I really want you to think of the experience for your new followers.  Are you setting them up for success from the very beginning?
  • Delegation.  It’s easier to delegate tasks that you don’t like, but what about delegating tasks that you do like?  Take a good look at what you do, and see if someone else on your team would be better suited for a particular task.

 

I’m Chris Hache, asking you to be VOCL for a better Canada

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