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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 05, 2009

The leader from another point of view

Yesterday I was watching a basketball game on the tv and I was trying to identify the behaviours the the coaches had. In my opinion head coaches are a very good example of leaders and their behaviour is worth mentioning.

The most important thing in order to be a good coach-leader, is to have the ability to identify how to change your behaviour in different situations (ex. Score difference) to achieve the wanted results. It was amazing how they were changing behaviour during the game, when the team was performing well they were encouraging and motivating by saying well done etc. But also they the team was doing mistakes they were yelling at them and they were seeming very nervous.

This made me realize that a good leader can change behaviours and the way he treats his/her team. The team will expect these changes and they will know how to react. It is important for the team’s performance to be able to understand what the change in the behaviour means.


May 04, 2009

Leadership and management of conflicts

In the seminar of how a leader can manage conflicts we analyzed his responsibility regarding the personal conflicts some if his/her team members might have. It requires a great deal of social intelligence from the leader to understand the importance of a conflict and know at what level he/she has to intervene in order to resolve it and secure the team's harmony. People especially in western societies prefer to have a team that works in harmony but what is the probablity of that when people from different backgrounds and usually different cultures have to work together.

In every job it is almost certain that you will have to work with someone that you don't like at all but how can you let aside these feelings and focus on the work only? Can a leader alone help you with that or it also depends on the team members involved or the situation? If a member does not want to cooperate should he/ she be excluded from the team and can a leader decide sth like that?


Leadership and coaching

During Day 6 that we had the coaching exercise, I realised how hard it is to coach someone. The hardest part is to elaborate the options to the person you are coaching. People tend to give advice and always think that what they have in mind is the best for the other person. Unfortunately, an effective coach should try to help the other realise alone his/her options and help in the evaluation without influencing.

But in the context of leadership the leader according to the definitions is supposed to influence the thoughts and actions of the followers. So is it possible for an effective leader to be able also to coach the members of his/her team or these are two different roles that one person cannot have the same time?


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.

Leadership and Emotional Intelligence

Leadership and Emotional Intelligence... What do you think?!


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.


What is Leadership about?? Part 2

Writing about web page http://excellenceone.efqm.org/Default.aspx?tabid=345

Today it was I really interesting day. We had to work as a team and create our own definition of leadership. We tried to analyze the literature and figure out what is leadership about. Personally I found the some of the definitions a little bit “narrow” and maybe not so “modern”…… It is really difficult to capture in two lines the essence of leadership. I preferred the definition given in module notes “Excellent leaders develop and facilitate the achievement of the mission and vision. They develop organizational values and systems required for sustainable success and implement these via their actions and behaviours. During periods of change they retain a constancy of purpose. Where required, such leaders are able to change the direction of the organization and inspire others to follow." (EFQM, 2003)

During the discussion we had in our team we came out to the conclusion that you cannot define that characteristics that a perfect leader should have because it depends on the situation, the team’s maturity, team’s needs for motivation, task’s requirements etc. So the outcome was that a good leader should have the ability to identify each time what leadership characteristics he needs to show in order to take out the best from the team. We also thought what type of behaviour we would expect from our leader and with what behaviour we would be most motivated and effective.

And we come out with the conclusion that it is really hard to be a good leader. It is difficult for people to change their behaviour and adopt each time different leadership style in order to fit to the changing environment. Leaders need to inspire people, have a vision and communicate it to the team, identify what they want and motivate them, be good team players, be good listeners and also be able to give solutions to dead end situations, suggests alternatives, be innovative but most important of all is to be reliable and engage people to accomplish team’s common goals.

Leaders must have the ability to change their selves and influence and inspire others to follow them.....


April 21, 2009

What is Leadership about?

What is Leadership about?

I think it is important to identify two different elements of leadership definition. The first element is the definition of leadership and the other element is how a good leader should be.

In my opinion leaders are the people that in particular situation they have the power to influence others and take decisions that affects their lives.

The second element is a bit more complicated as the perfect leader; the perfect leadership style depends on the different situation. A mature team with qualified members that need to generate idea and be innovative, needs a completely different style of leader in comparison with a team that is under a situation of emergency and is not performing well. Also some times the same team/people need different types of leadership, depends on the situation and on the task/project they need to achieve. So it is obvious that a good leader is the one that has the ability to identify how he must behave to his people, in different situation and in different tasks, in order to manage and take the best out of them; what they need in order to be motivated and what is the best way to communicate with them his vision.


Does a Team Need a Leader

Does a team of peers need a leader? Or can it go as a synergic team?

It is very common in teams of peers to claim that no leader is needed and that things can go well amongst them. But is this the case in reality? Are successful teams "headless"?

I believe, out of noticing teams and working in them, that teams with no leader weree always unproductive, uncontrolled teams which no decision can be taken easily and effectively. I believe, that each team, whether of peers or a hierarchial one, needs a leader to facilitate the team work and, in case of urgencies, have the final word.

Some teams on the other hand, would say that they managed to do well without a leader? Would that be true?

It is quite noticeable, that teams that contains members of strong personality and good leadership skills would witness emergent leaders within them. Those leaders, emerging either because of personality or skills, would have a recongizable strong influence on their peers. Nevertheless, such teams (specially bigger ones) would always facs the risk of conflicts if more than one leader emerged, creating circles of power within the team which might bring the team's efficiency to the grounds.


Leadership and communication

Writing about web page http://www.skagitwatershed.org/~donclark/leader/leadcom.html

Clear, full and effective communication is critical for a team. The leader is responsible for communicating his vision to all the team members and clarify everything needed. In addition,  he/she should ensure and encourage that all the team members share their ideas but also listen to others'. Challenging the other people's views can only be achieved in an environment of good communication because only then can people combine effectively their ideas and improve the existing ones by commenting to what others say and have a proper discussion. Good communication can build brand new ideas because if the team members share their thoughts something new may come up that they never thought or was quite in the contrary of their initial approach. So, a good leader should encourage this kind of procedure and ensure that it takes place because the results can be very good. On the other hand, if effective communication is not achieved the team will probably experience many problems such as misunderstandings, different definitions of the team's objectives and no clear direction of what it is doing and why.This can lead to letting only a couple of members working and probably know what they do and the rest being confused and demotivated.

So, I believe that when I will have the opportunity to lead a team I will ensure that full and effective communication is achieved by encouraging everybody to share ideas and discuss upon them before making a decision. I will also try to communicate my vision as well as I can so everybody has a clear direction.


The attached website just gives some ideas upon the topic and refers to some of the problems in team communication.


February 18, 2009

Readymade

When you go to a grocery shop or a superstore in England, you would find freezers and refrigerators that contain packs of readymade meals. Meals that you only need to put in the microwave for some minutes, and afterwards you can enjoy a nice lunch. You will find a huge variety of meals from various cuisines. You can find British “Fish and Chips”, Chinese “Noodles”, Japanese “Sushi”, Indian “Chicken and Curry”, Pakistani “Biryani”, Italian “Pizza”… But until this moment, I did not find any readymade Arab meal, I did not find a readymade Jordanian “Mansaf”, a Palestinian “Msakhan”, a Saudi “Kabsa” or even Mediterranean “Yalangee”, and I was always wondering what things do we have in the Arab world that are readymade to be put side-by-side with the other international items in these stores, and could not really find an answer until few days ago. So what was the thing I found few days ago that can be put in this “International” environment?


Few days ago, I realized that we have readymade certificates we issue, not academic certificates, but certificates of loyalty and treachery. If you are Fateh, then those who disagree with you will be immediately issued a certificate announcing that they are “the agents of Iran”, if you are Hamas, the certificate will be the same, but “Iran” will be replaced by “Israel and the United States”. So goes in Lebanon between the “14th of March” and the “8th of March”, in Jordan, in Egypt, in the whole Arab world.


Why cannot we accept that there is another opinion? If someone supported Hamas in the war, it does not mean that he is patriotic, and if another person thought that Hamas was mistaken, it does not mean that he is a traitor also.


After the end of the Israeli invasion to Gaza, I received some emails “quoting” the Israeli foreign ministry site talking about a list of “traitors” who dared to write articles against Hamas (and there is no real way to know if the quoting was correct or not, because it was only written as “quoted from Zionist newspapers”, no names, no dates). Not only had the emails described them as traitors, but also “Zionists” and “Israeli Ambassadors”, although some of them had a well known history in the literature of resistance against Israel and is married to one of the famous Palestinian women who was resisting Israel years before Hamas was even founded. And this made me wonder, if those writers were decided to support Hamas tomorrow, would that change them to patriots?


When are we going to accept the existence of a different opinion? When are we going to accept that those who promote violent resistance and those who promote peace negotiations are both patriots, but are having different opinions and different approaches?


Maybe when we realize that, we will gain the world’s respect again… and then we can get our rights back.