9 Essentials to Honing Your Leading Edge and Boosting Team/Culture Performance

Many leaders feel they can’t do much to change behaviors and culture. But overwhelming research shows that’s not true. Leaders have a major impact on “the way we do things around here.” A team or organization’s culture ripples out from its members and leaders. The single biggest key to transforming a team or organization’s culture starts with its leaders defining and developing their behaviors.

Teams and department/divisions with exceptionally strong leaders build thriving peak performance local cultures even if the bigger culture they’re part of, and leader they report to, are weak. Organizational culture exists simultaneously and independently at three levels: the unit/team, department/division, and entire organization, and those micro or main cultures can be enriched at any level.

Nine elements especially stand out from this latest review of best leadership and team/culture development practices:

  1. Lead, Follow, or Wallow – highly effective leaders make critical choices to proactively change, grow, and develop rather than being changed
  2. Strong Leadership Cuts Through the Management Maze – team/organization performance is dramatically improved when good managers learn how to become great leaders
  3. Yield of Dreams – highly effective leaders tap into this infinite and renewable energy source
  4. The Heart Part – courageous conversations, two-way communications, and openness, come from, and expand, trust
  5. Coach Diem – outstanding leaders seize key coaching moments to up everyone’s game
  6. Making Teams Work – too often managers build a “scream team.” Extraordinary leaders build dream teams by boosting collaboration, cooperation, and coordination
  7. Three Core Questions Defining Your Team or Organization’s Culture – too many vision/mission/values statements are lifeless gibberish and generate a high “snicker factor”
  8. Hitting the Shift Key – the best leaders and teams act on their understanding that their culture ripples out from what they do, not what they say
  9. Setting the Culture Compass – failing to map a route through the many swamps and sinkholes of team and culture change are why 70% of these efforts die out

Rate yourself on this checklist. How’s your leadership? How’s your leadership team?

Share

Practical Ways Leaders Can Model Culture Change

A department, division, or organization’s culture ripples out from its leadership team. A team that wants to change “them” needs to start with a deep look in the mirror to change “us.” Organizational behavior reflects leadership team behavior. This is much like an old parenting adage, “children are natural mimics; they act like their parents despite attempts to teach them good manners.”

In their 10-year global study of leadership and culture development (published in their book Beyond Performance: How Great Organizations Build Ultimate Competitive Advantage), Scott Keller and Colin Price report, “programs in which leaders model the desired changes are four times more likely to be successful. In an organizational context, the key elements of role modeling are transformation among senior leaders, symbolic acts, and developing a cadre of ‘influence leaders.’”

Here are just a few ways leadership teams can model the behavior they want to see rippling throughout their culture:

  • Bring customers, customer advocates (salespeople are excellent ones) and front line service deliverers to key planning and operational sessions.
  • Put on an apron or pick up the phone and serve customers without being introduced as top leaders. You’ll be sending important signals. And might even learn something.
  • Serve your producers and servers. Continually ask them what the leadership team can do to help them provide higher levels of service/quality. Hold managers accountable for serving their teams.
  • Overlook weaknesses unless they’re clearly causing problems and must be addressed. Develop and nurture strengths that align with the individual’s passions and what the organization needs from him or her.
  • Celebrate, honor, cheer, applaud, reinforce, laud, praise, extol, and otherwise reinforce all behaviors that exemplify your core values and desired culture.
  • Ensure leaders are first in line for leadership and key skill development. Model those skills in meetings, coaching activities, and team decision making and planning. And having senior leaders deliver those sessions to the next level of managers infuses the training with a whole new sense of priority.
  • Search out and destroy all executive status symbols, perks, or privileges that contribute to the “we/they” gap.
  • Agree on three or four Strategic Imperatives that will strengthen your culture. Establish cross-functional teams to lead those changes and set a rigorous follow through process with regular updates to the leadership team.
  • Get unfiltered and anonymous feedback on your leadership effectiveness with 360 assessments. Build personal and team development plans around that feedback that leverages strengths and addresses any “fatal flaws.” Involve others in your personal and team development process.
  • Hold regular meetings with team members in groups and individually to discuss your leadership and culture development progress.

The most effective communication is face to face. The most believable communication is behavior.

You can watch our recent Executive Team Building and Culture Development webinar for a deeper look.

Share

Coaching Matters: Are You a DIY Manager Choking Growth and Development?

Good managers often have strong technical expertise and analytical skills. They love to jump into the details and resolve tough problems. Effective leaders resist the quick-fix, I-can-do-it-better-myself temptation. He or she knows such do-it-yourself projects reinforce the upward delegation cycle (“Hey, boss. Here’s another one for you to solve”). This leads to him or her becoming ever busier while team members’ growth is stunted, and the organization slows down to the pace of the stressed-out manager.

The sad story of hard driving entrepreneurs or upwardly mobile and ambitious managers choking their organization’s growth is an all too familiar one. These entrepreneurs and managers become the barrier to the organization reaching its next level of growth. These managers don’t make the transition from running operations to building a team that runs operations. Their own stunted leadership growth prevents them from making the critical transition from driving and directing to coaching and developing.

Countless studies show leaders with highly developed coaching skills have a huge impact on their team or organization’s results. For example, less than 15% of employees with leaders rated in the bottom ten percent of coaching effectiveness rate their work environment as a place where people want to “go the extra mile.” However, when leaders are rated in the top ten percent of coaching effectiveness, “going the extra mile” leaps to nearly 50% — a threefold increase. A MetrixGlobal survey found that “business coaching produced a 788-per-cent return on investment and significant intangible benefits to the business.”

This month’s Harvard Business Review features an article on “The Best Leaders Are Great Teachers.” Management professor and author, Sydney Finkelstein, (his new book is Superbosses: How Exceptional Leaders Manage the Flow of Talent) reports,

“…the best leaders I studied were teachers through and through. They routinely spent time with employees, passing on technical skills, general tactics, business principles, and life lessons… and it had a remarkable impact: their teams and organizations were some of the highest-performing in their sectors.”

A manager sees people as they are. And they’re often a growth choke point. A leader sees people as they could be — and nurtures that potential through strong coaching and development.

Share

Communicating and Listening Non-Judgmentally: Tools for Dealing with Mental Health Issues in the Workplace

I am finding as I train, coach and mediate that the issues in the workplace are becoming more complex. In recent events, some high profile individuals have come to the attention of the media as a result of their actions. We are finding mental health issues are more of a concern and the means to address them is less easy. In this article, I am attempting to share some tools you may want to engage in when speaking with your colleagues or employees.

Communication is not just saying words; it is creating correct understanding. Active listening is an essential skill in the communication process. Dr Marius Pickering from the University of Maine identifies four characteristics of empathetic listening.

Continue reading

Share

Advantages of Progressive Web Applications

Progressive web apps are causing a paradigm shift for software development. Traditionally, the development of an app meant knowledge of native languages such as (but not limited to) Java, Objective-C or Swift. It also meant jumping through the hoops and hurdles of getting yourself listed on those pesky Apple and Android App Stores. Now however, the development of apps can be made accessible to us lowly HTML, CSS and JavaScript coders. Before we continue on about the benefits of progressive web apps, it may be beneficial to explore their predecessor: Traditional Web Apps.

Traditional Web Apps

Traditional web apps differ from native apps because rather than an app icon on your screen; they are made accessible through a web browser. They are beneficial because unlike native apps, they are easier to maintain due to their common code across various platforms. Most importantly however, they don’t require visiting an app store for download.

However, web apps are not without their own shortcomings; as they are not installed directly on your mobile device—without internet connectivity, a web app is relatively useless. Hybridizing mobile and traditional web apps however create a new entity, one that takes advantages of the strengths in both native mobile and web applications: Progressive Web Apps.

Progressive Web Apps

Progressive web apps are a hybridization between native, and traditional web apps. Progressive web apps are progressive because they work in old and new browsers, although they benefit from the use of modern browsers and features. They also deliver a more app-like user experience. Like native applications, PWA’s can have icons placed either on your desktop, or in your toolbar, providing easy application accessibility. By combining the native and traditional web applications, PWA’s are able to achieve the benefits of each, while mitigating their shortcomings. In fact, Pinterest – a popular image sharing site – experienced a 40% increase in time spent on their site, and 44% higher user generated ad revenue after implementing their new progressive web app.

Benefits

A major advantage to using progressive web apps is the avoidance of app stores, and their strict regulations. Another important benefit not to be overlooked, is the growing presence of “app fatigue”. The 2017 U.S. Mobile App Report revealed an astonishing 50% of smartphone users in the US download NO apps per month. By focusing more on the user experience, PWA’s can provide more value to your customers, and your organization.

Arguably one of the most important features of a progressive web app is its flexibility, although originally intended for mobile use, PWA’s function just as well on desktop, television, and tablet screens. Offline mode is also of benefit, as information a user has accessed previously is available for use and viewing without the need of an internet connection; something native apps have yet to accomplish.

In terms of maintenance, progressive web apps also boast simplicity over their app-store-distributed counterparts. Rather than having to submit an update packaged file to the app-store, PWA’s can simply be updated directly through the server.

Limitations

So far you might be thinking – “why would anybody choose native over progressive web apps?”. However, there are a few shortcomings associated with obtaining your own web app. The main downfall is the lack of support on iOS devices, limiting your applications reach. Secondly, unlike native apps downloaded directly onto your phone, these web applications are unable to sync with your phones functionalities. Things like GPS location, calendars, contacts, or any other features native apps typically interface with, are unavailable to PWA’s.

Conclusion

Progressive web apps are changing the face of software development. Not only do they experience a variety of user benefits, but they also improve performance overall—see Pinterest’s Progressive Web App Performance Case Study. Increased time spent on site, increased ad revenue, as well as conversions are just a few of the benefits you can expect from replacing your native application with a web application.

Overall, PWA’s are:

  • Easier to develop
  • More useful for users
  • Easier to install, maintain, and keep secure
  • Easier to grow as your company grows
  • Can be run on any type of device (desktop, mobile, tablet)

Let’s discuss your next web-based application. Contact us directly at 1-800-650-8882 or fill out a contact us form on our website and we’ll help you determine how to make your next progressive web app a massive success!

Share

Announcing New CAMA/muniSERV Partnership!

This is an exciting new partnership for both muniSERV’s professional and municipal members!

Our professional members immediately get more exposure for their professional profile and for their ads on muniSERV – and our municipal members who are CAMA members get access to more resources and discounts off muniSERV’s paid services. 

Here’s CAMA’s Official Release:

CAMA Announces New Partnership with muniSERV.ca

CP News Release – Released on: May 29, 2018

Municipal association partnership with muniSERV.ca will benefit members nationwide

FREDERICTON, New Brunswick, May 29, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — The Canadian Association of Municipal Administrators (CAMA) is pleased to announce a new partnership with muniSERV.ca – Canada’s leading online platform to connect municipalities and the businesses that serve them – that will benefit its members nationwide.

The partnership will allow CAMA members easily to find qualified consultants specializing in municipal matters, post a Request for Proposal, bid or tender, find a CAO, post a CAO job, see and submit events of interest to municipal administrators, and even sell surplus equipment.

The partnership also provides for some great discounts to other special services, including the following:

  • muniLEARN – an end-to-end collaborative learning management system platform with access to over 900 accredited digital courses for any size municipality and
  • muniJOBS – coming soon is the only online career and recruitment platform in Canada with a 100% municipal focus that provides candidates with both matching and searchable job postings.

Registration is free for CAMA members, and it takes less than a minute to join. Once a municipality is registered, any member of the team can also join and access the services available.

-30-

Media Contacts:

CAMA: Stacey Murray, 506-261-3534, admin@camacam.ca

muniSERV: Susan Shannon, Founder & Principal, muniSERV.ca, 855.477.5095, sshannon@muniserv.ca

About muniSERV.ca

muniSERV is Canada’s leading online solution for helping municipalities and professionals connect.  We help municipalities save time and money searching for the consultants & CAOs they need, while offering professionals the opportunity to showcase their profile and services to get found and grow their business. www.muniserv.ca

About CAMA

The Canadian Association of Municipal Administrators (CAMA) is a national, non-profit association open to all Chief Administrative Officers / City Managers and any person employed in a senior management position that reports directly to a CAO. With a membership of over 600 senior municipal employees from all parts of Canada, CAMA collectively represents more than 70% of the nation’s population. www.camacam.ca

 

 

Share

7 Ways to be Seen as a Leader

7 Ways to be Seen as a Leader

Municipalities Need CAO Candidates with Strategic Thinking Skills, Political & Business Acumen, and Those Who Are Innovative.

Do you have what it takes?

 

Having a nice resume showing your relevant education and skills might land you the job, but you won’t be able to truly succeed as a CAO unless you have something more – strong leadership skills. There are many ways to be recognized as a leader without having to do something heroic like leading an army to war. Here are 7 ways to prove yourself as a strong leader in your municipal position:

 

COMMUNICATION

An open line of communication is vital in any relationship, especially a professional one. A good leader is always available for honest and open discussions and feedback with their team, but you must be ready to listen as much as you speak. In today’s digital world, effective communication also includes email, social media posts and nonverbal cues like body language and facial expressions.

 

LEADING BY EXAMPLE

If you aren’t committed to your job, why would you expect anyone on your team to be? A positive attitude can be contagious, but not as much as a negative one. How you approach tasks and situations will set the tone for those working with you so stay positive and enthusiastic as much as possible.

 

PROBLEM-SOLVING SKILLS

When things go wrong, and they always do, how will you react? A good leader will take ownership of any issues and work quickly to solve them, as well as prevent them from happening again.

 

RESPONSIBILITY

Everyone loves to receive praise, but how do you handle criticism and accept blame? A good leader needs to be able to accept the good and the bad without finger pointing and playing the blame game. Accept your mistake, find a solution and move on.

 

MOTIVATION

Most employees need more than a paycheque to stay engaged and interested in their job. A good leader will recognize their employees’ strengths, weaknesses and interests to make sure they feel valued, heard and appreciated. This can be as simple as a small reward for a job well done, mentoring a new hire or assigning additional responsibilities to increase involvement.

 

FLEXIBILITY
A good leader must roll with the punches. In today’s world of increased citizen engagement and councils’ need to periodically change community direction, you must be ready to change directions at the drop of a hat. Last minute changes, mishaps, covering for other employees … a leader must be able to take it all in stride and accept that nothing ever really happens when or how it is supposed to.

 

DELEGATION
If you try to do it all yourself, you are setting yourself up to fail. Some feel that assigning duties to their team shows weakness, but it is actually the sign of a good leader. Delegating tasks, while keeping your employees’ strengths in mind, gives you more time to focus on the important things.

 

The key to being a good leader can be found in the skills that you likely already have. Now it’s time to nurture and grow those skills and become the superstar you were always meant to be!

muniSERV is Canada’s leading online solution for helping municipalities and professionals connect.  We help municipalities save time and money searching for the consultants & CAOs they need while offering professionals the opportunity to showcase their profile and services to get found and grow their business.

Share

Strategies to Overcoming Unconscious Bias in the Workplace

Unconscious bias is hitting the news. From Bay Street to Main Street to Starbucks the impact of unspoken bias is real and harmful to the workplace. Bias stands in the way of making correct decisions in hiring and promoting. It also has a vital impact on your staff and the workplace in general. Let’s explore how we can become aware of our own bias and stop it in the workplace?

 

First, let’s define it. “Unconscious bias refers to a bias that we are unaware of, and which happens outside of our control. It is a bias that happens automatically and is triggered by our brain making quick judgments and assessments of people and situations, influenced by our background, cultural environment and personal experiences. (ECU: 2013 Unconscious bias in higher education) 

 

We all have a bias. The question is, do we identify it and then what do we do about it? In addressing one of the most crucial training issues facing the workplace today, unconscious bias, employers can assist in creating an inclusive, civil and respectful workplace. 

 

Research indicates that unconscious biases are prejudices we have, yet are uninformed of. They are “mental shortcuts based on social norms and stereotypes.” (Guynn, 2015). Biases can be based on skin colour, gender, age, height, weight, introversion versus extroversion, marital and parental status, disability status (for example, the use of a wheelchair or a cane), foreign accents, where someone went to college, and more (Wilkie, 2014). If you can name it, there is probably an unconscious bias for it.

 

Hence if we think we are unbiased, we may have unconscious adverse thoughts about people who are outside our own group. If we spend more time with people from other groups, we are less likely to feel prejudice against them.

 

This universal tendency toward unconscious bias exists because bias is rooted in our brain. Research shows that our brain has evolved to mentally put things together to make sense to us. The brain sorts all the information it is blasted with and labels that information with universal descriptions that it may rapidly access. When we categorize these labels as either good or bad, we tend to apply the rationale to the whole group. Many of the conclusions are taken from previous experiences and learnings.  

In an article, “The Real Effects of Unconscious Bias in the Workplace”, a few of the known unconscious biases that directly impact the workplace include:

  • Affinity bias is the tendency to warm up to people like ourselves.
  • Halo effect is the tendency to think everything about a person is good because you like that person.
  • Perception bias which is the inclination to form stereotypes and assumptions about specific groups that make it awkward to make an objective judgement about members of those groups. 
  • Confirmation bias is the openness for us to pursue evidence that sanctions our pre-existing beliefs or experiences. 
  • Group think is a bias which occurs when people attempt to fit into a specific crowd by mirroring others or holding back opinions and views. This results in individuals losing part of their characteristics and causes workplaces to miss out on originality and creativity.

Horace McCormick’s research found more than 150 identified unconscious biases, making the task of rooting them out and addressing them daunting. For many organizations, however, identifying as many as possible and eliminating them has become a high priority.  

 

You can address discrimination issues by increasing your awareness of your unconscious biases, and by developing strategies that make the most of the talents and abilities of your team members. 

Unconscious behaviour is not just individual; it influences organizational culture as well. This explains why so often our best attempts at creating corporate culture change with diversity efforts seem to fall frustratingly short; to not deliver on the promise they intended.

 

What you can do: 

  • Be aware consciously of your bias 
  • Focus more on the people, on their strengths
  • Increase Exposure to Biases
  • Make small changes 
  • Be pragmatic 
  • Challenge stereotypes and counter-stereotypical information 
  • Use context to explain a situation 
  • Change your perception and relationship with out-group members 
  • Be an active bystander 
  • Improve processes, policies & procedures  

Also, managers can play a crucial role in unearthing these hidden biases by declaring their intentions to be non-biased. They can also provide transparent performance appraisals that emphasis on the employee’s exceptional abilities and skills, and grow a stronger mindfulness of their own unconscious principles.

 

Share

Competency-Based Learning

One of the most significant opportunities being missed by most organizations today is the lack of a competency talent framework. I’ve always believed that the only true business differentiator is the competency of your organization. Everything else can typically be easily duplicated with financial resources.

The exact opposite is true for people. They are complex and require a great deal of effort and energy, however, if you can tap into their talents and keep them engaged in building their strengths, you will flourish.  History has proven this time and time again.

When it comes to the term competency, it’s often confused with other words like talent, strengths, or skills. By definition, a competency is where, motivation, knowledge, and skill meet. A competency can be a talent and it can certainly be a strength, so let’s not get too hung up on the term. The goal is to identify the critical or core competencies that are drivers of your organization’s success. Typically, I encourage the organization to select anywhere from 8-12 competencies – more than 12 becomes difficult to manage.

Once they’ve been identified and agreed upon,(this requires feedback from all levels of the organization), you can then start to incorporate them into the other systems and processes that drive your talent framework – selection, performance management, succession planning, personal development, and organizational values. These competencies also become an integral part of your culture.

Marcus Buckingham, the author of, Go Put Your Strengths To Work, also advocates focusing on the people’s strengths and not their weaknesses. What I found compelling about his work was that it aligned with my experiences as a leader.

Most performance review processes focus on improving someone’s weakness but rarely have I seen an improvement.  However, if they focused on a strength, I would see great strides being made. Even Dan Pink discussed this when he identified what motivates individuals – Mastery, Autonomy, and Purpose. The mastery of skills is aligned with focusing on strengths and that’s aligned with what Malcolm Gladwell shared in his book, Outliers, where he wrote that “ ten thousand hours is the magic of greatness.”

If you are going to build a competency-based organization, make certain that the learning opportunities you provide are tied to those competencies and incorporate them into everything you do.

On a final note, I’d like to suggest another philosophical opportunity. Would you hire a person that wasn’t willing to develop or improve themselves?  You probably will tell me that you wouldn’t but we do it all the time. One important criterion that is missed in the selection process is assuring newcomers that if they join your organization, they have to be willing to continue to learn and develop.  If not, why would you hire them?

If the competence of your employees is a business differentiator everyone has to be willing to continue to learn.

John Prpich, TalentBlueprint

Share

Dealing with Escalated Situations in Your Workplace

Resolving workplace conflict is an expected part of the job managers and Human Resource Practitioners. Whether you work in education, healthcare, human services, business, or any field, you might deal with angry, hostile, or noncompliant behaviour every day. Your response to the defensive reaction is often the key to avoiding a physical confrontation with someone who has lost control of their behaviour.

These ten De-Escalation Tips will help you respond to challenging behaviour in the safest, most efficient way possible.

  1. Be empathetic and non-judgmental
  2. Respect personal space
  3. Use non-threatening nonverbal communication
  4. Avoid overacting
  5. Focus on feelings
  6. Ignore challenging questions
  7. Set limits
  8. Choose wisely what you insist upon
  9. Allow silence for reflection
  10. Allow time for decisions

 

 To help you towards more efficient conflict de-escalation and resolution, the following basic steps can be followed:

  • Obtain the name of the person with whom you are speaking: People respond favourably to their own name. It also makes the conversation more personal. Ask for the person’s name early in the piece and use it throughout the discussion.
  • Use Active Listening: Clarifying, paraphrasing and using open-ended questions ensure that the individual you are speaking with knows you are aware of their situation and frustrations. Resaying a person’s own words back to them demonstrates that you have understood entirely what they were trying to say.       
  • Show support and suspend judgement: Empathy needs to be shown during conflict situations. Respecting the other person’s point of view even if you do not agree entirely will be the first step to resolving the conflict. 
  • Get them to agree and say yes: Having the person agree with you on general factual points leads the conversation towards a more favourable outcome. If you can show that you have understood their point of view by making clarifying statements you generate a state where the other person must reply with an affirmative response. The sooner you can get the person to say yes then sooner the conflict will de-escalate. It always works.
  • Avoid clichés: The worst of these being “Calm Down”. Did you ever notice how people who tell you to calm down are the ones who got you mad in the first place? Saying those words during a verbal conflict usually gets the classic retort “I AM CALM” very loudly usually with an animated hand gestures as well.       
  • Show empathy: You need to show compassion and understanding and give the conflict your full attention. Do not make impulsive decisions. Take the time to work through the problem.
  • Consistency in Courtesy: The person you are dealing with first thing in the morning deserves the same level of respect, civility and patience as the individual you are dealing with at 2 in the afternoon. They warrant the same high level of service and professionalism as the first person you spoke to. You need to maintain that position of positive brand ambassador and an excellent professional service.

There are many physical aspects of being mindful of in conflict situations. It is important always to be aware of features of conflict such as your body language, your emotions, your judgement, and your initial thoughts. Keeping these in mind is essential when trying to de-escalate a problematic situation.

Monika B. Jensen is the principal of the Aviary Group, consulting company that address workplace discord.  For more information, visit www.aviarygroup.ca

 

 

 

Share