Building Confidence, Competence, and Commitment
Here are some thoughts and perceptions by some of the leading lights regarding the key elements that leaders and managers need to address. All represent possibilities and options so that you can choose whatever you feel is most appropriate for your situation.
There are as many definitions of leadership as there are people writing about it. Marv Weisbord describes leadership as setting the purpose and direction for others, and getting them to move in that direction with competence and commitment. The Center for Creative Leadership identifies these challenges as central to the leadership role:
- Dealing with rapid and substantive changes
- Managing diversity of people and views
- Building the future through a shared sense of purpose
Warren Bennis says that leadership is about communicating a vision and the readiness to assume responsibility for performance. Noel Tichy asserts that effective leaders create a vision, mobilize commitment and institutionalize change. In “The Transformational Leader,” he and Mary Anne Devanna believe that leaders:
- Identify selves as change agents
- Are courageous risk-takers
- Believe in people
- Are value-driven
- Are life-long learners
Traditionally, management is the planning, organizing & controlling the implementation of “the work” that gets done in an organizational setting. Ellen Schall says that it is possible to both lead and manage, that is to provide a vision for the long term while dealing with the day-to-day activities. Effective managers set and help others achieve a standard of excellence. Managers generally, are trying to create the right environment, conditions, and processes that bring out the best in people. They will establish or refine systems or procedures for performance measurement, feedback, and reinforcement.
Managers need to have “skill” to encourage skills in others, to diagnose what is going on, and to modify the direction and actions of their units toward goal accomplishment. In that sense, they need flexibility, adaptability and the capacity to act.
One definition of a team is a small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to:
- a meaningful purpose
- clear performance goals
- a common working approach
Among the reasons why leaders and managers pay attention to building effective teams is that research has shown that teams outperform individuals by a wide margin if the task is a “team-like” task. In other words, you use a regular working group if results can be achieved through the sum of individual best performances. However, you employ a team if the task requires the real-time integration of multiple skills and perspectives.
Performance goals, and the struggle to attain them, are what makes a team. According to Katzenbach and Smith, high-performance teams have a sense of individual and mutual accountability and are invested in each other’s growth and success. Teamwork builds a sense of community and belonging.
Highly effective managers know what performance is required and they prompt, model, encourage and help shape performance toward those results. Paul Brown states that good coaches emphasize positive expectations. They ask themselves if the person understands the goals, their duties, and the work processes to be used. Then they intervene at the right level and provide direction and feedback. Along the way, coaches may need to encourage alternate behavior and to reward “approximations that come closer to the ideal”. They also provide latitude for the learner to find even more effective ways. They do give corrective feedback, but usually, do so after building up a track record of acknowledging achievements.
An effective coaching session will include a review of the goals, the purpose of the session, and joint agreement on a plan of action. It will maintain the self-esteem of both the player and the coach.
Building Trust and Relationships
When you trust someone it means that you are willing to be count on them and to be vulnerable to their actions. Being willing to take this risk helps to build authentic relationships. The elements of trusting, authentic relationships are:
- Commitment – to more than just yourself.
- Familiarity – we know enough to give each other the benefit of the doubt.
- Responsibility – we trust people who are willing to take personal responsibility for their actions.
- Integrity – we trust people who are honest and willing to be themselves.
- Consistency – it is easier to build a strong relationship if there is some predictability of behavior.
- Forgiveness & Reconciliation – our ability to forgive and be forgiven is important.
One definition of trust (from Michael Annison) is the intuitive confidence and sense of comfort that comes from the belief that we can rely on a person (or organization) without thinking about it. Some ways to help build trusting relationships are:
- Develop rapport – by taking a genuine interest in the other(s).
- Provide information – share relevant data and/or opinions.
- Support – demonstrated by acceptance of the other person, independent of whether or not you feel the same way they do. It helps to listen.
“Communications creates meaning for people. It’s the only way any group, small or large, can become aligned behind the overarching goals of an organization.”
–Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus.
A communications plan/strategy is a critical component of any implementation of strategic direction. It requires addressing four key questions in a disciplined approach:
What is the message? People need to know where we are heading and what is expected of them, in terms of tasks. Data is critical to allow effective participation in planning and implementation.
Who is involved? The who may depend on structures or task groups created. Involving future key players early may be an effective strategy since we know that people support what they help create. The leader may want to consider how to bring along other units or stakeholders.
When do they need to know? Regularity and frequency of communications should be planned to support strategy. Communications can be tailored to reach specific groups when it is important to build buy-in, and to signal actions required.
How to get understanding. Two-way communications is critical if strategic change is involved. It allows feedback which may be more important than feeding. Elements of communications strategy may include a variety of face-to-face forums, cross-functional teams, retreats, cascading events and prototyping or piloting.
A vision is a clearly articulated, results-oriented picture of a possible ideal future one intends to create. It is a picture of the whole, which illustrates the distinctive meaning, purpose and values behind the work and why one does it. Vision statements facilitate planning and provide a public document. Good ones are oriented towards the future and emphasize distinctiveness.
Creating a vision forces us to take a stand on our preferred future. Effective leaders provide a vision that channels our deepest values into the workplace and becomes a word picture of how we want these values to be lived out in the unit. We give leadership when we help create a vision that positions our organization in relation to our customers and to our colleagues.
It may be that the process of visioning is as important as the outcome. When more are involved, it facilitates alignment, focus and direction. The visioning process can enroll and inspire others, and serve as an on-going context and foundation for decisions.
Planning includes setting objectives, outlining procedures and assigning responsibility. Plans should lead toward the organization’s overall strategies and objectives and fit within its mission and values. Effective plans identify the individual components or steps necessary to reach the objectives and place them in proper sequence. The planning process ideally deals with resources (people, skills, equipment, materials, money).
What you would like to do, coupled with strategic self-concept yields strategic intent. In some way, this is more helpful for people to know than all the plan specifics. When we are clear on strategic intent, we can make on-the-spot decisions using this as a guide. Rather than fixating, the plan should allow the organization to adapt and break out of old paradigms.
Managers are good at planning and direction setting but fail to get “beyond their best intentions” according to Billie Alban. There are some specific issues and endeavors which can load actions for success. Among them are:
- Select and involve future key players – involving people early helps build their ownership and commitment.
- Frame for public consumption – aspects of the plan that appeal to the group addressed can be stressed. Grab the stakeholders where they live.
- Develop community – show how the implementation benefits many and brings people together under a common purpose.
- Enlist informal leaders – people enjoy being consulted and can be influential in molding acceptance and action.
- Care and feeding of the boss – involve the chief, get ideas, get help in removing roadblocks. Bosses don’t like to be surprised, and often do like to help.
- Put a stake in the ground – be willing to take personal responsibility and to get others equally committed.
Responsibility and Accountability
In high-performance organizations, many individuals are willing to hold themselves accountable for performance, rather than blaming others if things go awry. Linda Gallindo defines personal responsibility as a “before the fact” mindset of personal ownership and commitment to the result. She also defines personal accountability as a personal willingness “after the fact” to answer for outcomes produced.
Engendering this type of response in our people separates transformative leaders and managers from the pack. One approach is to get people to R.I.S.K. :
- Realize that my results are the consequences of my actions.
- If it is to be, it is up to me.
- Step out of my comfort zone.
- Keep focused.
When people take ownership they behave differently. They let go of complacency and scape-goating and take action and risk to achieve results. In order to help others become accountable, leaders can state objectives clearly, ensure measurement of results, and consistently model their own accountability.
Creative Problem Solving
Groups can be facilitated in such a way that their collective brainpower far exceeds the sum of individual contributions. In order for this to happen, all ideas must be acceptable, censorship is not allowed, and ideas are captured for later refinement and analysis. In order to develop creative alternatives, we can:
- agree on a process that invites participation and receptivity.
- clarify the mission or goal.
- brainstorm alternatives.
- identify promising possibilities and build momentum for them.
- overcome concerns and make them actionable.
- identify next steps and responsibilities.
Effective group problem solving usually includes defining the problem, getting ideas and information, testing ideas, decision making, developing and implementing an action plan, and feedback and measurement.
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