Quick Contact
Quick Contact
Case Study: Promoted to manager, now what?

Case Study: Promoted to manager, now what?

Leadership: A Context

 

Most people strive to be promoted and climb the workplace ladder into a higher position, with their eyes set on becoming a manager and then a leader. So, why is it that when they reach the desired point for which they worked so tirelessly, things change drastically. Suddenly a star performer’s productivity and performance drops, their motivation dwindles, they deliver late, their work quality drops, and mistakes creep in. They won’t be sure how it happened and will be like a deer in the headlights, unable to move.

The analogy of the startled deer is precisely what happens. The newly-promoted leader enters a state of paralysis where they can’t move, begin to doubt their own abilities, lose confidence, and are unable to make concrete decisions. The senior leaders will ask themselves what has happened to their star performer, the person who was recently promoted and who they were expecting to fire like a rocket.

What has happened to their star performer is that they have become “paralysed” in their new role. They were previously technically competent and highly skilled which made them perform at their best. Senior leaders recognised the potential in their star performer and promoted them to a more senior role with additional responsibility and a few team members reporting to them. What may appear as a formidable gesture turns into a nightmare. The challenge lies in the fact that the star performer has been promoted without the necessary leadership training on how to embrace their new role, tasks and most importantly how to lead their team. The essential people and soft-skills were never imparted, with the newly-appointed leader doing their best to figure it out by themselves. They will have to learn in a DIY style when it comes to leadership, which is not a recommended approach. Unfortunately, we see this situation very often and are called in to assist through coaching, training or workshops. Our next story is precisely about that.

 

Background

The client was a well-established family-owned business where the owners wanted to grow the business to a level where they could hand over their legacy to the next generation leaders in the next 15 years. The leaders they had identified had been working in the business for the past 10 years which was why promoting them to manager seemed like a natural next step. It was everything but that.

After the initial feelings of elation and pride, the reality set in and the team’s as well the manager’s performance began to drop. Customers complained, mistakes occurred, team morale dipped, and workplace tension was escalating for everybody.

 

We were called in to help this manager make the transition from previously being part of the team and now being their manager. In addition, we needed to help the manager with some leadership skills.

 

Approach and process

We engaged with the manager for over 10 months, with meetings every two weeks. We designed a structured plan upfront of what would be key items to focus on as we believe that each situation is unique and each leader requires different skills to develop and grow. However, in this case study we will share three main things we applied to get the transition moving forward.

  1. Shifting the mindset from team member to manager. This is the most difficult transition to make because their role will have changed completely from one day to another. Yesterday they were part of the team sharing tea breaks and lunches with them, and now they are their manager giving direction on work tasks to be completed. Suddenly, they are accountable for their own work, as well as delegating, and planning. For the manager, this is the most stressful and difficult time to make the transition because they have not yet identified themselves with their new role, and sometimes they will slip back into what’s familiar. The transition occurs gradually but has to be approached consciously. They will need assistance in terms of listing what behaviours they need to let go of and identifying how this can be done by exploring what they can replace them with. This stage requires time and patience as the transition does take about three months.
  2. Learning to communicate with their team. Communication is a large and important topic for any manager to embrace. It has many components to it such as listening, asking questions, providing feedback, and managing conflict. With this situation, we taught the manager to rely on his natural people strengths. We encouraged him to listen without interrupting, ask questions to understand and not judge, ask for help from senior leaders when he wasn’t sure, and to give his team feedback. He needed to trust his intuition when communicating, and also to learn to find the right balance on when to be empathetic and when to be firm. We raised the communication levels through regular brief face-to-face morning team meetings and used emails more for information sharing rather than for conversations. The last thing we focused on was addressing conflict or disputes very early on and not allowing them to go unaddressed and spiral out of control. We showed him to be mindful to focus on the situation that was under dispute and never the person.
  3. Building positive trusting relationships seems to be an obvious one, but the words “positive” and “trusting” change the dynamic in relationships. Finding the ideal balance is tricky for even the most seasoned leader. Relationships are about having a sense of awareness for oneself and others, and can be categorised into building social and emotional intelligence. We are all unique human beings who think, feel and sense differently. What motivates one person doesn’t motivate another, and as a leader, it’s learning to build, nurture and maintain different relationships at various levels. The things we specifically focused on here was to let go and to trust the team to do their tasks, learning to not micro-manage and to give continuous feedback on the work completed.

 

Outcomes

This three-step process was the start for the manager to transform. Many other soft skills and building blocks were shared, but are not discussed in this article. From the day we started the intervention, the manager has grown and developed a level of confidence and self-worth and has set new goals in his personal and professional life. There is nothing more rewarding than to witness an individual growing and developing in both these domains.

If your newly-appointed manager or leader is experiencing similar challenges, and you’d like our support, contact us at info@4seeds.co.za to schedule a free 30-minute consultation with our expert team.

How to Become an Agile Leader

How to Become an Agile Leader

Our first article on agile leadership was written on 5 September 2016. That’s almost three years before the phrase “agile leadership” became a familiar business buzzword. Today, we hear and read about agile leaders, agile managers, agile employees, and agile organisations all the time. While reading through that blog, I feel that we were on the button with our comments, but would like to add some new wisdom and information.

 

Defining Agile Leadership

Let’s start by defining what an agile leader is, and how it differs from previous names such as authentic, transformational, democratic, or autocratic leader. An agile leader can lead a wide range of complex and diverse circumstances, and is able, in a crisis situation, to realign human resources where most needed. In the current VUCA (vulnerable, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous) business world, agile leaders are nimble and light on their feet; able to adjust their decisions, focus, and attention on the spur of the moment, while innovating, inspiring and motivating their team to commit to the new strategy.

 

Characteristics of Agile Leaders

Leadership experts and researchers have identified that an agile leader demonstrates four core characteristics:

  1. A deep sense of purpose of why their team and organisation exists, and what they intend to achieve. This sense of purpose brings focus, clarity, meaning, a sense of belonging, and direction.
  2. Being comfortable with the complex unknown means having a vigilant eye for change and opportunities. Feeling confident, positive and familiar with the uncertainty and navigating through it.
  3. Experimenting and trying things out which speaks directly to being open-minded, growing and learning. Being courageous and brave to charter unknown waters. Inspiring others to be creative and innovative.
  4. A lifelong student who never stops learning, exploring and growing. Conscientiously expanding their knowledge and competencies. And if they don’t know, then being streetwise enough to know where to go to find the information.

 

Here is the original article written on 5 September 2016:

Case Study: Managing Conflict and Building Effective Relationships in the Organisation

Case Study: Managing Conflict and Building Effective Relationships in the Organisation

Relationships: A Context

Building positive, trusting relationships is paramount in every organisation to ensure that communication is flowing, ideas are emerging, people are volunteering to assist and support one another, information is being shared, and collaboration occurs.

In his hierarchy of needs, Maslow reiterates that people need to feel loved and have a sense that they belong to a community. We all want to be liked, wanted, needed and loved, and this is no different to wanting to experience it in a work environment. Toxic working relationships cause distrust, miscommunication, frustration and loneliness. They drain us emotionally, physically and physiologically. They zap our energy, and influence our performance and productivity. They make us dread going to work, and we can even become physically ill from toxic relationships.

 

Background

We experienced a situation in an organisation a while back where the team was talking to one another but not truly communicating. They were polite, friendly and respectful, but they didn’t listen to each other. They didn’t air the conflict that was very noticeable in the room. Many difficult conversations were swept under the carpet which resulted in the team not being able to make decisions that mattered to the business. Each team leader was bickering about what wasn’t right, and whose fault it was. People were beating around the bush in conversations instead of saying what they truly felt and thought.

Throughout this process, people became cynical and expressed snide remarks that were hurtful. It didn’t take long for trust to break down and relationships to become superficial.

 

We were called in to help this team to build trusting, positive relationships.

 

Approach & Process

We engaged with the team over eight months and had to start gently before we were able to go a level deeper. The four key items we focused on were:

  1. Sharing what they appreciated and valued about one another. This was a new concept for the team as they were accustomed to talking about what was wrong and what someone didn’t do. They had to sit back and recognise the strength of a fellow team member and openly share it. To stretch them a little further, we asked them to articulate how a team member made their work easier.
  2. Learning to listen and not to interrupt was our next approach. To allow a team member to complete their sentence in full. To hold back on any knee-jerk reaction, and to hear what the person was saying. To make notes of thoughts and ideas that were coming up for the listener and to go back to them when it was their turn to speak.
  3. Engaging in open-ended questions that allow for clarification and expansion of viewpoints. Not to make any assumptions or judgement about what was being said, but rather to ask to ensure deep understanding. To summarise if needed based on what was heard.
  4. Express one’s feeling was the last aspect we brought in as this was going to force the team to show vulnerability and humility. Baring their heart on how they felt about a decision or situation. But having learned the previous tools, they were in a strong position to be heard and understood by their colleagues.

 

Outcomes

This four-step process rebuilt open, candid communication in the team which had a ripple effect on their trust and relationships. I still engage with them on odd occasions and can say that I’m delighted that they have upheld these strategies. Their relationships have remained positive and the once poor level of communication has completely turned around.

If your team is experiencing similar challenges and you would like our support contact us at info@4seeds.co.za to schedule a 30 minute free consultation with our expert team.

 

Return on Relationships

Return on Relationships

We’ve noticed that a new Key Performance Indicator (KPI) has popped up in many Leaders’ Performance Assessments, namely the measurement of Return on Relationships. If it is not on yours yet, it will be coming soon!

In the 80s and 90s, we measured Return on Investment (ROI). In the early 2000s the entire IT platform dominated our world, and now the new buzzword is Return on Relationships (ROR).

What do we mean when we talk about Return on Relationships? Is it networking, socialising, or customer liaison? The answer is “all of the above” – but it is also much more, including building, nurturing, trusting and maintaining connections with our teams. A Meaningful Leader will know the value of positive relationships and will spend a fair amount of time nurturing good team relationships.

 

Meaningful Connections

 

Connecting with people mainly covers giving people our undivided attention and time; communicating through dialogue and listening deeply to each other’s needs. When we mindfully connect with others, we build rapport, trust and loyalty with each other. By doing these we remove judgement, bias and perceptions about one another, therefore allowing us to work together in an optimal team environment. We would be willing and open to provide feedback to each other, brainstorm new solutions to complex work situations, and challenge each other’s thinking. Connecting with people reduces conflict, misunderstandings and having arbitrary, meaningless conversations.

Humans are social beings, which means that we need social interactions and connections with other people. If someone has been deprived of social connectivity they withdraw and become unmotivated and unengaged with work and life. In an experiment conducted on baby monkeys, the babies were given the choice to either be deprived of motherly affection or food. It came as a surprise that the babies did not choose to fulfil their primary need for food, but rather chose motherly love. This indicates their instinct that connections matter more than actual food.

 

Improving Organisational Relationships

 

You might be thinking that this is all well and good, but how can you improve or enhance connectivity with your team? How do you build relationships especially with team members that you don’t know or even particularly like? The answer is – and you might not like it – deep listening. Make a concerted effort to spark up a conversation with them and then listen beyond the noise. Listen with openness and curiosity. Listen to find meaning in what the person has to say. Ask questions to clarify and understand. Discard any perceptions and do your best to put yourself in their shoes. That may be a good starting point to build relationships.

After that, shift the dial on intensity and frequency until connecting with others becomes a way of working. The benefits, in the end, are far greater as people will support you on your own tasks and challenges through their insights and ideas, which will deepen the connection. Nevertheless, in the beginning, you have to invest conscious effort, practice and discipline. If, as a leader, you are sincere about people being the most valuable and valued asset, connecting is a brilliant starting point.

As February is the month of relationships, we encourage you to have belly-to-belly conversations with your teams. Let us know how it goes!

 

What is your mindset?

What is your mindset?

Our mindset has a profound impact on our life because it determines how we interact, behave, perceive, and engage with the world around us. We seldom, however, give our mindset a second thought, perhaps assuming that it’s innately inborn and something beyond our control. Many people assume that we either have a positive mindset that sees the glass as half full, or a negative one that sees it as half empty. Fortunately, and because of neuroplasticity over time, our mindsets can change and grow.

In our day-to-day lives, our mindset determines how we approach challenges and obstacles. Do we see things from a more negative viewpoint, or do we see challenges as opportunities to grow and learn? The good news is that you can develop and change your mindset in any situation because you have one phenomenal component in your life: choice! You can choose how to see your world around you. Your mindset is the belief you have about something, and we all know that our beliefs aren’t always correct. Beliefs are concepts we deem to be true without having any empirical evidence, but we have the ability to change our beliefs and therefore our mindset.

According to leading mindset researcher Professor Carol Dweck, there are two distinct mindset types.

The Two Different Mindset Types

1. Fixed mindset

As the word indicates, a fixed mindset person believes that our abilities and qualities are predetermined. This means that we’re born with certain predispositions that we cannot change or control. A fixed mindset focuses on winning and achieving for the benefit of being acknowledged and respected by others. A fixed mindset approach requires constant validation from others. If the person perceives that he/she won’t be able to achieve an outcome because of the lack of capability, this translates into them not putting in the required effort because they doubt their success. If failure does occur, the person doesn’t try again but gives up and believes that they aren’t good enough.

2. Growth Mindset

On the other side of the spectrum is the growth mindset – here the belief is that a person’s qualities and abilities can grow and develop with effort, experience, discipline, and engagement. The focus is on learning mastery and competence in self-selected areas. Results and outcomes don’t determine who we are, or what our potential is; rather they’re an indication of the amount of effort we apply right now. If the person doesn’t succeed the first time around, they develop the thinking style of “not yet, but soon”. They get up, contemplate how to approach the situation differently, and try again. Their emphasis is on the process applied not the actual outcome.
You may be wondering why it matters which mindset type you have. It matters profoundly because it clearly affects your ability to achieve goals, performances and being successful. Our mindset type can hinder or enable us, and this determines which strategies we’ll apply. It dictates how we respond to setbacks, the energy and effort we use to tackle situations, and in the end our success in goal attainment. Statistics show that a growth mindset is successful more often and is able to maintain that level consistently.

 

Mindsets in Organisations

If we take this concept one step further and assume that companies operate in the same frame as individuals, we can then conclude that companies have a certain primary mindset culture. Let’s hypothetically assume that a company has a fixed mindset culture, which is shown in its structures, policies, processes, operational activities and task execution. Outcomes and targets are distinctly measured and not attaining them means failure. Mistakes are punished, people are labelled as incompetent, and no learning is taken from mishaps. Leadership cascades that energy into its workforce, which may hamper employees from being self-motivated, creative, innovative thinkers, learners of mistakes, and eager to experiment with new ways of doing things. Growth is overshadowed by the company’s habitual system.

If the above concept is true; should leaders not be focusing on changing their company’s mindset? Companies like Apple, Google, and Virgin actively apply a growth mindset culture and we know what phenomenal success they’ve achieved. Perhaps it’s time to review what parts of your company are stuck in a fixed mindset and which aren’t.

Make the shift to a healthier growth mindset culture where you can learn from mistakes, and focus on the processes you apply rather than the final outcomes.

 

Reference

Dweck, C. S. (2006). Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. New York: The Random House Publishing Group.