Conversations about leadership, learning, coaching and change.

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Leadership

The promotion precipice

The promotion precipice

by Moyra Mackie on July 17, 2016

In simple terms, we can usually divide our careers into two parts.  Before we managed people and after.

The first part of our career is usually spent building and honing our skills.  We may start off as generalists, but gradually as we get recognised and rewarded for what we do well, we focus on our strengths.  Perhaps without realising it, we become an “expert” in a particular area.

After a time, if we do this well enough we usually get given people to manage.

Promotion and progress are linked to managing others

Without knowing it, we’ve arrived at the Promotion Precipice.  It’s a place of great opportunity, but also one of great unknown and potential risk.

Why?

Because in the eighteen years I’ve been coaching leaders and their teams, I’ve met only a handful of people who received any form of training BEFORE they were given people to manage.

Yet everything has fundamentally changed

http://www.coachwiththegreenhat.com/emotionally-intelligent-management/From now on a manager cannot just focus on developing skills related to their task – the WHAT.  Now they have to focus on the HOW, on building the skills of others.

Of course our Before Management career has involved people skills, but it’s different.  Let’s take the example of an orchestra.

Before management you played the trumpet.  You needed to be good at playing the trumpet, but also mindful of how you kept time and tune with the rest of the brass section.  You also had to pay attention to what the rest of the orchestra were doing.

You keep your place by being a good solo contributor and by fitting in with the rest of the team.

Management requires you put the trumpet down and move to conducting the orchestra.

Once you’re a manager you’re responsible for co-ordinating multiple relationships – down, across and up the organisation.  In fact, getting things done requires that you increasingly look up; that you develop a bigger picture view.

Without training or coaching new management can feel precarious

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Moyra Mackie

Moyra Mackie

Moyra Mackie helps leaders and teams to work with courage, compassion and creativity. She is an executive coach and consultant and the founder of Mackie Consulting.

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Change:  who’s faking it and who isn’t?

Change: who’s faking it and who isn’t?

by Moyra Mackie on May 14, 2016

Each time I write about leadership or change, I get notes from readers that go something like this:

“I love what you write – it makes sense and it’s backed up by research – but how come I don’t see it put into practice?  Is it the case that managers don’t read any of this stuff?”

Why is change so hard?

Change management is a huge failure. More than 70% of change initiatives are still not delivering, despite the billions spent every year.

As a coach I’ve seen that it is possible to help leaders and teams achieve real change, but why does this happen so rarely?

The answer came in a brilliant post on the subject by Diane Dromgold who, in her no-nonsense Aussie way, got straight to the heart of the matter in her post Culture Change. Seriously? We’re still talking about that?

Change isn’t happening because many leaders don’t really want change

Diane recounts how consultants who tell clients the truth about change management meet resistance.  These consultants present a case based on simple behaviour change,  yet the client rejects this solution for a much more expensive “program with metrics and levers”.

This is how Diane puts it:

“A thought comes to [the consultant], and a moment of clarity. The client doesn’t want change at all. The consultant had answered the wrong question. The question being asked wasn’t how to make change happen but how to get people to love the way things are.

The whole change management conversation could turn on a pin. It’s not that hard. Real change takes modelling from the top and reinforcement of wanted behavior and outcome. It’s not hard, it’s not expensive and change starts immediately. Acceptance of what is requires marketing, and that’s easier and less expensive than one of the full blown change initiatives we see.”

We’re really talking about acceptance management, not change management

I’m guessing Diane’s post was the result of a real-life conversation. Heck, I’ve had so many of those conversations myself, but never been able to pinpoint the fact that all this time I’ve been asking the wrong question.

So now I feel duty bound to help those readers who have faithfully followed my writing.  Let’s address the right question.

Five questions to discover if your company is faking it or not

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Moyra Mackie

Moyra Mackie

Moyra Mackie helps leaders and teams to work with courage, compassion and creativity. She is an executive coach and consultant and the founder of Mackie Consulting.

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It should come as a surprise to nobody that work can stress us out. Stress isn’t always bad; stress can motivate us, and help us prepare for the unexpected.

However, chronic stress can have a dire impact on our personal well-being — which can in turn impact the performance of our business or organization. This is what we call organizational stress, and it should come with a toll big enough to grab the attention of employees and managers alike.

The high costs of high stress

When we’re stressed out, it can tax our bodies and minds to surprising lengths. Organizational stress has been demonstrated to increase costs through higher health benefit payouts, more absenteeism, higher turnover, and increased workers’ compensation claims.

Researchers estimate that the combined cost of employee stress in the United States rounds out to around $300 billion per year. Regardless of your workplace’s management style, this fact alone should make stress management a priority for everyone involved in your organization — and this begins with effective management.

Management strategies to reduce organizational stress

Managers have the power to reduce stress in a number of ways, and it all starts with open lines of communication. (And this means much more than a passive ‘open door policy’.) Leaders need to regularly reach out with employees to share ideas, concerns, and constructive feedback.

They should not only measure and facilitate performance, but also resolve obstacles and other everyday stressors that might impede an employee’s workday. Employers can also reduce stress by offering greater flexibility, ample rewards, and motivational strategies.

The infographic below, produced for the Online MBA Program at Pepperdine University’s Graziadio School of Business and Management, illustrates the impact that organizational stress can have on businesses, and what we can do about it to make employees happier and more productive at work.
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Tim Wayne

Tim Wayne

Tim Wayne is a digital content marketer and contributor to several healthcare blogs. He is interested in healthcare, education, and small business management. Since graduating from USC with a Bachelor’s Degree in English Literature, Tim has worked with websites across a wide range of industries in writing website copy and promoting content online.

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Leaders : Being controlling won’t stop you crashing

Leaders : Being controlling won’t stop you crashing

by Moyra Mackie on April 17, 2016

It’s a bitterly cold day and it finally begins to snow.  I’m due to take my four-year-old son to an assessment afternoon at what I hope will be his new school, which is ten miles away and in the middle of the countryside. I phone to see if the event is still on and an officious sounding school secretary declares it’s not snowing over there.

As far as the school is concerned it’s this day or no day

I strap my son into his car seat.  Once off the main road and onto the twisting country lanes, snow covers the road and is getting thicker all the time.  I try to balance the anxiety of getting there on time with the need to crawl along in second gear.  I try to keep my mood calm and light for the sake of the little blonde boy in the back seat, whose trusting face I can see in the rear view mirror.

At every twist in the road the car wheels lose grip and it takes successively longer to regain control.  Then there’s a corner where the road dips away sharply and I have no choice but to brake.  That’s when the car starts sliding.

It’s true what they say about scary events happening in slow motion, as I’ve got plenty of time to register the steep bank on one side of the road and a row of trees on the other.

When we’re fearful and in a hostile environment our instinct is to control

Somehow I resist the urge to brake.  Instead I let the engine stall and the car continues to glide, turning around and coming to a halt facing the way we had come. We’ve avoided hitting anything and I eventually get us to the school by over-riding any instinct to brake.

I was learning and adapting quickly.

Many times survival is about controlling our response to, rather than seeking to control, the environment

Neuroscience shows us that fear makes us irrational; our amygdala takes charge and short-circuits our capacity to reason and think clearly.

fearful controlling leadersControlling our fear, shortening the amount of time our amygdala is in charge, is the only way we can respond effectively to the environment.

Companies are acting as if they never got the fear memo 

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Moyra Mackie

Moyra Mackie

Moyra Mackie helps leaders and teams to work with courage, compassion and creativity. She is an executive coach and consultant and the founder of Mackie Consulting.

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Senior executives have never been so well rewarded.  In the UK it now takes the average CEO only three days to “earn” what the average employee takes home in a year.  On top of this, lottery-sized exit packages and gold-plated pensions give those at the top unprecedented material security.

And yet… Not everything feels secure

According to The Economist, the average life expectancy of public companies shrank from 65 years in the 1920s, to less than ten in the 1990s. Public scrutiny is increasing and innovation is a source of both creativity and disruption. Whilst a golden parachute might break the fall, life in the C-suite is becoming ever more precarious. In just ten years the average CEO tenure has fallen from 8.1 to 6.3 years and is getting shorter all the time.

In an uncertain climate, good leadership matters more than ever

McKinsey has published numerous papers linking organisational health with profitability, innovation and shareholder return.  So every year the spend on leadership and management development training and change and culture consultancy increases.

And yet…  Lack of good leadership is costly

Dissatisfaction with the results of all this training and development is on the rise.  Employee engagement numbers remain stubbornly low and, depending on the survey you read, between 50 and 60% of staff would fire their managers if they could. According to Deloitte Shift Index American companies are 75% LESS productive than in 1965.

What should leadership achieve?

Erik de Haan in his book The Leadership Shadow summarises decades of research:

“Leadership is the function devoted to harnessing the organisation’s effectiveness”

This speaks to the fact that everyone in an organisation has a leadership role in order to harness that effectiveness.

However, many studies point to the crucial role of senior management teams:

“The prize for building effective top teams is clear: they develop better strategies, perform more consistently, and increase the confidence of stakeholders.  They get positive results and make the work itself  a more positive experience both for the team’s members and for the people they lead”   – McKinsey,  “Teamwork at the Top”

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Moyra Mackie

Moyra Mackie

Moyra Mackie helps leaders and teams to work with courage, compassion and creativity. She is an executive coach and consultant and the founder of Mackie Consulting.

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Leadership and lying down to photograph elephants

Leadership and lying down to photograph elephants

by Moyra Mackie on April 1, 2016

It’s a beautiful spring day in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe.  We’ve just got back from our early morning safari drive. We began in the barely-light crisp cold, swaddled in fleece and thick woollen blankets.  We return under clear blue skies, our faces upturned to the emerging heat of the sun, our hearts full of the raw beauty of the landscape and animals we’ve encountered.

With the smell of lunch in the air and the sound of the crickets starting up in the bush we spot a dozen or more elephants making their way in a graceful line to the waterhole, fifty or so metres away.  The professional photographers in the group, grab lenses and tripods to capture the playful babies and the protective mothers gathering at the water’s edge.

I’ve come armed with only a smartphone, which I’m realising is not at all equipped for long distances.

There are many ways of seeing the same thing

So I lie on the wooden decking, near the fire pit.  I tune out the other guests who are amused by my photographic technique.

As I am in Africa to research my leadership retreat, Campfire Conversations, capturing the fire and the seats around it is also important to me. It’s not a perfect image – I miss the fact that a tree branch cuts through the herd and the camera can’t pick out the individuality of each elephant.

Yet we have a choice as to how we see things

From where I’m lying I can get a sense of perspective about how close the animals are to us; I can show the relationship between them and us.

I would never have become aware of this – never thrown myself down on the floor – if it had not been for my friend, and professional photographer, Rebecca Fennell.  Before leaving for Zimbabwe, Bex had given me a crash course in how to get great pictures with a smartphone.  One of the biggest lessons she passed on to me was:

“Most people just point their camera at the subject, they don’t think about how they should best relate to what they’re photographing.  Get down level with your subject.  Think about angles and light and what you want to show with that image.”

She showed me how different the bottles and glasses on the table in front of us looked, if taken from a more thoughtful height, paying attention to where the natural light was.

Photography is the art of paying attention

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Moyra Mackie

Moyra Mackie

Moyra Mackie helps leaders and teams to work with courage, compassion and creativity. She is an executive coach and consultant and the founder of Mackie Consulting.

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As a coach, clients ask me into their business to help them get better at what they do. Whether it’s an individual leader, a team or even a whole company, these clients are always interested in improvement.

Most of the time they’re pretty successful (sometimes extremely successful) but they’re looking for something a little bit extra. Some of them realise that what got them to this point may not get them to where they really want to be.

At the beginning big nouns are bandied about: “leadership”, “engagement”, “collaboration.”  I know that big consultancies make big money from trying to grapple with big nouns.

Perhaps foolishly, I start with a few small verbs. Because that literally is where the action is.

There are three verbs – three actions – that guarantee improvement

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Moyra Mackie

Moyra Mackie

Moyra Mackie helps leaders and teams to work with courage, compassion and creativity. She is an executive coach and consultant and the founder of Mackie Consulting.

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Calling all leaders: how warm is your water?

Calling all leaders: how warm is your water?

by Moyra Mackie on August 24, 2015

“If you drop a frog in a pot of boiling water, it will of course frantically try to clamber out. But if you place it gently in a pot of tepid water and turn the heat on low, it will float there quite placidly. As the water gradually heats up, the frog will sink into a tranquil stupor, exactly like one of us in a hot bath, and before long, with a smile on its face, it will unresistingly allow itself to be boiled to death.”

~ Daniel Quinn, The Story of B

Whilst German scientists in the 1880s found it was indeed possible to very gradually heat water until the poor amphibians expired, I think it’s a warning and challenge to all leaders who want to stay successful.

How warm is the water in your organisation?

According to The Economist, the average life expectancy of public companies shrank from 65 years in the 1920s, to less than ten in the 1990s. Whilst a golden parachute might break the fall, life in the C-suite is becoming ever more precarious. In just ten years the average CEO tenure has fallen from 8.1 to 6.3 years and is getting shorter all the time.

Managers at all levels are expected to do more with fewer resources in a lot less time

If they’re successful, next year they will be bench-marked against that success – if they’re lucky. If they’re not so lucky, they might be given a “stretch goal”.

In addition, technology has led to an expectation that they should be available 24/7. Reacting quickly is rewarded.

Everything is measured, all the time

I’m old enough to remember a workplace where we had five year goals. (And no, that was not Soviet Russia.)

Now we have staff on monthly goals, managers anxiously watching weekly targets and lots of people paying attention to the end of every quarter. Not to mention that we have pipelines and magnets for talent and nine boxes for all our human capital.

We even measure happiness – or engagement – and we find that’s the one thing going down.

Has your water heated up and you just haven’t noticed?

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Moyra Mackie

Moyra Mackie

Moyra Mackie helps leaders and teams to work with courage, compassion and creativity. She is an executive coach and consultant and the founder of Mackie Consulting.

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It’s estimated that around 75% of change initiatives fail. A failed or interrupted change program is really just disruption. Disruption is costly –  to the bottom line and to the emotions, energy and engagement of all involved.

Change fails because we start in the wrong place

Most change programs start with a reaction – to the market, to what is happening “out there.” Senior management or HR departments see other companies doing this or that and decide, “that’s where we need to be. Let’s get a plan together, let’s add some targets – some carrots and sticks – and let’s get our leaders to sell this vision.”

Wikipedia summarises the literature more formally:

“Regardless of the many types of organizational change, the critical aspect is a company’s ability to win the buy-in of their organization’s employees on the change. Effectively managing organizational change is a four-step process:
1. Recognizing the changes in the broader business environment
2. Developing the necessary adjustments for their company’s needs
3. Training their employees on the appropriate changes
4. Winning the support of the employees with the persuasiveness of the appropriate adjustments”

Change fails because it’s reactive and focused on selling a vision

Vision is incredibly motivating in getting us to move from where we are to where we really want or need to be. But you need to know EXACTLY WHERE you are starting from.

Imagine finding yourself in a strange city where you can’t speak the language, or read the signs, and you’re hungry. You find a wonderful restaurant on Google maps but GPS can’t locate where you are. Knowing where you want to be, and being highly motivated to get there, is not going to help.

For lasting change you have to start with the present – where you are right now

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Moyra Mackie

Moyra Mackie

Moyra Mackie helps leaders and teams to work with courage, compassion and creativity. She is an executive coach and consultant and the founder of Mackie Consulting.

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Motivation – it’s time to kill those sacred cows

Motivation – it’s time to kill those sacred cows

by Moyra Mackie on November 14, 2014

We know what motivates people at work.  We’ve known for a really long time and we’ve got an increasing amount of science to back it up.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is that this knowledge is rarely passed on at school, not taught on business school programs and only occasionally encouraged and rewarded in companies.

Carrots, sticks and sacred cows

Organisations cling to policies, processes and habits that actively undermine or distort motivation and kill engagement.  Here are just a few:

  • Individual bonuses, prizes or incentives
  • Written performance appraisals
  • Forced or stacked ranking
  • Hot desking
  • Travel bans
  • Infrequent one-to-one meetings
  • Lack of verbal feedback

It’s by no means an exhaustive list but it would be helpful if you notice how you react to certain items – which ones are your sacred cows?

Have you ever thought what it would be like to get rid of those things?

The problem with the first three items on the list is that they are extrinsic motivators – carrots and sticks.  Each one involves an element of win/lose.  Temporarily motivating the “winners” and de-motivating the “losers”.

What we really want to foster is intrinsic motivation, which must not involve a sense of winning and losing

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Moyra Mackie

Moyra Mackie

Moyra Mackie helps leaders and teams to work with courage, compassion and creativity. She is an executive coach and consultant and the founder of Mackie Consulting.

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