All posts by scottmforrester

Rod Barnett Joins the Floreat Team

Floreat Consulting Australia is excited to have Rod Barnett join our team as an associate.

Rod is a highly respected and experienced organisation development practitioner. He has worked with organisations in eight countries and is the Vice President of the International Organisation Development Association. In seeking to bring about changes in organisations in various parts of South African society Rod gained experience and lessons that have been widely applicable for leaders seeking to make significant changes to behaviour and culture in their organisations today.

As principal and owner of Salient Consulting he enjoys supporting leaders as they co-create human work environments where a person’s capability and potential is more likely to be engaged toward shared goals. Rod loves learning and is enthusiastic about teams and their leaders discovering ways of working together better.

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Quality Leadership – What does it take?

So what is it that makes a great leader?

If you do a quick online search some answers that pop up are an ability to delegate, communication, ability to analyse, people skills, confidence, sound judgment, commitment to task, positive attitude, positive behaviour, creativity, intuition and ability to inspire to name a few.

All of these qualities and more are great for a leader to have, some of these are skills that can be learnt over time through experience and practice while others are related to cognitive thinking capacity which is something that is much more difficult to develop.  In fact, some people are of the opinion that cognitive thinking capacity will remain relatively stable once someone reaches early adulthood.  I don’t intend to get into that argument in this piece but I will be touching on some of the leadership qualities that are closely related to cognitive thinking capacity, how they are applied in practice and what the relationship is to a great leader, which can be the difference between total disaster and success for an organisation.

To set the scene let’s look at a fictitious scenario that a leader might have to deal with:

You are the General Manager of a beer brewing company that distributes products across Australia and internationally.  Over the past couple of months there have been issues relating to the quality of some of your products when they reach the consumer, such as off taste, smell and discolouration of the beer. When these issues came to light you removed the offending batch of products from sale, increased quality control measures and implemented a major internal investigation to determine the cause of the bad quality product.  The cause of the issue has yet to be identified however no more bad quality products have been found during the increased quality control process.

Weeks later you are watching the news at home when a breaking story is aired about two related deaths from an unknown cause at a pub that your company is a major supplier to.  A shiver runs down your spine and then your phone rings, with trepidation you take the call.  On the phone is the chief of police in charge of investigating the mysterious deaths and he informs you that it appears both people had been drinking your company’s beer at the time of death and initial tests have shown the beer contained cyanide. The chief tells you he is on route to your house and will arrive in 5 minutes to discuss the crisis with you.

So let’s image you are in the General Manager’s role and now have 4 minutes until the chief of police knocks on your door. What are your first thoughts? How would you handle the crisis? What are the critical things to consider?

A proposition I’ll put to you is that first of all you will need to analyse the situation to understand what is happening, not much of relevance can be achieved without sound analysis to determine the possible causes, implications and knock on effects of the crisis.  Once you’ve analysed the situation and have an understanding of what is happening your mind will then start trying to come up with ideas to solve the issues, this is where your creativity is needed if you are to successfully direct the crisis to the most satisfactory outcome possible.

Now of course to successfully navigate a crisis like this you will need to consider how to apply your analysis and creativity (known as Pure Thinking) in practical terms.  For example who are the people that will be affected by the crisis and the ideas you’ve come up with to solve it, both immediately and into the future?  And what are the things (tasks) that need to be done to achieve the best outcome for your company and all the other people involved?  These are complex issues that we all naturally will think differently about. Careful judgement needs to be used when a leader’s Pure Thinking is practically applied to a critical situation at a moment’s notice.

The Qualities of Leadership

Qualities of Leadership

The balance of Pure Thinking qualities (analysis and creativity) and the Applied Thinking qualities (people and task focus) of a leader along with the judgments they make in a moment of extreme crisis can be the difference between organisations and empires toppling or surviving to fight another day.

Now let’s think about how important it is to have balanced leadership qualities.

What might happen if you have great analysis of the crisis but poor creativity?  Or focus too much on tasks to the detriment of the many people involved?

If this was the case I imagine that your conversation with the chief of police could be catastrophic.  You would be able to understand and articulate what is going on but wouldn’t be able to come up with ideas to control or manage the situation to a positive outcome.  Also, you may overlook or not consider some of the people connected to the crisis even though your plan will impact them both immediately and into the future. Your conversation with the chief may not go well: you would be pushed for a course of action on the spot but struggle to come up with an appropriate plan. In the heat of the moment, you may not consider the various people connected to the crisis, which would have an irretrievably negative impact on many people, including the future of your organisation.

On the other hand, if you have balanced Pure Thinking qualities and can handle the complexity of the situation you could immediately start to navigate the issues to the most positive possible outcome for all involved.

There are people out there that can handle dealing with amazingly complex challenges in a balanced way at a moment’s notice. They might even be working in your organisation already, waiting to be identified and given the right opportunities to develop.

The Qualities of Leadership model and Floreat’s related talent identification methodology Talentfinder has been developed by Floreat Consulting through years of studying successful leaders in large organisations and practical application to identify people with the potential to succeed at the highest levels in a variety of different roles.

The key to your career progression (it’s easier than you thought)

1If you are looking to get ahead in your career, then getting support for your career goals from your current boss should be at the top of your agenda.

But before you even approach your boss for help with your future career, you first need to do your homework. Working on the answers to these questions is great preparation for that conversation:

  • What exactly are my career goals for the short, medium and long term? Are my goals aligned with supporting my company’s purpose?  You need to think hard about what motivating things you can achieve; they should be challenging goals without creating too much unhelpful pressure.
  • Is my behaviour and output at work in line with what is expected of high achieving employees? Some honest self-reflection is helpful here. If you think you can improve your performance by better applying your capability make a conscious decision to fix this now.
  • Am I capable to do the work of my current role and do I have the potential to progress to my desired role? Having a clear understanding of your current capability and future potential is important to get the balance right when setting goals. It can also be very motivating.

After you’re clear on what you want to achieve, you need to think about how to approach the person who right now probably has the most impact on your career progression – your direct manager or supervisor.

A practical thing that many people don’t appreciate is the importance of establishing and maintaining a positive relationship with their boss. As I’m sure you know, at times this can be easy to do and other times it isn’t. For example, if you already have a negative relationship, clearly you will find it more difficult. But regardless of how easy it is to do, right now it should be your priority. Some things that we have found useful to help create a positive relationship with your boss are:

Show an interest in them as a person

Showing an interest in someone is essential to building a positive relationship. It is important that you don’t just view them as someone that calls the shots or makes your work life difficult. Having a negative perception of them can inadvertently make your work life tough through how you unconsciously interact with each other.

Your manager has their own goals, dreams and challenges and more often than not will have their own boss, just like you.  You could ask about what they do outside of work, their family and career goals. Remember the things they tell you and bring them up in future conversations. Obviously, the strength of your current relationship will depend on how personal these discussions get, be careful not to overstep the mark.

Establish a mentoring relationship

Having your boss as a mentor can be great for your career. You can learn plenty and it is an excellent way to gain an advocate for your career progression. First of all show some curiosity and thirst for the things you can learn from them, ask about their career and how they got to where they are now.

Think about areas of expertise they have that you are interested in then direct conversations toward those topics. You’ll be amazed how people enjoy sharing and passing knowledge onto others, especially when they are passionate about the subject. Through these conversations you’ll be creating the basis of an informal mentoring relationship, which in turn will give you the confidence to ask your boss to formalise the relationship.  When formalising a relationship like this be mindful not to over do the formalities, paperwork or unnecessary bureaucracy, making it minimum sufficient to achieve the purpose is the best way to go.

It’s a two way street – How can you support them?

A key part of any strong, rewarding relationship is that interest and support goes both ways. Being on the lookout for ways you can support your boss, whether it is little things around the office or asking specifically to support them with something will increase the likelihood of them supporting you.  The way you behave with them, as well as how you talk about them with others is important. If you are on the lookout to promote their best interests there is a good chance they will do the same for you. Who knows? Maybe one day your boss will get a promotion and you will be the perfect person to progress into their role.

Try to see what they see

One final and very important thing to remember that will help get the most out of any relationship is to see the world from their perspective. If you spend time reflecting through the lens of your boss and let that inform your behaviour you will be amazed at the positive impact it will have.