If you are managing a geographically dispersed team, you will be aware that distance brings its own complexities. In your attempt to get your people doing what you would like them to do, the tendency can be to try and micro-manage them rather than step back and lead them more effectively.
I recently interviewed Mark Fritz, an international leadership speaker who focuses on helping business leaders across the world to achieve even greater success in leading across distances & cultures.
During the interview Mark explained the unique challenges of leading across distances and why distance is the acid test for leadership. He pointed out that you can’t manage your way, or fire fight your way to leading an organisation. You can’t see what your people are doing all the time. You can’t correct them very quickly. You can’t have your people waiting for you to tell them what to do next. If you try to manage them you are slowing them, and your organisation, down to the speed of your own capacity rather than operating to the multiplication of other people’s capacity.
Mark knows that the key to managing across distances is to build ownership in your team members, for what they are doing. To hear more about the power of ownership and how to transfer ownership from you as the leader to your team members, listen to the 45 minute interview here and learn from the expert.
Mark will be “in the house” to answer your questions on how to lead your team, whether a virtual team working from their own homes or agents spread throughout the world. Do take this opportunity to put your questions and comments directly to Mark here on the blog.
- What question do you have for Mark?
- What works well for you? (either as a leader or a team member)
- What would you like to be different?
How do you react when you hear the word change?
Optimism? Fear? Anger? Excitement? Nervousness? Overwhelm? Relief? Dread? Concern?
Whether our responses are seen as positive or negative depends on the actions that an organisation and its leaders take and the very personal way that we as individuals view a change. (E.g. a threat that will take something away or as an opportunity that will bring something better)
Now you may be thinking “Why should we as leaders be concerned with how people respond to change? It’s part of their job. We don’t have time to molly coddle people!”
Well, purely in business terms you should care about shortening the inevitable drop in productivity that comes with major changes and you do this by learning about the human response to change and how leaders can help people move through it and become fully productive more quickly. The other reason is that although people have a free choice in responding negatively or positively to change, if they stay in the negative frame of mind it is likely to have consequences for health, well-being and morale, all of which impacts business performance.
So what is the first, and in my view the most important, step in supporting a healthy and effective response to change?
Creating a felt need
This is what John Kotter refers to as creating a “burning platform for change.” Leaders tend not to spend enough time making the case for why a change is needed. If people affected by the coming change don’t know the reasons behind it they will be less likely to move out of their comfort zone and will respond either by turning a blind eye, telling themselves “this too will pass” or may blame management for bringing in yet another “unnecessary” change and actively resist it.
When leaders are clear about the internal and external drivers for the change, and the consequences of not changing and amplify these drivers, it helps to create the felt need for change.
Whilst communicating the drivers for change, over and over in different formats, it’s also vital to involve people. Hear their responses, ask for their ideas and suggestions, listen to their perceived losses and explore how these can be addressed.
Much of our individual response to change is a function of how much control or influence we feel we have. Imagine sitting next to the driver of a car, holding the map, making collaborative decisions about the journey, compared with being locked in the boot, gagged and bound. Our level of control or influence over the change plays an important part in how we view it.
I would love to hear your experiences of organisational change.
- What worked well for you?
- What did you learn?
Much research (for example by Daniel Goleman and Lombardo and Eichinger) has been carried out as to why leaders end up seriously underperforming or being fired and it’s rarely down to lack of business acumen or technical expertise.
The reasons leaders become derailed include:
Overused strengths. When a strength is overused it becomes a weakness. Imagine someone who is really driven to perform but is so competitive that he steps on everyone to get where he wants to go.
Over Confidence. When confidence becomes complacency or even arrogance it can cause problems. Great leaders are also great learners. Once the learning stops, leaders, their people and their businesses stop growing and developing. Who can afford to stagnate in this day and age?
Lack of self management. This links back to my previous post about knowing yourself and showing yourself, with skill. While direct reports want to know their leaders on a personal level in order to build trust, they do not feel safe and secure coping with tears or tantrums.
Poor relationship skills. Outstanding leaders don’t become outstanding on their own. They rely on building strong, productive relationships with the people around them.
Not knowing their impact on others. We learn most, not from books or courses but from our bosses. Both good bosses and bad bosses. Great leaders can see themselves through the eyes of those they interact with. They also realise that they are communicating all the time, not just through their words but even more so through their actions. Knowing this helps them chose what they are communicating, consciously and carefully.
My questions to you are:
- Which of these elements is most likely to derail you?
- What can you do to prevent this?
In their book “Why Should Anyone Be Led By You?” Robert Goffee and Gareth Jones point out that in spite of the huge demand for more effective leaders, they remain in short supply.
This is partly due to the fact that organisations across all sectors still encourage people to conform or become inauthentic role players, rather than being clear about who they are and what they stand for. This of course leads to cynical, de-motivated and disengaged followers. Another reason for the lack of good leadership is the limited knowledge across the board about what leadership is and how it can be developed. I have written here before about how leadership is a dynamic relationship that is situational. So, something that works for one leader in one context won’t work for another leader or in another context. Therefore, focusing on the characteristics of leaders or attempting to imitate great leaders just doesn’t work. As Oscar Wilde says, “be yourself everyone else is taken!”
Robert Goffee and Gareth Jones argue that those people who aspire to be effective leaders don’t need to be fully self-aware but they do need to know enough about themselves to recognise their own personal leadership assets and how these can be deployed to best effect.
Leaders need to be able to:
- Show their weaknesses with care
- Tap into their intuition to judge timing and courses of action
- Manage people with “tough empathy”
- Reveal their differences with skill
My questions to you are:
- Which personal weaknesses do you reveal?
- How do you use your intuition?
- How are you different and how can that help you?
“…it’s the ability to both earn and keep the loyalty and trust of those whom they lead that sets them apart. Leadership is about trust, stewardship, care, concern, service, humility and understanding. If you build into those you lead, if you make them better, if you add value to their lives then you will have earned their trust and loyalty. This is the type of bond that will span positional and philosophical gaps, survive mistakes, challenges, downturns and other obstacles that will inevitably occur.”
Like many in the leadership field, Mike really understands and asserts the importance and value of building trust in those around you. Much research demonstrates the same and as I walk around client organisations and see their values statements on glossy posters around the wall, trust often comes at the top of the list.
So, how to do we actually build and demonstrate trust, both in ourselves and others? Unless you identify the specific behaviours that demonstrate the values that are important in your organisation, they could become meaningless sound bites.
Trust starts with trusting yourself:
- Do you listen to yourself?
- Do you spend quiet time alone?
- Do you allow yourself to fully experience your emotions?
- Do you acknowledge your doubts and uncertainties to yourself?
- Do you admit mistakes and vulnerabilities to yourself?
- Do you accept that you have needs and know what they are?
Others will trust you when you demonstrate your trust in them:
- Do you admit mistakes and say “Sorry”?
- Do you go first in risking showing vulnerability?
- Do you get to know people by asking about their views, passions, ideas and challenges?
- Do you tell people what you stand for and what you value?
- Do you listen openly to others views and ideas?
- Do you delegate in a way that increases their autonomy?
- Do you let people make decisions without checking with you first?
- Do you keep people informed?
- Do you ask them what they need and how you can support them?
- Do you connect people with the resources they need?
Who do you know who is dependent, neat, perfectionist, careful and compliant? They need a peaceful environment in which to work and live. They are likely to go out of their way to avoid confrontation and will choose compliance over confrontation the majority of the time.
People with this behavioural and communication style want to be appreciated for the quality of their work and will comply out of a strong desire to do whatever is asked of them in an accurate and error free manner.
Because of their need to do things correctly and avoid mistakes they are usually cautious and conservative which can lead to others seeing them as acting too slowly. While attention to detail is a real strength of this style over dependence on detail, policies and procedures can become a weakness.
When under pressure they are likely to be too critical of themselves and others, and pass the buck or act defensively when criticised or proved wrong.
Want they want:
- Standard policies and procedures for all to follow
- Protection or removal from aggression or confrontation
- Re-assurance that they are doing a good job
- To feel a part of things
- One-on-one attention
- Not to be given too much responsibility outside their expert role
- To have the quality of their work appreciated
- Information, data and details; factual proof
- Prepare your “case” in advance.
- Stick to business.
- Be accurate and realistic.
What doesn’t help?
- Being giddy, casual, informal or loud.
- Pushing too hard or being unrealistic with deadlines.
- Being disorganised or messy.
So if you work with someone that fits this description, appreciate the quality of the work they are contributing and their drive to get it right and consider what you can do to work more effectively with them from now on.