Category Archives: Leadership

No training is (often) bad training

When we talk about training, it is common to ear that they should be given on purpose. The purpose being “doing a better job”. Likely, when someone need a specific skill she/he doesn’t have yet, it is often when we can demonstrate a Return on Investment that he/she will be sent in training.

This is quite black or white. To be or not to be skilled! In real life, people may have partial skills, or a minimal level of proficiency in a skill. Sometimes they believe they have the skill and as you might know, the worse thing than not having a quality is believing you have it (so you are certain you will never get it).

Nowadays, creating documents is not the sole tasks of secretary. They don’t exist as such anymore, they are Personal Assistant. Why, because most people, including managers, create and type their documents by themselves. Reports, emails, presentations, spreadsheets, who isn’t working with those beautiful office tools? Which percentage of users are sufficiently skilled to use these tools efficiently? In 2012, I still have seen manually generated table of contents in large documents, titles underlined using underscores, mistakes in spreadsheets due to lack of knowledge of the tools or surcharged presentation missing their primary objective: convince people. OK, they are just loosing time and efficiency. As time and efficiency are money, companies are just loosing money due to the lack of training. Is it so bad? No, if you can train them now and stop loosing money.

Though, as Jack Zenger underlined it in his article “We wait too long to train our leaders“, no training is bad training, even more for soft skills. Why? Even if you are not trained, you do practice and practicing bad behaviors is fostering bad habits. With spreadsheets and word processors, it can be corrected easily. But, when it comes to soft skills, to human interactions, it is another challenge to correct bad habits. Moreover, if a manager is a lousy communicator, improving his listening and communication skills will not be the only challenge. Having his staff letting him the chance to use his new skills, to trust him might take some time. In the meantime, as you must know, your employees are living their bad managers, even if you, as a company, are proposing attractive salary or bonuses.

Most managers I know have difficulties to manage people. Budgets, programs, projects, objectives, board seems to be somehow difficult but still manageable. People? No thank you. Conflicts, competition, motivation, expectancies, turnover, headhunter recruiting your best elements, stress, emotions management… it is not an easy task to manage human. In fact, you don’t manage them, you can just love them (or hate them, but its seems less efficient). Nevertheless, as a recent article in Le Monde was pointing out: more and more managers don’t want to be managers anymore. Companies are then loosing good employees and managers.

Of course, universities and management schools don’t prepare well to this task. Even with a degree in psychology, you won’t be ready to be a manager. Of course you have natural born managers. Some of them even became great leaders and created their own companies. But, what will the 98 other procent do?

Yes, we can train them. In fact, you MUST train them. Not tommorow when they will come to you nearly burned out. No, today! Now!

But how? What do they need? After more than a couple of decade spent working for companies and organization of all sizes, I still have the feeling that, before being bad communicators, a lot of managers are bad listeners. Too often also, we find narcissistic managers, lacking empathy, certainly a good quality to find amongst leaders. Above stress management, emotion management should be also a good skill to develop. (see Daniel Goleman video below for more insight around the emotional intelligence and leadership). Being mindful does certainly helps too. A manager able to stop, take time, take some distance, will likely be more available for his collaborators, to be more creative, to listen. Honnesty, integrity is also something you expect from Managers, as you certainly already do. Nevertheless, this honnesty must encompass his relationship with all the employee. He should not be put in such position by the organization that he cannot be honnest with them (I already wrote on Corporate values, I will certainly come back to this soon).

So, to summarize, inmy top 5 of soft skills a manager should have:

  • Listening
  • Empathy
  • Mindfulness
  • Emmotional intelligence
  • Honnesty

As these 5 skills are thightly bound together,  you might look for some holistic approach. Of course, higher in the hierarchy you start, the better.

 

Additional reading (external):

The Value of a Good Manager? People Leave Managers Not Companies!

Forbes.com: Why your employee are living?

Daniel Goleman “Social Intelligence and Leadership” sur Harvard Business Publishing on YouTube

What motivates us?

Here is a link to a animated video of Dan Pink, author of the famous book on motivation, “drive”. If there is just one thing to remind from this speech it is that you should not consider your employees as horse that need to be motivated but just let them do their job. If you think they don’t do it right, teach them, train them, give them the freedom to improve themself, to master their work. It will cost you less money at the end, be more efficient and will provide more satisfaction to your employees. In return, they will be more engaged, be more likely to stay within your company and be more productive.

Think in terms of implicit communication: If you have to pay them more to do their job, the implicit reason is that their job is so boring that it requires higher reward. If you don’t pay much, it must be fun. Even if the job is not boring in itself, you imply somehow that it is.

So, don’t try to control their work, just let them improve themself because they want to. Foster their desire to master, nurture it. Provide the right environment. Be a cultivator. You don’t require to your plant to grow faster or better, you just provide the right food, water and good spot with light. You control the conditions that allows your plants to grow. Why do we try to do otherwise with people? They are not plants? Of course, but they just want to grow.

Great (Human) Leadership

What can help us being great (human) leaders?

To answer this question, we should start with our personal values. Gandhi, in his great wisdom, said : “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony“. Before asking you to take human aspect into account, ask you if you care about human (not as a resource but as a human being). If you don’t, it is maybe time to think to move to another blog, you likely won’t be interested in what will follow. If you do really care, ask yourself if you fell in harmony with this value and your other values. If you feel something is wrong, you might have a need for real change. What matters for you? In a perfect world as you see it, as you dream it sometimes, what will be different?

If you can picture what should be different, you can start change yourself. Be the change you want to see in your company (to paraphrase Gandhi, him again). Changing a company culture starts at the top. Leading by example. You want to have a “human” company… be human! You don’t know how to do? It is fine, you are human. You can make mistakes. Just communicate, learn to be vulnerable. It will just make you a better person, a better leader. Making mistakes is not the problem. Not learning from it, is one.

You need to avoid two common pitfalls here. First, contrarily to lot of companies claiming their 3,5 or 10 corporate values, you should adapt your management style to reflect these values. If you talk about entrepreneurship, let people take decisions. When you talk about creativity, accept that employee (including yourself) will make mistake. Do what you say you do, not the opposite. If you are scared of making mistakes, you can’t be creative. It is paradoxical communication. If you want to have a psychotic kid, try such kind of communication, tell her/him you love him and slap her/him on the face.

Second pitfall is the definition of your job as a leader. Are you an expert, a decision maker, a key element in a complex machinery? Lot of managers believes or fell that they must be strong, always right, providing directions, controlling everything. If you do so, It does not let them you a lot margin of maneuver. How many leaders are stuck in meeting all day, taking decisions based on very limited knowledge and without a real understanding of what their subalterns, subject matters experts or not, thinks of the subject? You must be able to trust your team, you must be available in order to ear their ideas, their fears, their issues, their needs. You must understand what they do. In order to do this well, you cannot be in a complementary higher position. You need to be able to be high, low and symmetric. When you don’t know, you are low, accept it. When you take the decision, you are high (referring to Watzlawick).

The job of a leader is to define a strategy, directions, and to take the necessary decisions to make it happen. In order to do this, you must listen, be emphatic, take all inputs into accounts, accept to be challenged, take sounds decisions that you can explain to your kids. Leaders should trust their people, act as human, taking emotions into accounts, be available and take decisions, good or bad and stay consistent with their values, their directions. Be a leader, be human.