When Coaches Communicate

DO NOT BE surprised if you find a sports coach attending your next annual meeting or sales conference. It has become common for leading companies to invite successful coaches to give motivational speeches on leadership. If you think about it, the principles of leadership and team building are the same, whether on the sports field or in the boardroom. The vocabulary – competition, winning tactics, team spirit and motivation – is virtually interchangeable. Coaches and business leaders must have the skills to get the best out of people and resources. To do that, they have to create a shared sense of purpose, a vision that everyone can aspire to and have the values they can believe in. Think about your organisation. Are the essential elements that help a team win a championship in place? Does everyone act upon these elements effectively? Or, are individuals unaware of what they must do to contribute to the company? Is there a feeling that some departments are isolated, while others lack the tools and training they need? If everyone in the company is not working towards the same goals, the problem is almost certainly a lack of communication from management. After all, communication is what ensures that intentions, behaviour and action are aligned. Some companies go to extremes when it comes to communicating. On one hand, they produce endless newsletters, paste bulletins on notice boards, send emails about routine matters to everyone on the internal distribution list, and spend hours on long conference calls. While the intention may be good, the sheer information overload is counterproductive. Employees start ignoring messages and feel their...

Delivering Your Leadership Message

WHAT KEEPS A project leader or the head of a company up at night? There’s no single answer, but chances are the rising expectations of stakeholders will top the list. The mandate is to do more with less, achieve higher targets, perform better, meet tighter deadlines – and do all that within budget. There are seemingly endless challenges, but most of them can be overcome by adhering to a few basic principles. Most importantly, the mindset and behaviour of the team must be aligned with the company’s goals, and yet there should be freedom for individual initiative and innovation. To achieve this, the person at the top of the pyramid must be an excellent communicator. As a leader, you communicate constantly. There are formal messages about the organisation’s vision or strategic direction, and routine motivational talks to improve sales, productivity or customer service. Unfortunately, leaders sometimes forget that good communication is about delivering the right message at the right time, and in the right manner. To make sure your communication has an impact, take the time to plan what you are going to say, and how. When preparing, keep in mind the three Cs: context, clarity and congruence. Context Have you ever left a meeting about a new strategy or restructuring, and thought: “That was nice, but where do I fit in?” It happens often and illustrates why a leader’s communication can miss its mark. The problem is that the communicator is focusing on what management wants and not on what the audience needs. If individuals do not have their questions answered, they have little reason to take goal-oriented...

Branding Your Leadership Style

THERE ARE VARYING notions about what makes a great leader, but everyone agrees there is no one-size-fits-all formula. Attila the Hun, Napoleon, Gandhi, Margaret Thatcher and Jack Welch are all examples of successful leaders, but as individuals they could hardly be more different. All strong leaders have their unique style – a distinctive brand of leadership. Whether you are leading a country, company, team or project, it is important to develop a leadership style of your own which people will recognise and respond to. Your leadership style does not need to be set in stone. In fact, it can and should change over time. You need a high degree of self-awareness and understanding of your surroundings, so that you can implement strategies which maximise your effectiveness as a leader and minimise behaviour that works against you. Over the years, styles of business leadership have been classified into various categories. Three of the most significant are known as charismatic, transactional and transformational. Consider the key features of each leadership style of identify the one closest to yours, or the one that you respond to best. Charismatic The idea of a charismatic leader dates back to the early 20th century and the writings of Max Weber (1864-1920) in Economy and Society. Since then, different perspectives have been developed, but most share the common belief that a charismatic leader can connect personally with his or her followers and motivate them to action. A charismatic leader has the ability to articulate a vision that touches an emotional chord with an audience. Most organisations have goals but it takes a leader with charisma to...

True Signs of a Leader

“You cannot teach a man anything. You can only help him find it within himself” – Galileo Galilei THE IDEA OF self-discovery is as important today as it was around 2,500 years ago when Socrates said that each person’s aim should be to “know thyself”. For anyone looking to develop a successful style of leadership, knowing who you are is the first and most important step. Only when you fully understand the way you think, act and communicate, and recognise the impact of your behaviour on other people, you can bring about positive change and increase your overall effectiveness. The process of self-discovery could be something as informal as listing down your strengths and weaknesses, or it could involve one of the more formal leadership-related questionnaires that are now readily available. The best tools, though, generally include 360-degree feedback, which ensures that the analysis also comes from colleagues, subordinates and superiors. After all, effectiveness as a leader is not something you decide; it is determined by those around you. One such tool is ACUMEN Leadership WorkStyles, which breaks down leadership behaviour into three categories: Constructive It is important for every leader to develop a constructive style which focuses on the task at hand and the people who will be involved. There are four elements at work here. The first is achievement, which reflects the need for accomplishments and is about attaining high-quality results on challenging projects. Leaders high in achievement have the internal motivation to succeed and tend to inspire others by making them feel that they can make a difference. Next is self-actualisation, characterised by an acceptance of one’s...

Four Steps to Leadership Success

THERE IS NO shortage of books on leadership. It seems that hardly a week goes by without some senior business executive or management guru going into print with their thoughts and insights on how to get to the top and become a great corporate leader. Visit any bookstore and you will find entire sections dedicated to weighty volumes on the secrets of leadership and management. There are television shows, websites, magazines and seminars focusing on the same topics. The reason is clear: businesses have to achieve better results in a highly competitive environment and must keep finding ways to do more with less. Ultimate responsibility for making this happen lies with leaders, and that does not Simply mean CEOs. There may be hundreds of people in any organisation – department heads, functional managers, team supervisors and project coordinators – and each one of them is required to lead others effectively. As a manager, you will be responsible for outcomes which may be measured in terms of profit, growth, revenue, efficiency and return on investment. These will always be based on what your team has achieved, and their performance is linked inextricably to the sum of how each person thinks, feels and acts. Behaviour in the workplace is directly attributable to the culture of an organisation, which evolves from the way things are done, the accepted practices and routines, and the way people interact with their colleagues. That culture, in turn, is influenced predominantly by two major factors: management and leadership. Hundreds of MBA programmes and “how to” books explain the skills needed to be a better manager, these cover...