Posts Tagged ‘leadership skills’

Your values and how they impact on your work

August 21, 2013

Values_1

When was the last time you considered what’s important to you / what you value?

Values are what drive your decisions and your behaviour.

Values affect how you choose your friends, what hobbies/interests you pursue, and may also affect which jobs/car you go for.

Values are important because you use them to evaluate yourself and others.

For example, if one of your values is honesty, you are more likely to hand in a wallet you find in the street to a local police station. You are also going to get a sense of satisfaction from doing so, which makes you feel good. Hence, you evaluate this action positively. On the other hand, if you see someone taking something that isn’t theirs, you will feel a sense of discomfort and evaluate their actions negatively.

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Choosing activities that align with our values results in us feeling happier, more fulfilled and more comfortable in our own skin. If the activities we engage in don’t support our values, then we find ourselves in conflict. Many work-place relationship issues can be put down to conflicting values.

Organisations often promote their own values, although these aren’t always written down! An example here could be a workplace putting a value on people who work longer hours. This can promote inner conflict if you value a good work-life balance. Nothing’s necessarily written down, but people’s behaviour suggests it!

Within organisations, leaders will often lead their teams according to their own value systems. So if they are internally motivated and don’t require regular feedback on how well they are doing, their default position may be – they don’t see the value in providing feedback to their team members. For a team member who values, and is motivated by, regular feedback – he/she is likely to become unhappy, demotivated and perhaps disillusioned.

  • How aware of our values are we?
  • Do you know what your values are? … These can be different for different areas of your life, and there can be common ones too.

Working out your values

1. Divide your life up into areas. For example:

  • work
  • family
  • friends
  • hobbies/interests, etc.

2. For each area, list what is important to you. For example:

  • companionship
  • security
  • honesty
  • wealth
  • trust

3. Examine the list(s) closely and ask yourself if there’s anything missing. Do you need to add something? For example:

  • adventure
  • success
  • freedom
  • fairness

4. Arrange your list in order of importance. Ask yourself, “Is ‘A’ more important than ‘B’?” Or “If I had to choose ‘B’ or ‘C’, which would be most important?”

Follow-up …

Score each item on the list as a percentage in terms of how well that value is being met. For example, if success is important to you in the workplace, how successful do you feel you are currently with your role/tasks? 100%? … 50%? … 75%?

Any area with a low score is worthy of the question: 

“What needs to change to ensure this value is met?”

Communication: speaking the same language as your team (Part 1)

September 3, 2012

Have you ever been in a situation, either as a team leader of team member, where you feel the person you’re speaking with just isn’t really listening? … They don’t get it … They can’t see what you’re trying to show them.

Or, do you often feel misunderstood by one particular member of your team? 

What may be happening is that they are hearing you, but the way they are responding seems to be changing the meaning of what you’re saying.

For example …

Sue: “James, I’m really keen to show you how I’ve organised this data in a way that’s easier to understand. It demonstrates clearly how we’ve achieved our targets in the last few months. I think you’ll notice how the colours I’ve used highlight each team member’s contribution.”

James: “Sounds useful. Tell me more.”

Sue: “If you look at this page, you’ll see each team member’s value added data, which I think will be helpful when looking at their next targets.”

James: “Listen, I really like the sound of it … I hear what you’re saying. It would be a good idea to tell the rest of the team what you’ve done at our next team meeting.”

At this point, Sue may be feeling a little frustrated! James wasn’t looking at all Sue’s hard work. He wanted her to tell him about it instead. 

This is a classic example of someone who is more visual talking to someone who is auditory. We all have our individual preferences for learning and remembering things, and we give this away by how we speak.

In the example above, Sue is using lots of visual language:

  • show you
  • demonstrates clearly
  • you’ll notice
  • colours
  • highlight
  • look
  • you’ll see

James on the other hand is using more auditory words and phrases:

  • sounds useful
  • tell me more
  • listen
  • like the sound of it
  • hear

You may not get as many examples as I’ve given in such a short dialogue – I’ve included lots to make the point.

Do you recognise any of the phrases above as ones you use on a regular basis?

Visual and auditory are just 2 of the main styles of learning. In a future blog I’ll continue this discussion by looking at a different one.

In the meantime, pay attention to the phrases and words others use to describe events / situations.

What would you say their preferred style of communication is?

(Photo credits: Master isolated images and FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Taking on a leadership role this autumn? (Part 3)

August 27, 2012

In this 3rd and final part of the current ‘Taking on a leadership role …’ series, the focus is on confidence.

3. Confidence

So, how ready are you, and how confident do you currently feel about your upcoming leadership role? Give yourself a score out of 10, with 10 being most confident…

In a previous blog  – Want more confidence in the workplace? – I suggested some tips to give yourself a confidence boost at work. In addition to those more general tips, for a confident start to your leadership role, I add the following.

I often find that confidence comes from knowing what to do and from experiencing the ‘do-ing’! So …

  • Know what you want to do with your role (get clarity)
  • Know what you expect from others and communicate this clearly
  • Know what others want. What do your team members need to do their job effectively?
    • Ideas / resources / time to talk through their concerns?
    • Mentoring / coaching / training?
    • By setting aside a few minutes each week in the first few weeks to identify staff needs, you can address these quickly. Even if you aren’t able to provide for everyone’s needs, you can at least tell them why, and they’ll hopefully respect you for it. It shows you’re listening and doing what you can.
  • Know how to create opportunities for early wins, for yourself as well as relevant stakeholders. Building on this success helps build confidence – both in yourself and others’ confidence in you!
  • Know that it’s OK for things not to go according to plan – you can make adjustments and get back on track. Learning from these types of situations increases experience, which builds confidence.

If you scored yourself less than 7/10 earlier, try some of the confidence building strategies suggested above.

These are only a few suggestions.

  • What others can you think of?
  • If you have some leadership experience already, how have you ensured a confident start to that role?

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Taking on a leadership role this autumn? (Part 2)

August 26, 2012

So how’s your preparation going for the start of the new term (if you haven’t already started!)? And does it include prep for a new leadership role?

In Part 1 I introduced the first of 3 key areas that will help to ensure a successful start. This blog looks at the second.

2. Communication

Once you’re clear about your leadership role, what’s expected of you, what your goals/targets are, and what their achievement will look like by the end of the year … what’s the 1st thing you’ll want to communicate to your peers/team(s)?

  • Your plans for the term/year?
  • Your expectations of all those involved with your leadership area?
  • Targets and deadlines?
  • Ideas, hints & tips, expertise sharing?

What you choose to communicate first may depend on your circumstances, what your leadership role is for, and your style of leadership.

For example …

1. If you are new to the school and taking on leadership of a Key Stage, you may decide to ask lots of questions – for information gathering purposes – before you decide how you want to develop this area of the school/the staff.

2. If you are leading a curriculum area and you have already established expertise and experience in that area, you may want to offer help/guidance to other staff as part of the planning or assessment process.

3. If you are taking on a new headship, you may already have a clear vision which you want to communicate from the start (or open up to discussion and development with all staff).

As you will have clarity for yourself about what you want to achieve, help others be clear about what you need from them…

  • When telling other staff what they need from them, it’s easy to forget that people have preferences for learning and retaining information; most common ones are Visual, Auditory and Kinaesthetic styles (more on this in a couple of weeks). For the moment, remember to include showing as well as telling them what you need, and where possible provide opportunities for staff to learn by doing, experiencing or trial & error methods.
  • In order to meet your own deadlines, if these involve relying on others for data, policy input, work samples etc, it makes sense – where possible – to provide them with a deadline that is about a week before yours, to allow for any unforeseen delays.

What do you think is the most important thing to communicate at the beginning of a leadership role to ensure a successful start?

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Taking on a leadership role this autumn? (Part 1)

August 7, 2012

Whether you’re taking on a new curriculum area, a key stage responsibility, leading a specific project, becoming head of department, assistant head, deputy head, or head this autumn, you’ll no doubt have already started thinking about (if not planning too) what you’ll be doing.

So how will you ensure a successful start?

Whatever role you are taking on, there are 3 key things that I believe will help to ensure you make a successful start. This blog looks at the first one.

1. Clarity

Making a good start involves having clarity from the knowledge of what’s expected of you. The number of senior leaders I’ve worked with over the last few years who have had that clarity about their leadership role have been outweighed by those who haven’t. In the hussle and bussle of school life, where everyone has their own list of jobs, it’s easy to assume that colleagues and team members know exactly what is expected of them.

So, some key questions to consider …

  • How clear are you about your new role?
  • How clear are others about your role?
  • Do you have a job/role description?
  • If this is generic, where can you get further clarity about what is expected of you by all stakeholders?

If you have some flexibility with the role, and can mould or create it as you see fit,  identify what you want to achieve … for yourself, the year group, key stage, curriculum, the school … and set yourself some goals for the year. Then break these down into manageable chunks for each term. Ensure you are clear about what a successful year/term will involve.

  • What do you need to do?
  • What do you need others to do?

Linked to this is setting the success criteria. What will a successful start look, feel and sound like. Identify these from the start, then you know what you’re aiming for, and there is less chance for misunderstandings and disappointment further down the line.

Finally – being really clear about your leadership role will be time-saving in the long run. It will reduce the time spent re-doing things, smoothing over misunderstandings and spending time doing things you didn’t need to do in the first place!

Part 2 looks at communication. In the meantime I’d welcome your comments on this topic 🙂

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Maximising Relationships with … #1: Your Senior Leadership Team

April 23, 2012
  • How strong is your relationship with your SLT?
  • Could it be even better?

 

Successful leadership and management of a school (or other organisation/business) relies in part on a leadership team which is strong individually and collectively.

The size of the SLT will usually depend on the size of the school and how staffing is structured (and the budget!) I’ve worked with SLTs ranging in size from 1 (the Head of a small school) to a team of 8, in a larger city school. As with any team, the larger it is the greater the potential for a richness of ideas, strengths and experiences … as well as a greater risk of conflict and power struggles.

A range of factors contribute to an effective team, one of which is a positive and productive working relationship. Heads new to a post can come into a school with an already established SLT, which can create its own challenges.

To build and maintain effective relationships with the SLT, there are several things that I’ve found in development work with Heads…

1: Clear vision – shared with (or developed alongside) the SLT

It’s important that each member of the SLT knows how they contribute to the vision. Teaching staff can lose sight of the big picture (which the Head tends to hold), as they deal with the day-to-day tasks. This is why the vision needs to be revisited and reviewed on a regular basis.

2: Role clarity

It’s also important that each member of the SLT knows his/her role in the leadership and management of the school.

– Which parts of their role are leadership and which management? 

– Do their combined leadership roles (I’m including the Head here too) provide appropriate coverage of all development areas within the school or are there gaps?

– How do you know?

– Are tasks appropriately distributed and is there fair delegation?

Lack of role clarity can lead to staff losing focus and direction, resulting in feeling demotivated. Staff who are externally motivated will need more direction and feedback on how they are doing, otherwise relationships could break down.

3: Building rapport

Building rapport is easiest with people who are similar to ourselves; it’s a subconscious thing. There’s a saying: People like people like themselves. This is fine when choosing your friends but can be limiting when choosing staff to be part of a multi-skilled and dynamic team, where complementary expertise and experiences are key.

Having common values helps build rapport, as does speaking the same language. (A focus for a forthcoming blog!)

4. Maximising strengths

As a Head / leader, how well do you know your SLT’s individual strengths (and your own!)? Not just curriculum strengths or a wide range of experience; I would also include here leadership and emotional intelligence strengths (e.g. optimism, initiative, building bonds, conflict management).

This is not an exhaustive list – so what would you add to it? 

How do you maximise relationships with (and within) your team?

(Photo credit: renjith krishnan)

Love what you do #3: Maximise your strengths

February 10, 2012

I’ve always found that making the most of what I’m good at ensures I enjoy my job more. Knowing what I’m good at comes from different areas:

– I get feedback from others when I coach or train them

– I feel it; I come away feeling on a high; I have that sense of self-satisfaction that comes from just knowing I’ve done a good job

– I can measure the results against success criteria I’ve set myself (or others have set)

But sometimes we lose sight of what we’re good at. We get caught up in the day-to-day stuff, and take our strengths for granted.

Key questions

  • When was the last time you carried out a SWOT analysis on yourself? If it’s been a while, try it again and focus mainly on your Strengths.

*Here’s a SWOT grid I use when working with clients. In each section I’ve included some prompts; things to consider when completing the grid.

  • When was the last time you asked others what you’re good at? Sometimes it’s easier to do it this way. My experience in carrying out SWOT analyses with people is that they find it hard to think about their own strengths, and easier to think of other peoples’. A common reaction to others telling you what you’re good at is: “but that’s just my job, that’s what I do.” As you’re carrying out your daily duties, you are building up your skill set, developing your capabilities and growing these into your strengths.

Once you’ve got your strengths list, look for opportunities to use these more often. You’ll probably find that some activities relating to your strengths give you more enjoyment than others. For example, one of my strengths is organisation, but I don’t get as much enjoyment from being organised with my quarterly accounts as I do being organised in preparing for work with my clients!

What are your strengths, and how do you maximise them?

(Photo credit: Idea go)

Motivate me! (Part 2)

February 3, 2012

So … how do you know that you’ve done a good job? In Part 1 I posed this question and encouraged you to answer it as fully as possible, and in relation to a particular work-based target. If you’ve not read Part 1, or answered the question yet, I suggest you take a moment to do so now – before you read on!

So how did you answer it? Were your answers along the lines of ‘Style A’ …

  • I just know!
  • I feel it
  • I achieve my targets
  • I achieve what I set out to do
  • I measure my progress against my success criteria

Or were they more like ‘Style B’ …

  • People tell me
  • I get great results / earn more money
  • I get good feedback from colleagues / clients
  • I find out during my performance management / appraisal meetings
  • I can see my team members are happy / succeeding / achieving great results

Or perhaps your answers were a bit of both!

There is no right or wrong here. Your preferred motivation style just is what it is. Take a look at the language you used to answer the question. Did you use more ‘I’ or ‘me’ language, or did you refer to others / external sources of feedback?

Results! ….

Style A = Internal motivation

If you’re internally motivated – you don’t need external praise and will tend to make your own decisions about the quality of your work, rather than asking other people what they think.

Your motivation is self-generated, and you rely on your own judgment when deciding what to do.

You also have a tendency to resist others telling you what to do. As you don’t generally need praise from others – you tend not to give feedback, which can be difficult if you’re a team leader or manager, and your team are more externally motivated (see below).

Style B = External motivation

You rely on recognition / feedback from others and rewards.

You’re more motivated when someone else makes the decision (e.g. on how to move forward with a team project).

You generally make reference to external sources (other people / information from elsewhere) to make the judgment on how well you’re doing.

If you don’t get sufficient feedback you won’t know how well you’re doing, and this will have a negative impact on your motivation levels. Feedback from others can also come from non-verbal / body language sources.

Using these results to motivate your team

These results will help you to identify your own preferred style (for internal/external). The next step is to use the information from both of these posts to identify your team members’ styles.

1. Pay attention to how they respond to feedback and / or how often they come to you / others seeking approval for their actions.

2. If unsure, or you can’t find sufficient evidence, ask them the question I posed in Part 1, or ask who they involve when making a decision. If they mainly refer to others, they will be more externally motivated. If they mainly talk about being able to make the decision on their own, they are more likely to be internally motivated.

3. Motivate ‘internal’ staff with phrases such as:

– “This is the target we’re aiming for. I could make some suggestions to achieve it, but at the end of the day, only you can decide the best way forward.”

– “What do you think are the steps we could take to achieve _______?”

4. Motivate ‘external’ staff with phrases such as:

– “When you complete this project on time, others will notice / you’ll get good feedback.”

– “I would strongly recommend that you (make the changes we discussed at the last staff meeting, by Friday … etc.)”

– “Think of the results you’ll get if you do ______ !”

About 40% of people are largely internally or externally motivated; and 20% are equally both. However, in a particular job sector, you may get a higher percentage of one type, due to the nature of the job.

So how did you fair … and what steps are you going to take regarding motivating your team? In my experience, leaders tend to be more internally motivated. They need to have that internal driver and a strong sense of knowing what they want and how to get there.

Would love to hear your comments on this!

(Picture credit: David Castillo Dominici)

Motivate me! (Part 1)

January 28, 2012

Leaders beware … your staff may appear enthusiastic, driven and motivated, but is it just for show? Do your staff say what they think you want to hear, or are their responses an honest reflection of how motivated they are?

As a leader or manager it’s important to know how to motivate your team. A mistake some leaders can make is to assume, often subconsciously, that their staff will be motivated in the same way they are. After all, they all work for the same organisation and have a common goal, right? … Wrong. Having a common goal doesn’t mean each person’s motivation style will be the same.

In Staying Motivated I briefly introduced some of the different motivational styles, and discussed the towards and away from characteristics in some detail. For this blog (and Part 2) I’ll introduce a different style. But first ….. a question:

How do you know that you’ve done a good job?

It’s best to answer this question when thinking about a specific target you’ve set yourself at work, and how you’ve faired so far in your achievement of it.

Write down all your thoughts when considering your answer. Give as full and detailed an answer as you can.

In Part 2, I’ll discuss the outcomes of this little task, and the style of motivation it corresponds to.

In the meantime, feel free to share your responses to the question, in the comments section below!

(Photo: jscreationzs)

Change is all about selling and empathy

February 15, 2011

28 Day Blog Challenge – Day 15

Change_1

Change is a fairly constant factor in schools, whether it comes from government level, the local authority or within the school itself.

In addition to change which is mandatory, school leaders face choices about adopting optional changes too. These range from simple policy changes and use of resources, to major curriculum and staffing changes, which include things like restructuring.

I recognise that change isn’t just about altering something already in existence. It also includes adopting new initiatives – as things often need to change to accommodate these … timetables, staffing roles, curriculum emphasis, etc.

Whilst change can often be a good thing, constant and rapid changes are often met with resistance by staff (and children) seeking periods of stability and consolidation.

Mandatory changes may be seen as unpopular and challenging by staff, so they need to be tackled positively and sensitively to ensure staff ‘buy in’ to the idea. Therefore, it’s important to help the stakeholders see the benefits to them of the changes.

What will be better?

What will be more efficient?

How will it make their roles easier?

How will it benefit the children / community?

… and so on.

School leaders need to choose their optional changes (initiatives / projects etc.) carefully. Bear in mind what else is happening within the term or year and how the proposed change will affect all stakeholders. The skill of empathy is useful here to ensure all angles have been explored. You’ll know how different staff will be affected, and can pre-empt questions, obstacles and issues.

How has your school effectively managed optional and mandatory changes? Is it the same approach for both?