June 14, 2009

Effective Teams

I beleive that a part of leader's responsibility is to improve his or her team's effectiveness. I have not thought of it before but what is an effective team? What makes a team effective? 

I found my answer in chapter 10 of 'Inspirational Leaders' by Ronald J Burke and Cary L. Cooper. In the book, team effectiveness consists of 2 components: team performance and team viability.

Performance relates to teams ability to successfully deliver an output. Where as the concept of viability is future oriented and includes continutity (maintaining core team membership), commitment (to shared goals), cohesion (unity between team members) and capability (developing competencies to achieve shared goals).

So to maximise effectiveness of a team, a leader must attend to both performance and viability of the team.


June 08, 2009

Servant Leadership

Spears (and no I do not mean Britney :) ) identified 10 characteristics of a servant leadder in Robert Greenleaf's book - 'The power of Servant Leadership.' These are:

1.      Listening

2.      Empathy

3.      Healing

4.      Awareness

5.      Persuasion

6.      Conceptualisation

7.      Foresight

8.      Stewardship

9.      Commitment to the growth of people

10.  Building community

The above points 1-3 is about how to effectively manage people. Listening to them, empathising with them and healing relationship between co-workers and friends.

Awareness is about being aware of one's strengths and weaknesses as well as the surroundings.

Persuasion is about how to effectively approach people and motivaate them in the long run. Using powers of reason and logic to persuade other rather than one's positional power.  

Conceptualising and foresight is about identifying an appropriate vision, strategy and goals for the team/company, and being aware of the consequences of the actions that one take to achieve set goals.

Stewardship is what I beleive is the essense of servant leadership style, it is about 'first abd foremost a commitment to serving the needs of others.' And this links in with the 9th point, investing the the growth of individuals both from intelectual and career perspectives.

The final point, is about aiming for more than just successful achievement of a goal and creating an effective team, it is about creating a great environment for everyone.

I really this model because it shows the several dimensions of leadership as well as describe a leader as more than just as someone who leads others.  


June 04, 2009

Where did all the big leaders go?

During the LE module, someone raised an intersting question - Why we no longer have big leaders like Nelson Mandela or Gandhi? Leaders that can capture the imagination of an entire nation and motivate a whole country into action. Where did they all go? Why we do not have this type of leaders anymore?

I found that answer in Warren Bennis's book - 'On becoming a leader'. He states that the problems that companies face are significantly more complex than compared to those faced in the past. Therefore, no matter how effective and knowledagble leader is he/she cannot solve today's problems effectively on their own.

Bennis's soultion to today's problems lies with teams of talented individuals with varied knowledge and skils who are lead by an effective leader(s). So, we might not have a BIG LEADER, but effective organisations have at least several effective leaders.

 


May 29, 2009

Leadership = Vision

Kotter in his many publications states that creating a vision, getting people to accept it and implement it through appropriate strategies and annual goals is at the heart of leadership. Kotter also states that each team leader and his/her team within an organisation must have a personalised vision that is in line with the overall vision of the organisation.

Applying this to the LE PMA, I am considering using the vision that we created during the lectures for the CEO. Guiding the CEO to coming up with relevant guiding values from the overall vision and using it to facilitate teamwork between his MDs.

CEO greatest challenge as a leader is to generate teamwork and communication between his MDs. I beleive that this will be used as an effective example of teamwork that should be created and sustained between the different departments throughout and at all levels of the organisation.

The second step is to generate 'a second level' vision for the MD (my choise is financial director) that will be in line with the main vision but will be more specific to finance department and its personnel. For example - 

Provide quick and reliable assistance to our colleagues in matter of finance and cost management.

So just like the CEO, FD use this vision to motivate and engage her managers to take necessary action.

The idea is that CEO with the MDs act as an example of effective team and as such inspire the rest of the organisation to follow suit.  


May 26, 2009

PMA Approaches

I just started to read up about leadership for the PMA. Since there are several ways in which this PMA can be tackled, I was considering listing some of them:

  1. What happend during the coaching  session with the MD and the CEO
  2. What is happening as the coaching is occuring?
  3. What are you planning to do when you meet them?

Basically, write before, during or after the event. Any other suggestions?


May 03, 2009

Optimum number of team members

Writing about web page http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meredith_Belbin

Meredith Belbin stated that an effective team must have at least one of the following:

1. Plant

2. Resource Investigator

3. Co-ordinator

4. Shaper

5. Monitor-Evaluator

6. Team-worker

7. Implementer

8. Completer-finisher

9. Specialist


Linking this with what Malcolm Gladwell wrote in his book - 'The Tipping Point' - it raises an interesting question what is the optimu number for people in an effective team and what a leader must do when the team exceeds that number. Malcolm Gladwell wrote an individual can only have continuous, regular and meaningful contact with maximum of 12 people. An individual rarely can exceed that  number because everyone is limited by time and energy.

In our in-class discussions we assumed that the team we are talking about are about the same size as the one we had for all the modules that we attended i.e. between 4 and 7 team members. In teams of this size, it is easy for a leader to keep contact with everyone and address each team-member's problem(s) as they arise.

However, what happens if we as leader(s) must manage a team of 50, 100 or even 347 people. How do we keep at least the majority of them motivated and working hard towards the set goals. I beleive that in order to achieve this a leader must develop sub-leaders or lietenants who can supervise the sub-sets of teams. The leader will lead his lietenants who then will lead their team-members. 

This is the structure that most organisations adopt. Although it does enable the leader to manage a large sized team, it does create an additional problem of how to ensure that the message does not get diluted or skewed as it travels down from the leader to the lowest team-member.


I beleive that there are 2 things that leaders must to do to mitigate this:

1. Have a clear, short vision that easily be converted into strategy and specific operational goals.

2. Ensure that there is a clear communication channels that allow open feedback.


To summarise, an effective team must not be above 12 people and if there are more than 12 people in a team they should be broken down into sub-teams according to specific goals and/or tasks.


April 23, 2009

How to Be a Leader

The below points are from a book that I recently read called "How to Win Friends and Influence People" by Dale Carnegie. It is available in the library and I recomend everyone to read it. Library Ref. No. QZ 820.C2 

Be a Leader

1.    Begin with praise and honest appreciation

2.    Call attention to other people’s mistakes indirectly

3.    Talk about your own mistakes before criticizing the other person

4.    Ask questions instead of giving direct orders

5.    Let the other person safe face

6.    Praise the slightest improvement and praise every improvement. Be hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise.

7.    Give the other person a fine reputation to leave up to.

8.    Use encouragement. Make the fault seem easy to correct.

9.    Make the person happy about doing the thing you suggest

Dale Carnegie states that applying the above principles will help one to be a more effective leader.

I was chosen to be a leader by my team for the second assignment and I beleive that we made a good progress today. We achieved the following today:

  • Identified a vision for Waverider company that is in line with our chosen strategy. We do realise that it is supposed to be the other way round
  • Broken down the strategy into department specific goals
  • Agreed on preliminary presentation structure
  • Assigned responsibilities to each team member, including the leader, which must be completed prior to the next meeting

I beleive that the above progress was achieved because our team is dedicated, innovative and motivated to succeed. We all learned from our past in-module experiences, on what is required to be both an effective leader and team member.

As a leader, my job was to facilitate the idea creation process and play to team member's strengths.

For example, Jeries - IT skills, Pepie  - Resourcefulness, and Konstantina - Innovativeness.

From the above list of principles, I applied the principles 1, 4 and 8 (minus the mistake part). In addition to this I also did the following:

  • Write everything on the board to ensure that everyone could visualise and clearly see each other ideas
  • Encouraged everyone to contibute and ensure that all ideas were heard
  • Kept track of time to ensure that all work would be done by agreed deadline
  • Resolved any doubts and issues which lead to better decision


4 Ways to Talk Tough Without Creating Panic

Source: Harvard Business - Management Tip of the Day

The below are four points for effective communication with a team, especially during these challenging times.

  1. Pause before you speak. A well-used pause conveys calm, thoughtfulness, and seriousness. It also gives you time to think before responding.
  2. Don't blame. While certain senior managers may be more culpable than others, singling out individuals does not instill faith. Instead of pointing fingers, honestly address the situation and describe a plan of action.
  3. Avoid exaggerations. Using words like "catastrophe" and "meltdown" can cause unnecessary panic. To de-escalate tensions, use words like "serious," and "tough" to make your point.
  4. Tell it like it is. Tough times demand tough talk and you owe it to your people to be honest and truthful. Don't gloss over serious concerns, but do focus on facts.

April 22, 2009

Psychology of Persuasion

Today, during our presentation of leadership definitions, we stated that leaders need to know how to influence and motivate their team members. Nilakant and Ramnarayan, in their book 'Change Management: Altering Mindsets in a Global Context', mention the work done by Robert Cialdini who developed 6 principles of persuasion.

Cialdini stated that these principles work only if they are used for ethically acceptable and morally valid reasons. The 6 persuasion principles are:

  1. Liking
  2. Reciprocity
  3. Social Proof
  4. Consistency
  5. Authority
  6. Scarcity

The first principle asserts that we tend to like people who are similar to us and who praise us. Therefore, a leader can influence people by honestly praising them and showing interest about people's concerns. Leaders can also identify his/her supporters who are similar to those he/she trying to persuade and mobilise those supporters to gain the acceptance of others.

The second principle, reciprocity, leads people to repay in kind what they receive. As the saying goes - treat people the way you want to be treated. Therefore, if a leader wishes that his staff help him, he must help them first. Employees are more willing to trust managers who are perceived as helpful and benevolent.

The third principle states that individuals looks for clues in their surrounding environment and people to decide how to feel, think and act. Basically, people who surround us influence our thinking. This is in line with what Paul stated on Monday, motivate people by creating an appropriate environment. So an individual can be motivated if the team that he/she belong to is motivated, therefore, a leader can engage and motivate individuals by targeting the team as whole.

Consistency, the fourth principle is about a human need for consistent pattern of behaviour. People rely on others to be consistent, so a leader must be consistent in his/her behaviour to gain the trust of his team.  

The principle of authority claims that people tend to be influenced by people who they perceive to be 'experts'. Therefore, to be effective a leader must be competent and be able to demonstrate his/her competence through his/her actions.

The last and sixth principle - scarcity - claims that people want more of what we can have less of. So when things are made less available, their perceived value rises. The other implication of this principle is that we are more influenced by potential losses than by our potential gains. So if a leader makes the negative impact of not taking some action known, the team members are more likely to be influenced to act. Mind you this is not about coercion, but rather about how lack of action can impact the organisation e.g. making it less competitive or leading to it incurring a loss.


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