The Developing Manager Series – Leadership

personal-leadership2The Developing Manager series – providing information and support to leaders and managers of all levels.

Our aim is to share ideas and experience around a different monthly theme, in the process starting a conversation about what it means to be a leader and manager in the 21st century.

1: Leadership

There can’t be many subjects which have had more books written about them, more talks delivered, than leadership. And yet leadership is as challenging and elusive as ever.

We know great leaders when we come into contact with them, but what makes a leader great? And how can we as Developing Managers act in a way which provides leadership to others?

We believe that leadership is an evolving practice, a skill to be learnt, developed and honed over months and years in management roles, with different teams in different situations. The requirements of leaders change as younger generations come into the workplace, and the nature of work also changes. So ideas about leadership also need to be flexible, adaptable and reflective of the current workplace and workforce.

Whilst there are many great books on leadership, and many great ideas contained within them, the work of Daniel Goleman has particular resonance for us. In our work with managers and leaders at all levels, the feedback we receive, and the evidence we see, suggests to us that his ideas strike a chord and offer a path to follow in the search for leadership capability.

Daniel Goleman on Leadership

For the last 15 years, in articles and books, Daniel Goleman has been sharing his view of the New Leader. For Developing Managers, the key ideas centre around the belief that leaders are most effective when they are responsive to the needs and mood of their team, and use their emotional intelligence to lead their team in a positive and productive manner.

Goleman identifies 6 leadership styles, with benefits but also costs to each. Here they are, in order of positive impact on the emotional climate of the team to which they are applied.

  • Authoritative/Visionary – “Come with me”

The most strongly positive style, which is all about articulating a compelling vision for others to follow. It requires and demonstrates confidence and empathy, and is particularly effective when a new direction is needed.

Adopting this style, leaders motivate their teams by providing clarity about the purpose of their work, and how it fits within the wider vision of the organisation. They enthuse their people with their own excitement and passion for the goals and objectives at all levels.

  • Coaching – “Try this”

This style is all about developing people for the future, and is another with a very positive impact upon the climate of the team. Leaders help their employees improve their performance and develop long-term strengths.

In adopting this style, leaders are demonstrating their interest, their concern and their respect for the individuals within their team, giving them time and ideas to enable them to develop. It increases communication and understanding, enabling leaders to remain close to their teams. It requires competence, empathy and self awareness in both parties.

  • Affiliative – “People come first”

The affiliative style is all about creating harmony and building emotional bonds. Leaders encourage communication and freedom in work, rewarding and providing feedback as they go.

Leaders who adopt this style create fierce loyalty by caring deeply for their team members. This can be particularly effective to bring a team together, or to help a team through stressful times.

  • Democratic – “What do you think?”

The democratic style is about working together with the team, gaining input and participation to reach a consensus. Leaders search out other views, drawing on the experience and expertise in the team to achieve the best solutions

Leaders adopting this style do so because they recognise the value of every contribution. In the process they allow team members to raise and discuss their concerns, which can have a positive impact upon morale. Leaders need to be conscious of the limitations of the democratic style as well though, as too much “management by committee” can be exasperating and slow things down. Overreliance on this style can create a sense of leaderlessness within a team too.

  • Pace setting – “Do as I do, now”

The pace setting style sees the leader setting extremely high performance standards, and exemplifying them in their own behaviour. The leader will identifies and addresses poor performance and demands more.

Whilst sounding good in theory, in practice this approach should be used sparingly, as it can be overwhelming and demoralising. Team members can end up simply trying to guess what the leader wants, and delivering it, rather than working in their own most productive way. Trust and flexibility are reduced as work becomes very task focused and feel micromanaged.

  • Coercive/Commanding – “Do what I tell you”

Viewed as the traditional “command and control” style, the coercive or commanding style has only short term benefits at best. Used in moments of crisis, or with problem situations or employees, it can produce a necessary compliance, or increase in performance.

However over the even slightly longer term, the manager who relies on the coercive style will suffer from decreased motivation, falling morale, higher staff turnover, and reduced productivity and results.

Our Thoughts

Based upon our years of interaction with managers, and their reflections upon these styles, certain aspects of Goleman’s ideas become clear to us:

The Visionary Style should always be considered and attempted

Even team leaders, supervisors and first line managers have a need to bring a group together and infuse it with a sense of purpose. Over and over again our contacts discussed and agreed that increasing the amount of “visionary” can increase a team’s purpose and achievement.

Although painting the big picture can seem quite daunting to a newly promoted or inexperienced manager, taking simple steps along the road to sharing their own vision for their department, and then exploring and articulating the organisation’s goals, are vitally important.

Senior and experienced managers also need to ensure they don’t forget to put the time and effort into sharing the important larger picture, bringing the journey and the purpose to life for everyone within the organisation.

The Coaching Style predominates

The most commonly observed and most comfortably employed style is the coaching style. Which is great news, as it has such a positive impact!

Even managers who have never received coaching skills training instinctively use this approach as a natural way to engage with team members and increase their performance. Managers who have taken the time, and had the support, to develop their coaching skills continually bring their team members on, with great results.

Your Next Steps

As managers we encourage you to consider Goleman’s leadership styles and to explore their relevance to your own situation. We suggest three steps:

  1. Explore your own style

Think about the styles you use, and consider their impact. Do you always resort to the same approach, or do you actively consider the best style to adopt in every situation.

  1. Observe the leaders you respect

Watch the great leaders and see what they do. Take the chance to discuss their style with them when you can, and see if they are conscious of their own approach.

  1. Flex your style

Try something new, particularly the Visionary style. Take the time to share the big picture with your team, and do so in a way that demonstrates your own enthusiasm and commitment.

Please contact us if you’d like to know more about how we help managers develop into great leaders –

Look out for further communication about leadership on our blog, and from @mindinmotion and @motionlearning

We’d love to hear your views so please let us know your own experiences of leadership and leadership styles.

Does your organisation make the most of workplace coaching?

Line Manager Coaching Word Cloud

Complete our online questionnaire to find out

At Motion Learning we spend a significant amount of time with our clients looking at ways to help them maximise the impact of formal and structured learning back in their workplaces.

Because we recognise that a huge amount of development really happens through experiential and social learning. In other words either ‘on the job’ or ‘near the job’.

Over the last 10 years, it has become apparent to us that there is an obvious – but frequently overlooked – skill area which is woefully under-developed and under-utilised; that of line manager coaching.

We know through experience that a line manager who can…

  • Identify coaching opportunities in a timely way
  • Address these coaching needs through skilled and structured conversations
  • Offer ongoing support and clear feedback to the learner

…Is considerably more likely to maximise an individual’s performance on the job.

The line manager who takes time to identify performance gaps, who exposes individuals to tasks that give them the opportunity to learn and who supports these people as they go on their learning journey is undoubtedly an incredible asset to a business.

And what’s more – when we work with line managers helping them learn how to coach they absolutely love it.

So it’s a winning approach all round – isn’t it?

How much more effective and rewarding will a development programme or workshop be, both for the individual and the organisation, if the skills and insights gained in a formal environment are then followed up in the workplace through focused coaching?

Line manager coaching helps learners put their newfound skills into practice, provides encouragement and guidance in the face of difficulties, and reinforces new behaviours.

In many situations the coaching becomes the key learning tool. Why send an individual on a workshop when they have a line manager who is more than capable of helping them develop the necessary skills whilst also understanding their unique challenges?

We believe that line manager coaching is a critical element of organisational and individual development.

Taking all of this into consideration, why are so many line management populations devoid of clear coaching capability? Or if not devoid, then at least seriously lacking? To us it seems like a opportunity that businesses can ill afford to miss out on…

We’d like to get your thoughts and offer you the chance to assess your own workplace capability and potential.

Follow this link to complete our questionnaire and receive your report on how close your organisation is to developing a coaching culture.

My Mindful Battle!

‘There’s always a first time…’ my doctor said kindly and gently when informing me that I’d just had my first migraine attack.

‘Are you finding things unusually busy or stressful at the moment?’ he went on to ask.

Explaining my home and work life antics he just as gently replied ‘that will most likely be the reason then…..’

I left the emergency department at Moorfields eye hospital, armed with a new found focus on drinking more water, breathing more regularly, taking 5 minutes to sit down and do nothing (!), and ironically a strong commitment to do anything that would avoid a second migraine experience.

Logically I know what to do, but in the real world even these simple things I find difficult.

Inevitably along came migraine number 2… Ouch!

So – in search of mental ‘me time’ for both my health and my sanity I returned to a world I had briefly entered a few months ago. The world of ‘Mindfulness’.

“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose,

in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally”

Jon Kabat-Zinn

Paying attention quietly and peacefully to the present moment… sounds lovely… right up my alley. Crikey it’s difficult though!

A few months ago I spent some time with a group of brilliant senior HR colleagues. Forward thinking, energetic and engaging people. We discussed Mindfulness.

In preparation for our meeting I had undertaken an online Mindfulness course, and spent a sunny Sunday in a basement with some Buddhist monks learning the basics of meditation. This alongside reading and researching the core principles.

We shared our experiences. The core principles surrounding Mindfulness made sense to us all and we agreed any reduction in stress, anxiety and increase in focus and present moment thinking would be of huge benefit (commercial and personal) for all concerned.

We all supported the focus on personal wellbeing and its’ direct impact on workplace happiness and effectiveness.

So the principles all have a big, bright, green light…

My battle remains with the ‘reality’.

I’ve been reflecting on what gets in the way. It’s not the time, as I can find the time to practise some Mindful activity should I choose to. So what is it?

Habit, Skill, Will, Capability, Capacity?

In search of a little ‘present moment’ free thinking time, I’ve found myself with another item on my ‘to do’ list. Must practise being Mindful…

Hmmn. Now that really makes my head hurt!

Any thoughts, ideas, tips, comments, observations very welcome!

Social Media, HR and Learning and Development

So, can social media be of real use to HR and L&D professionals, or is it all a timewasting distraction?

This question was at the heart of a lively and amusing discussion held last week at Motion with a group of senior HR and Marketing professionals.

In amongst the laughter caused by the knowledge check of the different brands in social media (after all, how many of you know what all of the following really do: Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Yammer, Pinterest, G+, Pinstagram, Foursquare…) was a serious discussion about the value, but also the challenges that social media offer the HR and L&D fields.

Some conclusions were as follows:

  • As a means of communicating the brand to the outside world, and particularly to prospective employees, tools like Twitter and Facebook can be of real value
  • As a way of communicating internally, again Facebook, along with Yammer can add a new dimension, whether to general communication, or for particular groups such as participants on a training programme
  • Tools like Pinterest and Shelfari might offer opportunities to share information in energising and interesting ways

As innovation is at the heart of Motion Learning, we’re doing our best to explore these options and introduce them where relevant to the learning and development activities we offer.  We’ll keep you posted on our progress.

The Importance of Resilience

At Motion Learning we run regular taster sessions on a range of topical subjects.  One that has attracted a lot of interest recently has been on the subject of Developing Resilience, and it’s not hard to understand why.

A recent study on reactions to the current global economic crisis highlighted the range of reactions and depth of emotions that are stirred up by the uncertainty we all currently face.  At the same time, the study, by the American Psychological Association, suggested that people have the ability to “bounce back” in even the most challenging situations.  But the quality that enables this to happen is not a simple one to define, or develop.

Our level of resilience appears to be the result of a combination of our genetic make up, our upbringing and experiences, and our own desire to improve.

Whilst looking into this area we came across a number of interesting thoughts and ideas.

  • A piece of research on the impact of  “licking” on rats which supports what many will instinctively feel, that our level of anxiety is related to the treatment we receive as children
  • The work of Andrew Shatté, and the 7 factors for developing individual resilience.  Some of his thoughts can be seen here:
  • The enduring value of Stephen Covey’s work, and in particular his ideas on focusing on what we can control, rather than becoming preoccupied with what we can’t control.
  • The work of Bruce Robertson and Cary Cooper, on the opportunities organisations have to create environments which allow employees to cope more effectively with the changes that take place at work
Our view on resilience is that we do have the power to increase our ability to bounce back.  It can take time and effort, but there are specific aspects we can work on:
  • Our mindset
  • Our energy levels
  • Our communication
  • Our focus
In working on these areas, in creating a positive mindset, in ensuring we have sufficient energy, in communicating with the right people in the right way, and in focusing on what’s important, and what we have control over, we can increase our resilience.
It’s not easy, but it’s a hugely satisfying challenge, and one we relish taking on with the people with whom we work.

From the ‘Tweets’ of the Dalai Lama Came a Thought…

So, the Dalai Lama recently tweeted (yes you read correctly!) ‘Developing inner values is much like physical exercise. The more we train our abilities the stronger they become’.

He didn’t even need his allocated 140 characters for this one.

We do a lot of work around values at the Motion Mansion typically beginning with identifying these tricky to pin down beliefs that drive our behaviour both consciously and subconsciously. We’ve spent years identifying the individual values of our team understanding how they determine who we are and what we do. 

So, the tweet above really made me ponder the extent to which as individuals are not only clear about our values, but how we develop them to determine our individual courses of action.

Neuroscientist Mark Robert Waldman from the University of Pennsylvania has a very powerful argument for the development of positive values (which he terms ‘big ideas’) in individuals. He suggests that a ‘big idea’ such as compassion helps us to build a better brain. His research evidences that we can each have years added onto our lives by the development of our own positive ‘big ideas’.   Waldman’s research looks at the way positive and healthy values help us to build a better brain by reducing things such as anxiety and by improving things like our social awareness. He says that by developing our awareness of our ‘big ideas’ and values we begin to align ourselves with them, and this in turn leads to a healthier brain that can be scanned and proven.

So – the Dalai Lama reckons the development of our values is a good idea as do contemporary neuroscientists!

I have a question for you – how clear are you about your individual values? It’s a big question that’s for certain. Think about the deep set beliefs you hold about ‘right and wrong’, about principles that you feel really guide your behaviour. I recall speaking to a lady recently who was clear that ‘duty’ was one of her core values and one that she didn’t even like sometimes – but it always determined the way she behaved.

If you want a list of values to help get you thinking then email us at and we will happily send you a document out to help you on this interesting path of discovery.

Once you think you’re closer to identifying your values – cross reference them against your behaviour. Ask yourself:

  • What did I do today that was in line with my values?
  • What did I do today that was in conflict with my personal values? How does it make me feel?  
  • How can I develop the use of this value to help it become clearer and stronger?  

At Motion Learning, we have looked at our values and thought about how they impact the was we commit to behaving with our colleagues and our clients. It’s an interesting activity and one which we are happy to share with you. Just let us know if you’d like to find out more.

My thoughts are currently at the stage where I am pondering how leaders might truly support the positive development of their team members by encouraging them to behave in a way consistent with their values.  I’m interested in your thoughts – particularly if those values fail to fall in line with those of your business. What happens then?!

If you fancy following the Tweets from the Dalai Lama he’s on!/DalaiLama

If you fancy delving into the world of the neuroscientists who support the development of positive personal ‘big ideas’ then check out Mark Robert Waldman via the following YouTube link:

I look forward to hearing from you… and in the meantime I’m off to develop my honesty!

Democracy and Neutrality – The Key to Collaboration?

I recently heard a guy called Jimmy Wales say something that got me thinking… It was long the lines of  ‘imagine a world in which every single person on the planet is given access to all of the knowledge within that world…’ Incredible I thought, followed by the realisation that as the founder of Wikipedia, Wales is quite a long way down to road to making that some sort of reality.

So, how do you do something as massive as that? According to Wales – you give them the tools to work collaboratively.

Collaboration – talked about, strived for in many modern organisations. I became intrigued about how collaboration could work in an organisation like Wikipedia bearing in mind that his business employs a tiny amount of people (last piece of information I could find talked about only 1 person actually being on the payroll) and relies solely on what Wales calls a ‘Ragtag band of volunteers’.

Wales gives a number of interesting pointers that he says encourages collaborative working in his organisation. They are:

  • The need for neutrality… if we want to collaborate we have to keep in mind a neutral point of view as this will avoid a ‘war’. In Wikipedia they have a ‘Neutral Point of View’ policy, which encourages a culture of cooperation amongst the band of volunteers
  • ‘Real time’ peer review – something which at Wikipedia notifies people of changes and additions to pages, and a process which enables people to take an idea, add their thoughts and ideas and move it on
  • Constant communication – Wales talks about democratic processes which encourage dialogue and are based around high self set standards

So what if anything can we learn from Wales and Wikipedia that may help our own organisations? Here are a few prompts to get you thinking…

Neutrality – the importance of sharing ideas on a level playing field. The value of reducing the desire to fight – to win or to lose – and instead to listen and to be listened to.

Peer review – building on each others’ ideas in a timely manner, drawing on collective expertise to move each individuals’ thought forward.

Democratic communication – high standards being self set, and ways of working encouraging fair dialogue.

Thought we’d put these ideas to you as collaboration seems to be such a word of the moment. It’s often defined as ‘working together to achieve a goal’ and Wales has a few ideas that may just prompt thoughts of your own….

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