How the mood in the boardroom affects an organisation

Your attitudes, values, emotions, and moods will influence how you behave, whatever situation you are in. How you feel about a particular task that day will directly affect how much effort you put into it and, consequently, the success of that task.

The impact of the mood in the boardroom

Attitudes and moods have the same impact in the workplace, particularly when it comes from  the boardroom. If there is divergence and conflict within the senior management team of an organisation, that mood will quickly permeate through all levels of the organisation.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how big your organisation is, the team at the top should cultivate an ethos in which common values and a common vision are shared. If this is achieved, people working at all levels within the company will replicate their manager’s and team leader’s behaviours.

The consequence of a less than enthusiastic or discordant management team is often reflected in poor staff engagement and silo working which results in reduced performance and output. At the extreme, it may result in low morale and high staff turnover. In contrast, a company whose management are clearly enthusiastic and sharing a common vision of the future tends to have employees who are keen to stay and work that bit harder within the organisation. Workers are also more likely to become involved with non-job related activities and social events as they want to deepen the relationships with their colleagues..

Productivity and customer satisfaction

Your employees feed on the enthusiasm and positivity that comes from their management team, resulting in increased drive and a desire to do the very best job that they can. As a result, employee job satisfaction increases and productivity rises. Workers who are driven to succeed with be more open to further training opportunities, leading to an increase in the skill level of your staff members and a higher-quality end product.

There is also a direct correlation between employee satisfaction and customer service. Motivated, hardworking staff members produce better quality products and give better service to your customers, which is clearly of the utmost importance in a business with customer-facing elements.

If the customer has an enjoyable and satisfying experience when using your company’s services or buying your products, you will be repaid with their loyalty and repeat business. In addition, you are likely to see increased sales as a result of referrals and word of mouth recommendation.

Contact St Andrews Consulting today to find out more about how to maintain enthusiasm in the boardroom and beyond.

The ‘right to disconnect’ from work emails and text messages

Having a life outside of work is highly important; not having one is detrimental to the mental health and wellbeing of everyone in the organisation. There is a lot a pressure on people and having a demanding job or boss can sometimes affect personal lives.

Too often leaders forget that there is a need to disconnect from work and have personal time, or even that employees have a life outside of work. Sometimes the boundaries between both can become blurred, particularly with the prevalence of modern technology. Smart phones enable an “always-on” culture that is not healthy.

It’s an under the surface issue that is easy to ignore. One would think that people go home at the end of the day and relax, let their hair down and get on with whatever takes their fancy on off-the-clock-time. But what about those emails that would be left unanswered? Those phone calls that employees really feel should be answered? Sometimes work is all someone can think about, and some employees have very little down-time as a result. A strong work ethic is a good thing for an organisation and great for a team but even those teams with a strong achievement culture take some time off.

That’s why the awareness of mental health issues and the availability of wellbeing activities in the workplace for employers and managers alike is sorely needed. An employee needs to be viewed as an asset with a whole array of needs rather than a functional point in an organisation that can be replaced when it’s broken.

When employees are happy and feel valued, then a beautiful transformation takes place; productivity rockets and staff turnover plummets. Businesses with low staff retention start to become highly sought after places to work and their reputation enables them to attract the most capable candidates.

An employee is a whole person. A person that needs stimulating physically, mentally and emotionally. They are people with personal issues, problems of their own, needs, wants and desires. When a business takes on the role of employer, they also take this on board too.

That’s why at St Andrews Consulting we view leadership as a whole package, and not a work place issue. We recognise the personal need for downtime – that people need time to get away from work properly. All staff need to relax and be their own person for that small amount of time that working life allows. Ultimately, refreshed employees make far happier and more engaged workers.

Time management: don’t put unneccessary pressure on your employees

When delegating work to your employees, it is essential to understand the time constraints they face. As a leader, you should understand how long jobs realistically take to complete and acknowledge the needs of your employees including their current workload, changing demands from others and potentially even their circumstances outside work. This may mean you need to spend time with them to understand their world. Here are a few tips to help:

  1. Set and agree a plan

To give your employees something to work from, it may be an idea to write up a plan on the tasks which need to be completed both regularly and any one-off projects. Time is crucial to the successful completion of any task, yet understanding how tasks can be managed within certain time frames needs to be looked into. Tasks shouldn’t be piled onto employees regardless of deadlines which need to be met or you could be facing rising absence rates due to stress and eventually higher turnover.

  1. Extended hours

Don’t expect your staff to work extended hours if there is no real need to do so. Presentee-ism has little benefit and can be very damaging. Remember that employees have families and other commitments outside of their workplace which also require their time and focus. In the modern world of flexible working, it is very easy to demand responses at any time of the day or night. However, if you respect their time outside of work and only disturb them when really necessary, then they will be more willing to put the hours in when you need them, providing you explain your reasons clearly.

  1. Change is constant – and that needs to include expectations and outputs

Organisations are always looking for ways of doing things better or more cheaply. It is a fallacy to think that you can strip layers or resources out of an organisation and get the same or more work out of it.This is an ideal opportunity to focus on what is really important to the whole organisation, stop doing things that add no value and start doing things more effectively that do. Encourage your team to identify pinch points for delivery and suggest changes that will make their jobs easier and more efficient.

 

To find out how St Andrews Consulting could help improve your leadership skills, increase team morale and drive your business forward for growth, contact us today.

How to effectively manage change in your organisation

Change is inevitable within any business – whatever the sector they are in. Some common kinds of change faced by organisations include downsizing, changing locations and restructuring. One thing is true for all changes in business and that is that they affect employees. It doesn’t matter whether the change is positive for an organisation or even a really simple one like changing the colour of a wall; employees will often still feel unsettled. In addition, the only constant is change as the world we live and work in moves on.

Unfortunately, most people don’t really like change. It is important to manage change effectively to ensure the transition is as smooth as possible and that you retain your best staff. The only way to manage change successfully is to be an engaging leader and these are some ways to use your leadership skills to get the most positive result from change in your organisation.

Communicate

Most problems with change management are down to a lack of communication – poor timing, not enough or information that is wrong. Employees may start to hear rumours about what is going to happen and this is what starts to make them feel nervous. They don’t know what is coming and they worry that they will be negatively affected. It is vitally important to communicate regularly with your staff and particularly those who may be affected. If you communicate throughout the process, you will find that employees will feel better about the situation and the transition will be much less stressful for everyone involved. An engaging leader will use open and honest communication and keep employees updated on progress about the change process and why it is being done. They will take positive actions, such as sending out weekly emails with updates, hold regular meetings and will answer any queries from employees quickly. They will also be honest when they can’t answer the questions posed and will commit to coming back with a clear answer in the future.

Involvement

Employees like to feel that they are valued. They turn up every day, work hard and they feel part of a community. There is an expectation that they will be involved in decisions and this is particularly important when it comes to making changes within a business. Take the time to get opinions and ideas from your team, understand how they feel, demonstrate that you have taken account of their input. If you make sure they are involved in the process from start to finish, then you will get much higher levels of buy-in from your employees. A successful leader will involve employees throughout the change process by creating an open forum where they will answer any queries, they will invite employee feedback and most importantly, take the feedback on board and act on it.

Adapt

No matter how big the change may be for your organisation, you should allow your employees time to adapt. For example, if you are downsizing, you should give your employees plenty of warning and information to help them deal with the change. Job losses are the main concern when it comes to downsizing, so the clearer you are about the options available to those affected, the easier it will be for them to adapt to the change. A transformative leader should be empathetic to their employees and will create a timeframe for the change so that they have time to adapt their lives if need be. They will also actively source other opportunities if the change involves job losses or provide additional support if there is something which will affect the lives of their employees.

Effective change management requires strong leadership skills. If you would like to find out more about how you can improve your leadership skills and deal with change management effectively, email Glen at St. Andrews Consulting.

How leaders can deal with conflict in the workplace

Conflicts at work are extremely common. Indeed, it is not possible to make change without conflict happening. However if it is not managed correctly or becomes too personal, it may adversely affect the motivation and team morale of other employees. Then the working environment can become toxic and negative if strategies aren’t put in place to resolve issues between employees. At the extreme, it can lead to talented people leaving or even the organisation being remodelled to break down the entrenched positions. Here are a few top tips for leaders dealing with conflict to enhance team performance:

Find common ground

If conflict is brought about through a disagreement over ideas within meetings, persuade your team members to transfer that negative energy into a brainstorming or ideas session. You hired these individuals because they were passionate about the company, therefore understand that conflicts may arise due to wanting the best for the business. Everyone has their own perception of the problem and the way to solve it. Ask those in conflict calmly whether there are any positives in carrying on the disagreement, and if not, encourage them to move on with the discussion.

Help employees to feel secure

When conflict arises between employees, there can often be a sense of self-doubt amongst the more vulnerable and shy members of staff. As a leader, it is always a good idea to reassure those individuals that they are highly thought of within the company and that the conflict won’t affect their position within the team organisation. Simon Sinek explains why this is important in this video:

Remind them that they can talk to you whenever they need to, and that everyone is working to keep things professional and get the team back on track.

Don’t be afraid to take charge

The main aim of leadership is to get your team to the right outcome at the right time for the benefit of them and the wider group. In all organisations, the way forward often has difficult choices that have both upsides and downsides. This means that every decision has the potential to cause conflict. However, there does come a point when the time for discussion is over and a decision needs to be made – and that decision may have to be made by you. Indeed, you may have to adopt a far more autocratic style to get rapid progress to meet a short term deadline. However, if you are in “tell” mode more than “sell” mode, then you probably aren’t getting the best out of your team.

Timing is everything

If you notice there are conflicts emerging between employees, ensure you nip it in the bud early rather than leaving it too late. Having said that, it is always worth finding hard evidence or proof before discussing issues with each employee. Teams are complex things and, like an iceberg, a good proportion of what goes on happens out of sight. It may be values, behaviours or other characteristics that are causing the issue. The key is to find an acceptable compromise to allow the protagonists to work together on an ongoing basis. If this cannot be found, then the only solution is personnel change, which is a long and hard road….

For more information on becoming an inspirational leader, please take a browse on our website to see how we can develop your leadership skills as well as developing your team of employees.

4 ways to stop good employees from leaving

One of the key roles of a leadership position is to retain and motivate your team to the best of your ability. Indeed, retention is a key metric that indicates the health of the organisation. If you believe you have a good team with a number of exceptional employees, ensuring that those individuals stay within your organisation should be one of your priorities: a high turnover of staff doesn’t portray the best image of your company, nor does it help with productivity in the long-run and replacing people costs money. In addition, any specialist knowledge or contacts the leavers have will leave with them – potentially to a competitor.

Here are a few top tips to prevent your best employees from leaving:

1. Recognise their hard work

The top employees within your company will go above and beyond to achieve their set goals. If you, as a leader, fail to notice such achievements and give all employees the same praise, you are guaranteed to lose the best workers. Unless they are desperate, good employees won’t stick around to be underappreciated. Reward those who achieve their set goals but do something special for those that go above and beyond.

2. Make it fun!

A workplace with no fun can be a real slog and frankly not an enjoyable place to be a part of. Although a workplace should be serious and efficient, planning fun activities and some social team bonding activities can really help to boost morale. Such occasions allow employees to get to know each other on a more personal level and find friends among colleagues. Also, if you know a bit more about their personal circumstances outside work, then it may shine a light on some of the behaviours that you see.  Charity work can be a real opportunity for people to unite behind a common cause and give an opportunity for all cultures and religions to do common activities.

3. Keep everyone informed

Some of the worst things a leader can do is fail to inform or to misinform their team about tasks and events which are taking place. This could lead to frustration or embarrassment. Ensuring that there is a clear communication strategy in place means that there will be greater productivity and motivation. One idea would be to log news and key updates online to keep the whole workforce in the loop. According to a recent survey, 94% of companies fail to alert their workforce on a daily basis.

4. Provide feedback

Good leaders and managers arrange regular meetings with their teams to iron out any issues which may prevent them from growing in the company. Discussions about where expectations haven’t been met in either behaviour or performance are not a bad thing, as long as the messages are communicated in the right way. This is also the ideal opportunity for leaders to help with coaching and suggestions about how to develop. Motivated employees should use the constructive feedback to develop their techniques and change their strategies.

For further information on leadership and how you can better motivate your employees, please contact Glen at St. Andrews Consulting today.

Leadership lessons from Eddie Jones

It is that time of year when groups of men gather from all corners of Europe and come together to represent their countries by putting their bodies on the line: yes, the 6 Nations is here again. This tournament provides some fascinating insights in to leadership every year: how do you motivate people to give their best in an environment where there is real risk to their health? What are the leadership lessons that can be used in everyday scenarios?

There was an interesting interview with Eddie Jones, the England coach, in The Times last weekend. Most of the article talks about his story and how he has dealt with adversity in his career. His response to the question “what is your most valuable experience as a rugby coach?” was instructive: “Raising my 23-year-old daughter.” He is certainly not the first to draw the parallel between leadership and parenting. Simon Sinek has a very popular video on TED, where he talks about parenting involving setting boundaries, encouraging your children, disciplining them when necessary and wanting them to have a better life and more success than you have. That is exactly what a leader wants for their team, too.

Jones also makes the valid point that you cannot be authoritarian and impose your will all the time as a leader or a parent. You should be more sympathetic and engage with your team and your children so they can make the right decisions for themselves.

It also talks about some of the cultural issues he has faced, particularly working with the Japanese national rugby team and encouraging them to take ownership of their own destiny. The success of that approach was demonstrated at the last World Cup, with the Japanese achieving a historic victory over South Africa.

With England, he took over when the players were at a very low ebb. They had just made history as the first host nation to be dumped out of the tournament at the group stages. With essentially the same squad, he took England to a Grand Slam the following year. So how did he do it?

He has made the team self-policing about their behaviour off the pitch. Contrast that with the approach being taken by the national football team after Wayne Rooney had a good evening with a wedding party after winning a match against Scotland: uproar and calls for an official code of conduct. Jones has nothing written down and discipline in the team has improved.

He is utterly focused on personal performance and players taking ownership of their fitness. There are many stories of him being very direct about his expectations and the results that he wants to see. Direct communication at the right time is sometimes needed to make sure there is no misunderstanding about the outcome required. He also leaves the method to achieve the results up to the individual, which is a good delegation technique.

He is not trying to teach the players how to play rugby. In the professional era, a good level of technical skill is a given. However, he is spending time teaching them how to be a team. Organisations underestimate how much effort this takes. And it is not a one-shot exercise: team building needs to be an ongoing activity otherwise the depth of relationships needed for a team to work well together will never be built.

He recognises that a one-size-fits-all style does not work. Every individual has different emotional needs and need a different approach to ensure their buy-in to the team and give their best on the field.

However, he doesn’t tolerate anything less than full commitment and as an unnamed member of the squad said: “that is as it should be.”

So the challenge for leaders in other organisations is: this approach is proven. How much of it are you doing on a daily basis?

3 proven leadership lessons from sports coaches

When it comes to finding inspirational leadership within the massive sports arena, you need look no further than the coach. Sports stars are often well-rewarded for their efforts on the pitch but they still have to be motivated to put their bodies on the line – often with real risk of injury or death. The person that does this is the coach. This one-man miracle has the power to make or break a team of trained athletes. Typically, he or she becomes more than equal to the sum of the parts that make up the actual team. Here we discuss three leadership lessons from sporting greats that have proven time and time again to be worth their weight in sporting gold.

1) Preparation is everything

The only way to have a chance of overcoming your opponent, in any field, is by studying both their strengths and weaknesses. For a sports team or athlete, this usually involves watching videos of their performances and analysing their key strategy. This can be applied to any team of employees by analysing everything from management structure and business objectives to the infrastructure and marketing campaigns of competitors. But it’s not enough just to absorb all of this information; a powerful leader needs to have worked out counter measures that will enable the team to both overcome and nullify their opponent’s best moves.

In terms of famous coaches who believe in this ethos, you would have to go a long way to find a better example than Freddie Roach. Roach trained many world champion boxers including Mike Tyson and Oscar De La Hoya. His training methods involved watching hours of videos of the opposition and the results speak for themselves.

2) Be patient

Putting new strategies into place can take months and even years, especially if they are a drastic departure from the tactics already being followed. A good coach understands why this is the case but he or she should also be able to explain the value of being patient as far as these changes are concerned.

Sometimes a team – whether in sports or business – will have to face quite a few losses before any improvements start to have a positive effect. Keeping both confident and happy isn’t an easy task but needs to be done each and every time that you lose faith. Sweden’s Lars Lagerback is the epitome of a patient man. Having never played professional football himself, Lagerback spent more than ten years coaching in the lower divisions before getting the call from the Swedish FA.

3) Shouting is not teaching

We’ve all seen the coaches who seem to be enjoying yelling their respective heads off when the going gets tough. This is not the way a great coach gets their point across. Essentially, teaching and leading are the same thing, so being aggressive is never going to yield those results that your business depends upon.

One such example of a coach that never seems to lose his temper is Glen Mills. The Jamaican sprint coach who has trained none other than Usain Bolt to multiple World and Olympic titles, is a quiet but determined man who is always there to dispel any self doubt in his squad members.

When it comes to improving team morale and cohesive working, these three qualities of a successful sporting coach can be applied to any workplace. For advice on how St Andrews Consulting can help create leaders in your team, contact us today.

Building a team to do something we have never done before….

“Change is constant and the pace is getting quicker” is the common wisdom and I haven’t seen anything that disproves it. This means that organisations and teams need to change and evolve constantly. As internal and external forces act on them or their area of operations change, they have to react. Often organisations need to do something new or different to get the organisation to grow, service new or different customers, deal with staff changes etc. etc. This cycle of change means that there needs to be a constant focus on improving operations and also building the team to make sure it is capable of delivering what is needed.

Sometimes the shift in focus is even bigger than that. New products, new services, new technology or new markets mean that the organisation needs to do things differently or do something new. So how do you build a team to do something that you have never done before?

As ever, sport provides some interesting parallels that we can use. Football is the obvious choice but I would like to look at the approach being taken to win the oldest sporting trophy in the world, one that we have never won before: the America’s Cup.

As in other team sports, sailing a yacht is very much a group activity that takes skill, practice, fitness and passion to succeed at. Overarching all of those things are teamwork and communications. It is perfectly possible for a better led, less fit but stronger team to beat one that has “better” people in it. That is not to say that other attempts to win the cup haven’t focused on teamwork. They have but they have started in a different place than the current team: they have recruited the most capable sailors possible and tried to build them in to a team.

Numerous times in my career I have heard or read job ads that talk about “we only hire the best”, “you need to be outstanding in your field”, “I want the best sales and marketing director!” etc. etc. And how many times have we known someone like that moving on quite quickly? Leaders underestimate the damage that can be caused by recruiting an extreme “alpha-male” ego in to an organisation. Yes, there will be some disruption whoever gets recruited as that is what happens in the team lifecycle. There will need to be some team building done in all cases but successful teams contain members who are willing to join in for the benefit of the organisation. However, “rock stars” often aren’t as there is little in it for them: they are utterly focused on getting what they need to do done – often to the detriment of others.

Sir Ben Ainsley, one of our most decorated Olympians, is choosing to do something different. He has realised that teamwork is vital so he has looked for sailors that are “good enough” or “fit enough” to work with but who also work well together. He has taken the approach that the whole team, including himself, are on a journey together and that they will all improve and succeed or fail together.

All the news from the team is here: http://land-rover-bar.americascup.com/

We will find out next year whether his team will finally bring the cup back to the UK after over 130 years of trying.

Bad News and Leadership – Part 2

Bad news girlIn the last blog article, I took at an example of best practice when bad news comes from within your team. However, bad news can also come from anywhere else. For example, it could be from external sources or the rest of the management team. Even changing business circumstances can (and should) make it obvious that action needs to be taken and change needs to happen. It doesn’t really matter what the nature of the change is, some will see it as bad news.

As before, you cannot avoid it and its potential impacts on your team. It is also highly unlikely that you are going to have all the answers at the outset. As always, honesty is the best policy. People will know when you are being cagey or hiding something. Being authentic as a leader is a vital quality that helps build loyalty and trust, particularly in times of uncertainty.

The other thing to bear in mind is that the bush telegraph in the office works very, very quickly. And on the back of very little information, some supposition and a whole lot of leaping to conclusions! This means that it is unlikely that you are likely to manage to keep things completely quiet. Therefore, communications and message management are going to become a key activities for you as events unfold.

As I said before, any change will be viewed as bad by someone in the team and you will need to explain what is going to happen. However, the key thing is the “why?” You must also describe the options you looked at, why the choice of that particular path was made and the benefits the change will bring. It is vitally important that your team appreciate that their leadership have explored all the options and made a rational decision, rather than one based on gut feel. It is also important that the team appreciate that the organisation is more important than any one member of it and that a fair solution to the issue has been sought.

Finally, you need to communicate all this:

  • use the most appropriate methods
  • present information in ways that all personalities can understand
  • be consistent with your message and be positive about the way forward

People look to their leadership for a sensible, rational way forward to a place that is better than where they are now. Your job is to communicate that vision and keep on communicating it. In fact, it isn’t possible to over-communicate about change, the rationale for it and where you are going as a team.

 

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