Tag Archives: Leadership

How to succeed as a PM in 2016

On-the-busProjects are done by people for people and through the medium of social media, people power is growing.  Successful project managers know this and use it to their advantage; they create a team culture focused on working with other stakeholders to create success.

Project managers know when they get this right because their project team will challenge, follow and support them, and each other, in order to get the job done. Not only that, but word spreads and other people inside the organisation will want to join the team or be associated with its success. When a PM achieves this, they know they have created something special and paradoxically are under less pressure, can get a good night’s sleep, and as a consequence are fully refreshed each day to keep building the success. This is good for the people and great for the organisation!!

Developing the skills and personal characteristics needed to develop and lead a committed team needs more then technical training. Experience, reflection, coaching and mentoring all help the project manager grow and develop (and it’s a process that never stops). Five signs that they are on the path to becoming a great team leader are:

  1. They’re well liked. Great leaders make people feel good about themselves; they speak to people in a way that they like to be spoken to, are clear about what needs to be achieved[1], and are also interested in their lives outside work and display a little vulnerability every now and again to demonstrate that they are human. They’ll always start the day with a ‘good morning’, the evening with a ‘good night’ and every question or interaction will be met with courtesy. When the team picks up on this the project area will be filled with good humour and great productivity.
  2. They put effort into building and maintaining teams. Designing great teams takes lots of thought and time – you need the right people ‘on the bus[2]’ and you need to get the wrong people ‘off the bus’. A great project manager doesn’t accept the people who are ‘free’ or ‘on the bench’ unless they’re the right people and they’ll negotiate intensely for the people that they really need, going to great lengths to recruit people into the vision that they have. Once the team is in place, they never stop leading it, building it, encouraging it, performance managing it and celebrating it.
  3. They involve everyone in planning. Or at least everyone that matters! The PM identifies the team members and other stakeholders that need to be involved; creates a productive, enjoyable environment, and leads the process. They want to ensure that they get the most out of the time and at the end have a plan that the team has built and believe in.
  4. They take the blame and share the credit. Great project managers are like umbrellas. When the criticism is pouring down they ensure that the team is protected from it. They then ensure that the message passed down is presented as an opportunity to improve not a problem to be fixed. Similarly, when the sun is out and the praise is beaming down, they ensure that the people who do the real work bask in it and are rewarded for it. When they talk about how successful a project has been, they talk about the strengths of the team and the qualities they have shown, never about themselves.
  5. They manage up well. Stakeholder engagement, particularly senior stakeholder engagement is the key to project success[3]. Great project mangers know they need senior executive support to help clear roadblocks and deliver resources and know how to tap into the organisation’s powerlines for the support they need.

Great project mangers are also good technical managers; they have an adequate understand the technology of the project and they know how the organisation’s management systems and methodologies work. But they also know they can delegate much of this aspect of their work to technologists and administrative experts within their team. And if the team is fully committed to achieving project success, these experts will probably do a better job than the project manager anyway.

Projects are done by people for people and the great project managers know how to lead and motivate[4] ‘their people’ to create a successful team that in turn will work with their stakeholders to create a successful project outcome.
[1] For more on delegation see:  http://www.mosaicprojects.com.au/WhitePapers/WP1091_Delegation.pdf

[2] In the classic book Good to Great, Jim Collins says, “…to build a successful organization and team you must get the right people on the bus.”

[3] This is the focus of my book Advising Upwards: A Framework for Understanding and Engaging Senior Management Stakeholders, see http://www.mosaicprojects.com.au/Book_Sales.html#Adv_Up

[4] For more on leadership see: http://www.mosaicprojects.com.au/WhitePapers/WP1014_Leadership.pdf

If you screw-up, own-up

Screw-upOne of the traits that strong leaders and credible advisers have is the willingness to ‘own up’ to mistakes they’ve made.  No one operating effectively as a project or program manager, or for that matter any type of manager making decisions can expect to be correct 100% of the time.

If you do something new some mistakes are inevitable. If you accept risks, some negative outcomes are inevitable. And time pressures increase the probability of error. And given project management is all about accepting and managing risks to create a ‘new’ product service or result under time and cost pressures – we probably have more opportunity to ‘get it wrong’ than most.

The generally accepted way to deal with ‘your mistake is:

  • Acknowledge it (“my mistake”)
  • Make restitution if needed (eg apologise)
  • Learn from it
  • Move on, only people who have never made anything have never made a mistake.

Conversely if someone makes a mistake involving you look for the best outcome rather than blame of revenge. We have discussed these concepts in a couple of posts:

https://mosaicprojects.wordpress.com/2011/10/01/mistakes/

https://mosaicprojects.wordpress.com/2008/12/13/learning-from-your-mistakes/

What is rare is a really good example of the basic steps outlined above being implemented.  This changed with a publication on page one of yesterday’s Age (also reported in the Sydney Morning Herald). What could have been a bitter and dragged out defamation case – you probably cannot be more insulting these days than incorrectly accusing a Muslim of being a terrorist – both The Age and the aggrieve person applied common sense and resolved the issue in a way that would appear to have left everyone ‘feeling good’ and with a sense of closure, not to mention thousands of their readers.

If you missed the item, you can read the story at: http://www.smh.com.au/national/fairfax-media-says-sorry-20150303-13ttpd.html

Mistakes are inevitable – strong people deal with them in an appropriate way, The Age’s example being exemplary.  This is a salient lesson we can all learn from.

Technology and management

As many readers of this blog know, I am interested in history focused on understanding how the professional discipline of project management has evolved over the years. But digging into the history of project management inevitable involves the history of management and the evolution of technology.  And one immutable fact is that every new technology and every new idea creates winners and losers. The new ‘thing’ is implemented using project management processes and overall society benefits. The current collection of ‘history papers’ are freely available for downloading at: http://www.mosaicprojects.com.au/PM-History.html

One of the key papers is The Origins of modern PM, this paper takes a brief look (page 8 on) at the evolution of management theories .compared to the waves of innovation that drove the ‘industrial revolution’ and advancements in society through to the modern times.

Innovation2

Fighting advances in technology is pointless, as the Luddites discovered.  The origin of the name Luddite is uncertain, a popular theory is that the movement was named after Ned Ludd, a youth who allegedly smashed two stocking frames in 1779, and whose name had become emblematic of machine destroyers. What is certain is the Luddites were 19th-century English textile artisans who protested against newly developed labour-replacing machinery from 1811 to 1817. The stocking frames, spinning frames and power looms introduced during the Industrial Revolution threatened to replace the artisans with less-skilled, low-wage labourers, leaving them without work. What actually happened was the rise of the UK Midlands into an industrial powerhouse. There were winners, losers, and exploitation but overall the changes in society were to the general good.

What is not realised in the current debate around global warming and coal is that electricity produced in coal fires powers stations is a straightforward extension of steam power that came to dominance in the 1840s and is as inefficient as any other steam powered engines. What the electrical distribution system does is allow the energy derived from burning the coal to be transferred to remote locations ‘away from the fire’ for use as needed. It is convenient and electricity fuelled the next wave of innovation, but is also inefficient.

The typical thermal efficiency for utility-scale electrical generators is around 33% for coal fired plants, 66% of the energy in the coal is wasted Then an additional 30% to 40% of the power is then lost in the transmission from the power station to the consumers (mostly in local distribution, the main grid only loses between 5% and 8% of the power).  The net result only about 25% of the thermal value of the coal is available in your home or business!

This gross inefficiency is only affordable because the industry does not have to pay to clean up its pollution; most of the waste is simply discharged to the atmosphere. The raw material is not particularly safe either; around 5000 people per year are killed mining coal.

Much of the innovation driving the sustainability curve focuses on a changed paradigm. Generating energy close to where its needed using renewable energy sources. Solar hot water units generate hot water on your roof – no transmission losses. Solar voltaic cells do the same for electricity – managed properly its cost effective, for 6 months of the year we hardly need any power from the grid, winter is a different story……

Other innovations include various wind, and other generation processes that create power close to where its needed as well as renewable base load capabilities; all that is needed is the critical mass to make the technology cost effective (ie, cheap) and leadership for government to manage the changes and help the industries and people on the ‘losing’ side of the equation and plot a path into an exciting future, particularly for skilled project professionals.  As the Luddites discovered, fighting to defend a losing technology is a guaranteed way to ensure you lose.

Unfortunately, I’m still wondering when the Luddites in Canberra are going to realise the burning of coal to create pressurised steam is an invention of the 18th century, which largely replaced water power as the energy source of choice. And, that after 300 years the world is moving forward but Tony Abbot and a range of other backward looking ‘conservatives’ want to keep dragging us back into the past.

Australia needs leaders in Canberra and our State capitals, not Luddites – fighting to preserve 18th century power source in the 21st century is guaranteed to fail eventually. And what is going to be lost focusing on the past is the opportunities to gain from the emerging technologies, a lose-lose outcome.

A well planned and executed change paradigm exploits the strengths of existing capabilities, encourages the development of new innovations and manages the transition to the future whilst minimising the losses. This transition is good for project management but cannot happen without effective leadership.

The art of giving feedback

feedback (1)One of the key supervisory skills needed by every leader is the ability to give feedback to their team on individual performance. The reason is simple, if the team don’t know what you expect from them, you are unlikely to get the performance you need. If someone is doing the ‘right thing’ they need to know it’s ‘right’ and be encouraged to continue. If someone’s not doing what’s required they need to have their efforts redirected.

Feedback is different to motivation – a highly motivated worker producing the ‘wrong thing’ quickly and efficiently has the potential to do more damage than an unmotivated worker producing very little. The ideal is a highly motivated team, all doing the right thing and all knowing they are doing exactly what’s required. Effective feedback is one of the keys to achieving this nirvana.

The starting points are effective delegation, making sure each team member knows what they are expected to achieve and why; and a constructive team environment where people understand the ‘rules’ and are willing to help each other. Delegation is discussed in our White Paper: WP1091 The Art of Delegation. Aspects of team leadership are discussed in a range of posts at http://stakeholdermanagement.wordpress.com/?s=team.

Once your people are busy working, the opportunity to use feedback effectively cuts in. As a starting point all types of feedback need to be genuine. The purpose of giving feedback is to improve the behaviour of the other person and to bring out the best in your team and this won’t happen is the feedback is seen as disingenuous. There are essentially three types of feedback and all three have their place:

  • Positive reinforcement where you acknowledge good work.
  • Constructive feedback where you suggest improvement.
  • Negative feedback where you highlight unacceptable behaviour.

Negative feedback
Negative feedback should be rare, and generally used only where there is some form of unacceptable behaviour. The key with this type of feedback is focusing on the behaviour not the person – you are dealing with an unacceptable behaviour, not an unacceptable person. Geoffrey James suggests these 10 rules for giving negative feedback:

  1. Make negative feedback unusual. The ratio is five or more positive feedbacks to one negative; and this may mean you need to plan to ‘accidently find the person doing something right’.
  2. Don’t stockpile negative feedback. Feedback is best given real time, or immediately after the fact; there is no ‘best time’.
  3. Never use feedback to vent. It creates resentment and passive resistance.
  4. Don’t email negative feedback.
  5. Start with an honest compliment. (Discussed below)
  6. Uncover the root of the problem by asking open questions.
  7. Listen before you speak. (See more on active listening)
  8. Ask questions that drive self-evaluation. (See more on effective questions)
  9. Coach the behaviours you would like to see. (See more on coaching)
  10. Be willing to accept feedback, too.

The vast majority of your feedback should either be constructive feedback where you help someone improve or positive feedback where you reinforce desirable behaviours:

  • Positive feedback includes praise, reinforcement, and congratulatory comments to reinforce and encourage the current behaviour or performance to continue essentially unchanged.
  • Constructive feedback includes suggestions for improvement, explorations of new and better ways to do things, or indicating the ‘correct way’ to do something that was done in a less than optimal way.

Feedback

Positive feedback
This is by far the easiest feedback to give, helps develop moral and commitment and most people appreciate recognition for a ‘job well done’. The challenge is to make sure this type of feedback is distributed evenly and fairly across the team. If someone feels they are being ignored and ‘others are getting all of the praise’ the feedback can be counterproductive.

Constructive feedback
Done well, constructive feedback is even more valuable than positive reinforcement. A recent survey by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman has found that 57% of people preferred corrective feedback; compared to 43% who preferred praise/recognition. But how the feedback is delivered really matters 92% of the respondents agreed with the assertion, “Negative (redirecting) feedback, if delivered appropriately, is effective at improving performance” . The challenge is to make sure your feedback contains information that is useful in a way that can be used.

In this respect, constructive feedback and coaching are very closely aligned. Coaching is discussed in more depth in my post Developing your team.

Giving Constructive / Negative Feedback
As already mentioned in the ‘negative feedback’ section the key to having your suggestion/criticism listened to is to start with an honest complement. One of the easiest is simply to say “Thank you for your hard work on this…” and then provide some feedback or even criticism immediately after. This approach is effective because:

  • It acknowledges the person’s hard work – Right or wrong, chances are good that the person worked hard on whatever it is that you are providing feedback for. It makes the person feel good at the start, because it tells them you noticed.
  • It doesn’t throw everything out of the window – It acknowledges that there is a good base to start from and with just a few tweaks and revisions it will be just fine.
  • It comes from a supportive angle – By verbalizing your position of appreciation and support, feedback will sit much better with someone who feels as if you have their interests in mind.
  • It is non-threatening – The person receiving the feedback immediately understands that you are not gunning for them, that your only motive is to help them and the deliverable to become better.

There are two caveats:

  1. If they didn’t work hard don’t use this opening, a different conversation is needed with a different complement to start the discussion (nice hairdo… / how are you feeling…. / I like your poster….). Honesty and integrity are key components of effective feedback and that starts from the very beginning.
  2. Don’t ever use ‘but’ or ‘however’ after the complement! “Thanks for all of your hard work, BUT…” simply means please ignore everything before the ‘but’. Use a construct similar to: “Thanks for all of your hard work, do you think we could make you job easier / quicker if ……”.
    It may old fashioned English grammar but (ie, ignore the beginning of this sentence), but is an exclusionary word similar to or:  “You can go to the cricket or the tennis” means pick one. And is an inclusive term. “You can go to the cricket and the tennis…” and in this context “Thanks for all of your hard work the outcomes are great and we can get even better…” (similar constructs exist in Spanish, and I suspect most other languages).

Why feedback is hard
One of the other interesting findings in the Zenger Folkman survey was people who don’t like receiving feedback don’t like giving feedback. And those who are open to feedback also find giving feedback easier. As a starting preposition, one of the easiest ways to gather ideas on how to improve your business is to have employees give feedback to managers, both in their own unit and in other units on options for improvement! But it is still not easy.

There are a number of reasons why feedback and certainly criticism are hard to administer and swallow at the same time:

  • People think you are attacking them personally.
  • People think you don’t have the right to offer feedback.
  • People think you think you are better than them.
  • People think everything they do is terrible.

The antidote is a strong team culture, showing you care and making sure you focus on the problem, not the person (unless the feedback is positive).

The ability to give corrective feedback constructively is one of the critical keys to leadership, an essential skill to boost your team’s performance that could set you apart.

Tired workers lose their ethics

Having recently suffered a week of extreme temperatures and sleepless nights in Melbourne, with more to come, everyone is aware of some of the effects of sleep deprivation including short tempers, the loss of concentration and the reduction in some fine motor skills. In short, tired people are more grumpy, absent minded and clumsy than normal and new research suggests that they are more likely to cheat!

The underlying cause is the same; the lack of sleep reduces the amount of glucose in the prefrontal cortex and only adequate amounts of sleep can restore it. Physiologically, self-control occurs largely in the pre-frontal cortex region of the human brain, and uses glucose as a fuel. The act of implementing self-control draws upon this fuel, and can eventually exhaust the fuel causing one’s ability to exert self-control to reduce. And when self-control is depleted, people are more likely to cave in to temptations to behave badly or unethically. Start with the fuel in short supply due to lack of sleep and self-control dissipates sooner.

This has important business and team management implications. Ethics are central to the ‘good governance’  of an organisation and an important management concern; ethical behaviour will boost the reputation and performance of the organisation, whereas unethical behaviours can damage it significantly. And lack of sleep affects everyone, not just ‘bad’ people. Whilst it is common view that good people do good things and bad people do bad things, the behavioural ethics literature indicates that this is simply not the case; everyone has the capacity for both ethical and unethical behaviour and the balance is affected by how tired they are.

restless2In both laboratory and field contexts, Christopher M. Barnes and his team found that a lack of sleep led to higher levels of unethical behaviour. Moreover, they found that it was small amounts of lost sleep that produced noticeable effects on unethical behaviour. In one of their laboratory studies there was a difference of only about 22 minutes of sleep between those who cheated and those who did not. In their field studies, they found naturally occurring variation in sleep (with most nights ranging from 6.5-8.5 hours of sleep) was sufficient to predict unethical behaviour at work the next day.

Executives and managers should keep this in mind – the more they push employees to work late, come to the office early, and use their smartphones to answer emails and calls at all hours, the more they invite unethical behaviour to creep in. Ethics is defined as ‘doing the right thing even when no-one is looking!’ Particularly the small things needed to ensure a job is done properly and necessary procedures followed, and it only needs one check or test to be omitted or short-cut at the wrong time to open the potential for a crisis.

Smartphones are as bad as a heatwave!! They are almost perfectly designed to disrupt sleep by keeping us mentally engaged with work late into the evening. The problems caused by using these phones late at night include:

  • they make it harder to psychologically detach from the most pressing cares of the day so that we can relax and fall asleep;
  • they encourage poor sleep hygiene, a set of behaviours that make it harder to both fall asleep and stay asleep; and
  • perhaps the most difficult aspect to avoid is that they expose us to light, including blue light. Even small amounts of blue light inhibit the sleep-promoting chemical melatonin, and the displays of smartphones are capable of producing this effect.

One solution suggested by Harvard Professor Leslie Perlow, is improved ‘sleep hygiene’. Sleep hygiene refers to the pattern of behaviours associated with sleep. There are patterns of behaviour that are conducive to sleep, and other patterns that make it much more difficult. With some relatively simple steps, you can improve your own sleep hygiene, making it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep:

  1. Create agreed predictable time off. The best way to start is for management and the team to agree that evenings and normal sleeping hours are the most important times for people to be predictably off. This will allow employees to psychologically disengage from work and minimize exposure to the blue light produced by electronic display screens.
  2. Consistent bedtimes. Your body has a circadian system that functions as a 24-hour clock, regulating processes such as body temperature and heart rate. An important part of that circadian system is the production of melatonin. Melatonin is a chemical that your body uses internally to promote the process of falling asleep. But changing your bedtimes is disruptive to this process. You should enable your circadian system to work smoothly by going to bed at the same time every night (preferably an early enough bedtime to get a sufficient amount of sleep).
  3. No television, laptops, tablets, or smartphones in bed. You may think that watching television in bed is a good way to relax. But physiologically, the light exposure associated with these activities inhibits melatonin production. This is true for any light, but especially blue wavelength light that is common in these devices, and especially when the source of light is so close to you. It’s good policy to stop using any of these devices a few hours before bedtime. But at the very least, do not use them in bed.
  4. No activity in bed other than sleep and sex. Think of Pavlov’s dogs. By pairing one stimulus with another, he created an association between meat powder and a bell that was so strong that the dogs began to salivate when they heard a bell even if meat powder was not present. You want to take a similar approach to your bed and sleep. Strengthen that association as much as you can by pairing your bed with sleep, but not with other activities.
  5. No stimulants within a few hours of bedtime. Physiological arousal and sympathetic nervous system activation oppose the process of falling asleep. Any substance that has stimulant properties should be avoided before bedtime. Nicotine and caffeine are two common such substances. Everyone knows that caffeine makes it difficult to fall asleep. But not everyone knows that caffeine has a metabolic half-life of several hours (typically at least five hours, and sometimes more). So if you plan to go to bed at 10:30, coffee with or after dinner is generally a bad idea. Nicotine persists in the body for a shorter period of time than caffeine, but still has a half-life of a few hours.
  6. Exercise, but not within a few hours of bedtime. Exercise has many beneficial effects on human health. Regular exercise can be helpful in regulating sleep. However, research indicates that it depends on the amount of time between exercise and sleep. One study in particular shows that because exercise is physiologically arousing, it makes you less likely to fall asleep in the very near term, but more likely to fall asleep later. So develop a pattern of exercising, but not late at night.

By following these steps, you can improve your sleep hygiene which will make it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep, Good sleep hygiene is not a fix-all panacea, but the research data indicates that is will certainly help.

And because leaders help to set norms by modelling behaviours, my recommendation is to prioritise sleep in your own life, while encouraging your team to do the same. Do what you can to support employees’ sleep health rather than disrupt it. The better rested we all are, the more effective we will be at work supported by more ethical and considerate behaviours.

These ideas can help with office induced disruptions to sleep. Now all we need is a way to avoid the next heatwave.

Developing your team

teambuildingIf you are a leader, you are responsible for building the team you lead! One of the key stakeholder management roles fulfilled by effective team leaders and project managers is helping their team members grow and improve.

Remember, you cannot be successful as a leader unless your team succeeds in achieving its objectives! And helping team members develop their capabilities has two paybacks – helping people develop their skills and capabilities is a great motivator (see more on motivation) plus having more highly skilled, capable and motivated team members gets more work done. A win-win outcome that can return big dividends for a relatively small investment.

Coaching

As a leader you have four basic options to choose from: teaching, coaching, counselling and mentoring. Understanding the differences and selecting the right option for each situation helps you help your team to be successful.

Tutoring / Teaching
The focus of teaching is to impart knowledge and information through instruction and explanation. And the goal for the student is to acquire a skill or pass a test. The learning has a one-way flow and the relationship between teacher and student is low. These days’ web tools can be used to deliver teaching on demand.

Teaching is effective for: Simple knowledge transfer. This can be facilitated by external experts delivering focused training sessions or asking a skilled team member to do the teaching. Your job is to make sure the right training gets to the right people at the right time.

Coaching
Coaching usually focuses on task and performance. The role of the coach is to give feedback on observed performance and this usually happens at the workplace. The coach is likely to set or suggest goals for the learner and measure performance periodically as the learner develops new skills. This needs a good working relationship between learner and coach.

Coaching is effective for: Driving improved performance. Every elite sports team has a committed coach. As a team leader, you need to take this role seriously if you want to lift your team’s skills and performance to the elite level!

Counselling
The counsellor uses listening and questioning to build self-awareness and self-confidence in the client. The goal is to help the person deal with something they are finding emotionally difficult. Once again learning is one-way and the closeness of the relationship low.

Counselling is effective for: Helping a team member deal with personal difficulties. Again, in appropriate circumstances don’t be afraid to bring a skilled external counsellor.

Mentoring
Mentoring is a partnership between two people and emphasises a mutuality of learning. The role of the mentor is to build capability and help the learner discover their personal wisdom by encouraging the learner to work towards career goals or develop self-reliance. Mentors may draw on a number of approaches (teaching, coaching and counselling) to help mentees achieve the goals they’ve set for themselves. Because the relationship is mutually beneficial strong bonds are often forged which often outlast the mentoring relationship. However, because the mentoring relationship is focused on the mentee’s personal goals it should be kept separate from direct lines of management control; it is very difficult to mentor a direct report. For more on Mentoring see: The Art of Mentoring.

Mentoring is effective for: Building the capability of the learner. Carefully select the people in which to invest the effort and emotion of building a relationship. If it’s not right for you, help your team member find the right mentor

Selecting the best option
Within you team;

  • Use teaching for simple knowledge transfer, there’s no harm in bringing in expertise or asking a skills team member to do the teaching.
  • Use coaching to drive improved performance – every elite sports team has a committed coach, as a team leader you need to take this role seriously!
  • Use counselling one-on-one to help a team member deal with personal difficulties; again don’t be afraid of bringing in external assistance from a skilled councillor.
  • Use mentoring to help build the capability of the mentee. You need to carefully select the people to invest your emotions in building a relationship with, if it’s not right for you, help the person find the right mentor for them.

The difference between coaching and mentoring is largely about focus and goal setting. Coaching focuses on improving performance, mentoring on building capability. The coach usually sets goals for the learner, whereas in mentoring the learner sets their own goals, and to help achieve these goals, a mentor may draw on a number of approaches: teaching, coaching, and counselling.

The other significant difference between mentoring and the other forms of development is the relationship forged between two people. Good mentors offer the learner the right kind of help and support and adapt to the needs of the learner – so what makes a good mentor?

What Makes a Good Mentor?
The attributes and skills of a good mentor include:
1.   Being committed to learning and helping others learn
2.   Being a good listener
3.   Displaying empathy
4.   Building rapport
5.   Encouraging the learner to speak
6.   Observation and reflection
7.   Providing constructive challenges
8.   Is self-aware and understands others
9.   Has intuitive wisdom from life experience
10.  Helping the learner reshape their thinking
11.  Is politically or professionally savvy
12.  Shares experiences
13.  Steps back from the detail
14.  Manages the relationship and not the goals
15.  Offers friendship

Finally, the mentor will keep the relationship confidential. What is said between mentor and mentee is confidential and never shared with others except in very special circumstances (See more on Mosaic’s mentoring options).

The power of coaching
Employees want a great deal more coaching than they receive. When leaders take the time to coach their team effectively, the results can be impressive. How Much Difference Does Coaching Make? Jack Zenger suggest effective coaching will generate:

  • Up to 8 times higher levels of employee engagement and commitment!
  • Over 3 times more willingness to “go the extra mile” for the team or organization
  • Up to 2.5 times higher levels of job satisfaction
  • Up to 2 times higher ratings of supervisor effectiveness
  • Only half as many employees thinking about quitting

Leading to dramatically higher levels of client service and satisfaction, and we know that engaged employees are a key ingredient to creating a high performance team.

Summary
However you choose to develop in your team members, the investment is worthwhile. An empowered, motivated and skilled team is the best underpinning you can have in your quest to be a successful leader.

It’s OK not to know!

You do not need to know everything! Unfortunately, to maintain their authority many project managers and other leaders feel they need to be the expert that has the answer to every question.  They think is a sign of weakness to ask for help or information or simply admit they ‘don’t know’. Rather than asking for input from their team, they burn energy trying to work out the answer themselves, even when it’s clear that this is not possible. Rather than being upfront with their team and managers, they either hide and don’t tell anyone they’re wrestling with a problem; or simply hope the issue goes away.

The simple fact is that if you don’t know something and waste your time trying to find the answer, or worse still make an expensive mistake based on incomplete of false knowledge, no-one benefits least of all you; particularly if you have pretended to be the source of ‘all knowledge’! Once your bluff has been exposed your credibility is destroyed and with it your ability to lead effectively (see more on effective leadership).

Strangely, most people are happy to offer help when someone else asks for it, but are shy or embarrassed to ask for help themselves. Strong leaders, managers and team members have the ability to overcome this ‘shyness’, take the time to clearly understand what they don’t know and then proactively seek help to build their knowledge and capability.

Everyone wins by asking for information or help when needed, rather than wasting time and energy trying to solve the problem themselves. The key is asking the ‘right questions’ in the ‘right way’ (seem more on the art of effective questioning) – the combination of engaging with team members through effective questions and making them feel important through active listening makes you a better leader and will also show your team that it is OK for them to ask for help as well. Then as a bonus, all of the energy that was being wasted wondering, researching and struggling to solve the problem can be used for positive purposes and the team moves forward.

The power of ‘not knowing’ will generate all sorts of efficiencies and open up two way communication within the team. A couple of examples include:

  • You can use your lack of knowledge to delegate (see more on the art of delegation). There are some tasks that are simply better delegated to an expert who knows precisely how to do the job quickly.  I’m sure everyone could learn to use pivot tables in Excel – but is it worth several hours of struggle when a knowledgeable expert can solve the issue in a few minutes – even if the expert is the most junior member of the team?
  • You can use your lack of knowledge is to engage team members. Go to a team member and get them to talk you through the challenge they have been working on. Tell them you haven’t really been across it and would like a briefing. You’ll get the lowdown on the task they are attacking and some good insights into how they work.

Finally, by actively demonstrating to your team that you ask for help when needed will encourage them to do the same, and as a consequence reduce errors, free up communication and enhance the flow of information in a positive way. This may seem obvious, but it won’t happen without a push in the right direction.

Things you can do as a leader:

  1. First, stop talking to yourself and decide that you are going to talk to someone else.
  2. Decide who that person will be.
  3. Craft the conversation. Write down what you are going to ask them and how you hope they will respond.
  4. Schedule a meeting with the person and promise you will ask them for help and be open to their suggestions.
  5. Tell someone of your intentions; someone who will hold you to account for having the meeting and asking for help.

Then be pleasantly surprised; most people are honored to be asked to assist their friends and colleagues and by asking for help you are showing them you respect their knowledge and abilities. This approach will even work with your boss and other stakeholders provided you ask intelligent questions in the right way, at the right time.

So in summary, it really is OK to know what you don’t know and seek help! The skill is being able to ask effective questions that get the right answers and then having the knowledge needed to appreciate and use the information once you have received your answer.  Remember, as a leader and a manager, in the end you are measured by what you actually achieve, not what you claim to know!