Tuesday, 24 June 2014

A Top Tip for Leaders (and the first post in an occasional series entitled "Lessons from Pop")

When working with Directors and Directors General in HR Business Partner roles I was often asked if I had any top tips.

If I had only one piece of advice it is encapsulated in the following story.  In one of my first HRBP roles I was coaching a relatively new Director who was concerned that his team were arguing with each other in the open office, using inappropriate language and generally displaying quite aggressive behaviour.

We explored when this behaviour had begun and I asked if there had been any significant events at this time.  This was a lightbulb moment.  A few weeks previously the Director had engaged in a stand up row with a fellow Director in front of the majority of the office.  He had also been under pressure from a Minister and had been grumpy and sweary in the office.

OK, this may seem very obvious but I've seen it happen many times.  As a leader,  never underestimate the amount of scrutiny you are under.  In a hierarchy, people are looking to you for behavioural guidance and cues to understand what is appropriate and acceptable.  News of a senior full-on row in an open office will spread pretty quickly and some people will begin to mirror and emulate your behaviour.

Strive to demonstrate the behaviour and actions you want to see.  

The Director in question acted quite quickly.  At the next team meeting he shared his concerns about the aggressive behaviour he had observed and referenced his own argument in the office.  He apologised, explained that he was not proud of his actions and outlined the types of behaviour he valued. He committed to demonstrating his desired behaviours and asked for feedback on an ongoing basis, he wanted to know if there was something he'd missed or wasn't getting right.

The effect was startling.  Having explicitly stated what he expected and valued his team began to demonstrate and mirror these behaviours and there was an ongoing, constructive dialogue. 

If you are in a management or leadership position what can you do?

I'll leave you with a quote from Michael Jackson.
I'm starting with the man (or woman) in the mirror
I'm asking him (or her) to change his (or her) ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you wanna make the office a better place 
Take a look at yourself and then make a change
 Do like the man says - what would you like to see in your office?

Cheers

Ross