It’s the People Stupid: how connected are you to your Team?

Positive mini-swirlIt’s sometimes a funny old business, this coaching profession. I meet all kinds of people in a range of businesses and sectors, all of whom are experts in their respective technical or functional fields. Very rarely do I get to work with people who are under-performing in their profession, and if they are then I’m of little help to them: What do I know of the intricacies of corporate accountancy, health advertising, banking, high tech manufacturing, retail, lawyering, trading et al? What I do know is how to help managers achieve great outcomes through effective human interactions and to become better leaders.

... suited and booted for senior leadership?

… suited and booted for senior leadership?

However it’s often the case that the notion of leadership is seen as the purview of the very senior folks – it goes with the badge of senior office if you like – along with the perks associated with boardroom status. And yet despite our increasingly digital world and the advancements that have transformed the working environment thereby replacing people with technology, there’s something still very human about the importance human interaction is to successful outcomes – regardless of where in the organisation hierarchy leading teams occurs.

I first read Dr Stephen Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” just after I’d graduated from Warwick Business School clutching my hard-earned MBA. I was really intrigued with his saying “be efficient with things and effective with people”, reiterating that administrative, functional or technical excellence is all very well and helps us ‘do things right’ but that this in of itself is not enough – we need to be doing the ‘right things’ in the first place, including gaining followership and trust. Not only is this about good management and great leadership, it’s also about seeing the bigger, more strategic picture into which one’s specific set of activities and interactions, find meaning.

You may find the following checklist useful – I certainly did and it was a timely reminder of the journey I went on from my humble origins to Chairman of the Board. It was devised by one of my coachees after I emailed him a simple clip from YouTube:

... useful self-assessment

… useful self-assessment

This notion of developing into an effective leader who earns respect and followership was reiterated in an intriguing TV programme about the last NASA Space Shuttle launched in July 2011. The Launch Director at the Kennedy Space Centre, Mike Leinbach commented that it could not have happened without all the people on the ground making such a tremendous effort, from the highly technical to all the support staff – all part of one great team – where everybody’s contribution mattered. He made reference to what I think effective leaders have in spades, great judgement which is forged from experience and a trust in one’s deeper placed intelligence or gut feeling.

“You can’t computerise everything, you need that final gut check… people make it happen.”

So I’m hot on balancing managing and leading – and often find this coming up in discussion with senior folks – especially in growth businesses, ie finding time to work “ON” the business as opposed to the day-to-day challenges of getting stuff done “IN” the business. As one of my clients recently put it in respect to his top team “Being the 3rd Eye of the business and supporting harmony as well as being incredibly commercial” is of vital importance to the ongoing success of the business.

... an interesting and challenging hypothesis

… an interesting and challenging hypothesis

So maybe it’s something you could think about in terms of how much of your time do you devote to how you develop and deploy your leadership persona? I recently suggested the 80:20 rule as a useful ratio to aim for in striking a balance between management and leadership, especially if you apply the ‘Law of the Vital Few’. This might mean the 20% of your leadership interactions leads to 80% of your effective outcomes, and conversely only 20% of your looked-for outcomes result from 80% of your time being an efficient manager. After all you can be super efficient but at the end of the day, apart from ticking things off your list of things to do, it can feel like you’ve got nowhere fast if you’ve not engaged effectively with your team, your stakeholders and other ‘customers’.

Ignore the distinction between being a good manager and a leader at your peril. Even with all our technology, it is still people that make great feats possible: Human interaction and human ingenuity results in wonderful human-doings – the fabulous result of both efficient management and effective leadership.

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