This course is designed for new leaders. Such leaders may be new to leadership altogether, or just new to a particular position. The course focuses on helping new leaders get off on the right foot with their team by taking the time to get to understand the context, the history, the team and the people in it. It is designed to help people avoid some common ‘New Broom’ mistakes, helping them focus instead on engaging with their team from the very beginning in a way that creates relationships and expectations that enable the new leader to get the best from the team immediately and in the future.
Our first tip is to recognize that you are joining an ongoing story. It’s very easy as a new leader, joining an existing team, to take a year zero, ground zero approach, but instead we need to treat history as a valued resource. We need to recognise that today’s problems were yesterday’s solutions, which probably seemed like a good idea at the time. They may have been the brainchild of someone in your team.
If we are unable to recognize that we are joining an ongoing story we may ascribe no value to work done before we arrived or that is currently ongoing. This can lead to the loss of valuable information and resources, as well as getting off to a poor start with our new colleagues, as we see in the video clip of the conversation re market research. By contrast, next clip shows a leader who understands her two colleagues and is able to suggest that they combine their particular strengths.
Our second tip is, don’t rush to action. It is very common for a leader to walk into a pile of work that has stacked up in anticipation of their arrival, and to be expected to get to grips with it immediately. In this situation it is easy to feel you should have all the answers. Try instead to focus on asking questions so you can feel your way in and can ensure that the right person gets to make the decisions. When faced with pressure to make a decision before you know much about the context you can ask yourself two questions: Firstly ‘Does this decision need to be made at all, and if so right now?’ And secondly, ‘If it does need to be made, and now, am I the right person to be making it?’ Taking this approach increases the chances that the right people will be involved in the decision-making, and that good decisions will be made.
Our third tip is don’t be seduced by first impressions. Just because something is highly visible, it doesn’t mean it is the most urgent or important thing to be attending too. Instead we need to look to understand the bigger picture, recognising that people act in context. It can be hard to see this bigger picture, as cause and effect are often separated by time and space. In the interview we see the manager looking only at results and refusing to consider any other factors or wider context. The meeting does not end well. We need to distinguish between the maps of the organization, such as job descriptions and org. charts, and the organisational terrain, how it actually works on the ground. It is helpful to recognize and treat the organization more as a living human system and less as a machine, which leads us to recognize and value the informal system of organization.
Our fourth tip is to practice positive, appreciative, relational leadership. This approach to leadership allows you to grow your team and increase your team’s capacity without having to increase headcount. To do this you need to work to affirm the best in people. The various video clips show leaders doing just that. You need to display virtuous behaviour, expressing gratitude, patience, humility, and generosity for instance. In this kind of climate people feel more supported to stretch themselves, take some risks, and extend their abilities. As a positive, appreciative and relational leader you need to be a strengthspotter, like the leaders in the first two video clips. Working in this way encourages us to coach and develop people to improve their performance, as the last video clip demonstrates.
Our fifth tip is to work to discover the best of the current situation, as opposed to immediately being attracted by the problems. It is helpful to focus on learning from success as well as from failure. This allows us, while fixing things that are wrong, to also increase our ability to do the things that are right. To do this you need to find out what is working and how it works. It helps also to recognize that people who bring problems to you are giving you a chance to make things better. The leader in the video clip demonstrates an open and receptive approach to someone bringing potential bad news. Similarly, when floating a new idea use your dissenters positively to road-test the idea. To make the positive core of the group more visible, to understand what really makes the group, or an individual, tick, it can be useful to explore their sources of pride at work. In this way you can start to identify the core values of your group using Appreciative Inquiry questions.
Our sixth tip is to understand the sources of positive energy. Change takes energy and positive energy is sustainable, in contrast to ‘building platform’ energy. There are three sources of positive energy in a team. One is the ratio of positive to negative interactions, comments, emotional experience. We need this to be at least 3:1 and preferably 6:1 or higher to generate a positive emotional group climate where creativity can flourish. We might note that positive emotional states are also good for our health. We can also notice the positive energy network pattern in our team. Who are the people who bring out the best energy in others, and who are the people who seem to suck energy out of every situation? The third thing to think about is the quality of the micro-moments, the small daily interactions. High quality connections result in both parties feeling they’ve gained something from the interaction. Plenty of these start to create the positivity ratio we are aiming for. And finally, we can focus on co-creating attractive images of the future that pull people forward towards them.
Our final tip is to co-create change with your team rather than necessarily just imposing it from the top. When we co- create energy for change with others, we are much more likely to get commitment rather than just compliance. To co-create change we need to involve people from the beginning, we need to create shared understanding and vision by posing powerful and impactful questions. It is also important to value incremental change as well as bigger change projects.
At Skill Boosters we work with leading subject matter experts to design, develop and deliver training for the workplace. We are passionate about delivering behavioural training which helps to build productive, tolerant and inclusive individuals, teams and workplaces and which improves lives and life chances.
Our courses combine video drama, expert analysis, documentary sequences and interactive study to provide flexible, cost-effective training that engages, informs and inspires our learners.
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Initially a social worker, Sarah built her expertise in helping people change their ways of thinking and behaviour by working in child protection. Since then she has worked for over 20 years with organizations from production and service sectors as well as with higher education, not-for-profit and local and central government. A chartered psychologist, Sarah is an experienced facilitator with special expertise in creating individually designed large or whole system interventions based on Appreciative Inquiry, Open Space and other key collaborative transformation methodologies. She works in the areas of socio-technical system implementation, team development, whole system change and organisational development. She helps organizations to address their issues, meet their challenges and achieve their desires in areas of organisational life such as performance, change, strategy, relationships, morale, engagement and motivation, working together, process improvement, leadership, co-ordination, and effectiveness. She is often asked to help when things are ‘stuck’ or dysfunctional at a team, organisational or individual level, yet is equally able to help make good better.
She is the author ‘Positive Psychology at Work’ and ‘Positive Psychology and Change’ and lead author of ‘Appreciative Inquiry for Change Management’. She is a recognised expert in these areas and speaks regularly at National and International Conferences.