Constant change requires leaders to excel in the basics

Ten skills at the heart of every leader’s arsenal.

“Topic 7 – Problem Solving Situations”

transcript written by Wayne Brown

Congratulations on turning back into this next topic which deals with problem-solving around your stakeholders and projects. Wayne here again, and I will host you through this episode.

Until this point, we have focused on building the team dynamics and disrupting the traditional ideas or approaches in areas such as motivation, delegation, and feedback.

The 1st portion of this episode will deal specifically with creating self-awareness around your leadership style in managing conflict and how to respond to team challenges or difficult conversations. We shall broaden this perspective for the remainder of the video to look at how to engage the stakeholder in Problem Solving, Critical Thinking, and Creative Thinking constructs. 

It`s a fascinating and incredibly insightful leg of the journey, as it’s one of the “basics” areas practiced least often by leaders. Therefore we can’t wait to share these ideas with you, as we know the learning and subsequent outcome for you and your team is enormous. 

So please get comfortable, take a notebook in hand & focus your energy as we step through this topic called Problem Solving Situations.

If you have followed the steps introduced in our previous six episodes, you will have greatly reduced the likelihood of dealing with argumentative stakeholders, particularly those in your team. And if you recall, during topic 5 Feedback Strategies, we introduced a few models for successfully delivering feedback – using FAST, BOOST, and SBI, which are among the more popular methods today. 

So, it’s probably no real surprise that when you are the leader introducing change, the recipients may not always be on the same page as you. Nor will they always agree with your opinion or actions. Whether the change relates to a new process, systems, or tools, offering constructive feedback, or any number of other diverse situations. 

The learning here is that this is a natural part of leadership, as everyone is an individual. While they may, for the most part, be loyal team players, cooperative colleagues, understanding bosses, or considerate clients, they will still hold unique personal values, beliefs, and perspectives. These may not always align with the working environment, situation, or discussion.

Therefore, as a starting point in this episode, we want you to reflect on your conflict handling style. This self-awareness of your style preference will greatly enhance your ability to handle different scenarios (if you choose to utilize it) with various stakeholders more effectively and avoiding unintentional escalation of the matter. 

For this, we introduce a very popular tool called the Thomas-Kilmann model of Conflict Management. This model compares our chosen level of assertiveness against our willingness to cooperate in a conflict situation and defines five different conflict styles which we can and do adopt as a result. 

Ranging between a win-win outcome through collaboration on the one hand and total avoidance of the issue at the other end. In between these two extremes, we also have three different styles; 

  • Competing, where you are highly assertive with little willingness to cooperate, tends to create a win-lose outcome. 
  • Accommodating, where you are highly cooperative, however normally at your own expense. Of course, this might be intentional, for example, where you wish to preserve the relationship. 
  • And lastly, through Compromise, such as in a sales negotiation process where there is typically give & take, it can also be considered a lose-lose situation as neither party achieves what they desire. 

Depending on the stakeholder and the situation in conflict, you may elect to use any of the five styles. Even selecting a combination of more than one of these options. 

We’ll go deeper into conflict management in the Advanced series. Still, we will include several links to videos and articles to help with your self-awareness and understanding of how you can utilize this knowledge during future conflict situations. 

We would encourage you to complete the questionnaire included in the episode blog on our site amentorscouch.com and practice using the five styles.

And back to our reality that all leaders should expect this conflict scenario to present itself at some stage. It’s important, therefore, to prepare ourselves (by knowing our default styles) and learn to allow the stakeholders to air their grievances, voice their concerns, and state their thoughts without you reacting inappropriately. 

It’s pleasing to know that we can predict with a degree of accuracy (based on numerous studies in this field) when conflict arises during team feedback sessions, the types of pushback to expect. Knowing this enables us to be somewhat prepared ahead of the communication. 

Typically, the recipient will express one or more of these four responses if confronted about an issue. 

  1. They deny that the situation exists, so you need to support the claim with facts and examples.
  2. They may trivialize the scale of the situation, stating that it’s not a big issue – in this situation, you support your claim with an outline of the impact and why it matters.
  3. They may try shifting the blame onto others. Here it would help if you allowed the recipient to detail the situation as they see it and explain the causes. Dig into the problem to find the root cause.
  4. Shifting blame onto a lack of personal knowledge or skill – here, you would explore together which capability is missing and agree if this is truly the cause. If so, decide on a solution together.

In the end, it’s important to reach an agreement on a way forward with concrete actions, the nomination of the responsible persons, and clear timeline milestones.

The more you expose yourself to this challenge, the better you will handle the situation and manage your style. Of course, you utilize the tools provided and practice the communication methods already highlighted. 

Remember to be factual and base the feedback on your observations, not hear-say, park your emotions, allow time for input from the recipient and work towards solutions, don’t get bogged down in the issue or problem. Keep moving the discussion towards the solution.

But what if we encounter a more complex problem with a larger group? The issue will require a somewhat different approach. 

Let’s consider that your company is working on a large project and have encountered a significant problem that could jeopardize the completion date and financial outcome. 

People start becoming emotional, the atmosphere is heated, and the blame game is rampant. How can we calm down the situation and move things towards a solution? The obvious step would be to call the team meeting, paint the picture, and demand cohesion and joint effort.

We see this approach repeatedly and with a similar outcome – most often with little change in project performance or success.

Thankfully, it’s possible and relatively easy to disrupt this mentality by introducing a little logic and process to the equation – we kick start this with our Problem Solving mindset and later elaborate on the process with Critical and Creative Thinking techniques. 

We were referring to earlier these steps when we said that most managers fail to utilize the group’s collective genius to identify and solve complex problems fearing that the process takes too much time or, more often, that they don’t know how or what to do. 

So let’s unpack this approach in greater detail, understand more about each component, and examine some supporting tools. And we start with the traditional Problem Solving methodology.

Starting with an understanding of this term Problem Solving and the realization that many companies have developed their practices to incorporate one or more problem-solving methods as standards in their daily work activities. You can see the definition and a small sampling (10) of common problem-solving techniques/tools on the screen. It is not an exhaustive list as there are many approaches, but most share a common theme.

This problem-solving approach became very popular in the automotive industry around quality topics in the 1980s and utilized many of these assessment tools. It has since spread to all business areas and usually with a simplified methodology such as Constructive or Inductive Reasoning techniques and perhaps PDCA – plan do check act – to name a few. Links to these and other methods will be in the blog. 

To help you understand better, we would like to introduce a simple but effective method, which relates to the concept and how our problem-solving theory applies in your business practices with stakeholders and major projects.

The approach covers the principles adopted in the majority of methods while utilizing a simple 6 step model. Hence the reason I prefer this, particularly when working with groups that are not familiar with traditional problem-solving techniques. 

Each of the six steps has multiple characteristics, which we adhere to or question during that stage, plus at the same time, we’ll incorporate various tools or techniques for drilling deeper into the problem. 

The process starts with step 1, “Defining the problem.” In this step, we look to diagnose the situation to focus on the problem, not just its symptoms. For this stage, we introduce the end-to-end process review in the form of a flow diagram to ensure we are clear about what happened across the entire activity.

Next, in step 2, we “Determine the root causes or causes.” Meaning, what is it that is causing us to wind up with this problem or situation? We use tools such as the cause and effect diagram and the 5 Why questioning technique to explore the linkage further.

In step 3, we need to “Define alternative solutions” – typically using lateral thinking exercises such as brainstorming; we try to identify all possible answers. We are considering everything which may be helpful.

Then in Step 4, we “Select a solution or solutions” after grouping, prioritizing, and considering the possibilities before choosing the one/s which you believe will resolve the matter.

Implement the change” is the next step. Implementation can be a simple or complex process and may involve multiple sub-steps depending on the scale of the problem. 

And finally, in Step 6, we continue to monitor and evaluate the results after the implementation.

We could, of course, stop here as this Problem Solving approach alone will result in a high degree of success over most problems and resolve most disagreements. But, we want to make sure you have a fully endowed knowledge base along with an arsenal of tools. Therefore we’re going to incorporate the applications of creative and critical thinking. 

These two separate elements are highly powerful as stand-alone topics and could have had an episode devoted to each. Still, in our case, we want to highlight merely their value add & show how to couple them together for greater problem-solving effectiveness.

Let’s start by introducing creative thinking to expand the range of our solutions, particularly during step 3 of our Problem Solving exercise. 

The concept of creative thinking and using outside of the box, innovative thoughts helps move from convergent to divergent ideas. 

You are looking for alternative solutions rather than only one correct outcome. To create the right stimulation for this creative thinking process to occur, you need to establish the right environment and combine the right ingredients – such as a diverse group of people with different roles, different backgrounds, different cultures, age, gender, expertise, and so on, as and where appropriate. Plus, be sure to define the game rules for the creativity exercise clearly.

With this in place, we can call on different creative thinking tools and techniques. There are many tools to select from –Brainstorming, Mind mapping from Tony Buzan, Six Hats from Edward Debono, plus some less known approaches such as SCAMPER. 

These tools can be supported by following more abstract and remotely practiced suggestions from people like Balder Onarheim and the use of pre-practiced activities such as “continuous practice.” You train your mind to think creatively, use dream sleep to solve a stated problem or use randomness to trigger abstract connections to the problem. Whichever you select, the aim is to enhance the solution ideation. 

And then, of course, once we have these new, untested thoughts, how can we assess them? And that’s our bridge to the use of Critical Thinking in our problem-solving process. 

So what is critical thinking – it can be defined as a developed skill acquired through practice, enabling us to think clearly and rationally and understand the logical connection between ideas. 

It refers to the ability to analyze information objectively and make a reasoned judgment. Critical thinking involves evaluating sources such as data, facts, observable phenomenon, and research findings. 

Good critical thinkers can draw reasonable conclusions from a given set of information and discriminate between useful and less useful details to solve a problem or make a decision. 

Critical thinkers rigorously question ideas and assumptions rather than accepting them at face value. 

So, if we reflect on our 6-step problem-solving process, we have already utilized Creative Thinking during step 3 to enhance and broaden our possible solution pool. 

In step 4, while selecting the most effective solution, we can apply our critical thinking to challenge our rationale, based on the data provided in steps 2 & 3. The outcome will be concise, well thought through reasoning, which sits behind the solution selection process.

And there we have the complete approach – we started with the simple feedback situations and encountering individual disagreement or resistance. Learning about our conflict management style and then broadened our perspective to more complex issues affecting larger projects and groups. 

For these, we introduced a simple 6 step Problem-Solving methodology that encapsulates both Creative and Critical Thinking practices.

And I want to share a highly effective example of addressing a problem that combines all three elements. Problem-solving combines creative and critical thinking through a systems thinking model referred to as a “collaborative visualization” approach. 

Addressing the problem through this systems model and using drawings of images on sticky notes or pads, arranging them in the correct sequence expands on the end-to-end process flow through group collaboration. It produces a visual frame of reference offering both clarity and alignment. 

Tom Wujec demonstrates the approach on his website called DrawToast and his Wicked Problem Solving™ toolkit. 

Having facilitated workshops where groups used the approach, I can vouch for its effectiveness. We will include a link to this website and TEDTalk to gauge the method’s effectiveness for yourself.

And so to conclude and introduce the next topic. We have now provided you a 3 part mini-series related to feedback, celebrating success, managing conflict, and solving problems with this topic closing. Applying the learnings from these three videos alone will stand you apart from most leaders. 

Therefore, please do yourself a favor and review them again if there is anything you are unclear about and remember to visit our site called amentorscouch.com to access each transcript which contains all of the topic-related links.   

With only three videos remaining in this Basics series, you have reached the business end of proceedings. Up next, topic eight dealing with the Necessity for Change. I have a little surprise lined up for you in this episode, but you’ll need to wait until we release it to see more. 

The final two topics cover “Pitching value-based strategies” and “Running with your game plan.”

In these three episodes, we bring into scope “Self-Awareness.” An MIT Sloan Management Review article cites self-awareness as the most important capability for any leader. While self-awareness, similar to communication, has always been a foundational part of this program, it will become a more visible component in our discussions as our attention turns towards you more so than the team or other stakeholders. 

I can’t wait to bring the Change story to you, but until then, stay safe and be careful driving—cheers for now.

*** difficult conversations

difficult conversations  – it’s ok to include

difficult conv. Mistakes

**** great starting video – opens the reason why people disagree

——————-

https://www.insperity.com/blog/difficult-conversations-with-employees/

blog about difficult situations – 9 rules

https://www.clearreview.com/difficult-conversations-employee-examples/

additional blog and perspectives

https://www.thebalancecareers.com/holding-difficult-conversation-employees-1918468

3rd blog on difficult conversations 

Problem Solving

  *** (problem-solving intro)

(too long and heavily focused on quality)

 **** (a great video that can support the concept)

  • Group models work much better than individual

https://www.drawtoast.com/

IDEA model – looks at multiple tools for each four steps

—————-

https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newTMC_00.htm

Problem-solving skills – Mind Tools

https://asq.org/quality-resources/problem-solving

using a 4 step problem-solving method

https://www.managers.org.uk/knowledge-bank/problem-solving

3rd article on problem-solving

Critical Thinking

 *** (short intro to critical thinking)

(tedTalk on three questions to encourage critical questions)

 *** critical thinking five tips

————–

https://www.skillsyouneed.com/learn/critical-thinking.html

critical thinking blog

https://osu.uloop.com/news/view.php/275371/Critical-Thinking-Skills-You-Need-to-Master-Now

critical thinking blog # 2

Creative Thinking

 *** creative thinking – good video

brainstorming video

mind mapping – Tony Buzan

original thinkers – not bad

————-

https://www.skillsyouneed.com/ps/creative-thinking.html

creative thinking blog # 1

https://inkbotdesign.com/creative-thinking/

creative thinking blog #2 – add the characteristics

https://www.mindtools.com/brainstm.html

Brainstorming blog by Mind Tools

https://www.mindjet.com/mind-mapping-techniques/

mind mapping blog

 “Topic 7 – Problem Solving Situations

Video content framework:

Part 1:   Difficult conversations:

– continuation from feedback

  • Why is it needed, and why are some employees more difficult than others?
  • Simple process – can include BOOST and other models
  • Offer likely employee response and your reaction

Part 2:   Problem Solving for difficult situations

  • Define it and when would we introduce it – build on team development to date.
  • Introduce various models but focus on simple ones

Part 3:   Critical Thinking – an acquired skills

  • Define it and when / how to introduce it – build on the past two parts
  • Consider this a new skill that could be useful for leaders and teams to learn.
  • Introduce the process and specific characteristics of a critical thinker 

Part 4:   Creative Thinking – icing on the cake

  • Define it and when/how to use
  • Introduce the practice of brainstorming and mind mapping
  • Value of creative people in the team (original thinkers- procrastination vs. procrastination) 
  • procrastination is a vice when it comes to productivity but can be a virtue for creativity.

Summarize and intro next topic – create the link from this topic and the methods we introduced to the practice of being successful with change. 

Excel in the basics: Running with Your Game Plan

Topic 10 from the “Constant change requires leaders to excel in the basics” series – Running with your game plan

transcript written by Wayne Brown

We’ve reached the end…

Welcome to this very special, final edition of our “Leadership Basics series”. It’s been a labor of love during these past months where we achieved (more or less) our goal of releasing a new episode every 2 weeks.

As an outcome, this program has now been running for the past 5-6 months with this the eleventh video, podcast and blog.

Please download your free Game Plan blueprint …

A mere drop in the ocean when compared with my own career spans more than 40 years, with more than half of it in a managerial or leadership capacity with multi-national, fortune 500 companies.

In parallel, I’ve started a number of businesses, the first, an electrical contracting business, registered way back in 1983 and then in 1999 I founded my first limited liability company.

And throughout this entire period I’m pleased to say that I’ve never stopped learning, developing my skills and honing my knowledge into tactics.

And a new beginning… (my own Game Plan)

Those that are following this channel or our podcast and blog, will possibly now that in the last 12 month I’ve intensified my studies, with the aim of modernizing my knowledge and skills sets in preparation for our latest venture, the registering of a new company and venture in July this year called “Skills 4 Executives”.

Our purpose is to directly address the needs for elite talent development with-in the elevator-escalator tribe but by ensuring we target specific requirements of the industry not purely generic leadership.

We plan to do this through the aid of our vast global network and an array of acclaimed experts.

Let’s have a quick look at our Skills 4 Executives (S4E) company structure;

Communications via “A Mentors Couch”…

Staring with the communications arm called amentorscouch.com which we launched approx. 9 months ago around the end of Dec 2018.

  • With-in this arm, we will continue to host our Coaches Blog, the podcast show called couchTALK and this video channel called Mentors Rant. And additionally, in the coming months we’ll be commencing a bi-monthly webinar show together with quarterly newsletters.
  • And the big news, we’re targeting by middle of 2020 to release our first eBook. More on that in the period ahead.

Aside from this communications arm, Skills 4 Executives has three core areas of focus.

Coaching via “Coaching 4 Companies” …

At the heart of everything is Coaching. In the future you will find that we launch various services through “coaching4companies.com”, where we work with corporate executives and executive teams primarily from with-in our elevator-escalator global tribe.

  • This is available via face to face or with virtually interactions and offer those being coached exposure to industry and non-industry legends as well as being supported by a huge range of quality techniques, tools and templates.

One executive group to receive special attention are those nominated by their company as “Elite Talents”. These talents are our tribe’s future leaders and require grooming to thrive in this dynamic, converging world.

As such, we are building a unique, industry specific, two Level “Elite Talents Program”. At the programs core is a fully automated, multi layered, computer-based Leadership simulation.

This will test participants ability to steer their way through real life day on day scenarios with the challenge of not only running the business but being successful in growing it in a sustainable and profitable manner.

Facilitation via “Facilitation 4 Companies” …

Supporting this will be a 2-year part time, 12 module blended program which shall be offered through 3 day bi-monthly face to face workshops via “facilitation4companies.com”.

  • Whilst these workshops offer participants the most comprehensive and fully experiential journey through hands on practice, discussions and networking opportunities, we realize that not everyone has the luxury of attending such a demanding program.

Online Self-study via “Education 4 Companies” …

Therefore, we are also preparing a modified version of the program via our online self-education platform called “education4companies.com”.

As mentioned already, scaling globally face to face will be possible through a large and diversified network of experts – all with corporate leadership backgrounds and many coming with a strong emphasis in education and development.

Overall I’m sure you can sense that I’m hugely excited about the venture as it’s one which brings with it the potential to re-shape our industry’s approach to Leadership development.

And now it’s your turn …

running with your game plan

So, there you have my GAME PLAN in a nutshell – Skills 4 Executives Limited. It continues to be a work-in-progress and pleasingly is evolving at pace.

My first goal is simple – “to move one step closer every single day to realizing the release of this industry specific Elite Talents development program”. And the great thing is that once this is goal is achieved, we will be able to fully focus on preparations for our first industry Mastermind in late 2020.

It’s now time to bring together all of the elements to help finalize your arsenal of basic skills, which we’ve covered in the past 10 episodes. And in the process, to create clarity for you so that it’s simple to understand and to apply.

If you can recall all the way back in the very first of those episodes, we outlined our reasoning for putting this series together.

We wanted to ensure that our tribal executives had the basics locked in place as a standard part of their daily practice so that they are able to free their minds and focus on the bigger picture; those changes coming around the corner in the not too distant future.

Our belief is that with-in the next 3-5 years, as a result of the unprecedented technology convergence, our industry along with most other industries will be turned on it’s head.

This will then require flexibility, agility and new skills. But that doesn’t mean total disbandment of our core principles and work ethics, nor do we stop engaging with and satisfying stakeholders, or building strong teams that can address even more complex challenges.

It simply means that these must be locked in as a solid part of your leadership package. And therefore, that you are ready and able to accommodate whatever the new world throws at you.

For the remainder of this episode we will give you a blueprint, to simplify those key learnings which need to be adopted and implemented. So here we go….

Running with Your Game Plan

Our stakeholders …

If you visit our site www.amentorscouch.com and the blog called “Running with your game plan” you will find near the top the Game Plan Blueprint, we’ve compiled for you.

Our suggestion is that you download and print it so that you can follow through and take notes as we help build your game plan together.

Do you recall our 9 stakeholder groups? And how we dissected these between internal and external, as well as those we placed in our inner and outer circle of influence and finally deciding whether they were deemed a supporter or detractor?

Step 1: You will find this as the first activity in the downloaded document. Having this stakeholder information sorted enables you to look at how you want to engage in the future with each major stakeholder – be they an “Influencer” or otherwise.

Please note here that even if you did this exercise some 5-6 months back, we would suggest now is a great time to review and update the results where necessary. It s a dynamic group and requires regular review and reflection.

Broadly speaking we would start with the Inner/Outer Circle as step 1. List all the stakeholders you can identify and then plot them into their respective quadrant – noting your relationship with them and their interest in your operations. 

From here you can ask yourself the question – “Are all Influencers sitting in your inner circle and do you have any real detractors?”

One critical stakeholder – “OUR TEAM” …

Step 2. Based on your assessment, utilise our template and plan out your engagement strategy for all those you consider critical to your success.

Running with Your Game Plan

One of the largest stakeholder groups will be your team and we discussed in video 2 how essential this group are for you and your company’s success.

Therefore, we start now to look at what concrete actions are possible to build and develop your team.

To help you communicate effectively, to show empathy and humility whilst establishing a connection of trust, which becomes empowering.

You’ll see the in the Topic 2 checklist that we outline the broad headings which represent those 7 sub-topics which we detailed during that episode, starting with;

  • the 5 leadership traits which you require and must consistently demonstrate.
  • the workplace environment, talking here about the physical surroundings, rather than anything relational
  • the healthy mind platters 7 areas of focus – working with and enabling your team to embody these in their life & work style.
  • Acknowledging that our workforce, which today spans 4 different generations – from baby boomers, through to Gen Z require interaction and communication with correctly
  • Then understanding the large range of motivational theories which might helpful for you in identifying and to maintain team engagement and empowerment.
  • working with rational & emotional strategies and identifying how to motivate by addressing inner needs through extrinsic and intrinsic means
  • And then finally to the SCARF model, looking at the 5 domains of social experience and ensuring we trigger the positive, reward response, not the negative, threat reaction.

Next, Delegation and Feedback…

Running with Your Game Plan

We now move to the beginning of a major subject which will spans multiple episodes – Delegation and Feedback. Starting with the basics behind the delegation process and establishing of the “WHY, WHAT and HOW”.

In our checklist you will find these questions under Topic 3 – Creative Delegation Techniques. Each is list as a broad headings and under that, the key items which you as the leader need to know and practice.

You may recall we kicked off with the 3 reasons behind the“WHY” question – and we said that;

  • we delegate to ensure we meet stakeholder expectations,
  • to help with team development and growth,
  • as well as to simply allow us enough time to lead.

We then introduced a couple of tools and a series of questions under the “WHAT” portion, which gave us a way of determining the tasks to delegate based on identified priorities and to which members of your team were most suitable in handling the challenge.

Then finally under the “HOW” we bought to the table a series of newer concepts. Ideas centered around what we have learnt from theoretical and practical research, which indicate people want some freedom to work on activities of their own choosing.

Additionally, they also want the see that they are making progress, hence we introduced to Activities of Choice and the weekly team meetings where individuals were able to showcase their project, discuss issues and report progress.  

Then, to establish the rules and objectives…

Running with Your Game Plan

Still under the heading of “How” and related to delegation, we introduced Topic 4 – SMART rules and reward goals.

Here traditional goal setting meets online gaming, where we took our old favorite the SMART goal setting tool and looked at how we could make the process more engaging during the task delegation.

First, we used the tool to set the expectations on both sides, ensuring clarity, together with a few do’s and don’ts to observe.

And we applied these requirements in our weekly progress reporting. But until that point there wasn’t really that much new, and we weren’t so confident that with these few steps would engage with all 4 generations.

So, we wanted to shake it up a little and see whether we could learn something from the online gaming world.

We discovered that game designers essentially work on three core elements when building their products

  • games must be goal driven,
  • challenge intense and
  • offer immediate feedback

All whilst providing a rich experience through-out their time online.

Gamers are motivated to achieve their goals by being rewarded or penalized along the way, based on their own skill and performance – the potential carrot and stick is there in the background, but it’s much more intrinsic, driven by a personal desire to do well and to receive instant gratification and feedback.

Hence, we reviewed our SMART process to ensure we captured the traditional 5 elements for clarity, but modernized our approach with our weekly meetings, ensuring transparent progress reviews, team collaboration and immediate gratification or feedback.

It was a win-win formula which bodes well with all in our workforce.

Running with Your Game Plan

The learnings didn’t stop there however, and although any leader that has applied the lessons from topics 1 – 4 will be far ahead of the pack, we wanted to ensure that these wins became the norm and were locked into our workplace practices.

You will notice how we enable you to work through & capture this practice via the checklist.

Therefore, during Topics 5 & 6, we turned our focus to different Feedback Strategies, commencing with an understanding of what happens in people’s heads when they are given feedback – be it from colleagues, their boss or even friends and family.

The amygdala hijacking triggers that threat or reward response as studied in Topic 2.

In an effort to help us manage the whole feedback topic more effectively, we provided a 4-step strategy as a guide for Leaders. This strategy commenced with;

  • the need to educate everyone involved on the value in seeking feedback and learning how to effectively receive feedback. And we explored multiple ways that we might do so.
  • Then we moved into the considerations and actions required during the preparation and planning of your feedback sessions

With both of these steps in place, it was time to dive into two types of feedback, which we again supported with some simple tools to make your life a little easier.

Our first feedback approach was the informal version. The type of thing you might expect walking down the corridor or when you see your boss whilst getting a coffee.

Remembering always, that offering guidance on improvement is critical; without it, the person will be uncertain as to how to avoid the same or similar issues in the future.

To assist we intro’d a tool called FAST which stands for Frequent, Actionable, Specific and Timely.

And finally, to the more formal feedback – the F2F sessions, where we ensure we have privacy and a number of other pre-requisites in place from the outset.

During this portion of the episode we reviewed briefly (3) three different feedback tools and suggested the two most common today are which are called BOOST and SBI.

Running with Your Game Plan

One area which has become quite controversial and somewhat dated was the annual performance review.

So, we decided to bring the entire process into the 21 century with the use of technology and a continuation of our earlier journey with regular weekly or bi-weekly reviews and feedback.

Adopting Achievement Reviews as a replacement to those dreaded Performance improvement discussions.

We looked at what current technology offered and how leading companies where starting to utilize these tools.

But we also wanted to ensure that there was some research supporting the switch and that this was not purely a gut feeling we had but that it was right direction.

And we found ample evidence that supported our direction.

Starting with our motivational theories and David McClelland’s Acquired Needs Theory and his Iceberg Model, then further through Intrinsic Motivators and with the SCARF theory.

All supported us on our quest.

And further, when we were able to couple these theories with many research papers from leading University professors and noticed that fortune 500 companies were beginning to shift in a similar direction, our confidence and belief that we were heading in the right direction skyrocketed.

To ensure we left no one behind in our transition however, we decided to offer an interim step in shifting from performance to achievement reviews – this was the humble 360 degree report which offers a buffer between the sole opinion of the immediate boss, by including feedback from colleagues, customers, suppliers, your team as well as your boss.

A nice deflection indeed and made even more attractive today due to the price decrease possible as a result of technology advances.

At the end of the day, this is a great extension along our journey – if you had applied the earlier strategies we spoke of, then the results of each employee’s successful projects will be known already to the other team members.

Therefore, these results can be made visible to the entire team, thus creating a form of competition, but also offering the opportunity for continued immediate gratitude and feedback from all.

Running with Your Game Plan

Now onto Topic 7, where it’s time to shift gear slightly, and start by assuming that “Utopia” in business seldom exists and that from time to time we are bound to find ourselves challenged with problems, be they related to people or to systems and processes.

We as managers and leaders need to be effective in working towards and identifying solutions. Enter this topic and the bundle of new skills it introduces for us.

We commenced by analysing our conflict management awareness and determining which of the 5 default styles we adopt when confronted with conflict.

You will see in the checklist the 5 styles and a link to the questionnaire which will help you make your own and or a team members assessment.

We also explored the typical reaction we can expect from our team when they are questioned about an issue or situation. Both are very useful for your preparations as well as deepening your leadership self-awareness.

But then, we move broader and deeper and ask “but what if the problem is larger and involving more than one person – what then”?

This is where we introduced you to various problem-solving techniques and tools.

Again, you will see these under Topic 7 of your Game Plan checklist.

And finally, we said that whilst few leaders today are well equipped with these skills and knowledge, we want you to have even more options in your tool kit and therefore introduced the concepts of incorporating Creative and Critical Thinking into the Problem-solving mix.

The outcome is a truly dynamic process which will help you nail 99% of the issues you encounter in your career.

Then the icing on the cake – looking at how to take some of those creative juices and apply with the problem solving equation by including group dynamics, diversity and visualization to map out the end to end process and identify gaps which enable you to strengthen the overall process design – a magic, modern day twist to the solution formula.

Running with Your Game Plan

By reaching Topic 8, we know that the skills shared so far will have placed you in great shape as a Leader among leaders, and someone that your team will follow, whilst other stakeholders are happy to collaborate with.

The final 2 topics are to further consolidate those abilities and prepare you for the advanced series which will follow soon after the conclusion of this basic series.

So, in this topic 8 we begin speaking about Change and why as a Leader you need to first understand yourself, that change is an essential component of everything in our lives – since birth through to now and beyond until you pass to the other side. And this reality is no different with-in your career and for your company.

As Steven Covey was famous for stating “The only Constant is Change”.

So in our Game Plan checklist, we help to visualize this reality and offer guidance on the typical psychological impact we all have as a consequence of any change.

Understanding this provides you the opportunity to see when a member of your team is stuck and needs support as they transition along the curve from denial and anger to acceptance and adoption.

But again this knowledge is not sufficient, we also wanted to provide you the tools, which you can utilise and make your own, when your career requires that you do so – if you haven’t already been involved in a change initiative, then it’s probably only a matter of time before this is thrust upon you. – remember “the only constant in life…”.

Armed with this knowledge and tools you have your starter kit in place and ready to test the waters.

One foundational skill set which you must possess for success with Change is the ability to communicate. We offered you an insight on how to structure your communications here, but unless you are already a natural story-teller, then this is one area where you are going to require further information and coaching.

Running with Your Game Plan

Finding the balance between values and performance…

In Topic 2 we began by providing 5 leadership traits which you must process – Trust, Listen, Accept, Share and Enable. Whilst these are 5 essentials, they are not the only hallmarks of a strong leader.

We mentioned your ability to communication just a moment ago, so I won’t list it again here, but in addition, a leader that functions with and consistently demonstrates humility, empathy, self-awareness and operates from a values base of ethics, integrity and compassion, will thrive with all generations of the workforce today.

And so, it was a logical inclusion as the final basic skill that we speak about the Values-based leader. This is someone that understands the benefits of having a diverse team and seeks opportunities for inclusion of that diversity in decision making.

But it’s also a leader that understands that a pure, values–based approach, may not foster the company culture it desires. That a pure, values-based leader may lack the drive to perform and grow.

In this regard the Leader needs to seek the perfect blend between values and performance as one with-out the other is seldom sustainable.

Finding that right balance tends to result in a company whose culture is based on fairness and compassion but also shares the desire to be successful and drives together towards profitable outcomes.

The final review topic in our checklist therefore incorporates those key considerations and sets the target for finding that harmonious blend.

Running with Your Game Plan

And so, to this last Topic 10 – Running with your Game Plan…

Until now we have summarized this Basics series with you, where we hope that you have made additional notes and highlighted lessons which you and your team might still benefit further from.

It’s now your turn to outline your blueprint for taking your team and your own performance from “Good to Great” and beyond – to borrow from Jim Collins and his best selling book.

What are the core changes which you will make next week, to drive improvements, be it with any of the 9 stakeholder groups, but most importantly with the team and yourself?

Our journey led us from Stakeholder engagement to Team Motivation and Delegation, Feedback, through Problem Solving and Change Management to leading with Values.

  • It’s a truly powerful set of core basic skills, which can only help to serve and better your career as a Leader.

As we have mentioned through-out this Basics series our plan is to now dive deeper into more advanced discussions – many of which are dear to my heart and which our brand-new company Skills 4 Executives, will be focused on providing for this industry.

I hope that you have enjoyed this series and if so, please subscribe below if you haven’t already. We really look forward to you joining us as we launch into the Leaders Advance series. 

Stay safe, perform strongly and grow daily. Bye for now.

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