All 5 entries tagged Management

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February 17, 2011

Aye aye capt'n.

Captains Log
Date: September 02.

So here we are, on the coastal port of Nira and preparing to set off and seek our fortune which lies in wait below the shimmering waves. We have everything we need and nothing can stand between us and our glorious future as treasure hunters! We have our team, we have our map, we have our instructions, and we have our treasure data! Let the adventure begin.

Captains Log
Date: September 07.

Arrrr... planning be a cruel mistress. Tis true the saying "fail to plan, plan to fail". Our initial lack of direction and planning completely threw us off course. Only after taking a step back, starting over, and looking at our challenge step by step coupled with the information at our disposal were we able to actually figure out what were we doing. It really drills in how important it is to take the time to understand what you're doing before rushing in guns blazing. As leaders, rash such decisions are questionable. Not only does it create confusion if you don't know the direction, but it also prevents progress.

Captains Log
Date: September 08.

And so our tasks on the high seas begin. As we set sail below the waves in our mighty submesible towards grid reference J5 we face many challenges including a profitability analysis! Team work is key. With laissez-faire management at the helm multiple emergent leaders appear, and yet the closenit crew of our submersible work effectively together to achieve the task at hand. People naturally begin to take roles within the team so that the whole team becomes a fully functionning system with each part working towards our common goal. What drives us? Could be the competition, could be the reward of an early finish. But mainly, it seems the intrinsic desire of everyone to see the task complete. We all genuinly wanted to finish and were driven to achieve together. The natural creation of shared goals and visions for me just demonstrates how the creation of an effective team become a motivational force in itself, and that through this the team works towards a shared vision even when one hasn't been given to them.

Captains Log
Date: September 16.

So far so good. Our tasks have lead us to the wreck. Gold ahoy! We found our treasure! Cleverly hidden in the sick bay of the sunken wreck, in a secret compatment behind the medicine cabinet. It may take us time to carry our vast fortune onto our tini submersible, but thanks to tardis like technology in its design we should have no problem.

Captains Log
Date: September 21.

As we leave the now empty wreck, our submersible loaded with riches we set off, ready to face our tasks on the way back to port. But alas, the tasks unfortunately get the better of us. Our successfull delegation of tasks at first seems to be working but then disaster strikes. We misread a question. We begin to stray off course. A simple mis interpretation of a question leads us to a wrong answer. And the most we try to understand where we went wrong, the less we actually read the question, and the more we attempt to answer what we thought the question asked! A simple misunderstanding leads to a continuing spiral of confusion. So many times people say when things begin to overwhelm you, take a deep breath, step back and start over. But as we realised, in the heat of the moment this is easier said than done. Once stuck in the mindset of "there can't be any other way" you continue in manner. A learning point for us all I think. Getting lost in the heat and panic of the moment leads to ever worse results and performance. I think this is true for assignments as well. If panic sets in, whether from deadlines or lack of understanding, continuing without break starts becoming less and less productive, until progress just stops!

Captains Log
Date: September 26.

Abandon ship! Abandon ship! As the timer runs out and our game ends, in our fully laden submersible we realise the safe shores of nira are just too far away! The light on the fuel gauge begins to flash. We know that we will never make it shore. The crew stares at the treasures one last time before darting to the escape pod. The fuel gauge light slowly stops flashing, the submersible goes dark and starts to slowly drift towards the ocean floor. As our escape pod rises to the surface, we watch our fortune fade into the darkness. Lost forever. Or at least until the next Leadership and Excellence module is run and another daring crew sets off in search gold and glory. For now, we must reside ourselves to the fact that lunch time is upon us and the common room beckons us with hot chocolate and coffee.

February 16, 2011

Leadership and Coaching

Provided that effective leaders exists in an organisation and employees have no fear about consultations with those in positions of leadership, leaders are considered as the go to guy when things go wrong or help in any form is needed. Being a good leader does not necessarily make an individual a good leader though and when providing guidance and coaching to people, a multitude of problems can be created. So when we are required to provide guidance and coaching to others, how do we ensure that this coaching we provide as leaders is effective and constructive? This was the question we discussed today in lectures.

Many many ideas of what is required to provide effective coaching were discussed but it boiled down to this. Effective coaching requires a leader to provide: guidance, focus, support, planning, empowerment.

In other words, when coaching others a leader should listen to the problem and  lead the individual into their own solution by prompting them with the right questions. By doing this, a leader should not have to provide the individual with a solution since the individual will solve the problem themselves. This method empowers individuals, gives them confidence in their own abilities, create trust between leadership and employees, prevents leadership appearing dictatorial by imposing their own problem solutions, and prevents the need for the leadership to be an expert in all of the activities of their followers.

When you think about it... this reeeeaaally makes alot of sense. I mean, it even makes the leaders life easier because they don't actually have to know the answers all the time! I personally experienced this today during a role play exercise where I was coaching a colleague. Despite have no knowledge of the problem I managed to help guide him to create his own solution to the problem. This was without a doubt a eureka moment. While I've often given guidance to individuals in the past, I'd always been knowledgeable in the topic where I was helping them. I'd never really considered before that you could effectively coach someone without being knowledgeable in the topic but today really drummed in the effectiveness in all coaching situations of this method of guidance. Coaching in this style becomes a win-win for the coach and coachee I say. Surely everybody in a position of coaching would already know how much sense it makes and employ this tactic, it just wouldn't make any sense not to. And yet they don't! Crazy isn't it?

How many times in your lives have you attended coaching/training/guidance/whatever sessions for whatever reason and all that happened was that you were talked at, not with, and told the solutions to something by somebody who doesn't know anything about it!!! The number of times I've discussed an issue with managers, guidance counsellors, and the like where all that has happened is they have told me their pre-subscribed solution to a generic problem that is not only inapplicable, but completely uninformative. Yes there have been times where I have been genuinly helped through these means, but why has this been so rare? I understand that change is at times difficult to accept, so changing stlyes of coaching may be equally difficult for leaders. But then again, in a position of leadership where coaching is requisit, shouldn't the very idea that people will always come to you with different problems mean you should not be averse to change since you will constantly have to be developing new solutions to new problems?

February 10, 2011

What is Leadership?

Over the last few days, our lectures have involved many many discussion on what leadership means and who is a leader, which strangely enough for a Leadership and Excellence module isn't actually very surprising. What is surprising though is the depths this topic can actually reach.

The idea of what is leadership is a huge question. In our studies, we looked at a matrix analysis of 20 different definitions of leadershp from various people. Every single defintion was different, but what was quite surprising for us was the main currents of thought that prevailed in the majority of definitions.

  • "Art or process of influencing or mobilising the activities or thoughts"
  • "Relationship between leader and: others, followers or group"
  • "Achievement of purpose or goals."

The three concepts were present in the majority of definitions of leadership. Just think about that for a moment. Creating a shared goal that people want to achieve on their own accord is not considered an important aspect of leadership by the definitions that were expressed.
Furthermore use of the term influencing. I can't help but frown on this word because of its vagueness. How do we influence? Do we influence with the carrot or the stick? Or just by creating a desire to undergo a task. This word for me is too open to interpretation. Can a  tyrant who rules and influences by fear alone actually be considered a leader? Is somebody who makes people work just enough to achieve a task by throwing money at them really a leader? Or is a leader a person who makes people want to do something because they believe in it.
This bring me onto my next issue... The inspiration of voluntary effort is not considered to be of importance. How can this be possible? A good leader for me will make people want to go above and beyond the call of duty.

Could it be the corruption of morales has lead to hazziness in what people think it takes to be a leader? I fear yes. But hope still lives. By listening to our group discussions on leadership I see light. I see a generation that is considering what exactly it takes to be a leader, and that sees leadership is more than just managing people.

February 08, 2011

Nature vs. Nurture

Over the last few days, one question has come up on many occasions during my lectures and dicussions.

"Can leadership be taught?"

For me, this comes down to the age old question of nature vs nurture. Are we born with qualities that make us proficient in a certain role? Or do we develop these characteristics and qualities during the course of our life?

In the context of leadership, I see one side of the argument as our nature that makes us a good leader. Qualities such as charisma, confidence, good communication skills, and integrity, that for many define what makes a good leader may be considered as traits that one is born with. The desire and ability to lead are inherent properties of you as an individual that will direct how you behave and what you do throughout your life. In essense, the traits you are born with define who you are. This stream of through leads to the idea that not everyone can be a leader because leaders are not created, leaders are born.

On the other hand, the idea of nurture leading to the creation of a good leader means that anybody could potentially be a leader. The ability to lead is gained nurtune, as individuals grow, their ability to lead other develops through training, experience, and personal development. This could be said to be by choice as an individual puts themself in situations in which they acquire leadership skills; or even by necessity if an individual is put by others into a situation in which they must take control, during the process of which they develop their abilities to lead. The idea of leadership through nurture is that leadership skills are acquired, so rather than a leader being born, a leader is created.

Any example of a good leader could be argued to be the result of nature, or nurture, depending on an individuals point of view. Take for example someone considered as an iconic leader in history, Alexander the Great. Some may attribute his conquests to the fact that he was born a natural leader and inspired others to follow him. It may also be said that his upbringing gave him the vision and experience needed to inspire others to follow him.

My personal view on the nature vs nurture argument is no so straight forward. I argue that both play a role. I see nurture as the opportunity to become a leader. Nurture gives you a path to follow that will move you towards becoming who you wish to be, a path on which you can develop you skills and gain the characteristics that will help you become a leader whose vision will inspire others to follow. Nurture is only a path however. Nature is what will define whether you follow this path of not. Is an individual born with the desire and drive to achieve all they can achieve, or will they stray from the path and not make the most of every opportunity. For me, this is why the nature vs nurture argument seems slightly too black and white, and the question of "can leadership be taught" has a rather ambiguous answer of possibly. While some are born with the desire and characteristics that make the path to leadership easier, if you are born with the desire and drive to lead then the ability to lead can be learnt.

October 18, 2010

Have a break, have a Beer.

Goooood morning, good afternoon, or possibly even good night depending on when you have read this. I'm saying this now, during the weekend I didn't do much. Well, I didn't do much academically I should say. I did do some light reading here and there but on the whole, the weekend was put aside for relaxing, catching up on sleep, and family time so this post will not contain much academic reflection. This doesn't mean I spent the whole weekend sleeping and lounging infront of the TV. It was quite the opposite infact.

I'll start with saturday. After an unusually late wakeup, it was time for the traditional weekend pub trip with my father. Playing pool and darts with family and a pint in hand is definitely a nice way to spend an hour or so. Now before I go further with this tale, I would like to point out something. I play pool more often that my father, fitting in the occasional game with friends. I consider myself better at pool than him. He on the other hand, has many years of experiences with darts, with some a few competitions wins thrown in there. He is without question better at darts than me. What happened saturday however was a turn up for the books. A complete twist whereby he defeated my at pool, and I was the victor at darts. I didn't even win by a small margin, it was infact a whitewash (for those who haven't heard this term before, in this context it means beating your opponent without them even scoring). This was a very very strange result for us, one that made a nice change I have to say.

While in the pub, a few other thoughts also came to mind regarding the change of ownership in our local. The previous manager was not a nice man. He was always bitter towards his customers, never smiled, and did nothing to interact with the pubs patrons, or even see wht they thought about his establishment. He was a perfect example of poor management. The new owner has completely changed the atmsphere in the pub. I find it strage that I'm saying this in regards to a pub, but his management style fits in much more with the EFQM model. He has better relations with the brewery resulting in more investment. By listening to the thoughts of customers he has taken on board many suggestions and pub in place renovations to improve conditions for the customers. He always serves with a smile. And the results have been a better image for the pub in the village, happier staff, more customers and more profit. He even frequently "self assesses" by asking patrons about their thoughts on the changes and any other ideas they may have.  To me this demonstrates that wide applicability of management models, within any industry.

Now, back onto the the none academic stuff. Sunday.... Wow... This was a tiring day. Following 2 years of not playing a single game of squash, jumping straight into a full on game without practice session was exhausting. My legs trembled as I walked around after that. If I were more sensible I would have relaxed abit after this, but instead I went straight to a Kung Fu lesson. My first kung fu lesson infact. As if the pain in my legs didn't suffice, I left the lesson with wrists glowing as red as a tomato and throbbing to boot. Will I go to another lesson next week? Definitely. As the saying goes; no pain, no gain!

Physically drained, but mentally fresh and ready to go, I start the week once more. With many long days in the library ahead of me, all I can say is BRING IT ON!

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