The third half day session of our Emerging Leaders workshop has just been completed.
The following is some of the more interesting feedback and discussions around the challenges of managing and leading teams in today’s modern workplace.
I’ll limit the general feedback to three key items and add to in subsequent articles.
Participants Feedback 1
Middle managers feel the challenge of dealing and managing with what in the workshop we’ve dubbed, ‘across, up and down’ leadership. This means.
- Up is dealing with their immediate managers and meeting their requirements.
- Down is dealing with their direct reports including keeping them motivated and on task.
- Across is dealing with their peers who may be at the same level responsibility wise as them, but upon whose co-operation and collaboration is important.
The challenge is executing their own tasks in a quality manner to deliver on their own KPI’s plus manage the different personalities, expectations, and behavior of others. At times this can get a high emotional load to manage and cope with.
Emerging leaders need support at several levels to able to successfully manage these intertwined relationships.
- Self-awareness training in terms of understanding individual roles and responsibilities including when co-operation is need including what causes others to struggle at times. Overall we could say company-wide training to improve people and EQ skills.
- Empathetic managers and business owners who can see beyond their own concerns to those of their own management team and support them in meaningful ways.
- Open lines of communication and ongoing conversations to clear the air on minor issues and remove roadblocks to joint progress.
- Ensure the right resourcing in terms of people and supports are in place to ensure work can be completed in a timely and effective manner without undue overtime and stress. The majority of participants in the workshop highlighted this as being ultra important.
Participants Feedback 2
Dealing with difficult team members and clients. It goes without saying that everyone on the course struggled with this, which is not surprising as it not really a subject most people have had specific training in.
We discussed the following and did some role playing to apply some of the core principles. This is a snapshot of the discussion criteria.
- Clarifying when others are being truly difficult as opposed to simply being different and/or disagreeing with what another person thinks.
- We discussed the importance of identifying a consistent pattern of behavior from isolated incidents. This may help us question why a perfectly reasonable person may now be acting differently. Could it be something we have done?
- We identified some of the more classic characteristics of ‘difficult people’ such as difficulty to approach, communicate and collaborate with; consistent nay-sayers; bad tempered and grumpy, self-centered, and entitled just to name a few.
- We identified some strategies to deal with truly difficult people. Here are three of eight strategies discussed.
- Resist getting drawn into arguments or opinions, focus on agreed company standards, culture, or values as the prime outcome motivator.
- Don’t take their behavior personally as it’s not a reflection on you, but more the other person who is quite possibly dealing with their own limitations.
- Keep the lines of communication and conversation going as you may get a breakthrough in goodwill and intent led by yourself.
- Finally with difficult customers we identified the need for three things in particular.
- Apply the same logic as described above to determine what a ‘truly difficult’ customer looks like.
- Ensure an effective and detailed account management plan is in place and executed well.
- Design a policy that describes the circumstances in which the company may make the tough decision to let a difficult customer go.
Participants Feedback 3
This feedback from a few participants was quite unexpected and revealing. Emerging leaders indicated that some of their managers considered that if they were happy with the employees’ performance that was enough and that’s simply what employees should be concerned with.
The challenge is this on its own does not equate to employee personal fulfilment. They want to feel that they are making a difference in their role and that it equates to outcomes they care about, not simply what the manager or business owner thinks is important.
That is not to say emerging leaders don’t consider the expectations of their managers, its simply that it needs to be reciprocated in an appropriate manner.
I really love this observation because it can play a role in explaining why employees leave businesses, often to the absolute surprise of the leaders. Its also important because conversely you don’t want employees remaining and being miserable and/or under performing in the process.
Many business leaders will be better served if they.
- Allow more relaxed conversational time with their middle managers to truly understand what matters to them including when they are struggling and need support. What will help significantly is that they build up their own portfolio of great open questions to kick start these conversations.
- Additional to the above, supplement that with some coaching skills for managers training. This will help with developing the right responses to answers received and then next best series of questions to ask. That’s a bit of a cultivated art form, but one worth striving for.
- In line with the above, ensure that they as business leaders receive sufficient training in people and EQ skills. Don’t simply default to just sending their team to those courses thinking all the change needs to come from them. It could be some executive coaching may be helpful as well.
The workshops we run at its core are focused on building practical confidence and competency skills in emerging managers and leaders. Of course it goes without saying that you also need the foundational theory to overlay and complement the practical experience.
It’s a matter of getting the mix right to ensure these young leaders are achieving success by their own definition whilst attaining levels of fulfillment and personal growth. Its more than simply a requirement to meet the functional and organizational business needs as the sole success criteria. In many ways, I wish it was as simple as that, but in my experience it’s not. However, therein lies the opportunity and challenge to help bring the two aspects into alignment.